The Roar
The Roar


Malthouse versus the media and Fletcher brings up 400

27th May, 2015

Mick Malthouse saved his best moment at Carlton until the very last.

His parting statement, which could have been justifiably bitter and hate filled, was quite the opposite, exposing a humbler, more caring side of the long serving coach.

In short he wished everyone well, from the Carlton team to the media, and emphasised the fact that he bore no grudges or held any regrets.

The refreshing sincerity of his words provided welcome relief from the double speak and egoism that had played out in the media in the weeks leading up to his sacking.

It is a shame that this side of Malthouse was not seen more often. Perhaps if it had, we could have been spared the tiring war that seemed to always be simmering between him and those reporting on the game.

Instead we remember the antagonism, the death stare and the defensive posturing.

Of course it takes two to tango and Mick and the media had fired broadsides at each other for years. Sometimes it was a game between them, sometimes it was something more personal and sometimes it was just plain disrespectful. Often it was petty. In the end it was embarrassing.

All it really did was denigrate those involved.


Despite that, I don’t go along with those who say that his was a sacking driven by the media. It was a sacking driven by poor on-field performance and a board which felt backed into a corner.

In fact it was Malthouse who used the media to bring the whole festering issue to a head.

And let’s not forget that it was Malthouse who went to the media earlier this year with regards to his stalled contract negotiations. This was done with the sole aim of putting pressure on the Carlton board to re-employ him. It was familiar ground for the veteran coach as he had used a similar tactic towards the end of his tenure at Collingwood.

What he didn’t foresee at that time was just how poorly the Blues would perform. Or perhaps he did?

In the end though, it was all just an untenable mess. That it ended ugly is an understatement.

On a brighter note, it would be remiss of me not to make mention of Dustin Fletcher’s remarkable playing career. Fletcher, barring a last minute withdrawal, will line up in Saturday night’s Dreamtime game against Richmond for his 400th game.

He will become only the third player in history to achieve the feat at elite level, joining Kevin Bartlett and Michael Tuck in the exclusive 400 club.


It is telling that each, despite their longevity in the game, remained one-club players. Surely this comfort in their surroundings must go someway towards explaining their extended tenure. Brett Harvey who is next in line to conquer 400 games will also have been a one-club player.

In Fletcher’s case he has played into his 40s, an almost unthinkable achievement in what is essentially a young man’s sport, a sport in which many find themselves washed up at 30.

His played his first game a staggering 22 years ago in an epic Round 2 clash against arch enemy Carlton which resulted in a draw.

He was just 17 years old.

It is funny what you remember but I know exactly where I was when the final siren sounded that day. I was driving through the small town of Meredith, halfway between Geelong and Ballarat. I had spent the early part of the afternoon languishing in the reserves for Geelong league club Grovedale and was on my way to visit family in my home town of Ballarat.

I had been listening to the Essendon game on the radio, trying to make sense of a raving Rex Hunt as he shouted out the last few minutes of that amazing game. He kept referring to Fletcher as Dustin Hoffman. I beeped the horn of my Datsun 200B when Stephen Kernahan’s shot after the siren helicoptered its way out of bounds leaving the scores tied.

Fletcher played 17 games and won a premiership in that debut year, alongside fellow baby Bombers James Hird, Mark Mecuri and Joe Misiti.


Over the next few years the angular youngster took on and held some of the greatest forwards the game has known, players such as Jason Dunstall, Tony Lockett, Gary Ablett and Kernahan.

At times he looked out of place and awkward. After all what right did a skinny school boy have to play on these footballing Goliaths? Technically he shouldn’t have been there, but the reality was that he was made for the job – a bit like Guy Sebastion singing at Eurovision, but with bumps and bruises and scalps instead of viewer votes to prove his worthiness.

It has been said that he didn’t play on the best forwards throughout the second half of his career, but it is a criticism that is irrelevant. He has played his role to perfection, getting a last second touch on a ball destined to be a goal – or a last second spoil when he has looked hopelessly beaten – more times than champion data would be able to count.

He has cleared the ball from dangerous situations or taken marks on the last line of defence with regular monotony. He can play tall or chase down the small men. He did it last Sunday against the Lions and he’ll do it this Saturday against the Tigers.

And he’ll continue to do it until the end of this year.

After that? Who knows?

He couldn’t squeeze out yet another season – or could he?