If there was still some lingering optimism surrounding Carlton’s finals hopes this year, it was emphatically extinguished on Sunday after the side suffered a shattering defeat to an injury-ravaged West Coast line-up at the SCG.
The result saw West Coast break a 22-year drought at the SCG, having lost their previous nine games at the ground by an average of 34 points and for the first time in their 35-year history, the Eagles have beaten Carlton seven times in a row.
The Eagles were missing Jeremy McGovern (knee), Luke Shuey (hamstring), Josh Kennedy (soreness), Tim Kelly (knee), Oscar Allen (concussion), Liam Duggan (knee), Brendon Ah Chee (calf), Jarrod Brander (adductor) and Alex Witherden (groin), but that didn’t stop them from registering their gutsiest win of the year to the tune of 22 points.
They also lost Brad Sheppard in the first quarter due to concussion, but in their stead, reliable hands Liam Ryan, Dom Sheed, Andrew Gaff, Nic Naitanui and Elliot Yeo stood tall to ensure their side a two-game cushion inside the top eight.
The season-derailing result for Carlton was compounded by the loss of star forward Harry McKay in the first quarter due to concussion, while Nic Newman suffered the same fate in the third. The silver lining for both players is that Carlton’s next game is in 13 days’ time against GWS, which means they could be cleared to play if they both recover adequately within the 12-day protocol period.
Carlton has now lost all seven games against top-eight sides this season, following defeats to Richmond, Port Adelaide, Brisbane, the Bulldogs, Melbourne and Sydney as well, and they now sit three games outside the top eight.
With their bold pre-season finals ambitions in tatters, coach David Teague is sure to come under the fiercest scrutiny of his short time in charge.
Ryan rises above the rest
Ryan was the difference between the two sides as he finished with 17 touches (10 contested), nine marks (four contested), a goal assist and four goals, including a spectacular effort late in the third quarter which saw him mark strongly on the 50m arc, evades a pair of Blues, take a bounce and drill it from 30m out to extend West Coast’s lead to nine points. Every time Carlton looked to threaten, Ryan seemed to get in the way as the Blues ended up leading the game for only a couple of minutes in the third term.
Old firm shine at coal face
Despite the absence of Shuey and Kelly, West Coast dominated the clearances 36-24, with Naitanui (nine), Sheed (eight) and Yeo (eight) combining for 25 to monster Carlton’s engine room. Their superiority at the stoppages, and convincing victory of the contested ball (133-111), helped them register a handsome advantage in inside 50s (57-45) which proved critical in getting Ryan enough supply.
Flyin’ Ryan flies again
Ryan submitted another mark-of-the-year contender when he climbed over Liam Stocker’s shoulders on the Eagles’ 50m line near the boundary to take a superb two-handed, one-grab clunk midway through the third quarter. He took another screamer in round three against Port Adelaide, and has some hot competition from Richmond stars Shai Bolton and Jack Riewoldt, but Ryan is doing his chances no harm.
Newman nailed on last line
Carlton’s day was summed up early in the third quarter when they trailed by two points. Newman’s attempted clearing kick from West Coast’s goal square was smothered by Gaff who handballed it to Ryan for the easy goal.
Blues woes in front of goal
Despite having control of the territory battle in the first quarter, the Blues were brought undone by wayward goalkicking from Jack Silvagni, Will Setterfield and McKay when they had all the momentum to trail the Eagles by a point at the first change, despite having four more scoring shots. More wasted, gettable shots at goal at crucial times from Marc Pittonet (twice) in the second term and Tom De Koning in the third conspired against the Blues who got close to West Coast a few times, but could never get their noses ahead.
BLUES 3.6 6.9 9.10 10.13 (73)
EAGLES 4.1 8.5 12.8 14.11 (95)
LERNER’S BEST Blues: Walsh, Weitering, Williams, Jones, Saad, Betts. Eagles: Ryan, Sheed, Gaff, Naitanui, Yeo, Hurn, Redden.
GOALS Blues: De Koning 2, Owies 2, Betts 2, Setterfield, Walsh, Cottrell, Williams. Eagles: Ryan 4, Jones 2, Darling, Sheed, Gaff, Redden, Langdon, Foley, Cripps, O’Neill.
INJURIES Blues: McKay (concussion), Newman (concussion). Eagles: Sheppard (concussion).
UMPIRES Fisher, O’Gorman, Gavine
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
3 L.Ryan (WC)
2 D.Sheed (WC)
1 A.Gaff (WC)