Carlton and Melbourne: don’t believe the hype
Carlton's Mitch Robinson in the NAB Cup (Slattery Images)
Hype is a strange thing in professional sport. Some teams can ride the wave of expectation to greater heights, whereas others just seem to drown in it.
Such is the case of two teams at the moment, who will go up against each other next week in the AFL – Carlton and Melbourne.
While Melbourne is having a season to forget, there is no doubt that the tag of ‘premiership contenders’ that had been firmly labelled beside the Blues only a month earlier has now got several asterisks beside it.
The major problem with Carlton is not that they are five and three (although that certainly doesn’t have the same ring to it as eight and zip), but rather how they have lost them.
All three sides that have beaten them have shown a commitment to the man and the ball that has rattled the Blues.
This wouldn’t seem so bad if the Blues had a spine that could cope with a more conventional game, where their first-rate midfield could not dictate terms.
However, as soon as Essendon, St. Kilda and Adelaide began to restrict them, their forwards and defence began to look bereft.
The ruck division – once seen also a major strength of Carlton – is also under massive scrutiny.
Matthew Kruezer was the talk of the town for a few weeks when the Blues were undefeated, but that seems a lifetime ago now. Unsuccessful moves to the forward 50 have also proven less than fruitful to support the injury-prone Jarred Waite.
Yet all this pales compared to the problems that their round-nine opponents have been having.
If Carlton are under heavy scrutiny, you’d think that the Rapture was about to occur at the Demons.
At the start of his tenure there was excited murmurings coming out of the Demons’ camp.
The new coach Mark Neeld promised a new emphasis on contested footy, based around his experience under coaching-guru Mick Malthouse.
Such hype continued throughout the summer and fans expected improvement and steel in this new Melbourne side.
So far it has been safe to say the Demons have not quite delivered.
It is difficult to point to one reason why the Melbourne season has been so very poor.
Some experts claim that there is a lack of responsibility among the senior playing group – which can be seen with Aaron Davey, Colin Sylvia, Mark Jamar, Brad Green and others having indifferent to downright ordinary seasons.
Others claim that the two new co-captains are under new pressures and are struggling with them.
I imagine that any captain with a club that is winless after eight games would be feeling the pinch, but surely there needs to be a collective responsibility?
Fans also froth at the mouth about when their draft picks will become stars. When will Jack Watts be mentioned in the same strata of players as Michael Hurley, Dustin Martin or Nic Natinui?
Melbourne fans have been living with hype for years, just to make it to the finals, and have been found wanting.
Ironically, the last time they made the grand final was in 2000 – and that basically came from nowhere.
Carlton has had the heavy burden of a premiership hopeful and has found it all too much in the last few weeks.
Perhaps this week, hype needs to give way to consolidation.