Carlton’s heaviest defeat of the AFL season could spell the beginning of the end for under-pressure coach Brendon Bolton.
The bottom-placed Blues were smashed by GWS on Sunday afternoon, losing 20.18 (138) to 7.3 (45) at Giants Stadium.
No one was expecting Carlton to beat the Giants on their home turf but the size of the margin will have alarm bells ringing at Ikon Park.
Club powerbrokers have publicly pledged support for fourth-year coach Bolton but Carlton have now won just four of their past 41 games and it is difficult to see any coach surviving a wooden-spoon finish two years in a row.
Bolton’s cause wasn’t helped by midfielder Marc Murphy’s hospitalisation after copping a knee to the ribs from Giants ruckman Shane Mumford.
But the Blues had already given up a 39-point lead when Murphy went down late in the first quarter.
“I understand the business, I’ve been it in a while,” a shattered Bolton said.
“Today, our group didn’t deliver. You’ve seen the worst side of Carlton.
“I can’t let the outside infiltrate. We know we’ll get some criticism for this game, deservedly so, but that can’t blur what we’re doing and how we go about it.”
The win lifted GWS to third on the ladder, also providing a handy percentage boost.
The true test for the Giants is likely to come next Sunday when they face lowly Melbourne at the MCG – a venue where GWS have won just two out of 16 games.
Geelong remain a game clear on top of the ladder after overpowering the Western Bulldogs by 44 points at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday.
The clinical Cats are purring along with eight wins and one loss, although a badly-sprained ankle threatens to sideline Patrick Dangerfield next week.
Second-placed Collingwood likewise continued their strong form, thumping St Kilda by 51 points to post their sixth-straight victory.
With the season drawing closer to its halfway point, the pecking order is slowly becoming established after an unpredictable start to the season.
St Kilda and Gold Coast both strung together surprise wins in the first few rounds but the Saints have now lost four consecutive games and the Suns five straight after losing to Port Adelaide by 38 points on a rain-soaked Adelaide Oval.
Fremantle have also slipped back into the pack, suffering their third straight defeat after Essendon prevailed 8.12 (60) to 7.11 (53) in a dour Marvel Stadium contest.
But Brisbane continue to stamp themselves as contenders, having secured a top-four berth with their one-point win over Adelaide in a thriller at the Gabba.
Richmond’s convincing six-goal win over an injury-hit Hawthorn at the MCG left them even on points with GWS, Brisbane and West Coast.
The Eagles continued to do things the hard way on Friday night at Optus Stadium, clawing their way back to defeat Melbourne by 16 points.
It was another unconvincing win for West Coast but at six wins and three losses, the reigning premiers are well-placed to attack the second half of the season.
And in a bottom-four clash in Hobart, it was Sydney who stood tall to defeat North Melbourne by five points despite losing Josh Kennedy and several others to injury.