Carlton Hope to Cage Lions and Boost Coach’s Resign
Carlton coach Brett Ratten hopes to kick off a winning streak for the Blues starting with their AFL Premiership Round 12 game against the Brisbane Lions to boost his chances of a contract extension.
Former AFL great and Carlton Hall of Fame trainer “Ratts” was appointed as the Blues’ head coach in 2007, taking over from Denis Pagan, and after his controversial season with the club last year, has so far this year given Carlton a great start.
Carlton began the 2011 AFL Premiership in fine style, recording a 20 point victory over Richmond, which they then backed up with an emphatic 119 point win over the AFL’s newly-instated Gold Coast Suns.
Ratten, 39, is now under pressure to continue Carlton’s top season opener, their best since 1996, the upcoming nine weeks crucial as they enjoy a succession of games at home in Victoria.
This Sunday Carlton are the raging $1.06 favourites to defeat the Lions, who are the $9.25 underdogs, for the Etihad Stadium showdown.
Looking to be an easy win for Carlton, the club will then play Sydney (Round 13), West Coast (Round 14), Richmond (Round 15), Western Bulldogs (Round 16), Collingwood (Round 17), Essendon (Round 18), North Melbourne (Round 19) and Melbourne (Round 20) before finally having to cross the border in Round 21 to play Fremantle at Patersons Stadium in Perth in Round 21 in mid-August.
While maintaining optimism for a strong winning streak, Carlton are also facing the reality of playing four top-eight sides over the next nine rounds.
They will, however, get a big boost with the likely return of Matthew Kreuzer, who ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in Round 13 last year, in a fortnight and Paul Bower’s return also getting closer.
Ratten will be tossing up resting some of his big name stars including midfielders Marc Murphy and Chris Judd to ensure his team doesn’t tire with the September showdowns looming.
During last year’s finals, Carlton lost eight of their last 12 games, Ratten learning the hard way about the importance of keeping his club fit and fresh.
“It is an interesting one,” Ratten said.
“Do you rotate the players and maybe lose some cohesion with the group? That is probably our debate.
“Other groups probably haven’t lost any momentum with rotating players.
“It is something that we will have a look at going to the back end of the season, whether we take players off early and sub them, things like that will really come into calculation.”
Still, things are looking good for Carlton who at 7-2-1 seem on track to lock in a spot in the top four and give Ratten two chances at a finals win come September to secure his job.
“In comparison to last year, we are probably in a lot better shape than what we were,” Ratten was happy to admit.
Having transformed the Blues, Ratten still faces a tough ultimatum of win a final or face being out of contract, which is a harsh reality according to AFL Coaches Association chief executive Danny Frawley.
“There are a lot of variables involved in winning a final, and a lot can change in a game,” Frawley said.
“Of all the coaches in the competition, you’d have to rate Ratten, and the whole Carlton coaching staff, as being one of the big improvers this year.
“And with that comes the rewards.”
Frawley was also quick to give Ratten credit for the fact the Blues are now conceding nearly 10 goals less per game than they were under the coaching of Pagan.
“They (Carlton) have gone from leaking 132 points per game, 20 more than any other team, to 75.5 this year, which ranks third in the AFL,” he said.
“He (Ratten) has done a great job when you consider where they have come from.
“They’re defending well and at the other end they’re keeping the ball inside their 50m.
“They are probably the big sleeper in the comp at the moment.
“Don’t be surprised if they finish top four and even if they don’t win it (the Premiership) this year, they won’t be far away in the next couple of years.”
In current markets Carlton are the fourth-favourites paying around $8 to ‘Win the Flag’, Collingwood the deserved $2.10 top elects to become this year’s AFL Premiership winners.
With their current form and upcoming fixtures, Carlton are short at $1.28 to make the Top 4, as Frawley predicts.
Heading into Round 12 this weekend the Geelong Cats, undefeated in 10 games, sit just ahead of the Magpies (nine wins) on the 2011 AFL Season Ladder, Carlton perched in fourth spot with seven wins behind the third-tier Hawks on eight victories.