Carlton, Mick Malthouse and “process”

Mick Malthouse was very quick to talk about process when he came to the Carlton Football Club this year. He is one of the few coaches who can come into a team with finals aspirations and say wins and losses do not matter and…. get away with it. Process. He’s right. Once any athlete in any capacity or context places the result above the process, well the result nearly always suffers.

Take it from me. When I was playing Mix 21 for Montrose as a 14 year old I was a real battler, coming from 3 or 4 games down in a set, rarely being blown out of the water, as I drew near to victory my youthful mind would turn to the spoils that awaited. Katie Hughes, my doubles partner no doubt stood behind me waiting to kiss me passionately (in front of my parents) post victory and tell me she’d follow me all around the world as I toured the pro circuit. As I glimpsed my likely victory Id look up to be match point down against my second serve – a lollipop. In reality Katie was actually having a smoke behind the clubhouse with some senior dude from Mt Lilydale College and I would inevitably double fault my way to a lame loss . Result before process. I am well versed.

After Carlton’s loss to St Kilda on Monday night I sat still on my couch thinking about process. I don’t think I was thinking about the type of process Mick Malthouse thinks about. His is one no doubt that focuses on the future. There is no point going over the past. Or is there?

I grew up watching Hawthorn in the 80’s. I learnt how selfless football can have its rewards over and over again. I learnt that flashy football does not in itself bring victory. I remember Jason Dunstall played in the back pocket in the ressies at Princes Park to learn the defensive aspects of football before being unleashed on an unsuspecting football public, employing the lessons learnt whilst kicking the dew off the grass on those brusque Saturday mornings. Process. Long drawn out processes leading to success.

Ask any Carlton supporter this week as they come to terms with a 3-4 win-loss scenario and they will tell you that what they witnessed against the Saints they’ve witnessed many times before. A team with the opportunity to seize an opportunity. Anticipation was high. The AFL made us wait all weekend for it. Our opportunity to go inside the eight and enjoy four wins in a row. We sat down to a blisteringly cold night in Melbourne and watched. Almost immediately we knew what was to unfold. A team second to the ball. A team seemingly in its shell as the opposition honed in on our inability to physicalise our desire. It must surely be common knowledge now inside all AFL clubs that if you let Carlton outside you will not be able to contain them but if you are aggressive from the outset they may still outrun you for periods in the game but they will not challenge you psychically. They do not have the playing group capable of asserting themselves physically. If you think I am being generic in regards to physicality , then find Luke Hodge’s hit on Ben MGlynn from Saturday night, watch Joel Selwood unceremoniously dump Chris Newman two weeks ago, witness Ryan Crawley week in and week out pay tribute to the one strength Ross Lyon was able to identify in his game. Now tell me which player from Carlton is capable of such acts? Jarrod Waite? Sure…at a cost. Heath Scotland? Not anymore. He’s too busy holding our half back line together. Mitch Robinson? Replay Eddie Betts’ revealing interview at half time. Mitch is tough no doubt but Mitch is….well he’s just crazy.

I’m under the distinct impression my team is paying the price for our recent dark history. A long drawn out process. Our current core leaders came into the club during this dark period and absorbed it. Guys like Kade Simpson, Carazzo and Jarrod Waite were there when Lance Whitnall was made skipper only to be cut from the playing list the following year. Bryce Gibbs become a leader during his first year at a struggling and decimated club. Mark Murphy was our number one midfielder attempting to lead from the front, copping the hard tag with little or no protection. Jarrod Waite had Brendon Fevola beside him. Brendon had no one…..It was a different club to the one of previous decades. Fledgling players with no mentors in sight – they were all warring with one another.

Process. It is not so much reeking havoc anymore with the Carlton Football Club but those dark periods we endured as a club and our playing group throughout the naughties are still evident in todays group. Todays group are humble, they are talented, they are hard working but they do not seem to understand as a group that they can impose themselves upon a contest. It’s as if they keep thinking it will eventually happen., that someone else will do it. They don’t realise that they are capable of doing it!

I suspect as Steven Kernahan lay awake that night after our loss to Gold Coast last year and contemplated firing his good mate Brett Ratten, forefront in his mind was who could teach this group a new process? I think he got the right man. I hope and trust that Mick identifies where this lack of confidence underpinning our current playing group stems from. I hope he’s able to install within them the same on-field leadership that Brett Ratten recently identified as the best he’d ever witnessed at his new club, Hawthorn.

My Carlton mate who always texts me after a loss with some sort of disparaging remark sent me this one on Tuesday morning.
‘We are still that mentally piss-weak side we were under Ratts.’
I think he’s right. But I think there’s a reason and when there’s a reason there’s a way.


  1. People laughed at Mick when he talked about ‘process’, but he was spot on. If we were 3-4 under Ratten, I’d be angry as with Ratten you always got a sense that we were playing for the moment and not building toward anything. With Malthouse it’s more frustration than anger (hence the absence of People’s Elbows)

    Under Malthouse we were always going to take a step back before we took two steps forward because there were processes and systems that needed to be learned and put in place (discipline and a harder mental edge being just two things missing from Carlton sides over the past ten years).

    We’re on the right track… it might just take us a year longer than what we would like.

  2. Stephen Cooke says

    I was wondering what happened to the People’s Elbow. Another reason Malthouse is Bad for Football. Bring back Ratts. Bring back the fury!

  3. Andrew Else says

    Spot on Cookie.

    I’m hoping that this weekend’s impending loss to Port Adelaide will bring something to the surface.

    Love how Blues fans wanted Ratts’ head because he didn’t make top 4 but they’re seemingly OK with Mick to finish 6-12 as somehow that means a flag will be around the corner the next year….as it was with Ratts after the finals loss to the Eagles….

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