Jamie Kloeden reporting for AFANA from Australia
Carlton left Melbourne for Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast with everything to play for against the lowly Gold Coast Suns. After being Premiership favorites early in the season, things went wrong mid-season to the point where Brett Ratten was hanging on by a thread to his position as coach. A huge win against the Bombers last week made Finals a very realistic goal and a strong showing against the Suns would have the Blues riding a wave of momentum into the Finals if things went according to plan.
Gold Coast jumped out of the blocks with Tom Lynch registering the first goal of the game within the first two minutes. Tom Hickey kicked another goal minutes later and when Lynch converted his second to have the Suns lead out to 17 points within the first ten minutes, alarm bells were already starting to ring for the Blues. Looking nothing at all like a team that was Finals bound, Carlton surrendered three more goals before finally kicking one of its own at the 25 minute mark through skipper Chris Judd. Once again it was left to Judd to carry his team, and when he kicked another late goal, Carlton went into the quarter time break down by 22 points with big changes necessary to get back into the game.
Things got off to a better start for a suddenly aggressive Carlton as they controlled play early. Eddie Betts marked and goaled and it looked like the Suns' bubble may have just burst. Once again however the Suns got on a run and were so hungry that it was becoming harder to see Carlton get back into the game. Gary Ablett showed all of his class with a great goal after some quick hands by Brandon Matera. Josh Caddy and Charlie Dixon both kicked goals from inside the goal square to push the margin out to a seeming insurmountable 39 points. Jeff Garlett pegged one back for the Blues but the Suns again responded through Campbell Brown to keep their 39 point buffer. Judd was being well held by Danny Stanley so, with no late heroics from the skipper, it was the Suns' game to lose at the half time break.
Third quarter action saw a much better performance from Carlton as they made major inroads into the deficit with a five goal to one quarter but it was a case of wasted opportunities when they also kicked six behinds. Goals to Chris Yarran and Betts got the Blues moving in the right direction and when Brock McLean, who was clearly Carlton’s best so far, kicked two in a row the momentum of the game had swung around 180 degrees. Jarrod Waite kicked his first for the night and this had the margin back to just 12 points. The unlikely Suns’ victory was starting to look very shaky indeed.
Tom Lynch followed up a good contested mark with his third goal of the night early in the fourth quarter. The next two went to Carlton as Yarran and Waite both converted their second goals to bring the margin back to just four points and set up a cracking finish. Once again, Carton players were their own worst enemies as inaccurate kicking again proved costly. Carlton's last five scores were all points while the Suns were able to kick two more goals and seal their third win for the year.
The aftermath of the game saw Brett Ratten under intense pressure in media circles. With widespread speculation that Mick Malthouse is waiting in the wings looking to return to a coaching role, it will be an interesting few weeks ahead for Carlton to see what their future holds. As for the Gold Coast Suns, they will travel to AAMI Stadium to finish their season against the Adelaide Crows. They will no doubt be buoyed by the fact that they can win games without needing Gary Ablett to carry the full load and knowing that some of their young stars are finally starting to show that they can mix it with the big boys at AFL level.
Scoreboard Gold Coast: 6.1 11.3 12.7 15.8 (98) Carlton: 2.3 4.7 9.13 11.20 (86) Best Players Carlton: McLean, Yarran, Carrazzo, Judd, Scotland, Kreuzer Gold Coast: Dixon, Lynch, Coad, Ablett, Bennell, Matera
Article last changed on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 5:32 AM EDT