The Blues have mastered the honourable loss

Jay Croucher Columnist

By , Jay Croucher is a Roar Expert

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    The following true sentence encapsulates the madness of this AFL season: there is much that GWS could learn from Carlton.

    If you combined GWS’s talent with Carlton’s consistency and endeavour, the Giants would not only be the best football team on earth, they would be the best basketball team too. They would crush Golden State. Their sporting dominance would not be restricted by the arbitrary confines of the code that happens to house them.

    For much of the season, the Giants have played like they can’t really be bothered for three quarters, and then they have backed themselves in to be talented enough to pull a game from the fire in the final 30 minutes. Disgustingly, most of the time they have been proven right.

    They are the most frightening team in the AFL and the most reprehensible. When they start to truly care, it will likely all be over.

    Until then, though, we should appreciate the teams that do care, the ones that can only dream of having GWS’s talent, but do all that is humanly possible to bridge the cap.

    After Richmond stunningly removed themselves from the discussion on Saturday night, right now, remarkably, there are only two teams who you can trust to show up every single week. Sydney, who might win the premiership, and Carlton, who will not.

    2017 has been the perfect season for the Blues. They are not a contender, and for any non-contender, wins are only style points. They want to develop their youth, have their games be watchable, and lose. Mission accomplished.

    Carlton are shockingly watchable, and even more shockingly competent. They are almost aggressively competent. They pressure and absorb pressure, spread hard from contests, use the ball selflessly, make the high percentage plays, and maintain their shape. They never give up, wonderfully and defiantly ignorant of their constant, raging mortality.

    Bryce Gibbs and Marc Murphy are playing inspired, and Kade Simpson and Sam Docherty offer composure in the areas of the ground where young teams need it most. Dale Thomas is Lazarus, and Liam Jones is Jesus Christ Reincarnate.

    Bryce Gibbs Carlton Blues AFL 2016

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Last year the youth was hazy, this year it is clear. Patrick Cripps, Jacob Weitering, Caleb Marchbank, Jack Silvagni, David Cunningham, Sam Petrevski-Seton, Charlie Curnow… this is a future, not merely the hope of one.

    Players are being reborn. Levi Casboult used to be a monster, now he is a MONSTER. Matthew Kreuzer is playing the best football of his life. Even Sam Kerridge is having 35-disposal games. And again, Liam Jones is the saviour.

    The Alastair Clarkson coaching tree is in magnificent bloom. Brendon Bolton is the coach of the year. This team is unrecognisable from the debacles in blue that preceded it. They play with purpose, and a conviction that isn’t content with pats on the back. They are not a cute young team. They are coming.

    They have a number of scalps already. They schooled the Swans, strangled the big rivals, Collingwood and Essendon, in unpleasant conditions, pulled an upset against Gold Coast, and punished the Giants for thinking they were playing the Carlton of old.

    Carlton ran out of steam on the weekend, with two on the bench against a Melbourne team that had much more to play for and are a couple years advanced in its development. Still, if the ball at the edge of the goal square had sat for Dale Thomas instead of Michael Hibberd at the death, the result likely would have been different.

    Those breaks will come for Carlton. And when they do, the evidence suggests that Bolton’s men will capitalise on them. And then, the Blues can stop being the team that clutches onto the leg of their opponents, hanging onto them for dear life and refusing to let go. Instead, they will be able to simply sprint clear of them.

    Until that time, they’ll have their honourable losses, from which the upshot tends to have a lot more ‘honour’ than ‘loss’.

    Jay Croucher
    Jay Croucher

    From MSG in New York to the MCG in Melbourne, Jay has spent his adult life travelling the world, indulging in sport and approaching it from the angle of history and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter @CroucherJD

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