|Saturday September 23, 2023 (5.10pm)
|Lost by 16 points
|H. McKay 2.2, Jack Martin 2.1, P. Cripps 2.0, M. Cottrell 1.1, C. Curnow, 1.1, S. Docherty 1.0, A. Cerra 0.1, Rushed 0.3.
|Ryan Lester (Lions) charged with tripping Blake Acres, he received a $1000 fine with an early plea.
|23 - Robert Findlay, 2 - Nick Foot, 27 - Andre Gianfagna, 9 - Matt Stevic
Carlton's miracle finals run has come to an end after a hard-fought loss to Brisbane in the preliminary final. Despite a blistering start at the Gabba, the Blues were unable to hold a relentless Lions outfit who would lift for a 16-point win and secure at the Gabba. The 'never say die' attitude of the Blues was driven around the contest by the likes of Sam Walsh and Sam Docherty while down back, Mitch McGovern, Jacob Weitering and Caleb Marchbank stood tall against the Lions' attack. Speaking to the media following the game Senior Coach Michael Voss acknowledged that, while the disappointment of the loss will sting for some time, it would only serve to make the team hungrier, stronger and more united in their pursuit for the ultimate glory.
The first piece of the positional puzzle was put in place at the opening bounce, with Adam Saad lining up on Charlie Cameron in the defensive goal square. Carlton’s start in enemy territory was ferocious, getting in the face of its opposition and bringing the large travelling Blues contingent to life. It was two boyhood Blues who combined for the opening goal of the game, with Sam Docherty finding Matthew Cottrell to convert from close range. In his first final, inclusion Jordan Boyd had his work cut out for him early with some moments under heavy pressure, but the 25-year-old was cool in the face of fire, defending with aplomb and advancing the ball further afield. It was an arm wrestle early but Carlton then broke the game open, with Harry McKay having a big influence: the 2021 Coleman Medallist took three big marks in the first term and opened his account following a free kick. When Jack Martin (after a team-lifting tackle), Sam Docherty and Charlie Curnow also converted, the Blues had five in a rush, with Sam Walsh (10 first-term disposals) crucial in getting the ball from inside to outside the contest. The Blues’ only blemish came in the final minutes through an Epic Hipwood major, as the Lions started to get back into the contest on their home deck in the final minutes: Carlton took a 23-point lead into the first change.
The Lions were always going to come at the Blues in the second term, and that’s exactly what they did. Carlton managed to hold firm in the early part of the quarter, but Brisbane continued to batter the door down and generate repeat inside 50s — a hallmark of their offensive game. The Blues’ back seven were called upon repeatedly in the second term, with Caleb Marchbank producing some good moments in the air: it was an indication of how busy Carlton’s defenders were with Marchbank, Mitch McGovern, Nic Newman (five intercept possessions each) and Jacob Weitering (seven) all seeing plenty of the ball. After a pair of Brisbane goals, captain Patrick Cripps looked to stem the tide with a crucial set shot after a free kick, but the Lions responded once more. In the blink of an eye, the Lions had piled on another three goals (making it five for the term) to lead for the first time on the day, as the Blues were unable to thwart their run from the back half while playing into the opposition’s hands off turnover. A 23-point lead turn into a three-point deficit at the main break, but it could’ve been more if not for desperate efforts from Boyd and McGovern to thwart Cameron on the last line. Walsh continued to motor with 19 disposals for the half, while George Hewett (12 first-half disposals) had some bright moments against Brisbane skipper Lachie Neale.
It was far from the start to the third quarter that the Blues wanted, with Oscar McInerney goaling from a free kick and 50-metre penalty from the opening ruck contest. When Charlie Cameron hit the scoreboard for the first time in the game, it looked like a dire situation for the Blues, with the home side showing no sign of relenting after eight of the last nine goals for the game. To the Blues’ credit, they continued to fight, dropping numbers behind the ball to quell the Lions’ run and attempting to get speedy forwards like Cottrell out the back of the Brisbane defence. Carlton’s grit was on display amidst a barrage of Brisbane forward-50 entries, attempting to wrest control and get themselves back in the hunt. There were moments of respite and a few chances to get back in the contest, but missed opportunities in front of goal were costly, particularly when Callum Ah Chee kicked truly with a minute to go to open up a 20-point lead for the home side.
It wasn’t an insurmountable lead, but the Blues needed to quickly break their goal-scoring drought if they were to emerge from the Gabba with a comeback win. It was captain Cripps - who kicked Carlton’s most recent goal in the second term - who fired his second to get the scoreboard ticking over once more for the Blues, before a true Harry McKay set shot had fans daring to dream. There was no faulting the Blues’ effort at all during the preliminary final, consistently taking the game to the Lions in the final term to ensure nothing was left to chance. Strong in defence all evening, Mitch McGovern wore a heavy hit to signify his commitment to the cause as Carlton battled to the final siren. A late Lincoln McCarthy goal meant the Blues’ miracle run would end at the final four, but the ovation received when walking off of the Gabba by thousands of Carlton supporters said it all.
Best: S. Walsh, M. McGovern, J. Weitering, S. Docherty, A. Saad, N. Newman.
Blues fall as ‘shell shocked’ Lions’ stunning comeback sets up 20-year GF rematch - Catherine Healey from Fox Sports.
Brisbane are through to their first grand final in almost two decades after surviving an early Blues onslaught to record a 16-point win on Saturday night. The Lions banished their finals hoodoo – after falling short in four straight seasons – to lock in a date with Collingwood in the decider. After a five-goal to one opening quarter, Carlton managed just four more goals for the remainder of the match as Brisbane ran out 11.13 (79) to 9.9 (63) winners at the Gabba. It was a brilliant fightback by the Lions who posted their worst ever finals start under coach Chris Fagan in front of “shell shocked” fans. But the banged up Blues simply ran out of puff after quarter time as they faded badly to concede 11 of the next 15 goals of the match. Brisbane star Lachie Neale managed to play out the game after clutching at his shoulder late in the third term. “This one’s giving me a bit of grief... I’m fine,” he told 7Sport. “Just a bit of a stinger.” While the Lions ensured their Gabba fortress remained in tact, undefeated at home for the entire year, they’ll now have to play at the MCG – a venue where they’ve lost 14 of their past 15 matches. It’s been 20 years since the Lions faced the Pies in a grand final decider, with Collingwood coach Craig McRae finishing a Brisbane premiership player on that day. There were no late changes for either side with Jarryd Lyons (Brisbane) and Matt Kennedy named as the starting subs. The Lions won early praise for their brutal banner message targeting club great, and current Carlton coach, Michael Voss. “Carlton might be coached by our Lion King Voss even he can’t save you from a Gabba prelim loss,” the banner read. “I just love the banner, the message going through,” Fox Footy’s Jason Dunstall laughed. “That’s a gutsy thing for the cheer squad to put on the banner.”
Lion Jarrod Berry had an early error when he ran too far while streaming inside 50, and down the other end Matthew Cottrell made them pay as he ran into an open goal. Brisbane were struggling to clear their defensive end in a physical start where both sides laid plenty of brutal tackles. In promising signs for the Blues, Harry McKay’s radar was on early as he added Carlton’s second with the visitors enjoying an 11-2 inside 50 count. McKay ended up in the front row in the crowd moments later as he put his body on the line in his first game back from concussion. Cottrell was lucky to escape with his juggled efforts over the goal line to rush the behind for Brisbane’s first score. “Wouldn’t have called it well-disguised the professional fumble he did,” commentator Daisy Pearce said. Blue Jack Martin was then walked to the square for Carlton’s third goal after winning the free kick for his tackle on Eric Hipwood, before Brandon Starcevich soccered the ball away. “It has been an audacious start by Carlton – how long can they keep this going?” commentator Hamish McLachlan said. When Sam Docherty was left all alone inside 50, he went back and nailed the goal in a remarkable start for the Blues. “Extraordinary scenes here at the Gabba!” Luke Darcy said. “They have created something special here – a shell-shocked Brisbane Lions now 24 points down.” Charlie Curnow then got on the board in a blistering start for the visitors to silence the Lions fans at the Gabba. “What is going on at the Gabba?” McLachlan asked. Only a big contested grab from Brisbane skipper Harris Andrews denied Carlton a shot at a sixth goal for the quarter. “They are looking for a time out here Brisbane,” Darcy said. “They have been defending for their lives,” Pearce added of the Lions’ backline. Eric Hipwood finally got the Lions on the board with just 70 seconds to play in the quarter, but it wasn’t enough for the side to avoid their worst ever start to a final under coach Chris Fagan. At quarter time, it was Carlton leading 31-8.
But the second term belonged to the Lions. Oscar McInerney got Brisbane on the board first after some patient build up play down the wing. And when Joe Daniher got his first goal for the night, the margin was cut to just 12 points. Martin blew a chance to send Carlton inside 50 when he completely misread Cottrell’s movements and put it down the throat of Starcevich. Blues skipper Patrick Cripps wore a heavy hit from Starcevich and was rewarded with a shot on goal – that he nailed to break Brisbane’s run of three goals. “It’s dangerous when a player has got his head over the ball like that,” commentator Jobe Watson said of the bump. Blake Acres could only smile as he denied Callum Ah Chee a certain goal when the ball took a slight deflection off his head and the behind was called on review. But no one could deny Conor McKenna when he stole the footy off the Blues’ backline and snapped brilliantly from 40m. Ryan Lester brought the Lions back to within just five points late in the term, as Blues big man Tom de Koning was forced down to the rooms in a big injury scare for the visitors. Daniher then put his side in front for the first time when Martin coughed up the footy in the centre of the ground, leaving his backline all at sea. The Blues dodged two big blows late in the term when Mitch McGovern knocked Charlie Cameron off the footy as he streamed towards goal and then Cameron missed with his set shot from 25m out on the angle. At the main break, it was Brisbane leading 42-39.
The third term turned into a horror show for Carlton. The Blues were off to the worst possible start when Cripps was penalised for kicking the ball away and McInerney nailed the resulting set shot from the 50m penalty to open up a nine-point lead. It didn’t get much better for Carlton moments later when Curnow sprayed his set shot out on the full. And to add insult, the Lions marched downfield with Cameron nailing the snap as Country Roads rang out around the Gabba. The Lions were peppering the goals with a whopping 12 straight scoring shots stemming from the second term. “They (Carlton) are hanging on by a thread,” McLachlan said. Cottrell blew a golden opportunity to break the Brisbane onslaught with his snap from 25m falling short, and instead was rushed through. Nic Newman copped a stray poke to the eye and immediately came from the field. Luckily he was able to return to the contest. When Ah Chee won a huge contest at half forward surrounded by three Blues, he slotted the goal on the run and brought the crowd to their feet as the Blues looked all but out. Adam Cerra blew the Blues’ biggest opportunity to nail a goal in the third term in the dying seconds, but sprayed his set shot from 20m out. “That hurts!” Darcy said. At the final change, Brisbane took a 20-point advantage 63-43.
Lincoln McCarthy almost put the match beyond the Blues’ reach before it was the skipper in Cripps who closed his side to 22 points. When McKay nailed a big goal, all of sudden the Blues had a glimmer of hope at just 16 points down with seven minutes to go. Carlton were pressing with McKay unlucky not to win a holding free kick late. McGovern bravely put his body on the line going back with the flight and limped from the field clutching at his upper thigh. “McGovern on the bench in a world of hurt from that corkie,” Pearce said. McCarthy then put the match beyond reach from the square to send Brisbane through to their first grand final since 2004.
When Sam Walsh joined Sam Edmund and Luke Hodge on SEN prior to the Brownlow Medal, the triple Hawthorn premiership captain had the ultimate praise. For someone who is widely touted as this generation’s ‘Mr. September’, Hodge volunteered his opinion that Walsh’s last month - his maiden finals campaign - was “probably as good a first three finals for a player that I’ve seen”. One of the favourites for the Gary Ayres Award as the best finals player for 2023, Walsh’s last three matches were electric, averaging 32 disposals, eight inside 50s and six tackles in the elimination, semi and preliminary finals. In a frustrating season hampered by injury, Walsh made up for lost time, elevating his already impressive standing in the competition for his September exploits. “I remember growing up watching you guys Hawthorn dominate in finals: that’s where you want to be as a player,” Walsh said. “For me, it was a frustrating year at times. I felt like I was always trying to train, and I got a little bit of a reward for that in finals. “The ability to be strong in the contest and try and outnumber is a big thing for me. That got me involved at either end in finals, and we were combining well as a midfield which helps.” Back surgery essentially wiped out all of Walsh’s pre-season before a hamstring injury - just as he started to get back to typical Sam Walsh form - stopped him in his tracks for a month. However, the Carlton co-vice captain came back on the eve of finals, and he announced his return with a bang. The chance to pull on the Navy Blue and do so in football’s finest month - bringing thousands of Bluebaggers along for the ride in the process - isn’t something that was lost on Walsh.
And it’s left him wanting more. “It definitely brings a smile to your face when you’re talking about it, it brings a lot of joy to a lot of people,” he said. “I mentioned to a few of the boys that the finals feeling is very addictive. Two weeks in a row we were playing in front of 90,000 people, and then we went to the Gabba and you feel like you’ve got a home crowd to one end. It was pretty cool. “It definitely gives extra motivation to get back to that point.” Along with that motivation comes the lessons learned in the preliminary final, where the Blues were within touching distance of a Grand Final berth. It wasn’t that Carlton wasn’t up for the occasion — the first quarter proved anything but. However, Walsh said there was no shortage of feedback provided in the loss to the Lions. “I’ve spoken to a lot of people and they reckon that’s the best quarter of footy we played all year,” he said. “Brisbane taught us a bit of a lesson in the second and third quarters and then you’re chasing tail after that. Big respect to them: there’s a lot to learn, but it was a good finals series for us.”
|23 Jacob Weitering
|22 Caleb Marchbank
|42 Adam Saad
|11 Mitch McGovern
|37 Jordan Boyd
|24 Nic Newman
|14 Ollie Hollands
|9 Patrick Cripps (c)
|13 Blake Acres
|8 Lachie Fogarty
|15 Sam Docherty
|46 Matt Cottrell
|10 Harry McKay
|30 Charlie Curnow
|21 Jack Martin
|27 Marc Pittonet
|29 George Hewett
|18 Sam Walsh
|3 Jesse Motlop
|5 Adam Cerra
|12 Tom De Koning
|39 Alex Cincotta
|7 Matt Kennedy
|17 Brodie Kemp
|28 David Cuningham
|44 Matt Owies
In: Jordan Boyd, Jack Martin, Harry McKay
Out: Brodie Kemp, David Cuningham, Matt Owies (all omitted).
Substitute: Matthew Kennedy (replaced Lachie Fogarty at 3/4 time).
Mitch McGovern had a career-high of 10 rebounds from defence in this game.
Gary Ayres Award Votes (AFLCA Best Finals Player)
10 - Keidean Coleman (Brisbane)
7 - Josh Dunkley (Brisbane)
5 - Sam Walsh (Carlton)
4 - Oscar McInerney (Brisbane)
3 - Harris Andrews (Brisbane)
1 - Caleb Marchbank (Carlton)
Sam Walsh would become the first player in the 8-year history of the Gary Ayres Award to win this award and not play in the grand-final.
The Elimination | 2023