AFL 2023: The Cultural Shift of the Carlton Blues

The values ​​Carlton adopted as their credo in the strategic plan are as follows: Respect, Humility, Integrity, Unity, Excellence, Relentless.

The club’s official mission statement or purpose is “A united, inclusive and values-led club that thrives on and off the field and inspires a sense of passion, pride and belonging for our members, supporters and stakeholders.”

Notably, “values-based” comes before the mention of success.

Trying to teach Carlton humility might sound like a tall order considering big money still haunts the boardroom. However, Cook reckons humility is already evident in new leadership at the club.

“I get that,” the CEO said when asked about Carlton’s not-so-humble story. “This is visionary for us. But I believe that [humility] is a real behavior that is present at Carlton, has been present at Carlton for the past year or so.

Cook clarified the nature of Carlton’s newfound humility as one that involved the club with “inner confidence”. He explained the ambition as one carried quietly in Carlton’s breasts and not announced aloud. “It’s not the outward, gregarious, boisterous confidence. It is an inner achievement and inner confidence.”

Cook said coach Michael Voss – a former champion who presents himself with a mixture of confidence and unassuming down-to-earthness – is the best example of Carlton’s humility. “Who is your ideal model here? I would say it’s ‘Vossy’.

“It’s important that your leaders constantly demonstrate values.”

Touting humility and integrity – and virtuous values ​​- as essential to this revamped Carlton will evoke a mixture of eye rolls and laughter from fans at other clubs. But Cook and the board mean business. “We will not appoint leaders who do not have the right values,” the CEO said.

It’s possible that the old Carlton – a club that could humiliate rivals and plunder the poorer sides without hesitation – has been bent into another beast by the new (socialised) order of competition. On the creed of integrity, Cook said — in a nod to the 2002 salary cap scandal that so damaged the Blues — “we’re still paying for it.”

Interestingly, “relentless” is one of the new values, but “ruthless” – another integral part of Carlton’s past DNA – is not. “We’re relentless and ruthless, but we play by the rules,” Cook explained.

It can be argued that while Carlton loses some of their predatory ways and even that they were humiliated, a brutal form of ruthlessness – seen in the dumping of so many coaches, CEOs and others – is the ancient trait that has endured, is a modern one , balanced AFL.


Cook acknowledges there has been a high turnover of key people but was initially unsure why this had happened. He then suggested that precisely this lack of success had been the problem for two decades. “I think they were impatient for success.

“I think after so many unsuccessful years, they, the people at Carlton, want success and they want it relatively quickly considering what they’ve endured.”

Desperately looking for success. To the right Now. This fragment of Carlton’s culture remains intact.

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Ryan Sederquist

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