Finale Fix: Forget Charlie and Harry

There are thousands of incremental reasons why one team wins a close game while the other suffers a bitter defeat – and that’s even more true when it’s a final.

Carlton’s thrilling six-point result against surging Sydney to keep their season alive and end the Swans’ is no different.

This was a victory built on the little moments; about Jack Martin, who was a loose man in defense under the high ball in the final quarter; about Blake Acres’ desperate defensive runs, twice denying the Swans goals with the tip of his finger in the goal square; on Sydney wasting one set after another in the last wasteful first half, which came back to haunt them at the end.

It was a victory that came as Tom De Koning, in the heat of the final, produced a series of outstanding performances in the air throughout Friday evening, not all of them points, but each performance was significant. in Sam Walsh, who responded to a quiet home and away season with as important a debut in September as any Blue had in decades; in Adam Saad’s sprint and penetrating kicks from defense or Nic Newman’s last-minute interception that finally kept the Swans at bay.

It could just as easily have gone the other way and we would have been talking about Harry McKay’s two shocking misses from close range, the latter of which would have given the Blues a six-goal positive early in the second half.

We would praise Hayden McLean’s exceptional evening in the air, where he kicked 12 goals as the Swans took the lead after half-time, or Luke Parker, who went forward and not only kept Jacob Weitering busy, but also scored two goals of his own and put them back on the defensive. Match seemingly lost. Lewis Melican’s desperate attempt to tie up the rushing, fresh-legged Jesse Motlop; Errol Gulden’s tireless running and great kicking, either on the wing or as a damaging center square player; Tom McCartin’s great job restricting Charlie Curnow to just one goal.

Ultimately, however, in a game decided by such fine lines, each team won enough small moments to feel they deserved a win: the Blues for their brilliant first half, in which they were in the lead from start to finish went to the Swans for the spirit of their brave comeback which almost brought them home.

In the end, both teams’ periods of dominance differed in one thing: the Blues’ small forwards were simply great when the game was contentious. And it was they who ensured that the Carlton dream lived on for at least another week.

There were times under Michael Voss when the Blues didn’t think about winning a game without a slew of goals from Curnow. And there were times when the Blues lost their chance to score when they couldn’t convert an inside 50 into a goal from Curnow or McKay.

But Friday night wasn’t one of them.

By half-time Curnow had just one mark, no less than 50, and just a major from his only shot on goal as he was well saved by McCartin, the Swans’ key defender. McKay also only had a single shot on target – a remarkable miss from the goal square – but if that was the highlight, Harry, his two assists (his first since Round 14) in the first five minutes, which got the Blues off to a bright start, were anything but as well But.

But this is now a forward line that is just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the air: Even if Curnow or McKay couldn’t make it straight away, the Smalls came into their own the moment the ball hit the grass. It is their presence that has taken the Blues from powerless to imperious since June.

Take Matthew Owies’ second-quarter goal to extend the Blues’ lead to 17. A long, high ball inside the 50 line aimed at Curnow and Tom De Koning would almost certainly have led to nothing until the 13th over at the moment neither could clink a contested mark.

Now, however, De Koning’s first instinct is not even to mark, but simply to take the ball in his hands and bring it to the ground. Once this happens, Owies is the first man to jump at it, and the Blues’ target is so certain that it’s just the little guy’s wish to be selfless and give a gift to Curnow, who’s riding shotgun, which almost causes the game to fail.

An underrated aspect of the Blues’ small brigade is the hard yards they employ. With the intention of partially isolating Curnow as the deepest inside the 50 and putting them in the best position to pick up any crumbs that come their way, Owies, Matthew Cottrell, Jack Martin, Lachie Fogarty and David Cuningham are all pushing well forward, even to the point of adding extra numbers when play is stopped. Then, when the ball goes, they sprint back towards the goal, confident that they will beat back their man, whoever it may be.

McKay’s miss here steals the show, as does Owies’ blunder, but the key lies in the way they are lined up as Adam Saad puts the ball into the goal. For a man, the Blues smalls pushed up the floor to release McKay. one out, against Lewis Melican, but Martin is goal side of Lloyd sprinting back, and on the other side Cottrell and Cuningham give in step for step with their own defenders.

If McKay did not knock the ball forward but neutralized the ball, Martin would have been there to catch the spilled ball. It’s a game that doesn’t work without top speed and a willingness to work both ways, as well as the skill to push a veteran defender like Lloyd up and away from his usual turf.

Much emphasis is being placed on the Blues’ transition to the defensive half becoming a strong source of points in the second half of the year, and it was damaging against the Swans too, with three goals in one to three quarters of starts in the defensive half. However, much of this potency is generated by the little ones’ ability to both create open space behind them and flow back to create superior numbers at best and a balanced result at worst to pressure, harass and to force repeated interruptions of play.

That’s how you win a final with just seven points within 50 – the Swans had nine. And it’s so different from the way the Blues played in the first half of the season that it perfectly illustrates how and why Carlton end up in the final six games.

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And throughout Sydney’s dominant second half until the final minutes, the Blues remained just as dangerous at ground level. The winning goal proves that.

On the wing, De Koning once again went toe-to-toe with McCartin in the air, showing all the athleticism that the Swans would know more than most – after all, they were the team that most attracted him from Ikon Park before Mobile The big man signed again – he collected the ball and hit it within 50 minutes.

The Swans’ desperation to attack at all costs had left them vulnerable defensively, but still a three-on-one within 50 minutes owes much to the Blues’ trademark: sucking up defenders and then driving them back.

It’s Martin, Owies and Acres against just Braeden Campbell; All Owies has to do is deal with the swan and push it forward. He does. Acres stands loosely on the pitch and waits for the handball. Goal.

In round 13, the Blues would not have had the structure to pull off such a move. Hell, they wouldn’t have had a reason to as they wouldn’t have had enough of a lead at half-time to hold the brilliantly playing Swans to a single-digit draw in the final minutes. The match would be over long ago.

But this is a different Carlton. And watch out, Melbourne – they’ll hit you with all their might. Finale Fix: Forget Charlie and Harry

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