Brendon Bolton has taken the radical step of starting his AFL senior coaching career as a Carlton employee, not on a contract.
Blues chief executive Steven Trigg took the same step four years ago at Adelaide for the last year of Neil Craig’s coaching tenure.
But Craig had coached Adelaide since 2004 – Bolton is untried and at a club reeling from Mick Malthouse’s disastrous tenure.
“It’s as simple as some protection in there for Brendon and his family, some protection for Carlton, but otherwise we go into this a long-term horizon,” Trigg said.
Bolton is also a rarity in senior coaching because he has no AFL playing experience.
He narrowly secured the Carlton job ahead of John Barker, who has earned massive respect since taking over when Malthouse was sacked in May.
Only a few hours after helping run training in his Hawks tracksuit, 36-year-old Bolton fronted a packed media conference at Carlton on Tuesday afternoon in a club suit and tie.
Bolton was deliberately more serious than his bubbly personality when he coached the Hawks for five games last season, pledging he will be ruthless when it is needed.
He said it would be a balance between bringing people with him and making sure the job gets done.
“I have an idea of how I’m going to go around that,” Bolton said.
“You’ll see both sides, that’s the ride you’re on as a coach.
“I understand that.”
Bolton has an impressive football resume, starting in Tasmania and joining Hawthorn seven years ago.
His stocks soared last year when he coached the Hawks to five-straight AFL wins while Alastair Clarkson recovered from illness.
“I probably only got the job last year because I was the only coach he could look down on,” short-statured Bolton said with a grin.
He also learned some invaluable lessons during that taste of senior coaching.
“It’s about being reliable, not remarkable – I learned it was the sum of the parts,” he said.
“I also learned you need to be yourself … be authentic.
“We need to be an authentic footy club.”
Given Carlton’s lack of sustained success for more than a decade, Bolton and Barker went through a particularly-rigorous selection process.
But Bolton had plenty of his own questions in about nine hours of talks.
The first topic he wanted information about was the Blues’ much-criticised playing list.
“I do want the list to understand it’s a blank canvas as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
“I don’t have too many preconceived ideas.”
Bolton said he had deeply-conflicted feelings on Monday night when Carlton told him he had the job.
Earlier in the day, he was among mourners at the funeral of Cooper Ratten, whose father Brett is another Hawks assistant coach.
“Today, (it’s) genuine excitement about trying to lay a platform for sustained success,” Bolton said.
There was speculation about when Bolton would start, given the Hawks are on the verge of another finals series.
But they confirmed on Tuesday that he would switch clubs by the end of the week once he handed over his assistant duties as forward line coach to Damian Carroll.
Barker will coach Carlton for their last two games, giving Bolton a chance to ease into his job.
Trigg said Carlton will also wait until the end of the season before Barker’s future at the club is decided.
“Someone who has done such a wonderful job for us and shown deep care for the club gets our care in return,” Trigg said.
Meanwhile, Trigg also moved to scotch speculation that ruckman Matthew Kreuzer could leave the club at the end of the season.