Despite the AFL’s most prolific forwards lining up at opposite ends, Carlton coach Michael Voss is adamant his side’s blockbuster clash with Geelong will be decided in the middle.
Many eyes have naturally been drawn to the goal-kicking showdown pitting Blues duo Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow against Cats pair Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron.
But supply to those tall targets will be crucial and it is with that in mind that Voss has put greater emphasis on the midfield stoush.
His star ball-winners Patrick Cripps, George Hewett and Sam Walsh take on Cam Guthrie, Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and co in a battle between two of the competition’s strongest contested-ball sides.
The highly charged confrontation comes after Geelong put Melbourne’s premiership on-ballers to the sword last week, vaulting into top spot on the ladder in the process.
“You look at a body of work over a period of time and things that have impressed you about their game, and clearly their contest is still really powerful,” Voss said.
“That’s something that we obviously pride ourselves on as well and we’ll continue to reinforce.
“We’d like some supply down our end to give our forwards a chance and give them an even look, and we’ll try to minimise (theirs) as much as we possibly can.
“Every game that I participate in, it still starts at that for me.
“It gives you a chance to get your system flowing on the back of that.”
Geelong coach Chris Scott lauded Carlton as a “complete” team on paper, with Curnow and McKay in attack and Jacob Weitering – “the best young key defender in the game” – anchoring the defence.
But he agreed with former Brisbane premiership teammate Voss that the midfield battle will dictate proceedings at the MCG on Saturday night.
“It was the same for us last week against Melbourne, if we just get beaten up by these guys around the contest, their system and overall depth is too good for us to counteract that,” Scott said.
“So that’s a huge part of the game.”
Curnow (50 goals) leads the Coleman Medal race from Cameron (46) and Hawkins (43), with McKay (36) ninth on the leaderboard after missing three games through injury.
Geelong will call on the likes of young star Sam De Koning, Jake Kolodjashnij and perhaps Mark Blicavs to quell Curnow and McKay, while the Blues’ Lewis Young and Weitering are set for Hawkins and Cameron.
In a pointer to how tight the ladder is, one win and percentage separates leaders Geelong from sixth position.
An eighth straight triumph would keep them top, while victory for fifth-placed Carlton would see them draw them level with the Cats on 12 wins and strengthen their case for a top-four berth for the finals.
“Every game has consequences at this time of year and the trick in all of it is to try to (block out) the ladder and all the peripheral noise and just focus on what you need to be able to do,” Voss said.
“It’s going to be a big game, we’re expecting a big crowd, but importantly it’s the next game for us.
“We get to go out there and show what we’ve got.”