Carlton coach Michael Voss insists the Blues have not been distracted by a week of “external” criticism, coming as a season-defining swing continues against arch-rival Collingwood next Sunday.
The Blues were valiant in recovering from a 31-point deficit against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night to snare the lead for the first time in an enthralling final term. But they were unable to sustain this, and ultimately fell by 20 points.
A pre-season favourite of many to end a decade-long finals drought, they have now dropped four of their past five matches – their only win in this period was against the lowly West Coast Eagles – and they face a major fight to remain in top-eight calculations.
Club powerbrokers and past players put the club under the spotlight last week, with Voss admitting it was hard to ignore the comments said about him and the club.
“It’s hard not to, when it’s surrounding you, but for us, the answer is not looking external, it’s looking internal. What we get to be able to control is what we do and how we train, and how we turn up and how we get better and how we execute in those moments,” he said.
“For anything to change, that’s what we have to get after. For us, it’s eyes down, it’s eyes in, and we have to go again, so we have an extended break this week to go to work on our game.
“I don’t tend to look too far ahead, but the game in front of us is, obviously, Collingwood, so we have got to get ourselves ready for that. They have got their own threats we have got to manage. We have got some things we need to get after as a priority.”
Star midfielder Sam Walsh, having had an interrupted campaign because of back surgery, was at his best against the Bulldogs, while unsung pair Matthew Cottrell and small forward Matthew Owies (three goals) played a key role. Skipper Patrick Cripps struggled in the first half, when he did not have a clearance, but responded after the main break when the Blues were able to play a more creative brand of football.
Lacking imagination, they were badly beaten in uncontested possession before half-time, but ran more in waves in the third, with rebounding half-back Adam Saad central to this.