Carlton Blues / Round 3 Preview: Carlton vs. Essendon

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Round 3 Preview: Carlton vs. Essendon

Written by Bryce Whitney (@AFLBryce) on 08 April 2017

For Blues fans, there isn’t a game quite like the one against the old foes, Essendon.

Regardless of the form the two sides are in at the time, history takes over, and the games are mostly brilliant (except the last game they played in 2016). Since 1994, every single Carlton vs. Essendon game has been played at the home of footy, the MCG. The atmosphere is immense each and every time these two face off, and Sunday afternoon will be no different.

The two teams are in different places right now. Carlton has undergone a full rebuild and sits 0-2 in 2017. There are still pieces of the past hanging on to the present, but Carlton have turned over a new leaf with a young coach and have made their intentions known; put everything on the field, don’t get too high or too low, and maintain equilibrium (thanks, Bolts)

The 2-0 Bombers have had a mini-rebuild in a sense, having played most of their youth last year after losing a majority of their seasoned squad. We all know the story of Essendon, and as an avid Carlton fan, I'm glad it's over. I don’t want to beat a 20% Essendon team; I want to take them down at 100%.

What to watch:

Intensity inside forward 50

The forward intensity wasn’t there for the Blues last week. 45 tackles, as a total is miserable for a team that should be fighting at every possible contest. I predict Brendon Bolton will have focused on this throughout the week, especially targeting the lack of forward pressure.

The free kicks were in favour of the Dee’s 25-18 in last week's game, and that can be swayed if we manage to stick some pressure tackles in the forward 50. The likes of Daisy Thomas, Jack Silvagni, and Jacob Weitering need to be hunting the opposition on every one of their possessions.

The youth movement

We are on the verge of something special with the youth in this squad. Anchored in defence are Lachie Plowman, Caleb Marchbank, and Sam Docherty, all less than 23 years of age. Weitering and Silvagni are both 19.

2016 draft pick Tom Williamson is going to make his debut for the Blues on Sunday afternoon. Williamson was taken number 61 overall in the AFL draft and can give himself a great opportunity if he is able to use his speed to help our senior defenders. A valuable youngster that can win his own ball and swing between forward and defence will be a welcome sight at Carlton. I compare Tom Williamson to Sam Docherty with the way he can provide run and carry out of the backline and instantly turn a defensive stoppage into an offensive opportunity. 

Key matchups

The battle of the future – Cripps vs. Merrett

Cripps, aged 22 and Merrett, aged 21 have shown what they can do for their respective clubs at such a young age. Merrett was prolific last season, having the job of holding the Bombers together and walking away winning their B&F. Cripps’ season was much the same for the Blues. These guys are both ball-winners and will no doubt be in the congestion trying to extract the ball for their respective teams. Merrett will push forward at stages, so they won’t be matched up for the entire game.

This is about watching two future captains battling in the midfield and trying to take their squads over the line.

Give Marchbank the job on Daniher

We’ve seen what Marchbank can do in the air. He’s tall, agile and can take a great intercept mark. He’s shown the ability to attack the footy and read the play at an elite level. If he plays to his strengths and stays in front of Daniher for the day, he’ll give our other defenders the chance to lock down the likes of Fantasia and McDonald-Tipungwuti, who have the chance to tear the game away from Carlton.

Our tight-knit defensive structure kept Melbourne to 13 goals for the match last week, and if we keep the same intensity and stay #BoundByBlue, we can win the game through our defence.

The battle of the old - Murphy vs. Watson

Murphy and Watson have gone into battle against each other over the best and worst years for the Blues and the Bombers. Murphy has been a stalwart in the Carlton midfield since his debut in 2006, Jobe much the same for the Bombers since 2003. Murphy will have Watson covered for speed and polish, but the former Brownlow medalist is prolific with his hands in close. It’s been a great battle before and will be again on Sunday.

My prediction:

Carlton has the ability to upset the Bombers in this match. No team likes being winless, and Essendon provides a bubble that will soon burst. Blues by 8 points.