Carlton coach Brendon Bolton has deflected praise to the AFL club’s on-field leaders, saying they are driving change.
The Blues collected the wooden spoon in 2015 and were widely predicted to struggle during Bolton’s first season in charge.
Instead Bolton’s charges will be shooting for a fourth straight win on Sunday, when they host Port Adelaide at Etihad Stadium.
Bolton suggested skipper Marc Murphy and the entire leadership group were responsible for the new-found competitive streak.
“You take your hat off to all the leaders, in particular Murph,” Bolton said.
“We’ve been trying to build leadership density and if they can become an extension of the coaching staff, that’s really important to us.
“It’s about emphasising messages from the coaches, it’s about investing in other youngsters.”
Murphy was no guarantee to be leading the club at all during the off-season, when Bolton reviewed every aspect of the side.
Bolton paid tribute to the way Murphy and his colleagues have accepted some “new ways of thinking”.
“But also more importantly how much they’ve wanted to change and improve themselves,” he said.
That includes Kade Simpson, who plays his 250th game this weekend.
“He’s one who gives a lot of instruction out on the ground .. and just being able to tell his stories to youngsters,” Bolton said.
“He goes back with the flight regularly … I’m proud for him and proud for his family.”
Bolton grinned when asked if the Blues were a sneaky chance of featuring in the finals.
“That’s an interesting question. We’ve said before we’re all about equilibrium,” he said.
“We have so much to change … everything’s not ok at the moment. We’ve got a long way to go.
“It’s easy to think everything’s ok when you win three games but we understand there’s lots to improve upon.”
But Alastair Clarkson’s former right-hand man agreed that confidence is rising at the club.
“There’s some real belief in our system and they’re feeling that themselves,” he said.