JARRAD Waite reaffirmed his standing as one of Carlton's most vital players in the Blues' comprehensive 61-point win over Melbourne at the MCG on Sunday.
In his first game of the season after being limited by a calf injury over the pre-season, the 30-year-old took 10 marks and kicked two goals from centre half-forward.
Five talking points: Carlton v Melbourne
Waite, while wayward in front of goal, provided a focal point for the Blues as Eddie Betts and Jeff Garlett (four goals each) did the damage from ground level.
Carlton set up an early five-goal-to-none buffer by quarter-time and ran out resounding victors, 18.13 (121) to 8.12 (60).
"He's a player that clearly gives a bit of direction," coach Mick Malthouse said of Waite's return.
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"I reckon early we were a bit over-conscious of him, and we kicked the football to him when he wasn't in the best position. But him not being there in the first five or six weeks meant that we were a bit less predictable.
"I don't want to become over-predictable by just saying, 'Jarrad Waite's there'. He can take a mark, but we want other players to take marks, we want other players to find space, and we want to use the right option. He was clearly a very good footballer for us today."
The defeat will have a lasting impact for the Demons though, with luckless co-captain Jack Grimes set to miss six-10 weeks with a broken collarbone.
Grimes was crunched and driven into the ground in a tackle, and emerged in pain holding his left shoulder. He was immediately subbed out of the game (for debutant Dean Kent) and taken to hospital for assessment.
Already without senior players Mitch Clark, Chris Dawes, Mark Jamar and the developing Jack Watts, Grimes' absence left too much to too few Demons.
"When you lose a midfielder that always throws you around a little bit, and that's disappointing for Jack," Melbourne coach Mark Neeld said.
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"He's a courageous young fella, Jack, and you put your head over it and put your nose over it, and these things happen."
With the damage done by quarter-time, the Blues gradually grew their lead and tipped it over the 10-goal mark via a long torpedo goal from Betts after the final siren.
Melbourne's fight was more evident than in several of its performances this season, however no amount of effort was able to close the gulf in class.
Marc Murphy perhaps best embodied that disparity, with the Carlton skipper putting in his best game of the season. Murphy had 28 disposals but was also damaging close to goal, kicking three majors.
Kane Lucas' (28 disposals) growth as a midfielder has given the Blues another onball option, while Heath Scotland's (28) consistency continues to provide Carlton with drive through the middle. Hampson, Brock McLean and Ed Curnow were other unheralded Blues to contribute.
Despite Waite's strong return, he could face some scrutiny from the Match Review Panel for contact he made with his head to Tom McDonald in the first term.
Young Demon Matt Jones impressed with 27 possessions and a goal, and Lynden Dunn did a strong job in limiting Chris Judd's influence.
Eddie Betts celebrates on of his four goals in the win over Melbourne. Photo: AFL Media
CARLTON 5.1 8.4 12.10 18.13 (121)
MELBOURNE 0.3 3.7 5.9 8.12 (60)
Carlton: Garlett 4, Betts 4, Murphy 3, Armfield 2, Waite 2, Robinson, Walker, Curnow
Melbourne: Sylvia 2, Dunn, Tapscott, M Jones, Kent, Garland, Bail
Carlton: Murphy, Betts, Garlett, Scotland, Walker, Henderson, Waite, Hampson
Melbourne: N Jones, Dunn, M Jones, Sylvia, Garland
Melbourne: Grimes (left shoulder)
Carlton: Jaryd Cachia replaced Chris Yarran during the fourth quarter.
Melbourne: Dean Kent replaced Jack Grimes (shoulder) during the first quarter.
Reports: Luke Tapscott (Melbourne) reported for rough conduct on Kade Simpson during the third quarter.
Umpires: Leppard, Wenn, Mitchell
Official crowd: 35,286 at the MCG