|Thursday 23rd March, 2023 (7.20 pm).
|Won by 8 points.
|C. Curnow 5.2, M. Owies 3.0, C. Durdin 1.2, H. McKay 1.1, Z. Fisher 1.0, J. Motlop 1.0, E. Curnow 1.0, J. Silvagni 0.2, M. Kennedy 0.1, O. Hollands 0.1, A. Cerra 0.1, Rushed 0.2.
|Tom De Koning was charged with kneeing Geelong's Rhys Stanley, with the incident graded as Careless Conduct, Medium Impact, Body Contact. De Koning was offered a $3,000 sanction as a first offence, $2,000 with an early plea.
|Justin Power, Brett Rosebury, Robert O'Gorman, Nathan Williamson.
Back on the winners list. For all the progress Carlton made under Michael Voss in 2022 – it won the first three rounds, eight of the first 10 and finished with 12 wins – the Blues hadn't won a game since they beat Greater Western Sydney last July until overcoming Geelong on Thursday night. But they had to do it the hard way, ensuring the Carlton faithful endured a nervous finish before holding on by eight points at the MCG. Seven days on from sharing the points with Richmond on the opening night of the season, Carlton led Geelong at every change and withstood a Jeremy Cameron masterclass to record a 13.12 (90) to 12.10 (82) win.
After dropping round 22 by five points to Melbourne and round 23 to Collingwood by a single point, before starting the season with a draw – all games they led with two minutes left on the clock – Voss' men showed the growth they've made across the week by finally winning a single-digit margin game. Last season may have ended without a return to September for the first time since 2013, but it was the rebirth of Charlie Curnow after two years in the wilderness. The 26-year-old kicked 64 goals in 2022 to win the Coleman Medal and was the star of the show again, slotting five goals from 11 disposals and nine marks to lead Carlton to its first victory of 2023. It was a shootout between two Coleman medallists at either end of the ground. It wasn't quite Gary Ablett and Tony Lockett from another era, but 2019 Coleman medallist Cameron was the reason Geelong remained in the contest for as long as it did.
The three-time All-Australian was at his clinical best at the MCG, nailing long-range set shots and well-executed snaps like a sniper hitting the target from a mile away, finishing with six goals from 25 disposals, eight marks and 592 metres gained. Cameron almost did enough to drag Geelong across the line, but it was Lewis Young who took the game-saving mark on the superstar Cat to end the game, after Harry McKay made some big plays late, much to the relief of anxious Blues supporters. With no Tom Stewart, Jake Kolodjashnij or Jack Henry, Geelong was always going to have trouble if it didn't stop the supply to Curnow and Harry McKay. Zach Tuohy kicked the first two goals last Friday night, but it was the Irishman who created the opening goal for the opposition. The veteran Cat had an inside 50 smothered and the Blues streamed to goal with Corey Durdin finding Jesse Motlop, who hit Curnow in the goalsquare for his first inside the first 120 seconds.
It was a sign of things to come, even though Carlton didn't make the most of its chances in the first quarter, kicking 2.6 to 2.1. And it was Curnow who inflicted the damage. He kicked three goals in the first half and added two more in the third quarter, helping the Blues reach a game-high 28-point lead to look home. But with Cameron in vintage form, Geelong pushed the Blues all the way to the end. The former Giant kicked three final-quarter goals to scare the life out of Carlton, although it wasn't enough. All-Australian half-back Adam Saad spent most of the night on All-Australian small forward Tyson Stengle and limited the Cat, while amassing a career-high 29 disposals and 608 metres gained. Blake Acres was much better in game two in navy blue, gathering 26 touches and 11 marks on a wing, while Ed Curnow showed he still has more left in the tank, executing a role on Cam Guthrie and then touching the ball 26 times to go with eight tackles, six clearances and a goal. Carlton couldn't have started 2022 any better. Now they have some momentum to launch into season two under Voss. The Cats are the first side to lose the opening two games of a premiership defence since Hawthorn in 2009. The Hawks won only nine games and missed September, only 12 months after the first of Alastair Clarkson's four flags at the club.
Four Coleman medallists on the same ground.
Thursday night featured four Coleman Medal winners in the same game – the past four winners – for only the second time in history. Carlton stars Charlie Curnow (2022) and Harry McKay (2021) have won the past two. Geelong premiership pair Tom Hawkins (2020) and Jeremy Cameron (2019) the two before that. The last time that happened was in 1902, well before John Coleman was born, let alone the goalkicking award was named in his honour.
Brothers do battle
They faced each other for the first time in round 18 last year, but there was extra interest on Thursday night given all the recent speculation regarding the contract status of Carlton ruckman Tom De Koning. The Cats have been linked to the 23-year-old, along with a few other clubs already. With Marc Pittonet coming in late, De Koning shared the ruck duties, finishing with 22 hitouts and 11 disposals. Sam De Koning was banged up last week and copped a few hits again on Thursday. The pair engaged in one clash which caught the eye in the first half. They weren't the only set of brothers on the ground, with the Curnows and Guthries teaming up.
Best: C.Curnow, A. Saad, B. Acres, E.Curnow, J. Weitering, M. Kennedy, M. Owies, P. Cripps.
A win to charge Carlton's 2023. Recording the Club's first win over a reigning premier since 2010, the Blues produced some scintillating football and a gritty final few minutes to emerge with an eight-point victory over the Cats. With leaders standing up all over the ground, Jacob Weitering held Tom Hawkins to one goal, Charlie Curnow piled on five and Carlton had contributors all over the MCG in the narrow win.
It was a term of two halves: despite Carlton kicking the first goal of the game through Charlie Curnow, Geelong dominated the territory for the next 10 minutes. Lewis Young and Jacob Weitering did well in defence, putting their aerial skills on display, while the pair of Adams (Cerra and Saad) were vital in intercepting when the Cats were in transition. Ollie Hollands (eight disposals) was lively early, taking on Tom Hawkins in the defensive half and being a viable option with his run down the wing. When the Blues did get the ball into their 50, they were unable to convert, managing four behinds in a row in slippery conditions. It wasn’t until Jesse Motlop earned a free kick after some end-to-end play that the Blues were able to get reward for their effort, finishing the term with 13 inside 50s a piece and leading by five points.
The quarter was a slog for the Blues early on, struggling to hold onto the ball while the Cats converted their opportunities in front of goal. Lachie Cowan didn’t shy away from the contest in his second game (four contested possessions in the first half), as the ball pinged from end to end. A classic wheel-around Curnow goal from outside 50 swung momentum the Blues’ way, with an Owies goal following shortly after through some impressive transition and unselfishness from Jack Silvagni. A booming kick from Saad set up Curnow’s third while McKay opened his account for the night. The ruck duo of Marc Pittonet and Tom De Koning had the better of Geelong, while Corey Durdin’s pressure across half-forward was impressive. A late goal from the Cats narrowly deflated the Blues’ mood, who walked into the main break eight-points in front.
It wasn’t pretty early, but the Blues pressed on. Via scrounging goals on the fly through Curnow - again of the Charlie variety - and a miracle goal from Durdin in the pocket, Carlton was able to get out to a 28-point lead. Tom De Koning’s physicality in the ruck was important for the Blues, as they ground away and ramped up their pressure. Patrick Cripps unleashed his best in the third term, being the No.1 ranked player on the ground during the quarter with 11 disposals, while Ed Curnow got the Blues’ fans jumping out of their seats with his first goal since 2021. Playing desperate and determined footy, the Blues took a 23-point lead into the final change.
The Blues knew the Cats would come, and they did: two Cameron goals inside the opening minutes brought it back to a single-figure margin in an instant. Learning from their lessons of last week, the Blues were eventually able to settle and regain control of the ball. Newman had some crucial contested moments, before Kennedy find Owies in space for his third goal of the night. It settled Carlton, but only briefly, with another Geelong major causing a few nervy moments. Inside the final minutes, one man took the game by the scruff of the neck, with McKay clunking three contested marks backwards of centre wing to ice the game for his side.
Three things from the game:
1. Try and stop Charlie Curnow. When the Blues were struggling to even move the ball forward, Curnow was able to pull off the most unconventional of plays – including one handed marks and goals from outside 50. Curnow’s physicality and nuance around goal constantly impresses.
2. It was a night for the small forwards, with Corey Durdin, Jesse Motlop, Zac Fisher and Matt Owies all playing important pressure roles in the forward 50. Each hitting the scoreboard (Owies with three), the mosquito fleet were applying manic pressure at the fall of the ball on a night where Carlton's pressure formed the foundation of a big win.
3. Matt Kennedy did a solid job covering for George Hewett, totalling 26 disposals, 11 contested possessions and four clearances. Alongside Adam Cerra and Patrick Cripps, the midfielders formed a tight unit with plenty of physicality around the contest, thanks largely to the reunited ruck pairing of Tom De Koning and Marc Pittonet.
Best: C. Curnow, J. Weitering, E. Curnow, A. Saad, B. Acres, P. Cripps, N. Newman.
It was a slog, but it was four points added to the Carlton tally. AFL Senior Coach Michael Voss was pleased with how his side went about it, absorbing pressure and keeping cool in manic moments.
Here's what he had to say.
On correcting from last week:
"It was particularly pleasing: we’ve been going to work on aspects of our game right throughout the last 18 months. "To be able to go back after last week and have a look at it and learn off it, there’s some guys there that had some tough learnings but what we were confident of was that our system would stand up. "Tonight we were absorbing a fair bit with several minutes to go and it wasn’t going quite the way we wanted but in the last three-and-a-half minutes, I thought we executed it really well."
On absorbing pressure:
"There’s moments you absorb, because when you play against really good football teams like Geelong, they know how to come at you, they know how to put a surge on. "If that’s three minutes, five minutes, 15 minutes, you have to sometimes just be able to absorb and that’s what we’ve done, we did that last week and we did it again this week. "When I talk about being proud of the group, that was what I was proud about. We’ll keep emphasising those moments where we have to be able to do that and when we get our chance to get the momentum back the other way, hopefully we can capitalise."
On Harry McKay moving up the ground:
"I think that might have been a conversation with Ash Hansen and Harry when he was on the bench, just to come up and play a bit more wing for a while. "To be able to close out that game for us and he did that really well, he was involved in some pretty good moments."
On the team working together and forward pressure:
"Obviously if you’re marking the ball and impacting on the scoreboard, you need less of it, but when it does drop on the floor, you’ve got guys that are getting after it really fast and it’s something we want to make a staple of our game style and the boys really brought that today. "It takes three units to pull together: forward pressure, the mids bringing that real strong contested game and then the backs being able to absorb when they need to and I thought all three units did a great job today. "We don’t have to dominate the forward 50s but we want to be in the fight. I was pleased that we got a few looks and were able to convert in the end."
On Ed Curnow:
"We get to see the infectious energy that Ed brings to our team and the toughness and competitiveness that he brings. "I said last week, he has a role to play for us and he was able to go into the midfield today, took a role on Guthrie and did a great job. He’s prepared to do anything and he just wants the best for this football club and that’s to be as successful as we can."
On playing in close games:
"I said to the players after ‘it just had to be that way’. We had to win it really tough in the end, but we got the correction we were after which was really pleasing to see. "You’d like to be able to put the foot down but I don't think we can be too fixated on how the finish was. We were pleased we were able to absorb and in a critical moment, we were able to do the right things at the right time."
Ed Curnow didn't manage a single game last year due to knee, calf and hamstring issues and, out of contract and 32 years old, it looked like his time at Carlton might be up. But it wasn't. The Blues signed him for one more year, adding him to the rookie list, and the oldest player at Princes Park (he's now 33) has quickly shown he still has more to offer at AFL level. Michael Voss picked him in round one after a strong summer and on Thursday night he was rewarded. While it was all about the other Curnow – Charlie booted five goals in a stunning display – Ed executed a role on Cam Guthrie at times and made a strong contribution in midfield, especially in the last quarter. The veteran collected 10 of his 26 disposals and four of his six clearances in the final term, finishing with 12 contested possessions, eight tackles and a goal. If you were surprised Curnow was included in round one, don't be surprised if he plays every week from now on. – Josh Gabelich.
|24 Nic Newman
|33 Lewis Young
|26 Lachlan Cowan
|15 Sam Docherty
|23 Jacob Weitering
|11 Mitch McGovern
|13 Blake Acres
|9 Patrick Cripps (c)
|35 Ed Curnow
|3 Jesse Motlop
|10 Harry McKay
|25 Zac Fisher
|19 Corey Durdin
|30 Charlie Curnow
|1 Jack Silvagni
|12 Tom De Koning
|5 Adam Cerra
|7 Matthew Kennedy
|14 Oliver Hollands
|27 Marc Pittonet
|44 Matthew Owies
|42 Adam Saad
|4 Lochie O'Brien
|36 Josh Honey
|20 Lachie Plowman
|17 Brodie Kemp
Substitute; Lochie O'Brien (replaced Jack Silvagni in fourth quarter).
In: Corey Durdin, Marc Pittonet.
Out: George Hewett (hand), Jack Martin (calf).
Round 5, 2010.
2. This was only the second time ever that four Coleman Medalists (Curnow, McKay, Hawkins and Cameron) have played in the same match, the only other time being way back n 1902.
3. Adam Saad had a career-high 29 disposals in this game.
9 - Charlie Curnow (CARL)
6 - Adam Saad (CARL)
2 - Ed Curnow (CARL)
2 - Jacob Weitering (CARL)
1 - Blake Acres (CARL)
1 - Isaac Smith (GEEL)
Adam Saad (CARL)
2 - Charlie Curnow (CARL)
1 - Jeremy Cameron (GEEL)
Round 1 | Round 3