Setting the Bar High

In this Olympic year, thoughts go to many and varied events across those two weeks of that competition which comes around once every four years: events that would be given barely a second thought by any of us at any other time.

My thoughts seem to have wandered to the field event of high jump.

The athlete sizes up the bar, runs towards it at a considered and measured pace and launches himself – back first – over the bar.

With each successful jump the bar is raised, making each subsequent jump more challenging in the attempt to attain the highest prize.

Perhaps somewhat oddly, this is how I see the AFL season shaping up for Carlton.

A highly anticipated affair, round one was the annual battle against long-time traditional foe Richmond.

All the pundits were wondering what the Tigers would bring to the ‘G’ – surely something more substantial than the usual fare of underwhelming opposition and disappointed hopes for their fans – Alas not!

It was a good contest for three quarters but the Blues ran away to a 44 point lead by the final siren.

This was a good boost to Carlton’s confidence and their self-belief in performing well this season.

The bar is raised!

The next challenge presented itself this Easter long weekend in the form of another Thursday night match, this time in foreign climes, the Blues having headed north to the Gabba to take on the Brisbane Lions.

The Lions also had a resounding victory in round one – a badly needed win given their unexpectedly poor performance in Season 2011.

The Blues ‘jumped out of the gate’ from the opening bounce but the Lions quickly settled and got straight back into the tussle. It looked to be the makings of a full-on battle.

The end of the first quarter had Brisbane and Carlton separated by just two points.

At this point of the game, no-one could have anticipated what was to come.

Carlton kicked five goals in the second quarter to Brisbane’s one.

The Lions then went goal-less in the third term while Carlton kicked another six.

The final quarter saw the Blues give a lesson to the Lions in teamwork, running play, scoring and defence.

A 91 point drubbing had Brisbane coach Michael Voss sitting back in open admiration of the opposition his team had faced.

Every facet of the Blues structure had performed well and stayed ‘on-message’ for the duration of the game.

Surprisingly, Brett Ratten was most delighted in the performance of his team’s defensive effort which he highlighted when speaking to the media after the match.

With a 91 point margin at the end of the game, you could be forgiven for thinking he’d focus on the players that facilitated the scoring of 23 goals.

Juddy had a blinder, kicking three goals and combining effectively and brilliantly with Murphy throughout the game with both players obtaining in excess of 30 possessions.

The flare from the forward line, with Jarrod Waite kicking five goals for the night and Eddie Betts soaring to spectacularly mark the ball on two separate occasions, could also not be undervalued.

But Ratten singled out the backline – an area that has been highlighted as Carlton’s ‘Achilles heel’ with the ongoing absence of key defenders due to injury – focussing on the defensive players’ ability to “protect the scoreboard” and stand up to any forward push by the opposition.

The players were elated and the coach was deservedly proud and buoyed by the team’s performance.

Of course this may present a bit of a quandary for Ratten. With the defensive unit performing so well in its current incarnation, how do you slot in those key defenders due back from injury without upsetting the ‘winning formula’ and who do you drop to make way?

It’s the enviable problem of ‘spoilt for choice’ really.

Looking ahead to Round 3 – the bar will be raised again.

Carlton’s next challenge has to be viewed as a benchmark game.

Neither of the Blues’ first two opponents even made the top eight last year.

Playing Collingwood – grand finalists last year and premiers in 2010 – will be a gauge of how genuine these season-opening victories have been.

Well, next Friday night will roll around soon enough and the complexion of the season will continue to take shape.

And … each week, for 21 more games, the bar will be set, steadied and the jump attempted: the ultimate goal being to jump higher than any of the opposition.

Jill Scanlon ( @JDScanlon)



About Jill Scanlon

Blues fan and sports lover. Development through sports advocate; producer, journalist and news follower. Insanely have returned to p/t study - a Masters of International & Community Development. Formerly with ABC International / Radio Australia in Melbourne.

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