Round 22 – Carlton v Western Bulldogs: Bulldogs (eventually) vanquish the Blues

Carlton v Western Bulldogs
Sunday, 19th August 1.10 p.m
Etihad Stadium



This match came at the fag end of a season for two clubs which has been disappointing for both.


The Bulldogs have managed to salvage something from the wreckage with recent impressive performances and were anticipating a third successive win. However, there was a definite end-of-season languor about the game for most of the afternoon, relieved to some extent by the closeness of the scores for all but the final 15 minutes.


For Blues’ fans this has been a lengthy period of desolation, whether viewed in terms of the recent two months of the season, the whole of 2018 or even the longer sweep of history. Ancients like me can still wallow in the memory of Carlton being a power club and the exploits of such fabled figures as Nicholls, Jesaulenko, McKay, Southby, Doull, Hunter, Kernahan, Johnston, Bradley. Those just reaching voting age will have very limited memories of the Blues even achieving sustained competitiveness.


The Judd-inspired years of 2009-11 produced finals appearances and featured a couple of September wins as well as some respectable losses to opponents with greater firepower, but the norm for the most recent 17 years has been for the Blues to be languishing at or near the bottom of the ladder; this period is notable for five wooden spoons (cfd. with zero in the preceding 105 years of VFL/AFL competition). 2018 has produced Carlton’s statistical nadir with just two wins (unless the unlikely happens when Adelaide visit on Saturday) and an unprecedentedly low percentage of 61.


During the past two months there has been a series of sub-standard performances, usually against superior opposition, with a remarkable similarity of final scores: R.16 Brisbane 120 Carlton 55; R.17 St. Kilda 116 Carlton 52; R.18 Hawthorn 124 Carlton 52; R.20 Giants 151 Carlton 46. Brief respite occurred in Round 19, when the Blues produced an unlikely performance and defeated Gold Coast away, and the week prior to the Bulldogs clash, they had managed a competitive effort in Perth. Fremantle blew them away in a single quarter (the third 7.3 to 2 behinds), but otherwise the Blues were able to match the Dockers. The 29 point margin represented a marked improvement on their clash with the Dockers at Etihad eight weeks earlier when Carlton were smashed by 57 points. This glimmer of improvement set the scene for Sunday’s match.


Fresh from their impressive victories over St. Kilda and North Melbourne, the Bulldogs were expected to enjoy a comfortable win, but perhaps the players had been seduced by this expectation. Carlton managed to reduce the match to a scrap which enabled them to sustain their challenge until the final change. A ten minute burst midway through the last quarter which delivered four goals was sufficient to settle the issue in the tricolours favour, although even then Jack Silvagni managed a fine piece of opportunism to deliver a check-side goal, the final major of the game to reduce the margin to a modest 17 points – respectable from Carlton’s point of view, and probably under-achievement by the Bulldogs.


I had to pass a fitness test to take my position in aisle 14 on level three, as I had a surgical procedure on the day prior. Happily all was well, so I couldn’t excuse myself from my obligation to attend the match.
The Blues scrapped enthusiastically, the kind of engagement which enables them to be competitive, rather than being blown away by teams which are able to dominate through superior skill levels and organisation. There was rarely more than a kick between the two sides until late in the match and the lead changed hands regularly, as neither side was able to strike the killer blow.


The Bulldogs were well served by Hunter and Bontempelli, while Dunkley did an impressive tagging job on Cripps. Simpson had a superb match for the Blues while Weitering played perhaps his best game for the season and Thomas continued his sound form. Lobbe was an effective ruckman and O’Brien and McKay again provided some glimpses of their potential.


The Bulldogs have unearthed some talented youngsters, Gowers, Greene, Schache, Richards and Naughton, while their core – Bontempelli, Hunter, Macrae and McLean are close to optimal age. A better run with injuries should lead to their challenging in 2019. For Carlton the road ahead still looks steep. Some impressive newcomers have been blooded and provided the regular defeats haven’t terminally undermined their confidence, Dow, O’Brien, McKean and last Sunday’s debutant De Koning offer indications that they might become significant long-term contributors.


The optimistic projection sees their development occurring in conjunction with the further progress of the 2-5 year players. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.


CARLTON 2.2 4.4 5.6 7.7 (49)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.1 4.2 6.4 10.6 (66)
Carlton: C.Curnow 2, Wright, De Koning, Simpson, Dow, Silvagni
Western Bulldogs: Jong 2, McLean, Trengove, Hunter, Wallis, Gowers, Greene, Schache, Johannisen
Carlton: Simpson, Cripps, Marchbank, Lamb, Thomas, Byrne
Western Bulldogs: Dunkley, Bontempelli, Hunter, Johannisen, Wallis, Macrae
Carlton: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Reports: Nil
Umpires: Brown, Gavine, Ryan
Official crowd: 24,143 at Etihad Stadium
Votes: 3. Simpson (Carl.) 2. Bontempelli (W.B.) 1. Dunkley (W.B.)


  1. Neil Anderson says

    Hope you are well after your ‘procedure’ Peter. Seems like we have entered the procedure- era at our age. Along with super and grand-kids, it seems to crop up in conversations a lot these days.
    Very fair report from you as usual on the Blues versus Dogs. It does make you wonder how teams down the bottom of the ladder motivate themselves for the last few matches. Fringe-players would be trying to impress for their future you would think and players like Dale Morris would hate to be beaten any time they go out on the field.
    I am really looking forward to seeing the starting-lineup for the Bulldogs in 2019. I will be very disappointed if they don’t improve with a full list to pick from.

  2. Peter Fuller says

    Thanks for the comment Neil. Nothing too dramatic and no post-operative issues, although I share your rueful attitude to the pre-occupations of our stage of life. I am conscious that we bore when we talk about our health issues, the (embellished) stories of previous life, our travel experiences (of limited or zero interest to anyone unfortunate enough to be in earshot), and the marvels or our grandchildren.

    Interesting observation about motivation, and I read your tribute to Morris with interest. I’ve admired Daisy Thomas in his attitude and application, especially in recent weeks. He scaled the heights with his premiership at Collingwood, then after injury made what in retrospect was I expect a regretted decision to move to Carlton. This year he’s been consistently good.
    I guess the answer to your question is that motivation in a poor side with nothing to play for, sorts the professionals who have a real pride in their performance from those who are less committed. It’s natural that we admire those who keep putting in; they’re often not the naturally gifted players.

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Peter, great to hear you have recovered quickly from your surgery, hopefully back running?
    What a tough era for tbe Blues. No doubt, a la Richmond, there will be a return to glory and an arising of the massive Carlton supporter base one day soon.

  4. Peter Fuller says

    Thanks Luke, just missed a couple of days and a slow 15 k. this afternoon.
    You’re quite right that the experience of the Tigers, the Bulldogs and now Melbourne demonstrate that it is possible to shake off even lengthy periods of under-performance. Even your Pies this year have come good after several years struggle – although certainly not on the scale of Carlton. However, there is nothing automatic about the process, and success demands getting all the ducks in a row, good administration, recruiting, unity and luck. I’m generally an optimistic person, but the past two months have certainly challenged me.
    I often think of the John Cleese quote from the film “Clockwise”: It’s not the despair. Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can stand.
    The moments when it seems like we’re making progress so often gives way to a period when the revival seems further away than ever.

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