Old Carlton vs the New: will there be any changes?

Mark LoGiudice and Steven Trigg have vowed to develop a new cultural identity at Ikon Park. They want their new environment to be free from quick fixes and knee-jerk reactions. Most pundits suggest that this would be most easily achieved by reconfiguring the board of directors. Reducing the number of board members from 10 to a more reasonable number is seen as a necessity. The members who should be focused on are those which cause factional divisions and attempt to overstep their position. This is just one of the many lessons that can be learned from several clubs which have recently transformed from dysfunctional basket cases to clubs which have a model for likely sustainable success.

Richmond is a club which was also once riddled with infighting. Like Carlton, the Tigers were a powerhouse through the 60’s and 70’s. However, after their last Grand Final victory in 1980, they have seen 13 new coaches take the helm, with current coach Damien Hardwick serving for the greatest tenure. There have been five fewer coaching changes at Carlton in the same period, thus highlighting the level of pressure on Richmond’s Senior Coaching position.

However, it was in 2010 that the club started to align. While it would be ridiculous to suggest that they have been rampantly successful ever since, they have appeared in the last two finals series (albeit without a win), and the oldest of their core players are Ivan Maric and Troy Chaplin, who have both recently turned 29. This suggests that their opportunity to compete deep into September will not expire within the next season or two.

More broadly, the club’s Fighting Tiger Fund saw the club become debt free. They have also seen their membership tally rise by 30,000 since Hardwick’s appointment, with their current tally standing at just under 70,000.

This off-field turn around began with the appointment of Brendan Gale as CEO at the end of 2009, Damien Hardwick as Senior Coach in 2010, and the replacement of 4 board members between 2009 and 2013. The administration was united behind their “3-0-75” plan which aimed to achieve 3 finals, $0 debt, and 75,000 members by 2015. While Richmond has fallen short of their lofty goals by one finals series and 7,000 members, the changes implanted five years ago have clearly led to a vastly improved club.

The reason I have chosen to focus mainly on Richmond is due to the fact that the Tiger’s state of disarray spanned such a long period of time. They also used to share a lot of negative similarities with Carlton, such as regular infighting and a ruthless lack of patience for their Senior Coaches. While Richmond are yet to reach ultimate success, they have shown a possible model for revitalizing a club.

However, they are not the only club who have gone from basket case to being a strong club in all respects. Hawthorn went from regularly being in the bottom half of the ladder from the mid 90’s to winning three flags in six seasons. They scarcely avoided a merger with Melbourne, and would now have arguably the second strongest financial position in the league. Port Adelaide has also seen a dramatic resurgence in the past three years. They have won three finals matches in the past two campaigns, and averaged attendances of over 44,000 people at the newly refurbished Adelaide Oval in 2014. They also saw their membership increase by over 20,000 in this period. While they may have suffered a small financial loss last year, they are currently in the process of renegotiating their stadium deal, which should see this club back on its feet after several years in the football wilderness.

All of the aforementioned clubs invested heavily in a rebuild which involved a strong reliance on the draft. It also generally coincided with the implementation of an administrative regime which would stick by their appointments, and allow their Football Department staff members enough time to yield results. Additionally, no club appointed a big-name coach, and this may be due to the fact that experience and clout does not automatically make a candidate an ideal fit.

If Trigg and LoGiudice are sincere about their desires to create a new culture at Carlton, they need to observe how other clubs have been revitalized. It is no coincidence that a club which is constantly divided at board level, refuses to invest in the National Draft, and consistently overpays for coaches has failed to come higher than fifth on the ladder over the past 15 seasons. Hopefully the current administration is true to their word, and will aim to install the best coach for the job, not just the one who provides the most tantalizing headline.


  1. John Butler says

    Fooz, what you say makes eminently good sense.

    But the big question at Carlton is whether the board that appointed Malthouse, and remained fundamentally intact as it sacked him, can credibly claim to be a force for change.

    I doubt this is over yet.

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