A game clear in the top four near the season’s midpoint, Carlton “has everything” and is built for a flag tilt – whether now or soon.
Plus the Bulldogs coach cops it for getting others to do his “dirty work”, Richmond vibing like it’s 2019 and the Power paying for a trade “mistake”.
The big issues from Round 10 of the 2022 AFL season analysed in Talking Points!
Watch every blockbuster AFL match this weekend Live & Ad-Break Free In-Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
REAL — NO OVERREACTION: BLUES BUILT FOR TILT
Whether it’s this year or across the next couple, the Blues’ flag tilt process has begun.
Carlton — one of the most maligned and scrutinised AFL clubs that’s been starved of success for two decades where it’s sacked multiple coaches — is 8-2, sitting in the top four and one game clear of fifth.
It’s a position younger Blues fans would be unfamiliar with — and a position that would excite all Blues fans yet also leave them cautious as there’s still ample games left in the season. It’s a win-loss ratio, surely, Carlton internally didn’t expect to be in, despite seemingly having all the ingredients for a surge up the ladder for years.
But on Friday night — minutes after another inspiring win in 2022, this time over fellow finals contenders in Sydney — a Fox Footy pundit grouped “Carlton” and “premiership” in the same sentence.
“They have everything right now in the squad to win a premiership in years to come,” triple All-Australian Nick Dal Santo told Fox Footy Live.
“It may not be in the next 12 to 14 weeks, but at some stage they have the personnel right now to get the job done.”
There’s no doubting Dal Santo’s point about the Blues’ list. It’s well balanced in terms of age and experience — Carlton on Friday night fielded a significantly less-experienced team than 2021 finalists Sydney — while it doesn’t have many chasms from backline to forward line.
The Blues have genuine superstar power — think Patrick Cripps, Sam Walsh, Charlie Curnow and Jacob Weitering — a brutal on-ball brigade and an array of selfless role players. As Melbourne champion Garry Lyon told Fox Footy on Friday night, it’s a list make-up that mirrors Richmond and Melbourne.
The fact the Blues beat the Swans without Harry McKay, Zac Williams, Marc Pittonet, Mitch McGovern, Jack Martin, Ed Curnow, Oscar McDonald and Caleb Marchbank indicates this Carlton playing group has serious depth. It also indicates coach Michael Voss has implemented a system that makes it easy for any players come into the senior side and play their role.
That plug-in-plug-out sentiment — as well as the fact the Blues held off another rival club’s stunning second-half surge for the fourth time in nine weeks — also personifies the maturity of this playing group.
“We’ve always said first-round draft picks (are key to flags), but Owies, Durdin, Carroll, Motlop and Cottrell – not household names, but role players — significant role players — those small forwards with the pressure,” Dal Santo said.
“They swarm and they were fantastic at keeping the ball in the front half.”
Carlton is now destined to feature in an AFL finals series for the first time since 2013 and just the fifth time in 21 seasons.
The Blues can further strengthen their top-four chances over the next fortnight with clashes against Collingwood and Essendon before a defining six-game stretch that includes games against Richmond, Fremantle, St Kilda and Geelong then matches against Brisbane (Round 21) and Melbourne (Round 22).
Their finish to the season looks tough on paper. But the sample size is big enough now to declare Carlton is the real deal.
“I look at the Blues and they have all the pieces that they need to be a successful football club,” Dal Santo said. “Now this is something that we haven’t said about this group for a long period of time, but they have a need for nothing as it currently stands.
“Does that mean that they’re going to win the premiership this year? No, I can’t promise that. Does that mean that this list is actually capable and the system and the personnel to achieve the ultimate? Yes they do. When that ultimately is I’m not quite sure.”
‘SOOKING’ COACH’S ‘DIRTY WORK’ CALL LEAVES RIVALS ‘BEMUSED’
Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has been accused of “sooking” and asking others to do his “dirty work” after a mysterious complaint about Aaron Naughton’s game against Gold Coast.
Naughton kicked three goals in the first half of the Dogs’ win but none in the second half against star Suns backman Sam Collins, with a coy Beveridge raising the issue in his post-match press conference.
However he wasn’t willing to spell out the exact complaint he was making.
“I’ve got to be really careful here because he’s been so dominant and then there were reasons why he wasn’t in the second half,” Beveridge said.
“That’s all I’ll say. We’ll do some follow up.
“He kept fighting, kept bringing the ball to ground.
“We’ll work our way through it through the course of the week.”
Asked if the reason was an injury, Beveridge replied: “Nah.
“After the game what happens is you are pretty sure you know what happened, but you’ve got to go back to have a look just to make sure.
“I can’t really comment, I’ll just go back and have a look.”
While in many respects Beveridge’s ability to show restraint with something that bothered him in the immediate aftermath of a game was admirable, it also caused confusion among observers.
On the Sunday Footy Show, Port Adelaide champion Kane Cornes questioned why Beveridge would half-raise the issue but then not actually spell it out.
“You’ve got to be really careful, you don’t want to go into detail, so why put it on the radar?” Cornes said on Nine.
“Because people like us will go, what are you talking about? I went back and had a look, clearly I think he’s talking about umpiring and the treatment of Aaron Naughton – nothing in the contests I’ve seen says he was treated unfairly.
“Is that what he’s talking about, or is it something different?
“When you front the media, you’re talking to your fans, and he’s put something on the radar that he’s not happy to explore or go into for whatever reason, so why say it? What’s the benefit of Luke Beveridge going with that yesterday, other than to cause unwanted speculation and a thought he’s perhaps sooking over one of his players?”
AFL journalist Damian Barrett said Gold Coast was “bemused” by Beveridge’s comment.
“There might’ve been one identifiable free kick that Naughton should’ve got that he didn’t get, but that happens at any stage in a game of footy.
“I haven’t spoken to anybody that has any idea what he’s referring to there, and to flag it and raise it but withdraw from what he’s actually raising, I don’t (understand).”
Host Tony Jones added: “Clearly he wants everyone else to do his dirty work – ie, you’ve dug in and had a look.”
Essendon great Matthew Lloyd suggested it could have been about “what the Suns could’ve been doing to him off the ball to stop his run, those types of things”.
Beveridge appears to have form in this area.
The Herald Sun’s Jon Ralph tweeted: “Bevo was dirty that Naughton was repeatedly held by Adelaide’s Jordon Butts in the last Ballarat game.
“Not sure Collins did anything wrong apart from one missed free so Bevo surely posturing to get a better rub of the green in future weeks.”
‘TIGERS OF OLD’ FEELING LIKE IT’S 2019
Is Richmond back?
It may depend who you ask. But at least two AFL greats, and a current Tigers star, seem to think the answer is yes.
Perhaps surprisingly given their recent history, Richmond’s 6-4 record after 10 matches is their best since 2019 – that record coming after they recorded their fourth consecutive win on Saturday night.
And inside the four walls, it feels like that famous year when Richmond went into the bye with a middling 7-6 record, and then didn’t lose a game on route to the premiership.
“To be honest, it feels pretty similar to 2019, we were about 7-8 (7-6) at the bye and we ended up winning every game from there,” Dion Prestia told ABC radio post-game.
“It was a similar story in 2017, we got to the bye and only lost two games in the last 12, so it definitely feels the same. I don’t think we had anyone in the rehab group two weeks ago.
“We have added a few with Tom Lynch and Noah Balta but I just think we have been able to stay pretty healthy throughout my time at Richmond, and it helps a lot.
“We have changed our style of play over the last few weeks, going a bit quicker to get it into Jack and Lynchy so they can go one-on-one so giving us the licence has helped a bit.”
To be fair, after 10 rounds in 2019 Richmond was fourth on the ladder, not eighth. But their percentage was quite a bit worse (106.2 to this year’s 120.4) – partially because the 2019 Tigers didn’t get to play this year’s version of West Coast.
That Eagles blowout makes it hard to tell how close Richmond really is to the top four. On percentage, sure – they’re equal with Sydney, and ahead of both Carlton and St Kilda.
But the Tigers’ four-game winning streak has come against four bottom ten teams, and scoring 80 points against Essendon is actually well below par.
The question, then, is whether you believe a team can play itself into form – or whether form is dependent on the opposition, and that the Tigers may get exposed against quality opposition in the coming weeks.
“They flexed their muscles … it‘s been the Tigers of old in the last few weeks,” Jonathan Brown said on Fox Footy post-game.
“I know they had a live kill against the West Coast Eagles, but from then they’ve spawned a confidence amongst the individuals.
“Now they’re starting to gel as a team. They’re intimidating to opposition teams, they’re in great form with a lot of their key individuals.”
Nick Riewoldt added: “Personnel makes a big difference from a confidence point of view.
“You get familiar heads back into your side where you‘ve run down the race with them so many times, you know what they’re going to give. That just gives the entire team a little bit of swagger.”
With Sydney, Port Adelaide, Carlton and Geelong to come over the next five weeks – all teams around them on the ladder – it should be a much more telling four games than the last four.
POWER’S BIG TRADE MISTAKE CONTINUES TO HAUNT
There were more than a few eyebrows raised during the trade period last year when Port Adelaide didn’t go after another established midfielder, with most scribes citing the midfield as the side’s key area in need of improvement.
Yes, the Power have last year’s Brownlow medallist in Ollie Wines and veteran midfielder Travis Boak ageing like a fine wine, but the cliff comes quickly after that pair in terms of bonafide full-time midfielders.
Connor Rozee has been thrown into the middle at stages along with Zak Butters, most notably as Ken Hinkley looked to salvage the side’s season after a stack of early losses, but consistency in the centre is not yet a feature of their games as they navigate their early 20s.
One school of thought suggested the Power would go after one of Hawthorn’s veteran midfielders, who were tradeable in the early days of Sam Mitchell’s tenure as the side committed to a full rebuild.
Instead, Port Adelaide backed in its troops and, while the season is far from lost despite a grim opening five rounds, the midfield looms as a key weakness against the top sides.
Even with a hampered Patrick Dangerfield and minimal influence from Joel Selwood, the Power were thrashed in the middle of the ground, losing clearances 35-46 and contested possessions 121-150.
“You’ve got to go back to the fundamentals of the game,” Brisbane Lions legend Jonathan Brown told Fox Footy in the dying stages of Saturday’s game.
“If you lose contest by this much, you can’t expect to win a game of football. You have to put it onto the midfielders and say, ‘Boys, we need to do a better job’.
“Ollie Wines today has had 29 disposals, only nine of them are contested. The first month he was getting high numbers but it looked like that, whereas the last month he’s become the big bull again winning contested ball. Today, that’s gone missing.
“Dan Houston is more of a half-back, but Travis Boak has only had 10 contested possessions, Butters eight.”
The Power missed a trick in last year’s trade period, according to 300-game player Kane Cornes.
“They were short two midfielders coming into the season and it was an area they just didn’t address in the trade period,” he told AFL Media’s The Round So Far, pointing to the face the side had just one full-time midfielder between the ages of 25 and 32, Wines.
“That smacks you in the face. They’re even trying to get Travis Boak to play more half-forward so you can get more younger names into the centre bounce but at times they haven’t been able to sustain the effort so Boak’s been forced to go in there,” he said.
“They need to address it in the trade period. I don’t know if it’s a Tim Taranto or Josh Dunkley – they’re not ideally suited for what Port Adelaide need, they probably need a bit more outside run and ball use – but I look at what Carlton did with Hewett and Cerra coming in in that age bracket.”
Port Adelaide, according to Cornes, “made a mistake” last trade period and are paying the price in 2022.