Mick Malthouse: A Farewell to Charms

(A personal view)

It’s hard to think back that far, but there was a time when Mick smiled, when he had a little charm. But in recent years, he has appeared more irascible.

From another perspective, in his earlier coaching career, he led a charmed life: a couple of premierships at West Coast; another at Collingwood; and quite a few grand finals. Since then, his luck seems to have deserted him, his football life has been not so charmed.

Hence the title.

[It’s a shame I’m not writing about John Harms: then I could have called this piece A Farewell to ‘Arms!]


I have no relationship with Mick Malthouse. He does not know that I exist. I’m just another punter who watches from the stands, reads the occasional newspaper and watches TV.


In my extensive adult life, Collingwood has won only two premierships. We long-suffering supporters have been teased mercilessly; taken in by a whispered promise of, “Yes, this time!” only to ne left desolate after the final dance. We’ve endured countless losing – and, what can be even worse, two drawn – Collingwood Grand Finals.

So it is hardly surprising that I have a special place in my heart for anyone associated with those two successful campaigns. Leigh Matthews may have been on the opposite side in two of Collingwood’s losing grand finals, but I can’t find it in me to despise him the way I might the coach(es) of the Carlton teams of the late Seventies and 1981 (if only I could remember his/their name/s).

Similarly for Mick Malthouse. He helped us win in 2010 – the hard way, of course, after a drawn Grand Final – though that’s par for the course for us: in 1990 we drew a final with West Coast. These draws are the reason that both premierships were won in October. Perhaps Collingwood is allergic to September.


I have no doubt that Collingwood was the best team of 2011. We shot ourselves in the foot. I suspect all Collingwood tragics understand and agree.

We almost sent Mick out to pasture after going back-to-back. Ah, yes. Eddie’s Kirribilli agreement. There’s a whole other story there – but let’s not get sidetracked, except to say that it’s understandable that Mick was aggrieved – especially since he’s such a big believer in process, and there was not much evident in the succession plan.

But what Mick did next was hard to fathom.

At the Copeland, 7 October 2011, he said

        I wanted the players to understand I wasn't
        coaching anywhere else. I wanted the players to
        understand that I couldn't possibly coach against
        the boys that I've been with, some for 12 years -
        Leon and Benny Johnson - others for not 12 years
        but certainly eating into lengthy times. I could
        not do that. I believe I'm pretty much a loyalist
        and I could not possibly do that.1

Listening to him speak, I formed the opinion that his statements were made sincerely.


Not quite one year later, 11 September 2012, Malthouse was named as Carlton coach for three years, starting 1 November 2012.

        An early matter for Malthouse's reign will be 
        whether the Blues recruit out-of-contract 
        Magpies key forward Travis Cloke.

        Asked if he would go after Cloke, Malthouse 
        replied: "absolutely".2

Far from charming, that sounds like enemy action to me; even worse than coaching against “the boys.”

Now it seems to me that when you make a speech – one that you’ve clearly prepared for because you make a point of saying that you don’t usually speak from notes, but you’ve made notes this time because you want to get it right – you get to choose what you say and how you phrase it. He could have said, “It would be hard for me to coach against these boys,” or, “The way I feel right now, …” He could have just talked about the past and how wonderful it had been. Nobody held a gun to his head. Nobody asked him to make a commitment. Yet that’s how I interpret his words.

The rest of his speech was warm and full of good wishes towards all at Collingwood.

So the announcement of the following year had me quite bemused. What’s going on, Mick?

Now, Mick is not naive. He knows the lay of the land. He knows how those associated with Collingwood feel about Carlton. He could have gone to Melbourne with my blessing. He could have gone to St Kilda with a double load of blessing. I would have been ok with GWS or Gold Coast. There are several teams that I’d have shrugged off. But Carlton!? What were you thinking, Mick?! Not Carlton!


I might have ended there, but this is supposed to be about Mick losing his magic. That – and one other thing: if there’s one thing that will make my weekend even better than a Collingwood win, it’s a Carlton loss.

Some statements, when you hear them, are so patently outrageous, they stick in your brain. So imagine how this comment (20 March 2015) reverberated as this season has played out:

        I shouldn't say this in front of the cameras, 
        but it's very, very difficult to see where we're 
        going to lose a game.3

Well, he was right about the first part! Note the double use of “very”. Maybe he meant to say “win a game.” I’m thinking of becoming a Carlton member because I figure they’ll probably lose more games than Collingwood will win.

Surely Mick ought to have known about managing the members’ expectations.

The sacking

The conventional wisdom is that Mick’s sacking stemmed from Carlton’s win/loss ratio. Certainly, that didn’t help. But it’s not just that Carlton have been losing; their performances have been insipid. The few games I’ve watched, they haven’t been competitive. Against Collingwood, which was supposed to be a celebration of Mick breaking Jock McHale’s record for number of games coached, you might have expected a burst of something from Carlton, but two goals to half time for a 7-goal deficit pretty much killed the contest.

When juxtaposed with March’s breathtaking claim, it surely made Carlton people wonder about Mick’s ability to evaluate his team.

The wrap

Maybe we’ll see Mick again. Perhaps he’ll take a long break, travel overseas for a year or so to recharge his batteries and then return to the media. Or perhaps he’ll take a leaf out of Andrew Demetriou’s book and undertake a self-imposed exile. Of course he could always write another book.

Who knows? Once the wounds have healed, he’ll smile again and regain his erstwhile charm.

If he returns to the media, without a dog in the fight, perhaps his judgement will return and he’ll regain that other charm: the ability to read the game.

I don’t easily release my grudges but I don’t have it in me to maintain any animosity towards Mick. After all, he did deliver a Collingwood premiership – and they are thin on the ground in my lifetime.

I wish him well.

Sources, Notes, Footnotes, References

[1] Transcribed from Copeland – Malthouse speech by CollingwoodTV https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J68XQW2TuQc. Any errors in transcription are mine.
[2] http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/malthouse-named-carlton-coach-20120911-25p2e.html

[3] http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/afl/mick-malthouse-is-confident-carlton-will-be-successful-in-2015-saying-hard-to-see-team-lose/story-fni5f5nx-1227271188162

About Charlie Krebs

The Footy Bogan is a self-confessed unrepentant Collingwood tragic. For more years than he cares to remember he has been writing about footy, mainly Collingwood, but sometimes, when provoked, about related matters. He started his self-titled blog in July 2011 when - but you can read all about that at http://thefootybogan.blogspot.com.au/


  1. Steve Hodder says

    From memory, A Farewell to Arms depicts love as a fleeting almost unattainable ideal. In the end Henry is only left with pain after being overwhelmed by unassailable forces. Is that Collingwood or Mick? Not sure if the baby lived or died? Would that be Buckley circa 2015/2016?


  2. Steve, the baby and Catherine died.
    Henry walked out into the cold morning and left them to the hospital.
    When Mick walked out of Carlton the last time he left them to the morgue.
    I like Mick much better than when he was at West Coast.
    I hated the way West Coast played.
    It was boring.
    Mick was always compelling, win or lose.
    And didn’t Mick headbutt Trevor Grant during his time at West Coast?

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