Sam Kerridge was Carlton’s best in last night’s NAB Challenge opener, finishing with 28 disposals and seven tackles as the Blues went down to premiers Hawthorn 8.5 (53) to 4.8 (32) at Launceston’s Aurora Stadium.
In a contest that never reached great heights, the Hawks took a quarter to get into gear before asserting itself, with three goals from Luke Breust significant in the 21-point win.
But it was not the one-sided affair suggested by a meeting of the reigning three-time premier with last year’s wooden spooner, and Blues supporters would have been heartened by the performances of the maligned Dale Thomas and some new faces, with Kerridge the most notable of them.
The goal-kicking midfielder – who famously snared six when the Crows memorably came back to beat the Kangaroos by a point in Round 9, 2013 – was traded to Carlton along with pick 28 to secure Menzel, a first-round draft pick apparently losing focus in the flailing Victorian side.
“It was good that Daisy [Dale Thomas] got through a game after a big pre-season and Kerridge adds a bit of run for us as well,” Carlton’s fledgling head coach Brendon Bolton said after the game.
“There were lots of little sprouts but we’ve got to keep building on our consistency, there’s no doubt.”
It contrasts with the sterner tone struck by new Crows mentor Don Pyke on Menzel this week, whose prodigious talent is beyond question – but not so his work ethic.
“For him to become the player he wants to be, we’ve identified [fitness] as an area he needs to make some improvement in,” Pyke told SEN radio.
“He didn’t really have a full pre-season in his time at Carlton and when he came to us he wasn’t at a level that we’d want. But we’re working with him on that.
“He’s a unique talent … if we can just maybe improve that area we think he can be a talent for us.”
Evergreen midfield general Sam Mitchell starred again for the Hawks, with 29 disposals.
Stand-in coach Adem Yze reflected that the veteran “needed to get minutes into his body, which he did”.
“He likes getting early-season form… our older guys know how to prepare for the season proper and we got exactly what we wanted out of them,” he said.
The Crows host West Coast at Unley Oval on Sunday – with Menzel named in a 29-man squad – while Jared Polec is set to make his comeback to senior football for the Power against Sydney tomorrow.
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