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Carlton laments what might have been against Geelong

Blues' captain Marc Murphy ponders his side's narrow defeat

Blues' captain Marc Murphy ponders his side's narrow defeat Photo: Pat Scala

Two weeks in a row Carlton has walked darkly from defeat feeling jilted. Feeling denied and abused and like someone else was to blame.

Michael Malthouse was prepared to apportion that blame. Aggrieved that Chris Yarran was tackled around the legs in a mark in the pivotal play last week, the Blues were disbelieving that they could be denied by a collection  of moments a week later.  

The fact Carlton played well and lost narrowly to Geelong as opposed last week was of no comfort after the event. Or as Zach Tuohy said, last week they lost, this week they were beaten.

It was a game of contention. Whether the myriad moments of contention could be conflated to alter the game when Carlton had been leading by seven points with less than two minutes on the clock will remain moot. Unless you are in Blue.  

Afterwards Michael Malthouse fumed at the world. He could not isolate which incident upset him most. Was it the sideways bounce? The head high tackle on Tory Menzel, or the runner? One led to a goal (for Geelong) the other two did not (for Carlton) which was infuriating .

Malthouse had a fit of pique at the Cats runner in pink, Nigel Lappin a man who as a player tormented Malthouse's sides in Grand finals and remained a provocateur without playing.

Lappin nuzzled in so close at the final series of ball ups inside the last minute he appeared to be readying himself to climb in third man up in the ruck. Mitch Robinson shoved him out of the way when in fact he might have been better to have run into him and accentuate the fact Lappin was where he should not be.

A free kick might have been paid. A goal might have been kicked if it were. There were 13 seconds remaining in the game and the Blues were trailing by less than a straight kick.

He was moved to wonder too at how only 20 seconds prior to that Troy Menzel was low over the ball and had his head kinked backwards in a tackle yet no free was paid. Darkly it could be wondered if that free would be paid elsewhere on the ground at any other time of the game, but with 33 seconds remaining and the ball in front of Carlton’s goal the whistle remained mute. 

These were the moments to linger because they were the moments most plainly able to redirect the course of the game. There was so little time to play after these incidents that they might have changed the result.

Malthouse might have wondered at some other moments. Like why the side did not put players back behind the ball when Bryce Gibbs – playing probably the best game he has played - kicked the goal to put the side seven points up. It was the 24 minute mark so perhaps there was too much time to soak.

Malthouse will this week also might have also redirect his anger not at those outside his control but those within. Like the game of his subbed out full-forward Jarad Waite who was started as a defender, moved to attack then moved to the bench.

He will dwell upon the replays of a couple of marking attempts from Jeff Garlett that did not reflect well on the player. Likewise Garlett’s decision to kick a ball across his body and into George Horlin-Smith’s arms rather than handball to Troy Menzel who was in the clear only metres from goal. Doubtless it will not escaped have Malthouse’s attention nor his wrath. That assessment will be done in the closed door review.

There was one decision upon which Malthouse received the sheepish support of his opposite Chris Scott. A sideways bounce in the centre just before half time that landed in the waiting arms of Steve Johnson and went forward for a goal was simply an error. A surprising one admittedly, for all but Johnson stopped in expectation of the recall.

“From where I was I thought it was going to get called back and I think a few players did but that’s far from the reason the game was won or lost. I think that had very little bearing on the end result it was just one of the things that happen throughout the night,” Tuohy said. 

Scott sheepishly agreed with him. But Scott was also content to consider that it off-set what he too thought an error when play-on was called for Tom Hawkins' set shot at goal, after the umpire deemed Hawkins had exhausted his allotted 30 seconds to take his kick.

Hawkins, like his coach thought he had 30 second to begin his run up. As it was play on was called as he was running in to kick and feeling the pressure of the looming Michael Jamison, Hawkins fluffed his kick.

“My understanding - and may be I haven’t done enough research - but once you start your run up it’s OK. But in the heat of the moment those calls happen and they may have made a mistake they may not have,” Hawkins said.

It was another of the games contentious moments. What was not a point of contention however was Hawkins role in Geelong’s win. The full-forward is playing with a bully’s belief in his own right to do as he pleases on the field and the expectation that things will work for him when he does.

He has the imperious swagger of a player in command of his game. Each ball in he plays as if he expects to mark. Each set shot at goal he is approaching with no thought other than the ball going straight.

“I feel like I am moving well again. I think I have felt good all year it is just when you lose a bit of confidence as a forward - and I have always said I am a confidence player and still to this day I am – once I start playing better footy and run and take some pack marks I get some confidence out of that,” Hawkins said.

Malthouse can wonder at the decisions and what might have been. He can also wonder at what it might have been last week if Carlton played then as it did on Friday night. That was the game that truly got away – to have played poorly and lost was worse than playing well and being beaten.

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