Blues Try To Back Up NAB Cup Form

Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/George Salpigtidis
Marc Murphy captains the Blues for the first time on Thursday night. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/George Salpigtidis
Last 5 Matches

Round 18, 2012 – Carlton Blues 95 d Richmond Tigers 91
Round 1, 2012 – Carlton Blues 125 d Richmond Tigers 81
Round 15, 2011 – Carlton Blues 184 d Richmond Tigers 81
Round 1, 2011 – Carlton Blues 104 d Richmond Tigers 84
Round 20, 2010 – Carlton Blues 156 d Richmond Tigers 67


Not since their round one clash in 2008 has Richmond knocked over Carlton in the AFL premiership rounds. That’s nine matches straight, including four season openers. Most have been comprehensive victories, but in round 18 last season, the Tigers got within four points of an injury-depleted Blues outfit, and it was only Brock McLean’s mongrel punt from outside 50 that went through for a goal that killed off Richmond. It was the Tigers’ third loss by less than a kick in as many weeks, and that was the theme of their season as they lost six games by less than two goals. That’s the difference between playing finals footy and spending September on an end-of-season holiday.

Both teams are relatively injury-free heading in to the first fixture match of the season, but the one player Carlton would love to have back is key forward Jarrad Waite. The Blues looked painfully short of a target man in the 40-point NAB Cup grand final loss to Brisbane. With just six games under his belt, Levi Casboult is the man charged with leading Carlton's forward line with Shaun Hampson adding an extra big body.  Former skipper Chris Judd will be right to play despite getting through just 70-odd minutes of footy in the pre-season.


If Trent Cotchin wasn’t already a marked man last season, he will be this year. After finishing equal second in last year’s Brownlow Medal count, Cotchin was also handed the Tigers’ captaincy for this year. He was very good at stoppages and booted a career-high 21 goals in 2012. Even if teams stop him, there is plenty of class and grunt in Richmond’s midfield with the likes of Brett Deledio, Shaun Grigg and Shane Tuck working in cohort with Cotchin.  Former Port Adelaide defender Troy Chaplin will make his debut for the Tigers.



Key Men

(Carlton) Eddie Betts – He’s up there with the best small forwards in the league, not just for his ability to impact on the scoreboard – he kicked 48 goals last season – but also the pressure he exerts on defenders when they have the ball. Without a recognised big man to work with in the forward 50, Carlton may choose to isolate Betts as much as possible and let him weave his magic in one-on-one situation. He has averaged three goals per game in the Blues’ nine-game winning run against the Tigers.

(Richmond) Jack Riewoldt – Carlton’s key man could easily have been Michael Jamison, because the defender held Jack Riewoldt goalless in the Blues’ round 18 win last season. Jumpin’ Jack only failed to boot a goal in one other game last season, kicking 65 goals for the year which was good enough for his second Coleman Medal. In the three games prior to his shutout, Riewoldt had slotted 14 goals against Carlton, and if he kicks another bag then the Blues could be in real strife, given their lack of options up forward.


Prediction

The Blues were good in the pre-season, but the improving Lions exposed some flaws in the NAB Cup decider when the heat was on. Both teams have stellar midfields, but Carlton will miss consistent defender, Heath Scotland. Last year’s Best and Fairest winner was handed an in-house two-game suspension after pleading guilty to an assault charge. As much as the Tigers are on the rise, they still couldn’t beat an understrength Carlton late last season, and these are the games they need to win to see September action. Carlton by 15 points

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