The 2000's: A SummaryThe first decade of the 21st century started well enough for the Carlton Football Club, with finals performances in 2000 and 2001. In particular, the Blues of 2000 were a force to be reckoned with and who could tell how far we could have gone, albeit against the super-impressive Bomber outfit, if Champ and future Captain Anthony Koutoufides had not hurt his knee near the end of the season.
But years of trading early picks and recruiting senior players of other clubs, began to hurt the Club in 2002 when a spate of injuries to senior players saw the Blues crash to our first wooden spoon performance. In the wash-up, the Blues sacked coach Wayne Brittain after two years in the job for proven Kangaroo Coach Denis Pagan.
This was not to be the end of the turmoil at Carlton, with severe draft penalties imposed by the AFL as a result of 'cheating' the salary cap stripped away prime draft picks in both the 2002 draft (the penalties were announced 3 days before the actual day, delivering Brendan Goddard and Daniel Wells to the Saints and Roos respectively) and 2003 drafts, dramatically affecting our ability to recruit at a time when the careers of McKay, Ratten, Silvagni and Bradley were ending.
Faced with a depleted list and the lack of draft picks, many fans knew that we were in for a few years of pain. Lucky to avoid the wooden spoon in 2003 by coming 15th, the successful club was further brought to its knees with financial problems and the continuation of a number of long-dated contracts to senior players. In the background were moves to leave Optus Oval and secure a new home elsewhere in Melbourne.
The list in 2003 was dramatically turned over, leading to the 'Great Retreading' of 2003 where a number of players from other clubs were offered second chances at Carlton. Harford, Johnson, Mott, Clarke, Scotland, Teague, Morrell and McGrath, together with mature aged players in the lower leagues were selected for the Blues. Whether it was the second chances offered, Carlton rose to secure 10 wins in 2004, and more importantly, were able to fully participate in the 2004 draft, securing Russell and Hartlett with early selections.
But the retreading policies were seen to backfire as Carlton dropped to our second spoon in 4 years, also in our history, with only 4 1/2 wins for the 2005 season. Life was not going to get any easier in Season 2006 with our second consecutive wooden spoon from 1 fewer win in the year. The Blues had been floored - of course partially by our own hand - and would be looking to the future.
Perhaps one of the hardest things to cope with in this era was the big thrashings at the hands of other Clubs. In fact, from 2002 to half way through 2007, the Blues had suffered 26 10 goal + losses (24 from 2003 to 2007), an average of almost 5 a year. The point margins in our losses is highlighted here.
But in the modern era the team that flounders is also the team that prospers through draft picks. With the succession of poor performances, Carlton began to build a promising young list, including 3 #1 Draft Picks in succession in Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs and Matthew Kreuzer. In addition, off-field the Blues were rescued from 2007 onwards by the arrival of billionaire businessman Richard Pratt, who made key appointments to the Club as the Blues sought to restore their chances. The arrival of Greg Swann off-field was shortly followed by the arrival of Chris Judd on-field, and by 2008, the wins began to re-appear.
A selection of some of Carlton's great wins of the decade, including a strong output from 2000-2001 and 2008, can be found here.
At long last, the Blues returned to Finals Football in 2009, breaking our longest ever finals drought. A disappointing last quarter fadeout would bring a bad taste to everyone's mouth, but it potentially masked a vast improvement on Season 2008. And with that taste in our mouth, could this spur the Blues on to greater events in the following decade?