As destiny would have it, the agent of Collingwood’s collapse was Jake Carlisle. When these teams last met, Carlisle was in no-man’s land. Every week Essendon coach Mark Thompson was asked what he might do about Carlisle, and every week he gave a different answer. Once, it was that Carlisle might have to be dropped. Another time, it was that his “gonads” were on the line in his persistence in playing Carlisle as a forward. It was helpful for headlines, but not necessarily for the Bombers.
But as noted, that was a long time ago. The Colossus of Rhodes would have been jealous of the way Carlisle towered over Sunday’s match. He took 19 marks, eight contested. For emphasis’ sake, the other 41 players in the game took 12 contested marks between them. Travis Cloke did not take one. Seemingly, Carlisle outmarked every Collingwood player at some time, also two trainers. If the Magpie cheer squad had thrown him a rotten tomato, he would have marked that, cleanly.
If Carlisle had wanted a cheap 20th official mark, he could have led into the space behind the Collingwood goal where Joffa once stood, but was conspicuously empty. Instead, he stood on the goal line, and the ball bobbled through several layers of teammates and opponents for him to kick his fourth goal and the last of the match. Carlisle shrugged his shoulders, as if to apologise for his good fortune, but he need not have; it was no less than his due on the day. It is a rare footballer who can be in the same moment formidable and self-effacing.
Thompson’s appreciation sounded more like a fan’s than a coach’s. “Never saw that coming; didn’t expect it,” he said. “He was fantastic. It wouldn’t have mattered where he played today. He just had one of those days.”
But it would be an injustice to blame Collingwood’s callow backline entirely for Carlisle and the margin. Even an experienced defence is only as good as the midfield which protects it and the forward line that is supposed to counter with scoreboard pressure. On Sunday, the Magpies sorely lacked in both aspects. Both sides turned over the ball to begin, making for a prosaic spectacle.
But it was the Bombers that made good, with endeavour at the ball, overlap from half-back and assuredness in the air, and it was Collingwood that spent the afternoon playing as if taken aback. Notably, Essendon achieved this mastery without three of its best five players – Watson, Goddard and Hibberd – who were alongside Thompson in the coach’s box, occasioning the coach to ask in jest at the end if any of them was feeling anxious about his place in the side. This detail somewhat neutralised any excuse Collingwood might make, not that it was making any.
Thompson’s incredulous eyes, the Bombers grew as the Magpies shrivelled until a point late in the third quarter when they were hamfisted in another attempt to clean the ball out of the backline and any one of five Essendon players might have kicked the suddenly inviting goal. One was the now ubiquitous Carlisle, but he sat this one out, allowing Zac Merrett to curl it in.
When the hapless Magpies did manage to bundle the ball forward, the likeliest man to mark it was Fletcher. The next likeliest was the selfsame Carlisle. Yes, he appeared back there, when and as needed, to put the game on hold at the merest sign of a Collingwood resurgence, for instance. One consequence is that Cloke did not have so much as one kick at goal. It was a wonder Carlisle did not turn up for a moment in the coach’s box, so wholly did he run this game.
In this long AFL season, made longer by two split rounds, Essendon plays again next Sunday, and suddenly it cannot come soon enough. Collingwood does not play again until the following Sunday, and suddenly, that is too soon.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/jake-carlisle-leaves-his-mark-on-submissive-magpies-20140713-zt67f.html#ixzz37mgu6Uvc