Malthouse safe as alltime AFL great

It will be cold consolation right now for Mick Malthouse, but history will not remember him for the ugly nature of his departure from Carlton.

This will be but a footnote for the most experienced coach in AFL history, who led West Coast to their first two flags in 1992 and 1994 and then took Collingwood to the promised land in 2010.

Not to mention 174 games as a player with St Kilda and Richmond, the most memorable one being as a member of the Tigers’ record-breaking premiership team in 1980.

Who recalls that the great Allan Jeans ended his coaching career with a sorry single season with the Tigers.

Or that Doug Hawkins played one final year with Fitzroy after 329 games for his beloved Bulldogs?

Ditto Malthouse.

For the only man in AFL history to represent six clubs as a player or coach, the end – shambolic as it undoubtedly was – will be little more than a post-script.

Anyway, as the old saying goes there are only two types of coaches – those that have been sacked and those about to be sacked.

And given the combative nature of Malthouse as a coach, player and man, he was never going to go quietly.

His departure from Collingwood in 2011 was also a messy affair, with Malthouse falling out very publicly with president Eddie McGuire over the succession plan to replace him with Nathan Buckley.

Those wounds have taken a long time to heal, but Malthouse will always hold an honoured place at Collingwood as a flag-winning coach, especially having arrived at the Magpies when they were a basket-case in 2000.

He is even more revered at West Coast.

As Eagles legend Glen Jakovich told AAP last month on the eve of him breaking Jock McHale’s record for the most games coached, Malthouse taught him life lessons he followed to this day.

“Mick changed the whole dynamic of football in Western Australia,” Jakovich said.

“He knew how the Victorians operated, how it all worked, and he brought a hard-nosed edge to our organisation.

“He’s an intimidating figure but it’s what makes him so good at what he does.”

Malthouse has always been seen as a players’ coach, rather than one who spent time currying favour with club powerbrokers.

Even as the hapless Blues slipped to last spot on the ladder this year, the likes of Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs went out of their way to back Malthouse in public.

Sure it would have been preferable if the players had backed up those words with better performances on the field where it really mattered.

But given the sorry state of Carlton’s playing list – one that Malthouse has to take some of the responsibility for – it likely wouldn’t have made much difference.

The board’s insistence that the club needed to rebuild – a concept which Malthouse insisted was a big part of the problem, demoralising players – will now be the responsibility of his successor.

Carlton have historically been seen as a club which eschewed the need for patient rebuilding, preferring instead to flex their financial muscle to attract the biggest names.

It was the approach that saw them make the disastrous decision to appoint Denis Pagan as coach back in 2003.

The same strategy saw the Blues chase and land Chris Judd. And Dale Thomas. And Malthouse himself.

But that Carlton’s messiah complex turned out to be a failed strategy should not be seen as a slight on Malthouse.

His place in the annals of the sport is assured.

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