Mick Malthouse and many others are justifiably suspicious of the media and blame it for promoting cultish profiles. Photo: Mal Fairclough
Suspicion is rife in footy at all levels. In my youthful playing days for Carlton I soon learnt the glare of an evil eye was mostly from your own disenchanted fans, teammates, and coaches.
Opponents existed in a different domain. It was clear what they had in mind; they just wanted to beat you, outmuscle, and outsmart you.
If suspicion is harnessed appropriately, it can provide a motivational spark. But more often than not suspicion is a destructive trait.
The current crisis inflicting my former club is not that Mick Malthouse is a poor coach.
Rather, it is suspicion within the club that is tearing the house down.
The circumstances surrounding the Malthouse appointment, the nature of his departure from Collingwood, combined with his own suspicious character traits, I believe, are the cause of Carlton's underwhelming on-field performances.
When I pick up the newspaper or watch the telly the message received is that Carlton has drifted towards becoming foremost the Malthouse Blues Show. This was a very different picture to the Carlton I was inducted into as a promising teenage recruit.
Among my strongest recollections is in the change room preparing for my first game. A revered senior player sat beside me and said: "Whatever you do around here and on the footy field it is for Carlton. Listen to what your coach and captain say and ignore everything else."
The message was simple. Clear. I had no alternative. First, above all else was an allegiance that I now played for Carlton and the guernsey. Next was respect for genuine leadership, followed by being among devoted fellow players and fans; which all tied together to equal success.
In the past couple of years I received a life-membership card in the post. It is a proud honour but the card itself did not impress. Nowhere on the card, front or back, was the name ''Carlton''. Rather the card was adorned by promotional wizardry such as an ''I AM'' image of Chris Judd and sponsor logos.
The card was not a good omen for the forthcoming Malthouse coaching appointment. The forgetfulness of whoever was responsible for the omission of Carlton from the literature had opened the door for suspicion to walk through and take prominence.
Malthouse and many others are justifiably suspicious of the media and blame it for promoting cultish profiles. Nevertheless, the Malthouse involvement in the media and his mastery of it for his own vested interests is second to none.
Malthouse knows and plays the media game equal to his coaching exploits and therefore cannot point to the media for the current Carton crisis.
The Collingwood coaching saga became excruciating and rife with mutual suspicion on all counts. During a year's coaching sabbatical, Malthouse became a media commentator and it was during this time the footy public was treated to the next suspicious saga.
The plot included a sucker board besotted by the myth that only a premiership coach has the magic tonic capable of delivering Carlton the next flag in a hurry; a faithful and trusted coach, Brett Ratten, who had to be axed (at considerable expense to the club), and a media pack hounding for a Malthouse appointment t (at considerable cost to the club).
In this context, the Malthouse genius was selling a game plan and team structure that he publicly declared would result in a 10 per cent and more improvement in the team's performance.
How the board and media glibly accepted this statistical nonsense is bewildering. But that's part of the problem. When suspicion gets out of hand people lose perspective. Some resort to excessive cunning, but for many the by-products are caution and gullibility.
Each of these three traits - player and coaching cunning, caution, and gullibility are appearing in how a winless Carlton has performed during the first four rounds of the AFL home-and-away season. And above all, on the main bill is the jolly Malthouse Blues Show.
What has worked best for Carlton in the past is the Carlton story. Now the story has turned farcical.
My knowledge of Carlton successes is that talent is embraced and idiosyncratic personalities are accepted on condition that it is all for the good of Carlton. During my time as the founder and head of the statistical company, Champion Data, I visited all clubs for briefing and sales purposes.
The company was started in 1996 and visiting Carlton, I found, it was the stodgiest and least-receptive club in terms of accepting and listening to innovations. The club had endured the John Elliot horror show and the fallout and suspicion was palpable.
At its best, Carlton willingly accepted all comers on condition the new arrivals played for the good of the Carlton team. A professional ''broad church'' is how I found Carlton during my playing days. Its recruiting networks were the competition's benchmark and the induction procedures encompassing.
Now, I am not so certain about what Carlton is trying to say. The board and executive appears to prefer importing copies from elsewhere, rather than driving innovation and exploring alternatives themselves. Merely siphoning talent from ex-Magpies and ex-Eagles has ended up in suspicion, which at this stage is not helpful to anyone.