AFL Round 3 – Geelong v Carlton: I Am Carlton (Malthouse, you are not)

It started with the end of games at Princes Park. Last year’s appointment of Mick Malthouse felt like the final nail. And yet, like the saying goes “I Am Carlton.” It’s more than a habit: It’s DNA. It’s blood.

And so, like a wife who forgives her adulterous husband year after year, I try to turn a blind eye to the fact that a former “dirty Richmond player” (my Dad’s words) and Collingwood coach now gets paid to wear a navy blue polo shirt and win the Blue boys a flag. Or try to. But I can’t pretend it doesn’t hurt.

Round 3 and it’s Carlton versus Geelong, their only clash for the year.

Sure, with two kids under three my Cats-fanatic husband and I don’t get many date nights, and we could go anywhere after securing a babysitter, but a trip to the footy (my first in two years) could be just what the doctor ordered to stir the blood and re-ignite my footy fire. Watching games on the couch just hadn’t worked. I was usually asleep by quarter time.

I would never have married a Collingwood supporter. But if I had, there might have been a little more spark before the game: some cruel taunts; that pit of the stomach desire for a win.

The truth is, I’ve always liked the Cats. And as someone who has enjoyed their recent success, albeit it vicariously, I really don’t mind if they win tonight.

But that was the apathy talking. This game was important. The coaches tell you they all are, and the stats tell me that a 0-3 win loss ratio does not bode well for a genuine run at the flag.

In my mind, if we don’t win tonight. Malthouse is a confirmed flop, an expensive experiment gone wrong. Because I’m sure Brett Ratten could have got us to the bottom of the eight this year, assuming a good run without injuries. I am a loyal Brett Ratten fan, because “I Am Carlton” and so was Ratts. He was not some imposter, employed by the morally bankrupt fickleness of the modern day game.

We walk across the Southern Cross Station pedestrian bridge to discover Etihad Stadium dwarfed by a new building for my least favourite bank. Part of me is disappointed, but not really. This is hardly Princes Park and like most Blues fans, I have never really liked Etihad. In fact, come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever seen Carlton win here. This does not bode well for tonight’s clash against a classy and in-form Cats side.

Maybe a record will help stir the 12-year-old fanatic in me? God knows I could brush up on my players and numbers.

We find our seats, ground level and in the forward pocket, north-eastern end. The fact that I appear to be surrounded by Cats fans doesn’t bother me. This rivalry is quite chivalrous, not as fierce as others. Or maybe that’s just my marriage.

I am also relieved to see we are nowhere near the coaches race. I won’t be able to see Malthouse lead the huddles. I can almost pretend he isn’t here.

The game starts and it’s fast. Both teams are up and about and it’s an open, skillful contest.

I dutifully record the goals, points and rushed scores in my record. Just as I did when I was 12. It helps me pay attention. I am not footy fit. I watch the contests. Re-fresh and re-learn my players numbers. Give a bit of stick to some of the new hair cuts and facial hair.

The Blues look good but the Cats have more finesse. We are missing Betts and Waite, and Kreuzer is lost early with a broken thumb. But the newer kids Rowe, Buckley and Tuohy are holding their own and this is where I get most excited. The possibility of a fresh, talented list mixed with the reliability of players like Murphy, Judd, McLean and Scotland.

By half time I’m not feeling overly hopeful. Carlton get some run, but the Cats easily chase it and claw back any lead we manage and have lead at both breaks.

Three quarter time and it’s starting to feel past my bed time. The Blues are down by nearly six goals and I suggest what I would have considered a mortal sin once upon a time: that we leave early. The Blues are a chance, but it’s unlikely, and these days, a good nights sleep trumps most things. I’m also getting tired of holding my breath every time someone in front of us lets out a rancid fart.

Of course, we get to the car, turn on the radio and Drew Morphett tells us the Blues are within 10 points. Of course they are. The footy gods are right to punish my unforgivable lack of faith.

By the time we get to Spencer Street, the Cats have kicked another goal and it’s all over with only seconds remaining.

I’m almost glad I didn’t miss the chance to sing the song and fantasize about a top four spot with other fans.

But let’s face it, a win would have felt good and give all Blues fans a spring in their step for the week ahead.

What did the loss mean now?

All it means to me is a chance to dislike Malthouse and the board the appointed him that little bit more.

Oh dear, what a sorry state of affairs.

Maybe I’ll feel differently next week.


  1. Stephen Cooke says

    This husband of yours, he sounds like he has impeccable taste.

  2. I’m always fascinated by the obsession with Malthouse being a Collingwood person.

    He started playing with the Saints, won a flag with the Tigers, was a rookie coach at the Dogs and a fave son of the Eagles.

    Yet, he seems to be always seen as a Pie man forever.

    Yes, he made some silly statements about “I could never coach against my boys’ but we don’t seem to be looking at this week’s match as a clash against Mick’s old side over in Perth they way we did against the Pies.

    Yes, there’s news in everything Collingwood, but I agree with Mady, he’s not Carlton, anymore than he’s St Kilda or Footscray.

    Interestingly, while he credits all his clubs, he seems to identify most as a Richmond man, having played in a flag there. Carlton is renting Malthouse, on a short term basis. He’s no more Carlton than he is Magpie.


  3. Barkly St End says

    Leigh Matthews once said that footy fans identify more with ex-players of a club, than ex-coaches.

    So it’s natural for a footballer to identify more with the team with which he won premiership as a footballer, rather than as a coach.

    Over history, you will get exceptions to that rule, but I believe they are few and far between.

    For the most part, coaches are simply passing through on their way to the next gig.

    The day you sign on as a coach, you are one day closer to getting sacked.

  4. Lord Bogan says

    I’m so happy that Carlton pay Mick to tell us that it’s not about winning and losing. Hahahahahaha!!!

  5. Graeme Rule says


    I can never forgive Carlton for conning the Lions into paying top dollar for a one trick wonder, I’d probably choke if I mentioned his name. Yet numbers of Carlton supporters have said to me that they were pleaed Brett Ratten was gone.

  6. Dave Nadel says

    Like him or loathe him Mick is a member of the Malthouse team rather than whatever club he is currently working for. That does not mean that he doesn’t give his all as a coach. I am grateful for his role at Collingwood in 2010 and I would expect that Eagles fans are similarly grateful for 1992 and 1994. But the day Mick stops getting a cheque from the club he is coaching seems to be the day he loses any connection with, or loyalty towards, that club.

    For the most part you don’t identify ex-coaches with their former clubs. There are some exceptions. I think of Sheedy as an Essendon man more than a Richmond person and I suspect most Bomber fans do too. I also tend to think of Paul Roos as Sydney rather than Fitzroy but perhaps that is because Fitzroy is no longer in the AFL.

    I was ecstatic when Matthews coached Collingwood to a flag in 1990 and when Mick did likewise in 2010 but it will mean even more if we win one with Bucks as coach because Bucks has always been a Collingwood person.

  7. Re Matthews, though he coached two teams to flags, he is always a Hawthorn person to me.

    Malthouse has done the rounds, and you said it correctly David, he is part of the Malthouse team. It starts and end there.

    Where does Geelong premiership coach, “Bomber’ Thompson sit in all of this?


  8. Carlton fans need to understand that under Brett Ratten, Carlton was never going to get past the second week of finals. We played ‘game-show hostess football’ – attractive, great to watch, but ultimately absent in substance.

    I’m of the belief there are two coaches who could build such substance — Ross Lyon and Michael Malthouse. What they share is a rusted on belief on ‘process’.

    Stephen Kernahan said Carlton’s been impatient for 149 years, maybe it’s time we sucked it up, demonstrate a little patience and show some faith.

    I’ve said before on this site that faith without works is nothing. Malthouse has a solid body of work. The wins – and most importantly the consistency to keep winning (ref: Gold Coast Suns v Carlton, 2012) will come.

  9. Stephen Cooke says

    Glen, Bomber is a Geelong legend, as Matthews is a Collingwood legend. To be the coach to bring long-awaited premiership success to certain clubs, you will always go down in folklore. But they are still Essendon and Hawthorn people respectively.

  10. Stephen Cooke says

    Litza, I was thinking about this on the way to work. Will Carlton – the board and its fans – give Malthouse the chance. Collingwood gave him many, and they were rewarded. Geelong stuck with Bomber for years, knowing it would bear fruit.
    Carlton has to change its attitude from the early days when they could buy a team. Cultural change is required, but can it be achieved there?

    Other such profound statements from me can be found at:

  11. Fair point Cookie. Sounds like dual citizenship.


  12. Stephen Cooke says

    Glen, I don’t think Bomber will need to take his wallet out anywhere in Geelong if ever he wants to return. Should be a few fans there keen to buy him a drink or sausage roll.

  13. Bomber made buckets of money on dubious property deals in Geelong – anyone who buys him a beer is a mug.

    We have too many board members and not enough fans (*cough* members *cough*).

    I’m not sure that money plays less of a role today than it did 20 years ago…

  14. Stephen Cooke says

    I’ll buy Bomber a beer (*cough* two flags *cough*)

  15. Hi

    Good essay Mady

    It’s a few years since our kids were under 3 years old but I hears ya when you say a good night sleep trumps most anything. Also, not surprised you wanted to get away from rancid smells emitting from Cats supporters (do they emit any other type of smell? Bang)

    I’ll need Gigs to back me up on the comment I’m about to make (or shoot me down) as I’m sure I heard it from him. If Malthouse does win a flag for the Blues it’ll be the first time in the history of the VFL/AFL that a coach coaching his fourth club does so.


  16. Michael Viljoen says

    Malthouse doesn’t look right in a Carlton shirt.
    But if I cut Brett Ratten, he’d bleed navy blue.

  17. Lachlan Waterman says

    Enjoyable piece Mady. In Micks words: “The Ox is slow but the earth is patient.”

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