If someone foreign to AFL were to tune into a sports bulletin or flick to the back page of a newspaper today, it is likely they would assume Mick Malthouse to be the current coach of Carlton.
The media have had a field day since Carlton’s shock loss to the Gold Coast Suns, with a new rumour rife with speculation about who will coach the Blues in 2013 an eminent daily occurrence.
Despite the fact that there is a game remaining in the 2012 season and Ratten is yet to be shown the door, the most prominent story this week is that Mick Malthouse will coach Carlton in 2013.
The focus leading up to the Sunday afternoon clash with St Kilda is slowly diverging from the eighty minutes to be played out on the Etihad turf, but rather speculation as to if Ratten will still be employed at the conclusion of the season.
The public is being led to believe that the Round 23 game will be Ratten’s last coaching endeavour for Carlton. Although, this sentiment is one that has been proclaimed by the media already several times not only this season, but throughout Ratten’s coaching career.
In 2011, with his current coaching contract coming to an end, Ratten was put on the chopping block; if Carlton won its first final under Ratten, his future would be safe, although if the Blues failed to win in their third attempt, his contract would not be renewed.
Leaving with a 62-point thumping of Essendon, and narrowly being defeated by West Coast by 3 points in the Semi Final, it appeared that Ratten had earned his 2-year contract renewal.
Carlton soon became premiership favourites by opening the 2012 season with three straight wins, despite initial criticism of poor performance in the pre-season. Ratten was praised for his efforts of being able to take his team to a whole new level and a top four spot appeared an achievable prospect. However, by Round 4 the season and Ratten’s coaching career began to resemble that of a rollercoaster.
There were hefty losses to Essendon, St Kilda, Adelaide, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Coast. Narrow wins against Fremantle, Collingwood, Western Bulldogs and Richmond. Large wins against Melbourne, Greater Western Sydney, Brisbane and Essendon. There were also small defeats at the hands of West Coast and Geelong.
Each up and down of the season caused frenzy at Carlton and within the footballing community. Talkback radio was inundated with supporters calling for Ratten’s head after a loss. Segment after segment on football panel shows were spent analysing what was wrong at Carlton, and almost every time like clockwork, the blame landed on Ratten.
Although all of this loathing was simply forgotten and disregarded at the conclusion of a win, big or small, supporters would leave games happy rather than in a huff, and the utterance of the words “Ratten” and “sack” in the same sentence became a rarity.
The media, which had often just the previous week speculated and dissected Ratten’s future, hushed their whispers when it was Carlton singing the song at the end of a hard-fought match. Although as soon as another loss had occurred, it was back to pointing the finger at Ratten, and the gears on the rumour mill began to turn again.
This is exactly what has happened this week. It’s just another dip in the Ratten rollercoaster ride, another knee-jerk reaction from the media, from supporters and from the footballing community alike.
No one dared to suggest that Ratten should be replaced by Malthouse after the 96-point thumping of Essendon just one round earlier. It was when there was a defeat, when a scapegoat for the shock loss was needed, that Ratten’s coaching future once again came under question.
It is very unfortunate that all signs point to Ratten coaching his last game for Carlton in the final round of the season against St Kilda. Despite the president Stephen Kernahan publically declaring his support for Ratten, with the undue pressure created in the footballing community, it seems likely that Ratten will fall victim to this series of knee-jerk reactions.
Sadly, it’s hard not to wonder if Ratten really had a chance in this harsh environment, one clouded by critical eyes lurking in the shadows and waiting to viciously pounce at the very moment he made a mistake. Possibly the most troubling thing is that Ratten is not the first coach to be subject to this severe treatment, and unfortunately, he will not be the last.