But what do you reckon, Ratts?
The finger shouldn't be solely pointed at Ratten for Carlton's tough year (Slattery Images)
Brett Ratten knew it was coming. It was the great big awkward elephant parked in the corner of the Metricon Stadium press conference room.
His future as Carlton coach has been a talking point all year, so it should have come as no surprise that it was about to heat up again after his side blew their finals chances in stunning fashion on Australia’s holiday strip.
Ratts, you assume, is smart enough a man to be aware of what questions are going to be thrown his way by reporters and at what times.
e’s been in the AFL game for a while. This was one that simply had to be put to him.
And yet he couldn’t have been less ready for it.
“What do you reckon? Come on, you answer the question. What do you reckon?” was Ratten’s now-infamous comeback when asked if he was concerned personally with the ramifications of the Blues’ 12-point loss to Gold Coast.
The reply came, “I’d imagine so.”
So what did Ratts have up his sleeve? “Good guess. Well done.”
When the presser was over, he told the reporter who asked that he’d heard that question a million times before. But never had it been more relevant.
For a guy whose performance has been under so much scrutiny, this was not the picture Ratten and his club wanted or needed to paint.
It is easier said than done to hold your nerve with all those cameras and microphones in your face – much less after a result so embarrassing and catastrophic.
But Ratten let his guard slip, and in the end his lack of temperament was the story.
He didn’t have a line like ‘No, I’m not done with this group’ or ‘I’m not worrying about that, all we can worry about is…’ in his back pocket for the reporters to chew on.
That’s probably because he never thought he’d have to.
This scribe has seen enough Gold Coast games to know when their opposition treats them with respect, and when their opposition expects them to roll over and cop it. The Blues were in the latter camp.
In fact, the Carlton team that became the first established side to lose at the refurbished Carrara ground was just as ill-prepared for the ferocious Suns as Ratten was for the inevitable question. Perhaps moreso.
And that responsibility lies on whose shoulders? The coach.
No, he wasn’t on the field and had nothing to do with the countless opportunities his men wasted in the second half. He didn’t physically do the choking.
But it’s his job to make sure his players fully understand the gravity of the situation before them.
“If we play well, we give ourselves an opportunity to kick a good score and if we don’t play so well, we take the foot off the accelerator, we’ll make hard work of it,” is what he said the day before the game.
Now a club that thought it was top four material in pre-season will be nursing a Mad Monday hangover in seven days’ time.
Take nothing away from the Suns – they showed a tantalizing glimpse of the future. But just how good they were is a yarn for another day.
Clearly, when a side is outclassed by a quasi-NEAFL team in a make-or-break match, either the coach’s message isn’t getting through, or the players don’t want to hear it from him.
Fortunately, Ratten has been spared the axe – for this week, at least. Carlton president Stephen Kernahan says the club will make no decision on his future until the end of the season. That’s only a week away.
And all the while, Mick Malthouse has shamelessly ummed and ahhed in the media over whether he wants to come back and coach again, knowing full well of Ratten’s predicament.
He’s even come out and said that if he doesn’t do it in 2012, he’ll never do it again – a clear ‘come and get me’ call to the Blues’ board.
People are lining up for his job. The supporters are baying for blood. The players, as they always do in these situations, have escaped largely scot-free.
This is Ratts’ bed and he has to lie in it. He didn’t quite make it, and it might not be lights out just yet, but he certainly tucked himself in.
Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard that is the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. He is a Port Adelaide fan by birth, as painful as that has been recently. He's now sports editor of The Area News in Griffith, NSW.