Friday 13 April, 2012
Carlton have demolished grand finalists and arch-rivals Collingwood by 60 points at the MCG. In front of 84,259 fans, they display A-grade football that takes the league by storm, with people in the media raving. They are touted as the frontrunner for that year’s premiership. After a decade in the football wilderness, following wooden spoons and salary cap rorting, the proud club looked like they were back on top.
Saturday 16 May, 2015
Carlton put on one of the most insipid, heartless performances in recent memory, causing people to throw the phrase ‘bruise-free football’ around for the first time in a while. It was a game that saw still incredibly young upstarts GWS notch the biggest win in their history. The Blues were outclassed in every single fashion imaginable and by the end of the weekend would sit on the bottom of the ladder. One win, six losses and no direction or plan for the future whatsoever.
Tuesday 26 May, 2015
Another heavy loss – this time to Geelong – as well as some well-publicised comments sees Mick Malthouse sacked as coach.
A lot can happen in three years.
It’s an incredibly difficult time to be a Carlton supporter. I would know. You’d be hard-pressed to find a club that’s in a worse position in regards to their future, with the gap between them and the second-worst widening by the second. The team is bereft of confidence and even some of their most diligent leaders have been pitiful in 2015.
Their legendary coach Mick Malthouse could feel the noose tightening, and there’s a myriad of lost opportunities and what-ifs in the form of former Carlton players playing superbly elsewhere.
So where to for the old dark navys? How can one see a light at the end of a tunnel fraught with missed handballs, one handed tackles and Levi Casboult set-shots?
Short answer: it begins with a ruthless list clean-out. The long answer will be written in just about every conceivable way possible throughout the next few months, but let’s focus on the talent – or lack thereof.
At the end of the season, Stephen Silvagni is going to have a monumental task on his hands trying to lay the foundations of Carlton’s list. Realistically, taking into account the quality of the competition and how difficult it can be to move up the ladder in a short amount of time, the Blues would be looking at 2020-2023 as a window to aim for. This estimate is assuming that Silvagni and co. draft and recruit at least moderately well: something that is much easier said than done.
In order for the list to begin forming, the current crop of players need to be sorted into three sections: trade, keep and delist.
The difficult thing about attempting to shop around players in a bottom four side is the lack of legitimate return you can get on your investment. There aren’t many clubs in the league who are clamouring for Carlton’s rejects or castaways and it’s the first of many road blocks in this rebuild. Here are some of the players who could generate interest and what the Blues could recieve in the swap.
Starting off with a player who has polarised many Carlton fans, Chris Yarran consistently inconsistent and with a fiery temper to boot.
The innate skill of Yarran cannot be denied, and time after time he rescues the navy blue defence from danger. However, he is currently at what can be considered the height of his powers, which will have opposition recruiters champing at the bit to lure him their way. He has breakneck speed and the ability to burst through presses with his enigmatic ball use. Yarran is the type of player that would be perfect for a team who is challenging right now and needs that x-factor to push their premiership charge into overdrive. Imagine a Fremantle or a North Melbourne with Yarran zooming off half back, hitting one of their key big men on the chest.
What he’s worth: Late first round/early second round pick.
Potential buyers: Fremantle, North Melbourne and West Coast (go home factor).
He’s been a stalwart of the club for 10+ years but when it comes to turning over the list in such a dramatic fashion, the tough choices need to be made. Walker is 28 but would still provide some much-needed leadership at some of the less experienced clubs. Despite a few lean years, he still has the potential to generate interest if the right deal comes along.
What he’s worth: Third round pick or a fringe player + fourth round
Potential buyers: Gold Coast, Melbourne, Western Bulldogs.
The Daisy experiment has failed. It’s time for Carlton to cut their very expensive losses and attempt to salvage something out of a disappointing free agency transaction. On name value alone, Thomas may garner interest and it will be up to the Blues hierarchy to provide the buzz at trade time.
What he’s worth (full fitness): Late first round pick or early second round.
Potential buyers: A team with supernatural doctors.
This one may surprise people but let me break it down. Ed Curnow is an excellent tagger, but he’s also 25 years old. If Carlton are legitimate about a rebuild, it will take five years, and a 30 year old Curnow will not be factoring into any finals challenge. At this point in time, his currency is as high as it will ever get so Carlton need to pull the trigger. Top level taggers are hard to come by so he should demand at least of modicum of attention.
What he’s worth: Second round pick or a player
Potential buyers: North Melbourne, Richmond, Essendon
This one is a serious stretch. Tuohy at his best is a damaging half back with excellent disposal: at his worst, he completely falls apart under any semblance of pressure from the opposition. With the right team around him and the proper guidance by coaching staff, he could be a solid addition to a team requiring defensive depth.
What he’s worth: Late third/early fourth round pick
Potential buyers: God only knows.
If potential could be monetised, Levi Casboult would be rolling in the dough. Unfortunately, he just can’t seem to move up to that next level and the obvious problem is his goalkicking. As a number one target he doesn’t work: however, if he were to play elsewhere as a second or third tall, he could flourish.
What he’s worth: Third round pick
Potential buyers: Melbourne, Fremantle, Brisbane, Western Bulldogs
We finish with the big one. It needs to be done – a major player with serious currency at the peak of his powers. Bryce Gibbs had the best season of his career in 2014, winning the John Nicholls Medal and narrowly missing out on All-Australian selection. If Carlton want to make a serious impact in the draft order, Gibbs needs to go.
What he’s worth: Mid-late first round pick + a good player.
Potential buyers: Anyone with room in the cap, Adelaide the obvious frontrunners.
By trading these players, it gives Carlton a lot to play with when it comes to the National Draft. We’ve seen over the years that mid-range picks can produce excellent players.
With a few picks in the 20s and 30s, along with potential first round picks from Gibbs and Yarran, the nucleus of Carlton’s finals team in 2020 starts to take form. It sounds simple on paper, but obviously it all hinges on the recruiting skills of Silvagni and his staff.
Now when it comes to the chopping block, it reads like a who’s who of failed trades, draft picks and poor development.
Dennis Armfield, David Ellard, Matthew Watson, Cameron Wood, Jason Tutt, Liam Jones, Robbie Warnock and Sam Rowe.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – I’ve just sacked the entire ruck division and most of the defensive talls. Obviously at the trade table/drafts, there will be a priority to select at least one ruckman and a key defender. Overall, this list of terminations clears out the dead weight or, in the case of Jones and Tutt, the horrific decisions of the 2014 off season.
List-wise, there are three more decisions/events that will impact Carlton’s immediate future.
Chris Judd and Andrew Carrazzo will retire at year’s end, leaving a significant gap in Carlton’s midfield and their leadership capabilities. It will be a blessing in disguise however, as the Blues will finally look beyond the former captain and Brownlow medallist and attempt to develop their future stars.
The other decision that needs to be made is removing Marc Murphy as captain. Never before has putting the captaincy on a player affected his game so dramatically. In 2011, Murphy was one of the best young midfielders in the league: now he’s pea-hearted and hardly makes an impact on field.
With the pressure of captaincy gone, Murphy will have the chance to return to form. The obvious choice to replace him is Kade Simpson, the man who constantly stands up and works so hard for the team. On Friday night against Geelong, he was putting his body on the line when others would not.
At 31, he’s obviously not going to be around forever, so his protege/next in line for the throne should be Dylan Buckley. A second-generation Blue, Buckley loves the club like few others do and he epitomizes the determination and hunger that you need in a leader.
So that’s the start. The clean-out needs to be equal parts ruthless and measured. There is no room at Carlton for dead weight or D-grade players. The men and women in charge need to swallow their pride and realise this club is right at the bottom and will be for a few years. The Carlton mindset of being perennial champions needs to be flushed out, Men In Black-style. It’s going to be a long road, but the pain is worth the destination.
A lot can happen in five years.