Round 12 – Carlton v Port Adelaide: Second efforts, team consciousness and and zest for the contest

On Anzac Day, Port Adelaide played as breathtaking a quarter of football as I have seen to blow Hawthorn away. Because Hawthorn are a very good – and resilient – team, they fought back to the point where Port finished the game hanging on, but they proved good enough to do so against the reiging premiers.

Six days later, Carlton produced their most inglorious performance of a dismal year, and besmirched the occasion when Mick Malthouse established his senior coaching record.

At that time, it was impossible to imagine that Carlton were even participating in the same competition as Port Adelaide.

Yet on Saturday the Blues proved superior in a pulsating match. Of course much has changed in that 7-8 week period. Jared Polec, Paddy Ryder and Kane Cornes who played against Hawthorn were not available for this match. Carlton have experienced even more dramatic changes, a change of coach and the forced retirement of their best player; however, they had also been strengthened by the return of Matt Kreuzer as well as Chris Yarran and Troy Menzel among a total of six changes in the 22 that played against Collingwood. More significantly is the trajectory of the two teams’ intangibles. Port Adelaide has suffered a precipitous decline in confidence, leading to hesitant football. John Barker appears to have had a decisive influence in lifting spirits at Carlton. In successive matches at the MCG against the two AFL teams representing South Australia, there has been a marked improvement in attitude, commitment and application. Second efforts, team consciousness, and zest for the contest, which had been notably absent in earlier weeks, were now very much in evidence.

True, the Power were unlucky in several respects. They were unfortunate not to have met the Blues a month earlier; rightly or wrongly they were on the rough end of a disparate free kick count; two crucial decisions late in the game gifted a half-volley mark to Lachie Henderson, and ruled against a Port mark close to goal because of a finger-tip touch which might have been missed in most circumstances. There was even the bizarre incident where umpire Hosking marked the ball when Hartlett attempted to pass cross-field from a Port free, and a potential Power attack turned into a stoppage, when a ball-up was required to resume play.

What was undeniably true was that Carlton took the game on, and forced Port to play catch-up for much of the day. Even in the first quarter in which Port scored the first two goals and led narrowly at the break, the Blues responded energetically and efficiently. While Port looked the more poised side, Carlton compensated with a full-blooded attack on the ball and the contest. In the second quarter, they broke the game open, and jumped to a four goal lead with uncharacteristic straight kicking. It took a concerted effort by Port’s more celebrated players to narrow this advantage to just four points at the main interval. Robbie Gray had been instrumental in this recovery; unfortunately he was concussed by a vigorous tackle from Bryce Gibbs just before half-time and subbed out. The scoreboard had moments earlier notified spectators that Gray had five clearances for the quarter.

The third quarter followed a similar pattern to the second; Carlton, sensing the possibility of an upset, again established a four goal break, and this time maintained it until three-quarter time. When Menzel goaled in the first minute of the final quarter, the upset which had seemed possible, now seemed highly likely. Yet again momentum turned; Boak who had been effective for much of the afternoon was instrumental in lifting his side, while Westhoff who had been quiet suddenly emerged as a potential match-winner. When the visitors scored three goals in the space of eight minutes, a Port victory seemed inevitable.

They came within a goal, before Henderson’s lucky break, and Boak’s reply was as much as they could manage thereafter. Improbably the free-scoring evident in the first three quarters and the first twenty minutes of the final, dried up completely. In the final 11 minutes playing time, just a solitary point – to Carlton – was registered, not for want of Port’s trying. The game was played almost entirely in their forward fifty, but desparate Carlton defence managed to hold them out. At times, it seemed like the northern visitors had stayed on from Wednesday night, and had merely switched their maroon and light blue colours for the white and navy of Saturday’s protagonists, such was the tackling, and the futile efforts to move the ball out from marauding packs.

The most heartening aspect of the Carlton performance was the even contribution across the team, and the effort of some of the lesser lights. Players like Nick Graham and the often-criticised Dennis Armfield played significant roles in the win. Andrejs Everitt was an effective forward, contributing three first-half goals, and (the much-maligned) Sam Rowe kept Jay Schulz on a tight leash.

Speculation on where each side progresses from this encounter suggests that Port will need a remarkable revival of form and confidence to mount any sort of challenge. Even figuring in the finals may seem beyond them. Carlton, after plumbing the depths of despair, now seem capable of competitive performances against teams middle-of-the-ladder and below. While the chastening experience of the early-season have left many Blues fans shell-shocked, the change in player attitude indicates that the way ahead offers some cause for qualified optimism.

 

Carlton  4.2  10.3  15.7  17.8.110

Port Adelaide  4.3  9.5  11.8  16.10.106

 

Best Players:

Carlton: Cripps, Murphy, Rowe, Graham, Everitt.

Port: Boak, Broadbent, Krakpouer, Gray (until injured), Wingard, Lobbe.

 

Goals:

Carlton: Everitt 3 Henderson 3 Armfield 2 Casboult 2 Graham 2 Menzel 2 Wood Murphy Bell.

Port: Wingard 5 Westhoff 2 Gray 2 Boak 2 Monfries Ebert Krakouer Wines Colquhoun.

 

Attendance 27,693 at MCG

 

Votes: Cripps 3 Boak 2 (Umpire Hosking 1*) Graham 1

* Fine reflex mark probably short of 15 metres.

 

About Peter Fuller

Male, 60 something, idle retiree; Blues supporter; played park/paddock standard football in Victoria's western district until mid teens, then Melbourne suburbs; umpired for approximately 20 years (still engaged on light duties - occasionally fieldie, regularly on the line). I thank the goddess at least weekly, that I was born and grew up in the southern States of Oz, so that Aussie Rules was my game from earliest childhood. I still love it with a passion, although I can't pretend to a thorough understanding of the tactical complexities of the contemporary game.

Comments

  1. Neil Anderson says

    There would have been a few teams that wished they’d played Carlton earlier in the season, including the Bulldogs.
    But true to form the Dogs play Carlton in a couple of weeks just when the Blues are finding form. You suggested we go to that match after seeing the Dogs beat GWS and Carlton lost yet again. You were magnanimous then so I won’t back down on the deal and I am now actually looking forward to the match especially after a big win on Saturday for the Dogs.
    I see Gary Ablett is making a comeback this week so I hope he doesn’t find form when the Dogs play Gold Coast after Carlton. Will be in touch with you and Bob Speechly soon.

  2. Peter Fuller says

    Neil,
    I’m looking forward to sharing the occasion with Bob and you. I feel that I can reassure you that the Bulldogs should have our measure. The outcome will hinge on whether your boys bring their best – on display against Sydney, Adelaide, GWS and even the honourable loss to Freo – or their inferior game – St. Kilda, Melbourne. I’d suspect that Luke B. is closer to finding the key which will ensure that his players deliver consistent performance from week to week and even within games.

  3. Top article Peter. Interesting that Port and Geelong both belted the hell out of each other last week in Adelaide, then both lost to lower teams a week later.

    The Blues have improved. They’re playing with far more risk and backbone.

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