x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Carlton look to live up to pre-season promise

There's something niggling away at the back of the mind over today's opening match of the round at Etihad Stadium between the top-placed St Kilda and the fourth-placed Carlton.

There's something niggling away at the back of the mind over today's opening match of the round at Etihad Stadium between the top-placed St Kilda and the fourth-placed Carlton. There's nothing logical about it. The Saints have won 11 on the trot; the Blues two as part of their 6-5 record for the season so far. A third win would be a huge psychological breakthrough for the boys from Princes Park, who haven't strung that many together for five long, dark years. It would also be the first time Carlton have beaten the Saints since 2001.

The Saints have handed out some champion thrashings on their march through the first half of the season: 97 points over West Coast; 83 points over Fremantle; and 88 points over Collingwood. Carlton has only really trounced lowly Richmond, by 83 points. But for this writer, there is still this lingering feeling that the Blues could have some show of drawing first blood from the Moorabbin boys and living up to their pre-season promise.

The centre contests, involving the likes of Judd, Kreuzer and Gibbs for the Blues, and Dal Santo, Montagna and Ball for the Saints, should prove a highlight. For St Kilda, the ruckman Steven King enters the naughty corner for four weeks, after an incident that had Sam Power seeing stars last week. Michael Gardiner, the club's other senior ruckman, is back from suspension and will be joined by forward Stephen Milne and defender Sam Gilbert. Carlton welcomes back Jordan Bannister after dropping Brad Fisher.

pstafford@thenational.ae