Marquee recruit Dale Thomas impressed in his first outing for Carlton, despite the Blues' loss to Adelaide
PRIZED Carlton recruit Dale Thomas has dispelled any doubts about his fitness with a polished performance in Monday night's NAB Challenge clash against Adelaide at Etihad Stadium.
Thomas, who missed the Blues' opening pre-season game because of a chest infection, played a full match and won 18 possessions, mostly in the first half, to play a lead role against the Crows and set himself for round one. Click here to watch the full match replay
The performance suggested the 26-year-old, who crossed from Collingwood at the end of last season as a free agent, was clear of the ankle problems that have troubled him over the past two years.
While the return of Thomas was the most significant storyline on Monday night, Adelaide was the more impressive of the two teams, breaking away in the final term to win by 38 points: 1.13.12 (99) to 0.9.7 (61).
With Carlton resting Chris Yarran in the fourth quarter, as well as substitutes Jarrad Waite and Bryce Gibbs to effectively play one man down, the Crows kicked six unanswered goals to blow the game open.
Key forwards Josh Jenkins and Shaun McKernan combined to kick five second-half goals, while midfielders Matthew Wright, Richard Douglas and Rory Sloane were influential.
McKernan was particularly impressive as he hit packs strongly, recovered well at ground level and kicked truly.
Thomas started deep in the forward line but had licence to push up the ground, winning his first touch at half-back and roaming the wing opposed to Luke Brown and Sam Kerridge.
Rotated heavily through the first quarter, his kicking became more polished and he was typically strong in the air.
In a scrappy, physical pre-season game, captain Marc Murphy (30 possessions) was at the forefront for the Blues, while Gibbs started strong before being substituted at three-quarter time.
Adelaide star Patrick Dangerfield spent much of the contest playing as a deep forward, opposed to Yarran, entering half-time with just five touches to his name.
He lifted in the final quarter, however, kicking brilliant back-to-back goals, including the only supergoal of the match, to spark the Crows' surge to victory.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Carlton: The Blues' final practice match, against the Western Bulldogs, takes on increased importance after the team's fourth-quarter fade out. Along with Thomas, Kade Simpson, Heath Scotland, Michael Jamison, Jeff Garlett and Matthew Kreuzer were all playing their first pre-season matches, and they fell off the pace in the final term. Carlton has 11 days to prepare for its final hit-out.
Adelaide: It's a big year for Shaun McKernan and Josh Jenkins. The two key forwards were outstanding in patches on Monday night and the Crows will be relying on them to provide strong targets while Taylor Walker is eased back. With James Podsiadly in the mix, there is a selection squeeze building in the key forward posts.
Carlton: Dale Thomas was an immediate fan favourite in navy blue, earning applause when he won his first possession after two minutes on the half-back line. Carlton's first selection at the 2013 NAB AFL Draft, Patrick Cripps, was also impressive, entering the game late in the second quarter and showing plenty of class with the ball. Former Sydney Swans forward Andrejs Everitt followed up his excellent first game for Carlton by working up the ground to finish with 19 possessions and six inside 50s.
Adelaide: Matt Crouch backed up his impressive opening NAB Challenge effort with 15 possessions and three clearances, while James Podsiadly spent significant time in the green vest, kicking one goal and finishing with just three possessions. Cam Ellis-Yolmen has spent two seasons on the Crows' list but is yet to play a senior game That should change this year based on his gritty midfield effort against the Blues.
CARLTON 0.2.4 0.5.5 0.8.6 0.9.7 (61)
ADELAIDE 0.1.2 0.4.3 0.8.5 1.13.12 (99)
Carlton: Ellard 3, Everitt, Curnow, Scotland, Garlett, Menzel, Casboult
Adelaide: McKernan 3, Jenkins 2, Douglas, Porplyzia, Sloane, Dangerfield, Rutten, Petrenko, Otten, Podsiadly
Carlton: Murphy, Ellard, Gibbs, Thomas, Bell, Everitt
Adelaide: Wright, Douglas, Sloane, Jenkins, McKernan, Jacobs
Carlton: Cripps replaced McLean in the second quarter; Scotland replaced Waite in the third quarter; McLean replaced Gibbs at three-quarter time
Adelaide: McKernan replaced Jenkins in the second quarter; Petrenko replaced Podsiadly in the second quarter; Lyons replaced Douglas at three-quarter time
Umpires: Hosking, Kamolins, McPhee, Orr
Official crowd: 7617 at Etihad Stadium