CARLTON 3.5 6.8 9.14 15.20 (110)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 2.1 5.4 6.7 6.7 (43)
Carlton have achieved the required result with a 67 point win over a plucky Greater Western Sydney side, but not without a hell of a fight in the first half to contend with.
The Blues have now taken second spot on the ladder, but for much of the day stuck on cruise control, with a lacklustre overall effort and weakened attack at the ball. Their classier players struggled to have an impact, highlighted by a couple of poor efforts by Marc Murphy including a very poor dive to attempt to draw a free-kick in the second quarter.
Murphy is one of, if not the best player in the Blues side, and gathered his requisite 27 possessions, but was sloppy and ineffectual for most of the day. He led a brigade of players such as Zach Tuohy, Nicholas Duigan, Dennis Armfield, Eddie Betts and others who either shirked contests, executed the ball poorly or were generally sloppy in play.
Eventually the Blues took home the points, but there were worrying signs early on.
Kane Lucas was stunning in the first, seemingly everywhere around the ball and also adding a goal on to the Blues tally. His impact heavily waned as the game went on, but he was a highlight early. Stephen Coniglio was similarly good for the Giants but continued his strong start to be one of his sides best for the game.
Carlton looked to be sailing along fairly steadily, but missed some easy shots at goal. Giants’ debutant Liam Sumner kicked the Giants first for the day, but they didn’t manage to get a second until Setanta O’hAilpin kicked his first for his new club on the siren.
Setanta slotted a second before half-time and was looking good up forward for the Giants, but sadly for him and the GWS side he came off badly injured. His injury turned out to be an ACL joint and he has opted for a tradtional reconstruction, which may signal the end of his AFL career. It was a bittersweet cameo by the much loved Irishman.
The Giants led many of the key stats at the first break and Carlton’s attacks on goal mainly came from GWS turnovers rather than genuine forward thrusts. The 10-point quarter time buffer was fitting of their efforts considering the opposition.
The second quarter opened with O’hAilpin’s second, a hilarious looking kick off the boot which wobbled through for a goal. Carlton took advantage of turnovers from the Giants but couldn’t put it on the scoreboard.
At the 7 minute mark of the second quarter, two of GWS’s big recruits came together to put the scores level. Rhys Palmer got the ball out of the centre and delivered to Tom Scully, who took a strong mark in front of Heath Scotland. He kicked truly from the set-shot and sent the Carlton dominated crowd into stunned silence.
Bret Thornton presented well all day and was rewarded with his first to put the Blues back in front. Lucas followed shortly after with his second. The Giants lack of experience was highlighted as Lucas was completely alone 25m from goal and slotted it easily.
From then on it was a bit of a comedy of errors for Carlton. Tuohy fumbled the ball badly twice in the backline, but luckily for Carlton it only ended in one behind.
James McDonald was very strong for the Giants all day, but goal-kicking has never been one of his better aspects. He put the two opportunities out on the full and over for a behind respectively.
Carlton switched Armfield on to Scully to move Scotland into the midfield at this point. It wasn’t Armfield’s day but he managed to keep Scully reasonably quiet. He got the ball very little but from Brett Ratten’s point of view he was probably okay with the job he was given.
Just okay sums up a lot of Carlton for the day. Brett Ratten said the performance was “a 5 out of 10” and acknowledged that Carlton had work to do, especially in the clearances. He waved off suggestions it was because of champion midfielder Chris Judd being rested, pointing out that they had lost them the week previous with Judd in the side.
The game remained fairly intense until half-time. Paul Bower provided one of the moments of the day when he smashed a contest open, ran from near half-back to the half-forward line and booted a fantastic running goal from 50.
A worrying play for Carlton involved 5 Carlton players around a contest, with Shaun Hampson the only one to dive into it. GWS emerged with the ball and Stephen Coniglio, again luckily for Carlton, only kicked a point.
Adam Kennedy was under siege in the backline but tried his hard out, effectively blanketing players when the ball was in the Giants’ defensive 50.
Carlton’s defensive pressure was awful with both Duigan and Tuohy making mistakes in quick succession. Phil Davis, pushed forward for a lot of the day (he finished with 2 goals and provided a good presence up the ground), kicked an easy goal to make the second quarter a break-even one with Carlton. They again were down by 10 at the next break.
The Carlton fans had evidently had enough. Boos and jeers could be heard throughout the crowd as the Carlton team trudged off the ground.
The third quarter was a low-scoring affair, with only four goals coming from the term. Carlton kicked two early before Davis kicked his second for the Giants, but it was mostly quiet. Thornton popped up and kicked one close to the siren to end a fairly dismal quarter. Low effort from Carlton and a low skill-level from the Giants.
In the final term things finally started to go according to script as Carlton kicked 6 goals and held GWS scoreless. GWS really started to struggle in the ruck as Dean Brogan was subbed off, O’hAilpin was too injured to take the field and Jonathan Giles looked to be carrying a niggle. Players like Davis and Jack Hombsch were left to contest ruck duels at times.
Hampson was rewarded for his fantastic effort during the game, booting two impressive final quarter goals. He showed a bit of flair, spinning around and slotting the first before booming home a massive kick from 50 for goals.
GWS did their best to maintain their composure, but were out on their feet and in the end were easily overrun by Carlton’s endurance.
The best moment of the game, surprisingly enough, occured after the match. Tuohy ran over to O’hAilpin and hugged him, while the rest of the Carlton team followed and shook his hand shortly afterwards. It was a nice gesture from the Blues to cap off what had mostly been a bit of an ugly day on the footy field.
3. Shaun Hampson
2. Kade Simpson
1. Jordan Russell
Carlton: Hampson 3, Thornton 3, Lucas 2, Simpson 2, Walker 2, Bower, Robinson, Garlett
Greater Western Sydney: Davis 2, O’hAilpin 2, Scully, Sumner
Carlton: Hampson, Simpson, Walker, Robinson, Russell, Thornton, Jamison, Bower
Greater Western Sydney: Coniglio, Greene, McDonald, Adams, Davis, Shiel