“This is a ruthless world and one must be ruthless to cope with it”—Charlie Chaplin
Okay, let us be ruthless – Carlton’s list management since 20021 has been a Russian nesting doll of shitawful decision-making.
After a regrettable 2012, Carlton’s list management should have resembled a nuclear accident near a children’s farm. Instead the football department sat at their desks with their thumbs up their arse2, observing the minimum required delistings – three3 – and trading Jordan Russell to Collingwood for a fourth round draft pick that they didn’t use4.
Only if there were some positive, complimentary sense of the word hopeless (they’ve probably got one at Carlton) could I sound any less pessimistic.
It’s a generation since cigarettes and beer passed for recovery and “pig’s arse!” passed for sound governance5. A generation since the Carlton chequebook6 was the best recruiter in the game. With today’s salary cap and draft, we have been little more than a simpleton trying to punch above our featherweight7, yet we remain the complete prick every other club is dying to see nailed.
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Yesterday, Carlton delisted seven players and agreed to find a new club for an eighth, Jeremy Laidler.
For most supporters this is a sad time of year, yes — and sure, for the players involved it sucks a wet bag. But let’s put it into perspective, it’s hardly benefit-concert-sad.
But while I’ve been known to be a man of dyspeptic temper and sharp of tongue, my preconception of just about every player that was delisted was that of your archetypal, colour-blind supporter – full of hope, and for the most part, full of shit8. They were potential 150-gamers. All of them. The reality is no one even managed half that.
Marcus Davies (17 games) – I thought Davies’ two finals in 2011 had him well placed to hold down the third-tall role in Carlton’s back six — a view I held as recently as this year. A view that I’m starting to believe may have been misplaced (see also Austin, Mark; Bower, Paul).
Aaron Joseph (73 games) – In 2009, I sanguinely declared Joseph The New Anthony Franchina after he tagged Gary Ablett Jnr in an NAB Cup match. Hell, they were more or less the same size, both taggers and both wore 45. That said, when The New Anthony Franchina is your ceiling, 73 games is not a terrible return.
Patrick McCarthy and Luke Mitchell (1 game each) – Can it only be three years ago we were talking Grand Theft National Draft? McCarthy, a 196cm all-Australian u-18 and Luke Mitchell, two centimetres taller and 10 kilograms heavier (and regarded favourably enough to be gifted the number 25). Together they represented one-third of a 2015 Premiership forward line. Together they represented one third of our medical tape budget for 2011-13.
Andrew Collins (36 games, 11 at Carlton) – I sincerely thought we got the better of the Grigg-Collins trade. This was based on his game for the Tigers in Round 14, 2010 against the Sydney Swans when he was knocked senseless, came back on the ground and kicked the winning goal. Shaun Grigg had neither ‘knocked senseless’ or ‘winning goal’ in the CV he took to Richmond. Andrew Collins’ CV at Carlton runs no more than a paragraph.
Frazer Dale (2 games) — A rookie who looked like an old-fashioned wingman and who looked like he could play a bit and who looks like he might now be plying his trade in the VFL. Always had a soft spot for Frazer due to him wearing Ang Christou’s 39. But as mentioned earlier in this piece, ‘soft spots’ have no place in such a ruthless business, and when you’re the club’s third pick in a rookie draft with only two games in two seasons to your name, no amount of sentimentality is going to keep you on a list requiring surgical, not cosmetic, cuts.
Rhys O’Keeffe (3 games) — If only all our midfield were as hard as this ROK. Unfortunately hardness is isn’t a panacea for osteitus pubis, which Rhys also had a bucket of. Three games in three years is is never going to play well when pleading your case to be on the 2014 list, but of the seven players delisted, ROK’s the one I’m having the hardest time dealing with.
Jeremy Laidler (26 games, 24 at Carlton) — Okay, let’s get one thing straight. We are not moving on Jeremy Laidler the recruiting masterstroke of 2011. We are moving on the shopworn, struggling-defender-come-makeshift-forward of the Northern Blues. Not the 21-possession-six-marks-against-Geelong footballer, but the strained-medial-ligament-twisted-kneecap-habitually-buckling-left-knee Epworth Hospital Gold Pass holder. You can still hear the indignant Carlton fans chorusing through Lygon Street about the injustice of Laidler’s exile, but anyone who caught more than a few Northern Blues games this year would acknowledge that Mick Malthouse is still smarter than most of us when it comes to selection.
And he’s also a little more ruthless — which is just what he needs to be.
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1. The year we took a scrawny Kade Simpson from Eastern Ranges. Today Kade Simpson is Carlton’s bearded dude on the Dos Equis beer commercials. That is to say Kade’s your guy. Every man should be aiming to be like him. The beard is just the tip of the iceberg.
2. Granted, given the ludicrous longer-than-one-year contracts we had players such as Aaron Joseph on, there was a distinct lack of flexibility as to what they could cut. Oh yeah, and what do you achieve by cutting four rookies?
3. Two if you don’t count the mistake of having Rohan Kerr on your primary list… although revised again to three if you include Andrew Collins being delisted and then relisted on the rookie list.
4. History will show we won this trade.
5. Although “We’re Carlton, fuck the rest” is probably the closest Stephen Kernahan has got to outline a direction for the club. But enough about our Board, I don’t want to confuse one form of high comedy with another.
6. If not a chequebook then a brown paper bag of cash.
7. 2013 Rising Star nominations – 0; 2012 Rising Star nominations – 0; 2011 Rising Star nominations – 0… you see where I’m going with this.
8. I give you those Essendon supporters who still believe their list ingested nothing more than milk still bubbling warm from the cow.