Carlton coach Brett Ratten says skipper Chris Judd is battle-hardened and ready for a mini-elimination AFL final against Essendon.
One game out of the top eight following Saturday night’s 17.11 (113) to 10.17 (77) victory over Brisbane at Etihad Stadium, the Blues have won three of their four matches without suspended dual Brownlow Medallist Judd.
Acting captain Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs, Andrew Carrazzo and half-back Heath Scotland were dominant for the Blues against the Lions.
Carlton (10-9 win-loss record) led by only seven points at halftime against Brisbane before turning on the power with a seven-goal third term to lead by 46 points at three-quarter time.
Small forwards Jeff Garlett and Eddie Betts led Carlton’s goalscoring with three each.
Betts was subbed off with a sore calf but is in no doubt for next week, Ratten says.
“We won’t stop trying to make the finals,” Ratten said as he spoke enthusiastically of the challenge awaiting his side against fellow finals contenders Essendon at the MCG on Saturday.
Judd returns following his controversial four-game ban for a chicken-wing tackle against North Melbourne’s Leigh Adams in round 16.
Ratten is backing Judd’s ability to slot back into the finals-type atmosphere of the round-21 clash with Essendon, despite his lack of match conditioning.
“He has done extra work and he has done a fair bit of combat physical training as well,” Ratten said.
“He’ll be up to the speed so he’ll just come straight back in.”
Scotland says the leadership of Murphy, who had 26 disposals against the Lions, has been exceptional in Judd’s absence.
“The group’s really just lifted in the last four weeks,” Scotland said.
Carlton have won four of their past six matches, however they lost by five goals to Essendon in round four.
“It’s another one of the rivalry games that always bring the best out of teams, and what better than to have your finals aspirations on the line and playing for that,” Ratten said.
“It will be a full house and that’s what you play football for, your backs (are) to the wall and you have to perform.”
Ratten admitted Carlton’s ball use was terrible in the first term against Brisbane, but by the third quarter the Blues were up and running.
Lions coach Michael Voss said Brisbane’s poor goalkicking return of 4.11 in the first half to trail by seven points against Carlton’s 6.6 (42) was a wasted opportunity.
“We had our momentum and we didn’t kick our goals,” Voss said.
Brisbane’s season finishes with games against Adelaide (home) and strugglers Port Adelaide (away) and Western Bulldogs (home).
The Lions (7-12) have lost five of their past six matches but half-back Jed Adcock says they’re showing glimpses of good football which hopefully will yield success late in the season.