The Ozymandias Cup: Carlton v Essendon

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay…

Percy Bysshe Shelley (football affiliations unknown)

Visiting Princes Park now is a bit like a trip to the Parthenon: the sense of old gods remains, but in the glare of day it’s hard to ignore the rubble. Still, it was a lovely afternoon to inspect the ruins.

I wasn’t the only one feeling sentimental: the two tribes filled the old suburban citadel for a practice match carrying little expectation. Mocking their collective 32 premierships, Carlton and Essendon can have seldom entered a season with dimmer prospects. Each in their own unique way has been brought low through hubris, incompetence and folly. I doubt Shelley knew much about football, but writing the recent history of these two clubs wouldn’t present him much of a challenge.

With so many unfamiliar faces wearing familiar numbers, the main outer sport for the afternoon proved to be Name The Player. At least that was a solid team effort.

The first quarter was classic pre-season scramble; fumbled marks and missed targets predominated. Play had the internal logic of a chook yard with the foxes about.

Essendon surged ahead in the second quarter through centre clearance dominance and a plethora of 50 metre penalties awarded in their front half. The politest thing the umpiring could be called was enigmatic. Carlton were starved of the ball and impotent in attack.

With the contest (such as it was) decided, the main interest of the second half lay in individual performance. Carlton benched the few senior players they’d named and gave all the kids a run. Jacob Weitering showed signs of his vaunted ability to read the ball in defence. His was a composed debut. In a depleted midfield, Nick Graham was the only Blue who could consistently win a clearance, but he needs to use the ball better. He’s hardly alone there. It was pleasing to see Ciaran Byrne get through most of a game after a long absence. To bolster the Irish theme, Zach Tuohy was probably our best.

Of the Bombers, Zaharakis, Goddard and the Merretts had the young Blues midfield covered. Joe Daniher managed 3 goals, though he dropped as many marks as he held. Ryan Crowley was received by the crowd with the same warmth Eagles fans usually reserve him, but he showed he still knew how to pick up a few kicks. Fellow top-ups Bird and Simpkin were also handy.

Both teams ran a variety of recycled players through the ruck. The overall impression was far less Nicholls v Farmer, rather more Herald Sun Spot the Ball.

Unfortunately, in his brief time at Carlton, Liam Jones has found himself increasingly the focus of supporter frustrations. It must be a lonely predicament. His cause was hardly helped when Mick Malthouse tried to sell him as an “explosive animal” upon drafting. Sadly for Jones, he’s proved explosive only in a suicide bomber sense. He was obviously trying to physically impose himself on this game, but 78% game time yielded a solitary handball as his return. When people try to sell you on the idea of AFL football as an exact science, just remember that Liam Jones will have spent nine seasons on an AFL list by the time his jig is up.

In crisis times, it’s curious both clubs have adopted aspects from each other’s past. Essendon’s top ups rather recall Pagan’s Carlton circa 2005. The Blues will obviously hope to invoke the precedent of Sheedy’s Baby Bombers. Essendon have bucked the recent trend by going for a name premiership coach. Carlton can testify to how well that can work out. It will be instructive to see how each club is positioned in a few years’ time.

Practice matches are ultimately only ever steps to a future purpose. You can take of this result what you choose, but the season proper, and seasons to come, will tell the real story. Both these clubs need to develop a feel for the long game.

In the meantime, it was nice to come home, despite the rubble.

CARLTON     0.1.1   0.1.2   1.3.4     1.3.8    (35) 
ESSENDON   0.1.3   1.7.3   1.10.5   1.13.8  (95)

Crowd: 18,718 at Princes Park

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. I really don’t think enough has been made of the fact that over 18,000 attended a practice match between two clubs at perhaps their historical nadir. Credit to their fans, that is astounding. Think of how many premiership season games this year will attract far less – some less than half as many.

    JB, what do you make of your mob resting the half dozen accomplished players left on the list? I know in the scheme of things the result was meaningless but it’s probably not the best way to encourage membership renewals. The Parthenon was built on hope, arguably deluded, but hope counts for something in Feb/March.

  2. Hi John. Nice wrap of the game. Wish I could have been there.

  3. John Butler says

    JD, I think Princes Park is a huge draw for Blues fans. Part of us has never really left. Never underestimate the drawing power of the big inner city clubs. I think the AFL does at times.

    I think Bolton has been given the task of playing the long game, so he’s playing the long game. The idea that this was a big occasion existed solely in the minds of some Hun writers and a few of our more unrealistic fans. Bolton didn’t want to compromise the regular season. He would be acutely aware of how badly we need our better players on the park this season.

    Carlton has spent 20 years indulging in false hope. It’s time to get realistic.

    DJL, playing wise, you didn’t miss much. Except Weitering.

  4. Ian Syson says

    I wonder whether you should get Tom Elliot on the case and widen the goals a little to help CFC.

  5. John Butler says

    Not sure that would be enough Ian.

    I think young Mr Elliot probably peaked in his RRR days doing specials on shoe-gazer bands.

  6. Thanks, JB.
    I do not watch any pre-season stuff. I cannot stand it.

    And can anyone, ANYONE, explain why the AFL have persisted with the ridiculous, superfluous, meaningless 9-point goal? It will never be introduced for the regular season, so why persist with it ??

  7. John Butler says

    Smoke, I believe AFL marketing are about to have you charged with sedition. And common sense.

  8. I was thinking exactly the same the other day Smokie. The pre season games don’t even pretend to being part of a competition with money or a cup at stake.

    If each 9-pointer = AFL donating x dollars to help the homeless or victims of domestic violence then I’d understand it.

  9. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Yes, the 9 point goal still confuses commentators and fans when trying to work out the score and it’s been around for 10 years!
    Carlton and Greece seem to have a fair bit in common these days. Ah hubris…the great leveller.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    The rubble looked great on TV in the bits I saw. No doubt Princes Park would still be a more profitable venue for the Blues than Etihad with a similar size crowd.
    Good write up John.

  11. John Butler says

    Luke, the club is making some noises about returning to Princes Park for the odd game. What goes around…

  12. Will Ian Collins “step out of the room” again when the issue is being discussed?

  13. John Butler says

    Smoke, if we were to try and remove conflict of interest from AFL decisions we’d end up with some pretty empty rooms.

    Not sure what rooms Collo is invited into at present.

    Elbow, anything to contribute on this particular subject?

  14. bernard whimpress says

    Interesting mix of Ozymandias with the Parthenon in your report. On my first trip to the Parthenon in 70s I was naive enough to think there’d still be bits of Grecian urns lying around on the Acropolis (Keats not Shelley). In the mid-80s I stumbled on the remains of the Ozymandias’ monument in the Valley of the Queens due to taking a wrong turn on a bicycle ride on the way to the Valley of the Kings. It was worth the diversion as it turned out although my wife was sure we were going to drop dead in what was pretty much desert.

  15. John Butler says

    Hello Bernard

    Strictly speaking, I know the ruin should have been Egyptian, but as Phil D says, it’s hard to ignore the parallels between Carlton and Greece at present. I’d claim poetic license but that would probably be overstating my abilities.

    All tales of wrong turns fit seamlessly with current discussion of Carlton and Essendon. As do tales of being lost in the desert.

  16. I note Caro devoted an article to the folly of the Blues non selections for this particular hit-out.

    I therefore wish to retract my earlier comment along the same lines!

  17. John Butler says

    JD, I think Caro has rarely written with great insight about Carlton. I suspect her sources aren’t as good as in other areas.

    I actually think membership numbers have held up pretty well – 47,000 last year while Geelong could only manage 44,000 after all their recent success. To have 41,000 already signed up after the debacle that was last season is actually a pretty good sign IMO.

    We have certainly lost ground this century to some other clubs, but that has been because we’ve largely been crap in the time when the great explosion of membership numbers has occurred.

    The last sentence of this article actually nails it, but contradicts her main thrust – we need the senior players available for the main season, not the practice games.

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