05/03/2024

David Teague. Image: carltonfc.com.au

David Teague's time at Carlton has come to an end. It's not the exit or relationship breakup he or anyone deserved.

Every relationship that comes to an end is different. Anyone who has been in one and broken up can tell you that.

Some are clean and amicable and both parties remain friends. Some end abruptly and the two sides just quietly go their different ways and give the old curtesy wave in the street if they happen to run into each other.

And just like this one here, there are some you can see coming a mile away. It’s long, it’s painful, it’s messy, perhaps a touch unfair on all the other parties involved, but they end badly.

A common line that is trotted out in the breakup conversation is “It’s not you, it’s me”. A line that is meant to try to diffuse the situation and soften the blow.

50 games ago, Mark LoGoudice and Cain Liddle sat side by side with David Teague as they unveiled him as senior coach back in 2019, declaring “he could not be more ready” after leading Carlton to a winning back end of the 2019 season and won the job on the way of massive support from players and fans alike.

Today, 50 games later, after a pre-season of spending big and big promises and declarations, here we are again. Another senior coach has come and gone through the revolving door.

But isn’t this what Carlton wanted anyway?

David Teague took over a club which was hurting in the middle of 2019, a club which had seen wins become rarer than hen’s teeth.

The wins in the back end provided the fans and the board with the sugar hit required to win over the masses.

The 1979 premiership reunion would prove pivotal to Teague’s ascension to the full-time senior gig.

Introduced onto the stage to a rousing standing ovation from all those in the room.

Players from the club’s halcyon days along with many a club fans, powerbrokers, and officials in attendance, whose actions sounded the most ringing of ringing endorsements for the soon-to-be incoming coach.

‘The Teague Train’ was ready to launch. The team was playing well, the older guys were turning back the clock, the young guys were “bringing their strengths” and being used accordingly, the team was winning. The forward line was functioning. The fanbase was bubbling.

People power was winning and it was the most un-Carlton-like thing Princes Park had seen. How far would the incumbent Carlton board let it go?

For outgoing president LoGoudice, it would be the third coaching appointment in his time in the main chair.

For more than half a century, Carlton’s board has been wedded to a culture of quick fixes, godfather offers to the messiah type figures, and very trigger happy with sacking coaches when things start to go south.

It’s the same board, well, the majority of people with the most pull on it that knifed favourite son Brett Ratten at the lure of the quick fix in Mick Malthouse almost nine years ago. Look how that one turned out.

Nine years, three coaches, a rebuild, 13 first-round draft selections on the list later and they’re no closer to where they want to be now than when they were then.

David Teague was meant to be the coach for tomorrow the club needed.

Not a messiah, not a favourite son, but a student of the game who had gathered more than a decade of experience building a coaching resume to land a senior job.

Yet, it wasn’t ‘The Carlton Way’. So they hung him out to dry.

You can count on one hand how many times the public heard from the Carlton president, the incoming president, CEO, and football manager combined over the course of season 2021.

The radio silence has been startling and deafening for a club that has bandied the slogans and hashtags Bound by Blue and all of us around on its most recent membership campaigns.

Announcing through the media, albeit after a particularly bad loss but after Round 10 that an external review of the football department would be taking place, commissioned by incoming president Luke Sayers, the writing has been on the wall for Teague since that very moment.

A young coach who had inherited a young group of assistant coaches from a previous regime, a rookie head of football, and a football director who after his famous “training wheels” comment had been absent before vacating his position on the board midway through the season.

Add to this navigating his way through the toughest two years the industry has seen has been equally stressful in the pandemic years.

READ: Change is coming, but simply removing Teague himself isn’t the answer

While Teague’s deficiencies as a coach have been laid bare for everyone to see, on paper his record has not been terrible. If you compare it to some other Carlton coaches who have been in the chair recently.

Carlton’s most recent coaches winning record and percentages…

 Games CoachedRecordWinning Percentage
Brett Ratten12060-59-150.0%
Mick Malthouse5420-33-137.04%
John Barker133-1023.08%
Brendon Bolton7716-6120.77%
David Teague5021-2942.86%

He’s had some terrible luck to boot. Charlie Curnow, perhaps his greatest weapon, fresh off kicking seven goals in his second game in charge and looking like he was about to properly explode hurt his knee the following week and missed the next two seasons.

While injures are never an excuse, they have certainly played a role in where Carlton has found themselves.

The constant injury woes throughout the 2021 season were one of many problems that arose that the review found.

Most notably, the confusing nature around the heavily focussed attacking gameplan which has left them in a defensive mess.

A constant theme throughout the Teague reign, as evident by the countless times teams have scored a run of 5+ goals against the Blues over Teague’s 50-game tenure. 24 times to be exact.

Perhaps the last rights were anointed when a bottom-placed North Melbourne did as it pleased massaging the ball from one end of Marvel Stadium to the other.

There was a distinct lack of urgency on the field that day and many other days recently, as there was subsequently in the Carlton coaching box.

But despite being set up to fail from above, Teague always fronted up to the post-game press conferences and the mid-week press conferences and acted as the lone communication from the club to its constituents.

The desolate, dejected figure that emerged from the three-quarter-time huddle on Saturday night looked like an individual at his wit’s end and had been badly let down by his own football club.

Right from minute one, He was set up to fail from the get-go by a board who thought they appease their members and treat them like fools before going to find the person they wanted in the first place back in 2019.

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If it were any other club, he’d be afforded the opportunity to at least see out his contract and try right the ship with the appropriate levels of support around him to give him every chance to succeed.

But sorry David, it’s just not the Carlton way of doing things.

And we find ourselves here. Yet another decent and good Carlton man pumped up, chewed up, and spat out leaving with no support and a knife in his back.

For a club that has had coach sackings become routine at Princes Park over the last decade and a half, the lows and the stress that the club’s board has stooped to in the past couple of months but particularly in the last week has hardly been an impressive start to the Sayers era.

The Group 1 field of candidates is seemingly a race of one. The Carlton board will again consider what path they take and conduct a process to appointing the best coach available.

A process that they did not run in appointing David Teague. All signs point to Ross Lyon taking the top job along with a raft of changes to the board, the coaching staff, and other senior management roles.

The Carlton Football Club has always strived for greatness and the pursuit of excellence on the field and it appears that the movements of the past may just be calling to try to restore the club to its former glory.

A message that Luke Sayers was forthright in getting across to members and everyone alike.

But Einstein’s theory of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results comes to mind.

Maybe this will be the biggest finding of all the 20 recommendations in the review? If it isn’t, the cycle of what has been happening at this football club will continue and won’t be something even the likes of Alastair Clarkson or Ross Lyon will be able to fix.

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