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Better Blues can put heat on Pies

Date

Rohan Connolly

Caught: Chris Judd runs down Alan Toovey just the way the Blues may be about to catch up to the Pies.

Caught: Chris Judd runs down Alan Toovey just the way the Blues may be about to catch up to the Pies. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

TRADITIONAL rivals they may be, but for most of the past quarter-century, Carlton and Collingwood have been like ships in the night, having moments of glory and despair, but seldom, if ever, at the same time.

In the 1990s, it was the Blues up as the Magpies started sinking. For most of the past decade, those roles were reversed. But for AFL football's marketing people, the planets are once more beginning to align.

After both competing in the same finals series just once in 21 years, Carlton and Collingwood have been a part of the past three Septembers, the Pies very much the heavyweight, Carlton desperately trying to land a blow. Perhaps, finally, the Blues are in position to do so.

There's considerable hype building already around Friday night's bumper MCG clash between the two leviathan clubs and this time it's more than justified.

Yes, Carlton hasn't exactly tackled the cream of the competition thus far, but the Blues couldn't have been a lot more impressive than in their imperious late dismissal of Richmond in round one and their obliteration of Brisbane last Thursday night.

Collingwood, meanwhile, while at pains to state its build towards its best in 2012 will be a more gradual affair, continues to look at least gettable. The Pies were certainly ''got'' by Hawthorn, leaking 20 goals a couple of weeks back, and while they were vastly improved defensively against Richmond on Saturday night, the wash-up was still a pretty scratchy 21-point win.

Is this Carlton's time to strike? Recent history indicates the Blues are creeping closer. Collingwood has won the past five clashes, but the margins keep shrinking - 54 points, then 53, 48, last year 28 points in April, down to 19 by July.

There's considerable encouragement for the Blues this time even out of those two most recent defeats.

First time around, Magpie twin towers Travis Cloke and Chris Dawes got hold of second-gamer Matthew Watson. In the return bout, the Blues were without key backman Michael Jamison and key forward Jarrad Waite. Neither time were they monstered on the scoreboard.

This week, the Blues will have considerably more defensive cover with the imminent return of Jamison and important medium-sizer Nick Duigan. The Carlton backline has held up well thus far without that pair, coach Brett Ratten - even after a thumping 91-point win over the Lions - far more animated about the defensive efforts of Lachie Henderson, Jeremy Laidler and Paul Bower, than the showmen at the other end.

Not that he'd sneeze at the sort of firepower the Blues are mustering at the moment, 41 goals racked up in two big wins and, importantly, shared by talls Waite and Shaun Hampson, smalls Eddie Betts and Jeff Garlett, and midfielders Kade Simpson, Chris Judd and Marc Murphy.

It is that latter pair that loom largest over Carlton's capacity to make a real statement at Collingwood's expense on Friday evening.

The Blues have spent several seasons getting the balance right all over the ground and it's paying off - the days of the ''three amigos'' up forward long gone and the distribution out of defence far silkier through Chris Yarran and Bryce Gibbs.

But even a midfield that has had its praises sung often enough, appears to have risen to another level. It certainly bats a lot deeper these days and, again, the balance is perfect - the continually undersold Andrew Carrazzo, Mitch Robinson and Ed Curnow doing the grunt work, Simpson the outside stuff, which leaves Judd and Murphy more able to execute the sort of tricks they pulled from their bag at the Gabba.

Collingwood's midfield is still racking up healthy numbers, too, but as Dane Swan's two 30-plus possession games have shown, not necessarily with the impact we've become used to.

The Magpies might also have an emerging issue in the ruck, where they've lost in numerical terms both games, Dawes not offering the sort of support for Darren Jolly the Pies would have hoped. With Carlton pair Matthew Kreuzer and Hampson teaming nicely, Cameron Wood could return, but the ramifications of Leigh Brown's departure are hitting home already.

They've been coming a while, Carlton, but the progress, while never quick enough to satisfy the critics and even some of their fans, is clear. Surely victory over an old enemy on Friday night would be definitive proof that the Blues have arrived.

16 comments

  • "Surely victory over an old enemy on Friday night would be definitive proof that the Blues have arrived."

    Not really! Carlton have every chance of beating Collingwood on Friday night as the team Collingwood will present has many new young inexperienced players. The "new" Collingwood will take some time to develop into a more cohesive playing unit.

    Commenter
    Blackchook
    Date and time
    April 09, 2012, 8:33AM
    • Hi Blackchook, Understand your point, but Collingwood is still best-performed side of last two years and clearly still flag material. Pre-season tips would say most didn't have Carlton figuring in even the grand final this year. I reckon a win over the Pies on this sort of stage, and after not having beaten them in the last five attempts, would have to confirm they are a big chance to do so this year.

      Commenter
      Rohan Connolly
      Date and time
      April 09, 2012, 9:34AM
  • Oh Rohan, and here I was thinking you may have improved your literary skills over the summer. Same old one eyed rubbish. No wonder newspaper revenues are struggling.

    Commenter
    rubbish
    Location
    reality
    Date and time
    April 09, 2012, 8:58AM
    • Hi Rubbish, so poorly written and poorly argued? Can't do much about the former, as for the latter, "one-eyed" would indicate you think I'm biased either towards Carlton or against Collingwood. I'm neither, actually, just an observer who thinks Blues look pretty good and Pies aren't at their best right now. That's a problem? As for revenue, every bit helps, so thanks for your patronage. Cheers.

      Commenter
      Rohan Connolly
      Date and time
      April 09, 2012, 9:31AM
  • Time to pull on a Blues gurnsey now eh Rohan?

    Commenter
    Jimmy the fish
    Location
    Lonny
    Date and time
    April 09, 2012, 9:32AM
    • Nice one Jimmy, might see if I can work my way through the entire AFL jumper collection!

      Commenter
      Rohan Connolly
      Date and time
      April 09, 2012, 9:38AM
  • i love it - pies supporters already making excuses... bad decisions in the off-season in unloading key players will hurt the pies this year with their depth under pressure from injuries....

    Commenter
    james
    Date and time
    April 09, 2012, 9:37AM
    • Hey James... excuses... well that's all I've been hearing from Carlton supporters (and the media) since you lost to WCE last september.... no Kruzer, Gibbs etc..... So it's ok for Carlton supporters to have injury excuses but not for any other teams.... what will be your excuse this week when an under strength Collingwood side beat you......start thinking (or making them up now!!). And just so you know Grand Finals are won in Sept (or Oct) not April. I know it's been a few years since you have won one. 16 years I think........and can you list the key players we off loaded last year? Brown (retired) Davis (retired/left the club)

      Commenter
      Arch
      Date and time
      April 09, 2012, 10:36AM
  • Yes James, some of us nervous Collingwood types are offering 'excuses', but have you ever thought that they are also providing some valuable context for what has been (and may continue to be) an uninspiring start to the season? The Pies have been in damage control (although this does sound slightly dramatic), and are in the process of ensuring that some of their younger players have enough experience to provide a meaningful contribution as the year goes on. Carlton have also had some problems, but it is fair enough to suggest that have been admirably managed and relatively unscathed by injuries. This does not guarantee a victory, but current form and football fortunes suggest (as does Rohan) that this gives them a better chance than they've had in recent times. If they take that chance by continuing some of the impressive form of recent weeks, then it will be a credit to them.

    Commenter
    Days to Come
    Location
    Here and There
    Date and time
    April 09, 2012, 10:18AM
    • The Blues have had 2 pretty easy games to start the season both of them without key defenders in Duigan and Jamison. Rohan - considering that the back line has done reasonably well so far without these 2, do you think Jamison and Duigan are shoe ins considering that they may be under done?

      Commenter
      kaizen
      Date and time
      April 09, 2012, 10:19AM

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