NEW CARLTON coach Michael Voss believes Saturday's 31-point win over top-four rival Fremantle is the best of the 10 wins the Blues have banked since he arrived at Princes Park.
With a spot in the top-four on the line and after losing to Richmond last Thursday night – two weeks after a narrow loss to Collingwood – Carlton produced a spirited four-quarter effort at Marvel Stadium to keep its campaign on course.
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The Blues haven't played a final since 2013 – the year they replaced Essendon in September after they were disqualified by the AFL – but could be two games inside the top-eight by the end of the round with eight games to play.
"It was a signature win," Voss told reporters in his post-match press conference.
"It wasn't just against any side; it was against a side that was second on the ladder; they test you in every way.
"We got an audit on our system the last time we played them. To be able to go to work on that, take the feedback, work on our game, learn be able to adjust and be able to face them again and put some of the things we learned off them last time, it was a signature win.
"It was the best win we've been able to have for a number of reasons, not just about method but our ability to sustain that intensity over the course of four quarters was particularly impressive.
"It showed huge growth. I'm very proud of them. It was our best performance clearly for the year. To play all phases well for the entirety of the game, I thought was really impressive."
Superstar Sam Walsh produced another stunning effort, amassing a career-high 40 disposals, 13 contested possessions, 11 inside 50s, seven clearances, one goal and 543 metres gained to help Carlton's midfield respond after a disappointing showing against the Tigers, where the Blues registered 25 less inside 50s and 14 less clearances.
"His game was amazing. He just took it to a completely new level today. He challenged them on all fronts, whether it was contest, whether it was the ball spill. He certainly had a game out of the box, that's for sure," Voss said.
"Fortunately he had a few mates with him at the same time. We needed a few guys to step up for us all to take some collective responsibility of what we wanted."
Voss praised the performances of inexperienced key defensive pair Lewis Young and Brodie Kemp – who impressed in his just his fifth game – after they stood tall against Matt Taberner and Rory Lobb on a day where the Blues' depth was tested.
"He (Kemp) has been able to come in and do that a couple of times for us now and do a job. I could put Lewis Young in that same category. His growth over the course of this year has been quite significant," he said.
"Sometimes you ask the question about who is not there, and I want to answer that for you, but it's about who is there and what are we able to do and stay connected as a group. We were able to stick at it for longer and walk away with a really good victory."
Carlton lost young small forward Matthew Owies just before the opening bounce when he pulled up with calf tightness in the warm-up, while Jordon Boyd was subbed out of the game with a minor ankle injury in the final quarter.
Voss doesn't expect Jacob Weitering to return from shoulder surgery against St Kilda next Friday night but the vice-captain should be available for the trip to Perth to face West Coast the following weekend.
"It is a real small possibility (he returns against St Kilda). Our timelines haven't changed," he said.
"He's got a few milestones that he needs to tick off before we even entertain something like that, so I would have thought the week after is a bit more realistic."
Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe could attract some scrutiny from the Match Review Officer after he made contact with umpire Matthew O'Gorman during a fiery exchange with Carlton players at three-quarter time.
The dual Brownlow Medallist made minor contact with O'Gorman’s chest but only after he was shoved from behind by Carlton's Matthew Cottrell during a frustrating day for Fyfe.
Dockers coach Justin Longmuir hadn’t seen the incident when asked about the controversial moment in his post-game press conference on Saturday night.
"I haven’t spoken to the skipper about that, it’s the least of my worries," Longmuir said.
"It's so hard for me to comment when I haven’t seen it. I thought Carlton went after him a bit, especially in the second-half. I don't know whether he was the instigator or the retaliator, in terms of the Carlton players.
"I will ask him about it during the week. I am probably more worried about the collective and where we sit as a team."
Fyfe finished with just 11 disposals and two clearances in his second game of the season after dealing with shoulder, knee and back injuries in the first half of 2022.