Round 16 – Carlton v Sydney: Roller coasters can hold our beer


Ever ridden the Takabisha in Japan? Or the Yukon Striker? As far as ups and downs go, the real thrill seeker should try watching Carlton navigate this 2020 season. Life has never been dull for Blues fans since David Teague took the coaching position, but this game against Sydney ran the full gamut in one night.


Just the fact that the game was played on the Gold Coast, starting at 8:10pm on a Tuesday night, emphasises the strangeness of this AFL season, currently being rushed to its conclusion. In the spirit of playing our part, for the first quarter and a half, Carlton seemed determined to set new benchmarks in forward ineptitude. Time and again we bombed long with little purpose to a cluster of waiting Swans defenders. This played perfectly into the cunning plans of John Longmire.


Rebuilding a list, and battling a season-long injury plague, Longmire has his young team tapping into the spirit of Italian football, circa 1982. They are happy to sit back, absorb pressure, and counter attack when able. It is a style that can keep you competitive on the scoreboard even when you find yourself mainly defending. Until midway through the second term they executed this plan to perfection, ably assisted by their opponents. Sydney had Paolo Rossis everywhere.


By the time the scoreboard read 7-1 to 0-4, Carlton fans watching from home were considering an early night. But we should know by now not to leave early. Suddenly taking command at the centre bounces, Carlton slammed on 4 goals to be back with a chance by half time.


To this stage, Carlton had a brave few who had stood against the tide. After conceding an early goal to Sam Reid, Jacob Weitering resumed his season-long campaign of immiserating his opponents. Having spent a couple of months in the doldrums, Sam Petrevski-Seton rediscovered his clean hands and precise disposal. Tom De Koning continued to ruck usefully and offer second efforts that defied his size and negligible experience. The tireless Ed Curnow did Ed Curnow things. Lachie Plowman contained Sydney’s main scoring threat, Tom Papley. And of course, there was Sam Walsh.


In the face of a downright weird obsession from certain alleged AFL experts to denigrate him, Sam Walsh just keeps on keeping on. He runs like the Energizer Bunny. He finds space like someone well beyond his years. In recent weeks he has developed the knack of drifting forward to regularly kick goals. It’s hard to think what more could reasonably have been expected from him in his first two AFL seasons. Tonight, he was best on ground by a mile.


Carlton’s second term resurgence continued after half time, everywhere but the scoreboard. Sydney don’t lie down for you, you have to beat them. We were struggling to find a killer blow. Despite playing the game in our half, we still trailed on the scoreboard.


Enter Jack Newnes. After dividing opinion amongst Saints fans over 150-odd games, Newnes has proved a suitably enigmatic addition to the Navy Blues. His highs are high (ask a Freo fan), but he can also complicate the simple. Here, he produced a checkside goal to bring us within a kick at the final break.


After we drew level early in the final term, the game descended into a prolonged and increasingly bizarre stalemate. A persistent drizzle made ball handling tricky. Players tired. Decision making deteriorated. Ingenious ways to not score were invented by both teams. As the clock ticked down inside 2 minutes, the dreaded prospect of a draw loomed.


Come on down, Matt Cottrell!


Much has subsequently been made of Cottrell’s crazy-eyed goal celebrations. I am still more taken by the poise he showed in nailing the set shot with the win on the line.


This being Carlton 2020, there was of course one final sting to the tail. Lewis Taylor milked a free kick with the sort of theatrics that would suit a Christmas panto. Commentators keep blaming players for this stuff, but if umpires are going to insist on shopping for bridges in Brooklyn, I’m not sure why the players are supposed to refuse service. In this instance, perhaps for the greater benefit of all involved, Taylor missed. But then I would say that.


Since he took over as Carlton coach, David Teague has been a prophet of calm positivity. He wants Carlton to take the game on. We have been one of the more watchable teams this season, when we are good. But we can also be very very bad. We are usually both within the same game. We have conceded runs of 5 or more successive goals in as many games as not. It remains an open question how much of this instability is attributable to players or coaches. Are the players attempting to play a style that is just beyond their current abilities over four quarters? Or are there exploitable deficiencies in the game plan?


What can’t be denied is that the team turns up pretty much every week to compete. Even at our worst, the effort could rarely be questioned. In a season where all clubs have been forced well outside their comfort zones, we can lay claim to being amongst the most consistent.


In this game, 7 goals down with rain falling, with finals a slim prospect at best and many of our bigger names struggling, many recent Carlton teams would have buckled. That they could muster the resolve to claw a win from this situation is no small thing. Nor is the fact that Teague has won half of the 26 games he has coached thus far. In light of recent Carlton history, none of this should be taken lightly.


I’ve never much liked rollercoasters, but I’m enjoying the Teague Train.



CARLTON               0.4       4.4       6.9     8.9 (57)

SYDNEY               3.0       7.2       8.3       8.4 (52)



Carlton: McKay 2, Fisher, Walsh, Cripps, Casboult, Newnes, Cottrell

Sydney: Florent 2, McLean, Reid, McInerney, Hayward, Taylor, Dawson



Carlton: Walsh, Petrevski-Seton, Weitering, Cripps , Plowman, Setterfield, De Koning

Sydney: Lloyd, Florent, McCartin, Dawson, Kennedy




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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. A extraordinary comeback,JB yes it has been crazy by the blues re best and worst in the same game
    Walsh probably his best game yet as a maggot I would not have payed the free kick to Taylor I thought it was definitely a duck but players still must be smarter re the tackle go lower.( at least this one was more than debatable I couldn’t understand the hullabaloo over that putrid tackle by Polec which cost,Port a final just a blatant free kick ) thanks JB

  2. Onya, Rulebook.

    I just don’t understand the logic that it’s the players’ responsibility to make the umps’ job easier. If the umps keep paying them, the players will keep ducking.

    Often this season, the AFL umpiring just seems to have lacked basic game sense. Perhaps they are just having it coached and instructed out of them?


  3. PS: like a lot of things in footy now, the media seem to want this to be some sort of moral issue on the players. Given the current state of the footy media, that’s hilarious.

  4. Excellent summary John, both of the game and the club’s progression overall. Roller-coaster’s are draining.

  5. Liked the “umpires shopping for bridges in Brooklyn” line. Game sense seems to have been coached out of umpires – if any of the current ones ever had it. I am not one for literal interpretation of the rules. They are a framework not tablets of stone. “Rules are for fools”. Most people with passing familiarity with the game have a sense of fair and unfair. That is where the old Jeff Crouch, Glen James, Max O’Connell single umpires were much better.
    Your blokes are certainly entertaining. Even in the first half you were getting plenty of possession and forward entries – but like the drunk stumbling through the set of keys for the front door. I like Fisher – he has plenty of zip and takes the game on. Matthew Kennedy was very good against us.
    We are going out to dinner tonight. The Eagles will be on replay if Nic carries us over the line. He’s now our #1 midfielder. Depth and luck with injuries will decide this season. Unfortunately.

  6. JB – I’ve been fascinated by Carlton’s 2020 rollercoaster. Resolve can’t be questioned. They’ve been competitive in every match, even when they’ve let themselves down with skill errors and a lingering lack of self-belief. Overall, the signs are good. Agree with you about Walsh, and I thought De Koning’s athleticism and clean-handling were excellent for an inexperienced big bloke. Lots of promise there. But all that’s said against a backdrop of a game the other night of a truly awful standard. The only positive is that the more deserving team won. I can’t have comparisons between Sydney and the Azzurri of any era. In soccer, defence (and pinching goals on the rebound) is an artform. Like watching an assassin at work. The stuff Sydney and others are serving up is also deadly – dull that is!

  7. Enjoyed the read John, as I am last quarters of footy this season. Teague is interesting to watch, always so calm.

  8. Shane, draining is one word for our season. I’d also add encouraging, and not a little confusing.

    PB, I think we concur re umps. Re Carlton, we theoretically have some depth in our list now, except very little has been seen from some of the names who constitute that depth.

    Re the Eagles – that was an outstanding win from your lads last night. Saints were all over them, but didn’t know how to ice the deal. Your remaining top liners really stood up when it counted. Character.

    Stainless, I only said the Swans had adopted the spirit of the counter-attack, not the actual execution. :)

    Yes, the game was often messy. That scoreless period in the final term was almost comic at times. But the application of both teams The Blues show a lot of promise, but also a lot of deficiencies.

    Kate, where Bolton seemed increasingly weighed down by his coaching role, Teague seems unruffled, at least externally.

    Thanks for the comments folks.

  9. I am very late to this, JB.

    I watched this game, and whilst credit is due to Carlton for their fighting comeback, I reckon Horse has escaped some scrutiny. From a neutral point of view I thought that, given the position Sydney were in for much of this game they should never have lost, regardless of missing personnel etc.

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