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Different club, but same old grumpy Malthouse

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Chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age

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Malthouse coaching 'worst kept secret'

At the press call for Mick Malthouse's (unsurprising) announcement as Carlton coach, sports writer Greg Baum says interest lay in Malthouse's increasingly frustrated answers about the timing of his signing.

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IT WAS the sort of sequence that makes sense only in reverse. Twelve days apart, in the same auditorium at Princes Park, two Carlton coaches faced the media music. One was poised and dignified and prompted a round of applause when he was done. The other, once the introductory niceties were dispensed with, was bristling and combative, and when he was done, two Carlton staffers stood impromptu guard on the corridor down which he exited.

The perversity is that the decorous one was Brett Ratten, and he was on the way out, notwithstanding that a year remained on his contract, and the grumpy bum was Mick Malthouse, and - surprise, surprise - he was on the way in, having just signed for three years.

The repeatedly surfacing friction yesterday centred on the insistence of Carlton and Malthouse that they had held no discussions before Ratten's departure, and that they had had only an ''inkling'' of interest in one another. This jars with the understanding of the wider football community about a long, if unofficial courtship.

Spotlight: Mick Malthouse and Stephen Kernahan.

Spotlight: Mick Malthouse and Stephen Kernahan. Photo: Pat Scala

Of course, there are many ways not to have discussions. Malthouse said he delegated all authority to his friend and manager Peter Sidwell, also the chairman of Melbourne Heart, who was in the auditorium yesterday. His only instruction was to make no move until he had squared his coaching ambition - not so much rekindled as ever burning - with his family. He did the Sunday night before last.

Yet at the time of Ratten's sacking four days previously, Carlton already knew that Malthouse was available; tacitly, president Stephen Kernahan admitted it then, with the pause of the season.

Yesterday, Kernahan allowed that ''a few people outside Carlton'' might have spoken to Sidwell before the Blues and Malthouse formally met for the first time eight days ago. But the next day, three assistant coaches somehow knew already that their jobs had become untenable. Malthouse said he had only spoken of the ''structure'' he wanted, not the personnel. Kernahan said that he was ''totally comfortable'' with the integrity of the process.

Installed, Malthouse spoke elliptically of ''a thing called 'it' '', experienced and understood by few, the sum of all the pressures that an AFL footballer or coach feels.

Now part Confucius, part Sheedy, he said he would be doing a disservice to himself and the club to think in terms of a limit on his coaching career, or for that matter on Carlton's ambition. Coaching, he said, was a mountain that he still had not crested.

''A premiership to me has always been only part of the journey,'' he said, ''not a destination.''

Doubtlessly, he and Carlton will compare notes on that in three years. The Blues have never been much interested in scenic journeys, just expeditious arrivals. They don't apologise for their ambition, or care how many toes they stand on in pursuing it. It makes them more than any other, the club of cloak and dagger, or perhaps now Cloke and dagger.

Malthouse, too, has always been a better football coach by far than a PR operative. He was not there yesterday to propitiate media, especially not the 15 per cent he believes are out to spoil, provoke and antagonise. Of course, in this era, a little diplomacy helps, especially to satisfy sponsors.

But ultimately in football, as Kernahan noted on Ratten's D-Day, only winning matters.

Right now, those with the most jaundiced view of Malthouse's appointment are Carlton fans, who perhaps cannot yet in their imaginations divest him of his Collingwood cap, and so dwell only on what they disliked about Magpie Mick; some want Kernahan and the board held to account immediately for this travesty.

History suggests that six wins in a row will win most of them over. This time last year, Mark Harvey was Fremantle's martyr; now his name is hardly heard. Unsentimentally audited, Kernahan, Malthouse and Ratten - to his undying credit - were on the same page, whose bottom line, as summed up by Kernahan, reads: ''It's only about the football club.''

23 comments

  • When will Carlton realize premierships can no longer be purchased? Oh well long may they live in the 20th century.

    Commenter
    Richo
    Date and time
    September 12, 2012, 7:47AM
    • Every football team 'purchases' a premisership. They do it by 'Purchasing' the best players they can, 'Purchasing' the best trainers and facilities, 'Purchasing' the best coaching staff. Not sure if anyone has told you this but AFL and it's clubs aren't a volunteer organisation.
      Ratten had a great list and did well to bring the team so far but didn't know or was too slow to utilise them to best advantage. When you see guys like Jeff Garlette plays with such inconsitancy month in, month out and still getting a place in the side, there's a problem.

      Carlton should not have signed Ratts up for another two years but they didn't have a choice, now they do and they took it. Best of luck to them.

      As for what Mick said he would or wouldn't do, people change their minds everyday.

      Commenter
      Reaper78
      Date and time
      September 12, 2012, 12:30PM
  • give me a grumpy coach who wins anyday

    Commenter
    Gaz
    Location
    Yarrawonga
    Date and time
    September 12, 2012, 7:51AM
    • Is this the same Mick, I'll never coach against my Collingwood boys, Malthouse?

      Commenter
      Dennis
      Date and time
      September 12, 2012, 8:17AM
      • Everyone is entitled to a change of mind Dennis but what concerns me is... why did Mick feel the need to blatanly lie about it? Oh hang on, he's joing Carlton, it's part of the induction process there isn't it!

        Commenter
        Panther
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        September 12, 2012, 9:41AM
      • Yes it is. But in the end his arrogance and ego got the better of him. We should know by now that if you disagree with MM you are wrong - just ask him.

        Commenter
        Changa
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        September 12, 2012, 10:53AM
    • Why would anyone expect Carlton and Malthouse to acknowledge the deal was underway from half way through the season? It's done. Now everyone needs to move on. Malthouse may be a grumpy bum to you but he has a way of bringing out the best in his players and that's what counts.
      I suspect that Mick's comments a few weeks ago that there is a 50 /50 chance that Cloke will be leaving Collingwood may mean that it's a certainty too. I hope not. While Cloke has been criticised for a poor performance many times this year the same criticism could be levelled at many players who are performing well below their capabilities.

      Commenter
      BC
      Date and time
      September 12, 2012, 8:50AM
      • Eight weeks ago the phone rang and I was told that Malthouse, Cloke and one other were heading to the Blues. The other Pie could be...

        Commenter
        Flossy
        Date and time
        September 12, 2012, 8:51AM
        • Maybe Neon ??? (ex Pie)

          Commenter
          Bert
          Location
          Hoppers X
          Date and time
          September 12, 2012, 12:35PM
      • Better to try and manufacture a premiership by buying the best available at the time than turn into a premiership winless mob like the Tigers, Saints, Dogs. Carlton's list isn't all that bad and maybe with Mick's experience and knowledge he can turn that list into a premiership team. Who knows? Got to try something..

        Commenter
        Jay
        Date and time
        September 12, 2012, 10:26AM

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