AFL Round 4 : Melbourne v Carlton – The Malthouse Interview

Carlton was worse against Melbourne than they were against Essendon.  Too much fumbling, dropped marks and turnovers.  A complete lack of run and urgency.  They looked lost in space and played without confidence.

Melbourne finally had a forward line.  James Frawley took 12 marks and kicked two goals.  Chris Dawes, in his first game for the year, kicked a couple of goals.

In analysing Carlton, it is hard to know where to start.  Most troubling is their pre-season internal belief that they had a premiership list.  Dale Thomas is obviously the wrong choice to take them to the next level.

No need to worry about the top four.  The Blues will be in the bottom four.

Mick Malthouse will be wondering how things have gone so wrong.  He dropped two noted goal-kickers, Jarrad Waite and Jeff Garlett, and Carlton kicked seven goals.  Malthouse made a statement in dropping the experienced duo, but at what cost?

Perhaps it is the tipping point for Malthouse and he’s going to play the kids, see what is on the list and make some tough decisions.

No doubt he overestimated the list.  Can he go backwards for the future?  Remember, Malthouse was brought in to finish.  What happens now will involve serious discussions.  Does Malthouse have a rebuild in him?  He’s going to have to if he wants to coach.  If he doesn’t, then things need to change.

Chris Judd will barely make a difference when he returns.  Matthew Kreuzer is out injured.  Mark Murphy is the new Bryce Gibbs.  If Malthouse was in denial following the Essendon game, there is no denying the embarrassment.

Malthouse was inside that reality when he fronted for the post-game interview.

Post-game interviews are compelling vision.  The coach is always vulnerable, regardless of the result.  The questions are often obvious, as are the answers, but occasionally the coach is overwhelmed by the result and doesn’t like the questions.

Many coaches have gotten upset during press conferences.  They are in an unenviable situation.  Few people are interviewed each week about their jobs.

According to AFL regulations, coaches must front the media within 45 minutes of the game ending.  They are forced to do it, and the game is better for it.

It is a heady atmosphere when journalists gather to interview the loser.  Most journalists, no matter their experience, are nervous.  No one wants to be on the end of a bake.  It’s often hard to get a question in.

Journalists have a responsibility to ask sensible, difficult questions.

The coach is compelled to answer them.  It’s no wonder they occasionally get annoyed during the post match interview.

Malthouse is infamous for seething through interviews, win lose or draw.  Given his reputation for petulance, many fans watch his interviews, particularly after a loss, just to see him get upset.

Following the Melbourne game, the interview was long, 13 minutes.  Most post-game interviews run about six minutes.  Malthouse was calm and measured.  His answers were a ramble of clichés.

Then a journalist, who wasn’t identified, asked a clanger, a question no one else thought of.

‘Is there any comparison to today’s game you were favourites to win to the 2002-2003 grand final losses?’

‘Is there what?’ Malthouse was surprised.

‘Could you compare today’s loss to the two grand finals you coached that were losses in 2002-2003?’

Malthouse uttered a stifled laugh.  ‘Something from 12 years ago or whatever it was?  I don’t, I’m still trying to come to grips with what are you, I don’t wanna make, I respect your question but I don’t see any significance whatsoever with what happened.  What, grand finals compared to round four?’

The journalist pressed on.  ‘That was a very hurtful loss to lose those two grand finals, could you compare today’s loss to those two losses.’

Malthouse frowned.  Another journalist interjected, ‘Reviewing the confidence Mick…’

‘No no,’ Malthouse said, holding his right hand up.  ‘Well let me answer the question.  That’s the least of my concerns what happened in 2002-2003.  This is 2014.  Yes we are all disappointed but you can’t stop the world from moving around.’

Malthouse handled the question very well.  He was perplexed, but he didn’t get perturbed.  With all due respect to the journalist, it was a silly question.

Grand finals in 2002-2003 had nothing to do with Carlton’s loss to Melbourne.  It was a different decade, different clubs.  As Malthouse said, grand finals can’t be compared to round four.  There is disappointment with a loss, but nothing compares to a lost premiership.

Amazingly he let it go so gently.  Perhaps he felt sorry for the journalist.  It’s a fair bet the journalist will never ask another question like that.

Malthouse saved his best for Mark Stevens [Chief AFL reporter, 7 News], when he asked Malthouse if he felt under pressure to keep his job.

Malthouse laughed.  ‘I hope it comes on me and not my players.’  His words were measured.  He’s an old hand at pressure.  ‘That’s part of the game.  If you don’t cop that you don’t cop anything.’

Stevens pressed on, asking about Carlton’s favouritism leading into the game.

Malthouse took his glasses off.  ‘Tell me what the reasons are for it, Big Mark.

‘Well you’ve come into a game against Melbourne.’

‘So you’re underestimating Melbourne,’ Malthouse said.  In that, Stevens was not alone.  Everyone underestimated Melbourne.  Malthouse dropped Waite and Garlett.  It seems a cinch he underestimated Melbourne too.

‘I don’t bet, never have so I don’t know how the bookies come up with their figures,’ Malthouse said.  ‘If it was all based on who’s the favourite to win, well, clearly, 16 sides should just go away and let the two favourites play off.  It doesn’t happen like that, Mark.  So if you want to make the heat, have a reason, don’t just throw it up because we were favourites…’

‘Question the coaching, question my desire, question my player group, question all bits and pieces.  If the blowtorch comes on, it comes on.’

Though not a classic Malthouse rebuke, he was too calm, the point was made.  If you want to make the heat, have a reason.  It was a blunt response to another silly question.  Favourites lose all the time.  Malthouse gave Stevens a great answer.

The most sensible question came late in the interview, why was Murphy played up forward when the game had to be won.

‘I think Murph was beaten on the day.’ Malthouse said.  ‘He was moved forward to take their ball-getting player (Nathan Jones) out of the game.  That’s no sin to have the best player in the game playing against you.’

‘You’re taking your captain out the action.’

‘He’s not a decoy,’ Malthouse said.  ‘He’s a recognised goal kicker.’

Those three words – recognised goal kicker – describe Waite and Garlett, who were dropped.  Murphy kicked one goal.  It’s a fair bet to suggest Waite and Garlett would’ve contributed more.

That Malthouse dropped them to make to make a statement is undeniable.  He wouldn’t have done it if the Blues were playing anyone else.

During the interview, no one asked Malthouse the obvious questions:  was dropping Waite and Garlett the right decision, and would they be back next week.

With Carlton kicking just seven goals, those questions should’ve been asked.  They will be asked soon…

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. Nice piece Matt,

    Here are MM’s responses to your questions that should have been asked; “The club has set standards that need to be met and those players haven’t reached them blah blah blah” and “we’ll see what eventuates at the selction table”. Mick’s never wrong, so no chance he would’ve admitted that Waite and Garlett’s axing was wrong.
    And perhaps it wasn’t a case of everyone underestimating the Dees, but merely overestimating Carlton?

  2. DBalassone says

    Matt, you’ve hit the nail on the head re Waite and Garlett & I’m surprised more has not been made of this. I was flabbergasted when I heard they were dropped this time last week. Carlton have a million problems at the moment and to blame it on two opportunity-starved forwards is outrageous. Surely, these demotions cost the Blues the 4 points on Saturday.
    By the way, blaming forwards seems to be the flavour of the month these days. All this talk about Waite, Cloke, J. Riewoldst, etc is nonsense. People don’t realise how hard it is to play in the forward half these days – you spend most of your time running with the flight of the ball into the forward 50 trying to get back in to a good position, after having chased your defender up the ground. It’s not like the old days of Plugger one out in the goalsquare with the whole 50 metre arc empty. W.Carey teeting off and saying Jack Riewoldt should be playing closer to goal surprised me. Surely the Duck (who I consider the most astute of football brains) would realise that this is impossible in modern footy – as the opposition will put 5 or 6 players back bloking any space to lead into. The game has changed immeasurably, it is a running game.

  3. Hey DB – you’re right about the lack of accountability Malthouse showed for dropping Waite and Garlett.
    During the interview I was saying, over and over, ask him about Waite and Garlett…
    No one did – amazing.
    Footy is totally different now to when Carey played. It is almost another era.
    Blocking space has always been in footy. The under 12s everyone follow the ball hasn’t.
    I’ve been saying for years that two or three players from each side need to be stationed inside each 50 metre zone to take the numbers away from the ball.
    It should be trialed next year in the BS pre-season comp.

  4. DBalassone says

    I hear you Matt. But for me one of the great things about our game is that players can run whereever they want, went they want, so I’d hate to see area restrictions put in place. Maybe we need be to cut 2 players from the 18 i.e. 16 players afield like the old VFA days, and also lightening quick ball ups from the umpires, to prevent scrimmages (scrummages? whatever the word is at the moment) and thereby forcing players to spread a little more, knowing that the ball won’t be in one place for too long.

  5. The People's Elbow says


    Apologies – I missed this first time ’round. My appetite for reading about this game probably wasn’t all that strong.

    You make some great points. I’m amused that over the course of the year, Stevens hasn’t refined his shtick.

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