We all know by now how strange the 2020 AFL season has been.
And in the latest instalment, Carlton will play the Gold Coast Suns in a Friday night blockbuster.
I didn’t picture myself saying that at the start of the season, but stranger things have certainly happened.
Before we dive into tonight’s game, I want to take a moment to talk about this fantastic montage put together by Fox Footy’s AFL 360 earlier in the week ahead of Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round.
The video is narrated by Carlton’s Eddie Betts and features a host of incredible indigenous players past and present, including the “new king of Goldy,” Izak Rankine.
No caption necessary, we will let Eddie do the talking…
— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) August 19, 2020
The game’s Indigenous players provide us with so many highs and joys week in, week out and it is fantastic to be able to celebrate them and their talents not just this week, but all season round.
The video package put together by Fox Footy and Eddie Betts was moving and you could sense in his voice just how much football means to him.
And these players mean just as much to us and to the game.
It’s going to be a pleasure to see him line up again this evening for the Blues. It always is. betts makes you smile and he always seems to produce some sort of magic to light up the crowd.
Except for last weekend, when Betts took a backseat to his teammate Jack Newnes who kicked a sensational goal after the siren to win the game for Carlton against Fremantle in the West.
Pushing the politics, the “what should’ve been” and “could’ve been” aside for a moment, let’s just focus on that goal.
It was just marvellous. The kick was truly perfect and the emotion that followed was infectious.
But away from that one goal, it hasn’t been a fantastic month for the Blues.
It’s been okay and they got their win on the weekend but there are definitely a few areas that need some work.
They are ranked 18th in the competition for disposal efficiency (67.7 per cent) and although their opponents are ranked 17th (68 per cent), they have to start relying on themselves to get the job done instead of relying on others to falter.
On the weekend against Fremantle, Carlton were travelling at just 52 per cent disposal efficiency to Fremantle’s 64 per cent.
Although the tackling and pressure was pretty even between the two sides, Carlton (with the exception of Newnes’ level-headed kick after the siren) couldn’t quite navigate their way through as well as the Dockers could; the Blues with 72 turnovers for the game to Fremantle’s 64.
While there are areas that need some attention, it’s hardly been doom and gloom for the Blues in 2020. They’ve recorded some great wins, put up a nice fight here and there and appear to be heading in the right direction.
The same can certainly be said about their opponents this evening, too.
The Gold Coast Suns are fun and exciting to watch to the point where they’ve been granted a handful of prime-time slots this season, including tonight under Friday night lights.
They aren’t getting the results they might’ve hoped for, with just a draw (and four losses) coming from their previous five games but they are certainly putting up a fight and putting in some cracking performances.
I feel as though it’s hard to know what you should be expecting from the Suns each week.
Really, with every club you should be basing your expectation on the previous performance: that either improvement is required or that you should continue playing well like the week before.
But given their history, particularly the way they crashed and burned after Round 5 last year, you just want to encourage them to keep trying even if the results aren’t always there.
Even though they should be.
From their previous five games, they should’ve defeated Essendon and they probably should’ve defeated St Kilda too.
And while their performance against the Bulldogs was entertaining and positive, they probably could’ve won that game as well.
A draw and two defeats by less than a goal.
Defeat the Bombers and they would’ve jumped them on percentage.
Win two of those games you’re equal eighth and win all three and you’re a game inside the eight and looking finals-bound.
Of course, they will start to win those games with a bit more maturity and experience but the Suns may look back on season 2020 and think, “what could’ve been”.
In terms of their performances from week to week, they’re entertaining and there are definitely signs of improvement which would be exactly what they would want for now.
Clearly a bright future is ahead of them if they can get all of their ducks in a row.
They’ve been competitive, with tackling pressure, clearances and inside 50s all-around average for the season, rather than bombing out like last season. Again, a big improvement.
But like Carlton, what they’re doing with the ball is some concern. Ranking 17th in the comp for disposal efficiency shows there’s room for further improvement.
Still, I like their chances this evening.
I think the effort has to pay off eventually and maybe it’ll start tonight.
There are a few big factors in this game, like who can recover the quickest.
Carlton have a six-day break coming back from Perth, while the Suns have just a four-day turnaround.
I’m also curious to know how Carlton will respond from their last gasp victory on the weekend. Will Newnes’ heroics be the confidence booster the Blues need, or will it act as a distraction and get in the way of the task at hand?
Guess we’ll find out the answers tonight.
I’m tipping the Suns because as I said, there has to be an eventual reward for their effort over the previous weeks. And I think it could start this evening at TIO Stadium.
That’s my Friday forecast. What’s yours?