Blues rucks in a ‘Good Mood’ as Skepper’s star rises

CARLTON made a swift and emphatic return to the winner’s list in Round 3, with its second quarter surge central to the 53-point road win over West Coast. Compounding the Blues’ wins this week was Keeley Skepper‘s Rising Star nomination.

The 19-year-old posted 23 disposals and three goals in a performance which coach Mathew Buck put down to reward for effort. Speaking post-match, the Blues mentor said Skepper is now bearing the fruits of the hard work done with some of her side’s leaders.

“Keeley’s on a great kind of journey at the moment, she’s got a lot of talent,” Buck said. “What she’s doing now is matching that with a strong work rate and a work ethic on and off the field.

“She plays a variety of roles for us. We know she’s pretty dangerous forward with that penetrating left foot, but she’s also creative up around the ball. We try to find a balance with those two roles throughout the game, so she’ll always play a couple of little different roles just to free her up.”

Though Skepper’s goals came in the first, third, and fourth quarters, Carlton began to kick away in the second. Buck insists there was no change in “method” or “message”, with much of the visitors’ dominance coming down to their dominance at the contest.

West Coast dropped Sarah Lakay and came into the clash with third-gamer Lauren Wakfer as its primary ruck, leaving hardened Blues Breann Moody and Jess Good to feast on a combined 55 hitouts. Moody also bagged two goals.

In the all important second quarter, Carlton won the hitouts 16-4, resulting in a contested possession differential of 17 and eight more forward 50 entries. It made for stark reading on the scoreboard as West Coast went scoreless while the Blues piled on four goals and two behinds.

“I thought West Coast were really tough in the first quarter and they’ve got some great young players who were obviously breathing fire early, but we just stuck to our method,” Buck said.

“The message didn’t really change at quarter time, we wanted to make sure we were good teammates and supporting each other with how we play. We managed to get the ball from inside to outside a little bit better in the second which supported our game, but the method didn’t change.

“We’re so fortunate we’ve got Jess Good, who’s a fantastic ruck, and Breann Moody who’s obviously an All Australian ruck. We try to utilise them both as much as we can… Jess Good provides a great contest around the ground but Breann’s centre bounce work is exceptional.”

Along with the usual suspects in Mimi Hill (23 disposals, five clearances) and Abbie McKay (18 and five) on the inside, Carlton’s wingers also earned plaudits from their coach. In supporting their defence, they allowed the Blues to take risks through the corridor and move the ball with flowing confidence.

“Our wingers support our defensive players really well,” Buck said. “I thought Brooke Vickers had an outstanding day and Marianna Anthony continued to run strong patterns, supported by Mua (Laloifi) and Harriet (Cordner) who were really strong in our back line… the team performance in terms of our defensive play was just outstanding.”

After a successful trip to Perth, Carlton returns home to IKON Park where there is currently a noticeable buzz. The Blues’ Round 4 matchup is a tricky one though, with Richmond rolling in on the turf the Tigers are momentarily calling home in 2023.

Meanwhile, the winless Eagles travel to Sydney to take on a Swans side which looks a decent amount more competitive than last year. With a three-week schedule consisting of Sydney, Port Adelaide, and GWS, West Coast will hope to break through for a victory before hosting reigning premier, Melbourne.

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