DON’T RIDE the rollercoaster.
Just as Carlton maintained it would look inwardly through a barren run of form earlier this year, the players are doing a similar thing after three straight wins.
Knowing there’s still plenty of hard work to come, the Blues could take heart from a successful trip to Perth, which saw them account for the Dockers by 53 points at Optus Stadium.
Once again, the result was typified by the Blues’ physicality and selflessness in equal measure, getting after their opposition while also finding teammates in better positions on the ground.
For veteran Sam Docherty, the players couldn’t - and won’t be - getting ahead of themselves.
“We try our very best not to listen [to the external noise]. It can be a dangerous rollercoaster . . . four of five weeks ago, everything is going wrong, nothing’s right — then, we play a few good games and the narrative starts to flip,” Docherty told AFL 360.
“We’ve got a long-term approach of what we’re trying to do, and I think we’re starting to see that over the past few weeks. It’s been a pleasing move into the football club that we want to be, what we stand for and what we want to be known as.”
It’s been that soul-searching which has been a turning point for the Blues in recent weeks. The on-field results, on face value, have been there for all to see: Carlton’s pressure rating is higher, time in forward half is well up and the team as a whole is taking its opportunities far more efficiently, leading to three wins of over 50 points.
But it’s been the off-field clarity which is fuelling the team on it.
Referring to the team and Club’s identity, Docherty drew on his own experiences and how - echoing what Patrick Cripps said last week - it’s in the bad times where personal growth is at its most prevalent.
“That six weeks is going to be a really important part of my football club’s journey. The hardest times in my own life have been when I learned the most about myself,” he said.
“We had a six-week block where we had to delve into who we are as a footy club, what we stand for, what our identity is as a group and what we want to focus on as a group moving forward. When you’re going through some tough times in footy, that’s where you figure out who you are as a player and why you play . . . searching for what we want to stand for as a club and what we want to be known for.
“There were some testing times over that period. There’s a lot of soul searching in terms of how we fix things: sometimes it’s just time, and that’s the hardest thing when we’re in a high-performance environment.”
Docherty and the Blues know the work well and truly isn’t done. There’s no greater reminder of that when you look at what imminently awaits: a Port Adelaide side in the best form of anyone in the competition with 13 straight wins.
But on the whole for the Blues, Docherty is very much hoping that the night is darkest just before the dawn.
“It’s been a journey. It’s been frustrating — for our fans, players and coaches.
“Nobody likes losing games of footy, but I feel like from a long-term perspective, this is going to pay us back.”