Interim Blues coach John Barker. Photo: AFL Media/Getty ImagesSpare a thought for John Barker, as he tries to impress the Carlton board enough to land the senior coaching role at Carlton for 2016 and beyond.
After a 42-point loss to Fremantle at Domain Stadium on Saturday night, his next assignment is to get his young side ready to play Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium next Friday night.
“How did they go today?” he asked in the post-match press conference after the Blues’ loss to the Dockers.
“Beat Sydney by 89 points,” was the reply.
“Is that all? So that looks like it’s going to be a solid challenge next week.”
On Saturday night the Blues had 11 players on Domain Stadium with less than 50 games experience; Fremantle had four.
Plus Carlton had Brad Walsh on debut, Tom Fields in his second game and Nick Holman in his fifth. The difference in experience between the Blues and the Dockers was 940 games – which is nearly 43 games per player.
And when asked if there was anyone expected back from injury to help with their battle against the in-form Hawks (who have now won seven consecutive games and have moved into third spot on the ladder), Barker gave a nervous laugh when he full understood what his answer would be.
“Nah, in terms of injuries, we are still a couple of weeks away from having Nick Graham (foot injury), who has only played six games anyway,” he said. Graham has played six this year, for a total of just 16.
“That was our 40th player that we have played this year.”
The Gold Coast has also used 40; Fremantle just 28.
Already out for the remainder of the season are Dale Thomas (shoulder, with 182 games), Bryce Gibbs (pectoral muscle, 187) and Robbie Warnock (shoulder, 87, but not consistently in the starting line-up anyway).
Dennis Armfield (arm, 125), David Ellard (calf, 59) and Andrew Walker (knee, 186) are all expected back before the end of the season, but not next week.
Five of the Blues’ remaining seven games are against sides currently in the eight – the Hawks (twice), North Melbourne, Collingwood and the GWS.
But Barker said that he had a responsibility over the remaining rounds to improve the standard of play.
“What I can’t do is waste a half of season of footy and there is a lot that goes into that in terms of the standards that we need to lift to be a better football team,” he said. “And it’s not just about on the field and there is a lot in terms of the environment that creates a good club.
“At the moment, we don’t have much of a choice with our list in terms of who we play, so I think everyone understands where we are at; we know where we are at and we just have to make the most of the situation we are in and keep driving these boys to higher standards.
“We can’t keep missing easy targets, we can’t keep dropping easy marks if we want to be a good team.
“You miss those easy marks, those easy targets, you know, does it just etch away at your spirit a little bit…?
“It’s good for the Carlton people to see these young players, these inexperienced players play footy.
“There are a few of them who are really going to make up our future going forward and we just have to play with good method, but with an effort that lasts for four quarters.”
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