“Boys versus men” was how Carlton’s obliteration of Gold Coast on Saturday night was commonly and aptly described.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this for the AFL’s new ‘baby’. Swept up in the euphoria surrounding the historical moment of Gold Coast’s debut, a number of “experts” had even tipped Gold Coast to win their first match.
That such predictions were pure folly was apparent within the opening minutes of the match.
Gold Coast’s attempted run and carry game wilted under the pressure of the Blues’ intense tackling and they were unable to find any space or relief. In today’s game of possession football, it was a worrying sign that Gold Coast seemingly couldn’t string together more than one kick at a time.
The count for marks at the end of the first quarter was five, with their handball count running well above their kick count, as they tried unsuccessfully to work their way out of trouble.
At the end of the first, scoring records seemed in play, but Gold Coast settled, or the Blues eased up.
The end result was still a belting of the kind we aren’t usually accustomed to seeing with the closeness of the 16 teams over the past few seasons.
For the Blues, it was hard to be impressed by anyone in particular because they all looked impressive against this feeble opposition. Thornton looked like the second coming of Dunstall in the forward line, Yarran cruised around the ground with ball in hand and Garlett scored goals with consummate ease.
Their rookie Curnow continued to impress and showed that with a team of veteran players around you, life as a rookie isn’t all that hard.
On the other side, the Gold Coast rookies looked woefully overmatched. Swallow battled hard to win contested balls but never found the space to show off his talent.
Zac Smith, the 206cm ruckman, showed signs of a future with some solid grabs. Karmichael Hunt looked like he came for the massages rather than to play, and the rest of the rookies mostly frustrated and prompted plenty of groans from those watching.
The veterans sprinkled around the ground fared little better.
Gold Coast showed off several prized recruits including a best and fairest winner, a former All-Australian defender, and a Brownlow medallist, as well as highly touted discards but collectively they didn’t look up to the daunting task of carrying this team of youngsters. Footy is a team game and the importance of having good teammates around you was never made clearer.
For a 20-goal drubbing, this actually was a fascinating game. You gained a great sense of the immense skill of a good AFL team like Carlton, when in contrast to a side that clearly isn’t up to AFL level yet.
In spite of all the advantages afforded them by the AFL, it looks like it’s going to take Gold Coast a few seasons before they are a truly competitive side. Carlton toyed with Gold Coast like they didn’t deserve to be on the same field.
Just imagine what a fired-up Collingwood side could do.