MICK Malthouse says Carlton will need every minute of the pre-season to iron out issues with his game plan as the Blues struggled come to terms with the new regime.
''The intent was there, but we're getting a bit confused between the two game structures from last year and this year,'' said the new Carlton coach after a narrow win against Greater Western Sydney and thrashing of the Swans.
''We'll certainly need the three NAB Cup games in front of us to iron out a few areas of concern.''
Malthouse said he was not criticising former coach Brett Ratten's tactics, but would be changing the way the Blues play ahead of round one against Richmond on March 28.
''This is the way I want to do it, and this is the way it's got to be,'' he said. ''We can't have mixed game structures or plans or anything else.
''There's enough there from today to be shown [in a video review session], and it's crystal clear. It's not going to be cured overnight.''
The Blues showed they are fast learners with contrasting performances on Sunday. When Stephen Gilham goaled seven minutes into the second half for the Giants, they were three goals behind and staring down the barrel of a loss.
Less than an hour later, the Blues, who played about two thirds of their first-choice side in each game, had not only wrenched victory from the Giants but handed the reigning premier an unfriendly welcome to 2013. In the space of about 25 minutes across two games the Blues slammed on eight unanswered goals, and may also have raised the expectations among a supporter base not renowned for its patience.
Form in February and early March is seldom an accurate pointer to the months ahead, though in Carlton's case its winless pre-season
12 months ago was followed by a thoroughly disappointing home-and-away campaign.
The Blues have already bettered that but in this competition, where a team is judged by more than wins and losses, there was plenty for Malthouse to like.
The three-time premiership coach admitted to being a bit rusty, this being his first appearance in the coach's box since Collingwood's loss to Geelong in the 2011 grand final.
''I forgot to put the headphones on. I was thinking 'gee, I haven't had any messages yet','' Malthouse said.
''I kept on asking how long we've got to go - and the clock was right there [in front of me].
''You get back on the bike, but you've still got to know the rules.''
One match of two 20-minute halves is an extremely small sample size to make a meaningful judgment of attitude but in coming back from 18 points down against the Giants they showed the initiative that was seldom evident last year. The horror loss to the Gold Coast, which ultimately cost Brett Ratten his job, was a case in point. On Sunday, however, they were able to will themselves to victory - albeit against the wooden spoon favourite - despite being lacklustre for much of the game.
And, for a change, it was not Chris Judd, who sat out the game, leading the revival.
Sam Rowe, who made headlines last year for his fight against testicular cancer, was one of the lesser-known Blues to impress.
He finished with two goals but it was his willingness to compete in the air and bring his smaller teammates into the game that could see him given a game in round one - particularly if Jarrad Waite cannot shake his injury problems.
''It's a good story for football, he probably thinks every day is a bonus,'' Malthouse said.
''He attacks the ball hard and wants to be an AFL footballer.''
Other than kicking the match-winner against the Giants, Levi Casboult also made a big impact - just ask GWS' Matt Buntine, who wore a knee to his ribs in a heavy clash. That incident might result in a late start to the season for the burly forward but his strong marking and aggression will add strength to a forward line that lacked grunt last year.
Malthouse's teams have a reputation of attacking via the boundary line but it was his use of Bryce Gibbs that provided the greatest point of difference to the Ratten style of play.
Gibbs played primarily in the midfield in both matches and showed his liking for it with nine possessions in each game.
Eddie Betts, the Blues' leading goalscorer, was also given a run in the middle by Malthouse.