The People’s Elbow: Exhausted





I’m exhausted.


Exhausted from fighting off innumerable attacks of schadenfreude and exhausted from the gruesome, gruelling black comedy that is the Carlton Football Club – a club which for the best part of this century has never seen a problem it couldn’t turn into a crisis.


And I’m exhausted from a week of football media that’s as full of shit as a Christmas goose. If they were covering serious news we’d be taking horse pills to fight COVID.


And now David Teague’s sacking is bread-and-circus entertainment and Carlton is again the cardboard villain (metaphorically this time).


Most AFL coaching careers come to an end by being stabbed in the front and then a few times in the back for good measure, and it is possible to at once feel for Teague the man but to also thank the great Lord above that the right decision was made.


Yes, the lack of support for Teague during the season was poor, and this falls on the Chair (Mark LoGiudice), the Director of Football (Chris Judd), the CEO (Cain Liddle), and the Head of Football (Brad Lloyd). For all the prefabricated bleating about Teague being the sacrificial lamb they should note that half that cohort is no longer with the club.


Despite its clumsiness and poorly defined scope, the process that brought about Teague’s sacking was conducted within the timeframe set by the incoming President, Luke Sayers, (when Carlton was 4-8) to ensure a thorough review of the football department was able to be made by season’s end – which remains less than a week ago.


The sad truth is that Carlton was damned whatever road it took. Sack Teague immediately at the conclusion of the season and the story is the lack of proper process from a club with the comorbidity of arrogance and impatience. Conversely, to advocate for not removing Teague is to have not watched the club play. While we at times played a more attractive and offensive brand of football, 19 unanswered goals against Port Adelaide demonstrated that Teague had the same gift for defense as a dog has for roller skating.


Outside of the human toll of this whole affair, the most odious element is that you read the professional services bilge of Luke Sayers and can’t help but hum


Here you come again
Just when I’m about to make it work without you
You look into my eyes and lie those pretty lies
And pretty soon I’m wonderin’ how I came to doubt you


Sayers says “this is an important time to reset our football club”, straight, no chaser.


But then lived history kicks in and you sense the club is about to fall for the pull-my-finger joke a second time and appoint Ross Lyon.


While the defensive mindset of Lyon might be exactly what the Carlton Chuckle Hut needs, it bears reminding that the last time the club sacked a former best-and-fairest winner it replaced him with a monster-pig car wreck that methodically drained whatever soul was left out of the club in less than three years.


Having learned its lesson, Carlton then undertook what appeared to be an honest-to-God reinvention and appointed Brendon Bolton after a comprehensive process.


Five years on, it’s clear to see that the conceit of the Bolton era was a rebrand of a club that was going to take its time and get things right. The appeal of Bolton was he was someone willing to smash the Carlton convention of immediate success. There was a sense he was taking the club to a new place, building a club in a more intelligent, human image.


But for all the “green shoots” patience ran thin at a 1-10 start to 2019.


This brings us back to Teague, who abandoned the “play the kids” mantra and gave supporters a 6-5 sugar hit and the #TeagueTrain.


Despite Bolton starting his Carlton coaching career with an identical win-loss record, it was enough to abandon Carton’s experiment with proper process and appoint him coach. Fifteen wins and 24 losses suggest that while the coach was a problem, it is not the problem.


The problem is culture.


The greatest penalty of the club’s 2002 salary cap breach may not have been the near $million fine or the loss of draft picks, but that it served as a decade-long excuse for a drop in expectations and with that a drop in standards that is now endemic throughout a once proud club.


And much to the karmic laughter of the rest of the football world, the thought of finding a way out is exhausting.




The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in 2021. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order HERE



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About Craig Little

"Faith without works is dead" -- James 2:17


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Not even Steven Trigg’s Key Driver #4, Elite List Management could save them

  2. In all seriousness, Elbow, Carlton’s next steps are going to be fascinating to watch.

  3. Superb Elbow.

    Some extra scoreboard nourishment next season will make everyone at Carlton feel arrogant – I mean, comfortable – again.

  4. John Butler says

    Elbow, I’m conflicted.

    When Carlton are bad, you get reeeeeaalll good.

    Sophie’s choice.

  5. Great work Elbow, if that is indeed your real pseudonym.

    Surprised you didn’t lean into a little Bruce. No worries, I did.

    Woke up this morning my house was cold
    Checked out the furnace she wasn’t burnin’
    Went out and hoped in my old Ford
    Hit the engine but she ain’t turnin’
    We’ve given each other some hard lessons lately
    But we ain’t learnin’
    We’re the same sad story that’s a fact
    One step up and two steps back

  6. Ross Lyon and the Lygon Street Band : Tougher than the Rest
    “Well It’s Saturday night
    You’re all dressed up in blue
    I been watching you awhile
    Maybe you been watching me too
    So somebody ran out
    Left somebody’s heart in a mess
    Well if you’re looking for love
    Honey I’m tougher than the rest.

    Some girls they want a handsome Teague
    Or some good-lookin’ Clarko
    On their arm some girls like a sweet-talkin’ Romeo
    Well ’round here baby
    I learned you get what you can get
    So if you’re rough enough for love
    Honey I’m tougher than the rest.

    The road is dark
    And it’s a thin win line
    But I want you to know I’ll walk it for you any time
    Maybe your other boyfriends
    Couldn’t pass the test
    Well if you’re rough and ready for love
    Honey I’m tougher than the rest.

    Well it ain’t no secret
    I’ve been around a time or two
    Well I don’t know baby maybe you’ve been around too
    Well there’s another dance
    All you gotta do is say yes
    And if you’re rough and ready for love
    Honey I’m tougher than the rest
    If you’re rough enough for love
    Baby I’m tougher than the rest.”

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