Gold Coast players celebrate as the end of the match nears. Photo: Getty Images
KNEE-JERK reactions are rife in football. In which case Carlton coach Brett Ratten could be about to feel their full effect.
The Blues' coach, under pressure all season to keep his post despite having a year left to run on his contract but looking safer recently after Carlton's four wins in its past five games, might have had those credits more than wiped out in one of the upsets of the season on the Gold Coast last night.
Carlton has known more embarrassment than its entire previous history this past decade, including its first wooden spoons, but last night's 12-point loss to the fledgling Suns, with so much at stake, will sting as painfully as any of them.
Carlton coach Brett Ratten arrives back in Melbourne. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
The Blues' finals hopes are shot. And more than likely their coach's career with them. Even over the course of Carlton's mini-revival this past month, there has remained elements of the club's board and powerbrokers still agitating for change.
They can be expected to give full vent to their discontent now. And if former Collingwood premiership coach Mick Malthouse hasn't already taken a phone call or two from someone with Carlton connections, he most assuredly will.
The miracle it would now take for Carlton to still make it to September requires Fremantle to lose to North Melbourne today, very possible, but also to Melbourne at home the following week, an upset on the same scale as last night's.
And given the likely shock waves coming out of Visy Park over the next few days, even that might not make a difference.
That might be unfair, for as has been well-documented, injuries ripped the heart out of the Blues' playing list at a critical stage of the season, during which they lost six games out of seven to plummet from early premiership favouritism to a team battling to stay in touch.
The gradual return of the stars, and the ''discovery'' of replacements such as Levi Casboult, Tom Bell and Andrew McInnes, righted the ship to a point where by last week's 96-point smashing of Essendon, Ratten looked arguably more likely to stay in the post than not.
But if several senior Blues had spoken publicly about ''playing for their coach'' recently, and that's certainly how it has appeared, they couldn't have delivered a more hurtful slap to his face than the apathetic manner in which they started last night, conceding the first six goals to a wooden-spoon candidate.
They should, and will, be on the end of a truckload of criticism. But those gunning for Ratten, given the finals death knell, will be wheeling out his pre-season boldness regarding a top-four finish as a smoking gun. And so will they pounce on another example of the mental fragility that has reared its head consistently at the worst possible moments, arguing those lapses of attitude in a collective sense, must ultimately be worn by the man in charge.
There have certainly been several stark examples in 2012. But last night, given the level of football Carlton achieved just last Saturday in its crushing of Essendon, might top them all.
Carlton's win over Gold Coast, winner of just two games all season, was taken as a given, the only question by how much it could boost its percentage in a race with Fremantle for the last spot in the finals. But instead we were delivered a script no one could have foreseen.
As a long bomb from Gary Ablett was marked by Suns veteran Campbell Brown close to goal, Carlton trailing by 10 points with under five minutes left on the clock, the cameras captured Ratten dropping the phone he had been gripping tightly, and clasped both hands to his head.
That might prove the moment he realised two games were up. For his team. And for his own career in charge of the club he loves and served with distinction as a player.
Yesterday, in his newspaper column, Paul Roos wrote that he believed a rational assessment by Carlton powerbrokers would see Ratten retained. There was, however, a qualifier: ''But there will be those who see Malthouse as the answer to lifting the premiership cup once again for this extremely proud and demanding football club.'' After last night, you can rest assured that rightly or wrongly, there will be a lot more joining that band.