Is Mick Malthouse reaping what he has sown?

Date: May 25, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

malthouseMick Malthouse is set to equal a 66-year-old record and he is not happy.

The Carlton supremo will be coaching his 714th VFL/AFL game, drawing level with Collingwood legend Jock McHale who coached the Magpies for an astounding 38 years during which time he contested 16 grand finals for seven premierships.

Malthouse is in his 31st year as a senior coach, a run only broken with a year off in 2012. He has coached four clubs – Western Bulldogs, West Coast, Collingwood and the Blues.

He took the Bulldogs to a preliminary final in 1985; West Coast to the 1992 and ’94 premierships from three grand finals; and Collingwood to the 2010 flag having drawn with St Kilda the week before. He also coached the Magpies in three losing grand finals – 2002, 2003 and 2011.

Some may argue that his record of three premierships is a little lean – the likes of Allan Jeans, David Parkin, Tom Hafey, Leigh Matthew and Ron Barassi each won four in considerably fewer seasons while Norm Smith guided Melbourne to six flags in 16 years. But, that aside, Malthouse’s record is nonetheless a great one.

To have coached more games than any other man – which he will achieve against his previous club Collingwood next Friday night – is a mighty achievement. When the cue is eventually placed in the rack he will be an automatic Hall of Fame inductee.

Yet in the week leading up to equalling the record the talk in the media has not been about the milestone but rather Malthouse’s immediate tenure at the Blues.

The opening three rounds of the season have produced losses. Carlton’s ANZAC Day encounter tomorrow against St Kilda at Wellington looms as a major challenge to Malthouse and his team.

Most pundits pre-season predicted the Saints to finish the year in the bottom three with many having them as the wooden spooner.

On top of Carlton’s 0-3 start to the season have come comments earlier this week from club CEO Steven Trigg, who when asked whether Malthouse still had the energy to coach, said “Mick is 61 and it’s a long season. Mick needs to ask the question, ‘Does he still have the energy?’”

Hardly a ringing endorsement and again it comes in the week he will create league history.

Many in the media at present seemingly have an agenda and it appears that does not involve lauding Malthouse for his career record and longevity.

Malthouse has gone on record this week about the toll the current media speculation is having on his family, saying “I think there is an insensitivity and a little bit of disrespect … my wife is the same age as me and she has been in tears two or three times in the last week because of things that have been written.

It is interesting to ponder why the media coverage has been as it has in the last fortnight.

Could it be the fact that throughout his three-decade coaching career Malthouse has been a particularly prickly, and at times, abrasive and rude customer? As a commentator with the national broadcaster in Perth during Malthouse’s decade-long tenure with the Eagles I had the opportunity to view him close-up and witnessed many a stoush with the football media.

His behaviour and media interaction last season was bad enough to lead the Carlton administration to offer a rebuke and called upon him to tone it down as it was not casting the club in a good light. His aggressive nature over the journey has rubbed many a journalist up the wrong way and in the end everyone is human.

At present there are two stories running in parallel – the coaching record and the club’s season record.

Given the choice it appears many scribes are opting for the latter, and dare I say it, those members of the fourth estate who have chosen to do so are no doubt enjoying it.

Injuries and suspensions aside, before the season is out membership of the AFL’s 400-game club double with Dustin Fletcher and Brent Harvey joining Kevin Bartlett and record-holder Michael Tuck (426) in a very select group. Both will be lauded and many column centimetres will be dedicated to their journey and the rarity of their achievement.

Fletcher, at 39 years of age and in a record-breaking 23rd year in the AFL, started the season on 393 games. Already he has been effectively rested once this season. When he didn’t suit up for the second round his coach James Hird said that had it been a final he would have played but it was decided to give him another week.

In all likelihood the same will happen several more times during the season and not surprisingly given he will turn 40 in a fortnight!

But one wonders whether the week leading in to his milestone game the focus will be more on how he may have potentially ‘limped’ there this year. I doubt it will and I don’t think it should be either.

Both he and Harvey will achieve an exceptionally rare feat.

For Malthouse though his record will not be a rare one but a unique one – a one-off, all-time leading performance. And yet, at present the focus is not on the journey and the significance of the feat but the trials of the past few weeks.

Could it simply be a case of Mick reaping what he has sown for the media have long memories?

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 24 April 2015, soliciting 12 comments