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The waiting game

Date

Robert Walls

The Blues must show patience, as the Pies and Cats did with Malthouse and Thompson.

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Connolly and Carlton both looking crook

From the warmth of his man-cave, a flu-stricken Rohan Connollly lays down his tips for round 11.

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RON Barassi started Carlton on the path to success in the 1960s. Since his departure in 1971, there have been 10 Carlton coaches. Nine were sacked, and now the 10th, current coach Brett Ratten, is starting to wear some heat from the media and supporters because the team is in a low patch.

I hope, and I think, common sense will prevail and Ratten will be allowed to coach out this season, and next, for which he is contracted. It's true that the Blues, with Essendon, have won the most number of premierships and are considered a successful club, but the reality is they have won one premiership in the past 25 years, have lost more games than they have won over the past 15 seasons and collected something they had never seen before in 2002, 2005 and 2006: wooden spoons.

The glory days, a 20-year period between 1968 and 1987 when the Blues played in 10 grand finals and won seven, were a completely different era to now. Then there were up to six fewer teams, no salary cap and no draft to equalise the competition. So the teams with the money to buy the best available talent were always a chance to win a flag. Carlton, of course, was one of those, so its coaches were expected to deliver. If they didn't, they were quickly turned over. John Nicholls, Alex Jesaulenko, David Parkin and I all coached premiership teams, but were gone at the first sign of things turning sour. Carlton was a club with no patience. It was ruthless and enjoyed the reputation of being so. But those days are long gone.

Under seige: Carlton coach Brett Ratten.

Under seige: Carlton coach Brett Ratten. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Football fans know it is a much tougher proposition to win a flag today than it was 40 years ago. Ratten has to be given more time and the club needs to show more patience through this testing period. No doubt, the effort expelled last week against Port Adelaide was embarrassingly bad, but those days happen. This season Collingwood, Hawthorn, West Coast and Adelaide have all had 10-goal losses. The Blues have 14 senior players on the injured list - two best-and-fairest winners, Andrew Carrazzo and Marc Murphy, are long term. Out also last week was No. 1 ruckman Matthew Kreuzer, centre half-forward Jarrad Waite and two key defenders, Lachie Henderson and Jeremy Laidler. It's a grim situation and with three losses in four weeks, it could get even worse with games to come against Geelong, West Coast, Hawthorn and Collingwood.

Cool heads must prevail and lessons must be learnt from what happened at Collingwood and Geelong in recent years with their long-term coaches Mick Malthouse and Mark Thompson.

Ratten's record should be compared with the two premiership coaches. So here are some facts. Ratten, who took over a wooden-spoon outfit in late 2007, has coached the Blues for almost five years. He has lifted the team into three finals series and has a success rate of 51 per cent. Malthouse coached Collingwood for 12 years for one premiership. His success rate after six seasons was 45 per cent. After 10 years, it was the same as Ratten's now. He could quite easily have lost his job to Nathan Buckley at that time, but president Eddie McGuire devised a plan to give the veteran coach two more years.

It was only in those last two years that the winning rate really went up.

The bottom line is that after 12 years Malthouse's winning percentage at Collingwood ended up at 56 per cent. Good? Yes. Great? No.

Now look at Thompson. ''Bomber'' coached the Cats for 11 seasons. After his seventh season at the helm, the Cats slipped from fifth to 10th. Long-term injuries to key players such as Tom Harley, Steve Johnson, James Kelly and Andrew Mackie, plus repeated suspensions for Cam Mooney, made it a very difficult season. So after seven years, and with a success rate of 48 per cent, there were calls to sack the coach.

The Cats had an extensive review of Thompson's position. In the end, president Frank Costa and chief executive Brian Cook ignored external pressures and kept the coach. The next year the Cats, with their best players injury-free and Mooney keeping his nose clean to kick a career-best 67 goals, won the flag. Their patience and belief was rewarded with Geelong going on to play five years of fabulous football.

The clear message is that it takes time. Carlton, with one of the youngest lists in the AFL, has that. In Malthouse's time at Collingwood, after two early grand final losses, the team dropped to 13th and 15th on the ladder before it rose again. During Thompson's first eight seasons, the Cats rose, fell, rose, fell and then rose again.

In a season that promised plenty for Carlton, things are turning sour. The Blues may well miss the finals. If they do, it should not be viewed as a disaster but as a setback. The hierarchy should look for reasons, not scapegoats. Big-picture thinking has served Geelong and Collingwood well and it is hoped Carlton follows the same path.

33 comments

  • There was a time not too long ago when the mob pressured the Swans into keeping caretaker coach Paul Roos rather than the hierachy's plan of Terry Wallace. Psychologists will tell you that wisdom can sometimes emanate from a crowd.

    Commenter
    Captain Courageous
    Location
    Goal Square
    Date and time
    June 08, 2012, 2:08AM
    • I'm not one of your fans. However, allow this old Pie to congratulate you on a well reasoned and highly informative piece of sports writing. All aficianados of our great game would do well to read your article.

      Commenter
      Mungo Mulligan-Stewart
      Date and time
      June 08, 2012, 2:31AM
      • I agree. I usually don't agree with Robert Walls opinions and I think this is probably the most intelligent football article I have read for weeks. This is something the Head football writer of The Age should be, but isn't, capable of writing.

        Commenter
        Gilly
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        June 08, 2012, 8:56AM
    • Great article Robert. Blues need to to stick tight and keep things in perspective. Losing builds character, and Carlton will have even more character after tonight.

      Commenter
      Greg
      Location
      Brunswick
      Date and time
      June 08, 2012, 5:57AM
      • Time? Carlton has an ordinary backline, a poor forward line which relies on Eddie Betts and an over abundance of midfielder types who are only fill in players. Judd is getting on and he is still our best player. Game plan is poor. Shut down Judd and Simpson, press the backline and they will turn it over; the forward line has no one other than Betts that can hurt you.The midfielders only run hard one way.get Mick Malthouse in now.

        Commenter
        Jay
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        June 08, 2012, 6:37AM
        • Jay lists all the flaws in the playing list then states Malthouse should be coach. You can have the greatest coach in the world but if your playing list isn't up to it then he won't help. And I don't think Mick is about to slip the boots on and bolster the back line.

          Commenter
          Lonnie Boy
          Location
          Launceston
          Date and time
          June 08, 2012, 8:40AM
        • Jay - Three of the best 4 backman out, two of the starting 3 midfielders out (and a ruckman), their only leadup tall forward out too. You take that out of any side and they'll struggle. However, what's come to prominence is not the injury count but the lack depth.
          As a supporter, the most worrying aspect, is not either the injuries or the lack of depth but the game plan and player desire.
          When the opposition nulliflies stoppage clearances / contested possesions and the coach just says we have to play harder footy.....
          When a player says after an unexpected loss that you cannot beat another sides intensity but only match it..........
          When young kids rarely get a decent go and even with so many injuries selectors insist on playing guys the game's gone past instead........
          but you are right - Get Mick Malthous NOW.

          Commenter
          Bushy
          Location
          the Bush
          Date and time
          June 08, 2012, 11:30AM
      • I think people have been a bit harsh on Ratten the list just isn't as good as the start of the season suggested, I mean who in the middle or up forward is going to consistently kick a couple of goals each week? this slump isn't a surprise but they will bounce back

        Commenter
        ChrisfromFawkner
        Date and time
        June 08, 2012, 6:38AM
        • Missing the finals not a disaster?! Try saying that at the start of the season. Carlton missing after all the early sabre-rattling would be a truly epic catastrophe which will reverberate for seasons to come. Don't try to fudge things now Robert!

          Commenter
          pithyinsights
          Date and time
          June 08, 2012, 8:11AM
          • Injuries need to be taken into account. It's no point being blinded to the reality of the Blue's current situation and blaming Ratten. They should probably also try and beef up recruitment as they clearly don't have the depth of Collingwood who are in an even worse injury situation.

            Commenter
            Gilly
            Location
            Melbourne
            Date and time
            June 08, 2012, 8:58AM

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