Bolts turning the Blues’ screws
MAKING Carlton - the owner of a league-record 16 premierships - great again is one of the toughest jobs in football.
But, Neil Craig can't speak highly enough of the work Brendon Bolton is doing to rebuild the Blues.
The veteran mentor had played in two premierships in the South Australian National Football League with Norwood (1975, 1978) before Bolton had even been born.
The 60-year-old, who is now at his fourth AFL club in an off-field role, has been impressed with the leadership shown by the Blues' new senior coach that has been far beyond his tender 36 years.
"He's got a really clear picture of where he wants the footy club to go, and he's got a really clear plan of how to get there," the Carlton Director of Coaching, Development and Performance (left) tells Australian Regional Media.
"And his propensity to articulate that plan to his players and his staff is very, very good.
"He's very inclusive with his staff, so he's certainly not a one-man band. He's been involved in their selection, so he's prepared to delegate and give them ownership."
One of them was Craig, who had been Adelaide's longest-serving head coach (2004-2011), before spending four turbulent seasons in Melbourne - two as the director of sports performance with the Demons (2012-2013), and another two as head of coaching development and strategy with the Bombers (2014-2015).
"Essendon and Melbourne were tough environments, but they were good experiences, different to what I'm doing now, more management-type roles," Craig said.
"I'm back to what I call frontline football, involved with the players, the coaches. It's been my passion since I stopped playing."
With Bolton leading the charge, the Carlton coaching panel is overseeing the development of a list that has dropped from being the seventh most experienced to 12th, but has young talent such as Patrick Cripps and Jacob Weitering thriving.
"He (Bolton) brings a unique skill set, being a high-performance teacher," Craig said.
"His capacity to create a really strong learning environment is very, very good.
"The whole development growth curve is huge for them. But certainly for these younger guys at our football club we couldn't be happier with the way they're going about their work."
Part of that development is becoming good travellers, starting with a visit to Metricon Stadium tonight to play the Gold Coast.
"We see this as a really positive opportunity to travel and perform," Craig said. "To where Brendon wants to take the team, you've got to be really strong performer when you travel interstate.
"They are additional skills that are required - different routine, different environment - but nothing to be afraid of, you've just got to experience it.
"We're going out there with a very positive mindset."
The Blues are leaving behind the media storm that blew up during the week in the wake of player Blaine Boekhorst's dive to win a free kick in the loss to Sydney.
"I think it's been blown out of proportion," Craig said.
"Brendon addressed it really quickly with the playing group.
"It's just a one-off situation. It's not a trend for us. We don't expect it to be a trend. We don't want it to be a trend.
"I'm sure it won't be an issue for our football club."