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Carlton's lowest ebbs

Date

Daniel Cherny

Warwick Capper kicks the goal that sunk Robert Walls in 1989

Warwick Capper kicks the goal that sunk Robert Walls in 1989 Photo: Channel Seven

A 23-point loss to Melbourne which, before Saturday, had just 17 goals in the first three rounds, has left Carlton languishing in a funk from which it is difficult to envisage a clear path back. For a club with a VFL/AFL record 16 premierships, and traditionally not far away from the September action, it is an unsightly nadir made all the more difficult to stomach given coach Mick Malthouse was hired on a platform of converting the foundations of Brett Ratten into more tangible rewards.

With Malthouse's premiership clock transforming rapidly into a ticking timebomb for the three-time premiership winning coach, it is worth contemplating just where the Blues' 0-4 start sits in the context of the proud club's lowest ever moments.


1989

Collingwood fans took joy in Carlton's 2002 struggles

Collingwood fans took joy in Carlton's 2002 struggles Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

It is a quarter of a century since the Blues last began a season winless following a month of football.

That season Carlton was under the stewardship of Robert Walls, a man who had led the club to a premiership only two years earlier. But Walls reportedly chastised his team following the 1988 preliminary final defeat to Melbourne, and by the subsequent season his troops were no longer performing.

Five losses to open the season ensued, and when flamboyant Brisbane Bear Warwick Capper slotted a late goal at a rain-soaked Princes Park to sink the Blues, Wallls was shown the door, to be replaced by favourite son Alex Jeasulenko.

Denis Pagan coaches Carllton for the final time in 2007

Denis Pagan coaches Carllton for the final time in 2007 Photo: Steve Holland

Ironically Walls would soon take over the Bears job left vacant after the sacking of Norm Dare.


1991

Two years later David Parkin had returned to his former post as Carlton coach, where he had a decade earlier steered the club to consecutive premierships.

Two-thirds of the way through what had been an indifferent season, the Blues were seventh on the ladder, and within reach of a return to the finals.

But things soon went awry, and by the year's penultimate round Carlton had slumped to 11th. With captain Stephen Kernahan absent, the Blues suffered a 98-point pummelling at the hands of eventual premiers Hawthorn, then the club's heaviest ever defeat to the Hawks.

By year's end, they ultimately lost eight of their final nine games. The wheel would soon turn, and within two years Carlton was in a Grand Final.


1998

Seven years down the track and the Blues were learning to deal with a new set of realities after the barnstorming run of 1995.

Despite overcoming reigning premiers Adelaide in the opening round, Carlton capitulated to lose eight consecutive games, including a humiliating 89-point shellacking in round seven to a young Port Adelaide side, led by eight goals in from the previously unknown teenager named Warren Tredrea.

A fortnight later the Blues lost the final game of an ignominious streak at home to North Melbourne, in a game perhaps best remembered for the exuberant Kangaroo jumper-laden intruder who ran onto the field brandishing a wooden spoon as an unwelcome gift for the Carlton faithful.


2002

The signs were ominous early when an ageing Carlton line-up was upset in the opening round by familiar cellar-dwellers St Kilda.

Things did not improve, and by Round 17 the Blues were anchored to the bottom of the ladder, staring down the barrel of a first ever wooden spoon after 106 years of VFL/AFL competition.

To make matters worse, archnemesis Collingwood had made a revial under Malthouse and on the Friday night stage, Carlton was humbled by 109 points, all but consigning the club to an unwanted fate.

Denis Pagan was pounced upon to coach the Blues as the final act of imperious Carlton President John Elliott.

The infamous salary cap scandal would soon rock the club to its core, and set the scene for a half a decade of struggles.


2007

After three wooden spoons in five seasons, the tide finally appeared to have turned by the time the Blues entered season 2007, and it began promisingly enough with a triumph in the pre-season NAB Cup.

But just like it had in 2005, pre-season silverware proved to be a false dawn, and by the time it had succumbed in Round 15 to Sydney, Carlton was 4-11.

A triple-figure loss the following weekend in Brisbane sealed Pagan's fate, with understudy Brett Ratten made caretaker coach. The next year Ratten would be given the position on a full-time basis.

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