Carlton leaders Kade Simpson and Lachie Henderson say a lack of confidence, rather than a lack of class, is the winless club's biggest problem, and that hard work is the only way to revive their morale and their season aspirations.
On Monday morning, vice-captain Simpson and Henderson, who is in his first season in Carlton's eight-man leadership group, sought to give some explanation for their team's poor form, particularly in the past fortnight, in which the Blues were smashed by Essendon and then beaten by rank underdog Melbourne.
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'The day of the messiah in football is dead'
Only "hard work, patience and a longer-term view" can dig Carlton out of the hole it has found itself in, Rohan Connolly reports.
"I think the group's just a bit flat at the moment," Simpson lamented, at the Blues' Visy Park headquarters.
"Obviously... we're not performing the way we want to. The only thing we can do is work hard and keep working on the things we've been working on, and try and execute them on game day."
Swingman Henderson was adamant a lack of self belief was the key factor behind the Blues having slumped to second-last on the ladder, only percentage above Brisbane. He said that negative mindset was hampering the implementation of tactical plans devised by coach Mick Malthouse and his assistants.
"The lack of confidence is the big one. That's the one we're trying to change," Henderson said.
"I think it's lack-of-confidence footy. That's the one thing that's letting us down, that we're trying to put these things in place and they're just not happening. They're the things we've got to work hard on and move forward with."
Simpson said he and his fellow Carlton players had not been obsessing about the absence of midfield general Chris Judd, nor were they expecting him to be the panacea for their form woes when he eventually returns from an Achilles injury.
"He hasn't actually come up in our meetings at all, 'Juddy'. He's obviously going to be a handy player when he does come back but we're definitely not relying on him," Simpson said.
"He's not going to be the saviour and the fix, it's not that he's going to come back and we're just going to all click."
Simpson also rebutted the observation of the club's general manager of football Andrew McKay that it was "probably ... lacking a little bit in on-field leadership".
"I don't think it's a problem," the veteran said. "We've probably lacked 22 contributors out there - you're not going to win too many games of footy (with that). It's so competitive these days, if you've got a couple of passengers you're not going to win.
"We've got a great leadership group, with 'Murph' (captain Marc Murphy) leading by example. We need 22 guys to put their hand up and all lead by example."
Both players leapt to the defence of coach Malthouse, with Henderson declaring flak for the Blues' poor start to 2014 was "definitely on us" rather than the former Collingwood and West Coast premiership coach.
"We're the players out there, we've got to execute our game plan when we go out there and execute the things we've put in place, and we're not doing that as players, as a team," he said.
Simpson concurred, expressing his belief Malthouse, in his second year at the helm at the club, "has been through all this before so he's definitely the right man, and he's going to have the answers for us and put some things in place that we can execute".
Simpson also insisted he had not lost faith that he and his current teammates had the potential to lift the Blues into the top four.
"Obviously we came into the year trying to improve on last year. It hasn't gone to plan so far, being zero and four, but our best footy is really good footy," he said.
"We're not playing that for long enough. We saw little patches of it in the first two rounds, but the past two weeks have been pretty disappointing."
Henderson said extricating the Blues from their current predication is "just going to take hard work", starting with their twilight clash against the resurgent Western Bulldogs on Sunday.
"We're putting things in place. We're just going to have to stick to them, and work hard during the week," he said.
"We're working very hard on our deficiencies and we'll keep doing that."