As a sort-of-Victorian, it was a great idea – have a footy weekend on the Gold Coast with a couple of my best mates. As an actual Tasmanian, it was a perfect idea –Saturday afternoon in and around Surfers Paradise was beautiful, warm and sunny, and the evening itself was not quite balmy but definitely warmer than most Tasmanian spring days. But as a Carlton fan, the weekend ended up being a horrific waste of time, that at the end of the day was perhaps as painful and heartbreaking, as it was unsurprising given the year that we had had.
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The game was the Round 22 fixture of the 2012 AFL Season – the Mighty Blues versus the relative newcomers, the Gold Coast Suns. The event was a catch-up with two guys, both of whom I’d been Best Man for. The last time I’d caught up with my Gold Coast resident Best Man friend was the last time we’d played Gold Coast and came up with a massive 119 point thumping against the newcomers. A good precedent for sure, but 2012 was a different year altogether.

2012 began with a burst of energy, 3 wins and premiership favouritism. Within weeks it crashed around us, but the expectations remained high. First was a crushing loss to the Bombers which should have been at least 60 points before some consolation scoring at the back end. A string of disappointing losses was soon to follow, plus injuries to Carrazzo, Henderson, Laidler and Murphy, such that by the Round 12 clash against Hawthorn the Blues were a lifeless outfit. But it was the style of loss that seemed of most concern, with ineffective forward entries matched only by being carved up by not only the better teams but some mediocre ones as well.
You Beauty! Bell kicks his first career goal.jpg
During a late season hiatus of sorts, the Blues had managed to eke out some workman-like wins to keep us in touch with the 8. And then in Round 21 we had demolished the Bombers in an awesome game (full of laughs!) and our percentage of 110 meant we could still make the finals… All we needed to do going in to the game was eke out another win (although in the walk to the ground us Blues fans were debating margins of 60 points v 90 points, go figure!), and we’d stay in 8th place.

And why not? Going in we had 10 players with 100 games or more experience, compared to their 2, had on average 50 games more experience per player, and were coming off that big win. The Suns had had a very disappointing year, being overshadowed for most of it by the other newcomers, GWS. There had been as much talk of McKenna’s reign being in question as Ratten’s, and that was with a list of top draft picks before him just needing some time to ripen in the Queensland sun.
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For sure, the game before us was there to be won, and we had enough incentive to make it happen.

Those superstitious (and silly) enough to believe in omens would tell you when you lose a player to injury in the first minute the Gods are probably against you… let alone when it is the unassuming but form player Andrew McInnes who goes down straight away, with an ACL no less. Now would our decision to not have Thornton as an emergency, nor select potential first-gamer Patrick McCarthy come back and haunt us?

You bet! It didn’t take long for the alarm bells to start ringing and for the lack of talls meant that the Suns would kick 3 goals from marks in their 50 in the first quarter to burst out of the blocks. But it was more than that – a lack of checking through midfield and a complete lack of defensive pressure meant that no-name Suns forwards (e.g. Lynch) had too much space and didn’t have to work too hard. Uncontested marks on mild leads – not even hard leads – suggested we were not switched on. 6 goals in that first quarter and we were behind already. Judd’s goals from midfield were nice but it was not enough.

Now we needed to work our way back in to it but the story was worse in the second. Charlie Dixon seemed to be throwing Simon White around and making a key target of himself, Lynch kept on bobbing up and young soon-to-be-Cat Caddy would kick freaky goals from few opportunities. 5 more goals to the Suns and only 2 to the Blues meant we were behind by 38 points at the half. Underneath the midfield wreckage was a forward line struggling to kick goals, as the Blues were only 3 scoring shots behind (so to speak… whatever that is worth). And what was making it worse was some horrific errors and decision making, with Matthew Kreuzer’s dropped mark 30cms out from the Suns goal (uncontested) as large a brain fade as they come, with Caddy kicking another from Krooze's feet. One of the guys I was sitting with (An Essendon fan, I normally leave out that detail out of embarrassment) starting dancing a jig and to be honest I didn’t have a response. Not even the prior week’s game would save me now (although there is always Alwyn Davey)!
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Something did happen at half time – perhaps an empassioned plea for some support from the Coach – and the inevitable resurgence came. 5 goals 6 from the Blues, with more wonky kicking from Waite and Casboult in particular – despite a nice goal on the run from Waite - to a solitary goal, meant that we were only 2 majors behind.

From here, Carlton surged and surged as our experienced midfield took over but the Suns would not bow down. 2 goals 7, including 3 consecutive behinds to the key forwards – each of Casboult’s kicks taking an off-spin action and spearing to the right of the post on a windless night – meant that we could not sustain the pressure. And when Cat-cum-Sun Gary Ablett walked around Marc Murphy’s admittedly lame tackle (he was carrying his injured shoulder since his return) to kick a great one from 40, the game was over.

The Blues were gone, with no chance to make the 8 and on this performance, no answers or form or method to speak of.

In the wash-up, Carlton replaced Coach Brett Ratten with Mick Malthouse, in the hope that the playing list is sufficient to restore our name to the Top 4 once again. But the hopes of Carlton fans had been destroyed, and Metricon would become a place of nightmares much like the old days at the Western Oval. Carlton were gone, season over.

And from that point on, nothing could make me enjoy that weekend at all. It sucked big time!

Blueseum: Season 2012