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Blueprint to avert Carlton crisis

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Kangaroos fight for finals berth

Our footy experts review the clash between St Kilda and North Melbourne, and look ahead to Friday night's game between Carlton and Collingwood.

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CARLTON, much like Geelong in 2006, is at a critical moment in its recent history. After several years of steady progress, things suddenly appear to be falling apart through a combination of factors, of which coaching is just one.

Of course, given the lofty goals set pre-season and the very real likelihood that the Blues will now miss this year's finals, most of the attention is focused squarely on Brett Ratten.

Mark Thompson faced that six years ago as well. The Cats could have bowed to the pressure, gone the knee-jerk response with his sacking, and papered over the cracks.

Feeling the heat: Carlton's coach Brett Ratten.

Feeling the heat: Carlton's coach Brett Ratten. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

But Geelong didn't. In a far more mature response, it forensically pulled apart and examined an entire club, the fruits of its labour obvious for all to see over the past half-decade.

That's a path Carlton needs to be taking right away. For Ratten's sacking or staying won't alter the bigger picture. But a comprehensive, soul-searching and, most importantly, honest review of the entire operation just might. And here are the key issues.


Ratten has more strings to his coaching bow than when he took on the job five years ago. But in 2012, conservatism and a lack of resourcefulness have been recurring themes.

The first is apparent in the use of the likes of Kane Lucas, Andrew Collins and Josh Bootsma. They've all shown moments of real promise this season, but to date have appeared in 16 games collectively and haven't been allowed nearly enough opportunity to generate momentum, either in and out of the substitute's vest, or in and out of the team.

On the second matter, Carlton has regularly looked a one-trick pony since being picked off at the stoppages by Essendon in round four.

Last Friday night, it got picked off over the back by Hawthorn time and time again.

Perhaps another coach would have more faith in the kids, and more of a plan B or C. But he would still have the following issues with which to deal.


Many of Carlton's most promising recruits have been struck down by injury, Levi Casboult, Marcus Davies current examples, Luke Mitchell, Patrick McCarthy and Andrew McInnes in the same boat last year.

But the harsh bottom line remains a 48-man list, including rookies, of whom 13 have yet to play a single game of AFL football, Casboult and Rohan Kerr two who are in their third year, on zero games, Rhys O'Keeffe in his fourth for one game.

That's a long-enough wait to be able to assess the worth of any recruit given decent game time, let alone still be waiting to watch one take his first AFL steps and have any idea whether he's even up to the task.


Carlton has loaded up on talls in recent times. Yet it's still thin for quality up forward and down back, too reliant upon a forward turned defender in Lachie Henderson, and until recently, a defender turned forward in Bret Thornton.

The Blues have shown plenty of faith in keeping the likes of Paul Bower, Jordan Russell and Aaron Joseph on the list.

But they wax and wane on them regularly on a week-to-week basis, overlooked for a spell, then back in favour. Ditto Brock McLean.

Jeremy Laidler and Nick Duigan have both looked astute pick-ups, while Collins could still be if given a chance.

But the trading out of both Sam Jacobs and Shaun Grigg are increasingly looking more like mistakes than moments of inspiration. And more exclamation marks on the question of development.


The next couple of months will say plenty about how Carlton's administrative structure functions. So far, the signs aren't good. The Blues have fallen well short of that 50,000-membership mark they aimed for.

Are the coach, chief executive Greg Swann and president Stephen Kernahan all on the same page? A tight ship doesn't allow murmurings of discontent between the coach and high-performance manager (Justin Cordy) to enter the public arena in the first place.

If the losses continue and with them, inevitably, the speculation about Ratten, Carlton's office bearers will need to present a more united and emphatic response than they have thus far. To do otherwise now indicates tacit acceptance of fate.


Carlton had a rude awakening indeed to the new millennium, one that taught it a lot about humility. But do the Blues have a coherent, fundamental philosophy about what and where they want to be as a club for the next decade beyond that oft-repeated line about being a top-four team? The presence of club playing legends in key roles complicates life for the Blues. It perhaps means too much tip-toeing around the sensibilities of the coach and the president.

And it hasn't encouraged others to take the lead in the bigger picture.

And the bigger picture, with this year's finals chances fast disappearing, is what this should be about now for Carlton.

Talking about Ratten's future is an essential part of that equation. But talking about it in isolation would be a disaster in addressing a state that for Carlton is as much a crisis of culture as a crisis of coaching.


  • "But do the Blues have a coherent, fundamental philosophy about what and where they want to be as a club for the next decade beyond that oft-repeated line about being a top-four team?'

    Er, how much more 'philosophy' is required by an organization which exists only because it puts a team in an organized competition?Is it suggested that there is a nexus between this 'philosophy' and the level of performance of the members of that team?

    Read more:

    Date and time
    July 02, 2012, 8:37AM
    • Er, yes it is suggested there is a nexus. Won't be successful team for too long in this era of football if club isn't being run successfully. And there are bigger-picture issues which go to that, like, for instance, membership.

      Rohan Connolly
      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 10:06AM
  • The problem with Carlton is that they are soft both on and off the field.
    A good example is giving Waite a 3 year deal when history showed that he would not be fit enough to play more than a dozen games a year. Carlton should have been prepared to let him go if that was what he wanted and now they are locked into a contract that will most likely produce very little other than financial pain.
    On field there they are incapable of playing man on man which is a reflection of their coaching panel's game plan and an admission that there is no plan "B"
    Carlton need to take a much tougher approach in all aspects of the club especially on the field of play.

    Date and time
    July 02, 2012, 8:40AM
    • Yeah but Waite is Vinnie's boy

      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 10:51AM
    • Couldn't agree more. But as Rohan Connolly correctly points out, the problems are widespread and I suspect they will not e addressed unless they bring in a tough outsider and get rid of Kernahan for starters.

      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 10:55AM
    • I don't see how giving a player a 3 year deal is indicative of being soft. Players get 3 year deals all the time.

      the Bush
      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 2:45PM
    • Carlton's form cannot be attributed to injuries alone. They haven't helped but the problem is systemic.

      The recruiters have failed abjectly over the last few years. Kruezer, Gibbs, Murphy, Judd - all excellent gets but they don't make a team. Jamison and surprise packet Henderson are all that they have as worthwhile key position players. Maybe five or six more players over and above this lot are all that make up a respectable playing group. Waite should be used as trade bait. If he's not out injured, he's doing time in the sin bin. And how did Jacobs get traded and Hampson survive.

      Catch Brett Ratten on camera during a match and you see a rabbit caught in the headlights. He is totally out of his depth, so obviously bereft of a game plan. The look on his face is so obviously "what do I do now".

      Stephen Kernahan fell into the job of president when Richard Pratt died. Being a great player does not qualify you as a president. He has presided over the hiring of personnel clearly not up to the task. There is a distinct air of the old boys network - having played with him or certainly for the club seems to get you a significant leg up in your employment application.

      A clean sweep is needed before the talent that Carlton does have, ages before it can enjoy any success. Let's hope there's a coterie of talented members prepared to seriously challenge the current board. This one, and all the football staff it has hired, has been a demonstrable failure.

      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 5:34PM
  • It is hard to feel sympathy for any organisation or individual willing to get involved with Visy.

    Date and time
    July 02, 2012, 8:53AM
    • Jacobs and Grigg both wanted to leave to get more time on the field. What can a club do in that situation?
      Grigg for example has turned into an outside player at Richmond and Carlton wanted him to be an inside player which didn't suit Grigg.

      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 9:19AM
      • Yes, GB, aware of that, but why did they want to leave, suspect lack of opportunity and regard as much as anything. Did the Blues really exhaust the options on Grigg, perhaps he could have been a great outside player for them, too. And Jacobs is looking a far better long term prospect than Warnock or Hampson at the moment.

        Rohan Connolly
        Date and time
        July 02, 2012, 10:08AM

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