MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 27: Blues head coach Brendon Bolton and Neil Craig, Director of Coaching, Development & Performance look on during the round 23 AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Carlton Blues at Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 27, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Neil Craig has expressed his surprise at Carlton’s decision to terminate Brendon Bolton’s contract halfway through his fourth season in charge at IKON Park.

Appearing on SEN Breakfast Tuesday morning, the former Adelaide head coach explained the high regard in which he held Bolton after he was given his first senior job following the end of Mick Malthouse’s tenure at the conclusion of 2015.

“I was surprised because I rate Brendon really highly…he is the best young coach I’ve ever seen,” Craig said.

Craig oversaw development as a director of coaching at Carlton from 2015 until his own departure at the end of the 2017 season, working closely with Bolton during two seasons that produced 13 combined wins.

Following that tenure, Bolton was at the helm for a miserable further season and a half in which the Blues won just two games in 2018, before the board sacked him after falling two games clear in last place with a four-goal effort in a loss to Essendon in Round 11, leaving Carlton with a 1-10 start this season.

“Before I went to Carlton there was (sic) a lot of conversations between Brendon and myself about whether he really wants this (working with a director of coaching),” Craig said.

“Brendon was clear on that and I was clear that that was what he wanted.

“I think it’s a really important role now and the best coaches in the world have those people around them.”