Carlton’s trio of No.1 draft picks stand up and deliver


Brisbane, unlike Essendon and GWS, had no one able to stop Cripps. In the frame of mind he was in it is doubtful Matt De Boer or Dylan Clarke could have stopped him either. Brisbane’s Jarryd Lyons was not up to the task.

Outside of Cripps the three best Carlton players were their three No.1 draft picks. Matthew Kreuzer was superb. He dominated the ruck, he fed Cripps and he earned clearances of his own. He is far and away Carlton’s best ruckman but their problem has been constructing something around him when he has managed only seven games this year after 12 last year.

Then there was Sam Walsh. Teague moved him from a wing to the middle. Initially he told him to play on Lachie Neale, not tag him, but try to be more damaging than Neale. He played OK in that role, but Neale was better.

So Teague’s answer was not to banish Walsh but to return Ed Curnow to a role in which he has played his best football, as a physical tagger who gets his own footy. Curnow was instrumental in how Carlton shut Brisbane down from the inside out by stopping Neale.

But the attitude to Walsh remained the same. Effectively Teague said to him, you were a star midfielder for all your junior career, you’ve had half a season of AFL football on a wing, now go and play on the ball as you have always done. Walsh hitched himself to Cripps and tag-teamed with the star midfielder.

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In any team players look for the best players to give the ball to because it makes them look better. Walsh and Cripps were doing that with each other. Each knew when they could put the other in a spot to use the ball, good things would happen.

The last of the No.1s was as effective as any player on the ground after Cripps. Jacob Weitering had his best game of the year and his best game for some time. He was good when others were not in the first quarter.

Levi Casboult has been very good in defence – that was Bolton’s move – and he and Weitering along with Caleb Marchbank have fostered an understanding to back themselves in the air. Weitering played as if he had been told to read the play and get the ball. It was not quite like watching Jeremy McGovern, who is only vaguely aware that there is an opposition on the ground and just focuses on putting himself somewhere to catch the ball, but it was not unlike that either. Weitering had more of a watchful eye on the opposition but he was also drawn to the ball, and backed himself to get it.

Weitering has looked lost for periods in recent years, unsure if he was playing accountable defence or zoning off. He was caught betwixt and between, looking worried that at any moment he was in the wrong position or doing the wrong thing.

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In part that is just part of a young player working out his game but on Saturday Weitering looked as comfortable and as confident as he has done since his first season. Indeed more confident than he has done in his 68 games to date. (Which is another thing; he has still only played 68 games.)

Teague’s other stars grew as well. Charlie Curnow has been a frustration this year and perhaps he has carried an injury but as Carton got on a roll on Saturday his assertiveness became more pronounced. Harry McKay has been excellent this year for the Blues but on Saturday Curnow was the focus.

Curnow was mildly hesitant early on in leading for the ball, but encouraged by the faster, bolder ball movement of teammates, and was faster and bolder in his demand for the ball. He seemed to be there when they needed the player leading wide, but also there when they could get it in long. Of course there is nothing like nailing a goal from 60 metres out to build your confidence.

SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT

The Crows leaders deserve credit for the gritty last quarter surge that gave them victory over GWS, but as influential as any player was young ruckman Reilly O’Brien. The next most influential person in the game was coach Don Pyke.

Pyke has been unsparing in his selection policies this year, dumping Bryce Gibbs again this week for instance. But his choice of O’Brien ahead of Sam Jacobs was equally brave. O’Brien rewarded Pyke’s trust and bravery.

On tap: Adelaide’s Reilly O’Brien flies up in a contest during the round 12 win over the Giants.Credit:AAP

The young ruckman was all but forgotten at the Crows and hadn’t played since 2016 when he came back into the senior side earlier this year due to a Jacobs injury.

On Saturday night he beat Shane Mumford at his own game with his aggressive, physical style. In the last quarter on the boundary, O’Brien was tackled and looked likely to walk the ball out. Instead he kept it alive, got his arms clear to handball, and it ended with Brad Crouch who goaled.

TIGERS REVERT TO CUBS 

A few things conspired against Richmond.

First, they played the best team in the competition to the halfway mark of the year.

Second, they did it when their best midfielders had a shocker of a night.

Trent Cotchin, Dion Prestia, Dustin Martin, Edwards all kicked the ball at less than 50 per cent efficiency. Some of them kicked it at closer to 30 per cent.

Third, Richmond’s extensive injury list meant their depth was stretched beyond its limit.

They had six players with 12 games or less: Ivan Soldo (11), Noah Balta (11, in his first season), Sydney Stack (10, first season), Ryan Garthwaite (8, second season), Liam Baker (12, second season) Patrick Naish (first game, in which incidentally he looked promising).

They were just too young.

TIME TO BUNKER DOWN

Control X, Control V. One week on and it feels as if we can cut and paste last week’s column on this topic. Another week, another goal review, another avoidable stuff-up.

This one was because the reviewer, whose very title asks them to review, chose not to review everything. There was definitive footage that would have told them Richmond’s Jack Higgins kicked a goal, not a behind, but they didn’t look at it and made a decision anyway, the wrong decision.

The AFL will introduce a centralized video bunker that will not be located at grounds and will have a small pool of reviewers making decisions for all games. This will not be introduced in time for this season for logistical reasons.

It is hoped that it will provide greater accuracy and certainty, but then the most recent incidents were about human error, so how it overcomes that is still to be seen.

Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.

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