In happier times: Stephen Kernahan welcomes Mick Malthouse to the club back in September 2012. Photo: Pat Scala
Carlton president Stephen Kernahan has backed Mick Malthouse to rebuild the struggling Blues, conceding his club is ''a fair way off'' the top four.
Kernahan refused to give details of his club’s most recent board meeting, at which Malthouse delivered a brutal assessment of Carlton’s list, declaring the Blues boasted five ''A-graders'' and that no side could be expected to challenge for the top four without at least eight.
''What’s said at the board meeting, that’s private,'' he said on Monday. "But look, Mick ... if he hadn’t said it to us, he would have said as much on what he saw last night. Quite clearly that was a major issue, what we served up last night to our members and our supporters.
''We finished sixth last year, for better or for worse. The call has been made we’re trying to close the gap between us and the top four, but on last night’s performance we’re a fair way off that.''
Kernahan, admitting he remained shattered the day after Carlton’s 81-point loss to Essendon - a loss Malthouse said he hadn’t seen coming - also defended the apparent shift in Malthouse’s appraisal of Carlton’s so-called premiership clock. It is a shift which saw the 60-year-old coach bullish regarding his side’s prospects at the start of 2013, but having become increasingly pessimistic since then.
"Certainly Mick put no limits on the side,'' admitted Kernahan. "Is it not fair that you can be confident at the start of a season? That you start out with optimism? We’re not getting everything right, but if it’s still wrong in three years time, we’ll see then.
''Our recruiting? It’s where we’re at, isn’t it? We haven’t been the best at it and we haven’t been the worst. We were hamstrung by a couple of contracts and we’ve had to deal with compromised drafts. We’re almost at the end of that, but in the meantime Gold Coast and GWS have stockpiled plenty of big blokes and everyone’s going to be coming after them now.''
Having sacked Brett Ratten for Malthouse in the belief the former Blues captain could not coach the club to a premiership, Kernahan said he accepted the ongoing scrutiny for that decision but would not back away from it. ''We’ve been in that fifth-to-eighth mix for a long time and we got the best bloke available at the time and I’ll stand by that,'' he said.
While Kernahan will step down from the presidency in this, his seventh season, and will not be the one to make the call, he gave his strongest indication yet that he believed Malthouse should be given the opportunity to remain at Carlton beyond his three-year contract. That contract expires at the end of next season.
''Mick has proven he can rebuild. He’s done it before. Call it renovate or rebuild or what you like, we made 10 changes to our list last year and we might well be doing the same this year.
''We’ll be sticking by our coach. Do you reckon he can coach? Well, so do I. Our blokes are the ones who need to take some responsibility for what they served up [on Sunday night]. But I don’t reckon they are going to give it away just yet.''
Kernahan confirmed he would be handing over a significant amount of his presidential responsibility after the club’s official 150th celebration on June 14, regardless of whether his successor had been chosen.
''I’m not saying we are going to win 16 straight and storm into the finals, but look, we are 0-3 and that’s difficult, but there’s a lot of footy ahead. Talk to me after 15 rounds and if we’re 1-14, then I might be seeing it a bit differently. But we are not as bad as what we served up last night.''