On Sunday afternoon, I sat in the rather large and unexpected crowd at Etihad Stadium and I was perplexed, confused, and rather astonished at what I saw. I left the ground still in that same frame of mind, trying to understand or comprehend what I saw and then would you believe at about midnight, I nodded my head, smiled and whispered, “Ok then!” What has this got to do with Carlton’s performance on Saturday, well indulge me for a few minutes.
I have said that with St. Kilda it is a bit like a lucky dip, you don’t know what you’re getting until match day. One week they are abysmal, the next scintillating. On Saturday, Carlton got the scintillating side and it floored them. Some supporters would say that Carlton got too cocky and came into the match believing they had it in the bag. Maybe. Some say that we are going backwards and that the remnants of the old, previous years Carlton crept into the team. Don’t think so. Reality is that we lacked an intensity that we had had in previous matches. We lacked cohesiveness, intelligent footy and we got scared. If you put all of this together, we got a team that was not nearly the same team of previous games and if you put it all into perspective, the team really gained much from this match.
I am of the firm belief that with failure there is a great learning experience and that no-one really learns a lot about overcoming adversity without being in an adverse position. If anyone believed that our success so far means that there is an expectation of top 8 successes this year, then they are delusional. This year is not about winning or losing it is about learning. It is about learning how to win against top sides and how to win against those sides that have something to prove and St. Kilda was just that. This season is about ensuring that Carlton become a power force after years of abysmal footy and this cannot be achieved in one season or without the great heights of success and the depressing falls of failure.
This Sunday the team failed but it will be one that will cut deep within the players’ minds and it will be one that will spur them on to not repeat the same mistake. But mistakes will be made, the team will lose again this season, but what it will gain for the future will be to learn from that. It takes time, it takes experience and it takes an understanding of what needs to be done.
This loss was confusing given the past matches, but given time, Carlton will learn from this and confusion will not be how come they lost, but to clarity in a playing group and winners at the end of the match. But it takes time. This loss in season 2016 should not deter players, coaches or supporters, because no-one learns from success in a year when the footy world’s expectations of Carlton have far exceeded everyone’s. Learn from the losses, build resilience, build confidence, build skills and with time, these losses will be just a blur in a Carlton players, coaches and supporters memory.