There’s (actually) nothing to see here folks. The handwringing surrounding Carlton’s underwhelming start to the season belies the reality of a club nearing rock bottom courtesy of a long-overdue scorched earth policy.
For the Blues are not undergoing any old rebuild, instead this is a cultural purge 15-odd years in the making.
A club long renowned for wildly successful short termism is confronting the hitherto unthinkable, irrelevancy, and the football world – including many Blues fans – isn’t quite ready to accept it.
Cue reports of unrest and doubts cast over young talent following the admittedly abject showing against the Pies. But this ignores Carlton’s unique predicament, that of a club effectively starting from relative scratch.
No one needs reminding of the devastating fallout from the salary cap breach saga which engulfed the club in 2002.
But what is oft-forgotten is the already wooden spoon-worthy state of Carlton’s list at the time of the sanctions, which represented a low-lying base camp for the ascent to come.
Fans still wake in a collective cold sweat from nightmares induced by the harrowing Denis Pagan era that followed.
Yet, even on its knees and bleeding, perhaps we should have guessed that this wily, old dealmaker would have had one last card to play.
Enter Christopher Dylan Judd.
Such was Judd’s pre-eminence in navy blue that Carlton’s flawed playing list was effectively masked and the loss of makeweight Josh Kennedy (along with precious draft picks) was long considered a necessary evil.
This is not to downplay Judd’s sublime stay at Princes Park, which was seemingly comprised one long, individual highlights reel punctuated by four wildly entertaining finals forays.
After all, those indulging in revisionist history in this regard – including Carlton fans – would do well to consider that the club and its supporters were at near breaking point prior to Judd’s arrival.
Yet, the impact of the Judd trade outgoings are compounded when considered against the backdrop of Carlton’s top-end draft record since 2002, which is pockmarked with a combination of big-time fails (think the ‘lost drafts’ of 2009 to 2012 in particular) and relative disappointment.
There is also the nagging question as to whether the Blues may have been less likely to pull the trigger on the ultimately costly Brock McLean and Robbie Warnock deals in the absence of their famous No.5.
Certainly the hugely misguided Mick Malthouse experience – complete with the salary cap-munching Daisy Thomas acquisition – was symptomatic of a club in the grips of a delusion of grandeur, borne largely of its talisman’s greatness.
In any event, the 2015 departures of Malthouse and Judd, coupled with the arrival of Stephen Silvagni as list manager, marked Carlton’s long-awaited reality check.
Since then, Carlton has begun the – it must be said, very un-Carlton like – process of jettisoning its veteran stocks and focusing on building patiently through the draft, something Brendon Bolton has been at pains to reaffirm of late.
So much so that what remains is essentially a bunch of prospects that is gradually losing its veteran training wheels as it completes the last part of the descent to its very own base camp before the long climb ahead.
Sure, there is the indomitable midfield bull, Patrick Cripps, and the can’t-miss Charlie Curnow. But there is also a huge amount of unknown currently cloaked in navy blue given the scale of this rebuild and the volume of water yet to pass under the bridge.
Viewed through this lens, dramatic reactions from the football world to Carlton’s formline – which are admittedly inevitable for a ‘big four’ club that has long courted headlines and a young list representing a lightning rod for optimism and frustration in equal parts – are largely futile for the time being.
That is, unless Carlton’s brains trust experiences a rush of old Blue blood to the head anytime soon.