Time out: Coaching turmoil is all part of the game

JOHN Elliott cut all Saints supporters to the core when he called the club a "rabble" in 2001.

To be fair, we did love a sensational sacking back in the day. They were our speciality, particularly around the turn of the millennium. 

A good mid-season dumping; the more unexpected and undeserved the better. 

Stan Alves took us to a grand final one year then got given the boot at the end of the next. 

Tim Watson was enticed out of the news chair and into the coaches box after that. As a coach, he made an excellent news reader. He lasted two years.

Then we did something fairly epic in that fateful year of 2001. We lured Malcolm Blight out of his Queensland retirement with a few games of golf and a $1 million pay cheque. "The messiah of Moorabbin", he was pronounced.

It took him 15 rounds until he was out the door.

Saints supporters of all types were all over the newspapers cutting up memberships and burning scarves.

It was a winter of discontent. Many swore they would cease to support the misguided club.

My dad, a devoted Saints man, said he would never going to go to another match again after the round 15 drubbing at the hands of Adelaide. 

He even got rid of his vast array of parachute St Kilda jackets, unceremoniously turfed into a plastic bag and taken down to the local op shop.

Not content with just a clean out of clothes, my dad did something else rather embarrassing at the time to prove his point. Nae, still rather embarrassing now. 

He was one of the bitter sad cases appearing in a rival daily newspaper, moaning the Saints' ability to royally mess everything up again and again. 

But instead of the standard membership-and-scissors photo, the photographer had a different vision for his anti-Saints photo.

He appeared on the front page in my kids-sized beanie. 

Not only that, but he was holding a red, black and white teddy bear by the scruff of the neck and staring at it menacingly, projecting all his hurt and anger the club had inflicted on him over the decades at my childhood toy called Plugger.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I'm not even sure a thousand words will sufficiently describe the true horror of that photo.

But the next season, with Grant Thomas at the helm, my dad was back, parachute Saints jacket in hand. I suspect that trip to Vinnies was never quite completed.

He was back on good terms with Plugger the teddy again, buoyed by the hope of a fresh start, a new plan, some good signings and a couple of high draft picks.

The history books show that that didn't end too smoothly either- just some bitter in-fighting, a legal case between the head coach and the president, another sacking etc. 

But the irony of John Elliott's infamous rabble call has not evaded me in the past week. 

Carlton has made decisions similar to those which got the Saints in that jacket-throwing-out state at the turn of the century.

Sacking a club champion who has a fairly decent win/loss record was not a great thing for club or supporter morale.

Brett Ratten took a habitually struggling team and continually improved their position on the ladder, save this year. Even Mark Thompson had a few bum years at Geelong before leading the club to two premierships.

Now the Blues board seem hellbent on signing the former coach of an arch-rival, Mick Malthouse.

Putting every hope and dream on one person with a massive pay cheque is fraught with danger, as seen with Blighty and even at their own club with Denis Pagan.

Recent history also suggests Mick is not going to get Carlton a premiership in the next two years before Chris Judd is out of his prime. 

If you look back, six of the last seven premiership coaches have been first club coaches. Malthouse is the only exception but it took him ten years to get there.

I swear I'm not saying this out of 11 years of stewing bitterly on being called a rabble. 

I'm saying this so no other impressionable 13-year-old has to see their father on the front page of a newspaper staring maliciously at a teddy bear.

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