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Tracking the Teague train as Carlton consider review

Carlton had interviewed former Lions legend Michael Voss and sounded out senior coaches to assess their availability, but Teague won the job after interviews on the back of player and supporter enthusiasm. Football director Chris Judd’s comments soon after Bolton was moved on, that they didn’t want a coach “with training wheels,” were quickly redefined.

LoGiudice said the decision was based on the coach’s skill set rather than it being “a popularity contest”.

The list looked promising after star forward Charlie Curnow kicked seven goals in Teague’s second game as coach. In his third game, he hurt his knee. He would not play again until round 20 this year, missing 44 of Teague’s games in between.

COVID-19 hits and football departments flounder

Carlton reacted swiftly to COVID-19 in March 2020, cutting football department costs to ride out the storm. Henry Playfair, VFL coach Josh Fraser, Jason Davenport and casual specialist coaches Saverio Rocca, Greg Williams and Hamish McIntosh were immediately cut or stood down before finishing up.

The Blues finished 11th but were 13th for points against, managing just seven wins in 17 games. They retained their assistants for 2021 and John Worsfold mentored Teague from Perth.

Revamped Carlton expect to deliver

When Teague was unveiled as coach, Blues CEO Cain Liddle said: “a lot of our heavy lifting’s been done now”.

Carlton CEO Cain Liddle.

Carlton CEO Cain Liddle.Credit:Getty Images

The comment raised expectations rather than eyebrows.

After all, Andrew Russell and Brad Lloyd had joined at the end of 2018 as fitness boss and football manager respectively after Mick Agresta had become recruiting manager at the start of that year. Then Nick Austin replaced Stephen Silvagni as list manager at the start of 2020.

The Blues headed into 2021 selling messages of hope. Mitch McGovern, Adam Saad, Jack Martin and Zac Williams had been recruited and the club had added 12 first-round selections via the draft over six years.

Highly regarded Carlton voice Robert Walls conveyed what was at stake when he told The Age that if Teague, who is contracted until the end of 2022, did not make finals the Blues would have to consider what other options were available.

Tactics and system

The Blues conceded more than 100 points in their first two games in 2021, exposing a lack of defensive system.

Senior players began to lose faith in the coach who they had backed to the hilt in 2019 and he appeared to lose faith in them too. When he botched the chance to back in captain Patrick Cripps at a press conference hours after The Age revealed the skipper was battling a serious back injury, Teague’s reputation took a hit.

Teague declared the Blues wanted to score, but they were unable to beat the top eight teams and headed into the bye with four wins and eight losses. The assistant coaches were working with a huge cloud over their future as a review was called. By round 21 they were 15th for points conceded, having just lost to Gold Coast.

The decision-makers

At each crisis point the club attempted to show action, but the departures just left Teague exposed.

LoGiudice revealed in April he would be stepping down at year’s end. Judd, the football director, said he would go then, too.

During the bye, long-running assistant John Barker told the club he wouldn’t be there in 2022 and though he was willing to stay until the end of the season, the club’s preference was for him to depart immediately. That left an already stretched football department another man down.

Meanwhile, Sayers spoke to players in Sydney before calling for an independent review in a move that backed up sources who suggested the tail often wags the dog at Carlton, a club perceived as happy being comfortable.

Now Sayers will make the decision on whether the Blues retain Teague or appoint a new coach.

As a member of the board since 2012, Sayers, a change agent and successful businessman, has seen Carlton do that on several occasions already. Blues board member David Campbell was on the selection panel that chose Bolton before joining the club as a director in 2018.

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