Round 17 – Carlton v Hawthorn: In a Hole still Digging

Pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. Aeschylus

There are days when you wish the world would stop, woman,
But then you know som.e wounds would never heal. John Williamson

It is of course preposterous to suggest that even the greatest distress caused by our football allegiances is comparable to bereavement, or extreme personal pain – physical or psychological. It’s also gratuitous and opportunistic for a non-believer to invoke the consolation of the Almighty. Yet the investment in our sport teams, however irrational, does cause us deep distress and endurance of the grieving process in its multiple stages.

After the fiasco of last Friday’s lopsided match (mismatch?) it has taken me several days to feel capable of recording my impressions of the latest chapter in the decline and fall of the once impregnable Princes** Park Empire.

Early on, I was reminded of one of those junior football matches where the coach of the superior team, switches his attack and defence for the 2nd half in order to ensure that the children condemned to the backline in a comprehensively winning team don’t expire from hypothermia. As the game proceeded, however, Carlton essayed an occasional attack, usually snuffed out by the Hawthorn defence, but now and again achieving a score – more frequently a behind.

I’m not sure whether it’s a consolation to observe one’s team trying hard, but proving hopelessly inferior, rather than hoisting the white flag, or having the alibi of injuries to key players. My interpretation was that the Blues were outclassed in both organisation and personnel. Gunston took Tuohy to the cleaners, but the Irishman kept plugging away at his hopeless assignment.

It is sobering to reflect that Hawthorn’s first goal did not come until the 12 minute mark of the game, which means that in 107 minutes of playing time, the Hawks managed 27 goals, one for every four minutes.
The scale of the defeat is awesome, even after the series of 100 point monsterings of the early years of this century; lowest ever score against the Hawks, biggest ever defeat against all-comers.

There was a mathematical fascination to the later stages of the game. I wondered if we might see the rare instance of a margin which precisely reflected two earlier results. Sydney had played both contenders in Sydney in recent weeks. While Hawthorn had flogged the Swans by 89 points, Carlton had fallen short by 60 points (in John Barker’s first game in charge). That suggested that Hawthorn was 149 points superior to the Blues. In the event the 138 point margin offers the grim consolation that Barks may have improved the team by 11 points.

I invariably attend most of the final series, and an occasional mid-season match between some of the competition’s elite teams. I have had the sense for quite some time – certainly since the Geelong-St. Kilda Grand Final, 2009 – that the best in the competition have been playing at a level which Carlton could barely aspire to, let alone reach. This has been disguised by the genius of Chris Judd, which has enabled the Blues to produce an occasional competitive performance against quality opposition. Even in 2014, when they finished with just 7 wins and a percentage of less than 90, there was a victory against North (eventual Preliminary Finalists), and single figure losses to Geelong (twice) and Fremantle (in Perth) who both finished top four at the end of the home and away matches.

The end of CJ’s career has revealed for even the most blindly optimistic Blues fan just how threadbare is our list is and how poorly managed our Club. As the People’s Elbow has perceptively demonstrated, there has to be something wrong with draft selection and player development strategies when so many top draft picks have produced such poor returns on the field.

There is an analogy with the retail giant Myer, which dominated Australian – and especially Victorian – commerce through much of the twentieth century. Through a series of management iterations, it has failed to adapt successfully to changed circumstances, and has been exposed by more agile competitors. Carlton has proved unable to adjust to a new environment where its prior market power has proved more hazard than advantage.

So well played, Hawthorn, you are much too good for us, and we retire to lick our wounds, and wonder about how to proceed, how to confront this week’s challenge against North Melbourne. They have plenty of motivation to want to kick us when we’re already bleeding.
** Please note, it is not Princess Park, which is a convenient piss take, but usually just a mispronunciation.

Votes: 3. Hodge 2. Gunston 1. Lewis


  1. Neil Anderson says

    As you know Brother Peter, I am not a fan of the Carlton Football Club. Verily I say unto you they have bullied beaten and outbid the humble Bulldogs for many a year. Yea, did not your leader once speak of our tragic Club as part of a sermon, suggesting strongly that Footscray and a few other Clubs should fold, so Carlton only played the bigger Clubs like Collingwood?
    Without being too hypocritical or sarcastic, I tried to think of a time when the Bulldogs had reached such a low point as Carlton at the moment. There was the 1989 merger proposal but the rally by supporters and our current President put a stop to that. In 1996 there was a player revolt leading to a new coach and President but within one year the team played in a Prelim. In each case good people were in charge to lead the Club out of the wilderness, Brother Peter. And that is why I am so glad to belong to a Club like the Western Bulldogs, despite their lack of premierships.

  2. John Butler says

    Brother Neil, a fair enough cop. Though you are in danger of sounding oh-so slightly self righteous in its repetition.

    Well expressed Peter. It hurts to see the Blues so unwilling and unable to contest the issue. It hurts a lot.

    But it’s a self inflicted hurt. The question is, are we going to take the hurt and do something constructive with it?

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