Reality has sunk in for the Blues on Tuesday with the happy-go-lucky Brendan Bolton becoming the second major coaching change to the 2019 AFL season.
A 1-10 start and 16-61 record across three-and-a-half seasons with the Blues doesn’t make for pretty reading – but by no means is Bolton the lone figure within the crisis at the helm of the sleeping giant in AFL circles.
The ruthless industry often points the finger at the coach but a deeper look into Carlton questions the hierarchy, starting from the top.
Often labelled as the ‘Silent President’, Mark LoGiudice was repeatedly “clear” in praise for Bolton’s character but the “lack of wins” was ultimately the final straw.
Within Monday’s press conference, LoGiudice was quick to mention the “club’s overall strategy” in his opening statement, to which he said would “not change” despite Bolton’s exit.
The “four years of elite draft talent” was at the heart of this grand strategy which the Blues faithful continually pay to see fail week in, week out.
Stephen Silvagni’s return home in 2015 has brought 20 new drafted players including eight first-round picks and 15 players already on AFL lists through trades, some of which saw the departure of Bryce Gibbs, Troy Menzel and Zach Tuohy.
A look at the major drafting decisions (not including Rookie draft, Mid-Season draft and VFL inclusions) since SOS’s arrival are detailed below, and it honestly doesn’t read well for the “elite draft talent” indicated by the President:
|Draft||– Weitering (pick 1)
– McKay (pick 10)
– Curnow (pick 12)
– Cunningham (pick 23)
– Silvagni (pick 53)
|– Petrevski-Seton (pick 5)
– Fisher (pick 27)
– McCreadie (pick 47)
– Polson (pick 59)
– Williamson (pick 61)
– Kerr (pick 65)
|– Dow (pick 3)
– O’Brien (pick 10)
– De-Koning (pick 30)
– Schumacher (pick 70)
– Garlett (pick 78)
|– Walsh (pick 1)
– Stocker (pick 19)
– O’Dwyer (pick 66)
– Silvagni (pick 70)
|– Smedts (DELISTED)
Of SOS’s 15 major trade introductions, mostly from GWS – only nine remain after major off-season delistings and it begs the question, was it Bolton’s philosophy letting down the Blues or the drafting process led by Silvagni and former captain Chris Judd as List/Football Manager?
To field the most inexperienced 22 on the weekend since Bolton’s arrival in 2016 speaks volumes of his confidence in the playing group, and the 16-year re-build of the former powerhouse doesn’t look close to being resolved.
Whilst Marchbank, Walsh, Dow, Petrevski-Seton, Fisher, McKay and Curnow look capable at the AFL level + more recently Cunningham and Stocker, the “green-shoots” Bolton would often reference can be heavily questioned through the remaining pick-ups.
The Blues’ tendency of finding smaller body midfielders such as O’Brien and Polson to aid captain Patrick Cripps has not seen the improvement the fans are after, and “development of that talent” doesn’t look closer to more wins with questions over the ceiling of these sacred picks.
The jury isn’t out on either Silvagni, particularly with Jack playing game 50 on the weekend, but glancing at the table – the lack of highly skilled, big bodied athletes as well as delistings of over half the recruits surely amounts pressure on Judd and SOS.
If Bolton couldn’t make it work, maybe former Eagles, Saints and Crows assistant David Teague can – but money’s not on a significant turn in results any time soon.
The Blues play Brisbane and the Dogs before the bye with a red hot Fremantle rounding out the month, and you would assume three losses would translate into Carlton’s sixth wooden spoon in 17 years – a club that went 104 without one.
So with that lucrative #1 pick swap in the back of most people’s minds – was Carlton right into making Bolton the first to go, or have Juddy, SOS and LoGiudice not answered the hard questions in their pursuit of a positive record?