Carlton’s crisis is over but a hamstring injury to Chris Judd will deliver more unwanted headlines for coach Mick Malthouse.
The Blues’ worst start to a season in 25 years finally delivered a win, captain Marc Murphy leading from the front in a 28-point victory over the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
The four premiership points will keep the wolves at bay but Judd faces up to another month sidelined.
Even before Carlton’s 18.11 (119) to 13.13 (91) win pundits were debating whether the superstar was ready for AFL intensity given he’d had no match practice since achilles surgery in February.
Asked about it, Malthouse treated the question with trademark disdain.
“What, do you think I would play someone with a doubtful hamstring? No,” he quipped.
“He’s had hamstring problems before … so to clarify that, when you know that they have it’s the last thing you would ever dream of doing.”
Former Brisbane coach and captain Michael Voss was among those to defend the club’s call on Judd.
“Mick Malthouse had to play Chris Judd. Season on line had to go with it. Was managed but didn’t work,” Voss tweeted.
Malthouse said Judd’s continued on-field absence would not be an issue inside the club.
In Sunday’s other matches, Adelaide made it consecutive thumpings by beating GWS 21.11 (137) to 10.12 (72) and Gold Coast pipped Melbourne 11.20 (86) to 11.12 (78).
St Kilda caused a major boilover on Saturday night, Nick Riewoldt kicking five goals in a 11.15 (81) to 9.11 (65) win over Essendon.
Collingwood, Sydney and Port Adelaide also claimed meritorious wins in round five, clinically disposing of North Melbourne, Fremantle and West Coast respectively.
The Magpies downed the Kangaroos by 35 points at the MCG on Saturday, and will be hot favourites to get the better of Essendon in the sides’ traditional Anzac Day match.
The Swans rediscovered their best in a plucky 17-point victory over the Dockers at the SCG, where star recruit Lance Franklin kicked four goals.
Port Adelaide scored a hard-fought 14-point win in Perth, and the third-placed team will have their premiership credentials put to the test in a home clash with Geelong next Sunday.
“The important thing for us is that it’s at Adelaide Oval … and we fill the place up and we make it as hostile an environment for Geelong as best we can outside the fence,” Port coach Ken Hinkley said.
“Then we try to do the same thing inside the fence.”
Round five concludes on Easter Monday with the league’s two remaining unbeaten sides, fierce rivals Hawthorn and Geelong, squaring off at the MCG.
Four days later, six clubs will share the honour of playing on Anzac Day.
Aside from the traditional fixture in Melbourne, the Dockers host North Melbourne while the league’s New Zealand experiment continues with Brisbane up against the Saints in Wellington.
The Lions remain the league’s only winless side, having fallen 15.16 (106) to 9.9 (63) against Richmond last Thursday night at the Gabba.