Blues, Pies a rivalry from another time


What a time that must have been for football. Arguably the two biggest powerhouse clubs in the country regularly going hammer and tongs in big games. In big finals.

Fast forward a bit over three decades and we arrive at a game with little relevance to the complexion of 2019. Certainly not in the context of September.

Blues of 1988: Stephen Kernahan and John Elliott the last year Carlton played Collingwood in a final.Credit:Andrew De La Rue

It’s difficult to remember, without referring to the record books, the last time that a Carlton v Collingwood match has stopped the football nation as it so often used to.

And in the absence of matches between two well-performing teams, it’s been a significant period of time since a real nail-biter.

The last single-digit margin between the two teams was 15 years ago. In the same period, games between Collingwood and Essendon have produced five.

On the Friday night of round three, 2012, Carlton smashed Collingwood by 10 goals. By Saturday morning, the Blues were premiership favourites. Carlton finished 10th that season. Collingwood finished fourth.

Carlton haven’t finished higher on the ladder than Collingwood since 2004. The next year, they took Marc Murphy with pick one in the national draft.

Murphy, a former captain who will undoubtedly go down as a club great, has played 256 matches but beaten Collingwood just six times.

Since that time, the proud clubs have clashed on 27 occasions, with the Magpies winning 19.

But don’t tell John Elliott that the significance rivalry has been in any way diluted.

“Oh no. No, no, I think it’s still pretty strong,” he told The Age.

“They’re always great games no matter where they are on the ladder, and you can never write off the underdog.”

To state that Carlton were the underdog in the 257th meeting between the two teams is an understatement.

Brendon Bolton’s side is in the middle of a horror run, with just four wins in their past 40 matches.

Their breakout win against the Western Bulldogs was backed up by a scintillating first half against Hawthorn in Tasmania – perhaps the best two quarters of football the Blues have produced under Bolton – before being run down by the Hawks and then brutalised by North Melbourne a week later.

To add insult to injury, rival president Eddie McGuire suggested on Monday that his counterpart Mark LoGiudice should be having breakfast with Alastair Clarkson.

McGuire has had his critics (again) this week, but Elliott isn’t one of them.

In fact, the former Carlton President couldn’t speak highly enough of him.

Former Carlton president John Elliott described long-time Collingwood boss Eddie McGuire as a good friend.

Former Carlton president John Elliott described long-time Collingwood boss Eddie McGuire as a good friend.Credit:AAP

“Eddie and I are very good friends,” Elliott said.

“He does a lot of great work, he’s an outstanding man, he does a lot of charity work that he doesn’t look for any credit for. I’ve got a very high regard for him.”

Elliott didn’t hear McGuire’s comments earlier in the week and chose not to buy into the discussion, reflecting the position of the Carlton administration.

Elliott won’t be at the MCG on Saturday. He was a guest of Jeanne Pratt for the dismal performance against the Kangaroos, but he’s usually a guest of McGuire when it’s a Magpies home game.

“Eddie always invites a good sprinkling of Carlton people and we do the same for him,” Elliott said.

“Oh no, you can sense the rivalry alright. If Carlton look like beating Collingwood, he gets the absolute shits, does Eddie!”

While Elliott wouldn’t go as far as endorsing the club’s leadership, he did offer a reprieve for Bolton, who he believes will “absolutely” see out the year as coach.

Elliott believes the team has been once again rocked by injury, and the Blues shouldn’t be judged on their form without key players.

“We need our good players playing,” he said. “We’ve had Kreuzer missing, plus another senior player in Simpson and a couple of others. I think if we had our best team in, we’d be competitive with anyone.”

That man Kreuzer returns for the embattled Blues, along with recruit Mitch McGovern and Will Setterfield.

Captain Patrick Cripps – another of whom Elliott had high praise for – said on Monday that his Blues would respond to last week’s performance.

An unlikely win today would earn his teammates an emotional response from Carlton fans who have endured long periods of disappointment against their most famous rivals.

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