We are about halfway through the 2020 season (at least, we think) and it is finally starting to take shape.
Carlton’s Curnow brothers have powered the Blues to their first win of the season, denying Essendon by 13 points in a gritty AFL thriller.
The Blues claimed their first win at the MCG in over a year after emerging victorious 14.7 (91) to 10.18 (78).
There were nine lead changes on a wintry Melbourne afternoon, with neither side able to kick clear in an engrossing – if not high quality – affair.
At the last, the young Blues side stood up, led by Charlie and Ed Curnow.
Charlie took four thumping marks inside 50 and kicked two goals in the third term to arrest Essendon’s momentum, while Ed powered the Blues at ground level all afternoon with 13 tackles.
Patrick Cripps, Matthew Kreuzer and Liam Jones were also super for Carlton, roared on by their patient fans among the 44,669 in attendance.
The result will heap pressure on besieged Bombers coach John Worsfold.
The West Coast legend signed a contract extension after a round one defeat of minor premiers Adelaide, but has led Essendon to just a single win since.
Worsfold said he was “frustrated and disappointed”, suggesting his team were paying well inside themselves.
“We’re not playing at the level that we’d like to be,” he said.
“(We’re) seeing players that are making errors that maybe that you don’t expect from those players. Across the board.”
Carlton began as if sensing an opportunity for a breakthrough triumph.
The Blues were bright and determined, and led by two goals when Harry McKay’s long bomb from 60 metres eluded a retreating Essendon pair to bounce through.
They couldn’t maintain the rage, yielding the momentum to Essendon in the second term.
Bombers leaders Dyson Heppell and David Zaharakis converted marks inside 50 to push them to a one-point half-time lead.
After three losses in a row, the Bombers’ lack of confidence seemed to be holding them back from turning territory into a larger lead.
Then the Bombers fell victim to their third-quarter hoodoo once more.
Essendon were yet to win the term all season and Charlie Curnow kept that streak running.
Both sides missed chances in front of goal, but Essendon’s wastefulness – kicking 4.12 in the middle two quarters – was especially costly.
Shaun McKernan’s goal to open the final term made him the Bombers’ first multiple goalkicker and gave Worsfold’s side a lifeline.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti put them ahead at the five-minute mark but from there Brendon Bolton’s side took control.
Sam Petreveski-Seton, Jed Lamb and Sam Kerridge took the contest away from Essendon with consecutive goals, allowing a host of Blues to sing the club song for the first time.
Carlton coach Brendon Bolton said pride was his dominant feeling after ending the club’s longest-ever wait for a first win of the season.
“They’ve been up against it, our players,” he said.
“We had quite a few youngsters out there … for them to experience that feeling of winning is really important for them.”