Round 8 – Geelong v Carlton: Dog Eat Dog

On Friday night I listened to AC/DC for the zillionth time while waiting for Carlton to play Geelong. I was thinking about burning a CD of AC/DC’s most romantic songs when the dirty opening to Dog Eat Dog sounded out.


Dog Eat Dog was released as a single off Let there be rock in 1977. It didn’t chart though the album did. Lyrically it goes nowhere. Bon filled the song with clichés as he often did, but the lyrics don’t reach the standards of his best work.


Despite the simplicity, when Bon’s leather-throated-plum of a voice sounded rang out, I was moving involuntarily.


Well it’s a dog eat dog

Eat cat too

French eat frog

And I eat you


My head was bobbing, shoulders moving, left foot tapping. The song wasn’t going to make AC/DC’s most romantic compilation but as Bon sang on, I suddenly thought about Mick Malthouse.



Businessman when you make a deal

Do you know who you can trust

Do you sign your life away

Do you write your name in dust

Hey, hey, hey

Every dog has its day

It’s a dog eat dog

Dog eat dog


Malthouse seems to have been criticised more than any other coach by the media and the public. Maybe it’s his fault, maybe it’s because of his longevity. Maybe his success upsets people. Maybe it’s his belief and ambition.


Criticism goes with the territory. Malthouse couldn’t care less. He’s a career coach, a businessman who trusts himself more than anyone else. He trusted his instinct when he signed with Carlton. He’s been criticised since he did it. Now he’s sheltering from the violent crumble Carlton has become.


Dog eat dog

Read the news

Someone win

Someone lose


At quarter time Geelong led Carlton by 21 points. I’ve been reading the news suggesting Malthouse should be sacked or should quit. One story suggested he could quit with dignity. He’s already lost his dignity. Carlton has too. The only way to retrieve it is to win.


Up’s above and downs below

And limbo’s in between

Up you win

Down you lose

It’s anybody’s game

Hey, hey, hey


Malthouse knows which way up is. He’s a premiership player and three-time premiership coach. He famously missed out on the 1982 grand final with a shoulder injury. Collingwood famously lost three premierships with Malthouse in charge.


Carlton, a club famed for its arrogance and perfection, has been famously losing.


Malthouse and Carlton are in limbo, in between calamity and catastrophe. It the wins don’t come, it’s anybody’s game. Whoever moves first has the best chance of looking dignified.


At the MCG, it wasn’t anybody’s game. It wasn’t dignified. It was Geelong’s game. Carlton trailed by 34 points.


Every dog has its day

It’s a dog eat dog

Dog eat dog


AFL football consumes its heroes and villains without mercy. Malthouse is a former champion coach.  arlton is a former champion club. In footy you’re only as good as your last game. You’re only as good as your career when it’s over. You’re only as good as your legacy.


To succeed, a player he must kick someone out of the team and keep them out of it. To succeed as a coach he must kick players out of the team and out of the club. He must be prepared to kick everyone’s arse, from the boot-studder to board members.


And be prepared to have his own arse kicked by everyone at the club and all the supporters.


Midway through the third quarter, Geelong led by eight goals. It was an arse-kicking.


And it’s a eye for eye

Tooth for tooth

It’s a lie

That’s the truth


Football is often a game without sympathy. Eye for eye. Take one lose one. The season is relentless. Wins and losses ask the same question, how can we improve?. Expectations become a lie until they can’t be lied to anymore. Malthouse has beaten up plenty of teams.  He’s offended plenty of people.


A lot of people have no sympathy for him.


At three-quarter time, Geelong led by 58 points. Malthouse’s stint at Carlton has become a lie. That’s the truth.


See the blind man on the street

Looking for something free

Hear the kind man ask his friend

Hey, what’s in it for me?


After being exiled by Collingwood, the bile must’ve stuck in Malthouse’s gut like a bullet. When he was approached by Carlton, Malthouse could’ve said no. Whether it was ego, spite or blind faith, the promise of a premiership window was too alluring to ignore. He couldn’t see the frame was rotten.


Carlton lied to him. They were looking for something free, like hope. They said their list just needed finessing.  Malthouse would restore the faith with a premiership. It didn’t matter how long that faith lasted. Malthouse knew faith can be temporary. He did it anyway, because he had faith in himself.


And faith in those who lied.


Hey, hey, hey

Every dog has its day

It’s a dog eat dog

Dog eat dog


Malthouse had many days at Footscray, West Coast and Collingwood. He’s coached more games than any other coach.  It’s unlikely anyone will wreck that record. It’s a record that won’t define his legacy, because too many people wondered why he went back.


He has said the record is irrelevant. But is it? Malthouse didn’t need to come back. He could’ve walked away from the game, head held high, content in his life and legacy.


I like Malthouse. I always have. I think much of the criticism is unwarranted. I hoped he could change Carlton’s future.  It’s Carlton that’s changed Malthouse’s future. As they did to Denis Pagan, another premiership coach.


But that’s football. There are no guarantees. It has always been like that. Football is dog eat dog. It always has been.


Malthouse is getting eaten by a dog called Carlton.


In the post-game press conference, as Malthouse analysed the 77-point loss to Geelong, I was reminded of that classic duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan:


Your powers are weak, old man.

You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.


When Malthouse left Collingwood he might’ve said that to Eddie McGuire. But as Obi-Wan would attest, you only get to say that once.


To watch Dog Eat Dog and think of Mick Malthouse, click the link below.


About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    “He said the record is irrelevant. But is it? Malthouse didn’t need to come back. He could’ve walked away, head held high, content in his his life and legacy.”
    Yes he could have come back and coached someone else. I’d have been happy for him to do that had he not acted so petulantly upon leaving Collingwood. He agreed to the deal in 2009. He was very lucky to get it based on Collingwood performances from 2004-2009.
    Well written piece Matt.

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