Sydney triumphed Carlton by 26 points at the SCG on Friday night, but it’s the Blues who all the headlines will follow as their losing streak stretched to six of their last seven games.
It was the same story for Michael Voss’ men, who this time booted a staggering 6.15 in faltering to the Swans.
Carlton great Mark Maclure told SEN earlier on Friday that the loser couldn’t play finals. On Friday night’s form, that’s a fair assessment of the Blues, who again failed to convert their chances and stand up in the big moment. Despite winning most key stats, Carlton's link up going forward was in shambles throughout the four quarters and reminiscent of terrible decision making.
The fourth quarter especially couldn’t have been much worse for Blues fans, with Carlton fans wincing through an injury crisis that included captain Patrick Cripps, a goalless term and the Swans opening up the middle.
But to give no credit to Sydney would be wrong, with last year’s Grand Finallists standing up when the game – and their season – was on the line.
Nick Blakey played what might be the best game of his young career to finish with 26 disposals and a game-high 631 metres gained, while Chad Warner – who took home the Goodes/O’Loughlin and Errol Gulden proved the best midfielders on the groud.
Friday night also saw Sam Wicks and Lewis Melican make their first AFL appearances of the season and prove two of a number of Swans who were influential in the contest. Isaac Heeney also made return to form, going head-to-head with Cripps and coming out on top.
The home side started slow before working their way into the contest, but were still largely outplayed by the Blues across the home side. Yet it was a similar story for Carlton fans, with their side unable to take the most of their opportunities.
Michael Voss’ men booted 4.8 in the first half and put two more out on the full. Harry McKay was again one of the key culprits, earning himself another week of scrutiny by finishing with 0.3.
A set shot in the third quarter that would have given Carlton the lead back was particularly confronting, with McKay badly hooking a 25 metre kick from directly in front
Western Bulldogs great Brad Johnson noted: “It’s extremely simple. His plant foot is crooked and from there his hips are following. For me, it’s simple to watch and simple to fix.”
Gerard Healy added: “You are allowed to miss, but not by that much.”
McKay’s partner in crime, Charlie Curnow, will also be in the gun for an admittedly dominant performance that only netted 1.3
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Blues, with the form of Tom De Koning impressing. Returning for his first AFL game since Round 5, the 23-year-old was among his side’s best in the first half before finishing with 13 touches and a goal.
The third term saw a similar result as both sides exchanged scrappy pieces of play, but it was advantage Sydney at the final change with the Swans leading by more than a goal.
But John Longmire’s side received a major boost from Nic Newman and Ollie Hollands donning the tracksuit at the start of the final term.
With Carlton’s sub already activated after George Hewett came off concussed in the second term, Voss had just two on the bench for the final half hour.
Needing two consecutive goals to take the lead back, the task proved too much for Carlton, who are now facing an uphill battle to play in September.
With games against Melbourne and Essendon to come in the next fortnight before the bye, there’s plenty of soul-searching to be done at Ikon Park.
But for the Swans, optimism will be high they can still play finals with that sort of grit and several key players to return in the coming weeks.
Sydney: 4.1, 6.2, 8.8, 11.11. (77)
Carlton: 3.4, 4.8, 6.12, 6.15. (51)
Sydney: Wicks 2, McLean 2, Warner 2, McInerney 2, Gulden, Papley, Hayward,
Carlton: Motlop 2, Curnow, Cottrell, De Koning, Walsh
Sydney: Warner, Blakey, Gulden, Heeney, Lloyd
Carlton: Walsh, Docherty, Cripps, Weitering, McGovern
Carlton: Hewett (concussion), Hollands, Newman
CROWD TBC @ SCG