- from afl.com.au
CARLTON's fighting 19-point loss to St Kilda underlined how much the Blues have improved over the past 18 months, but also how far they still have to go, according to coach Brendon Bolton.
The Blues threatened to topple the highly fancied Saints for much of Saturday's game at Etihad Stadium.
Twice they reeled in deficits that were threatening to get out of control – 20 points midway through the first term and 24 points midway through the third – and they led as late as the nine-minute mark of the final quarter.
It was only when Jack Steele kicked the last of three unanswered St Kilda goals at the 20-minute mark of the last quarter that the Blues' fate was sealed.
Bolton told reporters after the game there had been "quite a bit" to like about his team's performance, but stressed the loss had still stung him and his players.
The Blues coach felt Saturday's game had underlined his players' developing resilience, but said they had to learn from the missed opportunity.
"We've got a lot of people at our footy club that have gratitude in terms of their thinking around being an AFL footballer and if you play and think about that a lot you have resilience and you don't give up," Bolton said.
"We've got some strong characters. We've still got a young list that's learning how to do that.
"I think the game shows how far we've come in a pretty short amount of time – a year and eight games – but it also shows how far we still have to come as a club because AFL football is about those little moments and making sure we can nail them.
"We've got to keep learning and look through those great opportunities where we could have done things differently late in the game when it was tight.
"You've got to live it to learn it and then become better at it. For some of our players they haven't been in that situation very often, so it's a great learning experience that last quarter."
Bolton praised the performances of Carlton leaders Marc Murphy, Patrick Cripps, Sam Docherty and Bryce Gibbs, and said former Fremantle defender Alex Silvagni had made the most of his second opportunity after being claimed in last year's NAB AFL Rookie Draft.
"He really stiffens our defence up," Bolton said of Silvagni.
"We know what we're going to get, we're not guessing in terms of his aerial play and body-lining the footy, so I think he makes people walk taller.
"He's been good for us. We'll need him a lot this year."