Brad Scott’s sudden departure from North Melbourne briefly stole the headlines but, by Sunday evening, Carlton were firmly back in the AFL spotlight.
Besieged coach Brendon Bolton was again left despondent after the bottom-placed Blues endured their ninth defeat from 10 rounds, losing 9.14 (68) to 8.7 (55) to fellow battlers St Kilda in a forgettable encounter at Marvel Stadium.
Scott’s amicable exit – which had been weeks in the making but made public and finalised within a 48-hour period – has intensified focus on the job security of several of his peers, including Saints coach Alan Richardson and Essendon’s John Worsfold.
But no coach enters the midway point of the season under more pressure than Bolton, given his side have won just four of their past 42 games.
Citing a lack of composure as the key reason for the latest defeat, Bolton acknowledged some of his players were battling under the external scrutiny.
“I think from time to time, maybe with some of the younger guys, it can creep in because they haven’t learnt it yet,” Bolton said.
“But we’ve been in this industry for a long time and we’ve got to make sure – and this is what high-performing athletes do – they zone in on what they’ve got to do.
“You can’t control the narrative on the outside. It only blurs you.”
Scott, after coaching North Melbourne to an emotional 25-point win over the Western Bulldogs on Saturday in his farewell game, denies having spoken to any other clubs.
But there is speculation he might link up with Carlton – a far more financially secure club than the Kangaroos – should they move on Bolton at season’s end.
A defiant Bolton reiterated that the club, including president Mark LoGiudice, remained united and would not bow to outside pressure.
“We, as a club, are not being dictated to by the outside,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean that we’re not annoyed and frustrated we haven’t got results and we’re driving high standards but we can’t be taken off course. And we’re not going to be.”
Pacesetters Geelong, Collingwood, GWS, Richmond and West Coast all bolstered their premiership claims in the annual Sir Doug Nicholls indigenous round.
The Cats remain a game clear on top of the ladder after downing Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium, while second-placed Collingwood’s tense Friday-night victory over Sydney at the SCG ensures they also have a four-point buffer.
GWS were far too good for battling Melbourne, Richmond beat an injury-depleted Essendon in the Dreamtime at the ‘G game and premiers West Coast stormed back from a 33-point deficit to beat the Crows at Adelaide Oval.
Hawthorn maintained their strong record in Launceston with a 12.8 (80) to 6.13 (49) win over Port Adelaide, while Fremantle snuck home 10.13 (73) to 10.12 (72) over Brisbane after the final siren in the Sunday twilight game at Optus Stadium.