|Venue: Docklands (Etihad Stadium)|
|Date: Friday, 31 July (N)||Result: won by 10 points|
|Umpires: S. McBurney, B. Rosebury, H. Ryan||Crowd: 38,554|
|Goalkickers: Murphy, 4, Fevola 3, Gibbs, Thornton, Stevens 2, O’hAilpin 1.|
|Reports: TBD||Injuries: Thornton (shoulder) Bower (knee)||Ladder Position: Seventh|
Game ReviewNorth Melbourne legend Adam Simpson chose the round 18 clash against Carlton to play his 306th and final game of AFL footy after announcing his retirement during the week leading up to the Friday nighter. Without the emotion and constant stream of tributes in the media which followed, the game could’ve otherwise been considered a relatively ho-hum affair between a struggling 7th and a dismal 13th.
At the Thursday night selection table the Blues made changes hand over fist to the side that was so disappointing against Collingwood a week earlier. Of these, Chris Johnson (hamstring) was the only forced change, while Bentley, Fisher, Grigg, Hartlett and Yarran all felt the blade of the match committee axe. The two biggest inclusions were Nick Stevens (returning after a month long sojourn in the VFL to find some run and form) and Andrew Walker (playing his first for the season after terrible shoulder problems). Joining Stevens and Walker were Dennis Armfield, Michael Jamison, Setanta O’hAilpin and Mitch Robinson. In what now appears to be a weekly tradition, Michael Jamison was a late withdrawal on game day with Richard Hadley his replacement.
The healthy crowd arrived wondering whether the Blues could consolidate their place in the top eight or whether the Kangaroos could snap their run of eight winless games to send Adam Simpson off in style. They all left a little disillusioned. The Kangaroos fans, disappointed that the fairytale never eventuated for Simpson and the losing streak had extended to nine. The Blues fans, concerned their team struggled for so long to put away the 13th placed side, but nonetheless relieved they were able to slug out the victory.
The first quarter was an even affair with neither side able to gain the ascendency. The Blues disposal by foot left a lot to be desired and some would say they were a little fortunate to be even. All Carlton’s goals came from the midfield, with one each to Bryce Gibbs, Nick Stevens and Marc Murphy. As the game unfolded these three would become the key players in the Blues eventual success. Stevens, in particular, displaying some of the characteristic run and finish he had been recruited for back in 2003, which had been so sorely missing in recent months.
The Kangaroos got on top during the second term with Carlton’s superstars Chris Judd and Brendan Fevola both well held by their respective opponents (Levi Greenwood and Scott Thompson) who provided plenty of close (annoying) attention. Question marks hung over Judd who was possibly still a little sore and sorry from last week. Sore and sorry only goes some way to describing how Bret Thornton and Paul Bower felt after coming off seriously second best in a collision out of a marking contest with Kangaroo Drew Petrie. Both spent extended periods on the bench in the aftermath making the Blues defence appear somewhat more fragile than usual. Both returned to the field later in the game, but may struggle to come up next week.
The Blues started the second half badly with their deficit extending to 17 points almost immediately. Something obviously stirred them into action from that point with the next twenty minutes proving to be their most productive of the match. Six goals (two from Brendan Fevola and one from the unlikely boot of Bret Thornton) changed the momentum of the match and saw them take a narrow four point lead into the final break. Indeed by games end Thornton had doubled his career goals tally to 4, with 2 majors.
If you were writing the script for your dream finish to a game, it wouldn’t be anything like how this one panned out. The quarter was dominated by North Melbourne, but they simply could not buy a goal. Nine behinds and one out on the full cost them any chance of a come from behind victory. The Blues were far from convincing, but goals to Marc Murphy (his fourth) and Bret Thornton (his second, doubling his career tally in one night) steadied the ship ever so slightly and allowed them to hold on for a scratchy 10 point win and seventh place on the ladder.
The average age of this Carlton team was 23 years and 352 days, with an average League experience of 87.3 games per player. Nick Stevens was the oldest, at 29 years and 209 days and the most experienced with 226 games. Aaron Joseph was the youngest at 20 years and 27 days old, while Mitch Robinson was the least experience with 8 games.
|B:||45 Aaron Joseph||21 Mark Austin||32 Bret Thornton|
|HB:||27 Dennis Armfield||18 Paul Bower||33 Ryan Houlihan|
|C:||6 Kade Simpson||5 Chris Judd (c)||29 Heath Scotland|
|HF:||2 Jordan Russell||17 Setanta O’hAilpin||44 Andrew Carrazzo|
|F:||12 Mitch Robinson||25 Brendan Fevola||19 Eddie Betts|
|Ruck:||8 Matthew Kreuzer||4 Bryce Gibbs||24 Nick Stevens (vc)|
|Interchange:||1 Andrew Walker||3 Marc Murphy||10 Richard Hadley|
|22 Shaun Hampson|
|Emg:||28 Cameron Cloke, 16 Shaun Grigg, 40 Michael Jamison|
-* Hadley replaced Jamison (groin)
Milestones550 Goals: Brendan Fevola
Losing streaks: Carlton ended North's record run of 6 consecutive wins over us with this win
Interesting Fact: Bret Thornton doubled his career goal count (to this point) with 2 goals, making it 4 all up!
Brownlow Votes3. Bryce Gibbs, Carlton
2. Nick Stevens, Carlton
1. Marc Murphy, Carlton
Best and Fairest Votes37 Bryce Gibbs, 37 Marc Murphy, 32 Dennis Armfield, 28 Richard Hadley, 27 Nick Stevens, 26 Ryan Houlihan, 18 Brendan Fevola, 5 Bret Thornton
Round 17 | Round 19