THIS was Carlton releasing the pressure valve.
After a fortnight of criticism for its disappointing start to the year, the club ran rampant on Sunday to get its stuttering campaign off the ground with a dominant 45-point demolition of Fremantle. And there were more than a few with some points to prove.
Blues co-captain Patrick Cripps was one of them, responding to having his own game questioned with a Herculean performance. His 33 disposals, 11 clearances and two goals helped architect the 16.13 (109) to 9.10 (54) thumping at Marvel Stadium.
Budding star Harry McKay was another. His career-high seven-goal haul, which remarkably featured a total of 12 scoring shots, was an emphatic demonstration of his lofty talent as the strong-marking forward spearheaded Carlton to its maiden win of the season.
Sam Walsh (37 disposals, five clearances), Lachie Fogarty (25 disposals, one goal) and Liam Jones (20 disposals, 15 intercepts) were also strong contributors as the Blues overwhelmed their depleted opponents.
Fremantle's afternoon had few positives. Missing the grunt of captain Nat Fyfe in the middle, the Dockers only had All-Australian defender Luke Ryan (24 disposals, six marks) to thank for the margin not being bigger.
Instead, it was a Carlton stroll on Easter Sunday. Although, initially, a wasteful opening term had proved frustrating. The Blues had 10 scoring opportunities to quarter-time, compared to Fremantle's four, but held only a slender four-point lead at the first change. However, it was a sign of things to come.
McKay, up until that point, had arguably been the side's biggest culprit in front of target. But three straight kicks from the big forward in a matter of minutes in the second quarter soon had the Blues rolling, as they built a commanding 35-point lead by half-time.
BLUES v DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats
Eddie Betts capped that run of seven consecutive Carlton majors, with his clever snap from the boundary sending the Blues fans into raptures in what was the much-loved forward's first game back at the club in front of home fans.
The margin grew after half-time, with McKay adding to his tally with two near-identical snaps from deep inside the pocket. They came as Fremantle's woes were compounded by a hamstring injury to Hayden Young and a head knock to Lachie Schulz, ending both of their afternoons early.
Carlton had no such concerns. A seventh McKay goal midway through a comfortable final quarter put the cherry on top of a cruisy afternoon to draw both sides level with 1-2 records to start the year.
Harry's breakout comes on big Blue afternoon
This was a performance Harry McKay had been threatening for some time. After kicking four goals in a loss to Collingwood last week, McKay broke through for a career-best game and a seven-major outing against Fremantle. McKay was the magnet for everything the Blues did going forward, clunking nine big grabs and hitting the scoreboard on 12 occasions to kick seven goals and five behinds. McKay's approach was unconventional in several otherwise regulation positions, snapping multiple times from directly in front, but it worked for the 204cm forward as he bagged four goals to half-time and three more after the interval. This could be the start of big things to come for the talented 23-year-old.
Second quarter Blues blowout
Carlton's second quarter was complete domination, and the type of football David Teague has been desperate to see. Not only did the Blues kick six of seven goals to create a significant 35-point buffer by half-time, but they also bossed every key indicator on the field. They smashed Fremantle on the inside, winning the clearance count (13-6) and the contested possession battle (46-29) for the term. But they also outworked the Dockers on the outside, winning the disposal count (123-73), the inside 50s (23-8) and taking more marks (34-13). The Blues have been promising this for a long time, and Teague would have been rapt they delivered on Sunday.
Double injury blow adds to sorry Docker day
This was a nightmare Sunday afternoon for Fremantle. Comprehensively beaten around the ground, the Dockers' issues were compounded when talented young defender Hayden Young limped off just before half-time with a hamstring injury. Young was clattered in a contest by Levi Casboult and, after walking from the field, didn't return to the match. Halfway through the third quarter, Lachie Schulz was then forced off following a head knock. Both add to a growing Fremantle injury list, headed by captain Nat Fyfe, with coach Justin Longmuir left with a sizeable task to get the wounded Dockers back on track. Liam Henry replaced Young, but couldn't make a difference as the margin grew.
CARLTON 3.5 9.9 13.11 16.13 (109)
FREMANTLE 3.1 4.4 6.7 9.10 (64)
Carlton: McKay 7, Cripps 2, Newnes, Fogarty, Curnow, Betts, Murphy, Silvagni, Gibbons
Fremantle: Walters 2, Taberner 2, Colyer, Frederick, Darcy, Giro, Switkowski
Carlton: McKay, Cripps, Walsh, Fogarty, Jones, Docherty, Curnow
Fremantle: Ryan, Serong, Mundy, Giro, Chapman
Carlton: Setterfield (illness) replaced in selected side by Cottrell
Fremantle: Young (hamstring), Schultz (concussion)
Carlton: McDonald (Unused)
Fremantle: Henry (replaced Young)
Crowd: 24,551 at Marvel Stadium