Round 20 – Essendon v Carlton: Bombers Prevail After A Scare

MCG, Saturday 5th August, 2.10 p.m.

Carlton’s season has declined in recent weeks. Earlier, the team caught Sydney and GWS at vulnerable moments to achieve major victories, and long-standing rivals Essendon and Collingwood were satisfyingly beaten. However, the season has fallen away with last Saturday’s defeat extending the losing streak to seven matches, an uncomfortable reminder of 2016, which yielded just one win from the last eleven matches.

The Blues fell just short against Adelaide and Melbourne, and some other matches have seen reasonably competitive performances, but recent losses to the Bulldogs, Brisbane and Geelong have suggested that the team is struggling, with the many young players feeling the effects of the long season.

The notion of respectable losses would have been anathema to the arrogant Blues of the distant past. Honourable losses – like fine words – butter no parsnips as our great great grandmothers might have (incomprehensibly) said. I’m quite partial to the humble parsnip, but wouldn’t consider it proper to smother them in butter. The respectable loss is scant consolation when it becomes the best that a team can expect. However, it as much as we can hang our hat on in these chastening times.

The recent record gave a sense of foreboding in advance of the clash with Essendon, which was reinforced by the opening quarter. The Bombers dominated with a backline led by Heppell a major springboard of attacks, featuring loose runners surging through midfield. Joe Daniher slotted the opening two goals, which seemed ominous. To his considerable credit, Liam Jones fought back and subdued the Bomber key forward, restricting him to just one more goal for the rest of the afternoon. The Dons ran in five goals before time-on in the quarter, with Blaine Boekhorst’s solitary reply barely interrupting the progress of the Sash. The margin stretched to 28 points, which if anything understated the Blues’ inferiority.  Petrevski-Seton’s goal as the siren sounded gave Carlton some respite.

This served as a precursor for a modest revival during a dour 2nd quarter, in which the game was played on their terms, with the Bombers’ runners restricted. Matthew Wright, an opportunistic if unlikely contender for Carlton’s leading goal-scorer provided the only two majors of the quarter, while the Dons were held to a mere three behinds. The upshot was that the Blues trailed by just ten points at the main break, and the Dons had already run up a sequence of six behinds, and 37 minutes had elapsed since their most recent goal.

The 3rd quarter continued this pattern, Essendon posted a further five behinds, while the Blues contrived goals from Wright (again), Lamb and Kreuzer, which enabled them to take the lead. This spurred Essendon into action, with Howlett released by Watson’s hand-pass to goal from close range after Marchbank missed his marking attempt. This goal came almost two full quarters after the Bombers’ previous goal and restored their advantage, which Heppell extended a few minutes later after marking from Zaharakis’ accurate pass. However, a further twist saw Silvagni stream to an open goal after he was released by a piece of brilliance from Docherty, winning a contest at half-back and breaking through the centre. When Curnow goaled from a free, the Blues went to the break with a three point advantage.

The final quarter opened with Casboult’s conversion from a fine contested mark (lost in the focus of his late miss, which sealed the Blues’ fate). Daniher quickly replied in similar fashion, following his own fine mark, but Gibbs had a lucky break with his speculative kick to the square bouncing through with Silvagni trying to get a foot on the ball and a despairing defender caught in no man’s land. Behinds at either end saw the Blues lead by twelve points mid-way through the quarter, which gave a hint that the game was in the balance rather than the Essendon revival and victory which had seemed inevitable. It was sufficient to rouse the Dons, who from this point were in control. Hooker, finally managed to kick straight from a set shot appropriately enough putting his team in front. This goal separated two by McDonald-Tipungwuti, the team’s excitement machine, while Carlton could only manage Casboult’s afore-mentioned behind, which was gettable, but from an awkward angle.

So the Dons escaped with an eight point victory, to maintain their challenge for a finals appearance. Their inaccuracy yielded eleven behinds in succession at one stage, and from their opening flurry of goals, they “lost” on the scoreboard 6-16 to 10-9. I think this could be partly excused because on a windy day at the “G” there is a high degree of unpredictability about the impact on kicking. The inaccuracy evident in the first half of Collingwood-North Melbourne match at Etihad is much less defensible.  Carlton can take credit for their relative accuracy, which reflected a considered approach to goal, with marks inside fifty and breaks to open goals a feature.

Heppell led the Bombers outstandingly, while Zaharakis was prolific through the midfield. Hurley stood tall in defence and McDonald-Tipungwuti was a constant threat. Essendon were hampered by the early loss of Fantasia, both because of his effectiveness and its impact on their rotations. For Carlton, Docherty and Jones defended stoutly, Kreuzer was the dominant big man and Gibbs was a good contributor, after being shaded early by Myers.

ESSENDON    5.5    5.8    7.14   11.18 (84) 
CARLTON      2.1    4.4    9.5     11.10 (76)

 Daniher 3, McDonald-Tipungwuti 3, Hooker 2, Green, Howlett, Heppell
Carlton: Wright 3, Boekhorst, Petrevski-Seton, Lamb, Silvagni, C.Curnow, Kreuzer, Casboult, Gibbs

 Heppell, Zaharakis, Myers, Hurley, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Hooker
Carlton: Jones, Docherty, Murphy, Kreuzer, Gibbs, Wright

Essendon: Fantasia (hamstring)
Carlton: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Haussen, Hay, Meredith

Official crowd: 58,562 at the MCG

Malarkey Medal Votes:

  1. Heppell (Ess.) 2. Jones (Carl.) 1. Docherty (Carl.)


  1. G’day Peter,

    I have watched the last two minutes of the game on AFL app. How come Casboult missed a goal? The angle was about 30 degrees, but it was close to posts. Remembering what my friend said in the season opener last year, he takes good marks but can’t kick goals.

    On Sunday night, I listened to Final Siren programme on SEN. Mark Fine, the host asked audience if Casboult should go or not. Finey says the key forward was improving so he should stay. Many Bluebaggers think he should go, I think. What do you think about him?



  2. Peter Fuller says

    Thank you for the comment. Levi’s accuracy has improved this year, thanks to Sav Rocca’s instruction. I did mention that the wind affected Essendon’s kicking during the game, so that may have been a factor in what seemed like an easy miss. It swirls around at the MCG because of the stands, and Saturday was extremely windy – gusts at more than 70kph.

    The problem for an outsider expressing an opinion on the playing list, is we don’t know the financial implications, individual player’s preferences and their demands, and if other clubs are interested and what they are prepared to trade. That said I like Levi and would be inclined to keep him, because we lack marking forwards, and as I said he has been much more accurate this year. I certainly wouldn’t sack him because of a single poor kick last week, although I expect that plenty of the SEN callers would be rushing to judgment.

  3. Fine writing, once again, P Fuller.
    I celebrate both your observations and your descriptions of those observations equally.
    Thank you:

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    This certainly buttered my parsnip Peter. Perfection.

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