FOR Sam Walsh and his Carlton teammates, now isn't the time to stop and smell the roses.
With a Friday night semi final locked in against Melbourne, Walsh - who was the best player on the ground in the win over Sydney - said reflection on a rollercoaster year would only come when it's all said and done.
But right now, all at the Blues are focused on the task at hand, against an opponent who they've faced some tense battles against in recent years.
This is what the co-vice captain had to say.
On revelling in the win:
“There was definitely an element of enjoyment, particularly after the game in the rooms and being able to see all the families with smiles on faces. To have that 20 minutes post-game with the boys after any win, whether it’s throughout the year or after our first finals win, it’s always a great feeling after the match.
“We had the day off yesterday where we were able to chill out, you’re pretty exhausted after all the adrenaline you’ve used up. Towards the back end of the day you can move on from the game and get after this week, which is nice.”
On reflecting his journey to this point:
“We’ve got a lot of great stories and some great learnings out of this year, but we’re still in the moment as well. It’s not the time for reflection just yet. We’re in a position where we’re able to win a final and learn some pretty valuable lessons to take into next week. Everyone should be pretty excited by that aspect of it.”
On the message from Michael Voss:
“He started off the meeting with his message all along, which was we’re not just here to make up the numbers in finals. You do that through the actions that we’ve been building throughout three or four months of what we want to stand for. You find that contest game is what finals is built upon.
“If we keep preparing that way, we should be in a position to impact.”
On the closing stages of the game:
“Like every team does, you train situations a fair bit. We train moments where we’ve got to attack the game if we’re down. With us playing together more and more as a group under the coaches we’ve got now, we’re starting to get a fair bit of repetition with what we want to do.
“The situation where ‘Marto’ goes back - like Charlie did against Gold Coast - where he sits in the hole, backs seal for him and he can have a fly at the ball and make some important plays, it’s got reinforcement of the work you do out there paying off.”
On the reason behind the shift in form:
“It definitely is a big turnaround. I probably mentioned it before with the contest and pressure side of our game. I also think there’s periods in the season where there’s a bit of a lagging period. We were probably were working on a few of those things about a month and a bit before we started to see results.
“Nothing ever comes easy and we had to work for it. Guys have started to excel in their roles and they know what they need to do. When you play as a team, that allows us to play to our strengths.”
On if belief ever wavered:
“The belief was more about we believe in each other, stayed connected as a group and were capable of playing good footy together. We had to take ownership over the reasons why that wasn’t coming out in games. I think from then on, there hasn’t been an end goal in mind: we’ve just been focusing on what we can control that week and how we front up. That’s snowballed into the momentum we’ve gained now.”
On Harry McKay:
“I haven’t had the chance to chat with him, I saw him briefly after the game. With the head knocks, you miss the week which is unfortunate for him. He was in pretty good spirits after the game and he’s such a presence for us, hopefully he can get right.
“He had some important moments particularly early in the game, like that handball to ‘Doc’ to get us on the board was a big moment.”
On filling McKay’s role:
“Even on the weekend, we played the two rucks and you’ve got Tom De Koning who had some important moments late in the game playing as a forward. We’ve still got capacity to go tall or small depending on what the coaches want to do. ‘Vossy’ spoke in the presser and to us last week about how it’s a squad that wins finals, not just a team of 23. I think that’ll shine through this week if we can get the guys to step up.:
On the Melbourne challenge:
“They’re a super strong side. Watching that game, their ability in the contest, they obviously had a lot of inside 50s. We had a close battle with them last time around and we expect the same again. The biggest thing is not worrying too much about the opposition, because we know if we bring the footy we’re capable of playing, it’s hard to beat.”
On the atmosphere of Friday night:
“The crowd we had on the weekend and the atmosphere we get out of that, the feeling around the Club, you want it to continue on. There’s a lot of guys in the mindset of being able to back up the performance we’ve put in and keep that momentum going.”
On being back in action:
“It was great. Being able to miss those four weeks with my hammy, you get out there and don’t take that situation for granted like you are if you’re playing all year. To have 92,000 there and I’m guessing about 82,000 of them be Carlton supporters, it was incredible.
“I’ve never heard it that loud before, so it definitely gives you that itch to keep that finals feeling going. All of us boys have kept an eye on finals. I think the biggest thing is not trying to shy away from it, but embrace that we’re in that position.”
On process over results:
“The biggest thing is one of our strengths is we’re not going into games saying ‘we’ve got to beat this team’ or ‘we’ve got to do this’. It sounds a bit cliche, but it’s more about the process behind it. For example, you’ve got the couple of runs that Blake Acres makes that gets a touch on the goal line: if he’s playing his role, that saves us two goals.
“I think that all ties in to getting the result you want to. For us as a team, it’s keeping that as our focus as much as we can.”