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Plenty of positives for Blues, but Swans end pre-season with a win

Highlights: Blues v Swans The Blues and Swans clash in the NAB Challenge
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 11: Lance Franklin of the Swans and Michael Jamison of the Blues compete for the ball during the 2016 NAB Challenge match between the Carlton Blues and the Sydney Swans at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on March 11, 2016. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Lance Franklin booted three goals against the Blues

CARLTON has rebounded from its horror loss to Essendon with its most competitive effort yet under Brendon Bolton, pushing the Sydney Swans before eventually going down by 22 points at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.

Savaged for their 10-goal loss to the Bombers two weeks ago, the Blues responded with a physical and determined performance against the Swans, who ultimately had their measure 0.14.7 (91) to 1.8.12 (69). 

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Despite the result, it was an underwhelming night for the Swans, who were held goalless in the third quarter and struggled to find much rhythm, apart from a five-goal run in the second quarter that set up the win.

The Swans were also left nursing injuries to key midfielder Josh Kennedy (dislocated finger) and defender Zak Jones, who left the game with knee soreness but no structural damage.

The one positive for coach John Longmire was the form of superstar Lance Franklin, who was the key avenue in attack, kicking two goals and setting up three more in the first half before fading.

Ball magnet Dan Hannebery was outstanding with 37 possessions, six inside 50s and a goal, but the Swans' midfield was otherwise overshadowed by a Carlton team desperate to atone for an embarrassing pre-season loss. 

"Their pressure and intensity around the ball was pretty high and we dropped away a little bit so it's something to be mindful of," Swans coach John Longmire said.

"We're getting used to 30 less interchanges and Carlton probably handled that better than what we did tonight."

The only sour note for the Blues was a brain fade from Dale Thomas that will see him scrutinised by the Match Review Panel for a stray elbow that made contact to Jeremy Laidler's chin in the first quarter.

The positives for Bolton started in the midfield, where Carlton won the clearances 47-37, largely through the tireless work of young star Patrick Cripps, who played three quarters in his first pre-season game.

Cripps finished with 24 possessions (16 contested) and dominated the centre bounces, winning six of his nine clearances in the middle of the ground.

"That was a good first-up start from him," an understated Bolton said.

"There are areas of his game that he'll keep continuing to improve on, but some of his clearances out of the centre were a positive.

"As a whole, we're showing some improvement, there's no doubt about that."

He was supported by recruit Sam Kerridge (25 possessions and three goals), who is shaping as a trade period coup for the Blues after a near flawless pre-season.

Carlton would also be thrilled with the continued form of Nick Graham, who repeatedly drove the ball into attack with his team-high 29 touches, while Dylan Buckley looked dangerous across half-forward. 

Midfielder Blaine Boekhorst showed he could become a more damaging player in 2016 with an encouraging 27 touches and a running goal. 

No.1 draft pick Jacob Weitering was again among his team's best players with seven marks and 15 touches, playing loose at times and also finding himself in contests with Franklin, where he held his own. 

Franklin was untouchable early, taking advantage of the space the Blues gave him to get free on the counter-attack to help set up teammates unselfishly.

After being held to one goal in each of his two previous NAB Challenge games, he finished with three majors. 

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Hannebery's double whammy

You know it's not your night when... #NABChallenge

Posted by AFL on Friday, March 11, 2016

WHAT WE LEARNED
Carlton: Sam Kerridge could be the find of the NAB Challenge for the Blues after another outstanding performance on Friday night. The former Crow, who was effectively swapped for Troy Menzel, finished with 25 touches, seven clearances and three goals. Kerridge is another big-bodied midfielder the Blues can rely on and has shown he can team well with star youngster Patrick Cripps. Cripps had 24 disposals (16 contested), eight clearances and kicked a goal in two and a half quarters in his first appearance this pre-season, emphasising his undoubted class.

Sydney Swans: Dan Hannebery could win the Brownlow in 2016. The star Swan was unstoppable against the Blues, racking up a game-high 37 disposals, to go along with 10 marks and six inside 50s. The word out of the Swans camp is that Hannebery has taken his professionalism to a new level this pre-season, raising the bar in regard to his conditioning. The 25-year-old finished fifth in the count last season and based on Friday night's effort, could walk home with the medal draped around his neck come September. 

NEW FACES
Carlton: Kerridge was outstanding against the Swans and he looks like forming a promising partnership with Cripps. Top draftee Jacob Weitering got more involved as the match wore on and even spent some time on Swans superstar Lance Franklin. He looks so poised already and understands his responsibility in Brendon Bolton's team defence. Andrew Phillips and Daniel Gorringe also showed competitiveness in the ruck and up forward. 

Sydney Swans: A Ben McGlynn look-alike, rookie-listed small forward Tom Papley did enough to suggest he may play senior footy this season. Papley was lively around goals and hunted the opposition with defensive pressure. Ex-Eagle Callum Sinclair displayed his athleticism and versatilty but appeared fumbly at times. Former Dog Michael Talia did not do much wrong in a half of footy as he stood Blues big man Matthew Kreuzer. 

NEXT UP
Carlton kicks off 2016 against Richmond in the clubs' traditional Thursday night season opener at the MCG. The Swans are set for a tough match up against Collingwood at the SCG, with spice sure to be added after the club decided to end its arrangement of playing home games at ANZ Stadium late last month. 

CARLTON                  0.2.5         0.5.8         0.7.12       1.8.12 (69)               
SYDNEY SWANS       0.4.3         0.10.3       0.10.6       0.14.7 (91)         

NAB SUPERGOALS
Carlton: Tuohy
Sydney Swans: Nil

GOALS
Carlton: Kerridge 3, E Curnow, Graham, Boekhorst, Cripps, Buckley
Sydney Swans: Franklin 3, Parker 2, Heeney, Rose, Hannebery, Papley, Hewett, Lloyd, Mitchell, Mills, Cunningham 

BEST 
Carlton: Kerridge, Cripps, Graham, Boekhorst, Curnow, Docherty, Weitering
Sydney Swans: Hannebery, Franklin, Rampe, Lloyd, Mitchell, Jones, Mills 

INJURIES
Carlton: Nil
Sydney Swans: K Jack (winded), Jones (knee soreness), Kennedy (dislocated finger)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Chamberlain, Pannell, Donlon

Official crowd: 6,804 at Etihad Stadium