A day after boldly declaring he aimed to be Carlton’s next AFL premiership captain, Marc Murphy showcased his credentials in the Blues’ badly needed win.
Murphy won the inaugural Crowl-McDonald medal as best afield in the 18.13 (121) to 12.9 (81) Anzac Day win over St Kilda at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
The star midfielder shook off some intense attention, particularly from Jack Newnes, and superbly led the Blues to their first win of the season.
It followed a rugged fortnight for the club, where Carlton’s hierarchy stressed the team was rebuilding and Murphy even found his name mentioned in talk about potential trades.
The match only attracted 12,125 fans, the lowest attendance for St Kilda’s three Anzac Day games in Wellington and an undoubted blow to their push into the New Zealand market.
But it was a big day for Carlton, Murphy and coach Mick Malthouse, who earlier this week said he felt some sections of the media were disrespecting him.
It was Malthouse’s 714th game as an AFL coach, equalling the official record held by Jock McHale.
Malthouse will break the record in Friday night’s blockbuster against Collingwood.
Carlton rallied from a 26-point deficit in the second term to finally discover some scoring firepower and overhaul the young Saints.
Lachie Henderson kicked five goals, while Tom Bell’s four in the second half were critical.
Second-year midfielder Patrick Cripps also continued to impress, racking up 33 possessions, but Murphy led the way.
The skipper had a game-high 35 disposals and was particularly resolute early when Carlton were struggling.
“Murph’s copped so many negatives because he’s a victim of us being zip and three,” Malthouse said.
“The launching pad seems to be ‘we’ll get into Murph’.
“He absorbed both the physical pressure of St Kilda today, and the pressure of a club going in zip and three and leading from the front.
“I’m delighted for him.”
With Carlton struggling at quarter-time, Malthouse clearly ripped into his players.
“There were a couple of friendly little reminders,” Malthouse said.
“You didn’t have to be Blind Freddy to see that we were overusing the footy and getting little reward for it.”
Murphy, sitting next to Malthouse at the post-match media conference, added: “yep, nice and friendly”.
While the Blues are a long way off the premiership threat that Murphy wants to lead, Malthouse says the win is reward for plenty of hard work.
“Once we started to hunt the football a bit more and restored the confidence, the game came together for us,” he said.
Ruckman Billy Longer had 51 hitouts for St Kilda, who never stopped trying, but paid for skill errors.
Coach Alan Richardson said, for the second week, his young team had lost their dare when the opposition started taking control.
And they were also beaten again in centre bounce clearances.
“The blokes had a crack for four quarters – we just didn’t have the polish,” he said.