MICK Malthouse says a 5-11 record is an accurate reflection of Carlton's standing this season, but remains defiant the Blues are capable of making a swift ascent up the AFL ladder.
Carlton was competitive in the first half against the Sydney Swans on Saturday night, trailing by just seven points at the main break, before losing the final term by a single point.
Sandwiched in between, however, was a stunning third term when the Swans kicked 10.4 to just one behind.
Malthouse said earlier this week the current Swans line-up was the best he'd seen and nothing had changed his view after his side's 18.14 (122) to 7.9 (51) hammering at the SCG.
Afterwards, he was asked how long it would take his club to build a list as potent as the Swans and his response raised a few eyebrows.
"How long is a piece of string?" Malthouse replied.
"We gave a first and second quarter like we did (and) we like what we see.
"But we don't like what we see in that third quarter.
"I can't tell you how long. It could be the rest of this season, it could be part of next season, but at least it gives us a starting point."
Cynics might suggest a complete rebuild is what is required to reach the heights currently enjoyed by the ladder-leading Swans for a Carlton side stuck in 14th place with losses in six of its past seven games.
But Malthouse feels a few bounces of the ball his team's way could have led to a far more competitive season for the Blues.
"We've had a couple of floggings, this is one of them," he said.
"Starting at probably Brisbane, Geelong, Hawthorn, Greater Western Sydney, Collingwood and the Saints, if you had a look at those games, half ounce of luck we could've won them (they only beat St Kilda).
"But that's a common thread with sides that are 5-11. That if this or that had taken place, had we won it, but the fact is we didn't win them.
"That's the reality and you've got to say why didn't we win those games? We were in a position to win four of them and didn't.
"That third quarter represented our year, that we have too many fade-outs, and we need to find out exactly how we arrest that as a playing group."
Jarrad Waite and Jeff Garlett are among the senior players currently out of the senior side and Malthouse was asked if they were "on the outer" in terms of his future plans.
"No one is on the outer," he said. "You can only go in with 22 players.
"We work with the 44 players believe it or not.
"Like Sydney, they work with their whole group. Because the 23rd player doesn't play in the 22, doesn't mean anyone is on the outer.
"You can only pick 22 players to win the game, so no one is on the outer."
He was also asked if it would take something special to stop the Swans in 2014.
"I think so," he said. "It doesn't guarantee victory, but it's going to go a long way towards guaranteeing a place in the Grand Final."