Record means little against the rapidly advancing tide

Embattled Carlton coach Brett Ratten leaves the club this afternoon.CAROLINE WILSON: Last supper came early for RattenROBERT WALLS: Malthouse a big risk as Blues err in axing Ratten
Nanjing Night Net

MANY factors can kill an AFL coaching stint. At Carlton, for Brett Ratten, it has been the convergence of several.

The high expectations of a club with as many premierships as any, and a bar raised to a top-four spot pre-season by the coach himself. A spate of crippling injuries that derailed the Blues’ season when, after three good wins to start the season, they were flag favourites.

The humiliation of a loss to a wooden spoon candidate that led to the club missing out on the finals. And the availability, and obvious interest, of a former revered coaching peer, Mick Malthouse, waiting in the wings.

If the end wasn’t coming already for Ratten, despite having a year left on his contract, last Saturday night’s shock loss to Gold Coast inflicted the fatal wound. And Malthouse’s clear interest in coaching again, as apparent as it’s ever been since last weekend, was the final nail in the coffin.

But Ratten will be one of the unluckier coaches to get the chop in recent memory. He took on a side, and a club, close to a basket case with six games to go in 2007 and, until this year, improved its position season by season.

From a finish of 15th in the first year, Carlton climbed to 11th in 2008 with 10 wins. In 2009, they reached the finals for the first time in eight years, only to be pipped on the post by the Brisbane Lions in an elimination final away from home.

It happened again in 2010, this time nutted on the line by Sydney. Last year, the Blues went one further, smashing Essendon in the elimination final before once again losing by less than a kick in an interstate final, this time in Perth to West Coast.

Even after this season’s less-than-sparkling performances from his team, Ratten has a winning percentage as coach of 50.8 per cent. That should have presented at least some sort of pass mark.

By way of comparison, Brisbane’s Michael Voss, approaching the end of his fourth season in charge, has a current strike rate of just 38.7 per cent. For Richmond’s Damien Hardwick, at the end of his third year at Punt Road, it’s 37.7.

That’s not to denigrate either man, both their sides seeming to have made significant strides this year. But it’s also fair to say their playing lists were in far healthier shape than was Ratten’s when he took over the Blues.

The arrival of Chris Judd certainly helped, so did some early draft picks, though the progress of the likes of Bryce Gibbs and Matthew Kreuzer has been one of a number of vigorous debates by the navy blue army, along with tactical acumen, recruiting and list development, both of those areas slammed by club greats such as Robert Walls and Mark Maclure in recent days.

The biggest question: to what extent should the senior coach be held responsible?

Ratten was seen to improve steadily over the course of his tenure in areas such as communication with his players. The balance of Carlton’s best 22 also became much improved.

The Blues at their best, seen as recently as the weekend before last, when they thrashed Essendon by 96 points, playing an attractive, attacking style, smart out of defence and potent up forward.

Yet Ratten never won the total approval of the famously impatient Carlton hordes and, more significantly, enough of his club’s board.

Those agitating for change at board level were grudging in their praise, even when the Blues began to rebound from their mid-season slump, unearthing young prospects such as Levi Casboult and Tom Bell, and hauling themselves back into finals contention

In the words of Carlton president Stephen Kernahan, before last weekend’s nightmare the Blues had won back respect. That might have saved Ratten’s bacon. Instead, the loss to the Suns fried it to a crisp.

Perhaps another coaching door might open, with Port Adelaide still on the hunt for a senior man for 2013.

Certainly, though, this one would have stayed open – as Ratten’s contract stipulated it would – had a certain triple premiership coach not been hovering in the background.

And that’s no consolation or comfort for a man who served Carlton with distinction in 255 games as a player, and at least helped haul the Blues back to respectability in 120-odd games as coach.BYE, BYE, BLUESBrett Ratten’s coaching tenure at Carlton

2007 Brett Ratten takes over as coach after Denis Pagan is sacked with six games remaining. The Blues lose all six. Carlton secures Matthew Kreuzer with the priority pick, and trades pick three and Josh Kennedy to West Coast for Chris Judd. Ratten signs a deal until the end of 2009. FINISHED: 15th

2008 Ratten’s first full season starts poorly, losing the first three games. He swings the momentum with two wins over Collingwood and Richmond. FINISHED:11th (10 wins, 12 losses)

2009 Carlton makes the finals for the first time since 2001 but squanders a big lead in its elimination final against the Brisbane Lions. The Blues are in crisis after Brendan Fevola’s Brownlow Medal night scandal and put him up for trade. The coach signs a contract until the end of 2011. FINISHED: 7th (13-10)

2010 The Blues are again bundled out in an elimination final, against Sydney by a goal. Ratten is told by players he needs to take more interest in them as people. FINISHED: 8th (11-12)

2011 Under pressure all season about his contract, but the Blues win their first final in 10 years and almost pull off a miracle victory against West Coast in Perth. Ratten earns a two-year contract extension. FINISHED: 5th (15-8-1)

2012 PRE-SEASON: Carlton loses all its pre-season matches but Ratten declares anything short of a top-four finish will be considered a failure. ROUND TWO: Ratten becomes the third person in Carlton’s history to play and coach 100 games. The following week, the Blues smash Collingwood and become premiership favourites. ROUND EIGHT: Carlton loses Marc Murphy to a long-term shoulder injury, escalating a horror injury run. ROUND 10: Media pressure and supporter backlash intensifies after the Blues lose to Port Adelaide. Links between Mick Malthouse and the Carlton job surface after Eddie McGuire declares the former Pies coach would be a perfect fit for the Blues. ROUND 15: The Age reports Ratten will coach for his future against Collingwood after a run of six losses in seven games to fall out of the top eight. Carlton upsets the Pies and wins four of its next six games to rekindle finals hopes. ROUND 22: A disastrous loss to Gold Coast ends Carlton’s finals chances. YESTERDAY: It is revealed Ratten’s coaching career at Carlton is finished, with a year to run on his contract. POSITION: Carlton currently 10th (11-10)

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.