Ed’s performance full of Merrett
CARLTON’S Ed Curnow might have an appointment with the tribunal this week, but the job he did on Essendon’s Zach Merrett yesterday was every bit as noteworthy as his contact with umpire Nathan Williamson during the third quarter at the MCG.
Curnow’s blanket job on last year’s All-Australian midfielder gave coaches yet another reason why tagging Merrett is essential in preplanning for the Bombers.
And unless Merrett can find a way to deal with the closechecking, his season will be as painfully long as it looks like being for his club.
Yesterday he could not find the space or, seemingly, the spirit to break clear of Curnow, who has averaged 27 disposals, 10 contested possessions and nine tackles this year in a side that started yesterday 0-7.
It was the second consecutive week Merrett has struggled to break a tag, after Hawthorn youngster James Cousins restricted him to only 17 touches and zero impact.
Fremantle’s Bailey Banfield did a similar job on him in Round 2.
Curnow’s effective shutdown yesterday provided a COACHING is a little like fatherhood, Brendon Bolton says, and there was no prouder man at the MCG yesterday as Carlton notched its first win of the season.
Bolton said he would allow his players to enjoy their 13point victory over Essendon — just not for too long — as he eyed continued development from his young team.
“Just a bit of pride is the main emotion,” Bolton said. “We had quite a few youngsters out there, which we have most weeks, and for them to experience that feeling of winning is really important.
“They’ve just got to chasing that feeling.”
That feeling was palpable as players were drenched in Gatorade after seven Blues tasted their first win at the club. Bolton said it had been a trying time with injuries and navigating their way through the developmental process.
He said it would be important to ensure his team doesn’t “get too high” and there had to be a balance.
“It’s important they smile,” he said. “It’s a hard grind at times and, when you’re learning the ropes, there’s sometimes some highs and lows along the way, which we’ve had.”
Stand-in skipper Patrick Cripps — labelled a “contested beast” by his coach — said the “feeling inside just makes you want to do it again”.
And he was hopeful that after “a tough start to the year”, yesterday might be a spark.
“The best thing about the group is that it’s been tough but the morale around the place has been upbeat,” Cripps said. “We’ve had a few injuries and we’re young, but we know keep template that will be used for the rest of the season.
Curnow went with Merrett almost everywhere, other than at the start of the third term when Essendon coach John Worsfold had Merrett start deep in attack. Allowed some space for once, Merrett scored the first goal of the term.
But the respite didn’t last and Curnow also managed two goals of his own, including the most crucial one in the final term that gave the Blues some breathing space.
Curnow had 24 disposals and laid 13 tackles. Merrett could manage only 16 touches.
After the AFL tribunal sus- if we stick to the plan and keep upskilling these guys that this experience is going to be invaluable going down the track.
“(The feeling is) joy, and also a bit of confidence. When you’re going 0-7, no matter how old you are, you start ... not doubting, but you want to get that belief back.
“Hopefully the young guys really build some belief and this can kickstart a few games in a row for us.”
Part of Bolton’s celebration was recognising his coaching team.
“With coaches, when it’s not working the first thing you do is look at self,” he said.
“It’s a bit like being a dad. It’s ‘What else can we do to help?’ Often, you can bash yourself up in your mind.
“It’s been hard yards to find, ‘What else can we do?’ Sometimes it’s not much more you can do other than support the players. Maybe it’s just being with them and shake their hands. That’s probably the best way to celebrate.”
Meanwhile, if last week was quicksand for Essendon, yesterday was a sinkhole.
Bereft of confidence, the team that was tipped pre-season to contend for finals fell short in an ugly affair against a traditional rival, in the traditional timeslot at the home of football.
The Bombers’ season officially on life support.
This was supposed to have been their way out of the mire, but their losing streak blew out to four and Geelong (MCG), Greater Western Sydney (Spotless Stadium) and Richmond (MCG) await in the next three weeks. is pended Geelong’s Tom Hawkins for a week for touching an umpire last week, Curnow would be concerned about today’s match review.
“I haven’t seen it to understand it, but what I will say is we always should protect umpires,” Carlton coach Brendon Bolton said last night.
The way Curnow belted out the Carlton song, his attention was solely on a breakthrough win that resulted from hard work and contested effort.
His younger brother Charlie gets most of the external attention — understandably — but yesterday Ed’s blue-collar work rate was so significant.