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Make-or-break month for Ratten

Date

Rohan Connolly

Coaching conundrum: Carlton's Brett Ratten must try something radical to quieten his critics ... or buy some earplugs.

Coaching conundrum: Carlton's Brett Ratten must try something radical to quieten his critics ... or buy some earplugs. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

THREE weeks ago, this column outlined the reliability of the ''round seven rule'', and came up with a final ladder.

The round seven theory might still hold up, though the top eight has already changed by two teams since then, but boy that ladder is looking a bit sick, particularly the team I had finishing on top.

Carlton, the day of its Monday night clash with St Kilda, was riding high with a 5-1 record, and form good enough to justify it finishing with as many as 18 wins. Four games on, the Blues would be at long odds indeed to finish top, are going to struggle to make top four, and in their current state, could quite conceivably miss the eight altogether.

The loss to St Kilda that evening was a shock. The subsequent smashing at the hands of Adelaide a wake-up call. A win over bottom-of-the-ladder Melbourne anything but inspiring. And Saturday night's shocker against Port Adelaide a disaster.

Carlton certainly hasn't taken a trick on the injury front, Heath Scotland now joining late withdrawal Matthew Kreuzer, Marc Murphy, Andrew Carrazzo, Jarrad Waite, Lachie Henderson, Nick Duigan and Jeremy Laidler on the sidelines.

That's a fair toll, and some mitigation for the drubbing at the hands of Port. Some, but not all. Not when rivals such as Collingwood, West Coast and Essendon have at times this year found a way to manufacture wins while similarly undermanned.

It's still only June, but for Carlton, it's effectively crisis time already. The month ahead - taking in Geelong, West Coast (in Perth), a bye, Hawthorn and Collingwood - is a lot tougher than the one the Blues have just limped through. And the questions routinely asked of Brett Ratten and his support staff are becoming far louder.

Indeed, the next month for Ratten is looming, in coaching terms, as career defining. He needs to find some solutions to the present malaise pronto. And show more daring and inventiveness than he has thus far.

I've often thought Carlton fans were too harsh on their coach. But right now, they might have a point. It was Ratten, after all, who immediately after his two-year contract extension last October identified a top-four finish as the Blues' minimum aim. And if they're going to get out of this pickle, it's he who is going to have to lead the way.

Carlton is withering on the vine, starting in midfield where, since the loss to Essendon in round four, the Blues have appeared to have little answer to opponents who throw more numbers around the stoppages, cutting Carlton's creativity off at its core.

Murphy and Carrazzo's absences are hanging like a millstone around the neck of Chris Judd, beaten on Saturday night by the precocious Hamish Hartlett, and whose disposal effectiveness was reduced to just 43 per cent.

The Blues can't make the missing pair return magically, but they can at least bite the bullet and give Bryce Gibbs some serious midfield time in the interim. At least his creativity might give Carlton an opportunity to do something more with its still-high differential rankings for contested ball and clearances.

Why doesn't Ratten consider giving under-performing small forward Jeff Garlett a run in the middle? Or Chris Yarran? Players with vision and skill. For as solid as Brock McLean has been in his return, his example isn't one that's going to seriously turn back the tide.

The Blues could throw Judd forward for longer, too, the ''rob Peter to pay Paul'' argument losing credence by the week as Judd's efficiency rating continues to slip.

He's certainly far more likely to throw a cat among opposition pigeons than a defender such as Paul Bower. So is Gibbs. Or someone other than a third ruckman, that strategy failing to pay off more often than it has worked for too long now.

Carlton keeps going back to the well with the likes of Bower, Aaron Joseph, Jordan Russell and Ed Curnow. Maybe it's time the Blues started drilling deep in a new location for some fresh water, and throw the serial senior offenders when the chips are down challenges that will make or break them once and for all.

Ratten can rightly argue the loss of key players in all parts of the ground has effectively tied one arm behind his back. But unless he and Carlton are prepared to try something more radical with that free hand, given the immediate road ahead, the damage will have effectively been done by the time the absentees return.

Carlton's coach has copped plenty of flak from his own. Over the next month, Ratten can shut them up once and for all by leading the Blues back into contention with a coach-led recovery.

Or buy a pair of earplugs as the mutterings of discontent turn into a dull roar.

55 comments

  • The most accurate description of Carlton's plight to date.

    Hit two nails on the head. Our depth is dreadful, perceived to be good because high draft picks remain on the list and perform well in the VFL but when injuries occur they come into the seniors, consistently muck up and then are dropped only to be recalled when injury opens the door again (read Bower, Russell, Joseph et al). We need to see Mitchell and Casboult and more of White and Davies but none are available.

    Second point (nail) is Ratten's lack of imagination. When the team is struggling Judd should be played out of the goal square, either of Garlett, Yarran or Betts in the centre and for heaven's sake play Gibbs permanently in the centre or forward of the ball. Try to win games first and save games later.

    However what will happen is that Ratten will coach conservatively to shore up his career, hang his hat on a momentous win here and there, continually tell everyone Jarrad Waite is the key (best footy behind him) and we will not go forward. We can't play 22 weeks and Ratten can't get the best out of this group.

    Commenter
    Blue Moon
    Location
    Perth
    Date and time
    June 04, 2012, 1:05AM
    • I'm sorry? Carlton had 5 players out and therefore they lack depth and had to play inexperienced players. Port had 4 players who are clearly in our best 22 out: Lobbe, Gray, McCarthy, Butcher AND 13 of the 22 had played less than 50 AFL games AND six of those, less than 20. AND then lost our main forward to injury ( Jay Schulz)
      Carlton were beaten by a better team on the day.

      By the way, will Ratten now say he was wrong about his statement two years ago that "Jay Schulz was not good enough for AFL and never would be"

      Commenter
      Greg in Mulgrave
      Location
      Mulgrave
      Date and time
      June 04, 2012, 12:54PM
  • It was not long ago that Juddy compared the media (and indeed us all) to goldfish, in that our memory cycle only stretches to two weeks. Though no marine biologist, I haven't minded watching Carlton thrash around on the hook for the last month.

    Commenter
    Captain Courageous
    Location
    Goal Square
    Date and time
    June 04, 2012, 1:08AM
    • Carlton Premiership favourites?... Ohh, bless....

      Commenter
      rob
      Location
      Dubai
      Date and time
      June 04, 2012, 1:30AM
      • Correct Rohan, Carlton has looked like a rabble since it was taken apart by Essendon. The Blues have offered up feeble, embarrassing responses.

        Yep the losses of Carazzo and Murphy have been disasters and Duigan's grunt is missed, but the real problem is that nobody has stepped in to fill the breach. Compare this to the situations at West Coast and Collingwood; these clubs have multiple stars that are gone for the year. It has been barely noticed though as others have lifted a cog or two.

        Once the contest is flooded with tough hard bodies disrupting the pretty, free-flowing running game, the Blues don't seem to have a Plan B or the mental toughness to dig in and tough out a game. The bright side if there is one, is that Carlton will get all of their injured players back in time for the business end of the season, provided it isn't all too late. Ratten will cop the blame but his players have let him down badly; they demonstrate no appetite for getting their hands dirty and deserve the 'soft as butter' tag being widely applied.

        Commenter
        Apples
        Location
        Collingwood
        Date and time
        June 04, 2012, 1:51AM
        • Correct Rohan, Carlton has looked like a rabble since it was taken apart by Essendon. The Blues have offered up feeble, embarrassing responses.

          Yep the losses of Carazzo and Murphy have been disasters and Duigan's grunt is missed, but the real problem is that nobody has stepped in to fill the breach. Compare this to the situations at West Coast and Collingwood; these clubs have multiple stars that are gone for the year. It has been barely noticed though as others have lifted a cog or two.

          Once the contest is flooded with tough hard bodies disrupting the pretty, free-flowing running game, the Blues don't seem to have a Plan B or the mental toughness to dig in and tough out a game. The bright side if there is one, is that Carlton will get all of their injured players back in time for the business end of the season, provided it isn't all too late. Ratten will cop the blame but his players have let him down badly; they demonstrate no appetite for getting their hands dirty and deserve the 'soft as butter' tag being widely applied.

          Commenter
          Apples
          Location
          Collingwood
          Date and time
          June 04, 2012, 1:56AM
          • Rohan Connolly shows rare self-awareness with his introduction to this column.

            If only Connolly was forced at the start of every article to point out which of his his articles from earlier in the season (or even just the previous month) he was about to completely contradict then he might - might - just stop making such rubbish predictions every second week.

            Commenter
            Michael Fink
            Date and time
            June 04, 2012, 2:00AM
            • Spot on! Absolutely!

              Commenter
              Hanging Judge Jeffries
              Date and time
              June 04, 2012, 9:48AM
          • Can't disagree with all that Rohan...you did forget to mention the soft blue away kit though. It's enough to make anyone go limp. How we can have pride in that jumper is beyond me.

            Commenter
            Mahatmakoat
            Date and time
            June 04, 2012, 4:16AM
            • This may sound a little silly, but its not. I haven't seen an ounce of pride in the way Carlton has played since beating Collingwood. Its hard to have pride in a ridiculous sky blue outfit. Its a joke, and deep down in each player's psyche, I bet the stupid away strip is also stripping them of a vital ingredient - pride. Pride in the team, the tradition, the Old Dark Navy Blue. A decision made for money is costing them pride and in the end, this is as important as skill when push comes to shove.

              Commenter
              Damo
              Location
              in the Den
              Date and time
              June 04, 2012, 12:39PM

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