CARLTON'S decision to replace Brett Ratten as coach, with a view to appointing Mick Malthouse, was painful but understandable. Given five years, the incumbent was still to convince that he could drive a team all the way. The opportunity to grab one of the best, who's done it repeatedly, was too good to pass up.
But the Carlton/Malthouse fit is not entirely without challenge. The club and its new man will at some future stage be required to extend themselves in ways they have previously resisted. There are interesting times ahead.
''We have to strike,'' club president Stephen Kernahan said at Thursday's announcement of Ratten's departure.
Carlton's reputation as a successful club within the AFL era is shaky - one flag in 25 years is scarcely top 10.
They can hear the clock ticking on Chris Judd. They have a core of high draft picks and other good players in the prime of their football years. Time is on the wing. Only a flag will appease the discomfort.
So the Blues intend to appoint a proven coach who, in his first year at the helm, will turn 60. On the score of age, it will be a unique appointment. And they will hope to quickly win a premiership to justify it.
If the coup is completed and delivers its clear objective, all will be well. The Baggers will have a 17th flag and the coach would join the exclusive four-flag club. But what then?
As ever, Carlton is acting for the here and now. Replacing coaches is in its DNA; doing hard yards towards a longer-term objective is not. The play for Malthouse, justified though it may be, can't be seen as other than a short-term grab. He perhaps has a five year shelf-life. As well as he coached at Collingwood, the premiership there took a decade.
This means Carlton, as it commits to a full assault under a proven veteran, must also think to the long-term. The last time it did this, Wayne Brittain was shoehorned into the coach's box behind David Parkin, then - in a moment of political expediency - sacked within two years.
Having enjoyed Sunday afternoons this season in Mick's company in the 3AW commentary box, I have no doubt he still wants to coach. If it's a drug and he's coming down, I suspect he has a long way to go.
Most of all, he misses the competitive cut and thrust. Mick has stayed hungrier for longer than Barassi and been less prone to distraction than Sheedy. He remains fit and sharp, and - such is his unique nature - he retains the appetite to succeed in the dog-eat-dog environment. There's no issue about him taking the same old drive to a brand-new club.
The problem at some stage might be that age does weary. Perhaps the reason American coaches go on longer than ours is that, in their culture, the delegation process is more fully realised. While AFL coaching panels are headed down that road, Mick's reputation is that of the more traditional autocrat. An old dog is hardly likely to start practising new tricks.
It was put to me by one experienced observer in recent days that Mick's relative youth is such that he will comfortably manage five years at Carlton and maybe more. The one credential the observer lacked on the matter, though, is that he's not close to 60 himself.
So Carlton, even as a club totally committed to Mick Malthouse as its coach, will be in the unusual position of being able to envision the next stage. And that, at some point, will require Mick to again face the concept of succession planning.
It didn't sit well with him at Collingwood because he felt entrapped by its nature and timing. And while it is to put the cart before the horse to speculate on it - after all, he hasn't accepted the job yet - it is foreseeable that the time will come when Mick and his employer club will have to face it. It's a matter both parties have time to contemplate.
The club, for its part, would do well to consider its past pattern of coaching appointments. Its devotion to the messiah cult remains undiminished. Barassi, Stewart, Parkin, Walls and Pagan were all brought from outside to produce instant results. To that list the name Malthouse is soon likely to be added. Thus far, the results are a mixed bag.
In thinking long term, and looking for a model, the Blues need look no further than the team on top of the AFL ladder. In 2005, the Hawks took a major risk on a coach with no profile. They accepted a 32 per cent win rate through two seasons of rebuilding, won a flag two years later, and may win another this year. On current indications, it's likely they have a 10-year-plus coach. It's a reward for their courage, conviction and clear thinking.
It was the type of appointment Carlton of the past 50 years would never have made.