AFL 3 years ago

Will Brendon keep smiling through a brutal rebuild?

  • Will Brendon keep smiling through a brutal rebuild?

Carlton is one of the most famous clubs in the AFL and has some of the most opinionated, passionate supporters you will find.  2015 marks 20 years since it has been premiers and it has been 15 long years since the club progressed to a preliminary final.  Of the traditional clubs, only Richmond has gone longer without making the last fortnight of the season.

The salary cap breach of the early 2000's cost the club early draft picks and they have been scrambling to stay relevant since.  Chris Judd came home and won a Brownlow, but didn't deliver on-field success and came over as part of a swap for likely Coleman Medallist and the competition's best forward Josh Kennedy.  The Blues would never for a second regret the Judd move, but Kennedy and the number 3 pick of that draft Chris Masten would arguably be the best two players on Carlton's current list. But I digress.

 The last decade has seen the club wallow under the direction of two all-time coaching greats in Denis Pagan and Michael Malthouse and a scapegoat in Brett Ratten.  The Malthouse Era has been a disaster, so now the Blues move onto the new frontier under former Hawthorn assistance coach Brendon Bolton.  He is always smiling, has never played the game at the elite level however is universally respected within football circles and will be a huge loss for the Hawks.

Social media is often polarising but plenty have a sense of humour.  Carlton's reputation of chewing up coaches and spitting them out has caused the general vibe to be cynicism.

Bolton stood out as the best candidate based on his personality, skills and coaching experience and he becomes the AFL's youngest senior coach at just 36 years of age.

Hawthorn has lost just 26 of 117 games since Bolton joined the club in 2011 and he joins a club that has lost 16 games already this season. Bolton has a career coaching record of 80-47 across all competitions and comes into his first coaching stint as prepared as he possibly could be. He is the fifth assistant coach of the Alastair Clarkson tenure to be a senior head coach in his own right and will be a member of staff.  He will not have a contract, which can be seen two ways - there is no end date on his tenure and he can proceed with a full rebuild, or alternatively Carlton are well protected when they decide they want results.

Looking through the Carlton list you can argue there are only a maximum of nine players who as it stands today are quality AFL players or have the potential to be - Bryce Gibbs, Marc Murphy, Sam Docherty, Kade Simpson, Dylan Buckley, Matthew Kruezer, Patrick Cripps, Tom Bell and Zach Tuohy. Others have shown glimpses of quality, but most are list cloggers.

Lachie Henderson has made a career of being great one week then disappearing quicker than Houdini the next, and even he wants out.  That situation was handled terribly but the fact remains Henderson could have become a key position pillar of the team.  The jungle drums are beating that Chris Yarran might join him rushing towards the exits like Eddie Betts, Jeff Garlett, Jarrad Waite and Kennedy before him; Bolton would hope that is not the case or if it is, that the compensation is fair.

The Carlton list has the least talent of any in the league by some way and there is no quick fix in today's competition. Even 2015 bolters like West Coast and the Western Bulldogs have built through the draft and trade and had new coaches introduce bold, attacking game styles that underpin their success.

Bolton could well be every bit the coach Adam Simpson or Luke Beveridge are but the world won't know whether that's the case until at least 2018 because he needs three years to turn over 75% of the list and make Carlton a fun and successful place again.  Whether Carlton are patient enough to spend the next three years losing games as part of the 'bigger picture' will go a long way to determining whether Brendon continues smiling naturally or whether it starts to happen through gritted teeth.

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