Charlie Curnow celebrates a goal during Carlton's clash against Hawthorn in round 16, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

THE LADDER logjam on the road to September is even tighter after Carlton made light work of Hawthorn on Sunday to move just a game and a half outside the top eight. 

With Richmond, Fremantle, Essendon and Gold Coast all losing on the weekend – plus Geelong and Sydney drawing at the SCG on Friday night – the Blues are back in the finals hunt after dispatching the Hawks by 60 points at the MCG.

HAWKS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats

Michael Voss' men took their season off life support the last time we saw them in round 14. Now they have emerged from the mid-season bye with a new lease on life after blowing the Hawks off the park in the first half and then putting the foot down late to cruise to a 17.10 (112) to 7.10 (52) win in front of 65,337 people.  

Carlton lost six games in a row – and eight of nine – in May and June, but has started July on the winners list after banking back-to-back victories for the first since round four, easing the pressure that had hovered above Princes Park for months ahead of the win over Gold Coast. 


With Marc Pittonet and Tom De Koning both missing due to injury, the Blues went in without a recognised ruckman against two for Hawthorn – Ned Reeves and Lloyd Meek – but the makeshift combination of Lewis Young and Jack Silvagni did enough to allow the likes of Patrick Cripps, Adam Cerra, Sam Walsh and co to go to work.

Cripps produced the game-breaking moments that resulted in a Brownlow Medal in 2022, finishing with 28 disposals, 15 contested possessions, eight clearances and six tackles, while Adam Cerra continued the form that has him on track for the John Nicholls Medal with 27 disposals, seven tackles, six clearances and two goals.

With a first finals appearance since 2013 on the line, Carlton simply had to win. And it did. 

The Blues' victory was soured only by defender Jacob Weitering being reported for striking Meek.

With no James Sicily down back for the second of three weeks, the signs were ominous from the outset. Charlie Curnow kicked the first goal of the game in the fourth minute after outworking teenager Josh Weddle. The 2022 Coleman medallist missed his next chance on the first-round pick from last November, but Carlton showed no signs of battling the post-bye malaise that has inflicted so many other sides this winter. 


The Blues kicked all three first-quarter goals and should have had more. But more would come amid a first-half blitz that left Hawthorn goalless at the main break for the first time since they didn't kick a major against Port Adelaide in round 11, 2017 and for just the second time at the MCG.

In a moment that summed up Hawthorn's inability to pierce a Carlton backline marshalled by Weitering in the first half, the Blues withstood a run of repeat inside 50s before Cripps grabbed the ball at half-back and sliced his way through three Hawks and then found Curnow, who hit David Cunningham for his second. Nothing worked for Hawthorn.


When Harry McKay pinned Meek holding the ball 30 metres out from goal, the 2021 Coleman medallist kicked his first and Carlton's eighth of the first half to make it a 50-point margin at the main break. Carlton restricted Hawthorn to just 34 marks for the half and just three inside 50, on the back of 68 more possessions. 

Sam Docherty joined the party just after half-time with the All-Australian defender kicking the first goal of the second half to add to a gloomy winter afternoon from a Hawthorn perspective. But then things changed following a rare moment of brilliance from Chad Wingard that resulted in Mitch Lewis kicking Hawthorn's first goal of the game five minutes into the third quarter. 


Hawthorn's only remaining premiership player Luke Breust made it two in two minutes to give the Hawks faithful something to cheer about. And when Nic Newman conceded a sloppy 50m penalty to hand Fergus Greene a goal on a platter, the Hawks had a pulse. 

But it was too little, too late. Hawthorn won the third quarter, and was much better after half-time, but it is the Blues that are still alive in July, still thinking about September.


MRO scrutiny for Blues star
Jacob Weitering will come under scrutiny from Match Review Officer Michael Christian after being reported in the third quarter for striking Hawthorn ruckman Lloyd Meek off the ball. Weitering appeared to make contact with his arm to the chest region, but it might have climbed up towards the Hawthorn ruckman's face. 

Jacob Weitering marks the ball during Carlton's clash against Hawthorn in round 16, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Positive return from prized pick
Josh Ward returned from a stint at Box Hill and made an impact in his first senior appearance since hurting his foot after round eight. The 2021 pick No.7 finished with 28 touches – the second most of his career – and six marks. Fergus Greene also showed plenty in another opportunity at AFL level. The former Dog kicked 2.2 from six marks and could have finished with a bigger haul if he kicked straight.

Maligned Blue fires
It has been a long time since Jack Martin kicked four in his first game for Carlton back in the opening round of 2020. Since then, injuries and form have limited the forward. But on Sunday, the West Australian turned it on to show he can have a say in how far the Blues progress this year. Martin finished with three goals from 12 disposals and six marks to add something to a forward line that has relied on its Coleman medallists under Michael Voss.


HAWTHORN           0.3     0.5       5.8        7.10 (52)
CARLTON               3.4     8.7     11.10     17.10 (112)

Hawthorn: Lewis 2, Greene 2, Breust 2, Macdonald
Martin 3, C.Curnow 3, McKay 2, Cuningham 2, Cerra 2, Silvagni, Owies, Fogarty, Docherty, Acres

Hawthorn: Day, Ward, Worpel, Greene, Morrison
Cripps, Cerra, Weitering, Acres, McKay, Docherty, Martin, Walsh

Hawthorn: Lewis (ankle)

Hawthorn: Nil
Tom De Koning (knee) replaced in selected side by Lewis Young

Hawthorn: Finn Maginness (replaced Ned Reeves in third quarter)
George Hewett (replaced Charlie Curnow in fourth quarter)

Crowd: 66,337 at the MCG