Round 10 – Carlton v Geelong: Who Is This Team?

As the half-time siren sounded on Sunday, I proffered the above enquiry to the usual group of die-hards, with whom I have long shared a match day wing. At the time, I was talking about the Blues. By game’s end, the question applied equally to the Cats. This was an afternoon to rattle preconceptions about both clubs.


Things had taken a twist the preceding selection night. The inclusion of Kreuzer and Casboult seemed either a ruse, or a miracle of modern medicine. It proved the latter. For Blues fans long used to seeing players with a two week diagnosis miss half a season, this was another measure of how drastically our world is changing. In hindsight, it was a clear statement of intent.


Carlton’s approach to Geelong became clear as the game unfolded. In boxing parlance, they were going to work the ribs, as a way to their opponents’ heads. The big boys were crucial to this.


Judged only by statistics, Levi had a modest game. He didn’t launch at the ball with his usual energy. But every time he made a contest he took a Geelong body out. I haven’t seen a Carlton forward skittle packs like this since Earl Spalding was on the prowl. It had its effect. By half time, Geelong’s ageing defenders were acutely Levi-conscious.


Matty Kreuzer was shaded in the hit outs, but worked tirelessly when it hit the deck. Alone, he laid a dozen tackles and had eight clearances. Carlton’s main midfield quartet of Kreuzer, Gibbs, Curnow and Cripps laid 35 tackles between them. Geelong ended the game with more handballs than kicks. Time and again, they were forced into a third, fourth, then fifth handball to extricate themselves. This time statistics told a true story.


As Dennis Armfield decorated either side of half time with scintillating running goals, there was a moment of clarity. The extent and pace of Carlton’s transformation finally hit home.


Just over a year ago, in the depth of the Malthouse Winter, Dennis had run straight past a stationary GWS ball carrier, well within reach, oblivious to the possibility of tackling him. His only thought was marking his man, following instructions. He was ignoring every football instinct he’d grown up with. It struck me at the time as perhaps the low point of my spectating career. The club I’d followed since I was a boy seemed a stranger to itself.


And now this. Two men down at ¼ time, one of them the skipper. Against a club we’d never beaten at this ground. A club that in so many ways had become what we used to be. And we were calling the shots. We were the hunters, the harassers.


Carlton fans waited for the Geelong fightback, but this was merely old habits dying hard, a reluctance to trust the evidence of our own eyes. In truth, the Cats were beaten well before the final siren. When Cam Guthrie snapped truly, leaving a 19 point deficit with nearly 4 minutes left, not a single Geelong player looked like they believed winning was a possibility. As the ribs go, so does the head.


Two weeks ago, Geelong appeared to have set themselves up for a top two position. Now, in successive weeks, they’ve succumbed in battles of will to opponents whose measure they should have had. In doing so, they’ve suggested flaws in their makeup. They face a testing month ahead. In draft terms, they’ve invested very much in the now. How they react from here may prove defining.


There will be no one simple explanation for what is happening at Carlton. It wasn’t supposed to develop this quickly. Obviously, Brendon Bolton is a big part of it. He has come with a method and communicated it clearly. With clarity can come assurance, a measure of confidence. Winning feeds that as well.


But we are no longer in the messiah business at Carlton. Bolton would be the first to agree. Whatever the coach provides, the players need to buy in. When the lungs are bursting and the legs ache, they are the ones who must win the next contest, and the next. Each needs to find his own reasons for doing so.


With wins like this, expectations reset externally. We will start favourites against Brisbane, but having played out this game with 20 men, on a six day break, that game will present its own challenges. Bolton has preached equilibrium: the journey will be long, so no point getting too high, or too low.


Who am I to argue with the coach?


CARLTON          4.0   10.4   13.6   16.8 (104)
GEELONG          3.6   6.8   9.11   12.13 (85)  

Carlton: Everitt 4, Armfield 3, Gibbs 2, Gorringe 2, Murphy, Curnow, Casboult, Walker, Lamb
Geelong: Motlop 2, Gregson 2, Guthrie 2, Enright, Stanley, Bartel, Smedts, Smith, Hawkins

Carlton: Gibbs, Docherty, Curnow, Armfield, Everitt, Kruezer, Cripps,
Geelong: Guthrie, Dangerfield, Duncan, Bartel, Stanley, Gregson


About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Great summary of the game John. I was also waiting for the inevitable run home by Geelong, not so much the brain fade of Carlton past, I just thought being two men down they would finish faster. But this team just kept going. They also made the point on radio that Geelong wouldn’t win because none of them believed they could pointing to the reaction of (or lack of) players following Guthrie’s goal. I think the game against Brisbane will be a real test to see if the players can keep that focus and equilibrium that Bolton seeks.

  2. Liked your boxing analogy JB. I sense a bit of “I seen it but I doooon’t believe it” in you still.

  3. John Butler says

    DJL, that moment when we realised it was “stick a fork in ’em” time was a beautiful one.

    PB, I reckoned I’d seen a lot in footy over the years. Not sure entirely what to make of this. But I’m loving it.

    In an entirely equable manner, of course.

  4. I watched a part of the game. Carlton touched footy more than Geelong and used space well. It was a good game to watch. But I didn’t see the game in the way how you describe here. It’s nice to read your perceptions.



  5. The People's Elbow says

  6. John Butler says

    HI Yoshi

    We all come to the game with our own agendas. No one’s right or wrong (except maybe Collingwood supporters). And so much on the TV is influenced by what is happening off-screen.

    Keep writing those Saints pieces. It’s good to get your perspective.


  7. John Butler says

    Elbow, it was pretty [email protected] good. :)

    You have to love Dennis.

  8. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    This two wins away from becoming a very serious problem for the rest of us, Butler. I had a look at your draw and the last month is attainable in this form. Do you dare entertain the other ‘F’ word when describing Carlton yet?

  9. I heard an interesting stat the other day. Haven’t verified if its true, but apparently Geelong has lost only two quarters of football in the last fortnight, but lost two games. Kick straight and you win. Kick straight and the Cats are still “going OK”. But they didn’t. And we’re not. Not much room to move in this competition anymore.

    JB – have the Blues iterated the “whatever it takes” mantra yet?

  10. John Butler says

    Phil, no problems from where I sit. We’re just quietly going about our rebuild. Nothing to see here….

    Dips, that sounds like one of those “the operation was a success but the patient died” postmortems. Very surprised at how meekly your lads accepted their fate. Not a good sign, Regrading a few of your older defenders, if they haven’t jumped the shark, then the shark is in sight.

    And I can’t see anyone taking on board much Essendon IP anytime soon.


  11. Luke Reynolds says

    There’s nothing colder than a Malthouse Winter. You are clearly enjoying the warmth of the Bolton Spring.

  12. John Butler says

    Don’t know if Bolter has ever been to Prague, Luke. But you are correct.


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