Sport AFL AFL wrap: Heroic Blues post a win for the ages
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AFL wrap: Heroic Blues post a win for the ages

(L-R) Marc Murphy, Heath Scotland and Lachie Henderson celebrate another Carlton goal.
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Blood, sweat and Blues

Carlton has rarely had more heroic wins than the one it extracted in blood and sweat at the Docklands. The opponent may have been Western Bulldogs, a team still rebuilding, nor was it anyone’s idea of a blockbuster, but the circumstances were dire.

The Blues had endured one of those weeks when the harshest of sporting microscopes fell upon them – at 0-4 they were confronting their worst start to a season since 1989. There is nowhere to hide in Melbourne at times like this, especially if you have a history like Carlton’s.

The eyes have it: A hamstrung Chris Judd and coach Mick Malthouse. Photo: Getty
The eyes have it: A hamstrung Chris Judd and coach Mick Malthouse. Photo: Getty

The good news was that there was a response, an unequivocal reaction that revealed a depth of character that had previously been questioned. Then, the Judd disaster.

Chris Judd, dual Brownlow medallist, was named as substitute for his first game of the season after recovering from achilles tendon surgery in the pre-season. Here was a novelty: the great Judd in the green vest usually reserved for more mortals and kids.

Judd’s body is beginning to fail him. He faces at least another month on the sidelines.

The crowd at Etihad Stadium rose, in voice at least, as No. 5 in navy blue darted on to the field 22 minutes into the third quarter, replacing youngster Patrick Cripps. Five minutes later, there was a collective groan as he limped off, pointing to his right hamstring as medical staff came to assist him.

Judd’s body is beginning to fail him. He faces at least another month on the sidelines depending upon the results of a scan early this week.

Meanwhile, Carlton had a win to eke out. The Blues were one down because Cripps had been substituted out, then Ed Curnow hurt his right leg as he slammed into the behind post in a contest.

Curnow was brave; after having treatment he tried to come back on. He had fought all day as the designated stopper on Tom Liberatore, the generator of so much of the Bulldogs’ offensive power. But Curnow could not run. It would not surprise to learn that he has a broken leg, it looked so bad.

Ed Curnow joins the ranks of the not-quite-walking wounded. Photo: Getty
Ed Curnow joins the ranks of the not-quite-walking wounded. Photo: Getty

So Carlton was down to one interchange player against the Bulldogs’ three, for virtually the whole last quarter, and the Dogs were coming hard, four goals down but rallying.

Remarkably the Blues held on. That they did was due to the brilliance of captain Marc Murphy, the potency of Lachie Henderson (five goals) and Jarrad Waite (three).

The teams kicked 31 goals between them, taking the game on. There were few stoppages or rolling mauls. A blast from the past, really.

Without the injured/suspended Mr Reliable Dale Morris and Jordan Roughead, the Bulldogs defence was perforated too often.

For Waite, in particular, it was a cathartic day. He had been dismissed to the VFL last weekend for poor contribution to the cause of forward line pressure; this time his work rate was huge from the start.

Carlton won by 28 points and Mick Malthouse gave Judd a wry look as they crossed paths in the rooms afterward, as though to wonder what else could go wrong for him.

“Injuries are injuries,” said the coach. “It’s a shame how it happened but that’s the way it is. What are we going to do about it? The one thing we won’t do is say we can’t win with him, without him … we all know how great a player he’s been and he’s been missing all year, really.”

A final note on the game, which was one of the best of the season. The teams kicked 31 goals between them, taking the game on. There were few stoppages or rolling mauls. A blast from the past, really.

Blessed relief: Kane Lucas (L) and Tom Bell on the siren. Photo: Getty
Blessed relief: Kane Lucas (L) and Tom Bell on the siren. Photo: Getty

In praise of Saint Nick

St Kilda has been by far the biggest surprise of the early-season, sitting ninth at 3-2 with a game against Brisbane Lions in New Zealand this week and a chance to slip into the top eight.

Nick Riewoldt is beng mentioned in rarefied Saints company. Photo: Getty
Nick Riewoldt is being mentioned in rarefied Saints company. Photo: Getty

Many observers had Alan Richardson’s team vying for the mythical wooden spoon in 2014; in fact they have been highly competitive.

The Saints shocked Essendon at Etihad Stadium with Nick Riewoldt conjuring a virtuouso five-goal performance. Riewoldt has arguably been the player of the season, an astonishing performance from a 31-year-old with a degenerative knee.

No doubt he belongs in the top five, but Lockett is the all-time record goal-kicker, and Stewart won three Brownlows and Harvey two.

His longevity means he is writing another chapter to his story, which sits alongside Tony Lockett’s, Ian Stewart’s, Robert Harvey’s, and Darrel Baldock’s among Saints through history.

Is he the greatest of Saints?

That the question is even debated says something about Riewoldt’s career, for St Kilda has always had great individual players as opposed to team success.

No doubt he belongs in the top five, but Lockett is the all-time record goal-kicker, and Stewart won three Brownlows and Harvey two.

I could not place him ahead of those players and a nark would point out that three below-par grand final appearances in 2009-2010 have to be considered if a proper judgement is to be made.

Superstars shine

There has been some grumbling about the style of football in 2014 and one of the points made is that superstar players are being roped and tied by taggers, but round five brought out some of the best of the best.

Patrick Dangerfield played a turbo charged game for the Crows. Photo: Getty
Patrick Dangerfield played a turbo charged game for the Crows. Photo: Getty

Murphy at Carlton, Riewoldt at St Kilda and Travis Cloke at Collingwood were all instrumental to wins, the Magpies dismissing a lame challenge from North Melbourne.

Buddy Franklin booted four goals for Sydney in the Swans’ fine win over Fremantle and Patrick Dangerfield played a remarkable hand for Adelaide in the Crows’ win over Greater Western Sydney, booting five goals from midfield for the highlight reel. Gary Ablett’s customary stellar game took Gold Coast Suns into the top eight for now with a hard-earned win over a more dogged Melbourne.

Even grizzled Jonathan Brown turned back the clock for Brisbane Lions against Richmond in his 250th game, albeit in a defeat.

It was gratifying to see the great players shine, for the season has been stuttering along. Of course, it might reach its climax when Hawthorn and Geelong have their rendezvous at the MCG on Monday. Let’s hope it lives up to its billing.

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