Round 8 – Carlton v Essendon: Drought Breaker

Carlton v Essendon

Saturday 12th  May, 2.10 p.m.



Saturday provided an opportunity for these two teams – giants of an earlier era, but now confirmed also-rans – to memorialise occasions from the distant past when their contests involved higher stakes. As the prospect of either team, let alone both, appearing on 29th September 2018 at the MCG, is beyond remote, the commemoration was scheduled for May.


As nominal home team, Carlton’s noting of its 1968 triumph over the Bombers took precedence. Widely regarded as one of the worst Grand Finals, the Blues fashioned a three point win in windy conditions, with the quirky unique statistic, the only time in VFL/AFL history when the winning side registered fewer goals than their opponents. Testament to the rivalry between these two teams, they faced off again 25 years later, when Michael Long dominated the G and Carlton were humiliated (with the possible exception of S. Kernahan).


It is memories such as these which sustain supporters during drought-stricken periods like the present, along with many other contests between the two great rivals.


Last Saturday’s match offered much more modest stakes, with Essendon in an unexpected slump, and Carlton’s notoriously impatient supporters enduring a testing and lengthening experience of failure.


Neither side could approach the match with confidence. Carlton’s inexperienced players’ inability to run out quarters, let alone full matches had mocked their occasional flashes of promise. Essendon after they had begun the season with positive expectations after a practice match victory over Geelong, and a thrilling win over Adelaide in the opening round, had declined into a veritable slough of despond.


The match then presented as a Forrest Gump box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gunna get.


Would Carlton’s 2018 talent for playing teams into form (witness Collingwood, North Melbourne, West Coast) prevail so that the Bombers would get their mojo back? Alternatively would the Blues occasional periods of constructive football be sustained for 120 minutes against a (comparatively) struggling opponent?


The issue remained unresolved during a lacklustre first half, marked by the clanger count. Carlton enjoyed a slight edge during the first quarter, when Darcy Lang goaled in the opening minute of his first match in the Navy Blue. However an arm wrestle ensued, two goals to Essendon in reply (McKenna, McKernan), then two to the Blues (Fisher and a 60 metre bomb from McKay), before Ambrose goaled after the siren to leave Carlton with a bare five points advantage at the first break. Essendon were in command for most of the second quarter but squandered their ascendancy with inaccuracy. They led by a single point at the long interval.


Thus the questions remained, would Essendon be swallowed by their 3rd quarter black hole, or would the Blues be able to maintain their intensity for the duration? Essendon did manage two of the opening three goals (Merrett, Fantasia) to achieve their biggest lead of the match, seven points. However Carlton finished the quarter strongly with goals to Lang, McKay and C. Curnow to wrest the lead and push it out to 10 points at the last change.


As in the 3rd quarter, the Bombers rallied at the beginning of the last. Goals to McKenna and McDonald-Tipungwati put them in front, but this survived just two minutes. With the heady and unaccustomed aroma of victory in their nostrils, Carlton finished full of running. In the space of six minutes, Petrevski-Seton, Lamb and Kerridge goaled to establish a comfortable lead, which ultimately proved insurmountable. In the final twenty minutes of playing time, Essendon managed a goal from Fantasia plus four behinds, while Ed Curnow capped a good match by squeezing the ball through a pack of players following a ball-up in the forward-pocket. It was no surprise given the lacklustre nature of what passed for entertainment during the afternoon that the final fifteen minutes did not see a goal recorded.


The palpable mix of joy and relief on the faces of the Blues’ players in the moments after the final siren, reassured Carlton fans that the players do care. If the quality of the football on display scarcely lifted the spirits, we of the Carlton faith (sorely-tried, in recent times) departed the MCG with a spring in our step. After eight barren weeks (plus the final five of the AFLW competition, for some of us) we drew inspiration not just from Cripps but also from Dante:


Thence we emerged and saw stars again.



CARLTON        4.1       6.2       10.6     14.7 (91)
ESSENDON     3.2       5.9       7.14     10.18 (78)


 C.Curnow 3, E.Curnow 2, Lang 2, McKay 2, Lamb 2, Fisher, Petrevski-Seton, Kerridge
Essendon: McKernan 2, Fantasia 2, McKenna, Ambrose, Zaharakis, Heppell, Merrett, McDonald-Tipungwuti

Cripps, Kreuzer, E.Curnow, C.Curnow, Simpson, Lamb, Jones, Thomas
Essendon: Zaharakis, Heppell, Smith, Hooker, Fantasia

Wright (ankle)
Essendon: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Stevic, Williamson, Glouftsis

Official crowd: 44,669 at the MCG

Malarkey Medal Votes:

  1. Cripps (Carl.)  2. Kreuzer (Carl.)  1. Zaharakis (Ess.)



  1. “Essendon are further up the creek without a paddle now than they were in 2016. Discuss.”.

  2. I can see that smile on your face from Perth PF. I watched the last quarter and your boys passion for the jumper and the contest was clear. Essendon players phoning it in.
    Maintain the faith PF. Richmond were a laughing stock until they weren’t.
    By the way, you didn’t play my Eagles into form. We were in form until you dragged us down to your level, and threatened to beat us with experience.

  3. Peter Fuller says

    I’m barely qualified to express an opinion on the Bombers now cfd. to 2016. However my superficial impression is that there is reasonable quality on the list, but for the moment, they are suffering from a catastrophic lack of confidence (individual and collective) and poor on-field leadership. Daniher strikes me as a prime example. He is clearly a capable player, but currently his confidence is completely shot. My guess is the situation could turn reasonably quickly. I suppose Bomber Almanackers are lying low at the moment, and they would be able to offer a more authoritative assessment.
    You’re probably correct with your analysis of the Eagles-Carlton match, but I’d still argue that your two games since have been your best performances for the year.
    Thank you both for responding to my musings.

  4. E.regnans says

    Thanks P Fuller, for a characteristically thoughtful story.
    I greatly admire your observation and writing.
    And your perspective.

    As a follower of the black & white variety, this fixture used to translate as a pass for “free movement about town.” Given that Essendon AND Carlton folk (probably Collingwood’s two biggest rivals of my formative years) were otherwise engaged.

    Interesting times at Carlton.
    Interesting that B Bolton has been able to control the story thus far.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Great to see Darcy Lang go well on his Blues debut. Got him a nice write up in the Colac Herald!

  6. Peter Fuller says

    Thanks ER and Luke for your comments.
    Luke, I was particularly pleased when Darcy L. reached the Geelong list, and would have been pleased if he had secured a spot there. However, when he didn’t I was very happy that he made it to Carlton. I think he has a touch of class, and although he doesn’t impose himself on the contest at this stage of his development, I think his skills will carry him a long way. I watched his grandfather during Jim’s distinguished career with the Colac Tigers in the 1950s, so Darcy’s progress offers me a nostalgic treat. As you would be aware, he is related to Luke Hodge.

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