Despite an admirable job as caretaker coach, John Barker should not be given the Carlton head coaching job full-time.
Appointing Barker – an assistant coach with the Blues since 2011 – as caretaker coach was the correct decision, but for its next head coach the Blues must look outside Ikon Park.
Barker has done just about as much as he could since taking over from the sacked Mick Malthouse in May, and his opportunity to coach a team will come sooner rather than later. However, it should not be this team.
The Carlton Football Club of 2014 and 2015, a period which has yielded a total of 10 wins to date, has been a toxic environment. Handing the reins of the team over to an assistant who was present and a key cog during the mostly-disastrous Malthouse era will only serve to continue the malaise which has engulfed the once-great club.
To give Barker the job, a man who has been infected by said malaise, would be to betray the rebuild the club says it is fully embracing. That rebuild cannot be done in half measures: Carlton must bring in a highly rated assistant from a rival and allow him the luxury of building his coaching panel from scratch.
Carlton yearns for a new vein of thinking if it still harbours ambitions of returning to the greatness that befits a club that has won 16 VFL/AFL premierships, and that can only come in the form of a new coach from outside the club.
It will undoubtedly be a costly process, but in comparison to continuing to be stuck in the mess that is mediocrity, money will be a small price to pay for a club as prideful as the Blues.
Measured against the accomplishments of his rival for the Carlton job in Brendan Bolton, Simon Lloyd and Stuart Dew, Barker’s achievements as an assistant pale in comparison. Bolton, Lloyd and Dew have worked under some of the most tactically adept and successful coaches in the game in Alastair Clarkson (Bolton), Ross Lyon (Lloyd) and John Longmire and Paul Roos (Dew), while all have been a part of deep finals runs.
Lloyd’s interpersonal skills are unparalleled amongst assistants, Dew has a tactical mind to rival any amongst the next crop of AFL head coaches and Bolton is in his fifth season under the best coach of the last decade and has been instrumental in two premierships, with a third possibly on the way.
The argument could be made for Barker that the Carlton players have been outspoken in their desire for him to be given the job full-time, but their on-field performances for Barker – particularly in the 138-point loss to Hawthorn a fortnight ago – are not those of players determined to get a caretaker hired.
Recent cases of caretaker coaches being given the head coach job full-time also work against Barker’s hopes of getting the job. Of late, Brett Ratten, Matthew Primus and Mark Harvey are the three men to get a head coaching position after taking over as caretaker coach of that club in the previous season: they lasted a total of 260 games in that position before being sacked.
Carlton needs an outsider who has not been corrupted by mediocrity. John Barker is not that man.