If you see a Carlton supporter this week, please be kind. For the way in which their team relinquished its spot in the top eight on Sunday was as heartbreaking as it gets.
Needing to win to keep their finals hope alive against fierce arch-rival Collingwood, the Blues snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, conceding the last five goals of the game to see a 24-point three quarter-time deficit brutally turn into a one-point loss in front of a record crowd of 88,287 at the MCG.
It was the second consecutive week the Blues had been overrun by a top-four team in a thrilling final quarter after Melbourne pinched victory from them in Round 22 in similar fashion.
Watch every blockbuster AFL match this weekend Live & Ad-Break Free In-Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
The loss means Carlton becomes the first VFL/AFL team to a finals placed after every round except the final once since the Carlton side of 1977.
“Everything that is great in our game is encapsulated in what Collingwood just did. Everything that will break your heart as a football supporter forever is what Carlton just did then,” Melbourne champion Garry Lyon told Fox Footy.
While the Magpies were lethal in front of goal late, the Blues wasted their chances, booting 0.6 from 20 inside 50s in the final term alone.
“Carlton had the opportunity to stamp it right at the start of the fourth quarter. They had the opportunity to put it to bed and they didn’t,” St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt told Fox Footy.
“We’ll celebrate Collingwood and we’ll talk about them for the next couple of weeks because they’re going in on the wave of the most unbelievable momentum, but that was a butchering of the highest order.
“Two weeks in a row they’ve slaughtered it.
Seven-time All-Australian Nathan Buckley pointed out the Blues finished the game +21 inside 50s and +54 for contested possessions – and still lost.
“They did a lot right, but in the end that’s not going to make anyone feel great about it because they gave up eight points that they’d earned for 95 per cent of the last two games and then just weren’t able to get over the line,” he told Fox Footy.
“There’s a lot of ‘what if’ in Carlton’s season and it’s going to feel really wasted for them now. But they’ve definitely taken great strides this year. This is not the time because Carlton fans aren’t going to feel that, but they’re definitely coming.”
Port Adelaide premiership midfielder Kane Cornes wrote on Twitter Carlton had “lost the unlosable … again”.
As for the Magpies, it was the eighth time since Round 13 they’ve overturned a three-or-more goal deficit to win a match, per ABC’s Corbin Middlemas.
“What a remarkable game,” Buckley said.
“We’ve seen it often enough in the last couple of months. We knew Collingwood would come in the last quarter – and they took their chances and Carlton didn’t.”
The hero for Collingwood, again, was Jamie Elliott, who kicked a terrific running goal from a tight angle to give the Magpies the lead with just under two minutes left in the game.
“It’s super special,” Elliott told Channel 7 post-game. “We’ve been saying all along we’ll just ride the spirit and emotion. The enjoyment and excitement we’re bringing each week, we’re just riding that.
“We were down by 24 points – ideally we wouldn’t be in that position – but it’s when we get down, we play aggressive and it suits our game style. I want that every quarter, but we’ll take learnings from that.
“We’ve got an opportunity to create some havoc in finals and who knows where that can take us.”