If you cast your memory back to last year, Carlton was praised in every department, from the coaching staff to the playing group, and with very good reason.
The 16-time premiers produced some scintillating performances under the helm of Michael Voss, adopting a fast attacking approach built on intensity, pressure, and dynamism to connect from half-back and create forward momentum.
An unexpected 8-2 start to 2022 perhaps skyrocketed expectations for a club that at this moment in time has not played finals football in nine years.
That exuberance and excitement displayed on the field soon turned into nerves and doubts. After being pencilled in to play finals after the first 10 games, a sudden drop-off, in particular the last few games of the season, resulted in mismanagement and mistakes creeping in.
As a result, a come-from-behind one-point win from the Pies in round 23 all but ended finals hopes in the cruellest way possible.
In saying that, it was a season that provided hope for the future. Finally, it seemed as though Carlton had found an identity and was on the cusp of building toward something special.
Even the most upbeat Carlton supporter would have admitted that this year could potentially make or break. Arguably, they were the team under the most pressure coming into the campaign due to the manner in which they slid from the comfortable position they were in after round 10 to missing finals.
This was a squad list built to make finals. Injuries, reasonable excuses in the past, would quite simply not amount to a reasonable excuse any longer.
From the evidence gathered so far over a 12-game sample size, the Blues have steered in the complete opposite direction from what attracted so many admirers. They look utterly confused and lost for answers to the point where it’s become quite frightening.
Friday night’s 17-point defeat at the hands of the Demons at the MCG epitomised the array of problems that the club is facing both on and off the field.
After last week’s abysmal display against the Swans, you expected Carlton to come out firing out of the blocks, and so they did. For a good stretch of the opening period, the pressure around the ball was immense.
Unfortunately for Blues fans though, the momentum ended there.
Simply put, they are too predictable kicking it long to their disadvantage and hoping for the best. That composure witnessed during large spurts of last season has evaporated, as well as limiting the risks going forward down the corridor through their handball game, an area that was extremely effective for them in 2022.
That was reverberated by Voss during the post-match press conference on Friday night.
“Eventually you need that part (attacking threat) because that’s the exciting part of the game, when you get your chance, you challenge, and we’ve found it difficult to challenge,” he said.
“That connection piece around the way we move the ball at the moment is falling down.”
The biggest decline has undoubtedly been the kicking inefficiencies both during build-up play and goal attempts. They are failing to hit the simplest of targets and fabricate it as if they are playing in the rain every week, it’s that scrappy.
Against the Swans in the third quarter when the game was calling out for leaders, the Blues entered inside 50 14 times but had just one mark to show for it, outlining a clear disconnect between the players and their link-up. A 37 per cent efficiency rate inside 50 for the game sums up the season perfectly.
Harry McKay has been poor, but he’s not the only one to blame for their kicking inaccuracy in front of the sticks.
Overall, their ball use and decision-making especially in key moments become questionable – and that’s putting it kindly.
Cripps doesn’t look like the same player who won the Brownlow last year. Saad seems to have lost a step and Ed Curnow’s best days may well be behind him. Those are just a handful of names, but in truth, the majority have performed well below standards.
You can point the finger at Voss and pile all of the blame on his shoulders. Of course, he needs to carry his fair share of responsibility and it’s his job to prepare the players, but a coaching merry-go-round is the last thing Carlton needs right now.
Not only have they fallen short of making the top eight for the past nine years, the club haven’t won a premiership since 1995. Yes, 28 years.
More AFL News
- ‘Dual Sport’ Dumont signs with Mariners
- Every deal and rumour of the AFL Trade Period
- The first Giant says goodbye
- The ‘Lizard’ Nick Blakey slithers to game 100
- Oh Errol! The continued rise of Sydney’s spark
Just when it looked as though the Blues were forming some sort of identity last season, that has completely gone out the window with the club now running the risk of becoming an anonymity.
That may come across as harsh considering they are a club with enormous prestige and a proud history attached, echoed by over 86,000 members.
Similar to their arch-rivals in Essendon, both are massive clubs but have not tasted success for over two decades, making them more irrelevant as each disappointing season passes by.
Is it fair to pinpoint solely a cultural issue in the hierarchy? President Luke Sayers has helped successfully implement financial stability as the club increased its net profit by over $1.2 million compared to 2021, according to Carlton’s latest financial report.
Nailing that aspect is fundamental, but the Blues are lacking a Brendon Gale-type figure who possesses the footy brains that have the potential to map out an accomplished long-term plan. When was the last time you could say that about the Blues?
Sayers knows full well that he and the club are under pressure through the backlash and scrutiny they are facing.
In an open letter to members, the president is well aware of the club’s current struggles, adding “It simply hasn’t been good enough to this point.”
A winning drive is missing within the realms of the club.
Board of directors have come and gone in recent years, and CEO Brian Cook may not be the answer to turn the sinking ship around despite only being in the position for less than two years.
Multiple long-term contracts handed out to certain players is a cause for concern, considering how difficult it will be to offload some of those names on their list if they so choose to head down a different road.
Below are some of the estimated contracts according to Channel 9:
McKay – $900,000-1,000,000 – End of 2030
McGovern – $775,000 – End of 2023
Williams – $775,000 – End of 2026
Saad – $750,000 – End of 2025
Weitering – $750,000 – End of 2025
Cerra – $750,000 – End of 2025
The majority of those names you could argue are not living up to the hype. That needs to change drastically fast because Carlton now finds themselves at a crossroads forced to keep hold of most of these core group of players.
Clearly, there are mental scars within the organisation that have gone unresolved for far too long, evident through the pressure they crumble under time and time again.
However, that’s not to say that the Baggers don’t possess some important pieces. All in all, they have laid down some promising foundations as demonstrated last year when they received many plaudits.
They have reached a stage now where they can ill-afford to make costly decision-making errors both internally and externally.
Failure to do so and Carlton may just become obscure to the point where history is the only thing they can cling onto.
Subscribe to our newsletter!