Carlton great Sheldon backs Bolton


Sheldon, who played in three premierships with Carlton before coaching St Kilda into the finals for the first time for 18 years in 1991, said the club was midway into a marathon and changing the coach now would push them further away from their goal.

“We have to leave it to the people that are in those roles and support them to achieve what they are aiming to achieve in the quickest time,” Sheldon said.

Bolton has received strong support from the club in the role including being sent on an authentic leadership course at Harvard last December, which Bolton admitted had given him a slightly different outlook heading into 2019.

The club appointed former Hawthorn conditioning expert Andrew Russell this season and Brad Lloyd has been football manager for less than 12 months, while experienced Carlton legend Robert Walls is working in a mentoring role.

While Bolton’s hard-working approach is considered both his greatest strength and weakness, the club is understood to have seen no red flags in the way he operates and his efforts to evolve were evident in the off-season.

The challenge for a coach in his position with such a dire win-loss record remains delegating and accepting the judgments of those who raise questions about how best to move forward when the pressure is fierce, as it appears to be right now for Bolton with no one under any illusions that wins are needed.

Ken Sheldon brought the struggling St Kilda back to September action as coach.Credit:The Age

The board backed Bolton immediately after the devastating 93-point loss to Greater Western Sydney with the skipper Patrick Cripps holding a players-only meeting at the club on Tuesday where some “home truths” were told.

The Blues have been competitive in seven of nine games this season but have managed to win just one, losing two games by less than a goal.

Their decision to trade away this year’s first pick for Adelaide’s to obtain Liam Stocker in last year’s national draft is evidence they were expecting to rise up the ladder this season.

In the round seven loss to North Melbourne, the Blues fielded a team with fewer than 1500 games combined experience for just the second time in Bolton’s reign (the other time was in the club’s 90-point loss to Port Adelaide in 2017), while their leaders did not stand up when required against the Giants.

In 2018, the Brisbane Lions won just one of their first 13 games with the measured Chris Fagan in charge. Since then, they have won 10 of their next 18, and currently sit fourth on the ladder with six wins this year.

There are 16 players that remain on Carlton the list since Bolton was appointed in 2016, with the club undertaking a huge rebuild after the selection panel of football director Chris Judd, former CEO Steven Trigg, former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou and Sheldon chose him ahead of other candidates Scott Burns and loyal assistant coach John Barker.

Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.

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