Now that I am out of ‘Facebook-Blocked-Me-Because-My-Blog-Was-Considered-News’ (go figure), I can now write and comment on the practice match between Carlton and Essendon that was shown live (for members only). I am not going to debate the question of whether it should have been available to all members or not; I’m going to state my views on the match itself.
First and foremost, we should and must agree that a match played as a practice game is not an important one in terms of winning or losing. It is a match that allows players to gain some match fitness, game tactics and generally seeing what the new boys produce and what the old ones, after maybe a slow year for them, are now capable of producing. To be honest, while I did want Carlton to win (we cannot lose, EVER to Essendon), I would not have been too upset if we didn’t. Judging by comments before the game, some said that our entire season resides on the back of this game! That some were even suggesting that if we lose, they would not renew or even contemplate their status regarding their membership is rather extreme and do not really understand these games’ nature. (Do not get me started on those that complained about what they received for their membership in terms of the pack, as that is not the reason why anyone should join a club…anywhere!). Let me be perfectly candid here, the ONLY matches that count starts on Thursday 18th March at the MCG. Those matches are the ones that matter. That being said, here’s my take on the practice match.
What I noticed first was seeing both Adam Saad and Zac Williams. When they played for their other respective clubs, I watched them but did not take much stock; they were the opposition. Seeing them play in the Navy Blue, I was more than suitably impressed. Saad’s agility and speed around the ground was mightily impressive. His capacity to see the game and the ball from where it was to where it would be going was a revelation, really. His playing skills are what our midfield had been lacking. The passage in the game when he took the ball from the centre to quickly move it down to our forward line, which resulted in a goal, had me stopping in my chair in sheer…what-the! As I was in the office, there was no-one around to high-five me, and I did have to keep my yells to a quiet whisper of YEAH! I can see what he will bring to the team and how he will make our midfield so much stronger.
Zac Williams showed how much he just loves being at the club and how his playing level has just turned up a notch. He was always good at GWS, but at Carlton, it is on a different level. Here is where I firmly believe: a good player at a club where they are not 100% happy or invested in, has the potential to be a magnificent player at a club they not only support but love and are willing to become better and better to prove to the club and supporters, that the right choice was made to get them there. Williams is that player.
Panic set in when we saw Harry McKay hobble off the ground, and we were subsequently told that he had just rolled his ankle. He was seen walking normally, yet people on social media called this the ‘end’ of his season. He played a great game and showed signs of being more consistent in front of goals and more agile around the ground.
His body looks fitter, more robust, and he will fast become someone that other clubs will fear. He needs to learn how to shake off opponents, but with more time and more experience, that will come. As long as a player such as himself understands how to convert marks or kicks into goals, the rest will take care of itself. His improvement and confidence are growing, and this match showed that. The same can be said about a player who has hit media headlines for his exponential improvement – Paddy Dow.
As with Jacob Weitering, I have always loved Paddy Dow since he played his first senior game. I loved his explosiveness around the ground, whether it be a tackle, a mark or his running ability with the ball and his kicks at goal. Then he, like Weiters, petered out. Those who think they know better believed he should be traded off, gotten rid of, thrown on to the heap of players that could, but just didn’t; I never subscribed to that as I never believed Weiters should have been traded when he went through the same thing. Paddy Dow played a game that sees him not only moving faster but with more skill. It seems he has matured in his playing abilities, and we got to see glimpses of what he can be capable of once the season starts.
Crippa played both in the midfield and down forward, and I loved that it seems that he now has others who can fill in the main midfield slot and free him up to become the player that will be one of the greatest in terms of what he can bring to a match. (We mustn’t focus on whether he has signed or not a contract extending his playing at Carlton, for that will take away his focus on making Carlton, a club that he loves, become successful, which he has said all along.)
I do not want to name every player for this match, just a few for what I saw on Thursday was a cohesive, dynamic team that knew their teammates and what needed to be done. I watch a game where the team not only enjoyed playing but playing together. We can take from this match that the club is on track to reach, where I believe it will reach the top 8 when the season starts.
Do not be fooled into thinking that every practice match will be an illustration of the season ahead, for that is not the role of these matches to procure. It is a way of gelling the team together, putting players into positions that they may not have been used to, but are relishing. It is a way of formulating tactics for the start of the 2021 season. That is what we must be focusing on. We will lose some, but we will win more if we concentrate on what matters – the start of season 2021.
I, for one, am excited at where the team seem to be heading. We have the players, we have the skills, and we have the depth to be a top 8 team. I saw a glimpse of that in the practice match. When we take on St Kilda in the Community Series match, I want to see the same energy irrespective of the outcome. I want to see players give it their all for the pride of wearing the Navy Blue; not everything, but just enough to show the footy world that Carlton will be not tapping or knocking on the door to the top 8, but banging!
Good signs, people, good signs!
P.S Out of everyone in this photo, Teague’s response is epic!
P.P.S Fisher and Ed…the tale of the hair! Love it!