CARLTON’S first dress rehearsal for the 2021 AFL season ended with a 21-point victory over Essendon at Ikon Park.

With a number of key names featuring for both sides, there were plenty of positives to take for the Blues: not least a damaging third quarter which effectively put the result to bed.


It was a goal-for-goal start at Ikon Park, with Jack Martin getting Carlton’s first of the day from a free kick. Harry McKay and Paddy Dow also hit the scoreboard with accurate set shots, while Liam Jones held down the fort brilliantly deep in defence. Patrick Cripps was the Blues’ main outlet at the centre bounce, partnered with Sam Walsh and new recruit Zac Williams as the starting on-ball combination.


It was a hot start from Carlton early in the second term, kicking the opening three goals of the term on the back of some quick ball movement going forward. It was the smalls who got to work in attack, with David Cuningham and Zac Fisher both hitting the scoreboard while Marc Murphy was directly involved in two of the Blues’ three goals. A late flurry from Essendon saw the margin pegged back to three points, while Carlton’s coaching staff continued to throw the magnets around with Sam Petrevski-Seton spending some time up the ground while Will Setterfield spent time as an inside and outside midfielder.


The Blues broke the game wide open in the third term. After Essendon momentarily took the lead, Carlton piled on six straight goals at the Legends Stand end, with an Adam Saad assist for Patrick Cripps arguably the pick of the bunch. Dow continued to have an impact as a genuine inside midfielder and kicking multiple goals up forward, while Zac Williams kicked his first goal in the Navy Blue. Sam Docherty and Petrevski-Seton got their rebound going across half back as the Blues restricted their opponents to just two goals for the term.


There were plenty of tired legs throughout the last term at Ikon Park, with the game all but over on the scoreboard as the Blues took a five-goal lead into the final change. Marc Pittonet continued having an impact as a sole ruckman as well as up forward, kicking his second goal of the game after a towering mark in attack. The run of Ed Curnow, Fisher (two goals) and Adam Saad didn’t waiver throughout the afternoon, with Carlton running out as 21-point victors.

Three things from the game:

1. The main positive to take out of the day was clearly the form of Paddy Dow from a Carlton standpoint. The 21-year-old was involved in everything throughout the four quarters at Ikon Park, using his explosive power to emerge out of congestion after winning the contested ball. Arguably the most promising thing about Dow’s performance was his scoreboard impact, finishing the day with multiple goals.

2. When Carlton’s smalls get to work, they’re an exciting team to watch and a difficult one to stop. The Blues spread the load today with a number of players rotating through the forward line at the feet of Harry McKay and Jack Silvagni. While Zac Fisher kicked two goals, the likes of David Cuningham, Marc Murphy and Michael Gibbons late in the game enjoyed the space and made the most of it.

3. While last year it may have been a consistent centre-square combination for the Blues, it looks like David Teague’s side will have plenty of numbers rolling through it in 2021. It was a starting trio of Cripps, Walsh and Williams at the feet of Marc Pittonet, but it wasn’t uncommon to see Ed Curnow, Dow, Jack Martin and Will Setterfield - among others - spend time at the coalface.

Match summary:

CARLTON 3.3 6.4 12.8 14.11 (95)
3.1 5.7 7.8 11.8 (74)

Carlton: Dow 2, Fisher 2, McKay 2, Pittonet 2, Cripps, Cuningham, Martin, Murphy, Newnes, Williams

Carlton: Dow, Saad, Cripps, Jones, Pittonet, Fisher, Walsh