All that’s wrong with footy: the curse of the win/loss

I’m heartbroken. That broad smile, those glassy eyes, the humility and compassion and positivity, all in the face of his own sacking. The departure of Brendon Bolton from Carlton Football Club is everything that is wrong with footy, with sport. It brought me to tears watching his dignified comments and responses at the presser yesterday, and I still feel fragile now.


He’s the only head coach I’ve known at Carlton – his first year as coach was my first year as fan and member – so perhaps that’s why it’s hit me particularly hard. I’ve always admired his spirit, his passion, his positivity, and ability to hold together the culture of the team and the club. You can see he has a teaching background. I loved watching The Journey videos in those first two years of his reign – valued that insight into the rebuild he was leading, and the way he went about things. (When Carlton stopped producing that series, by the way, the team’s win/loss record got worse. Coincidence?)


I’m not going to lie; it’s been really hard to watch the team play these past few weeks. The close losses have hurt, even while giving hope. The thrashings have made me feel sick. Like many, I’ve wondered what the key will be to turning things around, and when it might come. I’ve watched each post-game presser by Bolts: admired his ability to hold it together, be human and connect (ever notice how often he addresses the journos by name?) despite the pressure. It was enough each week to keep me believing in the end game.


But despite my absolute faith in Bolts and his plan and the little sprouts of growth you can see most weeks (sadly not combining in quantity often enough to effect success) I’ve had a growing sense of dread as this season has gone on about the security of his tenure. Despite the reassurances of the Board last week, even, when we all know what that means.


I just can’t help reflecting that the win/loss record might be looking so different right now if…


Docherty’s ACL hadn’t gone, again;

Jones hadn’t been concussed last month;

Simpson hadn’t missed so much game time; and

Murphy and Simpson and McGovern hadn’t all been out of action on Sunday.


Are those things the fault of the coach? It’s a reality that we have a very young list, that we’re facing a rebuild from below the ground up, and still paying the price for the past. It was never going to be pretty. And when your most experienced players get injured, it exposes those young green shoots to the harsh weather of more hardened teams.


Bolton himself, of course, refuses to claim those things as excuses or mitigation factors – accepts that it’s just not good enough. We all know he was on a hiding to nothing when he began. But he took it on, did a bloody good job, set them up and has now been cut adrift, before the tide (as it surely will) begins to turn. It reminds me a little of his fellow Taswegian George Bailey’s treatment by Cricket Australia in the last men’s World Cup – sacrificed and left out of the team’s eventual success, after having led the team into the cup and performed so well in his own right. Bailey, too, accepted it with his trademark smile and moved on. Maybe it’s something in the Tassie blood. Interesting that Bailey himself is a Blues fan.


In this case, the win/loss record is apparently all that matters. The chorus of the frustrated fans and blood-thirsty media and masses inevitably gained strength and volume.


So the Board gave the masses the blood they bayed for – just not their own, of course.


Go well Bolts. You will be missed. Any future success by this group, under this plan, I will credit to you. I hope we see you back in AFL land again soon, and that next time you get better support and success, instead of another impossible task.



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Writer, cricket tragic, occasional musician.


  1. John Butler says

    Welcome to Carlton, Yvette!

    As I’m in my 40th season as a Blues member, I have to concede I have seen us do worse. That’s not intended as a comment to our credit.

    Where once we seemed to have the knack of turning crisis to our ultimate advantage, those days are long ago, and the footy environment is now very different.

    I too have grave reservations about yesterday. I’m currently composing some thoughts of my own. I doubt I’ll be the last.

    Well done on having your say. The club needs to realise there’s a wider supporter view than just the whingers.

    Hang in there.

  2. Thanks John. I suspected I wasn’t on my own. Nice to have it confirmed.

    All the best with composing your own thoughts – look to reading, if you share them here.

    I still can’t quite believe it.

    Is it true Carlton has had more coaches since 2002 than Australia has had prime ministers? Saw that on twitter today…

    I think maybe it’s time I read up on the history of Carlton, especially in the AFL era. How are we getting this so wrong? Any suggestions welcome.

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