Charlie Curnow celebrates a goal during Carlton's clash against Geelong in round two, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

BACK on the winners list.

For all the progress Carlton made under Michael Voss in 2022 – it won the first three rounds, eight of the first 10 and finished with 12 wins – the Blues hadn't won a game since they beat Greater Western Sydney last July until overcoming Geelong on Thursday night.

BLUES v CATS Full match coverage and stats

But they had to do it the hard way, ensuring the Carlton faithful endured a nervous finish before holding on by eight points at the MCG.

Seven days on from sharing the points with Richmond on the opening night of the season, Carlton led Geelong at every change and withstood a Jeremy Cameron masterclass to record a 13.12 (90) to 12.10 (82) win.


After dropping round 22 by five points to Melbourne and round 23 to Collingwood by a single point, before starting the season with a draw – all games they led with two minutes left on the clock – Voss' men showed the growth they've made across the week by finally winning a single-digit margin game.

Last season may have ended without a return to September for the first time since 2013, but it was the rebirth of Charlie Curnow after two years in the wilderness.

The 26-year-old kicked 64 goals in 2022 to win the Coleman Medal and was the star of the show again, slotting five goals from 11 disposals and nine marks to lead Carlton to its first victory of 2023. 

It was a shootout between two Coleman medallists at either end of the ground. It wasn't quite Gary Ablett and Tony Lockett from another era, but 2019 Coleman medallist Cameron was the reason Geelong remained in the contest for as long as it did.


The three-time All-Australian was at his clinical best at the MCG, nailing long-range set shots and well-executed snaps like a sniper hitting the target from a mile away, finishing with six goals from 25 disposals, eight marks and 592 metres gained. 

Cameron almost did enough to drag Geelong across the line, but it was Lewis Young who took the game-saving mark on the superstar Cat to end the game, after Harry McKay made some big plays late, much to the relief of anxious Blues supporters.

With no Tom Stewart, Jake Kolodjashnij or Jack Henry, Geelong was always going to have trouble if it didn't stop the supply to Curnow and Harry McKay.

Zach Tuohy kicked the first two goals last Friday night, but it was the Irishman who created the opening goal for the opposition. The veteran Cat had an inside 50 smothered and the Blues streamed to goal with Corey Durdin finding Jesse Motlop, who hit Curnow in the goalsquare for his first inside the first 120 seconds.


It was a sign of things to come, even though Carlton didn't make the most of its chances in the first quarter, kicking 2.6 to 2.1. And it was Curnow who inflicted the damage.

He kicked three goals in the first half and added two more in the third quarter, helping the Blues reach a game-high 28-point lead to look home. 

But with Cameron in vintage form, Geelong pushed the Blues all the way to the end. The former Giant kicked three final-quarter goals to scare the life out of Carlton, although it wasn't enough. 

All-Australian half-back Adam Saad spent most of the night on All-Australian small forward Tyson Stengle and limited the Cat, while amassing a career-high 29 disposals and 608 metres gained. 

'IT WASN'T A MONKEY ON OUR BACK' Blues' response pleases Voss, 0-2 Cats not panicking

Blake Acres was much better in game two in navy blue, gathering 26 touches and 11 marks on a wing, while Ed Curnow showed he still has more left in the tank, executing a role on Cam Guthrie and then touching the ball 26 times to go with eight tackles, six clearances and a goal. 

Carlton couldn't have started 2022 any better. Now they have some momentum to launch into season two under Voss. 

The Cats are the first side to lose the opening two games of a premiership defence since Hawthorn in 2009. The Hawks won only nine games and missed September, only 12 months after the first of Alastair Clarkson's four flags at the club.

Four Coleman medallists on the same ground
Thursday night featured four Coleman Medal winners in the same game – the past four winners – for only the second time in history. Carlton stars Charlie Curnow (2022) and Harry McKay (2021) have won the past two. Geelong premiership pair Tom Hawkins (2020) and Jeremy Cameron (2019) the two before that. The last time that happened was in 1902, well before John Coleman was born, let alone the goalkicking award was named in his honour.


Two more new faces for Cats
Geelong got a first look at Ollie Henry and Tanner Bruhn last Friday night, but on Thursday night, the Cats got their first look at Jack Bowes. The Queenslander arrived at GMHBA Stadium last October following one of the most talked about moves of the Trade Period, given the contract and pick attached. But after missing round one due to a minor calf issue, Bowes was busy early but faded, finishing with 20 disposals and 461 metres gained. Cooper Whyte played his first AFL game after earning a shot following strong form late in the pre-season. The 20-year-old entered the game in the last quarter.

Brothers do battle
They faced each other for the first time in round 18 last year, but there was extra interest on Thursday night given all the recent speculation regarding the contract status of Carlton ruckman Tom De Koning. The Cats have been linked to the 23-year-old, along with a few other clubs already. With Marc Pittonet coming in late, De Koning shared the ruck duties, finishing with 22 hitouts and 11 disposals. Sam De Koning was banged up last week and copped a few hits again on Thursday. The pair engaged in one clash which caught the eye in the first half. They weren't the only set of brothers on the ground, with the Curnows and Guthries teaming up.


CARLTON         2.6      6.8      12.11      13.12 (90)
GEELONG         2.1      5.6        9.6        12.10 (82)

C.Curnow 5, Owies 3, Motlop, McKay, Fisher, Durdin, E.Curnow
Cameron 6, Henry 2, Rohan, Hawkins, Close, Blicavs 

C.Curnow, Saad, Acres, E.Curnow, Weitering, Kennedy, Owies, Cripps
Cameron, Smith, C.Guthrie, Holmes

Stanley (ribs)

Carlton: Jack Martin (calf) replaced in selected side by Marc Pittonet

Carlton: Lochie O'Brien (replaced Jack Silvagni in fourth quarter)
Cooper Whyte (replaced Rhys Stanley in fourth quarter)

Crowd: 55,861 at the MCG