Former Carlton coach Denis Pagan says the Blues have never recovered since they were heavily punished for breaching the salary cap by the AFL in 2002.
Carlton were stripped of draft picks No. 1, 2, 31 and 34 from the 2002 National Draft, all selections in the 2003 Pre-season Draft and its first and second round draft picks in the 2003 National Draft for under-the-table payments made to certain players on the Blues’ list.
On top of losing valuable draft picks, the club were fined almost one million dollars, and Pagan believes Carlton has failed to recover since the substantial punishments.
“Carlton should have handed the keys back in, those penalties were really draconian,” he told SEN Afternoons.
“You’re reminded of how tough it was then. The club was in disarray, it was virtually toxic. There were fractures and splits everywhere in the club.
“Disunity right from the top to the bottom, and my agenda was that we had an old list, we’re paying them too much money and we want you to get some good young talent in.
“We tried to do it, and it probably created even further problems, and the reality is, I know there’s been a few own goals along the way, but if you look at Carlton, have they recovered from that yet?
“I would say no. Carlton used to be a great club; a real destination club.
“People wanted to come there, their arrogance and their strength was unsurpassed, their record with premierships. But if you look at them now, they’re a shadow of their former self – I don’t think they’ve recovered.
Pagan doesn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel in the near future for the embattled club due to their inability to keep hold of their experienced players.
“Not for five or six years,” he said.
“That’s only my opinion by the way, but I don’t think people realise how tough it is to get to the top and actually win a flag – it’s nearly an impossible task.
“You need a lot of things to fall into place. Carlton were on the back foot with injuries at the start of the year: Marc Murphy was injured and Sam Docherty doing his knee didn’t help things, losing Bryce Gibbs, it just takes a couple of guns out of the side.
“If you think of all the players that Carlton have let go: Eddie Betts, Sam Jacobs, Mitch Robinson, Jeff Garlett, Shaun Grigg, there’s probably ten others that you could pick, they had that even spread.
“They’ve let too many go and even Lachie Henderson and Zac Tuohy, and you think to yourself: what are the reasons for that?
“They fight hard to keep Marc Murphy, but Tuohy and Henderson go out of the place.”
However, the two-time North Melbourne premiership coach sympathises with under-fire Blues coach Brendon Bolton.
“I feel sorry for Brendon Bolton,” Pagan said.
“It’s a battle he can’t win at the moment and I see him at press conferences and I think: the poor bloke having to come up and face that when the reality is he is losing players left right and centre.
“He didn’t want to lose Bryce Gibbs. With Patrick Cripps and Charlie Curnow you can build a team around them; they’re just so exciting to watch.
“I just hope Carlton get a bit of luck, get a couple of players in later picks that can come in and they can find another Kade Simpson or another Marc Murphy without having to be a first pick.
“I’ve seen four of five coaches at Carlton get blamed for the scenario of what’s happened there, it’s a much bigger picture than that.
“Everyone involved at the club has got to take some responsibility. I’ll tell you what, I’ve never seen any coach make strawberry jam out of cow manure.
“It’s going to take a hell of a lot longer than I thought.”
Listen to Denis Pagan’s in-depth chat about Carlton’s current plight on SEN Afternoons with Andy Maher in the player below