Carlton not injured, just soft
Nick Duigan and Chris Judd head to the rooms (Photo: Darrian Traynor/AFL Media)
Are injuries to blame for Carlton’s derailed season, or is this just another excuse from a club whose mental strength compares unfavourably to that of Sam Stosur?
Popular opinion is that the Blues have been ‘decimated’ by untimely injuries to key personnel, which is the main reason behind them losing four matches in a row, and six of their last seven.
Frankly, I’m not buying it.
This is a club where whinging is the favourite pass-time. There have already been many memorable instances this season.
It all started with Sam Lonergan’s ferocious, agenda-setting tackle on Andrew Carrazzo in the opening minutes of Carlton’s round four defeat at the hands of Essendon.
Carrazzo broke a shoulder blade as a result, but rather than taking the opportunity to use this event as a motivator, the Blues showed themselves to be spineless, allowing the Bombers to run rampant over the course of the day.
When asked about the incident, rather than talk about how football is an often brutal sport of hard men and harder play, Carrazzo’s reaction was to be ‘disappointed with how it happened’.
Marc Murphy was on Channel Seven’s Game Day on the Sunday following the match and stated that the team was ‘looking forward to playing Essendon next time’ when asked about Lonergan’s tackle, a veiled threat of payback contained within. Never mind the 115 minutes of football he and his teammates had to avenge the perceived injustice the day before.
Some unruly Blues fans needed to vent their anger at Carlton’s inept performance that day, and decided that Twitter was the right forum, and Lonergan the right target, attacking him with abuse and threats. These were acts of cowardice far below anything we’ll see on the field this year.
In fact, any person targeting sportspeople on Twitter merely confirms themselves as the lowest common denominator.
Twitter was the next scene of the victim mentality held by Carlton players, Marc Murphy involved again, along with Jeremy Laidler and Jarrad Waite, all three complaining about the umpiring in the round 12 West Coast game.
Never mind that the Eagles were first to the ball with the hardness that is their forte, and never mind that the free kick count was only 23-21 West Coast’s way, the loss was apparently all the umpires’ fault.
So now that we’ve established the ‘culture of complaining’ so prevalent at Carlton, let’s get back to this supposedly horrific injury count.
The Blues have used 32 players this year, the same as West Coast, Hawthorn, North Melbourne and St Kilda, and less than Collingwood and Geelong, all teams above them on the ladder. Even Essendon and Adelaide have used only one less, so the difference is negligible.
Marc Murphy has been a significant loss after being cannon-balled by Patrick Dangerfield. He’s missed five matches so far, but haven’t Collingwood also had premium midfielders miss a lot of football? Dale Thomas has watched four matches from the stands, Scott Pendlebury three, and Dane Swan two. The Pies have won all of them.
Andrew Carrazzo, that rare breed of tagger who wins more possession that his opponent, is a critical element of the Carlton midfield. A player of his quality missing seven games can’t be covered, right?
I wonder if the Hawks feel that way about Luke Hodge, the Pies about Luke Ball, and the Eagles about Mark LeCras? All are just as important to their clubs as Carrazzo is to the Blues, and between them have played five matches this season.
The difference is that Hawthorn, Collingwood and West Coast moved on, putting more faith in next generation players like Bruest and Whitecross, Beams and Sidebottom, Shuey and Selwood. All three sides are strongly favoured for a top-four position.
Meanwhile, Carlton brings back limited triers Brock McLean and Aaron Joseph while the promising Kane Lucas and Andrew Collins run around at VFL level, the latter two collecting 59 disposals for Northern on Saturday.
Jarrad Waite has only played six games this year, but please don’t tell me that Brett Ratten has this 29-year-old crock as the key plank in his plan to deliver premiership glory to the navy Blue hordes?
For all of Waite’s abilities, he’s only had one top three best and fairest finish in his career, and from the start of 2009, a year in which Carlton returned to the finals and has stayed since, the versatile swingman has played only 43 of a possible 82 matches, a return of just over 50%.
To put it simply, Waite is a bonus addition if and when he is fit to play, not a key member of the side.
Jeremy Laidler has been a handy addition to the backline since crossing from Geelong, but has only played four matches this year, and won’t be returning. He’ll be the classic case of an injured player becoming much more important while absent. Watch for his powers to become a combination of Glenn Archer and Andrew McLeod the longer he is out.
Instead, we’ll know that he’s played only 25 games since being drafted in 2008, and couldn’t find a spot in the top ten in Carlton’s best and fairest last year.
Good teams have an army of Laidler-type ‘role players’ in reserve, and the top sides have all called on unheralded players to fill holes this year when required.
Apart from Murphy, Carazzo, Waite and Laidler, it’s basically been all hands on deck for the Blues in 2012.
Instead of injuries, it’s been players hopelessly out of form and devoid of confidence that has been the problem.
Chris Judd is struggling under the burden of carrying this team for years, Michael Jamison hasn’t been at his best, Chris Yarran has been a disgrace, toe injury notwithstanding, Bryce Gibbs plays with a confused mind, Kade Simpson hasn’t been allowed to free-wheel in Murphy’s absence, Andrew Walker found consistency in 2011 but perhaps it was fleeting, while Jeff Garlett has been playing with all the impact of Leon Davis in the 2002 grand final.
But the biggest problem has been Matthew Kruezer. Jack Watts has been unfairly maligned as an under-performing number one draft pick, while Kreuzer has been given a free pass. The Carlton big man has the lowest output-to-reputation ratio in the league.
Admittedly his cause hasn’t been helped by the ridiculous notion of playing three ruckmen, which tells me that Brett Ratten still doesn’t know what his best set up is.
But Ratten’s worthiness as senior coach is a story for another day.
Carlton are in free-fall at the moment, but don’t listen when their supporters whine about injuries, for it will just be another sign of mental weakness that has enveloped the club.
According to the much-lauded membership campaigns, Carlton were ‘coming’, but now they’re going. We can smell what they’re cooking, and it’s the whiff of failure. ‘No passengers’ has become ‘all passengers’.
I am Carlton? No thanks.
Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for in his mind there is nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.
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