Delusional Carlton is way off the mark

Carlton may need a cultural shift in its football department, or face even more years in the wilderness. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Carlton may need a cultural shift in its football department, or face even more years in the wilderness. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Carlton is teasing its vast army of supporters who have been deluded into thinking this once great club is finally emerging from the disastrous past 20 years.

At this stage of their latest rebuild - which started at the end of 2015 - the Blues expect to make the top eight at a bare minimum, and many pundits including this columnist predicted they would rise this season.

But the reality is they are way off the mark after five rounds.

In a bygone era nothing short of finals was acceptable for Carlton, but standards have slipped and mediocrity in all aspects of the club has been tolerated too easily.

Coach David Teague has been in charge since taking over from Brendon Bolton in the middle of 2019.

Those players who continually let the Blues down in key moments are still making the same mistakes. That includes several of their most experienced players, while the development of others has stalled.

Teague constantly talks about belief in this group, but many outside the club bubble are questioning if the Blues possess the ruthless mindset required to succeed at the elite level.

Many Carlton players have not improved at a rate you would expect.

Some are being played in the wrong spot, others have been persevered with for too long while several promising youngsters are languishing in the reserves and have been denied enough opportunities.

At 2-3 Carlton sits 11th, the same position in which the Blues finished last year, but there are already disturbing trends.

Carlton's three defeats have been against finalists from last year, but while the Blues gave Richmond a fright in round one they were never in the hunt against a struggling Collingwood and undermanned Port Adelaide.

Last Saturday night the scoreboard flattered the Blues, despite having more clearances, scoring shots and inside 50s than the Power.

Off the field Carlton is kicking goals, being finally debt-free with a record membership of 80,000 and facilities at its home ground Ikon Park are undergoing a multi-million dollar upgrade.

But not much has changed on the field and maybe the Blues need a cultural shift in their football department.

What is clear is that Teague, out of contract at the end of next season, is reticent to make changes when plans are not working on game day and will not have a long tenure unless there is dramatic improvement soon.

Many close to the club were staggered that there were no changes to Teague's coaching panel for this season.

His assistants have been with the Blues for several seasons, notably John Barker who served under Brett Ratten more than a decade ago.

Like most clubs, they have made numerous mistakes with their recruiting in the past two decades.

But there is plenty of raw talent on the current list - simply, it must be developed and utilised to its full potential, or the Blues risk spending many more years in the wilderness.

The AFLW grand final was a great success. Photo: James Elsby via Getty Images

The AFLW grand final was a great success. Photo: James Elsby via Getty Images


Last Saturday's AFLW grand final demonstrated how far the competition has evolved in five seasons.

Adelaide and Brisbane put on a high-pressure contest worthy of a season decider in front of almost 23,000 fans at Adelaide Oval, with the Lions emerging as winners of their first AFLW premiership.

Skilful Lion Courtney Hodder thrilled the crowd with two magnificent goals, the second as good as any this season, while the defence led by best afield Kate Lutkins was superb in restricting the Crows.

The standard of the game, with its fierce pressure and tackling, vindicated the league's decision to give the grand final a standalone timeslot.

Brisbane's historic win will be another boost for the women's game in the Sunshine State.

Most of the Lions' AFLW team played their senior and junior football with Queensland clubs.

Significant improvement in the competition's standard will be fast-tracked once more genuine footballers enter the system at the expense of athletes from other sports who view it as a professional opportunity.

There are plenty of positive signs for AFLW.

Membership is at an all-time high with 11 clubs breaking records, TV ratings during the home and away season increased by 35 per cent on last year and national participation rates for women and girls are booming, particularly in the northern states.

But any suggestion that professional female footballers are paid at the same level as males should be put on hold until they achieve the AFLW achieves parity in terms of revenue and crowds.

The AFLW must become more self-sufficient. Club resources are being stretched to the limit as they struggle to cover the costs of running men's and women's programs.

This season, AFLW home and away crowds were down by almost half and the five finals totalled just under 39,000 - although attendances across the board, particularly in Victoria, have been below expectations so far.

While the league points toreduced venue capacities and some games not allowed crowds, it is hard to argue the decision to charge adults an entry fee of $10 for the first time has not had an effect.

Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com; Twitter: @hpkotton59.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
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