Carlton is a proud football club and has a lengthy history of success, determination and most of all, premierships. The champions of the past in Silvagni, Jesaulenko, Nicholls and Koutoufides have etched their names into the AFL record books with displays of football brilliance. No person whose heart bleeds navy blue will ever forget those glory days.
However, the Carlton of 2014 is a shadow of its former self.
Those same champions would look at the performances served up this season and weep, longing for the days of Carlton domination.
Saturday marked possibly the lowest point in Carlton’s existence since the dark era of Denis Pagan and the stream of wooden spoons that were ‘awarded’ to the club. This once prevalent force in Australian Rules football capitulated against the lowly Melbourne Demons, succumbing to its fourth consecutive loss in 2014. Not since 1989 has Carlton had a worse start to the year, and the pitiful on-field exploits are being mirrored off field.
The blame is being passed around at rapid-fire speed; no accountability is being shown. The coach blames the players, the players blame the coach, and the president blames no one. It’s a vicious cycle of ignorance that leaves the poor fans on the outside, pleading for answers.
Or maybe, just maybe, a solution to these problems? A radical idea, I know, but it might just work.
So the first step in finding a solution is to identify the culprit in this game of football Cluedo. Was it the captain in the sauna with a pick-axe? Was it the team psychologist in the office with a gun? Did Brendan Fevola stumble into Princes Park and give everyone a lobotomy? Let’s look at the suspects.
Mick Malthouse has been one of the best coaches of the past 30 years, there is no doubting that, but coaching for that long and with such success builds an ego. Malthouse’s ego may be one that is unstoppable. His inability to see fault in his actions is ultimately detrimental to the football club and especially to the playing squad. Despite all his credentials at his previous three clubs, it seems as if the game may have passed him by. It could be an Old Yeller situation, a broken-down coach with archaic tactics who needs to be put out of his professional misery.
Coaches are always the first ones targeted, however, and in many cases they are given the boot when others are to blame. So what about the team themselves?
Carlton’s playing list boasts an incredible thirteen first-round draft picks and a number of players ranging in that 24-27 age bracket—where footballers hit their peak. This should translate into success and they should be a team with undeniable chemistry and talent.
News flash: that isn’t happening. In fact, the exact opposite is occurring. Players are turning the ball over at every chance, there is a distinct lack of motivation, and the opposition is making all 18 men on the field look second class.
Statistically, the team is a basket case. So far this season they rank in the bottom four teams for disposals, tackles and total score. They average the most turnovers that lead to opposition goals and they constantly let teams get out to insurmountable leads. These are damning stats that are obvious proof of a group of elite athletes that has lost the inspiration and drive to work hard for a whole game. There have been brief glimpses of structure and teamwork in the games against Port Adelaide and Richmond, but that was quickly forgotten with their horrific displays against Essendon and Melbourne.
The final suspects in this case are the people in charge, the big men on campus. The administration.
Stephen Kernahan and Greg Swann have lorded over this club since 2008 following a massive shake-up which included the sacking of Michael Malouf and Graham Smorgon. They lured Chris Judd over from West Coast, assigned Brett Ratten as head coach and looked to usher in a new era of Carlton dominance. The future looked bright and from 2009 to 2011 that prediction was coming true. Then suddenly the team dipped in form midway through 2012, and the administration threw Brett Ratten away like a used tissue. Ratten had been at the club since the age of 19 and was barely given a chance to plead his case before the vultures surrounded him.
The execution of a former club champion and premiership player was all done so that the golden child Mick Malthouse could swoop in and ‘save’ the Carlton Football Club. Two seasons later, with practically the same list as Ratten took to within a kick of the 2011 preliminary final, Malthouse has this team in 17th position.
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