Round 22 – Carlton v Hawthorn: Nemesis

Carlton v Hawthorn

Saturday 19th August, 7.25 p.m.

Etihad Stadium


Carlton took on their long-time nemesis with no reason to anticipate that their long run of outs against the Hawks might be reversed.

While Hawthorn had suffered a miserable early season, their fortunes had revived in the back half. Although their round 20 loss to Richmond had effectively ended hopes of September action, there was no question that they were travelling better than the Blues who entered the contest on a streak of eight successive losses. While some of these defeats had revealed glimpses of form, the overall trajectory was of decline and it seemed that the younger Blues were longing for the season to end.

I’m sceptical of the assumed significance of a long run of losses to a particular opponent. Given the relative strength of Hawthorn and Carlton since 2005, it is scarcely surprising that the Hawks have generally had the Blues’ measure. In only one of those seasons did Carlton conclude the season with a better win-loss record, and in only one other were they even close. While the misunderstood law of averages is assumed to suggest an occasional upset (they’re due), the fact that the consistently superior side usually wins is neither accident nor surprise. Had this match occurred early this season, the Blues might have fancied their chances, but by round 22, the Hawks were entitled to warm favouritism.

Carlton had chosen to mark the 30th anniversary of a famous Grand Final victory over the Hawks in this the final home fixture of the season. At Etihad, such commemorations are conducted in rather prosaic fashion, in contrast to the sometimes excessively theatrical productions at the MCG. Rather than a motorcade, the giants of the Blues’ 1980s teams walked a circuit of the ground. It prompted a mix of emotions – fond memories for nostalgically-minded older supporters mixed with a sense of how far we have fallen. To the considerable credit of (I assume) the current coaching panel, the players interrupted their warm-up to form a guard of honour for the past achievers as they meandered past the Coventry end goals.

I also generally feel that appeals to win a game in honour of some past event, or even some player reaching a milestone are usually misplaced, and a distraction from the task of focused preparation, winning each contest, and concentrating on each moment of the game.

Unexpectedly, the opening minutes suggested that the Blues were more “up” for the contest than the Hawks. Gibbs opened the scoring with a kick off the ground which went through the major opening, but was deemed touched by a score review. A couple of minutes later, he was awarded a free with Puopolo caught holding the ball, and goaled when he was gifted a fifty metre penalty. Wright converted a free from Glass’ push in the back to add another, with Gibbs involved in the lead-up. Ten minutes elapsed before Puopolo extracted the ball from a pack at a throw-in and snapped the Hawks’ first goal – their only one for the quarter. Thomas replied when he marked Wright’s accurate square pass, and Casboult kicked accurately on the siren after marking from Curnow. This gave the Blues a 21 point break at the first change, after they had dominated the quarter, especially through their midfielders, Murphy, Gibbs and Kreuzer.

Hawthorn stirred at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, controlling the play and monopolising the scoring. Langford and Breust scored majors to reduce Carlton’s lead. Fisher managed a goal against the run of play with an advantage play from Curnow’s free kick, but the Blues were on the ropes. Hawthorn’s inaccuracy enabled Carlton to maintain their lead, until successive goals in the space of ninety seconds from strong marks by McEvoy and Roughead put the Hawks ahead. Curnow restored the Blues lead at the long interval following a fine mark from Murphy’s pass, but the move was aided by a couple of frees to bring the ball out of defence.

Lamb whose unsociable attention to Sicily drew considerable comment, was able to induce an indiscretion from the Hawk and won an off-the-ball free to open the scoring in the 2nd half. Casboult extended the Carlton lead when he was on the end of a coast to coast move from a kick-in after the Hawks opened their 2nd half account with a behind from Puopolo. Yet again this goal was the result of a fifty metre penalty. In the middle stages of the quarter, Hawthorn went on a scoring run, marked by precision kicking to slice the Carlton defence open. Puopolo, Burgoyne and Duryea all goaled, to again give the Hawks a narrow lead. This prompted a late quarter response with goals to Pickett and Lamb which put the Blues in front by eight points at the last change.

Isaac Smith fulfilled expectations of a final quarter surge by Hawthorn with a goal within two minutes, to get within a kick. However, the Blues mounted a determined resistance; almost ten minutes of attrition passed before the margin was stretched beyond a goal. Kreuzer, from a free, and Pickett kicked telling goals, and although Burgoyne got one back, the goals dried up completely in the final ten minutes.

For Carlton this was an victory which served to restore some faith in the project which is the revival of the Blues, and it salvaged something from the wreckage of the latter half of the season. The triumphalism should be limited as Hawthorn were in a definite end-of-term mood. I was surprised to see Hodge, who he has always seemed to have so much time on the football field, the victim of a run-down tackle. Perhaps he has picked a good time to sling his hook. It’s interesting to watch the struggle for highly-proficient players between their instinctive talent and a slight compromise of motivation when finals are effectively (if not mathematically) out of reach. Burgoyne was brilliant in cameos in this match, but couldn’t sustain the effort.

The Hawks were best served by Mitchell, almost certainly the trade deal of the season, and O’Meara who vindicated Clarkson’s decision to play him; he is likely to torment opposition sides in future seasons. Burton also had a fine game.

Carlton were best served by Docherty, Murphy, Curnow, Kreuzer and Jones, who once again gave a good account of himself against a feted opponent, Roughead.

CARLTON         4.4     6.4     10.4     12.5     (77)
HAWTHORN     1.1     5.7      8.8     10.10    (70)

Casboult 2, Pickett 2, Lamb 2, Gibbs, Wright, Thomas, Fisher, C. Curnow, Kreuzer
Hawthorn: Puopolo 2, Langford, Breust, McEvoy, Roughead, Burton, Duryea, Smith, Burgoyne

Murphy, Docherty, Kreuzer, Lamb, C. Curnow, Jones, Pickett
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Gunston, McEvoy, Burgoyne, Burton, Smith

 Billie Smedts (concussion)
Liam Shiels (hip) replaced in the selected side by Conor Glass

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Stephens, Fleer, McInerney

Official crowd: 35,799 at Etihad Stadium

Malarkey Medal Votes:

  1. Mitchell (Haw.) 2.  Docherty (Carl.)    1. Murphy (Carl.)

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