AFL 2022: News and reaction from Carlton v Sydney clash

One of the heroes of Carlton’s win over Sydney almost didn’t play as it was revealed the club has been battling an outbreak of illness in recent weeks.

Carlton midfield star Sam Walsh has revealed some members of the Blues’ playing group have battled sickness in recent weeks, but stressed it wasn’t a factor in Friday night’s gritty 15-point victory over Sydney.

As the Blues strengthened their position within the top four, Walsh said the team’s collective resilience and hard edge had played a big role in the club’s 8-2 ledger – their best start to a season since 1996.

Friday’s win over the Swans came off a five-day break and for the fourth time this season Carlton shot out to a big lead but was still able to hang on against a fast-finishing opponent.

A number of Melbourne clubs have been impacted by non-Covid illness in recent weeks, but the Blues have balanced that with two of their best wins of the season in successive weeks without a handful of key players.

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“It’s going around Melbourne a fair bit, everywhere I guess,” Walsh said on SEN.

“A couple of weeks back we had a few boys that were a bit crook and it was going around the club a bit, but ultimately if you go across that white line you are deemed to be right to play and you are ready to have a crack. I think that’s what we’ve been doing.

“There are a lot of guys, especially at this point of the year, who aren’t feeling 100 per cent. We have been able to get through a period pretty well. Hopefully we have got all the sickness out before the main part of winter.”

The Blues face Collingwood next Sunday and Essendon after the bye with the club probably only needing four more wins in the second half of the season to break a finals drought of almost a decade.

Sam Walsh has revealed Carlton was struck by illness.
Sam Walsh has revealed Carlton was struck by illness.

In a match bookended by Charlie Curnow’s six-goal masterclass and Jacob Weitering’s game-saving defensive efforts, Voss couldn’t have been more proud of his team.

“I don’t know where I thought we would be (after 10 rounds) … the very first thing I didn’t want to do was put a cap on where we needed to be and what we needed to do,” Voss said.

“We just had a lot of work ahead of us and now with the results that we have, I couldn’t ask for anymore.”

The Blues led by 38 points at halftime off the back of a 9.2 second quarter – their highest term against the Swans in 32 years. But Sydney got within nine points in the final term before Carlton found a way again.

“We will go to work on it (the fade-outs) and give it some attention, but sometimes you have to stop looking under the rug,” he said.

“There is a lot going on that is going pretty well. Where we showed some real growth was that defensive resilience.

“We absorbed a lot and it didn’t look like we were going there in the end, but we found a way and that was really pleasing.

Voss reserved special credit for Weitering’s calmness under pressure and Sam Docherty’s ability to bounce back from a heavy knock from Swans veteran Josh Kennedy.

The Swans are awaiting scans on Kennedy’s hamstring injury with fears it could be a very serious one, while Docherty confirmed on 3AW he was feeling sore but otherwise fine after the Swan’s clumsy late hit.

VOSS LAUDS TWO BLUES AFTER NAILBITER

Carlton coach Michael Voss has lauded his team’s resilience and defensive intent to stave off a resurgent Sydney as the Blues took another step towards booking that elusive first finals berth after almost a decade.

In a match bookended by Charlie Curnow’s six-goal masterclass and Jacob Weitering’s game-saving efforts in defence, Voss couldn’t have been more proud of his team as it logged its eighth win from 10 matches to further entrench themselves inside the top four.

The victory puts the Blues two games clear of the Swans with Voss saying he had never put a ceiling on what his team can achieve in his first season at the helm.

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“I don’t know where I thought we would be (after 10 rounds) … the very first thing I didn’t want to do was put a cap on where we needed to be and what we needed to do,” Voss said.

“We just had a lot of work ahead of us and now with the results that we have, I couldn’t ask for anymore.”

Friday night was the fourth time this season the Blues have faded in the second half, but just as they had done against Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn and Port Adelaide, they did enough to hold onto the victory, this time by 15 points.

The Blues led by 38 points at half-time off the back of a 9.2 second quarter - their highest term against the Swans in 32 years - but Sydney got within nine points in the final term before Carlton found a way.

“We will go to work on it (the fadeouts) and give it some attention, but sometimes you have to stop looking under the rug,” he said.

“There is a lot going on that is going pretty well. Where we showed some real growth was that defensive resilience.

“We absorbed a lot and it didn’t look like we were going there in the end, but we found a way and that was really pleasing.

“We are still a developing system, we are still progressing in the way we play, we have had huge growth from a month ago to now.”

Voss said Curnow was growing in confidence after such a long injury layoff, saying he had some very special attributes.

The coach reserved special credit for Weitering’s calmness under pressure in defence and Sam Docherty’s ability to bounce back from a heavy knock from Swans veteran Josh Kennedy.

“I am not into sitting here and lauding individuals as we all take a selfless approach … but you have to acknowledge what is right in front of you,” he said.

“He (Weitering) was just amazing. With the amount of ball coming in there, he looked so safe, sure and strong and if anyone had a will (to win) in the end, it was him.”

He said of Docherty: “The players acknowledged it in the after match and spoke about the effort to firstly go for the ball and then to be able to keep playing on.”

“He keeps overcoming challenges that come his way. He has had a great year and the players love playing with him.”

The Blues were able to do it on Friday night without some of their key players including Harry McKay, Marc Pittonet, Zac Williams and Jack Martin.

They take on Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday before taking on Essendon after the bye.

KENNEDY’S CAREER MAY BE OVER

Sydney champion Josh Kennedy’s career is under a cloud after the former Swans captain suffered a serious hamstring injury against Carlton at Marvel Stadium on Friday night.

Kennedy hurt himself while crudely attempting to spoil Blues defender Sam Docherty, in an incident that will almost certainly result in him being cited by the match review officer as his elbow connected with Docherty’s face, forcing the former Carlton skipper from the field with a bloody nose.

Josh Kennedy suffered a serious hamstring injury against the Blues on Friday night Picture: Getty Images
Josh Kennedy suffered a serious hamstring injury against the Blues on Friday night Picture: Getty Images

Kennedy had to be helped from the field with the assistance of trainers and struggled to put any weight on his injured right leg.

Swans coach John Longmire confirmed after his team’s 15-point loss that Kennedy suffered a “bad hamstring” injury, and given the 34-year-old is on 289 career games, with just 12 games left in the season, his dream of reaching 300 could be in serious jeopardy.

“They said it was a bad hamstring so I don’t think there’s ever such thing as a good hamstring, but if they say it’s a bad hamstring, it’s going to be quite a few weeks you’d imagine,” Longmire said.

“Let’s see what happens during the week.”

Kennedy’s numbers this year are well down on his usual output, and he has even been used as a starting sub on a couple of occasions, adding to the uncertainty over his chances of extending his glittering career into 2023.

Longmire took solace from the fact that the Swans won three quarters against the Blues, but lamented his team’s second term which saw them cough up a staggering nine goals.

The 2012 premiership coach said his players let themselves down in the first half as they gave away a whopping 20 free kicks.

“It was at world record pace, so that was disappointing,” Longmire said.

“We’ll go back and have a look at it, there were some there that were absolutely there, so we’re not saying the free kick count was wrong, we’re just saying that’s what it was – the numbers.”

The Swans were completely overwhelmed by Carlton’s ferocious pressure in the second quarter, and no player symbolised their struggles more than star defender Tom McCartin who was taken to task by Charlie Curnow.

The brilliant Blues forward kicked five of his six goals in the first half against McCartin who looked as uncertain playing one-on-one as he ever has.

“Sometimes you get beaten when you play key defence and it hasn’t happened too much to Tommy,” Longmire said.

“He’s been really, really good. But sometimes when you play down back on good quality key forwards every week, sometimes it happens. I just think that’s what happened.”

BLUES SURVIVE DRAMATIC SCARE TO SOLIDIFY TOP-FOUR CLAIMS

Carlton have survived another dramatic second-half fadeout to hang on for a gutsy 15-point win against Sydney in one of the games of the season at Marvel Stadium on Friday night to kick off Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round in fitting fashion.

The Blues, powered by an electric five-goal first half from Charlie Curnow, overwhelmed the Swans with a blistering opening that saw them shoot out to a 38-point lead at half-time.

But as they did against the Bulldogs, Hawthorn and Port Adelaide already this year, the Blues stopped dead in their tracks, allowing the fast-finishing Swans to get within eight points midway through the final quarter.

However, for the fourth time this year, the Blues got away with it and when Sydney backman Nick Blakey’s kick-in to Isaac Heeney at the 20-minute mark of the final term was spoiled by Adam Cerra, Sam Walsh collected the loose ball and dished it off to Zac Fisher who sealed the deal for Carlton after another nervous second half.

Charlie Curnow kicked five goals in the opening half against Sydney.
Charlie Curnow kicked five goals in the opening half against Sydney.

The 15.12 (102) to 13.9 (87) result solidified Carlton’s status as a top-four contender in front of 44,769 fans – the second-biggest home-and-away crowd between the two sides.

Despite missing key players Harry McKay (knee), Zac Williams (calf), Marc Pittonet (knee), Jack Martin (calf) and Mitch McGovern (hamstring), Carlton were still able to improve their record to 8-2, continuing their best start to a season since 1996, and put the Swans at risk of tumbling to the nether regions of the top eight by the end of the weekend.

Sydney’s Tom McCartin is being touted as a potential All-Australian defender this year, but he looked anything but that as Curnow sent him to the cleaners in the first half.

McCartin, usually so assured and steady, looked as nervous and unsure of himself as he ever has since switching to defence. He had no idea how to deal with Curnow as the star Blue had his way with him, kicking five of his six goals in the first half.

So damaging was Curnow that the Swans were forced to switch Dane Rampe onto him in the second half.

But the Swans were also undone by Carlton’s small forwards with Corey Durdin, Jesse Motlop, Matt Owies and Zac Fisher wreaking havoc and causing non-stop uncertainty with their effective ground-level work, especially before half-time.

Compounding things for the Swans is the fact that Josh Kennedy will come under match review scrutiny for a crude elbow to Sam Docherty’s face while attempting a spoil a few minutes before half-time, forcing Docherty from the ground with a bloodied nose.

However, any potential suspension for Kennedy will likely be moot as the premiership star appeared to badly injure his hamstring in the incident, and needed to be helped from the ground by the trainers limping heavily, before being subbed out immediately.

Sam Walsh (34) and George Hewett (32), playing against his old side for the first time, combined for 66 disposals, while Jacob Weitering was enormous down back, especially in the second half when the Swans were coming hard, and Tom De Koning was the dominant ruckman on the ground. Weitering kept Lance Franklin to just two goals as well.

Logan McDonald (three) and Tom Papley (three) were important for the Swans in attack, combining for six goals, while Luke Parker, Paddy McCartin, Errol Gulden and Nick Blakey also contributed well.

The Swans actually finished the game with more inside-50s (56-49), but were held at bay by a gritty Carlton backline. The Blues dominated the contested possessions (161-137).

BLUES FAIL TO GET REWARD

Carlton started the stronger of the two teams, dominating possession in the first quarter (117-81) and finishing the term with more forward entries (14-12). But despite troubling the Swans’ backline, in particular Curnow with two majors, the Blues were let down by poor goalkicking (3.5) and trailed by one point at quarter-time as the accurate Swans nailed four straight set shots down the other end of the ground, including a pair to Logan McDonald.

Zac Fisher celebrates kicking the sealer. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Zac Fisher celebrates kicking the sealer. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

CARLTON OVERWHELM SWANS

The Blues continued smashing the Swans in contested possessions in the second period, and got right on top in the clearances, and this time, it translated onto the scoreboard as they kicked six goals in just 11 minutes of game time (including Curnow’s on the quarter-time siren) to take a stranglehold on the contest. Carlton led the inside-50s 16-2 at one stage during the second term and Sydney’s backline totally capitulated under the relentless pressure as the Blues booted nine goals for the quarter to open up a 38-point lead at half-time in a breathtaking display.

SWANS FIGHT BACK HARD

The Swans kept themselves in the game, though, thanks to their deadeye accuracy (7.0) and after regathering their composure, they came out looking like a different team in the third term. They were far more energetic and dominated the territory battle as Carlton’s ferocious pressure evaporated. Carlton’s run completely stopped, and the Swans continued to do most of the attacking in the final term, but despite enjoying dominant field position, they could only manage one goal as Carlton defended grimly, led superbly by Jacob Weitering.

BUDDY TURNS BACK TIME

Late in the third quarter, Franklin turned back the clock as he accepted the handball, ran to 65m out and banged home a massive goal which was straight out of the Franklin vault of classic highlights. The six-pointer brought the Swans to within three goals. The fact he is still capable of such incredible things at 35 really drives home what a one-of-a-kind legend of the game he is.

SCOREBOARD

BLUES 3.5, 12.8, 14.9, 15.12 (102)

SWANS 4.0, 7.0, 12.4, 13.9 (87)

LERNER’S BEST
Blues: C.Curnow, Walsh, Weitering, Hewett, De Koning, Durdin, Kennedy.
Swans: Parker, McDonald, Papley, P.McCartin, Gulden, Blakey, Heeney.

GOALS
Blues: C.Curnow 6, Durdin 2, Fisher 2, Cripps, Kennedy, Motlop, De Koning, Owies.
Swans: McDonald 3, Papley 3, Hayward 2, Franklin 2, Parker, McInerney, Gulden.

INJURIES Blues: Nil. Swans: Kennedy (hamstring).

UMPIRES Gavine, Broadbent, Williamson

VENUE Marvel Stadium

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

LERNER’S VOTES

3 C.Curnow (Carl)

2 S.Walsh (Carl)

1 J.Weitering (Carl)

Originally published as AFL 2022: News and reaction from Carlton v Sydney clash