Round 2 – West Coast v Carlton: My Kingdom for a Ruckman

Carlton coach Mick Malthouse said something after the match to the lines of “we pick the team we think is going to win the match each week until it’s mathematically impossible to make the finals”. That seems like a pretty obvious statement to make especially in Round 2 of the season. I have to ask him this question if this statement was true to him (and if he just didn’t read that from his “Be Good to the Media” pamphlet that he taken to the post match conferences) if we wanted to win at Subiaco, why didn’t beanpole Carlton ruckman Robbie Warnock play?

Warnock likes the wide-open fields of Subiaco where he can use his running prowess to good effect. And his enormous height tends to pose problems to most teams looking for their ruck to shove the ball down their guys throats. He’s not the greatest ruckman around, but at Subi he’s a far better player than usual. He may have curbed the influence of the leaping Nic Naitanui on Friday night.

Because boy oh boy were we Nic Nat Paddy Wacked!

The highlight reel from the match will show the first 15 seconds of the game where Nic Nat soared above the hapless Cam Wood to get a clean tap, and then buttered up to storm through the centre to kick a goal from 60 or so out. YIKES…what a start.

Thankfully we goaled quickly after that, and then there was a quarter of flowing footy with a few lead changes. We looked good when the Baggers rebounded beautifully off the backline with Yarran and Docherty leading the charge. Plus the King of Subi Chris Judd accumulated 12 touches. A 2 goal lead at quarter time seemed like a good result for us.

Ominously though, the best parts of the quarter for us were when Nic Nat was not on the ball. Unfortunately we had to sub off Simon White who was injured early and young Clem Smith played the remainder of the match (he’s definitely not ready for seniors footy yet.)

The second started with the ball in Carlton’s 50 metre arc for the first 5 minutes or so, but with us unable to post a score on the board. As soon as it got down to the Eagles 50 they goaled. And the ball pretty much resided in the Eagles 50 for the rest of the quarter. The Eagles were wasteful, kicking 3.7 in the term, but Carlton showed its inability to kick the ball out of the backline, with there being some sort of anti-Carlton force field at Carlton’s 50 metre line.

Nic Nat flexed his springheels in this and the third quarter as time and time again he would tap to advantage. Cam Wood (who battled on bravely) was slaughtered by Nic Nat and then by Eagles No 2 ruck Lycett. The Eagles mids played with the confidence that comes with ruck domination and the feeling that the match was for theirs the taking. Malthouse may have been pleading ‘My kingdom for a ruckman!’ (I sure was).

The move of Rosa onto Judd quelled the King of Subi’s influence and…well as like last week Carlton faded to barely a whimper. To be frank it was WORSE than last week! Yarran and Docherty floated out of the game and we lacked winners around the ground.

Now’s the time to mention the elephant in the room, the Chris Judd/Josh Kennedy swap at the conclusion of 2007. Commentators love to talk about this whenever the Blues and Eagles play, saying “was it worth it for Carlton to do this?” I have no doubt that getting Judd to Carlton was one of the best things that happened to us in recent years. Judd is a champion and helped to drag us out of the mire that were the 2002-2007 doom and gloom years for us. He was the leadership we needed back then and he’s been great for us ever since.

Josh Kennedy had shown some promise in his time at Carlton, but had some injuries and was not the dominant force he is now. On Friday night well….10 goals to Kennedy was an incredible performance.

I think the question we should be asking is what if we traded our No 1 pick in the 2007 draft so that in the Judd deal we kept Kennedy. Our No 1 pick was ruckman Matthew Kreuzer who we hope will become a great player for us. But he’s not close yet, mainly due to injuries, but also due to the fact that I don’t think he’s quite got ‘what it takes’ to be a dominant player. Imagine if Judd and Kennedy were in the same team. Woah! Sliding doors….

Back to the match. The third quarter turned into a horrible (for Blues fans) Josh Kennedy rave (think Matrix Reloaded rave scene). He requested that he was given plenty of space for him to boogie. Carlton kindly obliged (ala Saturday Night Fever – you know…the John Travolta dancing scene with the Bee Gees “You Should be Dancin’” as the soundtrack), clearing the ‘dancefloor’ and Kennedy strutted into the open paddocks and shot out the lights, booting 6. Gee we are nice guys. I’m sure other power forwards are really excited about the Carlton disco we are running.

Carlton had it pants pulled down again! Kennedy kicked goals seemingly at will, the Eagles mids did what they liked. Carlton barely looked like we could put together a cohesive chain of possessions after quarter time. The Eagles easily covered for their missing gun defenders and our key forwards Lachie Henderson, Liam Jones, and Levi Casboult looked as threatening as wet lettuce leaves (not their fault really, the supply was abysmal). Yep it was resembling the end of Carlton’s 2003 season (anyone remember?), when teams who missed out on the finals were racking up cricket scores against us.

Our grand poobah Mick Malthouse said that the Eagles made one move (Rosa onto Judd) and that was the game. Really? Mick, please…I hope you don’t actually believe that. He thought we had strategies to win games…so how couldn’t we break out of the Eagles 50 meter arc for a quarter of the game, with us having a goalless quarter for the second week in a row. How can the tagging of one player end the match for our brittle team? Why did we give their best forward a paddock to run into and why didn’t we stop it earlier? And why didn’t we play the right ruckman for the game?

I’m calling this season over for us. We look slow and crap and lack structure. Everitt was great and Simpson maintained his high standards, Bell has developed into a solid midfielder for us but aside from that there’s not much positive to say…um Casboult kicked the best 55m floater for goal off the boundary I’ve seen. Negatives are massive – many of them from a coaching point, but there are a few mainstays in the team who look a shell of their former selves. I hope I’m wrong, but even with the soft draw we have I can’t see us beating anyone in the next few weeks unless there’s a massive change.

About Alex Gionfriddo

Fat man, Carlton fan, up for a jam, my team I pan when necessary.


  1. Good report Malby. Nic Nat finally has some fitness, and I always felt he thrived on work and game time. Rotating on and off for Cox never suited him as he needs to get into the rhythm of a game. Last week against Minson was his best game for 2 years and Friday night even better. He has his limitations as a marking big man because of poor body positioning – but as a tap ruckman come ruck rover with good hands he is outstanding.
    Which brings me to Cameron (Blocka) Wood?? Jeez those Collingwood gifts keep on giving don’t they – Mick, Daisy and Blocka. Anyone who has watched Nic Nat knows how big strong guys like Minson and Mumford counter him by moving early into his run path and jumping into his body to knock him off balance when he leaps. Was the Carlton ruck coach incapable of simple scouting or is Blocka incapable of carrying it out?
    The other thing was the Rosa tag on Judd. Where were the Carlton mids offering a chop out or getting in Rosa’s way? It was one on one from quarter time onward. Is Carazzo just collecting his money? He used to have a lot of mongrel and fly the flag. And Murphy runs in circles a lot but creates no danger for opponents. His kicking was ordinary.
    As for Casboult – I remembered St Kilda big man Stewie Lowe and how awful his kicking action was at the start of his career. Waving the ball around and an inconsistent ball drop. Over one summer they simplified and deconstructed his technique, so it became very mechanical. Took 15 metres off the length of his kicks – but he became deadly from inside 40. Are clubs so focussed on athleticism that they can’t teach skills any more?
    It isn’t that the Eagles are very good, but I love how Adam Simpson is developing players and a game style (based on Hawthorn obviously). A teaching coach – what a novel idea. At least we are on a road to somewhere – which is all I ask for as a fan. Improvement before excellence.

  2. Great comments Peter_B. Interesting insight into how to curtail Nic Nat. You’ve touched upon the poor coaching/execution by Carlton to stop him, which I think is symptomatic of a malaise within the Carlton organisation. Carrazzo was pretty much invisible, and poor Marc Murphy looks lost at the moment. He’s almost too small to be a key onballer. We need him firing! If Judd’s tag was the key element in our loss then (in a broader sense) I think Daisy’s injury has thrown our midfield plans out of whack. With him in the midfield rotations we look much stronger. We are so reliant on a few key guys that we are stuffed if they under-perform or injured. We have a very shallow list, especially in the midfield.
    Levi was OK and I think Carlton would love it if he could do a Stewie Lowe and become a half decent kick.
    I’m sure as an Eagles fan it would have been a wonderful match for you, especially with how well you guys handled your missing key defenders. And you’ve drafted a young gun in Liam Duggan (none of our 2014 picks have shown too much so far).

  3. Matt Zurbo says

    Ripper piece, mate!! Mick is very much a back pocket. He just doesn’t think in terms of ruckmen!

  4. Thanks Matt. Malthouse has been out coached two weeks in a row. He’s got no plan B o r C etc.
    I remember at the Pies malthouse had a few blokes who could ruck well. His No. 2 ruck, Leigh Brown, was an excellent bullocking crash/bash type who was a monstrous pain in the ass for opponents, as well as having the ability to snaffle a goal or two.
    In his defence at Carlton he hasn’t had a lot to work with in the ruck.

  5. John Butler says

    Excellent observation here Malby.

    Of course, we did at one stage have four legitimate choices for ruck on the list. At the end of 2010 there was Jacobs, Kreuzer, Warnock and Hampson. Jacobs had just been one of our best players in a final, but Hampson had Megan Gale for a girlfriend so we naturally kept him. Another of the decisions that has got us where we are today.

    PB, your observations are on the money. Whilst I’ve argued elsewhere that we have bigger problems than Mick, I’m not seeing the attention to small details I was expecting would improve when we changed coaches.

  6. Malby Dangles says

    That Jacobs trade has haunted us for years! At least we were able to palm off Hampson to Richmond.

  7. Pottering says

    Nice piece, Malby. Spot on with your calls re Naitanui, Kennedy and Judd. There weren’t any plan B’s when all these situations went the Eagles way.

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