Round 14 – Carlton v Richmond: Subdued Sunday

Carlton and Richmond go back a long way. Each has committed sufficient offence against the other over time to allow the scar tissue of memory to layer deep. Grudges are harboured. Abuse is still exchanged, the better of it informed by the rich, shared experience. Yet here we are on a winter’s late afternoon, collective hordes of yellow, black and navy blue, strolling together through Yarra Park to enter the Peoples’ Cathedral, where we will sit together to cheer, boo or banter according to our respective prejudices. The only fences required are there to serve the interests of commerce, not to maintain public order.

In a time where it suits some to magnify our differences, usually over trivial points of dissent, the essential off field decency that sustains football rivalries should not be taken for granted. In football, your opponent may be respected or disrespected according to his actions, but his right to compete is not questioned.

Early in an otherwise subdued beginning, it appeared that on field decency may have been transgressed. As Jed Lamb lay face down on the turf, the matter of who had done what was sternly interrogated. When the transgressor emerged as Bachar Houli, a lot of the potential heat dissipated. Houli is no Neil Balme. He has no prior form as one prone to the psychotic impulses of white line fever. His reckless moment had the consequence of leaving Carlton one short, and he will pay a personal price for that at the tribunal. But it was hard to envisage there was much malice intended.

In truth, the lack of frisson from this clash befitted much that followed. The Blues held a slender quarter time lead by dint of seizing their chances. But for much of the second term they were forced to cover up on the ropes, hoping Richmond lacked a fatal punch. The Tigers set up camp in their forward half, but only produced 2.7 for all their dominance.

A few things became apparent as the game muddled along. Jack Riewoldt reinforced what a very canny footballer he’s become. Carlton’s back six have been rotating opponents and positions very efficiently in recent times. Cousin Jack was smart enough to frequently lose his man by exploiting these swaps. Had his team mates used him more effectively, he could have had a bagful.

Jack aside, Richmond’s forward threat is largely confined to its smalls. Rioli and Bolton are sharp but still learning. On this day it was Jason Castagna who kept the Blues busy. If the Tigers had a decent second tall option, this trio would benefit.

Carlton frustrated by refusing to go direct into their forward line for much of the day. I call this the Rance effect. With our limited forward options, kicking it high and long for Rance to pick off looked close to a zero percentage play. As we have done recently, we applied the philosophy that the ball was better in our hands than our opponents’. The plan said possess until an opening appeared. The execution was generally lacking. Credit is due here to the Richmond defence, which remains a tough nut to crack, at least until the final minute of a close one.

In the third term, the Tigers frequently interspersed slick ball movement with clangers that demanded the Benny Hill theme be played on the PA. As exasperation grew, Richmond’s plan devolved to variations of kick it to Dusty. Despite Dusty’s efforts, Richmond’s lead was a psychically uneasy 13 points at the final break.

Having achieved their aim of staying in the contest, Carlton still needed to take their chances if they were to win. On this day they couldn’t. Simpson and Wright missed gettable set shots. Then Gibbs’ attempted pass just cleared Pickett. The resulting Richmond rebound was swept down the opposite flank for the goal that settled the issue.

For Richmond, this was a necessary win after the squandered opportunities of recent weeks. They defend well, and can transition quickly at their best. But in a very Richmondy way, they can be their own worst enemies.

For Carlton, attrition and injury saw a thinning of our younger ranks this week. Their absence had a deleterious effect on aspects of our play. Whilst this bodes well in the longer term, it indicates our team leaders will carry a heavy load for the remainder of the season.

I have seen more stirring contests between these two clubs over the years, but I refuse to grumble. If your worst problem is the standard of a footy game, then you really don’t have any problems at all.


RICHMOND     3.3       5.10     7.13     11.18 (84)
CARLTON        4.1       4.2       6.6       8.10 (58)

Richmond: Riewoldt 3, Butler 2, Castagna 2, Ellis, Lambert, Bolton, Nankervis
Carlton: Casboult 2, Kreuzer 2, Wright, Thomas, C. Curnow, Cripps

Richmond: Rance, Martin, Houli, Riewoldt, Lambert, Castagna
Carlton: Cripps, Kreuzer, Docherty, Gibbs, C. Curnow

Umpires: Stevic, Williamson, McInerney

Official crowd: 64,448 at the MCG

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. John I think you nailed a million good points here. especially re the rivalries which sustain us. And Houli. And your observations of Jack. and the very Richmond way we have of not getting ahead of ourselves. in the middle of a quarter.

    and the last line is the most important. I am seeing Jimmy Webb tomorrow night so will yell that line out if he does audience participation.

    nice, nice piece. go in peace, until rd 1 2018…

  2. The Wrap says

    Perfectly put JB, although I thought you could have given Astbury & Grimes a mention as key parts of The Richmond Wall. I’ve watched years of that sort of lack of Self Belief torment The Long Suffering Punt Road Faithful. One can only speculate what would have happened had The Bluebaggers taken on The Striped Marvels, and gone down the guts. They had nothing to lose. What they were trying wasn’t working. That overcooked Gibbs’ pass, had it come off, would have built some pressure on The Tiges. And then ….. But like life itself, some days are diamonds, some days are dust.

    Until Round 1 in 2018 indeed.


  3. G’day John,

    I understand your frustration when your Blues don’t move towards the forward line / your goal square. It came to me when Saints were struggling with moving forward in the game against the Bulldogs several weeks ago.

    And even St Kilda are leading, I am still worried when the opponent dominates the footy. I am relieved around five to a few minutes before the final siren sounds. Even 30 points lead at the half time in the game against North Melbourne was not enough for me.

    I can’t believe the character reference was used on the verdict on Houli. Why such reference was used for the on field incident?



  4. John Butler says

    PW, for all the shouting, none of the so-called “Big Four” clubs would be the same without each other. The Tigers could do anything with the rest of this season. I’ll watch with interest.

    Wrap, as you sagely pointed out, The Richmond Wall is now an impressive one. Rance can only do what he does because he can rely on the others. And yes, if Gibbs had hit Pickett with that pass, who knows? But you can’t take who knows to the bank. Until Rd 1 2018.

    Yoshi, I agree, the Saints have had troubles going inside 50 also. In theory they have more firepower than Carlton does, but so much relies on understanding between the midfield and the forwards. You’ve had Bruce and McCartin battling form issues, and Riewoldt looking proppy. Maybe they just need some continuity?

    Re Hoili, it was a bit odd to have the character references submitted, but I can’t really buy the outrage some are trying to stir. Should he have got 3-4 instead of 2? The contact was obviously serious and deliberate, but I’d believe Houli that he wasn’t intending to get Lamb in the head. The way tribunals have always been, who could say with certainty what is appropriate?

  5. Peter Warrington says

    agree re Houli, I was surprised that they were able to sustain intentional, when he explained what he tried to do and nobody really demurred or called him a liar. bloody victorian judges etc etc :p

    i have been on Astbury watch for 2 years. I have always though Grimes was talismanic to us and injury stopped him from being the Merv Keane he now is. But Astbury could be the icing. and how well he is icing it. if only he had a twin at the other end (sheesh, had we poached Hurley I think the flag would be ours this year.)

    as for gibbs and pickett, whilst I would love to rebuke that the former can’t hit a picket fence, I think Pickett made a minor misjudgment in flight and couldn’t recover. Kick hit too well to allow that and a foot lower would have been better, but I apportion 60% of the blame to Pickett, and 40% to Dimma’s brilliant coaching.

  6. John Butler says

    PW, any word on Griffiths? He’d be the hope for the forward line. The Wrap fears he’s done and dusted due to the concussion problems.

    I agree re Gibbs to Pickett. Probably a 50/50 split there. Pickett misjudged, but Gibbsy could have just hit him on the chest.


    BTW, enjoy Jimmy Webb. I still remember that piece you wrote on him. I hope he comps you backstage passes.

  7. Dave Brown says

    Good stuff, John. I’m mystified by the Houli decision last night and I’m really not ready for the cultural poostorm that will occur on his return as certain people take every opportunity to boo him all around the country. A medium impact, intentional high hit gets three weeks on the tribunal guidelines, so he had to get more than that or the tribunal should not have graded it as intentional. Not one of Gibbs’ better days – on such days I chuckle that people are so sure he’s Adelaide’s missing piece and should have pawned the furniture to get him. No doubt he’d improve the Crows but Slobbs would be no Dangerwood.

  8. John Butler says

    Dave, if that’s the tribunal guidelines, I’d suggest you forward them a copy. :)

    I’ve given up on deciphering tribunal findings. These arguments go back over a century. One extraordinary example here

    Re that poostorm, it won’t be helped by sloppy reporting. I note that G Whately is clarifying that there was no PM ‘character reference’, just Richmond being thorough enough to quote the PM from earlier in the day.

    I am rather taken with Slobbs. You can have it, for the price of a couple of first round picks. Oh, we’ve already had that discussion?


  9. On Bakar, watch the footage Boys. He was being held around the waste to prevent him moving into a position to become the slingshot rebound that was killing The Silvertails. It was in plain sight and not one of the adjudicating three blind mice responded to the situation, so Bakar sought to dis-attach himself from the impediment with a swat — as you would a troublesome mosquito. The footage shows that he didn’t look around to land the blow, which would make it reckless, not deliberate as the Star Chamber judged it. It was unfortunate that the blow landed so effectively. If you were in a pub brawl fighting for your life, you’d like to hope that you could pull that one off every time. There’s no doubt Jeb Lamb was out cold and it will be interesting to see how long it is before he’s considered fit to don The Old Dark Blue All Carlton Knows at the Visy Park Selection Table.

    As for Bakar’s character reference, trotting it out was less to do with reducing the sentence than making it quite clear that the action was so unlike the nature of the man that should not brand him as a Dermie or a Dipper. Or even a Mopsy Frazer or Max Oppy – whose old locker he uses, BTW. I’d be disappointed with the Footy Loving Public if there was follow up booing when he returns. But they’ve disappointed me before.

    The bottom line to all this is that the Star Chamber over re-acted to a reckless blow based on the conequences. I’m not saying Bakar shouldn’t serve a couple of weeks for it, but it should have been for the consequences, not the intent.

  10. Rick Kane says

    Nicely judged piece JB, one part Solomon, one part Zen. Your last line could almost be the final message for fans leaving many games. To quote another 60s music icon who will be with us later in the year (and I will be there), your piece spoke words of wisdom, let it be.


  11. Peter Warrington says

    Yes Wrap you and I align on that. we could challenge the intentional, which clearly riles Houli more than the suspension, but the 2 weeks is clearly an appeaser

    and all of things decision that is none.

    Rick I saw a poster for Macca this morning and thought mmmm -might be the last chance to see a Beatle! maybe….

  12. John Butler says

    Gents, I see Gerard Henderson is playing the Muslim card re Houli on Twitter now. Queue all the usual suspects. Batten down the hatches.

    RK, I doubt either Solomon or Zen would be thrilled with the comparison. But I appreciate the sentiment.


  13. The Wrap says

    Thanks for telling us about Gerard Henderson JB, otherwise I’d never have known what he was saying, on Twitter or while he was sitting on his dunny trying to make sense of the world. What he has to say usually stinks, and this is no exception. Glad we don’t live in his world. An embarrassment he has to live in ours.

  14. The Wrap says

    Just back from the gym. Had the earphones tuned to SEN. Two things to say. Bakar is pronounced Bark-ah. Not Basher. From the AFL, through the SEN newsreader, the stations’ commentators to the call-ins they pronounced the K as SH.

    The other thing I wanted to say was Azaria is not Arameic for sacrifice e in the wilderness.

  15. The Wrap says

    And another thing I’d like to add, Kevin Bartlett’s outstayed his short welcome back to Punt Road.

  16. Rick Kane says

    Peter W, how was Jimmy Webb?

  17. PW, Rick: Saw Jimmy Webb Tuesday night at the Recital Centre, Melbourne. He’s up for audience participation to help him hit the high notes (Up Up And Away) but not big on audience interruption during his many monologues. More stories and yarns than songs: pretty much the way it was billed.

    JB: Pity the government’s policy on refugees and asylum seekers is not akin to:

    ‘In football, your opponent may be respected or disrespected according to his actions, but his right to compete is not questioned.’

  18. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Very smooth reading JB.
    Psychically uneasy … hmm … much of this season is so. Perhaps that’s one of footy’ roles in our winters …

  19. E.regnans says

    Well played J Butler.
    You see things with a certain clarity.

    Much to like here. As others suggest, particularly your closing lines.

  20. John Butler says

    Thanks for the response, folks.

    Vin, it is a pity indeed. Disregarding all the ethical, psychic, financial and reputational damage that whole sordid mess has caused, on a practical level the rancorous debate around it has served to cover up some exceedingly poor governance, both from politicians (of both parties) and bureaucrats.

    Mathilde, the Swans have had a psychically turbulent winter so far, which is unlike them. I think they bottomed out against Carlton. They seem well on the way to recovery.

    E Reg, thank you. Once again, well done on your letter to Mr Flanagan.

  21. Lovely piece John. Are footy fans getting quieter or were they just subdued because Sunday twilight games suck?

    I was surprised by the lack of noise. Perhaps both Richmond and Carlton fans know their clubs too well to get their hopes up.

  22. John Butler says

    Gill, I think the Tiger fans were anxious and the Blues fans not really expectant. Then not a lot about the game really stirred the soul.

    And Sunday twilight definitely doesn’t help.


  23. Peter warrington says

    Am there now, intermission

    He tells a great yarn

    Good interruption to the Houli and Rhiannon outrageathons

    Looking forward to Conor menadue’s Wichita Linebreaker

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