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Shifty shades of Blue

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Greg Baum

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Ratten makes a dignified exit

Outgoing Carlton coach Brett Ratten remained composed and dignified during the announcement he has been sacked by the club.

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Ruthless Carlton is changing again and forever in a hurry.

BRETT Ratten was sacked simply because Carlton protocol demanded it. Carlton is ''ruthless'', said Ratten himself, admiringly. ''It's one of its great strengths,'' he said. It is also impatient, agreed president Stephen Kernahan. ''Has been for 148 years,'' he added, almost proudly.

Tacitly, each apologised to the other, Kernahan for sacking Ratten, Ratten for putting Kernahan in a position that left him with no choice. Kernahan said Ratten's record was ''very solid'', Ratten that it was ''reasonable, not excellent''. Each pointed to four years of continuous improvement from 2008, and acknowledged that there was mitigation for this year's slump in the form of a debilitating run of injuries.

Brett Ratten flanked by Greg Swann (left) and Stephen Kernahan (right) yesterday.

Brett Ratten flanked by Greg Swann (left) and Stephen Kernahan (right) yesterday. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

At another club, Ratten might have been given the benefit of the doubt, and another year; he was contracted anyway. But this was not another club. Not even the double over Collingwood, once said to be the gold standard for Carlton coaches, was enough to save Ratten.

Carlton never has a year to spare. Chris Judd is nearly 29, and to Kernahan personifies Carlton's urgency. ''We have to strike,'' he said.

Carlton disposes of unsuccessful - that is to say, non-premiership - coaches summarily and magisterially. Kernahan has been at Carlton for 26 of his 48 years, Ratten for 24-and-a-half (his emphasis) of his 41. They knew what was expected; they did the expected thing.

But this was even more poignant than usual for the Blues. None of the three previous sacked coaches had pulled on the guernsey, nor the three presidents who sacked them. None were Carlton lifers to the extent that Ratten is, or was. This vial was especially vile.

Yet this was not an unceremonious sacking; in fact, it was almost grimly ceremonious. Kernahan, Ratten and chief executive Greg Swann sat side-by-side, and at key moments nodded at each other, collegiately. All the sponsors' logos were displayed, and why not; from accounts, they had a voice in this decision. At Carlton, even the sponsors are unsentimental.

But Ratten conducted himself with such dignity that even hard-bitten media were moved to applaud when he was done.

Kernahan, too, seemed determined to break with cold-hearted tradition. ''I feel I have blood on my hands, I really do,'' he said, his heart seemingly an octave lower even than his voice.

One question threw him. Would Carlton have sacked Ratten if Mick Malthouse was not so plainly available, he was asked. The long pause spoke louder and clearer than the eventual answer: ''It's a close call.''

Here was an echo of the rasping rhetoric of John Elliott: ''We don't rebuild at Carlton.'' Bottom when Ratten took over, the Blues had no choice but to rebuild. Ratten started the job, but indifferent results against top-four teams sowed doubt at Carlton that he could finish it. The Blues could wait no longer; they wanted a finisher.

Ratten knew at the final siren on the Gold Coast last Saturday night that he was on football's death row.

By the time he met Kernahan on Wednesday, his only hope was for a governor's pardon. It was not forthcoming. Ratten did not even ask if his contract would be paid out; Swann volunteered to him that he would.

In football, there is such a thing as being too good a bloke. Asked what he could have done differently, Ratten said that he might have been too passionate about Carlton.

Implicit in his answer was the notion that perhaps he should have been more ruthless on his own account.

Football clubs are replete with honourable intentions, but ultimately are driven by only one non-negotiable imperative, and as he formalised the sacking of his friend and premiership teammate, a chastened Kernahan spelt it out. ''It's a win-loss business,'' he said. ''Nothing else.''

19 comments so far

  • Take up the Port offer Ratt's, good luck legend, one day you'll return a premiership coach to maybe coach or run this once great club.

    Commenter
    Pacco Wooooo
    Location
    Coburg
    Date and time
    August 31, 2012, 6:36AM
    • If there is such a thing as Karma then no good will come of this for Carlton or their new coach.

      Commenter
      Michael Grant
      Location
      Adelaide
      Date and time
      August 31, 2012, 7:20AM
      • Collingwood appear to be playing this beautifully. Eddie almost dared Carlton to Sack Rattern mid season, offering up Malthouse as the logical replacement given his strong friendship with Swan. Malthouse is being portrayed in the media as the muckraker, forcing Carlton to pull the trigger - I'm available NOW. Roos is Carlton's preferred man as Pratt & Matherson hold the real power. Roos refuses to coach Carlton because of his promise to the AFL to remain in Sydney. Carlton panic, and now Eddie comes out worrying about Mick's life. Mick will go to Carlton and try turn the place upside down. He will run into powerful forces when he does that. Mick won't mind - $1M+ pa for the next three. well played Eddie - and Mick and Carlton - you deserve each other.

        Commenter
        Magpie
        Location
        The nest
        Date and time
        August 31, 2012, 10:48AM
    • Can't understand the preoccupation with Malthouse. His apparent reluctance due to family issues should be setting off the alarm bells. Time for a younger coach, with good assistants for back up, and get the heat back on the woefully underperforming list to shape up or ship out.

      Commenter
      Observer
      Location
      Princes Park
      Date and time
      August 31, 2012, 7:50AM
      • I also can't understand the one-eyed pursuit of Malthouse but don't for one minute believe his "reluctance due to family issues" is anything more than him deflecting attention away from the fact he has already agreed to coach Carlton, thus absolving him of knifing Ratts.

        Let's face it, we all know the deal was as good as done months ago, behind the scenes.

        My tip: an even $1 mil a year for two years and a further $1-2 mil to spend on sundries for his "football department". Also, you can bet there will be no contract stipulations about finishing top four...

        Commenter
        Wal
        Location
        Bush
        Date and time
        August 31, 2012, 9:20AM
      • I feel like the Blues wouldn't have made this call if they weren't 110% sure Malthouse was available/had already agreed in some terms to coaching next year. Eddie is carrying on like a child and his comments can not be taken seriously as he knows that Mick probably should be coaching Collingwood through its time of prosperity after bringing them from the doldrums, but Bucks had an agenda and Eddie loves Bucks so he had to lock him in with this rough as guts deal to oust Mick 3 years early.
        Poor old Ratts has bore the brunt of it all. If Mick wasn't available Ratts would be there next year, no doubt about it. I think the Blues have under-performed and injuries can be blamed but they have not done as well as the might have at times if they'd had a more experienced motivator. The fact is Mick (if and when he does take the reigns) has a team that is solid without being spectacular and there is no guarantees that Mick can do anything more that Ratts was currently. Also Mick has gone to 2 clubs and built them up from nothing, as an outsider looking in this seems like the Blues are expecting instant results which they may not get as they are missing a few key position players, 4 elite midfielders won't win you a flag. The question is if Mick misses finals next year or the year after what will the fans/board/sponsors think of the situation then. For a club looking for the "easy" way to a flag (tanking, getting Judd) this could be about the final nail in the coffin of an unprodictive 20 years, the board may have some tough questions to answer in 12-24 months time

        Commenter
        Sam
        Location
        Adelaide
        Date and time
        August 31, 2012, 11:14AM
    • Call yourselves football journalists, yet not one journalist has noted what is very obvious to the Carlton faithful who watch the team week in, week out.

      Ratten was no longer the right man to coach Carlton because, after 5 years, he was either (i) not providing instruction at the right time, (ii) unable to get his players to respond to his instructions or (iii) the players no longer listened to his instructions. You only need to look at the first halves of the following games to see these points in action. Essendon (Round 3), St. Kilda, Adelaide, Port Adelaide, North Melbourne, Bulldogs, Gold Coast, West Coast 2011 and Bulldogs 2011.

      Ratten was sacked because the Team has attitude and intent issues which he has failed to sort out in his time at Carlton.

      Commenter
      Tony McLawrence
      Location
      Carlton
      Date and time
      August 31, 2012, 9:29AM
      • Tony

        As an outsider there does seem to be a discipline and leadership problem at Carlton. No club is clean, but the Blues lack an individual to lay down the law; in this case neither Ratten, Kernahan nor Judd seem to be able to get the message across. In Judd's case his actions on the field (could any person work harder?) don't seem to resonate.

        I don't know if Malthouse will be the saviour, but he won't be anybody's mate. And a couple of players will be on thin ice.

        As to all this concern from Eddie - excuse me if I don't believe a word. McGuire is already trying to undermine the Blues (and is probably regretting Buckley who also can't seem to get the best out of players - time will tell).

        Commenter
        kepler-22b
        Date and time
        August 31, 2012, 10:31AM
      • Spot on Tony. But there is no reason why Ratts cannot learn from it. If he gets the job at Port Adelaide it will be interesting to see how he goes. Good luck to him whatever happens. And if Malthouse comes to Carlton, I'll be treating it just like the arrival of my favorite Denis Pagan. It's a real pity that we didn't go a little further with Denis as he did say at the time of his sacking that the team needed another 30-40 games before results would be achieved. I look back at those finals in '09, '10, and '11, and wonder what the results would have been given his extensive premierships history. Would we have been three or four goals better off? Anyway, a new era is about to begin, and if Malthouse accepts the offer, and Cloke, Goddard, and Boak come to Carlton then I would say that a premiership could be just around the corner.

        Commenter
        blue boy
        Location
        Ballarat
        Date and time
        August 31, 2012, 11:11AM
      • the way I see it, Carlton at full strength and match-hardened always performed well excpept for the Gold Coast debacle. Even this game contained a vast number of stars who were just coming back from injury or suspension. This is not a coaching issue, just the luck of the draw. Two guys in the Gold Coast match who kicked 2.9 between them were Waite who was just returning from a long injury layoff and Casboult, a rookiee who probably panicked when he realised he had to resurrect his team. Plus, a full-strength Carlton side just ain't that good. Not a coaching problem and my sympathies go to Ratten.

        Commenter
        trojan62
        Date and time
        August 31, 2012, 12:04PM

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