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Blues daze for coach

Gold Coast players celebrate as the end of the match nears.

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.

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.

21 comments

  • For a bloke who seems down-to-earth, you're a bit of a turncoat Connolly. You scathingly wrote off your beloved Essendon last week, criticising their list that put them in the top4 for nearly 3/4 of a season, and now gleefully put the knife into Ratten.

    You've lost my support dude, you're just another hack, looking to shill a more more lucrative gig for the Murdochs, contributing to their hysterical charade of footy 'experts'.

    You're just Mark Robinson with a better diction!

    Commenter
    Yazza
    Location
    Greensborough
    Date and time
    August 26, 2012, 12:32AM
    • They should have Grant Thomas'd Ratten last year. After two previous 1st round exits (one of them a particularly gutting upset), last year should have been prelims or bust. Instead, winning one final (against an Essendon side which made the 8 despite winning less than half of its games- compare that to the fringe of this year's 8!) somehow got him retained.

      "Top 4 or bust!" was right. Injuries could be blamed for not making top 4 if they made the top 8 and made some noise now they're as close to full strength as anyone still is at this stage of the season. Instead they lose to an injury ravaged Gold Coast with finals on the line, which shows that injuries aren't the problem. A rational assessment is that Ratten has had enough years in the job to shape and build this team to the best of his ability, it's not good enough, time to give someone else a go. The Saints made the right call on dumping Grant Thomas, and he got his Saints further than Ratten has got his blues. There's a reasonable argument that the Bulldogs should have done it to Eade (the same way Sydney did to Eade years earlier, a very good rebuilding coach but not one who seems to be able to take a team to the final hurdle). Carlton will only regret delaying the inevitable here.

      Commenter
      Arky
      Date and time
      August 26, 2012, 12:48AM
      • I feel for Ratts, and this result should not be the reason to replace him, a decision should not be made on one game no matter how bad...kick straight and the team would have won. He deserves to go around again next year. All this talk about Malthouse, a man who only delivered 2 flags in 20+ years when during that time those teams should have delivered at least 4? why the hype? Keep Ratts, he has grown and will continue to grow with the team he has put together after he inherited a terrible list.

        Commenter
        Macca
        Date and time
        August 26, 2012, 2:32AM
        • Stuff sacking Ratten, I vote merger. Carlton Tigers sounds good. St. Kilda Blues? Get rid of some of those wanna be players too. Get players with some heart and guts, fighters, go get 'em blokes. Screw Malthouse, too old, too short term. Carlton Demons? Colours aren't too much of a stretch. Look how well the Bears did after they merged. North Blues? We could nab Scott as a coach and have Ratten assist. Not bad. Carlton Vixens? After last night's performance I think the Blues would do well at netball, although they might struggle to score...

          Commenter
          Have a go ya mug
          Location
          P. Park
          Date and time
          August 26, 2012, 3:01AM
          • Rohan Connolly has made a sterling defence of Ratten's performance as a coach, citing injuries as the main cause for Carlton's disappointing season. Clearly, those injuries didn't help. But the assessment is much more complicated than that. It's what he does on the field - or more to the point, what he doesn't do - that should be the determinant of his continuing tenure.

            What has been glaringly obvious is that, tactically, he's either just too slow or, as has been embarrassingly revealed week after week, he is simply devoid of ideas. On top of that, he has not been creative or proactive in the use of the list of players available to him. He's not blooded players nearly well enough to provide them with senior game time experience in order for them to be able to adequately cover the injury situation Carlton found itself in. Players like Casboult, Bell and McIness only fell into the team when there simply weren't enough of the usual suspects who were injury free.

            Yes, the players should be accountable for performances like the one yesterday but it's the coach's job to train his charges to be switched on and to stay switched on week in and week out. If they're not, then it's down to the coach. He does that on the training track as much as on game day. Creative moves on the field can inspire a team to respond. If there's not much light emanating from the coach, then the light in the players goes out as well.

            Commenter
            DJS
            Date and time
            August 26, 2012, 5:11AM
            • The traffic on the Hume highway will busy on Monday as all those Carlton supporters head off on their September holidays. Long time supporters would have booked their holiday many weeks ago, but for those die hards that were planning on heading into the finals series as favourites, ROFL. I bet your wishing now you had taken part in "tanking season" with those other loosers, Essendon. The lesson for this season is; Being on top in May does not win you a premiership in October.

              Commenter
              Bluey
              Date and time
              August 26, 2012, 6:46AM
              • I am not sure that you can slate all the blame at the coach, but maybe a new coach is needed to bring the broom through the squad. Waite overpaid and over-rated, loses as many games for us as he wins. We desperately need a key forward who will do the job more often than not, our mid-field must find it incredibly frustrating to send the ball forward time and time again for no result.
                If the Fev can't be brought back, scour the country leagues for a seasoned performer, as the set up of relying on smalls and Waite will continue to fail this club. Look at Geelong who found the Pod. There are blokes out there, who would love a crack at the big time.

                Commenter
                Blues at Hervey Bay
                Location
                Hervey Bay
                Date and time
                August 26, 2012, 7:48AM
                • Norwood.

                  Commenter
                  billygoat
                  Location
                  ponziville
                  Date and time
                  August 26, 2012, 8:04AM
                  • Injuries are no excuse. West Coast and Collingwood have had just as many, if not more, and they're both vying for a top 4 finish. And Carlton started their losing streak before the injury "crisis" really hit. Carlton's "return to form" coincided with a run of games against lower ranked teams, and giving Essendon a hiding is hardly an achievement given the state they are in at the moment. The stated ambition at the start of the season was top 4. The call after round 3 by all their fans was that the premiership was theirs for the taking. Take no notice of the fans because they're deluded, but the club itself should be marked against it's own pre-season assessment. And on that score they get a BIG FAT "F". Pure and simple. Which means Ratten has to go. If it isn't done after next week, then it will only mean an early end to his season next year, because the year will pan out exactly the same as this year. With top 4 ambition and a failure to make the finals.

                    Commenter
                    dms1972
                    Location
                    Adelaide
                    Date and time
                    August 26, 2012, 8:26AM
                    • As a Blues supporter of 36 years, I can only say that last nights performance was embarrassing. However, I do not think that the finger can be pointed at Ratten. To let the Suns kick the first 6 goals is on the players. Our own appalling kicking at goal was on the players. Our disposal inaccuracy is on the players. Getting rid of Ratten is not the answer. The same cannot be said for getting rid of some of the lower tier of our playing group.

                      Commenter
                      Michael
                      Location
                      Melbourne
                      Date and time
                      August 26, 2012, 8:29AM

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