What a game it was to witness at the MCG on Sunday afternoon. The rain was torrential for the entire day as a crowd of 48,000 braved the weather to see footy in its purest form.
The Blues marched out in their ‘Blue Out’ jersey, which in my opinion is one of the best Carlton jerseys the club has worn. The jersey is a commemoration to the suburb of Carlton and the blue cobblestone that runs through the streets of the great suburb.
From the outset, this was bound to be a tight game. The weather that hovered over the MCG was about to make this battle a tug of war.
Gibbs and Murphy were astronomical
Our coach is quoted on numerous occasions as saying that Murphy has had an impressive preseason and he looks to be playing exciting footy right now. Even Hashtag Footy writer, Harry Doyle, knows how damaging Murphy can be. The Carlton skipper kicked an inspirational goal in the 3rd quarter from the boundary and from that moment forward the energy was in the Blues favour. Murphy finished with 32 touches (career-high 23 kicks), six clearances, ten tackles, five inside-50s and two goals in a vintage game against the old foes. I’m going to touch on Bryce Gibbs for a moment. This man has been the consummate professional. Gibbs requesting to be traded home during the offseason is widely known, and after denying his request, people wondered how Gibbs would perform for the Blues this season. He has been playing like he always has and if he does get his wish and goes home to Adelaide in the off-season, I am grateful for the passion and dedication he has shown this football club over his career. Gibbs, like Murphy, also had a career-high on the day, notching up 20-contested possessions.
Defensive structure is sound
Carlton had a sweeping man in behind the ball at almost every crucial point of the game, ensuring that Essendon couldn’t get a free run forward with a desperate long bomb out of a stoppage. Docherty, Simpson, Rowe, Plowman, Marchbank, Macreadie and debutant Tom Williamson made the opposing forwards job very hard. Each and every ball that came into Carlton’s defensive 50 was under the pump, but the team showed discipline. Our defence created opportunities when going into the forward half and heavily contributed to us winning the game.
Sam Rowe is in All-Australian form
It feels strange to say this, and I may be out of my mind in doing so, but I think Sam Rowe is in All-Australian form this season. Hear me out. In Round 1, Sam Rowe was matched up against Jack Riewoldt, who could only manage one goal. In Round 2 Sam Rowe had the heavy task of Jesse Hogan. The superstar forward finished with no goals and his emotions boiled over, punching Rowe and earning himself a two-game suspension. During this match, he shut down Joe Daniher who only kicked one goal and was made to look silly on multiple occasions by Rowe. He was the general in defence and was an x-factor for the Blues, having 11 one-percenters over the course of the game. The confidence Rowe has shown within this backline and the veteran role he has taken on has been fantastic for our side over the first three weeks and if it is to continue Rowe could be one of the most underrated key position defenders in the league.
Tackling the game head on
Carlton had 56 tackles at halftime and club-record 111 for the match. The game was played in close due to the weather, so it’s natural that there were more tackles, but to win them is a great achievement after only having 45 for the entirety of our previous match against the Demons. In last week's game against the Demons we had three tackles inside forward-50, this week we finished the game with 20. That is a huge improvement from last week. Tackling and pressure are parts of footy that don’t rely on skill, so doing this week in and week out should be the standard.
The return of the mosquito fleet?
Silvagni, Petrevski-Setton, and Pickett are incredibly quick and have the ability to provide the aforementioned tackling inside-50. Their intensity and speed at the fall of the ball were giving the Blues opportunities that wouldn’t have been there otherwise, and we haven’t seen this sort of attack on the ball in the forward line since the days of Betts, Garlett, and Yarran (Thanks for ruining that, Malthouse.) Petrevski-Setton was very impressive in the wet today. Selected at number 6 in last year's draft for the Blues was a clear decision. His ball skills are silky, and it’s clear that he has quickly developed a passion for Carlton throughout the last three games. He will be a welcome mainstay on the Carlton list as we move further into the season. Every bluebagger has to be excited about Jack Silvagni and his future at the club. His father and grandfather are huge parts of the clubs history, and it's clear from the emotion that Jack shows that he embodies everything Carlton Football Club believes. He got his first win in the navy blue against the Bombers. Is there a better way to get your first win?
Doing the simple things
The Blues destroyed Essendon in marks. Essendon was #1 in the AFL for marking entering the game, but Carlton clearly targeted that and heavily defeated the Bombers in that category. At the end of the game, the Blues had out-marked the Bombers 78-52. Carlton was more than happy to play composed, disciplined football as opposed to rushing themselves out of defence and turning the ball over. The team was doing the one-percenters wherever they could. For the whole match, Carlton was tapping the ball to advantage, spoiling the ball forward, using the boundary line to their advantage and doing everything they could to gain possession in a rugby-style effort.
Getting a win over the old foes was great. This game had a lot of feeling in it, and as predicted last week in my article it was a close matchup. The goal kicking accuracy was dreadful on paper, and there were some missed opportunities that we would have to capitalise on in normal conditions. Rushed behinds additionally played a huge part in the final score's large number of behinds.
The Carlton faithful have a lot to look forward to in the future. The coaching has been top notch for the club, and we should feel very lucky that we have a man like Brendon Bolton to lead us into battle each week. Murphy, Gibbs, and Cripps are leading from the front, and every man is playing their role. There will be high’s and low’s, but that’s a rebuild. Next week we take on the Gold Coast at Etihad on Sunday night, look out for my match preview during the week.
Carlton get a great first win – 7.15 (57) to 6.6 (42)