AFL 29 days ago

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart."

  • “The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart."
After Saturday’s crushing loss to Fremantle, given the poor performance in the first half, I wish I’d have said that quote after reading some of the putrid comments on social media and listening to some of the callers on the radio. 

I’m not going to dredge up how poor we played on Saturday or point fingers in the direction of the disgusting comments by some on social media: calling specific people names, really horrible ones; laying the blame on the coaches and calling them, again horrible names, as it shows one thing and one thing only, your level of intelligence. There is not one Carlton supporter, player, or coach who is not upset by what happened yesterday, but debasing it with name calling, tearing up your membership, not coming to another game, solves and proves nothing.

One of the greatest soccer managers, Bill Shankly of Liverpool, took a second division team and made them a powerhouse they are today. Did it happen overnight? No. Did it happen over a year or two? No.  It took time, it took patience and it took a lot of strength of character not only from the players but from the supporters who, like Carlton, wanted more from their club – that is to win, to be amongst the best.  He said, ‘If you can’t support us when we lose or draw, don’t support us when we win.’  The callers who said on the radio that they are sick of what is happening at the club and will be cutting up their membership and will not support the club anymore - well, do it. You are not the type of supporter Carlton or any club needs.  You cannot state that you are a true supporter of any club if you cannot stick by them through the bad times, the really bad times. 

In August 2009, Damien Hardwick, an Assistant Coach with Alistair Clarkson at Hawthorn, became Head Coach at Richmond.  In that year, the team finished 15th with a total membership of 35, 960.  It was to take him another 7 more years to get the team to be the number one team and for the club to get to 72,669 members.  When Richmond was finishing ‘ninth again’ his name was bandied around as someone who should not be coaching the club, me as well, as you could just not see what his vision was.  We were all wrong.  The Board, the club, the players, stood by him and believed in what he could achieve, and he did and is still doing; now the bandwagon supporters of that club claim him as a hero and one they had utter faith in.

Brendon Bolton was an Assistant Coach at the same club Hardwick was at, under the same senior coach.  Both coaches have categorically come out and stated their support for Bolts as a senior coach.  They believe in his ability to lead a team.  The players and the club also believe in his ability; it is a shame that for a lot of supporters, they just can’t see this.  What happened at Richmond was a steady growth which took them 7 years to get to the top, a steady growth and a consistency in who got them there. We are no different.

There is another saying that ‘sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.’ This is true with the Carlton FC and the supporters who want Bolts head along with the administration and assistant coaches; they don’t understand or don’t want to understand not only the history behind what has made Carlton linger in the bottom 8 for so long, because they really don’t have what it takes to support them during what is a very lean period and a time when a line has been drawn in the sand in its history. 

Carlton has been a club that has had to put a line in the sand and stated categorically that the past is just that, a past no-one can change which is in no fault of the current administration, but because of what has happened in the past.  Some supporters don’t understand this and some media commentators either don’t understand or are blinded by their sheer bias against Carlton. But we have to forget what happened before Bolts and understand what is happening now. 

Bolts and the team, who are firmly behind him, understand categorically what is needed to make the club great again. They understand that 2018 is a year of learning in all aspects of the game. We cannot expect a club that has been dealt so many rough hands and knee-jerk reactions to just go through the same knee-jerk reactions again.  It proves and solves NOTHING! For a young player to be able to learn and grow stronger, quicker and more resilient, they have to have the consistency not only on the field but at a club level where the faces are familiar and also the right ones.   Consistency on the field is one where a young player is thrown into the deep end of a senior game and is able to learn not only from things that go right but things that go wrong.  McKayla Maroney was a USA Olympic gymnast gold medallist who said ‘don’t practice till you get it right, practice till you can’t get it wrong.’  We have to allow the young players to play in a way that allows them to become the stars we know they will become and that means that they will get things right and will also get things very wrong, as they did on Saturday.

Bill Belichick, one of the greatest USA NFL coaches of all time said, ‘there is an old saying about the strength of a wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that, on a football team. It’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they function together.’ Carlton right now, after the line was drawn in the sand, has to be able to let the team unite and function together as one solid, cohesive team that understand not only the game but each other on the field.  This takes time and it takes an understanding of a huge learning curve of experience that is needed to ensure that this happens.  

Saturday’s result, while immensely disappointing, is a learning experience. It is one whereby some supporters just don’t get it and resort to appalling name calling, tearing up memberships, not supporting the club and not believing in the possibilities of the future.  We were all disappointed in what happened, and I know venting is the best way to get out frustration and anger, but it takes a strength in character to be able to proudly support a club that is down-trodden and not succeeding in a way that they should be or in a time frame that these supporters insist should happen.

During the American Civil War,  writer Robert Green Ingersoll said, ‘the greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.’ Our hearts may have broken just a little on Saturday, but it’s not lost, because, in the end, I believe in what Bill Shankly said and I have both the courage to bear this defeat and not lose my heart and support the club when its down at the bottom and I hope that the players know this is what the true supporters of this club feel - for our time will come, it will come.


P.S. Proudly wore my Carlton scarf today when I went out.

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