Round 6 – Carlton v Essendon: Ugly is the new Beautiful

This was always going to be one for the die-hards. The league’s two lowest scoring sides, playing in the sort of swirling, blustery winds that can make the most polished teams look mediocre. Many thought similarly, as the crowd was thirty thousand shy of usual attendance between these clubs. Lovers of picturesque football best turn away now. But if you like a contest, stick around.

Carlton nerves were tested by the late withdrawal of Patrick Cripps, who is currently more important to the Blues than any 28-gamer has a right to be. Suspicion abounded that Essendon would be desperate to erase memories of their embarrassing Anzac Day first half. Blues pessimists had seen this one before.

Fears eased as Carlton dictated the early going. Daisy was on fire, opening with a great crumbing goal and playing his best term in Navy Blue. Ed Curnow had his own ball. Gibbs, Murphy, Graham and Kerridge held sway. The inside 50 count was all our way. Our defensive press kept the ball locked in.

It was just a pity that we couldn’t score.

Carlton’s predicament is that scrounging ten goals a game is about our current limit. That keeps every opponent in the contest, no matter how much you dominate other aspects.

To their credit, Essendon resisted with more conviction than Anzac Day. Under Worsfold, they look to get numbers back and keep possession until opportunity presents. It’s a plan undermined by their reliable ability to miss targets. Their only first term goal came from a fast rebound leaving the marvellously  named Orazio Fantasia to out-run Simpson. It was 3 goals to 1 at quarter time.

History will record that the second term saw Carlton score 0.6 to Essendon’s 0.3. Carlton lost Jacob Weitering, hurt in a comic goal mouth scramble, adding injury to frustration. Given the general standard of play, it would have been appropriate if we’d been allowed to fetch our cars from Yarra Park to drive up to the boundary fence. There wasn’t much cause to toot, but there was ample room to park.

As discussion ran to how Channel Seven had managed the telecast of the break-free second term, the third began with Carlton peppering the goals. Actually, that should read peppering the general vicinity of the goals, without threatening the specific goal itself. We discovered new and creative ways to kick the ball out on the full. Liam Jones even managed to do it with a man unmarked in the goal square. Replays will be a strong contender for the Barry Awards at next year’s Comedy Festival.

After all this waste, it was almost inevitable Essendon would rebound. Given what had preceded, their three quick goals felt like an avalanche. They seized the lead and all momentum.

This was precisely the point at which Carlton teams of recent years would have folded. This team dug in. Jed Lamb kicked straight when so many had failed. Then Bryce Gibbs somehow found room at a stoppage to snap another. Fantasia could have closed the gap to a couple of points after the siren, but missed.

Fatigue saw the game open up in the final term. Winning the centre breaks became vital. After Daniher goaled, Carlton took charge for a crucial period. Marc Murphy, who had the better of a Crowley tag on the day, kicked a steadier. We then burst away from a succession of centre breaks to stretch the lead to a seemingly decisive 26 points.

One final twist remained. Weitering’s absence had forced Plowman to improvise as our second tall defender. With centre breaks now swinging Essendon’s way, he was out-muscled by a succession of burlier opponents. 26 points became 8 with alarming rapidity. Murphy steadied the ship again, intercepting and passing to Phillips at the 50. The big fella capped a most promising display by finally clinching the deal.

This was an honest, ugly scrap between two limited teams in poor circumstance. Unsurprisingly, Brendan Bolton is focusing on making his team hard to play against. He appears to be making progress where Mick Malthouse failed. Carlton carried expectations of a win into this match. Having done much to squander the opportunity, there was pleasing character shown in recovering. Others have the luxury of grading aesthetics, but a Carlton win over Essendon will always be a thing of beauty. A season that began with little promise is starting to look interesting.

CARLTON      3.1   3.7   5.9  10.12 (72)
ESSENDON   1.1   1.4   4.8     8.9 (57)

Wright 2, Thomas, Jones, Lamb, Gibbs, Murphy, Armfield, Sumner, Phillips
Essendon: Brown 2, Parish 2, Fantasia, Polkinghorne, Daniher, Grimley

 Thomas, Gibbs, Curnow, Murphy, Docherty, Kerridge, Phillips
Essendon: Cooney, Zaharakis, Dempsey, Gwilt, Merrett, Brown

Official crowd: 43,827 at the MCG

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. John Butler says

    As I suggested, the season is getting very interesting. Beautiful is the new beautiful.

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