THEY were a mighty force for many years and their song describes them as, “The team that never lets you down”. But the Old Dark Navy Blues have fallen on sad times, as PAUL GOUGH reports:
IT’S OFFICIAL. Carlton is now worse than Fitzroy!
Who would have ever thought in 1995 when Carlton was on the way to a record 16th premiership and Fitzroy was in its death throes that within a generation the Blues would be even more uncompetitive than the poor old Lions?
Since 2002 – so a period of 16 completed seasons plus the first six rounds of 2018 – the Blues have won just 124 of 365 matches for a winning percentage of only 34.
In contrast Fitzroy in its final 17 seasons in the competition from 1980-96 won 144 of 379 games or a winning percentage of 38.
And that is despite the Lions winning just three games across their final two seasons before the bankrupt club was merged with Brisbane to form the Brisbane Lions in 1997.
Incredibly Fitzroy also performed better in finals matches than Carlton across the same comparison period – winning three of eight finals while the Blues have won just two of six finals since the start of the 2002 season.
It shows just how far the once mighty and arrogant Carlton – remember this was a club that was once so powerful they BOUGHT SHARES in a rival club North Melbourne at their peak – have fallen.
With no wins from six games so far in 2018 there is even a small, outside chance the Blues could become the first team since Fitzroy in 1964 to go through an entire season with a win.
And if you think that is far-fetched then consider this – apart from the equally winless Brisbane Lions is there a team right now you would be confident of tipping the Blues to beat?
And guess what, the Blues play Brisbane only once this season and it’s at the Gabba in Round 16.
The Blues decline has been years in the making and some would argue the club has never recovered from the salary cap scandal of 2002 when the club was fined nearly $1million and banned from the early rounds of the 2002 and 2003 national drafts.
This also came at a time when the club badly needed a fresh injection of youth to replenish an ageing team, as all its 1995 premiership stars gradually retired.
But that is only half the story.
Since then the Blues recruiting and list management has been a shambles.
The club has a dearth of players at the peak of their careers – in the 25-28 year age bracket – because of poor drafting a decade ago.
From the 2012 draft only Levi Casboult survives while from 2011 only Sam Rowe is still on the list and there is no-one left at the club from the 2009 and 2010 drafts.
And then you throw in the quality players the Blues have gifted to other clubs such as Zac Tuohy, Eddie Betts, Sam Jacobs, Jeff Garlett, Bryce Gibbs, Mitch Robinson, Josh Kennedy, Shaun Grigg and Jarrad Waite and it’s no wonder they can’t win a game.
The only time the Blues showed promise in the past 17 years was during Brett Ratten’s period in charge and for his efforts he was sacked in favour of a clearly past it Mick Malthouse in 2013.
Malthouse then made a bad situation even worse at the 2014 national draft when the Blues gave away pick seven and then with their first two picks at 19 and 28 they selected Blaine Boekhorst and Dillion Viojo-Rainbow.
In contrast the AFL’s current benchmark team Richmond selected Dan Butler in the same draft at pick 67.
That is a just a small window into why the Tigers sit at the top of the ladder and the Blues sit in the basement looking more like poor Fitzroy by the week.
Author: Paul Gough
PAUL GOUGH covered the AFL from 1990 to 2010 for the Herald Sun, Australian Associated Press, the AFL website and Sportal.