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Malthouse a big risk as Blues err in axing Ratten

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Ratten: I don't care who coaches Carlton

Brett Ratten gives a 'blunt' answer to a packed media confernece when the name Mick Malthouse is raised in connection with his sacking as Carlton coach.

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IT'S 2001 and after 10 years as Carlton coach, David Parkin hands the reins to the low-profile Wayne Brittain. Brittain coaches the Blues to fifth spot. The next year they plummet to 16th, and president John Elliott can't get rid of Brittain quick enough because he wants to announce that the Blues have landed a big fish, dual premiership coach Denis Pagan. It's a coup that Elliott thinks will save his backside and keep the supporters happy.

Buyer beware... Mick Malthouse is a risky proposition for Carlton.

Buyer beware... Mick Malthouse is a risky proposition for Carlton. Photo: Getty Images

After all, how could you go wrong with a premiership coach?

But it doesn't work. Pagan lasts almost five years and takes the Blues to 15th, 11th, 16th, 16th and 15th. Towards the end of Pagan's tenure, they sack him and Brett Ratten takes over. There are six games to go, but the Blues don't want to win, even if they could. The priority is to secure Matthew Kreuzer in the draft, which they do.

So Ratten, a rookie senior coach, has his first summer to prepare a very ordinary list that's full of skill, cultural and discipline problems. It's a list that has delivered to Carlton its first ever wooden spoons. These have been the darkest days in Carlton's long history.

Carlton coach Brett Ratten began his tenure with a player list plagued by disclipine, skill and cultural problems.

Carlton coach Brett Ratten began his tenure with a player list plagued by disclipine, skill and cultural problems. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Ratten is told to make them competitive. With the support of Chris Judd, he does that. The Blues go from four wins to 10 in 12 months. The next year they do even better, win 13 games and make the finals for the first time in seven seasons.

They lose to the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba by seven points, but good performances by youngsters in Kreuzer and Marc Murphy are encouraging.

Into his third season, Ratten coaches the Blues to the finals for a second time. They lose by a kick to Sydney. Now it's 2011 and further improvement comes with a season that nets 14½ wins. It includes an elimination final victory over Essendon, and a week later they fail by just three points against the Eagles in Perth. It's disappointing but very promising. Ratten has shown he can coach. The list is developing, there are still flaws, but they have been competitive in finals.

Come 2012 the hopes are high. A top-four finish is possible. The season starts well but falls away as key players get hurt. Their unavailability exposes the lack of depth at the club. A bad loss to Port Adelaide in round 10 embarrasses the Blues, and the coach starts to wear serious heat. It increases each week as the losses mount.

Ratten is under siege, but he doesn't play politics, lay blame or pit personalities against each other, as some coaches do. He continues to put his players first. President Stephen Kernahan faces the media to share some of the load through this tough period, while chief executive Greg Swann is conspicuous in his absence. I believe Ratten grows as a coach through this period because he shows he can cope in a crisis.

Andrew Carrazzo and Murphy return from major shoulder injuries, but missing are the three tall defenders Jeremy Laidler, Lachie Henderson and Michael Jamison. Ratten has a back line that can't kick over a jam tin. So he has to play Heath Scotland, Chris Yarran and Bryce Gibbs back there. Someone needs to stamp ''KICKING SKILLS'' on the foreheads of Carlton's recruiters because half the list is substandard by foot.

Ratten, with his team sitting 7-8, gets them back on track with four wins in five games, culminating in a 96-point thrashing of Essendon. It puts the team at 11-9. Out of adversity there's hope; finals are a possibility and it ensures it won't be a losing season.

The Blues head to the Gold Coast and are expected to win. They don't. After a shocking first quarter, the coach keeps his cool and actually coaches well. The Blues dominate the hitouts and clearances. They end up with 23 more inside-50s and eight more scoring shots. They have 75 more disposals. But their poor kicking skills kill them.

So there's embarrassment, panic and anger. Emotions run high. Someone has to pay. The media hunt begins.

Premiership coach Mick Malthouse is available. Mid-season, he said he wasn't going to dance on Ratten's grave. But now he is re-energised and ready to go. But it's now or never, he says, because in 12 months it will probably be too late, at 60, to pick up the threads of an ever-changing game. So, cunningly, Malthouse lobs the ball in Carlton's court.

Polls are run and opinions sought on all media outlets. Should or shouldn't Ratten be sacked and Malthouse be his replacement? Kernahan says a review will be held after Sunday's final game. Swann says nothing. But behind closed doors they decide to sack Ratten.

It was the easy thing for the Blues' board to do. To replace a low-profile coach with a big name. That way they cover their back as Elliott tried, unsuccessfully with Pagan. The tough decision would have been to stick with a coach who has borne the brunt of a hellish season and honour his contract.

So let's look at facts. Ratten's success rate at Carlton in his five full seasons is 53.5 per cent. Premiership and long-term coaches Alastair Clarkson and John Worsfold were both sitting on 50 per cent 18 months ago. It took Malthouse 11 years to deliver a flag to Collingwood. After a decade of ups and downs, his strike rate was 51.5 per cent. Collingwood thought about replacing him. It didn't. Two grand finals followed.

After seven seasons at Geelong, Mark Thompson's strike rate was less than 50 per cent. The Cats dropped to 10th on the ladder and thought about sacking him. They didn't. A united front of chief executive Brian Cook and president Frank Costa stood behind the coach and the rest is history.

It's a tough business for coaches. There's no coaching messiah. Kevin Sheedy's last 15 years as a senior coach netted one flag. For Malthouse it's been one flag in 17 years. Exactly a year ago in the final round of the season, Malthouse's Magpies got smashed by the Cats by 96 points. Two weeks later, when the Pies scraped home to beat the Hawks by three points, the Collingwood coach was shot emotionally. Come the grand final, Malthouse didn't have a good day in the box. The game swung Geelong's way in the third quarter when Tom Hawkins got on top of Ben Reid. A change was needed. Chris Tarrant was the Pies' best negating defender. His opponent, James Podsiadly, was gone with an injury before half-time. Tarrant needed to be put on the damaging Hawkins. The move was eventually made, but it was 30 minutes too late. The horse had bolted.

So I think it's buyer beware, Blues. Geelong and Collingwood were rewarded for their faith in trying times. Kernahan should have stood by his man. Let him coach out his contract and at the end of 2013, if needed, look at Malthouse, an available Paul Roos, and well-credentialled emerging assistants such as Scott Burns and Leon Cameron.

98 comments

  • Wallsy you sound like Ratts quoting stat after stat. The most important stat at the end of the game is the one on the scoreboard which we found out the hard way on Saturday night. Ratts has done a good job but lacks the ruthless edge required to take the club all the way. The players need to have a coach who wont put up with substandard efforts and yet keep selecting them to play which we now find out has been tolerated by the coach. Bring on Malthouse and a new era and good riddance to players we have tolerated for far too long under this coaching regime like Bower and Russell.

    Commenter
    Musky
    Date and time
    August 29, 2012, 11:29PM
    • Too right - MM will tolerate the selfishness of some of the players that Rattern has cheered along. Seems like Kernaghan has made call number 1 - now he has to do number 2.

      Finally - I have been asking for this for 2 years

      Commenter
      Gaz
      Location
      Yarrawonga
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 7:20AM
    • Well put Wallsy but you missed two crucial points. Every other year of the final eight twelve wins would have got you into the finals. This year fourteen wins doesn't even guarantee it. In other words in any other year Carlton makes the finals and Ratten maybe lives on. Also Gold Coast are quickly starting to become quite a good side with a win over the Tigers and very close losses to three top eight teams it was only a matter of time before they claimed a scalp.

      Commenter
      Slammer
      Location
      Berwick
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 9:09AM
    • As a 30 year Carlton member who attends every game I totally agree with you Musky. Ratts has been a great and much decorated Carlton player and he comes across as a genuine guy BUT the bottomline is he's NOT a senior coach. In Ratten's letter to members on Monday he admitted that the club had been carrying players through the year, even with all the injuries we had, some players should have been dropped - tough decisions needed to be made and they weren't. I am sick to death of listening to Robert Walls being a Ratten apologist on any media outlet that will give him airtime and this article is just his whining stats filled radio comments regurgitated. I'd also like to know why he appears to have such a problem with Malthouse.

      Commenter
      Let's move on
      Location
      CBD
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 10:12AM
    • Malthouse recruited the likes of Carl Steinfort, Chad Rintoul and Jarrod Molloy (for Mal Michael) to Collingwood.

      Commenter
      Luke
      Location
      Richmond
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 11:45AM
    • Totally agree here! How is it Garlette can have 6 odd weeks straight playing like crap and not get pulled from the side and sent back to the 2nds for a couple weeks? Players are there to do a job and in any work place, if you don't do your job to some set standard, there are consequences.

      Ratts did a brilliant job and any coach that replaces him will be stepping into a plum job. The talent is already there, it just needs to be tweaked and tempered into a harder outfit. Things will get worse before they get better, sure, but it has to happen. If that involves a deal with the devil, so be it.

      Commenter
      MattMv8
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 11:50AM
    • Gaz what a ripper you are! I bet you are one of those supporters who screams at Ratten when things are down, but cheers on Juddy and Murph when we are on top. Robert Walls has written a very precise piece, READ IT AGAIN. If you don't get it READ IT AGAIN. This is NOT the time to change the coach.

      Commenter
      rattsistheman
      Location
      park orchards
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 2:01PM
  • Geelong and Collingwood were rewarded for their faith in trying times

    As were West Coast. Typical.

    Commenter
    Rusty
    Date and time
    August 29, 2012, 11:40PM
    • And Hawthorn. Clarko was dead man walking in 06, got a premiership in 08 and looking good now. Rats is the victim of the win at all costs culture at Carlton. As has been said, they have a truckload of first and first round picks who should be able to play (Kruezr, Judd, Murphy, Walker, Gibbs). But the second tier players at Carlton not as good as the top 6 teams, and their depth has been exposed. You need depth, skill, mentals and X-factor for a tilt at the prize.

      Commenter
      Save the wilderbeest
      Date and time
      August 30, 2012, 9:57AM
  • Excellent. I just wish this had been penned earlier. Ratten had restored some of the pride and dignity to the Carlton Football Club in recent years, and I for one was excited about the future. My scissors hover over my membership.

    Commenter
    SteveM
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    August 29, 2012, 11:52PM

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    Comments are now closed

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