And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off — Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off”
Yo Haters, I’m really happy for you… Imma let you finish, but we all know the tired trope of grumpy old Mick is the weapon of choice for those who prefer to beat up on piñatas instead of sacred cows.
It’s a languid label for a man whose thirty years in coaching renders such a one-dimensional portrait obsolete.
To steal a line from Taylor Swift, haters gonna hate, hate, hate.
And just as dancing awkwardly amid the haughty world of the music industry has become a Swift trademark, so has Mick’s trait of not suffering dolts amid the plastic sports-journalist bonhomie at post-match press conferences1. Both are endearing within a heavily manufactured construct (i.e. the first question of the conference must be asked by the man with the Seven Network microphone).
Selective editing of the post-match press conference on Friday night2 would’ve again been used to stoke the warm liquid centre of the hater’s argument, say nothing of the result itself.
However, rather than seeing the Port Adelaide defeat as a Force Majeure3, they wear it as a pair of heavy boots in an attempt to give their careless certainty the gravitas it lacks.
Carlton is not as bad as advertised on Friday night — nor it is as good as touted in the weeks preceding it4 — but the problems at Carlton for the most part are not of Malthouse’s making.
Malthouse wasn’t at the Club in 2009 when it took Kane Lucas with its first pick, or in 2010 (Matthew Watson),or in 2011 when it selected Josh Bootsma5.
When Malthouse arrived at the Club at the end of 2012 he was greeted by a list that was as mediocre as it was inflexible, thanks to the awful stewardship of the Club’s football department-slash-board6 who got nervous enough to put a multi-year contract in front of whichever third-round draft pick in the system for three years got 18 possessions that week.
These are the bad decisions you make when you are an awful football club7 — and for the most part of the past 15 years, we have been an awful football club — an awful football club whose brief moments of success have largely been on the heavily taped shoulders of Chris Judd.
The football Gods had withdrawn their blessing from Carlton long before Malthouse was hailed by some as its Messiah.
So what is Malthouse’s job?
Is it to present to the darlings of the football media a kinder, gentler Carlton?
It is to rebuild the list. A list that has some depth. A list that has some resilience.
Given the restraints (and book tour) of his first pre-season, Malthouse is one year into the process. One year that has seen among other things:
Bryce Gibbs begin to realise his potential8
Sam Rowe develop as a key position defender
Introduced Daisy Thomas, Andrejs Everitt and Sam Docherty to provide some outside run and clean disposal, particularly across half-back — alongside a vastly improved Dylan Buckley.
Develop a structure and a game plan that the players have bought into — something that has not been seen at Carlton since the Parkin years.
Will developing the lilt of a champagne sipper and a courteous manner at press conferences in anyway help Malthouse further build a competitive list?
If Taylor Swift can move from ringletted country singer and teenage sweetheart of the American heartland to Taylor Swift Pop Star with very little image making — without the warrior-queen affectations of Beyoncé or the amplified alter egos of Nicki Minaj — then I think Malthouse is going to be okay.
Let Malthouse be Malthouse.
Just shake it off, Mick. Shake it off.
1. Stevaux’s statement dressed as a question (again) on Friday night was another brick in the cathedral of mediocrity.
2. Watch the entirety of that press conference — bearing in mind it was one after a 100 point defeat — and tell me the grumpy stereotype is consistent all the way through… or listen to any of Malthouse’s regular segments on FIVEaa… or his weekly videos to Carlton members. Maybe the problem lies not with Malthouse, but with Stevaux and the tepid Twitter satirists whose exhausted shtick rarely departs from “Mick is old — hear him get confused about social media”
3. Full list chasing a Top 4 spot versus 10+ injuries, a captain concussed and nothing on the line.
4. As Wilfrid Sheed wrote in Transatlantic Blues, “Whom the gods would destroy, first they oversell”.
5. Port Adelaide didn’t make such a mistake with their first pick (granted a few selections higher) — Chad Wingard.
6. Comprising largely of a) wealthy men who b) had the good fortune and shortcomings of character that mark an administration that spent a generation as a successful club — there’s not a lot of considered and patient long-term thinking in the sweet spot of that Venn diagram. That’s not condescension so much as it is an attempt at a charitable truth.
7. Playing your #1 draft pick as either a tagger or a loose man across half-back is another such decision.
8. This takes some typing — I’ve been one of Bryce’s more vociferous critics