If the Carlton Football club and coach Mick Malthouse are not worried about the 2013 season, they should be. Losing the first two games and sitting in 13th spot on the ladder is not a great start, no one will be denying that.
However, some positive supporters out there might say that after only two rounds of the season, Carlton have plenty of opportunities to climb its way back up the ladder to secure a highly prized top eight position. That may be all well and true, but just in case, take a seat Carlton supporters, because you might not have much more to cheer about soon. Just by looking at Carlton’s less-than-easy fixture for the next three rounds, it is very possible that after round five we could be looking at a naught and five scorecard.
This weekend, the Blues will be taking on premiership legends Geelong. In the past ten games between these two teams, Geelong has defeated Carlton eight times. While not necessarily an indication of a sure win, Geelong has more than proven its match fitness and competitiveness so far this year, with defeats over two top-eight contenders in Hawthorn and North Melbourne in the first two rounds.
In round four, Carlton will be heading to Western Australia for a clash with West Coast, and after a week away, the Blues will be heading home for another tough match against Adelaide. If Carlton wants to be a serious finals contender this year, it has no choice but to defeat these quality teams in the coming weeks.
However, whether it has the ability to do so has yet to be proven. Carlton was unable to finish in the eight last year, despite expecting a top-four placing, due to disappointing losses that should have been wins against lowly placed teams such as Port Adelaide and Gold Coast. In the first two opening games of this season, Carlton has shown an inability to close out tight matches after losing to Richmond by five points and Collingwood by 17 points.
In 2012, Carlton lost six games by 24 points or less, which further indicates this trend. If Richmond’s season last year is any example, this failure to win close games can be costly at the end of the season when just a few games can separate eighth position from twelfth. Regardless of the skill and potential Carlton may possess, it matters little if it can not take the four points.
Of the eight teams who made finals that year, not a single team had lost both of its first two games of the season. Sydney, the 2012 premiers, won both games. In fact, in the past five seasons the only exception to this rule was St. Kilda in 2011 ,which lost its first game and drew its second.
Other than last year, the only other time Carlton have failed to make the eight in the past five years was 2008 – the same season that it lost to Richmond in round one.
While 2013 is bound to be a completely different season from the past, Carlton need to light the fire this week against Geelong if it wants to see some finals action. Otherwise, we may see the Blues burn out as they become the rule rather than the exception.