Not A Premiership Player
- Feb 11, 2015
- AFL Club
Ladies and gentlemen, the time is near. The 2019 season is just around the corner and the blue boys are desperate to etch their first loss. They are oh so hungry to show us fans the many more ways they can disappoint. They are wanting to quash our dreams of future glory, with another wasted year full of hospital patients and blindfolded performances. Carlton, a proud club where everything but footy comes first. Where history is all that's needed. Where coming success is as likely as me winning the Powerball jackpot. Isn't it great to be a 'Blue Bagger'? Of course, I am jesting. We all well and truly know Carlton have a greater weight placed on their back this year. They simply HAVE to do better. The members and supporters are pushing for it. The media is pushing for it. Heck, even the AFL themselves are pressuring the blues into showing some significant improvement. Any replicating of last year's efforts (or even doing worse) will undoubtedly see some heads roll.
In all seriousness, the first round is always the time a Carlton supporter is excited as they never know what to expect. What brings them forward is the hope that better things await, especially in the form of fresh, exciting faces to the team. From the ever-so reliable Patrick Cripps (who by the way, goes into this season with the new responsibility as club captain) to the mesmerising potential coming from the likes of Sam Walsh, Michael Gibbons and Will Setterfield. I won't lie that the season opener is my favourite time of the year. I walk into each football season, holding onto the belief that the new dawn is bound to arrive sooner or later. True I have been let down by my team now and then, but it's not only the good things that I believe come to an end at some point. For every football club in the league, there is a rise and fall. It just seems fair that the worst as passed for us blues fans with the nadir that was 2018. Only good things can follow, otherwise the Carlton Football Club might as well close its doors because there is no way that this sort of disaster can (and should) happen again.
The blues themselves are stepping into 2019 after listing themselves as one of the worst ever sides to set the field in AFL/VFL history last year. They've become the worst team of the modern era with the worst win-loss record, the most wooden spoons and some of the greatest losing margins seen in recent times. They're a club surrounded by endless mockery and complaining from the public. Whether it be the boring standard of football or the under 10's level of skill, being a Carlton supporter for some has in ways been a little humiliating. The news was at times hard to read and the derision from opposition supporters was gradually starting to become unbearable. The definition of the club was merely old habits, arrogance and false dawns. To this day, fans are still paying the price. Hopefully it won't be for much longer now it seems the attitude has changed over the past decade. The pieces are slowly coming together, and people are starting to catch glimpses of a footy team with the ability to push up the ranks over the next few years. The blues are well overdue for their next big break.
On the other side, we have the tigers. A team that were struggling to fight their way out of the dark for more than 30 years. That was until they resisted the temptation of starting fresh. It was the continued action of believing in the process under the eye of Damien Hardwick. Reward came not long afterward. Not only a flag, but a high amount of respect from everywhere in the footy world. The tigers faithful got to live the dream that many would hunger for. And it seems plenty more rewards are yet to come for them. Rewards that I'd kill for my own team to achieve. Richmond are simply a side of good health, and are currently the polar opposites to Carlton. They are what the league loves most. A team of impact and the right level of care. We can make fun of them as much as we please, but the truth is that they have been successful and the blues haven't. If we want this to change, then we sure as heck have to make sure the club is with us and thinking the exact same way.
If I were Carlton, I'd be wanting to go in all guns blazing in this first game. I'd be wanting to shock the nation and produce something that nobody could possibly predict beforehand. I'd be wanting to prove that anything is possible. What a better opportunity for this than against one of the more formidable opponents in recent years; the Richmond Tigers. The same team that won a flag in 2017 and is coming off a preliminary final. The same team with an incredibly active (and somewhat cocky) fanbase. It's the perfect time to leave some jaws to drop. Yes this is highly unlikely, but any noticeable attempt to deliver this surprise will be just as commendable. We want our side to be taken seriously. No longer do we want them to be the butt of all jokes. Come March 21, the blues are to immediately show signs of a brighter future. We've waited long enough, so whatever patience that's still within us will be all that is left. Come on Carlton, it is time for some proper action!
THE LAST FIVE ENCOUNTERS
Friday 10 July (7:25pm) 2015
Richmond Tigers (10 - 11 - 71) defeated Carlton Blues (5 - 11 - 41)
MCG (Crowd: 52,564)
Thursday 24 March (7:25pm) 2016 - SEASON OPENER
Richmond Tigers (14 - 8 - 92) defeated Carlton Blues (12 - 11 - 83)
MCG (Crowd: 75,706)
Thursday 23 March (7:20pm) 2017 - SEASON OPENER
Carlton Blues (14 - 5 - 89) defeated by Richmond Tigers (20 - 12 - 132)
MCG (Crowd: 73,137)
Sunday 25 June (3:20pm) 2017
Richmond Tigers (11 - 18 - 84) defeated Carlton Blues (8 - 10 - 58)
MCG (Crowd: 64,448)
Thursday 22 March (7:25pm) 2018 - SEASON OPENER
Richmond Tigers (17 - 19 - 121) defeated Carlton Blues (15 - 5 - 95)
MCG (Crowd: 90,151)
THE VERY LAST TIME THESE TWO TEAMS MET
Carlton went on to surprise the entire nation after booting the first five goals against the then reigning premiers. The blues were taking it up to the tigers and led for roughly three quarters of the match until Richmond kicked away in the final term. Charlie Curnow made a statement to the competition, with a career-high five goals next to his name. Meanwhile it was Patrick Cripps against Dustin Martin, a challenge to see which of the two would get their team over the line (in this case, it was Martin walking out with the smile). But one of the biggest issues to come out of the match was the rule regarding the 50m penalties from the 10m protected area. The rule was blasted for its lack of clarity and to some extent, it's unfairness (two of the 50m penalties favouring Carlton were seen as mistakes). Regardless, the blues were praised for their attacking flair, something that was pressured onto them. However, the performance against the tigers was one of the very few positives to come out of 2018, a season that saw the club reverting back to their old ways and breaking all the wrong records.
WHAT THE AFL EXPECTS THIS TIME
The AFL expect a similar spectacle to that of the 2018 season opener. They want to see a high-scoring game between two solid teams on the night. They want a large crowd to witness many bits of exciting play, and the score-differential to remain reasonable throughout the match. There is no doubt that Carlton were partly to blame for the rule changes after their life-draining strategies last year. The same strategies displeased not only the members and supporters of the club, but the entire competition. The blues were being associated with boring football, as they continued to get tortured in the most humiliating of ways. Now with the new rules, the AFL has given Carlton a kick up the bum, telling them to take the game on or risk losing the things they desire so much (this match being one of those things). The blues have to attack and they also have to try aiming for triple figure scores. I don't see how they can't, given the plethora of exciting talent. No more low-scoring, chip-kicking crap. Nobody wants their time and money wasted on watching this.
PREDICTED CARLTON LINE-UP
David Cuningham, Paddy Dow, Zac Fisher, Jarrod Garlett, Michael Gibbons, Liam Jones, Matthew Kennedy, Mitch McGovern,
Nic Newman, Matthew Kreuzer / Andrew Phillips, Lachie Plowman, Will Setterfield, Sam Walsh
Ciaran Byrne (Retired), Tom De Koning (Omitted), Sam Kerridge (Delisted), Jed Lamb (Delisted), Darcy Lang (Injured), Matthew Lobbe (Omitted), Caleb Marchbank (Injured), Aaron Mullett (Delisted), Lochie O'Brien (Omitted), Cameron Polson (Omitted), Sam Rowe (Delisted), Jack Silvagni (Omitted), Matthew Wright (Retired)
FB - Lachie Plowman - Liam Jones - Nic Newman
HB - Dale Thomas - Jacob Weitering - Kade Simpson
C - Sam Petrevski-Seton - Sam Walsh - Zac Fisher
HF - Mitch McGovern - Charlie Curnow - David Cuningham
FF - Michael Gibbons - Harry McKay - Ed Curnow
R - Matthew Kreuzer / Andrew Phillips - Patrick Cripps - Marc Murphy
I - Matthew Kennedy - Paddy Dow - Will Setterfield - Jarrod Garlett
E - Lochie O'Brien - Cameron Polson - Matthew Lobbe - Jack Silvagni
Marc Murphy (250th game for Carlton)
Murphy will play his 250th game for the navy blues. One of the few players that deserves all the respect he gets. He has stuck with Carlton through thick and thin. Even captained the club at a time when both the direction and future were unclear. The criticism for this man is and will remain farcical, given all he has done for us (it says more about the critics and trolls to be honest). He continues to play in hopes of helping the next generation of Carlton stars shine, as well as taste the forever existing chance of ultimate glory. Absolutely deserving of the milestone (and may there be another soon in 300). And what a better time to do it than the season opener. Couldn't be happier for Murph. Bless him and hope he has a ripper of a game!
WHY ARE THEY IN?
- Based on the fitness level, strong training and above average pre-season performances, David Cuningham is an absolute MUST for round one. He has well and truly earnt a spot up forward. He has nearly even made it his own. I'm surprised with how quick I've been proven wrong, when I mentioned about his spot on the list being on the knife-edge last month.
- Paddy Dow returns after missing the last match of 2018. His evasiveness with ball in hand is undeniably mouth-watering. Probably the best in the Carlton side when it comes to this.
- One of the very few positives of last year in Zac Fisher is a certainty to face Richmond. He was sorely missed during the back end of 2018.
- Jarrod Garlett may not be the smartest decision maker. But it seems he has made somewhat of a statement to Bolton an the coaches in these two JLT hit-outs. His ability to find the ball and run off half back allows for some greater flexibility across the team.
- The pure desperation and class of Michael Gibbons sees him all the more deserving of a position as a small forward under the big lights.
- Although Matthew Kennedy didn't participate in the JLT series, it's his work at training that has received praise. All have been hearing some good things. Still see him as somewhat of a chance for the game.
- The late 2017 form of Liam Jones is something blues fans are still hanging around to see again. He'll be playing and also be given the chance to rediscover those amazing advantages.
- Mitch McGovern has that star factor about him. So long as the boys deliver to him well enough, then he is bound to impress more than disappoint. He is very versatile, has Casboult's marking ability and is a good set-shot for goal. Might not stand out all of the time and will have his quiet games. But I see him as a vital inclusion.
- I most certainly think the loss of Sam Docherty won't hurt us as much this year, especially now that we have Nic Newman on our side. This guy has good hands and always seems to know where the ball ends up. While his ability to attack and apply strong amounts of pressure is not what most expect, his pros outweigh cons when he is in our team.
- Assuming Matthew Kreuzer does not get up for the season opener, then it seems the next cab-off-the-rank for the ruck duties is Andrew Phillips. And rightly so, after what was seen from him during the preseason games. His contested work actually surprised me. I reckon he can step in. That's if of course, Kreuzer remains unavailable for selection.
- Plenty of love for Lachie Plowman here. I don't think anything has changed here. He is still in the best 22.
- This could be where the question mark comes in. Will Setterfield still seems a little raw and is still gaining strength after coming off a knee reconstruction. I initially did not have him named for round one. But after his contributions in the first JLT match against the bombers, it looks as if he has picked up the game pretty quickly. I believe he is worth the shot.
- Sam Walsh debuting is a no-brainer. This kid would just about be the most prepared number one draft pick for the game I have seen in my entire life. So smooth and well-spoken. Of course, we should leave him some room so that he can further prove to us he can shine. No need for any extra pressure. But my oh my, I have never been this excited to see a kid in action when it matters.
WHY ARE THEY OUT?
- Tom De Koning is still a little raw. However, I expect him to make big strides throughout the year. Would love to see him get a longer run in the main side later in the season.
- Matthew Lobbe will be a little stiff missing out here, especially considering how incredibly well he performed in the final matches of last season. But I guess he might have fell a little behind the others during preseason training. Either that, or the coaches are throwing their attention more towards a younger ruckman.
- At the moment, it seems that Lochie O'Brien isn't at the moment favoured. Perhaps it's fitness levels or a small area of his game that requires some working with. He'll likely miss out for this match, but I expect him back as soon as possible.
- It wouldn't surprise me if Brendan Bolton decides to persist with Cameron Polson given how much he apparently loves his efforts. However, more than half the side is ahead of him. Polson at the moment is a fairly one-dimensional player. Applies pressure, but lacks the poise. Most times he's seen with ball in hand, the play ends up failing. There is a lot he needs to improve on.
- Jack Silvagni still has a few deficiencies in his game that need addressing. I do wish to see him apply more pressure on his opponents and push to the drop zones rather than expect everything to fall in his lap.
PREDICTED RICHMOND LINE-UP
Noah Balta, Dan Butler, Tom T. Lynch, Maverick Weller
Nathan Broad (Omitted), Reece Conca (Traded), Shaun Grigg (Injured), Jayden Short (Omitted)
FB - Nick Vlastuin - Alex Rance - David Astbury
HB - Bachar Houli - Kamdyn McIntosh - Dylan Grimes
C - Kane Lambert - Dustin Martin - Jack Graham
HF - Jack Higgins - Jack Riewoldt - Daniel Rioli
FF - Josh Caddy - Tom J. Lynch - Shane Edwards
R - Toby Nankervis - Trent Cotchin - Dion Prestia
I - Jason Castagna - Dan Butler - Maverick Weller - Noah Balta
E - Riley Collier-Dawkins - Jayden Short - Nathan Broad - Brandon Ellis
This is roughly a guess at their line-up. While Josh Caddy and Jason Castagna are battling some injuries, I still hold the firm belief that they'd be fit for the game. Otherwise, I'd expect Nathan Broad and Jayden Short to step in for them.
Charlie Curnow - Mitch McGovern - Harry McKay
David Astbury - Dylan Grimes - Alex Rance
Here is one of the many things blues fans are genuinely excited for (including myself). That being the newfound, three-pronged attack featuring the highly talented Charlie Curnow and ever-so promising Harry McKay. Along with them, arrives McGovern to the club, a player with plenty of star-factor on him. The trio obviously won't have the immediate impact together that sees each sharing a heap of goals. They still have to grow together and get a proper understanding of each other's game. They also have to get used to the evolving game plan and the regular changing of position (especially with McKay playing in the ruck and Charlie in the midfield, as others like Cripps prepare to share some time in the attacking 50. But the excitement still keeps. Even if all three don't dominate, one is likely to stand up when the other doesn't. And when they do, they really have an impact. This many KPF's can be a lot to handle for teams. However, Richmond are one of the few that can handle this with their well-established defensive trio in Astbury, Grimes and Rance. I expect them to get the better of Carlton's tall forwards and take the chocolates. Though I lean more towards the performances of Curnow, McGovern and McKay depending on the quality of delivery.
The expectations from Weitering are becoming greater as the years go on, especially with more preseasons under his belt. This is not going to change anytime soon. He is after all, a number one draft pick. These players normally have more pressure placed on them by the media and people in general. But a small percentage of the criticism has made sense, with the young defender having found it hard replicating his first-year st. Then again, the highly defensive approach to the game has seen him with a greater workload compared to his other teammates. Adding to that was the continuous swinging of him up forward and down back, which may have confused him the slightest bit. Nevertheless, all of this is (and should be) behind him. A new year, he still has a chance of showing people why the blues picked him at number one four years ago. Against a Riewoldt at the peak of his game is a great start to the journey of small redemption. I expect this match-up would be fairly even. Weitering will take some strong, relieving marks. But I still see Riewoldt kicking roughly around three goals.
Tom J. Lynch
Jones is a player that cops a fair bit from the public. But I do think the jokes and ridicule are outdated now that he has found a home in the backline. True he has some noticeable flaws (e.g. loves running off his man and allowing him space). However, with the right training Jones can form a wall in defense all on his own. This time around, he's likely to face a tough opponent in Lynch. We all know that the blues are Tom's favourite team to play against. Most of his biggest bags of goals kicked have been against Carlton over the past few years. Now that he finds himself in a much stronger side, there is every chance he can torment the blues again. That is unless, Jones can finally take him on effectively. Either that or, Brendan Bolton finds another player that can deal with eradicating Carlton's kryptonite. One can only hope the magic from two years ago returns. How all it took was having Jones in the side for Lynch to go from 7 goals in the first encounter to zilch in the second. Wishful thinking, I know.
Matthew Kreuzer / Andrew Phillips
This is of course if Andrew Phillips plays. It is known that a fit Kreuzer can dominate with the ruck duties against most opponents. However, not much has been seen of Phillips at his peak. He has had his good games and his bad games. And he has like Kreuzer found it difficult keeping on he park. A challenge in Nankervis however, is what I see to be a good start for him. A nice first step to help him cement a spot in the side. Nankervis is not one for a lot of presence, but he can cover the ground fairly well. And in recent times, he has been learning to push up the ground and hit the scoreboard more often. The blues are obviously hoping for somebody like Phillips to do the exact same thing, especially given that McKay is practicing his ruck work on top of his KPF role. As I've said before, it's all about both flexibility and versatility. I know for a fact that Phillips is not a one-trick pony. I've seen him run. I've seen him leap. I've seen him kick some great long-distance goals. Nankervis is a worthy competitor, but compared to other battles I don't think this is asking as much from Phillips. He can do well here.
IF CARLTON WIN
Anything is possible on any given day (or night in this situation). A win would be a dream come true for blues members and supporters everywhere. A satisfying one that would end a long run of losses against the tigers since the 2013 elimination final. It would most certainly prove the boys are on the right path. But the most important thing to consider is how Carlton walk out from this IF it was to occur. This club isn't used to victories, especially against well-constructed finals contenders. Treating this any greater than necessary will likely notify all of the low bar that has been set. The best teams push and push. They look to the next opponents with complete seriousness. They detect deficiencies and do everything they can to address them in a proper manner. Carlton does not have this ability just yet. Of course, they still have to get to that bridge of winning before crossing it. But the Carlton I've long grown up with have known to over-celebrate the small things. The blues would want to win to help recreate that winning culture. And if they do, they have to treat it as the norm. Otherwise, they are only setting up for future disappointment.
IF CARLTON LOSE
This is to be the most likely scenario. However, it depends on how the team loses. A small honourable loss while not tolerated by the team itself, will be one highly admired by the public. It will guarantee that player development is on track and will show everybody that the young squad is beginning to understand the fast pace required for the game. Anything worse will as expected, continue to bring forth unpleasant ridicule. Pressure is on the blues anyway. The season opener will remain hanging by a thread if this team doesn't meet the standards suitable for prime time television. They have already lost the Friday night time slot, and can easily lose this marquee match going into 2020. The general public don't get as excited about this game nowadays, because recent encounters (bar last year's) between these two sides failed to live up to the hype. The results have ended up being pretty much close to predictable. Hopefully with some new exciting talent in Walsh, Gibbons, Newman, Setterfield and McGovern along with a nudge from the league to take the game on, Carlton will deliver some surprises. They kind of have to.
IF RICHMOND WIN
There are very little surprises here. A lot of people not only expect for Richmond to take the first four points of the year once again, but they are expecting them fired up and all the more capable of taking those further two steps and snare another flag for Punt Road. And there is no doubt about this. The tigers are desperate to make it up to their fans after the horror preliminary final against Collingwood last year. And considering they have added some star factor in Lynch and look to be developing their players well by adjusting them to the fast-paced game plan, they can only look to go from strength to strength. They won't by any means take their opponents lightly. Not even Carlton here. A win will only support the masses here. More will in fact be said about how well certain individuals perform. Will Dusty recapture that 2017 form? Will Riewoldt continue his damaging ways? Maybe, but most eyes will be on the young Noah Balta and how well he slides into the line-up.
IF RICHMOND LOSE
People of course will be asking how. But I don't think anybody will raise the question of whether or not the tigers can still be a threat, given their peak performance can arguably be the best of any club in the league (and they can reach it very easily). Instead, more attention will be shifted towards how Carlton pulled off what many thought was 'impossible' for them. Richmond would of course be a little stunned. They will carry a sense of disbelief. However, I know for a fact that they will not be deterred by the disappointing result. The game will be deemed as one that should've been won given where the two teams currently sit, but they will still treat the loss like any other they have moving forward. They will remain calm, and encourage the supporters to do the same. That's after all, what the best sides do. They look at what goes wrong, push the loss aside and look to the next opponent with great determination and the belief they can do much better. One can safely say though that a Richmond loss here is nothing short of improbable.
Richmond Tigers by 38 points
I pretty much see a similar situation to last year's season opener. Carlton will put up a great fight for most of the match, only for Richmond to kick away in the final quarter. Difference being that the margin will be a little greater. This time around, it will be Carlton's ball use and lack of efficiency that hurts them. Their struggle to hit forward targets will come back to bite them in some way. The pace of the game will take some time for this crop to get used to. Another huge disadvantage with Carlton is the lack of communication, especially with the runners now restricted to only step on the field after a goal is kicked. This was one of the major problems for the blues last year, so the new rule places more pressure on the boys to become more vocal, send messages and direct each other to the right positions. This will still remain somewhat of a new lesson to the playing group. These factors along with the relatively lower level of physicality, the blues will leave the field yet again with another 'L' to their record. Whether they look dejected will depend on how the 38-point loss specifically plays out.
I do however hope to be wrong here.
Preview also here to meet any personal preferences:
Carlton Football Club: The Round One Preview