Thursday 17 August 2017 / 11:36 AM

The Carlton Complex

By kicking more goals than the entire Carlton team combined on Friday night, West Coast Eagles’ Josh Kennedy provided a physical symbol to fuel the debate surrounding the Blues’ current woes.

The Blues traded the emerging key forward in 2007 in a deal to bring midfield star Chris Judd to the club, in the hope of transporting the rebuilding team to the Promised Land.

Besides one talkback caller surmising ‘the club would have either played him down back or traded him away because he kicks too many goals’, surely they could do with a forward like Kennedy right now.

With Judd ageing, and the Blues beginning the 2015 season with two deflating losses, the Kennedy trade isn’t the only thing being queried.

It seems not only the media, club supporters and the football public are trying to decipher Carlton, but also the Blues themselves.

The coach, the players and, most ardently, the direction of the team are now being questioned.

With 16 players in the 25-29 age bracket, from where top teams are usually built, and a lack of potential young stars emerging, their current list demographic is one of a number of issues that are extremely concerning.

So are the Blues grossly underperforming or are the players just not up to the task? Are they stripping back the player group, or are they gunning for the finals?

In reality, Carlton has been rebuilding since 2002, after being fined almost $1 million and losing draft picks for salary cap rorts.

For all the pain Carlton supporters endured in the early- to mid-2000s, the club’s rise has peaked only at semi-finals since, under Brett Ratten and then Mick Malthouse in 2013, when the Blues took Essendon’s spot in the top eight.

 

After developing early draft picks such as Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs and Matthew Kreuzer, ‘Rats’ got the axe for the ‘Silver Fox’, with finals and grand finals on the agenda.

Now, after finishing 13th last year, and currently sitting at zip and two with one of the oldest lists in the League, the dreaded R-word is again being touted, with the coach admitting to a ‘lack of top class talent’.

However, if last Friday’s press conference is any indication, the coach is seemingly keen to stick with the group until the point of no return.

“I am not going to jump up and say we will start to blood a few young blokes and give this year away. We will keep going until we turn this around, if we turn this around,” Malthouse said.

For Carlton and their supporters, another rebuild is unpalatable. But, at the moment, everywhere you look it seems the Blues are stuck in no man’s land.

 

Malthouse’s contract situation is indicative of their current geography.

After drastically changing his buoyant pre-season tune, Mick clearly stated on the weekend his position and signalled another rejuvenation was needed at Princess Park.

At 61 years of age, the proven coach wants another three years to put his regenerating plans into action.

Who knows? With a draft pick here and a trade there, it’s possible things could be salvaged.

With club legend Stephen Silvagni now in complete control of the list, and with Malthouse holding the reins, the coaching hierarchy appears to be in good order. Now it’s about whether the governing body is willing to accept some more short-term pain and is brave enough to back them in.

Despite the horrifying prospect for supporters of starting from the ground up once again, if football minds of the calibre of Malthouse and Silvagni think that is the best route, then surely it must be taken.

However, as it stands, it seems these tough decisions aren’t being made, drifting the club further into the abyss.

Whether Mick stays on or is sacked, the call needs to be made, and then a clear direction and discourse can be established.

The Blues face Essendon on Saturday and must win to avoid a third successive 0-3 start under Malthouse’s reign.

An unlikely win against their arch-rivals at the MCG could reset their season completely, releasing the tension from the pressure cooker. However, a bad loss to the Bombers in the current climate, and temperature will surely hit boiling point – a downward spiral continuing for a club seemingly stuck in limbo.

The Carlton complex grows stronger by the day. 

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Billy Vickers

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