Standing up on the big stage

The history we have with teams like Essendon and the various battles against them are definitely not lost on our new playing group.

In the lead up to Sunday’s match, Stephen Kernahan came down to the club and presented Tom Williamson with his jumper. He gave a speech about what it meant for him when he ran out against the Bombers and, as a former Carlton captain and club president, you could tell that it still means a lot to him. That provided plenty of motivation before the bounce and appreciation of what has been before us.

Our football club understands the history of fierce contests against Essendon and we were certainly on edge going into the game. Combine that with the fact we hadn’t won a game yet, we’re playing at the MCG and the conditions were wet, we knew only one style of footy was going to win it for us.

It was bloody cold out there in the warm up — a few of the boys were shivering in the jackets and long sleeves — it took me back to my junior days when you played in those conditions regularly.

Deep down a lot of players really do enjoy that nostalgia and comparing it to when you were a little tacker. The opportunity to still play in the wet every now and then is rare given the quality of stadiums and surfaces we are usually exposed to.

In the end, Sunday’s conditions suited us and were exactly what we needed to kick off our year and reaffirm our belief in each other.

Mentally, we felt prepared and ‘Bolts’ spoke to us before the game and reiterated that we needed to play differently than we normally would. I thought we were well-coached and ready for the task and that was shown by our physical effort and ability to just push the ball forward. We broke the club record for tackles with 110 and that went a long way to helping us win.

You don’t want to overuse the footy when the weather is like that. We needed to provide a four-quarter effort to beat Essendon and we finally got one. Against the Demons we were pretty solid for three quarters but let ourselves down in the last term and a few of us were embarrassed with that.

It was crucial to stay in the game for as long as possible, so it was pleasing that when Essendon took control we didn’t let things get out of hand and were able to convert our chances during timely moments of the match.

The game went back and forth a lot and we hung tough. It was one of those wins that gets you going and excites the group. All wins are important and well received but there’s something special about beating Essendon.

After a six-month pre-season and all the slog that comes with it, it was brilliant to welcome so many new faces inside the circle to sing the song for the first time. Those boys had never experienced what it feels like to win at Carlton.

You always know when you play Essendon and come up against leaders like Dyson Heppell and Jobe Watson that you’re going to be up for a fight because they have such a dangerous midfield, so I was really proud of the way our midfield performed — Murphy, Gibbs, Cripps and Kreuzer all stood up for us.

There’s nothing better than a gritty win in the wet!