17/04/2024
Harry McKay (Pictured in a game against Gold Coast) was the hero against Brisbane. Picture: Daniel Cohen/File

Harry McKay (Pictured in a game against Gold Coast) was the hero against Brisbane. Picture: Daniel Cohen/File

Harry McKay proved to be the hero as Carlton came from 46 points down to upset Brisbane by one-point in the Opening Round at the Gabba.

It appeared as though the demons of their past haunted the Blues early on in the game before coming back to upstage last year’s grand finalists by one point. In a highly anticipated opening round match, and the rematch to last year’s preliminary final, it was the Lions this time who jumped out of the blocks early.

On their home deck, the Lions kicked seven of the first eight goals in the opening term, led beautifully by Dayne Zorko with two early goals. The more seasoned Lions midfield of Lachie Neale, Hugh McCluggage and Josh Dunkley were able to get on top from the outset.

Crucially though Blues small forward Lachie Fogarty kicked truly on the stroke of quarter-time to give the shellshocked Blues some hope. Brisbane led by a commanding 44-12 at the first change.

After back-to-back goals from Lincoln McCarthy to start the second quarter, things looked like getting really ugly for Carlton, but two late goals to Harry McKay and David Cuningham gave Carlton a stuttering pulse. However the lead still remained a sizeable five goals at the main break.

After the break captain Cripps willed his men early in the third term, leading to squashbuckling play and pulsating ball movement from his side. This led to Carlton kicking the first six goals of the quarter in fast time, including three alone to spearhead forward Charlie Curnow.

When winger Matthew Cottrell snapped truly at the 14th minute mark, the Blues remarkably led for the first time sunce early in the first term and had their tails up in front of a packed house at the Gabba. Bad kicking for goal crushed the Lions lead, with Carlton scoring 7.2 for the quarter to Brisbane’s 1.6, to lead by a solitary point at the last break.

A tight and tense final quarter would follow, with both sides going goal for goal for most of the term. Zac Bailey started the quarter beautifully for the home side, nailing his set shot to snatch the lead back for his side. Moments later a lion-hearted Cripps floated forward to take an uncontested grab inside 50. He went back and kicked truly, and the Blues were once again in front.

The strong influence from Adam Cerra, George Hewett and Cripps throughout the midfield department looked a major player in Carlton’s incredible resurgence. At one stage they trailed by 46 points, to then being up and so close to a famous victory.

Brisbane continued to miss gettable shots, before a previously inaccurate Charlie Cameron snapped brilliantly from the pocket… and the Lions were back in front. The atmosphere went from that of a practice game, to a final in the space of a few quarters. A pulsating next few minutes followed as the game tightened up and territory became crucial.

With just over a minute to go in the game, a long high ball was kicked into the Carlton forward line only to find the chest of Harry McKay. After facing strong criticism about his goalkicking in recent times, it felt like the big man would’ve had the weight of the world of his shoulders.

As he started his run up with heart thumping and chest beating, a hush hung over a previously raucous crowd. Emotions of nerviness and anticipation thickly filled the stadium’s air. As McKay kicked the ball it looked like it was drifting past the left goalpost but held its line beautifully to sail through and give Carlton the game’s final goal.

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A minute of sheer desperation followed but the Blues had done enough with the final siren signalling a famous Carlton win to the pleasure of the strong blue army that turned up. The final score read 13.8 (86) to 12.13 (85).

Hewett, Cripps, Curnow, and McKay were brilliant in the comeback victory, while for the Lions Lachie Neale, Dunkley and Zorko did all they could. Adding to the victory was the fact that the Blues were arguably missing five of their best 22 players.  

Sam Walsh, Jacob Weitering, Caleb Marchbank, Jack Martin, and Jesse Motlop were all faced to watch on for the sidelines. Inspirational leader Sam Docherty also sat the second half out with a knee injury.

For the Lions, Keidean Coleman also succumbed to a knee injury in the first half, a cruel blow for the rising star. Brisbane will lick their wounds before facing Fremantle at Optus Stadium next Sunday, whilst the Blues will look to keep the momentum going against Richmond at the mighty MCG next Thursday.

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