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4 Points: Blues’ accidental victory tells only half the story

This time it was not Patrick Cripps who willed them to win. It was not Charlie Curnow, nor the elegance of Jack Martin. OK, Marc Murphy offered familiar intervention in the last quarter, Jacob Weitering was again excellent and Sam Docherty is playing like a star with two unreconstructed knees, but the most influential Carlton players were not those often associated with Carlton wins.

David Cuningham was as good as any player on the ground. Michael Gibbons, a rookie, was again very good. And Marc Pittonet built further on his growing body of good work.

In the thick of it: Carlton's Marc Pittonet scraps in the pack against Bomber Anthony McDonald-Tipungwutii.

In the thick of it: Carlton’s Marc Pittonet scraps in the pack against Bomber Anthony McDonald-Tipungwutii.Credit:Getty Images

Pittonet has been the equal of any recruit to any club this year. Zak Jones and Bradley Hill have been wonderful but they were known to be high-calibre players when StKilda chased them; Pittonet was just a fringe ruckman.

The Hawks knew Pittonet had talent and wanted to keep him but now they are struggling to work out how to get Ben McEvoy and Jon Ceglar in the one team. Pittonet needed to be playing and now that he is, he is improving fast with the responsibility of being No.1 ruck. He is a competitor, which is the second-most important ingredient for a ruck, after height.

Levi Casboult is playing the best football of his career and is a genuine presence in the forward line. He has played well before this but primarily as a marking target who would undermine his best work with unreliable kicking.


Now his hands are strong – he is second only to Port’s Charlie Dixon for contested marks this season – and he is attacking the ball in the air knowing he will not be outmarked.

Crucially, he is not burdened by the idea that if he marks the ball, everyone will be watching to see if he fluffs the kick. In recent years working with Sav Rocca his kicking improved, and so far this year he has seven goals straight from set shots.

Casboult was a player without position for periods last year as he was used variously as a forward, in the ruck and, out of desperation, in defence. He was squeezed out by the emergence of Harry McKay and Curnow and the arrival of Mitch McGovern all in the forward line.

Presently he is keeping McKay out of the side and easing the pressure on McGovern.

The Blues are building something precisely because it’s Casboult, Pittonet and Cuningham driving things, not just the usual suspects.


Arguing the toss: Eddie Betts speaks with the umpire during Carlton's win over Essendon.

Arguing the toss: Eddie Betts speaks with the umpire during Carlton’s win over Essendon.Credit:Getty Images

Eddie Betts said after the game the umpire told him the 50-metre penalty against him from the kick-in infringement in the last minute was a new rule.


That would be surprising because it looked like the same rule that’s always been there – play-on only happens once the player leaves the goal square at the kick-in and the umpire calls it. Neither had happened when Eddie charged in to tackle. The 50 was the right call.

The fact that the 50-metre penalty went for nearly double that was, however, a surprise, before Bomber Jacob Townsend’s kick for goal fell short.


Next week the Cats play the Suns. Coaches Chris Scott and Stuart Dew need to do the right thing and play Joel Selwood and Matt Rowell on one another.

The Suns’ young star has now been so good so quickly that the Cats might put a tagger such as Cam Guthrie on him. But please, let Rowell and Selwood go head to head.


When Shaun Burgoyne slammed Paddy Dangerfield into the ground, the action looked ugly but the outcome was not bad – there was no immediate injury.

When Zach Merrett threw a punch into the side of Jack Silvagni, the action looked less culpable but the outcome was worse – immediate injury.

When the AFL tweaked the rules after Burgoyne (unnecessarily as it goes, but that’s another matter), they said actions like his needed to be punished regardless of the outcome. It was the potential to cause serious injury from the action that was important, not the actual level of injury.


The Merrett case is the opposite of Burgoyne’s. The action did not look bad – he’d argue he was trying to tackle – but the outcome was worse, because it ended Silvagni’s game. He coughed up blood and spent the night in hospital.

Here the outcome was far more serious than the action, so how should it be judged? The actual injury changes everything.

The Merrett case presents the argument for why the rules say that the potential to cause serous injury should be given weight. Here that potential to injure became an actual injury.

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