Sport AFL Carlton in dire straits as AFL pretenders get exposed
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Carlton in dire straits as AFL pretenders get exposed

Mick Malthouse
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Let’s call it the round of humiliation, with six heavy defeats if you include Sydney’s woeful effort against North Melbourne at the SCG, a 43-point defeat that amounted to more given driving rain that made coherent play virtually impossible. Pitiless floggings were the order of round four with Fremantle’s dismantling of highly-fancied Essendon rounding it off.

Dons wilt

The Bombers paid dearly for a touch of thrift; in flying only one emergency player to Perth , David Myers, they were in dreadful trouble when Myers fell ill and Brendon Goddard tweaked a groin in the warm-up. Ultimately Goddard had to play but withdrew in the second quarter, and the Dockers unveiled the kind of form that had observers tipping them for the flag in the pre-season – winning by 53 points.

In particular Aaron Sandilands dominated an Essendon ruck division that is virtually empty while the Dons wait for Paddy Ryder and Tom Bellchambers to return.

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Lance Franklin had a dirty day against North. Photo: Getty

Swans sinking fast

There is a certain irony in Sydney’s fall from favoritism and its heavy defeat at home by North Melbourne. The Swans were rated close to premiership favorites in the pre-season, and this is highly unusual for a club that has been consistently undervalued over almost 20 years. So perhaps now that they have been written off, they will be free to shock everyone with their competitiveness.

Certainly they were schooled by North, continually kicking the football to Scott Thompson, who was minding Lance Franklin. Thompson, the all-Australian defender, had 24 disposals to Franklin’s 13 and no goals, a disappointing performance for the high-priced recruit but mitigated somewhat by the dreadful conditions and heavy rain.

Franklin has endured wet conditions in three of his four games in red and white, which is scarcely helping his cause. But the schadenfreude was dripping on social media by game’s end, especially with the $10 million man on report for high contact on Thompson (a charge that will surely be dropped when the match review panel sees the vision).

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Superstar: Joel Selwood. Photo: Getty

Hawthorn and Geelong … again

While the games were mostly one-sided there are certain recurring themes, such as the excellence of Geelong and Hawthorn, who are scheduled for a rendezvous at the MCG on Easter Monday that shapes as one of the best of the season. The footy has not found any momentum in 2014, so perhaps this will be the moment.

Geelong thrashed West Coast at home, keeping the injury-hit Eagles goalless after quarter-time under the strict, defence-first tactics of coach Chris Scott. The public perception is otherwise that the Cats play the game as it should be played. Yet it is so much more than that, and their pressure upon the ball-carrier and forward pressing was too much for West Coast, whose veteran Dean Cox broke the club’s games record.

Steve Johnson’s eccentricity and occasional genius was worth a look and captain Joel Selwood had his head split open and a knee to the solar plexus that kept him down for a minute or two, finding time in between those incidents to be close to best-afield. Tom Hawkins has recaptured his 2011 vintage and Geelong appear formidable.

Meanwhile Hawthorn eclipsed Gold Coast by 99 points on what is supposed to be a difficult road trip for Victorian teams. The Hawks are like the mythical hydra; opponents are not quite sure where their pain is coming from, since Al Clarkson’s team has had at least 10 goalkickers in all four games.

This is an astonishing statistic that tells a lot about multi-faceted Hawthorn. What premiership hangover?

Malthouse sings the Blues

Carlton’s 0-4 start to the season is probably a blessing in disguise for the Blues. For at least the club cannot sugar coat its weaknesses anymore, and a defeat by lowly Melbourne will make that plain. It needs to rebuild a list that probably peaked a couple of years ago.

Mick Malthouse has done this before, at Collingwood, and while it appears that the club’s decision to remove a favorite son in Brett Ratten to hire Malthouse has done precisely nothing to change Carlton’s path, they can hardly rewind now.

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Out of answers: Mick Malthouse. Photo: Getty

Carlton’s great triumphs as a club all came before the teeth of the draft and salary cap bit. There is something in this for the club to learn.

Malthouse realises his problem; he played under the late Allan Jeans, whose mantra was that “Good players make good coaches”. Recently it was reported he had told the Carlton board he did not have enough A-grade players. It’s pretty simple when you put it like that.

Carlton’s great triumphs as a club all came before the teeth of the draft and salary cap bit. There is something in this for the club to learn.

Meanwhile Melbourne is undergoing the same process under Paul Roos, with Saturday’s win at least providing some much-needed reward for effort.

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