NO.1 draft pick Sam Walsh and VFL star Michael Gibbons have pencilled their names in on Carlton’s Round 1 team sheet with eye-catching displays in a hard-fought nine-point pre-season win over Essendon.
The Blues led by 34 points early in the final term at Ikon Park but had to withstand a late flurry by the Bombers – who cut the margin to three points – before prevailing 15.10 (100) to 14.7 (91).
Putting aside the scoreline, there was plenty to like for both sets of fans in the crowd of 8,215 that braved the heat on Thursday evening.
For the Blues, Walsh oozed class in a 28-possession performance, and Gibbons kicked goals with his first two touches to finish with three.
Star skipper Patrick Cripps led the way with 33 touches and two goals, with former captain Marc Murphy (22 disposals) moving freely after copping a knock to a knee in a scratch match against Hawthorn.
Recruits Will Setterfield (GWS) and Nic Newman (Sydney) also impressed, while David Cunningham continued his encouraging pre-season form with three goals.
Charlie Curnow landed awkwardly in a marking contest in the second quarter and was rested in what the club said was a precautionary move only.
The Bombers’ No.1 draft pick Andy McGrath was instrumental, lifting his side back into the contest with prime movers Dyson Heppell and Zach Merrett rested in the second half.
McGrath finished with 25 possessions and two goals, with Jake Stringer and Mitch Brown booting three goals apiece.
Perhaps most heartening for Essendon fans was the sight of a fit Joe Daniher playing his first match since round seven last season when he succumbed to osteitis pubis.
Daniher kicked the first goal of the game and will be better for the run, while fellow tall Zac Clarke impressed with 37 hitouts and a goal in his return to AFL football.
Star recruit Dylan Shield limped from the field in the last quarter and was rested with a suspected corked thigh.
The AFL will be pretty chuffed with the hitout too.
The new rules implemented this season appeared to give players more space and helped the Bombers come roaring back into the contest with five unanswered goals in the last quarter.
© AAP 2019