Don't miss it... Demons actually have a highlight
Our footy experts review Adelaide's morale-boosting win over Carlton, and Jeremy Howe's high-flying mark for Melbourne.PT4M30S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-1z09g 620 349 May 21, 2012
GREAT football teams have something going for them other than superstars, stingy defenders or multiple goalkickers. They boast a mental resolve, a steely streak that ensures the results whatever the circumstances. Carlton still hasn't got it.
The Blues will be the subject of much debate this week after yesterday's 69-point smashing at the hands of Adelaide. In fact, it was already happening by the time they'd gone in at half-time 26 points in arrears.
As usual when Carlton loses, much of the heat, at least from supporters, will be focused on coach Brett Ratten. There'll be endless talk about structures and game plan. Some of which might well be valid.
Frustrated Blues: Adelaide's Jason Porplyzia marks in front of Carlton's Bryce Gibbs. Photo: Getty Images
But the lack of mental fibre is a far more fundamental problem for the Blues, who won't be winning a flag until they harden up.
Carlton has been a pretty handy team in terms of talent for four years now. It can rip sides apart with its run and dazzle them with skill. It has on occasion pulled out some great backs-to-the-wall wins. But it never seems to do so for any sustained length of time. And its various failures are instructive.
It's significant that the Blues haven't managed to string more than four victories on the trot together since 2000. And in the last couple of years particularly, as they've found a better balance across the 22, dropped a series of games that talent and form dictated they shouldn't have.
Last year, in a game reminiscent of yesterday's disaster, there was a six-goal loss to West Coast at Etihad Stadium with Carlton coming off four big wins in a row and its flag prospects being talked up.
That setback sent the Blues into a mini-spiral, losing three of four. Sure enough, they recovered, winning another four games on end. Then came out and kicked one goal in a half against Hawthorn.
A gallant semi-final loss to the Eagles in Perth, missing key players, hinted at a team that was growing in psychological maturity. But has that spilled over into a season in which enough pundits were tipping Carlton for the flag? It doesn't appear so. Because the pattern keeps being repeated.
The Blues haven't hit many greater heights this millennium than their 10-goal flogging of Collingwood in round three. Only to be followed by an abject performance the very next week against Essendon.
A win in Perth against Fremantle was a good answer, another against Greater Western Sydney efficient enough. Only for the belief levels to be rocked again by a pumped-up St Kilda last Monday night.
They were still clearly wobbly from the outset yesterday, even after the first two goals of the game. Adelaide was harder all afternoon, its midfield core of Scott Thompson, Patrick Dangerfield and Rory Sloane everything Carlton's group needed to be. And wasn't.
Andrew Carrazzo's grunt and spirit have been a massive loss for the Blues. But should one player, who would himself concede he doesn't have the same natural ability of many of his midfield peers, leave that big a hole? A hole that became a chasm once Marc Murphy's shoulder injury took him out of proceedings?
Carlton was without Jarrad Waite yesterday, too, but as far as emotional maturity goes, it's not as though he has been a leading light. Ditto Robert Warnock, another potential inclusion in the ruck with Shaun Hampson and Matthew Kreuzer struggling yesterday.
The Blues' back line looked a work of art at times last season. Chris Yarran's absence seemed to rob it of all its creativity, and Jeremy Laidler's has taken away its tough streak, Nick Duigan is particularly out of sorts. Will anyone bar Michael Jamison hold the fort?
Carlton has Melbourne on Sunday, then Port Adelaide, not in the same league as the Blues for class, to play it back into form and belief over the next fortnight. You'd be silly not to think there are two likely wins. It then has Geelong, West Coast (away), Hawthorn and Collingwood over the ensuing four rounds. It would want to win at a bare minimum four of those half-dozen, which would leave the Blues 9-5.
But given the frequency with which Carlton clocks off on a psychological level these days, it would want to win all six for it to dispel the now justified belief of its rivals that no matter how well they appear to be travelling the Blues are always more than a little vulnerable.