HOW do you even begin to describe that?
Carlton AFL Senior Coach Michael Voss tried. His team were – for all intents and purposes – down and out against Melbourne, before a Blake Acres goal with a minute remaining sealed one of the most famous Navy Blue victories.
It saw the Blues lock in a preliminary final (for the first time since 2000) next week against Brisbane at the Gabba, a team and a venue that Voss knows all too well.
But, for now, it was about savouring the moment of a stunning semi final win: this is what Voss had to say.
On the emotions post-match:
“I’m better now! The atmosphere in the change rooms was quite incredible. To see the journey we’ve been on to get to this point in time, you see the smiles on peoples’ faces and how excited everyone is. I think we’re all in a bit of disbelief about how it all unfolded, but that was just a cracking game of footy.
“It was full of errors and mistakes, but we somehow found a way through some will, grit and courage. We were able to hit the scoreboard in the end, and I suppose that’s what matters — being in front at the end!”
On the heart of the playing group:
“There’ll be a time where we sit back at the end of the year and reflect on all sorts of things. What I will say is without it, we wouldn’t be here. Through that period of time, there were some harsh lessons, some needed lessons to work out what was important to us. We tried to stay true to that, stay present to that and tried to enjoy that little bit of the journey along the way.
“They were pretty determined despite what was going on around on the outside: we kept our eyes in and firmly focused on Melbourne. They finished the game last week and would’ve been unhappy with the way they played, and they’re a competitive bunch, resilient and tough in their own right. We knew what we were up against. Melbourne threw a pretty handy punch at the start, their pressure was off the charts early.
“To win finals, you have to absorb: we didn’t have our turn then, we had to wait our turn. We were able to counterpunch a couple of times, but we found a way at the end. Somehow we ended up finding a way to win, but that momentum was not with us in the last seven or eight minutes in that game.”
On Sam Docherty returning to the field:
“Incredible. It doesn’t surprise me with him though. I spoke to him at half time and said ‘what have you got’: he said ‘I’ll give you everything I have got’. It seemed like it pulled up not too bad, we wouldn’t put him out there if he was under too much risk. He was able to strap it up and get back out there and play. It certainly wouldn’t feel right if we were forging ahead without him. I’m sure he’ll get to work pretty hard on what that shoulder is and get himself right for next week.”
On Blake Acres’ impact:
“He’s been big for us. He’s added to our defensive integrity. We were specifically looking about what we needed to add to our group last year. We felt like we needed a real power runner on the outside, and he values defence first. Coincidentally, it was the two goals he’s kicked that have helped us. He’s been an incredible addition to our team and he brings a new level of energy. The boys love playing with him.”
On another brilliant Sam Walsh finals performance:
“He was brilliant. He was involved in all of those little moments. It’s amazing how good players just found themselves in those moments. There’s been a lot of players that have been waiting and biding their time. It’s taken some time to get to here.
“To be able to walk into a prelim is pretty incredible to get there based on where we were, the climb we’ve had to have this year let alone last year. We’ll absorb it for now. We’ll have a couple of days rest and somehow turn ourselves back into next week.”
On relishing the win:
“We’ve done that really well. Learning to enjoy your wins is critical, that [win] was one of the biggest you can be part of — that’s one of the biggest I’ve been part of. To be able to be part of that, you have to enjoy that moment. If that involves a little bit of emotion, if that involves a little bit of joy, take it. Have a couple of days over the weekend to absorb that, and come in on Monday ready to roll up the sleeves and focus in on Brisbane.”
On Harry McKay and Jack Martin’s availability:
“They will both be available. I haven’t thought that far ahead to be honest with you!
“We made it hard for ourselves in that game at times. Contest and defence was probably keeping us in it, but some of our ball movement needs some work. When we were going forward, we weren’t connecting enough. It felt like we were playing the right way enough, but the skills errors were there and we lacked a bit of connection, maybe some predictability with ball in hand.
“We’ll have to look at that pretty hard: clearly having ‘H’ up there with Charlie helps us a lot, it alleviates some of the things he has to do having a mate down there that can help him out. What I can guarantee is if Harry is available, he’ll be playing.”
On finding a way to win:
“We always take method, but – I don’t normally say this – we take great confidence out of the result we got today. It was unorthodox at times, but we were able to find our way to win. That says a great deal about courage and resilience of this football team, maybe some of the lessons which we’ve learnt over time.
“We’re putting that all to work, they’re sticking together and staying really connected as a footy team and staying as present as they possibly can. I feel like I’m boring when I talk about those sort of things, but it’s working. I don’t think we need to change it.”
On the last time Carlton and Brisbane met:
“[It doesn’t hold] much relevance at all. If you look at the way Brisbane play now, there are points of difference, and for sure there are points of difference with us. There’s a cohesive unit there. It’s just a different unit . . . it’s not going to pay much relevance to us. Our job is making sure we get us right: we’re confident that if we do that, there’s enough in us. There’s enough in that room to get the job done.”
On Tom De Koning’s showing:
“He’s been good, Tom. The combination with ‘Pitto’ and Tom has been really important. It’s evolved over the course of the year. Getting that balance of Tom up forward compared to into the ruck, it’s been a continual work for us. They link well together, they complement each other in their strengths.
“Having a big guy that can go forward to provide an aerial threat, which is what we needed tonight, Tom’s been able to do that. To get a couple of goals out of your ruck is a real advantage to us as a team. There’s a lot left in it, a lot of improvement left in it, but the energy he’s bringing and the relationship he’s forging with ‘Pitto’ has come a long way.”
On how he’ll feel returning to the Gabba:
“I don’t know! It should be exciting. Without doubt, the person that’s going is a Carlton person.”