by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
After the Round Three drubbing Carlton suffered against Essendon, Coach Mick Malthouse described the loss and the team performance as embarrassing. Captain Marc Murphy said the players discussed the loss as a group and faced some home truths. He also believed the team could lift and redeem themselves against fellow struggler Melbourne. Andrew Carrazzo believed the team would learn and find a way to bring out a more ruthless streak against Melbourne. The lesson obviously failed to sink in and the Demons pounced. Trailing early in the first term, they kicked five unanswered goals either side of the first break and never looked back. They used the ball better than the Blues with midfielder Nathan Jones dominating Murphy and a more potent attack in Frawley, Watts and Dawes.
Four losses straight is Carlton's worst start to a season in 25 years and the worst of Mick Malthouse's coaching career. The scrutiny on the club and the coach will now become even more intense than it was after the loss to Essendon. After that defeat, many Carlton supporters voiced their opinion on talk back radio that they believed Mick was not the right person to coach Carlton. Many supporters believe the club was wrong to sack Brett Ratten at the end of 2012. Shane O'Donahue, a weekly contributor on SEN's All Night Appetite, was scathing in a critique of Malthouse. He also believes Malthouse is not the right fit for Carlton and accused of him of trotting out the same old excuses when the team lost. He also said Mick was too arrogant and self-centered, especially during press conferences. Carlton benefactor Bruce Mathieson, whose son Craig sits on the board, recently blasted Carlton's recent recruiting - perhaps with the exception of Chris Judd - as the worst in the League. In a television interview after the Demon loss, Mathieson called for a complete revamp of the administration, including the axing of CEO Gregg Swann and the immediate resignation of president Stephen Kernahan. It is not the first time Mathieson has called for change, having suggested a clean-out in the middle of 2012.
For the moment, Mathieson is in the minority, at least inside the club's inner sanctum. Marc Murphy still believes Malthouse can pull the team out of their slump and says Mick has the support of the playing group. Murphy said, "There's probably no better person to lead us out of the hole we're in at the moment. Mick will stay positive and ... keep teaching us. It's up to the players to really dig deep now ... Mick's not out there on the field." Malthouse also has the support of Kernahan and operations manager Andrew McKay. McKay said in a radio interview that Malthouse was the man to lead the Blues out of their bad form. "Mick obviously has an enormous amount of experience, he's been down this road before himself, he's done it before at other clubs." McKay also said the problem was a lack of on-field leadership and a lack of confidence.
As for Malthouse himself, he is confident his experience can turn things around and is not worried about the pressure which is on him, saying "If the blowtorch comes on it comes on … I hope it comes on me and not my players ... I'm not going to start second guessing myself because all of a sudden we're zip and four." He pointed out that in the past seven years, all his teams had been in Finals. Nor has he lost faith in the side and was not going to "drop expectations." He did admit the side had a long way to go but tempered that by saying after a loss, a side can be closer to their next win and that the club had to rally and keep persisting.
Malthouse is his second year of a three year contract. The club stated before the game against Melbourne that there would be no discussion of a contract extension until the end of the year. This could well be the first death knell. How many times have we heard it before? A team performing poorly but the club still backs the coach and will decide at the end of the season. How many times has the coach then been replaced before the season is completed? Can Malthouse revive the Blues before it is too late? If not, will he survive to see out his contract? Only time will tell as Mick and the Blues have another 19 games ahead of them. It most likely won't take that long with the team to face the Bulldogs, Eagles, Collingwood and Saints before the bye. Those few games could determine their season and Mick's future.
Source: theage.com.au, heraldsun.com.au, afl.com.au, sen.com.au, 2014 AFL Record Season Guide
Article last changed on Monday, April 14, 2014 - 9:05 AM EDT