Opinion: It’s the same old story at Princes Park. After all the pre-season promises and declarations about the expectations for the year and how this year would be different from the ones before, it’s the same feeling of gloom.
While the hierarchy at Ikon Park has been used to cleaning up mess’ and crisis in recent years, none would have foreseen the rapid rise of this one coming as quickly as it did.
It’s only halfway through the season but Carlton’s season is over. 4 wins, 8 losses, 14th on the AFL ladder, and the club are rightfully under siege with what is looming as another season without finals action.
The action in the mid-season bye has been swift with incoming president Luke Sayers ordering an external review of all aspects and dimensions of the football department. John Barker, an assistant coach who has been at the club for a decade has already resigned. perhaps one of the biggest dominoes to fall.
There are plenty of questions to be answered. Plenty and all that should be front and centre in the minds of the panel conducting the review because they will be the same questions that have been on the minds of Carlton fans for years now.
But for all the myriad of outcomes and recommendations that will stem from this report, the club must recognize that the cycle of simply removing the coach at the top simply can’t be the only answer.
David Teague has coached only 40 senior games at Carlton. He has a 17-23 record which is higher than the 2 previous coaches of the club in half the time. While it’s hardly anything to hang the hat on, it’s no less significant given the group that the coaches have had at their disposal.
On the contrary, with the players that Teague has at his disposal this year, it should be higher.
A team that posses the All Australian calibre centre half-back, full-forward, and midfielder along with Patrick Cripps who was named amongst his peers the most valuable player in the competition just two seasons ago, with a host of other star players who have been recruited with big potential and pay packets.
The impending review has been a long time coming and for many Carlton people. A review and thorough examination of the football department which has been underperforming and hopefully, will uncover the answers that many have been craving.
The answer cannot simply just be to sack the coach and come to the conclusion that David Teague has lost the playing group. How many times has an AFL club, specifically Carlton been stuck in that cycle?
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You know the one. Sack the incumbent and throw the godfather offer to the big name with the messiah-like presence and when that doesn’t work, you go for the young untired guy who isn’t going to be given adequate time by the fan base until everyone starts calling for the messiah-like figure and godfather offer again.
You’ve seen it happen time and time again here in the past 20 years too. Denis Pagan moved on because he lost the players. Brett Ratten was removed at the lure of Mick Malthouse and the club thinking they were closer than they were. Malthouse moved on because he lost his way. Bolton installed to be the man of the future before the greater mass of results against him piled up when it was time and now Teague after warming the chair for the remainder of Bolton’s final year is still setting things up and his way as a coach.
No one could have foreseen the circumstances in which his first full year as a senior coach would pan out. And with Australia still not out of the Coronavirus woods yet, his second full year also looks to be hindered albeit to a far lesser extent.
Having all that in the background whilst you’re still getting your feet under the desk in one of the 18 most highly pressured jobs in the country is hard enough. but much like everyone’s favourite saying in this caper, development is never linear.
Senior coaches when they take over a side are usually starting from close to square one.
This is a Carlton list far from square one. They entered the year threatening to make the jump into the finals. They may think they’re on the doorstep, but it still seems a jump too far.
So while there are elements of the playing group not wholeheartedly buying into the game style and way that David Teague is instructing them to play, the results of the review can’t all fall on the head of the senior coach.
Modern Australian Rules Football isn’t about that anymore. It’s a group of 4-5 that bear the responsibility of the coaching and tactical directions of the team.
The decision to ultimately not make any changes to the coaching department after last season was clearly the wrong one in hindsight, and it’s clear that Carlton is paying for that now. With Barker resigning after being in charge of a severely underperforming midfield group suggests that it is the first of mass changes in that area.
The buck does stop with the senior coach though, as he is the one that spins the messaging and is the communicator between the club and its constituents every week. In the here and now, the 10 weeks remaining in season 2021 for Carlton are 10 weeks where David Teague will be fighting to keep his job.
Everything should be on the table. If the review finds that David Teague is the right name to lead the group and a new set of voices around him is the best thing for him and the players, that would be a great step in the right direction and a show that the club will actually stick to its guns and not bow to a section of its wealthy disgruntled members. If he isn’t the right man to lead the group forward, so be it.
If it is the latter, he cannot and must not be the only casualty, as that will prove that Carlton has learned nothing.
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