It’s not good news for Sydney’s marquee player.
Charlie Curnow has kicked seven goals for Carlton, but the Western Bulldogs staved off a stunning late rally to keep their AFL season alive with a pulsating three-point win at Marvel Stadium.
The Dogs led by 34 points late in the last quarter but the brave Blues rattled home with the last five goals of Saturday night’s see-sawing contest in front of 35,479 fans.
Curnow brought the margin back to three points when the young star kicked his seventh goal with just under three minutes remaining, but the Dogs hung on to claim their fifth win of the season – 15.13 (103) to 15.10 (100).
Carlton’s last, desperate forward thrust with under 30 seconds left was snuffed out when Josh Dunkley was awarded a free kick for high contact just outside the Blues’ attacking 50.
In a night of wild momentum swings, the Dogs coughed up a 34-point lead to trail by seven points late in the third quarter.
They climbed off the canvas to restore that advantage with the first four goals of the final term, but Carlton – a different beast under David Teague – came again and only just fell short of a second win under the caretaker coach.
Dunkley was brilliant for the Dogs with 41 possessions and 10 tackles, while Jack Macrae (37 disposals) and Patrick Lipinski (29) also chipped in.
“I’m just really proud of the way that they stuck at it,” Dogs coach Luke Beveridge said.
“We got our noses back in front at three-quarter time and, especially this year, we haven’t always been that sound in close games.
“So the ways the boys pulsed and got that margin was terrific.”
The Dogs were short-handed for most of the night after Tom Liberatore left the game with a jarred knee in the second quarter. He will undergo scans but the club are optimistic he hasn’t ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament.
Curnow was the star for the Blues, but his brother Ed was crucial in the attempted fightback, curbing Marcus Bontempelli’s influence when he went to him early in the second term.
Patrick Cripps almost lifted his team over the line again with 22 disposals and Sam Walsh (22) continued to build his case for the rising star award.
The Bulldogs led by 19 points at the first break and they should’ve been further in front.
The Blues looked wobbly as the margin stretched to 34 points, but a team-lifting major to Matthew Kreuzer helped to drag them back to 21 points at halftime.
It narrowed to six points at the last change after Curnow inspired Carlton with three majors in the third quarter.
The Dogs appeared to have the game in hand before the Blues snapped out of their late torpor only to be denied in the frantic final moments.
“I was proud of the comeback but we’re here to win,” Teague said.
“I thought we were a really good chance to win if we executed and we didn’t quite execute well enough.”