It has been a baron two decades for Carlton fans.
With just four finals wins and six wooden spoons across seven coaches, there have been plenty of false dawns and many dark days.
But the Blues seem to have turned a corner in 2020. They’re 3-3 and are coming off the back of a terrific win against the red-hot Bulldogs.
But this win was unlike any other over the past 20 years. This win was more important, more commanding, and it proved more than the others.
Carlton are a club that love a big fish, and they’ve tended to rely on that big player to get them over the line in tough games, from Anthony Koutoufides to Brendan Fevola, Chris Judd and more recently Patrick Cripps.
It has long seemed that when the whips are cracking Carlton has only one response, and more often than not, despite the heroics of said big fish, the Blues fall short.
There are countless games in which Fevola dominated but the Blues were still handsomely beaten. And how many time has Patrick Cripps been the best player on the ground in a losing side?
Cripps has had to put his body through hell just to keep the Blues somewhat competitive at times, and it’s taken its toll on the young skipper.
But on Sunday night something different unfolded. The Blues dominated from start to finish and did so with barely a whimper from either of their co-captains. Cripps and Sam Docherty were both very quiet. Cripps hurt his shoulder early and was never really himself after returning to the field, and Docherty was kept out of the game by Rhylee West.
But the Blues found other contributors. In Round 4 Carlton beat Essendon with Cripps’s output being down, but Docherty was best on ground and David Cunningham played the game of his life.
But on Sunday it wasn’t anyone playing a career-best match; it was 20 players playing their roles. It’s a sign that David Teague’s ideas are working and a sign that Carlton’s developing list may be ready to take the next step.
It was a win of belief. The Dogs looked ready to mount a comeback late in both the second and third quarters, but the Blues had the answer each time. They responded in a way unbecoming of Carlton sides of recent years. They attacked. They kicked goals to halt the Bulldogs momentum. When the game was all but won they put the foot to the throat.
Carlton proved they have the cattle ready to contribute and showed that their best is very, very good.
They’ve now beaten Geelong, Essendon and the Western Bulldogs, a form line that is starting to read very, very well.
They now find themselves in the eight for the first time since 2013, a position they richly deserve. If they can now find a level of consistency to match last weekend’s performance, their threat will grow larger and larger.