Fortune is favouring Carlton in the run home to the finals.
Photo: Getty Images
When you work in sports media, the temptation to brush your mistakes under the carpet is always there. Fans complain that journos will bag a team one week and jump on the bandwagon the next without any acknowledgement of the contradiction, and it's a fair point to make.
We quite clearly got it wrong about Geelong, which is looking a far more deadly side these days. There's still time for us to be proven incorrect about Collingwood too, especially given its stirring win over Sydney, and we really misread the mood up in Queensland.
And now, we're ready to admit that we jumped off Carlton too quickly. For weeks now, months even, we've been saying that the Blues are done. Kaput. Finito. But Brett Ratten is about to get all his Christmases at once, because believe it or not the draw has opened up enough for the Navy Blues to sneak in.
That's right, folks. Carlton - in 11th place, with a 10-9 record and a measly 105.12 percentage – are going to play finals footy. How do the season's biggest underachievers find themselves in eighth spot?
It's pure good fortune, the kind of luck that shines an upside on Chris Judd's three-week suspension to. The kind of luck that lines them up against Essendon just as the one-time premiership hopeful is bottoming out.
In an unexpected turn of events, the direness of Carlton's season has given rise to two key factors that will see them make the finals: lowered expectations, and playing the kids. The likes of Levi Casboult, Tom Bell and Andrew McInnes are giving the Blues a bit of vigour at just the right time. The fact the media has written the Blues off completely and pointed the hot lamps elsewhere is a big bonus for the spotlight-conscious club, too.
Yes, Blues fans, it's all coming up roses. You get to pick off the fast-fading Bombers in a crucial eight-point game, all with the help of a well-rested (and probably extremely agitated) skipper. Then there's the added motivation of getting one back on Sam Lonergan after the Carrazzo incident in round four.
We reckon Carlton will defeat Essendon on Saturday, dumping the Bombers to ninth place and putting Fremantle in the box seat for finals. But the Dockers won't get over North Melbourne in round 22, and Carlton will thump Gold Coast by 100 points or so. What a fortuitous time to face one of the league's whipping boys. The boost in percentage will be enough to get the Blues ahead of Fremantle for the time being.
Round 23 will be a doozy, with Carlton, Essendon and Fremantle all within reach of that last finals spot. But fortune again favours the Blues. Essendon face Collingwood and have no hope of getting the four points unless the Pies phone it in, which is highly unlikely. Fremantle will defeat Melbourne but the probable margin of victory (about 10 goals) will leave them agonisingly short of eighth place.
Carlton faces St Kilda, who should lose on account of inconsistency alone (W – Melbourne, L – Geelong, W – GWS, L – Carlton). There are tangibles working in Carlton's favour, too. The Saints will be out of the race for finals after round 21 and will be tempted to put a few of their veterans into cotton wool. We think Scott Watters might toss this one to the kids.
Even if he doesn't, the Saints don't have the bite for this contest. The Blues will defeat them handily and sneak into the finals by something like 0.2 of a per cent. What a story that will make.
We still think we'll be proven right about this, though.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.
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