Round 2 – Western Bulldogs v Carlton



Western Bulldogs v Carlton
Marvel Stadium
23rd March 7.25 p.m.


It’s been eight long years since Carlton made a finals appearance (and that a fortuitous one because of Essendon’s disqualification). 2013 was also the most recent season in which the Blues had a break-even win-loss record, and they have not since then managed consecutive victories against opponents that were serious contenders/finals aspirants.

The opening two rounds have seen successes against Richmond and the Bulldogs, both of whom were considered probable top four prospects by the consensus of opinion, expert and inexpert (assuming that such a distinction makes sense). Carlton last won the season-opener against Richmond in 2012, when they also managed a Round 2 victory, so nine years have passed since the Blues reached this stage of the season unbeaten.

The long run of outs urges caution about the season-long expectations, and it’s tempting fate to even hint at a possible revival, but there have been some encouraging qualitative signs evident in these two performances.

Personnel: Charlie Curnow’s return to form and fitness makes the attack much more potent; Adam Cerra is a real acquisition, as is George Hewett. In combination with Sam Walsh, they allow Patrick Cripps much more freedom, and his rejuvenation is reflected in two stellar performances (he might have already banked anything from 2-6 Brownlow votes). As well, there has been dramatic improvement in Matt Kennedy, and significant progress by Mitch McGovern and Lochie O’Brien among others.

Attitude/Resilience: There seems a generally stronger mental approach. The Tigers led by significant margins twice during their match; recent Carlton teams would probably have folded but, on this occasion, the Blues reeled them in and then won going away.

Fitness: The team is running out quarters more convincingly than in the recent past and, although outscored in the second half by the Dogs, the team exhibited enough steadiness in the face of a final quarter challenge to see off the threat.

As an outsider, one obviously doesn’t know about relationships between coach and players or coach and assistants, but it seems that Michael Voss has been able to invigorate the team. I was somewhat sceptical of his appointment, but it appears that he has learnt important lessons from his ill-starred experience coaching Brisbane. Of course, it’s easy when things are going well and the challenge for coaches and players will be to respond to the inevitable sub-par performances.

The match was high quality and played at a frenetic pace. Charlie Curnow registered the opening goal in 20 seconds. The Bulldogs responded with the next two but from there Carlton got on top to lead at quarter time by seven points. This was as close as the Doggies came during the rest of the game as the Blues repeated their dominant second quarter of the previous week to establish breathing space, and led by 31 points at half-time. This was largely attributable to McKay’s three goals for the quarter, which gave him four to that stage, while Cripps was imperious at the clearances and drove the ball forward constantly.

The Bulldogs won the 2nd half decisively, but the gap proved insurmountable. Carlton managed timely goals to keep them out of reach. Decisively the Dogs betrayed their all-night accuracy (13.5 until half-way through the final quarter) with seven successive behinds to reach their final score. Luke Beveridge used the same adjective “gettable” which had occurred to me, to describe several missed set shots. When Bontempelli goaled early in the quarter, he reduced the margin to twelve points, but Charlie Curnow’s timely 4th and 5th goals maintained the advantage, while the string of Dogs’ behinds closed the scoring but left the Blues beyond reach.

Cripps was outstanding but well-supported in midfield by Hewett and the 2022 revelation Kennedy. Sam Walsh made an effective return from his practice match injury which had threatened a longer break. Curnow and McKay were certain targets and their conversion rate, 5 straight and 4.1 respectively, was decisive. For the Bulldogs, Macrae was a constant ball-winner and Liberatore and Treloar were busy at ground level. English was effective with his marking around the ground and had a good battle in the ruck with Pittonet. Bontempelli was as always, a constant threat in midfield and attack. Daniel’s penetrating kicks launched many attacks.

Western Bulldogs: 4.1 7.3 11.5 13.12 (90)
Carlton:                   5.2 12.4 14.5 16.6 (102)

Western Bulldogs: Liberatore 2, Scott 2, Hannan 2, English, Ugle-Hagan, Treloar, Naughton, Dale, Weightman, Bontempelli
Carlton: Curnow 5, McKay 4, Cripps 2, Silvagni 2, Kennedy, Owies, Fisher

Western Bulldogs: English, Macrae, Treloar, Liberatore, Bontempelli, Dunkley
Carlton: Cripps, Hewett, Curnow, McKay, Walsh, Kennedy, Fisher

Western Bulldogs: Crozier (fainted)
Carlton: McDonald (back)

Western Bulldogs: B.Williams (replaced H.Crozier)
Carlton: L.Plowman (replaced O.McDonald)

Crowd: 34,961 at Marvel Stadium


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  1. Peter, those of us with a soft spot for the Lions are having to rethink our attitude towards Carlton now that Michael Voss is the coach. We can only wish the champion success.

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