1 Bulldogs find their bite
Having lost six of their last eight games, things looked grim for the Bulldogs when they conceded the first three goals of their clash with Carlton. With their Premiership defence well and truly on the brink, Luke Beveridge's men rediscovered some of their lost bite with eight of the next nine goals.
While it may not have been a return to their scintillating best, Beveridge conceding his team had been 'their own worst enemy at times, the Bulldogs did what was required to overcome a determined opponent. Despite leading by 26-points at three quarter time, Carlton fought until the bitter end.
With Jack Macrae and Marcus Bontempelli leading the way in the middle, the defending premiers seemed to have the upper hand for much of the match. Despite this, it remained in the balance until late in the contest with the Bulldogs unable to confidently bank the four premiership points until Bailey Dale kicked truly deep in time-on in the final quarter. Despite a concerted late Carlton push, the Bulldogs were able to claim a 20-point victory and put themselves squarely back in the race for a spot in September.
2 Orange is the new blue
Carlton used the fixture against the Bulldogs to draw attention to an epidemic gripping Australia. The Blues exchanged their Navy Blue socks for Orange and called upon their fans to do similarly to promote gender equality for the purpose of preventing violence against women.
The Club has worked hard, through their Carlton Respects foundation, to use the platform provided by football to educate the community about respect and equality. The purpose of the foundation, and the bright and untraditional footwear, is to generate public conversation in attempt to prevent violence against women.
Carlton CEO Steven Trigg spoke during the week of the alarming statistics around violence against women and the club's desire to use their unique platform to effect change.
“As a club, we strongly encourage the strengthening of positive, equal and respectful relationships. That one woman is killed almost every week by a current or former partner in Australia is totally unacceptable,” Trigg said.
“Gender inequality is the core of the problem, yet it is also at the heart of the solution. We successfully launched the pilot of the CARLTON RESPECTS program last year and we want to ensure we continue to strive to be a genuine leader in equality and respect.
“As a football club, we have a great platform for change and we understand that we have a role to play in educating and challenging gender stereotypes within our community.”
The Bulldogs acknowledged the importance of the day with a tribute to their opponents cause on their banner for the match.
If you want to learn more about Carlton Respects and the work they are doing you can find out more here.
3 A rising star flies high
Carlton have had five players recognised with Rising Star nominations in 2017, a record for a single season, but on this day it was an opposition young gun who drew plaudits. Lewis Young, born in December 1998, is the youngest player on an AFL list but he belied this inexperience as he deputised for Premiership Captain Easton Wood.
It was an impressive debut from the 999th man to pull on a Bulldogs jumper. Selected on the back of a strong run of form in the VFL, Young rewarded the selectors' faith with an extremely poised display. Displaying confidence beyond his years, Young positioned himself well and backed his judgement to break up Carlton's forward thrusts time and again with strong intercept marks.
In a day that will live long in his memory, the third quarter saw him put the exclamation point on a stand out display. Flying high over Matthew Kreuzer, Young produced the first moment of what looks likely to be a long highlight reel.
4 Carlton: scrappy but spirited
The Blues were beaten by the Bulldogs but remain unbowed, despite faded finals hopes and an injury list that continues to mount by the day. Let down in large part by their skill level and decision making, the Blues continued to scrap and appear determined to do so until the curtain is drawn on their season.
“Our character is pretty strong, we don’t need to question that,” Coach Brendon Bolton said in the post match press conference. “They’ve played with some real spirit and effort for most of the year, I’ve said a number of times we’ve been right in the game."
While proud of his team's effort and endeavour, Bolton expressed a desire to see an improvement in their execution in the remaining weeks. “The craft and the mastery - just being able to execute what’s required in tight situations." The Coach said. “That’s the next layer and our players are fully aware of it. They will be determined to show growth in that area.”
He was also keen to see the positive of the club's injury crisis, which grew with Alex Silvagni, Ciaran Byrne and Dylan Buckley succumbing to knee, groin, and knee, complaints respectively. “Injuries are at double figures and that’s a great opportunity to build our depth." Bolton suggested. “It’s also a great opportunity to view our depth, look at more players and assess their game on the way."
Bolton would also have had reason to be pleased with the continued form of Matthew Kreuzer and Nathan Jones. Against the Bulldogs, Kreuzer's strong but under publicised push for All-Australian selection continued. The former number one draft pick completely dominated the ruck contest, winning 50 hit-outs in yet another strong performance for the Blues.
It was announced during the week that Carlton and Jones and come to an agreement to see the former Bulldog remain at Princes Park for another two years. Jones is fast becoming the feel good story of the 2017 season with the former forward reviving his career as a dominant and assured backman.
5 Bulldogs win but improvement still needed
The Bulldogs were far from convincing in their victory over Carlton but there was a lot of positives to take out of their performance. Which was something Coach Luke Beveridge spoke to in his post match press conference. "We probably didn't function, again, inside 50 and kicked some long balls to their talls (key defenders)," Beveridge said. "But overall we had a lot of winners which was fantastic."
To this end, Beveridge would have been pleased then with the performances of a number of his premiership stars. Norm Smith Medallist Jason Johannisen, the subject of intense scrutiny in recent weeks, enjoyed his best performance in some time. Afforded more space than he had become accustomed to this season, Johannisen was able to display some of his damaging capabilities as he accumulated 23 possessions and a goal.
Marcus Bontempelli imposed himself on the game in a supreme third quarter where he tore up the Blues with 10 sublime possessions. Jack Macrae seemed to collect the ball at will while Tony McLean and Bailey Dale hurt the Blues with the ball-winning and their ability to hit the scoreboard alike.
With winnable matches against the two Queensland clubs either side of mouth-watering encounter with the improving Bombers, the Premiers are again squarely in the finals race. While still far from their best, we saw what this group can do if they are there when the games count most.
Will the Doggies be a challenger in September, or have they simply lost too many games?
- Yes. With winnable matches, this outfit can surge into September and prove to be a contender.
- No. The Doggies are a bit out of touch this season, and will struggle to mount a serious challenge.
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