AFL Practice Match - Carlton v Essendon
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 25: Adam Saad of Blues runs with the ball during the AFL Practice Match between the Carlton Blues and the Essendon Bombers at Ikon Park on February 25, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

Carlton have come away from their first practice match of 2021 as 21-point victors over Essendon 11.8 (74) to 14.11 (95).

Both teams put out fairly strong sides at Ikon Park on Thursday morning as they played their first scratch matches of 2021.

Carlton recruits Adam Saad and Zac Williams were good on debut for their new club, with Williams starting the game in the midfield and attending a total of 14 centre bounces for the day, the third most of any blue.

Saad was at his speedy best off half-back and put some nervy kicking early-on behind him and was one of Carlton’s best.

Saad’s best moment came when he was used by the impressive Paddy Dow streaming off half-back before hitting up skipper Patrick Cripps deep forward, who marked and kicked a goal.

Assistant coach Dale Amos said post-match that the Blues were happy with Saad’s impact on the group so far.

“He’s been great for us all pre-season, he’s working on that unit with Sam Docherty and Sam Petrevski-Seton… He’s certainly going to add to that group.”

Dow was very good as he makes a bid to play Round 1. The often criticised former Pick 3 played midfield and forward and impacted both areas.

Amos said Dow showed really good signs ahead of the new season.

“Dow was good, he had good exposure through the midfield and he compliments that group really well.”

Missing Levi Casboult and Mitch McGovern, Marc Pittonet stood up as a handy contributor up forward, booting two goals from big marks, while small forward Zac Fisher looked like a real weapon up forward for Carlton.

Fisher pressured really well and was able to hit the scoreboard as well with two goals.

Cripps was back to his best form and looked noticeably more free in his movements.

He was dominant early in the midfield and Amos said that they expect to see a big year from the star midfielder.

“He’s had a great pre-season, the cap on rotations means he will spend some time forward and he is really dangerous as a forward so I think it’ll be a combination.”

The new standing on the mark rule had no impact on the game, with only one 50m paid for the infringement all day.

The Blues kicked seven straight goals through the middle of the game which proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Essendon found themselves launching most early attacks off half-back and getting out the back of Carlton’s defence, before the Blues tightened their last line.

Train-on player Alec Waterman played just over a half and booted four goals – including three in the final term, in a bid to secure a deal.

The Bombers forward line struggled with Peter Wright being out-marked by Liam Jones far too often, but Waterman was a highlight.

Essendon assistant coach Blake Caracella said they were impressed with what they saw from Waterman.

“Four goals in half a game! A great effort on his behalf, he’s going to keep training and we will see what happens contract wise.”

The Bombers blooded plenty of youth with Archie Perkins and Nik Cox both showing very exciting glimpses throughout the day.

Caracella said the duo were in the mix for round one selection.

“All the players that played today have a got a chance (for round one), they got a game because they’ve shown something in pre-season.”

The key omissions today for the Bombers were Jake Stringer and Andrew McGrath, however, Caracella said the dynamic forward weren’t too far away.

“Stringer is back training now so he should be back in 2 or 3 weeks and McGrath will be back next week.”

Up next, the Blues face the Saints on March 4 while the Bombers will take on Geelong on March 6.