During the first quarter of Saturday afternoon’s game, Carlton captain Marc Murphy stood up in a tackle, spun and handballed over his shoulder to Tom Bell, who charged along the boundary line and delivered a pinpoint pass to Troy Menzel, he of the increasingly popular top-knot brigade.
Menzel duly converted from 20 metres out, marking one of the few highlights for a Carlton team devoid of anything resembling confidence or skill.
The fish rots at the head and the rot starts with Murphy. In a team bereft of leadership, Murphy provides nearly nothing in the way of inspiration. His numbers are not particularly down on previous years, but his disposals have no hurt factor. Matched up against a fellow top draft pick in GWS’s Stephen Coniglio, Murphy conceded 12 disposals and the mental ascendency. Coniglio went on to have 32 possessions and a goal.
Their best player is Bell, a hard-charging 95-kilogram human being doing his best impersonation of an out-of-control train. No player on Carlton’s list tries harder or for as long as Bell. He hits packs – and players – hard. He has drawn comparisons to Carlton legend Anthony Koutofides – himself not a small man – and appears to be doing everything he can to live up to the hype.
Their most creative footballer, Chris Yarran, loves to hit people. After treating Paul Chapman’s chin like a punching bag and spending three weeks out of the game, Yarran spent the majority of Carlton’s loss to the GWS Giants either receiving handballs behind play (good) or going very close to earning himself a further suspension (bad).
Their best ruckman and probably the most talented of their triumvirate of number one draft picks is only just returning from yet another injury. It is unlikely we will ever see the best of Matthew Kreuzer, and maybe the largest portion of Carlton’s current predicament that can be put down to bad luck.
Of the 22 players that played against the GWS Giants, a solitary individual (Menzel) had been selected by the club in the previous three drafts. The others – Blaine Boekhorst, Dillon Viojo-Rainbow, Clem Smith, Patrick Cripps, Cameron Giles, Tom Temay and Nick Graham – are either injured or playing in the VFL.
Their best key forward is injured. Their second-best key forward can’t kick. Their third best key forward is Liam Jones. Menzel represents hope for the future, but knee injuries outweigh hot dinners in the Menzel family.
They refused to pay Eddie Betts and Jarrad Waite. Betts has kicked 16 goals in three weeks for Adelaide and is leading the Coleman medal. Waite, although still seemingly being reported for fun, is enjoying a new lease on life at North Melbourne. Collecting their paycheck at Carlton is Dale Thomas, his Blue version a shadow of his Magpie form.
All of these issues are bad, but they pale in comparison to the carnival of carnage that is the Carlton coaching position. Yes, Mick Malthouse is a legendary figure, and yes, members of the coaching fraternity that command the respect Malthouse’s name does deserve to be paid what they are worth, but not even the most one-eyed Carlton supporter could argue Malthouse has repaid the faith Carlton has shown in him.
Media reports have oscillated between “Malthouse is definitely gone” to “Malthouse’s job is safe next year”. Tactically, he’s been outcoached almost every week, culminating in Carlton’s forward thrusts instead resembling organised games of kick to kick across their defensive 50. Doubtless, the speculation surrounding his job is distracting his team, and solely for this, he should fall on his sword.
How do you fix Carlton? They will not be taken forward by their current list. Names like Cameron Wood, Dennis Armfield, David Ellard (yes, really), Andrejs Everitt, Simon White and Ed Curnow will not suddenly grow an extra leg and the football brain of Simon Black overnight.
Their senior players are aimless. Murphy has struggled this year. Bryce Gibbs can perhaps be afforded a pass. Andrew Carrazzo has had his issues with injury. Zach Tuohy is exceptional at kicking the ball out after points but not much else. Chris Judd cannot continue to be the man everyone looks to for a lift. They have attempted to rebuild and instead created a shoddy mess, which is in danger of crumbling.
The earth must be salted. The village must be razed. When newly minted list manager Stephen Silvagni opens up this carcass at the end of the year, he must surely excise many of the names already mentioned while their value remains high.
Murphy would command value. Gibbs too. Armfield, Ellard, White, Curnow and the like must be sold for petty cash, used to feed the more important players. Judd will surely retire of his own volition.
However, the most difficult, but ultimately necessary excision, must be that of Malthouse. His presence is a distraction. It was a distraction when Malthouse coached his record-breaking 715th game, and the speculation which will surely follow a 78-point drubbing at the hands of a ruthless GWS Giants will only build on the pressure the whole club is under.
Burn it all down, Carlton. Burn it all down and start again.