Fremantle handed Carlton their second defeat of the season to sit 4-2 while the Dockers improved to 5-1 to sit second on the ladder after six rounds.
In a warning to other clubs, Fremantle controlled the contest from start to finish at Optus and are serious threat in 2022.
Fremantle has conceded only 369 points after six rounds (61.5 pts per game) pending the outcome of Melbourne v Richmond (Melbourne has conceded 299 points after 5 rounds).
In contrast to this Carlton has conceded 519 points per game after 6 rounds going at 86.5 points per game, currently ranked 14th in the league. Carlton’s propensity to leak points fast is a worry and Freo were able to pile on 10 goals collectively across quarters 2 and 3 where Carlton could only manage 4. The damage was done by half time.
Carlton were unlucky losing Marc Pittonet early in the clash to what appeared to be a knee injury and Harry McKay was troubled by what looked like a knee issue also. McKay slipped twice on separate leads in the first team as the surface looked mildly dewy on a perfect Perth evening.
The grunt work was left up to Tom De Koning to take on the red hot Sean Darcy who had the strength advantage out manoeuvring De Koning at every contest.
Surprisingly Carlton won the bulk of the footy but were not able to penetrate their forward 50 as often as they usually do as Freo’s defensive pressure from the midfield stifled clean disposal and their setup in defence made for no easy inside 50 marks.
With McKay playing at 50 percent the bulk of the work was left to Curnow who managed 2 goals.
Carlton’s woes run much deeper than this, they don’t seem to have it worked out on the defensive end of the game. David Teague was quoted as saying you didn’t have to worry about defending if you just focus on kicking a bigger score than the opposition.
Under Carlton’s current form, the kamikaze style of kicking a big score early and then trying to defend it is proving unsustainable. Fitness, mentality, passion, hunger, motivation have all been brought into question in the opening few weeks. It is simpler than that, defence is an aspect Carlton are playing catch up on.
Fremantle rivalling Melbourne so far this year as the best defensive team and a lot of that is due to what they do when they don’t have the ball. Carlton could not get the ball out of their defensive 50 last night without paying a price, Freo zoned up superbly and closed space precisely on the intercept most notably on a Zac Williams kick-in that was chopped off by Lachie Schultz who put it straight back over William’s head on the set shot.
Carlton went sideways and backwards and across and then ultimately long down the line continuously resulting in a stoppage that if not won at first Freo were able to wrestle back due to their pressure.
In fairness, Michael Voss has been in the job a little over six months and what he has managed to do with a midfield blessed with an embarrassment of riches has been the easy part. It has been a rewarding for success-starved Blues supporters to see Carlton up and about but Voss and the playing group has been very honest that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
Highly regarded assistant coach Ashley Hansen has been blessed with some of the best talent in the land to form a formidable forward line with and on their day they are deadly. McKay and Curnow shape as generational twin towers if they can stay healthy, Jack Martin needs to build some consistency as his form has been patchy so far in 2022.
The small forward brigade is not settled, the Blues have experimented with Zac Fisher, Lachie Fogarty, Matt Owies, Corey Durdin, Josh Honey and Sam Philp with new recruit Jesse Motop yest to debut.
The Blues need to identify the best combination to complement their talls, all have showed glimpses.
Is Carlton’s backline the issue? A unit led by the experienced and wise Sam Docherty and potentially best defender in the competition Jacob Weitering.
The names stack up well; Weitering, Docherty, Saad, Williams, Newman and Lewis Young who has performed well since coming in for the injured Oscar McDonald and looks poised to hold his place in the best 22.
Carlton’s backline has been under siege so far this season having to repel wave after wave of attack and they are still a respectable four wins from six matches but the percentage lays the issue bare.
Mitch McGovern showed against Richmond in round 1 that he has found his niche as an intercept defender and with the return of Caleb Marchbank from a second knee reconstruction the Blues backline will begin to create some selection headaches.
The importance of being able to play the whole ground defensive game has become as important as ever and Carlton are learning the hard way so far in 2022, but when it clicks into gear for them they will be a contender but for now it’s more on the job learning for Voss and his charges.