Carlton's AFL season in jeopardy after 'mind-blowing' Sydney defeat

Blues fans are questioning their AFL club's direction after 'woeful' goalkicking cost them dearly against Sydney.

Harry McKay is pictured left, as Carlton players walk off the ground on the right.
Carlton were consigned to their fifth loss in six games when they were beaten by Sydney on Friday night, their efforts marred by poor kicking in front of goal. Pictures: Getty Images

Carlton have been left to pick up the pieces of their once promising 2023 season, after a 'woeful' effort in front of goal saw them consigned to a 27-point loss to Sydney at the SCG. The match had been billed as something of a last chance saloon for both sides, with Blues fans agonising over their inability to kick straight when it counted.

The injury-hit Swans, who were absent several key defenders against Coleman medallists Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow, enjoyed a 11.11 (77) to 6.15 (51) win that kept their slim AFL finals hopes alive. It was the opposite story for the Blues, who were already under significant pressure heading into Friday night's showdown.

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Head coach Michael Voss was at a loss to explain the Blues' wayward kicking after the match. Curnow and McKay combined for just one goal and six behinds between them.

"It's pretty disappointing," Voss said. "But we need to better at finishing. It has ultimately cost us the win. That leaves you pretty disappointed."

Curnow in particular had a standout first half but was largely unable to convert it on the scoreboard, while McKay was held goalless. The Blues' kicking struggles weren't limited to those two however, with fans lamenting the team's inaccuracy across the ground.

Commentators were also baffled as to how bad the problem became against the Swans, with goalkicking great Jason Dunstall ripping into the Blues on Fox Footy. He said Carlton fans had every right to be frustrated after their performance on Friday.

“I can’t deal with this - honestly!” he said. “If I was a Carlton coach or supporter right now, I’ve got no hair to pull out right now, but honestly the inability to do something decent with the football.

“Their kicking skills from the moment this game started, and it’s not just this week, it’s been consistent throughout the course of the year – the inability to hit targets, the inability to kick to the advantage of teammates, inability to make good decisions with ball in hand - it’s mind boggling! It’s that bad, it’s hard to watch.

“It’s a bit Charlie Curnow or bust for the Blues. They’ve got to improve their ball use.”

Carlton's goalkicking woes add up to brutal Swans loss

Defensively, Carlton's backline held up reasonably well, and they got a standout performance from the returning Tom de Konig - but there wasn't much else to celebrate. Turnovers hampered any good work their backline did, with former AFL player Ben Dixon pointing out numerous examples of the Blues handing the ball back to the Swans after forcing a turnover themselves.

Meanwhile, the Blues were copping a hammering from fans on social media. With four losses in a row and five losses in their last six games, fans were left fuming at just how poor their kicking skills had been.

Sam Walsh (31 disposals) and Adam Cerra (24) found plenty of the ball, while captain Patrick Cripps (19) battled hard despite some close attention from Heeney before limping from the field late in the game. The Blues lost a key on-baller when former Swan George Hewett was knocked on the head by teammate Nic Newman's shoulder as the pair went to tackle Franklin early in the second term.

Newman was later sidelined with a hamstring injury while Ollie Hollands also sat out the final term with a shoulder issue. Jesse Motlop was the Blues' leading goalscoring in a misfiring forward line with two goals but the visitors ultimately ran out of legs as much as chances.

Carlton players look dejected as they walk off the ground following their loss to Sydney.
The Blues need a dramatic AFL turnaround to resurrect their finals hopes for 2023. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Voss conceded that McKay is "in a rough spot with his finishing" but intends to support the 200cm key forward who has now booted 14.16 for the season. "Nobody goes to work on his game more than 'H'. He's an absolute professional in the way he goes about things," Voss said.

"Right now he's in a rough spot with his finishing. We'll throw our arms around him, support him. Absolutely we will."

McKay again varied his approach to set shots between a drop punt and snap but appeared to settle on the more conventional approach early against the Swans. When McKay sent two drop punts through for behinds he turned to a left-foot snap from a tricky angle that ended with the same result.

"He'll work through this period of time in his footy and ultimately down the track he'll learn a lot about himself and what the ultimate technique is that he wants to go with," Voss said. "But he's obviously in a tough spot at the moment, so we'll support him as best we can and we'll look at all things to be able to help that but also it speaks to the larger efficiency that we need to build into our game."

With AAP

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