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.
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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.
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.