A Carlton AFL player grimaces as he is helped off the ground with a dislocated shoulder.

Five quick hits — A Sam Walsh masterclass, a Max Gawn blunder and the play that rocked the MCG

Carlton are through to a preliminary final after victory over Melbourne in an exhilarating semifinal at the MCG.

But the final result and two-point margin only tell half the story on a remarkable night.

Here are five quick hits from the Blues’ special night.

1. The winning play

If you’re a Carlton fan, how many times are you watching this replay this week? Hundreds? Thousands?

It took a combination of bravery, composure and skill for this match-winning play to unfold across the MCG, culminating in the Blake Acres goal that gave Carlton a semifinal victory.

It started in the arms of Jacob Weitering, who intercepted the Jack Viney kick and immediately looked inboard. There was Oliver Hollands, the teenager brought on as sub only half an hour earlier.

Hollands marked but wheeled onto his right boot in an instant. He had spotted Sam Docherty, but his kick gave Melbourne’s Judd McVee a chance.

McVee couldn’t take it. Docherty held his nerve and the ball, and made the right decision to go as long as possible, where Acres got a bit of help from a Mitch McGovern decoy before marking and slamming through the goal.

Perfection, from start to finish.

2. Sam Walsh, superstar

Rumour has it Sam Walsh was spotted running laps of Lygon Street three hours after the final siren at the MCG.

This guy is an incredible footballer who has stepped up to the big stage of his first two finals and owned it. His performance on Friday night was nothing short of inspirational.

There were some errors towards the end as fatigue started to have an influence, albeit slight, but for the most part Walsh was flawless. His running power is matched by his ability to win the ball and use it well.

On this night, he stepped up with two critical goals including the first of the final quarter. If Brisbane are to stop Carlton next week, they’ll have to stop Sam Walsh first.

3. What was Max thinking?

Was Melbourne’s potential match-winner thwarted by their own captain?

Clayton Oliver took a speculative shot on goal from 50 metres out on the boundary with only a couple of minutes on the clock. With the ball mid-flight, it suddenly looked an awful lot like a goal.

Max Gawn leads his defeated Demons off the MCG.(AAP: James Ross)

Max Gawn had two Carlton opponents to thwart on the goal line and looked like he was doing a good job of holding them off. The goal umpire said he thought it was a behind, and they sent it upstairs to check.

On replay, it was Gawn’s hand that struck the ball and diverted it into the post. Had he left it alone, would it have gone through for a goal? Would Melbourne be in a preliminary final? Or would Carlton ruck Marc Pittonet have touched it instead, and nothing would have changed?

We’ll never know, but you can bet Gawn is asking himself those questions too.

4. Docherty carries Blues on his dislocated shoulder

One of the most admired players in the league, and possibly the one guy you’d want on your team more than any other.

Sam Docherty’s shoulder popped out in the second quarter. We could all see it, as much as we wish we hadn’t.

A Carlton AFL player grimaces as he is helped off the ground with a dislocated shoulder.

Sam Docherty popped his shoulder out in the second quarter.(Getty Images: Robert Cianflone)

It’s fair to say most players don’t keep playing after dislocating their shoulders, but Docherty wouldn’t have even considered stepping out. He strapped himself up and went back out there in the second half, playing a critical role on a wing and setting up the winning goal.

It’s just another awe-inspiring tale in a career that contains more than most. He alone could inspire Carlton to great heights this September.

5. Kossie Pickett’s crazy evening

What a night that was for Kysaiah Pickett. From brain snaps to brilliance and back again with every tick of the clock.

Let’s start with the bump on Patrick Cripps, which will now likely extend his preseason by a couple of weeks. It was the same cannonball motion we saw from him in round one on Bailey Smith — he got two weeks for that one, and can expect the same here.

Pickett gave away two 50-metre penalties in the game, and cost the Demons another shot on goal when an off-the-ball free-kick handed possession back to Carlton with Joel Smith lining up the sticks.

But in between that, he played some pretty special football. Pickett kicked two and set up a handful of others, dragging Melbourne’s stuttering forward line along with him.

His game is now a post-script in Carlton’s night of nights, but he was very nearly the headline act again.



Author: Russell White