The season opener of the 2018 AFL season had a surprise result that for the most part, was an eye-opener for not only the commenters, the media but also for a supporter of the code and the club. For we watched as Carlton came out swinging and shocked the reigning Premiers. For a club that was in the bottom four of the 2017 ladder, pitting themselves against the champions of the 2017 season, an expected blow-out was going to be the outcome – it was not.
Every year for the past few seasons, I have said, and others that when Carlton loses, given the margin it loses by (not the blow-outs), that it was for the club an ‘honourable loss’. Not this year. For the past few years, the club has opened the closet of the dark shadows that loomed, swept out the cobwebs and started re-modeling the playing list. This year, for the first game this season, everyone saw the potential this club now has moving forward.
Last year, Carlton scored over 90 points in only two games – against Sydney in Round 6 where we won and against North Melbourne in Round 10 where we lost. We averaged a total of 77.45 points per game. This statistic, for an entire season, will not make a team a top 8 contender. When I looked at how we went in 2017, the games where we lost the opposition scored on average, 103.06 points. The score for the season opener was 95 which means that we scored 17.55 points more.
Carlton is starting to become a team that every supporter is hoping it will become and we saw that on Thursday night. It shocked not only the Richmond FC and its fans, but also commentators and media who just did not see it coming. We could go on all day about the magnificence of Crippa, Charlie, and the indomitable Simmo. We could go on about Murph who played a great Captain’s game with 23 disposals, Fisher who had 21 disposals; Daisy who had 24 disposals, the return of Ed Curnow with 29 disposals or even one of most under-rated players, Wright who while only had 11 disposals kicked 5 magnificent goals, but that does not tell the whole picture of Carlton in 2018.
Carlton has one of the youngest playing groups in the AFL where the average age is 23 years old. The club has weeded out those players who are peripheral to the growth of the club and kept those players who they see as being part of the success of the club. No team can win any major championship if the average age is just 23 years old, they have to have as part of the team those that have played the game longer, and it is the mix of both older players and younger players that make a champion team. Carlton has that and Thursday’s match was one where the Carlton FC are beginning to show the AFL world that it is no longer a bottom-feeder team.
They played a hard, gritty game and started on their terms. What let them down was purely and simply inexperience under pressure and for some players, not being able to understand the flow of the game and step up. I’m not going to point the finger because that doesn’t solve anything, all I’m going to say is for them and their game to move forward, they have to decide what is it they want from the game. If they want to be part of a team that is on the rise then they have to rise with it, on the field. They have to know their place in the team and I think, upon reflection, that this is where they are faltering, for they are not really sure of their role. They are in the same predicament where Liam Jones was a few years ago; great footballer, just not sure of who they were as a footballer and their title on the field. They have great potential and great skills to make them major players, they just need to find their ‘mojo’ in a position that they are willing to grab by the reins and gallop away with.
2018 will be a season that for all concerned will not be one where the ‘honourable loss’ will be tolerated in terms of the club’s acceptance of this (as Bolts has stated) and supporters. We saw on Thursday night that this is not going to be the accepted norm this year. For some, it may take a few more senior games to really show what they are capable of, but for the most part, what we saw on Thursday is the start of a new era at the Carlton FC. We lost a game against the Premiers by scoring 95 points, if we continue this way for the rest of the season, our win/loss will swing more to the win, than the loss and Carlton will once again be one of the dominant clubs in the league. It took a few years to get here, and it won't be that long to reach where we want to be. I saw it on Thursday night and we will see during this season. GO BLUES!