PAUL ROOS – HERALD SUN COLUMN

There are many factors in determining a pass mark for the Blues and coach Brett Ratten

By Paul Roos, August 24, 2012

THE speculation about Carlton coach Brett Ratten continues, despite the Blues’ exceptional win against Essendon last weekend.

We have already seen a board and chief executive make a decision about a senior coach this year when Port Adelaide chose to part ways with Matthew Primus.

While the media and the public can often drive an agenda, it is hoped that behind closed doors of a football club calculated decisions are made, not emotional ones.

Judging a senior coach is possibly the hardest task a board will face as there are so many variables over a season.

What are the key factors that Carlton must consider when assessing its senior coach and making an informed decision about his future?

First, it will look at the Blues’ best 22 players and make an assessment of where they should have finished this season.

By the club’s admission, a top-four finish was expected. After winning 14 games and finishing fifth on the ladder last year, I believe if everything had gone right, fourth place was achievable this year.

Given this season is almost over, the board’s next task is to assess the team’s performance based on the personnel at the coach’s disposal.
Clearly, this is where the robust debate will become murky.

The Blues have been cruelled by injuries at stages this year, so where should this team have been able to finish?

Certainly, if Ratten can win his last two games and get the team into the eight, many would say he has done an acceptable job.

It would be hard to mount an argument against this because two more wins would give the Blues 13 for the season, one behind last year. If this happens, I believe Ratten has done a very good job with the team at his disposal.

The Carlton board must not look solely at this year, but judge the coach on his tenure at the club.

The factors that must be considered are player development, player leadership, management style and, most importantly, weighing up whether the team is in a much better position than when he started.

Again, it would be hard to mount an argument that Carlton is not in a much stronger position now than when he took over towards the end of the 2007 season.

The media seems to want to condemn Ratten for his antics on the bench on game day.

Only the players could tell whether, as the football world seems to suggest, the emotional coach has a negative effect on his players on the bench.

As someone who sat and coached from the bench, I can attest that you have to be very careful about your demeanour when you are down among the players.

The fact that Ratten has moved back to the box suggests that perhaps it was creating problems for the players.

I am sure the board will dissect every area of the coach’s role. If being over-exuberant is the worst thing that Ratten does, then he is probably doing a far better job than most.

The final and toughest assessment is whether the Blues coach can take the team to a premiership.

This will present the board with many hours of discussion and, in fact, there is no answer. Every premiership coach starts without a premiership and most would have been questioned in the early years of their tenure.

I’m sure some would have been hanging by a thread after board meetings during their coaching careers.

In my view, the only reason a debate rages, given Ratten has a year to go on his contract, is that former Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse is a premiership winner without a club to coach.

The board cannot foresee whether Ratten can coach the Blues to a premiership, but they do know Malthouse recently did with the Pies.

How much will this point drive the future of the Carlton Football Club, if Mick discovers the urge to coach again?

In my view, the board will not replace Ratten if it makes a rational assessment of his tenure at the club.

But there will be those who see Malthouse as the answer to lifting the premiership cup once again for this extremely proud and demanding football club.

COACHES TAKING HEAT

JAMES HIRD
I have no doubt about Hird. When the Bombers are healthy, they have a good game style and look to be developing very nicely. Hird must sort out the pre-season program and get his players fit and healthy for next year. They seem to have gone for size and strength when other teams are focusing on getting their players aerobically fitter.

MARK NEELD & BRENDAN McCARTNEY
Both are in the same position. It is far too early to judge. They are implementing new game styles and clearly their teams are struggling to adapt. This is not unusual and they will definitely need at least another pre-season to educate their players on the way they want them to play. Next year we will get a much greater feel as to how their players respond.

DAMIEN HARDWICK
I have no doubt Richmond has improved this year.
The Tigers have played some exceptional football against some of the best teams in the competition. The message in the off-season will now be about consistency, consolidation and they must look to play finals next year.

GUY McKENNA
Perhaps the hardest of the coaches to assess. It is unprecedented to bring in so many young players at the one time. I am sure Bluey would be looking forward to the end of the season. With two years of data to then look back on, some key decisions need to be made with personnel. Pre-season must be hard and tough and they must make some advancements next year.

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