Essendon vs Carlton: Blues’ brilliant 23-year first to replace rival in top ...

Sports: Sarah Simpson Column- Passion for sports comes from where you'd leas...
Published Time: 09.06.2024 - 10:01:21 Modified Time: 09.06.2024 - 10:01:21

New recruit Elijah Hollands was the standout player for the Blues in their victory, kicking three crucial goals from 19 disposals and eight score involvements in front of a mammoth 88,510 fans at the MCG. Essendon vs Carlton, carlton

Now literally…

The Blues overpowered and outclassed Essendon in the exciting 2 v 5 showdown, climbing into outright second place on the ladder in the process.

For weeks the footy world has pondered who Sydney’s biggest challenger for the flag is, with many believing it’s Carlton – despite Michael Voss’ crew struggling to really hit its straps in 2024.

But now, they can’t be ignored.

Carlton moved the ball with ease throughout stages of the first half to look “pretty much in command,” according to Demons great Garry Lyon.

A game played under finals-like conditions, the Blues stood up to every challenge Essendon threw at them including runs in the third and third and fourth quarter to put the Carlton defence under pressure.

The Bombers even dominated territory and multiple key stats on the night including winning there inside 50 count 59-39, but the Blues were so much smoother and classier.

As improved as Essendon is this season, Carlton clearly proved itself as the superior side.

“They’ve been impressive ... a very even team performance. They’ve been able to establish the battle of whose game plan wins,” triple premiership Lion Jonathan Brown said on Fox Footy at half-time.

The Blues now have their mid-season bye, but regardless of next week’s results, have very much consolidated a spot in the top four.

Perhaps extra pleasing for Michael Voss is how much his side was in control of Sunday’s contest despite several stars being down on form to show this system well and truly holds up.

And with the likes of Alex Cincotta, who nullified Zach Merrett and kicked two goals himself, and Elijah Hollands stepping up in key roles, Carlton is learning its list.

“Essendon is +11 inside 50s, but Carlton has imposed a no transition or low transition game plan on Essendon. … and they’ve been able to set up their defensive structures,” Collingwood legend Nathan Buckley said on Fox Footy at half-time.

“It meant Essendon haven’t been able to score when they’ve gone inside 50.”

The Blues role players are stepping up.

Alex Cincotta took another big scalp, successfully nullifying Zach Merrett (21 disposals), while kicking two last-quarter goals himself to continue his strong form in a tagging role.

And while there’s been plenty of praise for other big-name recruits such as Ben McKay and Brodie Grundy, Elijah Hollands has quietly been a very solid addition for the Blues.

Hollands on Sunday night made his greatest impression yet in the navy blue since moving from the Suns, booting a game-high and career-best three goals.

The former Pick 7 seemed to bop up in attack whenever Carlton needed in an impressive performance from a role player very much delivering on his role effectively.

“Michael Voss privately would be smiling and be very, very happy with this recruit,” Jonathan Brown said on Fox Footy at half-time.

“I’m sure Damien Hardwick would love him still on the Gold Coast.

“He’s had a good effect on the game. To me he looks like relishes the big games too.”

And it importantly came on a night when goals were hard to come by and with several Blues stars including Sam Walsh and Patrick Cripps down on their enormous best heights.

From a broader perspective, Hollands’ ability to switch in the midfield and allow Patrick Cripps to go forward has previously been highlighted as a handy attribute and ace up Michael Voss’ sleeve.

Plus Cincotta allows Carlton’s star midfielders to be more offensively focused.

Tigers champion Jack Riewoldt believes the likes of Cincotta, Hollands and other role players stepping up is the sign of the Blues maturing.

“This is the evolution of a football club,” Riewoldt said on Fox Footy.

“If you want to become a good club, you can’t just tell on Walsh and Cripps. When they are down - they’ve got lofty expectations - you need other players to step up.

“Hollands has been a great pickup and had a big influence.”

Myth busted – they’re not the same person!

After a combined 200-plus games, the McKay twins finally played against each other for the first time in their AFL careers on Sunday night.

It took on its own unique story including ample build up to the battle within the battle during the week.

The brothers shared a warm embrace pre-game as they ran to their positions. And though they didn’t line up on each other to start the game, they found themselves matched up throughout key stages of the game.

It didn’t take long for them to be involved in the thick of the action.

Harry kicked Carlton’s second goal early in the second quarter from a free kick after getting held by brother Ben.

The camera cut to a shot of their mother Tracey, who didn’t know whether or not to be happy!

There was a bit of friendly fire (if we can call it that?) in the fourth quarter after Ben accidentally crashed into Harry in a contest as the Blues star came from the ground in discomfort. The camera again cut to mum, who appeared to be concerned.

Harry (one goal) and star forward partner Charlie Curnow (two goals) were relatively quiet despite the Blues controlling the game so much in a positive sign for Michael Voss’ side.

In fact, none of the key forwards had much of an influence on the contest.

Meanwhile, Ben continued to be a strong pillar in the Bombers’ defence as one of the recruits of the season after crossing from North Melbourne.

Two of the absolute best in their positions in the competition, let’s hope to see many more clashes between the McKay brothers.

There were no late changes for tonight’s blockbuster clash, with Elijah Tsatas (Bombers) and Corey Durdin (Blues) named the starting subs.

Four early minor scores opened the account inside the first three minutes, with set shots from Archie Perkins and Jye Menzie hitting the post for Essendon, while Sam Walsh and a rushed behind were registered for Carlton.

Mitch McGovern made the most of a curious 50 metre penalty that fell his way, kicking truly for the first goal of the night.

Not long after, the highly-anticipated match-up between Ben and Harry McKay brought its first highlight for the night, with the Bomber Ben pinged for holding onto his brother amid an incoming high ball.