IF it was not enough that Carlton’s season has been on the slide since their emphatic victory over Collingwood in Round 3, the news from Visy Park just makes for an even uglier outlook than that which we wrote about just yesterday.
While success will excuse most failings, failure amplifies them and the steady stream of news and rumours emerging from Carlton is typical of any organisation that has seen it’s expectations and goals exposed as a fiction.
For Carlton it seems to have begun not with coach Brett Ratten’s “top four finish” declarations in the preseason (nothing wrong with that and really it’s what you would WANT to hear from the coach of a finals club) but with how the club has managed itself on and off the field since it’s season started running off the tracks.
Way back in March we wrote an article about Carlton’s poor form in the preseason NAB Cup competition. Zero wins in five games. The common thread among the faithful back then was that it was only the NAB Cup and in the scheme of things it was meaningless. Our thinking way back then (and we admit that we didn’t realise at the time how right we were) was that great teams find ways to win and the fact that the Blues couldn’t do that was strange and alarming.
Fast forward 14 weeks and that early sign of smoke is now a fully fledged fire.
While the Blues have been hit with injuries harder than most teams, it has also raised the first series of questions about the level of preparation and resilience of the club. It could be argued that both Collingwood and West Coast have been hit equally as hard with injuries but they have shown an ability to overcome the absence of key players and continue to win.
While the Magpies and Eagles sit at first and third on the ladder, the first port of call for Carlton apologists is their injury list.
The club’s inability to overcome this obstacle may or may not be entirely Ratten’s fault but as the coach he has to accept most of the responsibility. Indeed as the team’s losses continue to mount it seems as if he is struggling to find answers and the questions are now being asked about his ability to develop players so that the club can be more resistent to the effects of injuries to its playing list.
On the off-field front there have been issues as well, most notably with players venting their frustrations in the very public sphere of Twitter. While there is not much point rehashing those incidents here are they another sign of the turmoil at the Blues?
But that is almost inconsequential now as Ratten now faces his biggest challenge and further pressure with a public abandonment of support from the Carlton club board.
For Ratten, who just last year had his contract extended to the end of 2013, anything but an emphatic endorsement from club president Stephen Kernahan and the board is a sure sign that the end is near.
Yesterday on Melbourne’s 3AW radio Kernahan had an opportunity to provide that emphatic support for his coach but instead hemmed and hawed saying “At this stage, he’ll be the coach until the end of the year.”
Does anyone read the dreaded “at this stage” statement to mean anything other than Brett Ratten’s time is up?
For his part, Ratten is confident that the board does support him.
“When I speak to (Kernahan), it hasn’t changed from the start of the year,” Ratten said after appearing at the annual Peter Mac breakfast in Melbourne on Wednesday morning.
“So unless something’s been said that I’ve missed, yeah, we’ve had conversations and that (his job security) hasn’t been brought up.
“So I feel the backing of Stephen.”
And so the game continues.
But barring a miracle winning streak for the Blues that begins this Friday night against Collingwood, we are likely to see the final act of the Brett Ratten era play out in slow motion against a backdrop of rumours about Mick Malthouse or Paul Roos being hired as his replacement.
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