Carlton’s off-season recruits made a fantastic first impression in their first competitive hit-out for 2021 at Ikon Park on Thursday afternoon.
The Blues gave their best indication of what the starting line-up might be ahead of Round 1 in just under a month, fielding a strong team with all three off-season recruits impressing in their first outing in the navy blue.
Carlton has been waiting for some much-needed assistance for Patrick Cripps in the middle of the ground, with Zac Williams wasting no time making his presence felt, winning the first centre clearance of the day.
The pair were prominent both in the centre of the ground and up forward, with Cripps in particular dominant when coming out of the goal square.
The Blues and the Bombers went goal for goal in the opening quarter with both teams the victim of their own wayward kicking.
Former Bomber Adam Saad wasted no time settling into his familiar role off half-back for his new team, bringing his customary run and dash in an exciting first showing for his new team. Lachie Fogarty also was lively across half-forward and midfield with clean ball use in traffic.
Blues fans would have been ecstatic to see the game of Paddy Dow, who by the end, was comfortably best on the ground for Carlton. Showcasing his speed, instinct and a sharp sidestep, Dow was impressive through the midfield, linking up in key chains and passages through the middle of the ground.
Most importantly for Dow, his delivery inside 50 looks to have improved dramatically, with a beautiful pass hitting McKay on the lead after some fancy footwork in the middle of the ground in the third quarter.
The Blues skipped out to a 30 point lead at three-quarter time before the Bombers pegged some goals back coming home to the scoring end. Former eagle Alec Waterman pressing his claims for Essendon’s final list spot with a four goal display up forward.
The Blues controlled most of the outing and would eventually run out 21 point winners in the spirited and free-flowing encounter.
Second year forward Harry Jones also presented his case for Round 1 selection, kicking two goals. First-round draftees Archie Perkins and Nik Cox – who played the majority of the match on the wing – also showed why the Dons selected them both inside the top ten.
Despite both teams getting through the game relatively unscathed, there were some minor concerns.
Harry McKay limped off the field early in the final quarter and did not return to the field after a clash with Adam Saad, but assistant coach Dale Amos confirmed after the game that it was just a rolled ankle and he shouldn’t miss any time.
Aaron Francis also limped off for Essendon in the third quarter with a lower leg complaint. Assistant coach Blake Caracella confirming after the game that it was a rolled ankle and will be monitored throughout the week.