ONCE again, the starting gun sounded. And, once again, Carlton was left at the blocks.

While the poor starts, and the roaring comebacks, became somewhat of a novelty during David Teague's early tenure as the club's interim coach last year, they have now become one of his most piercing headaches.

On Saturday, as the Blues fell 0-2 on the season and saw their finals hopes quickly begin to dissipate, they were left lamenting yet another shocking opening term as a gallant, but ultimately fruitless comeback against the Demons fell just short.

Carlton was 42 points down at the 15-minute mark of the second quarter, having conceded the game's opening seven goals. So large was the deficit, that even kicking seven of the next eight goals wasn't enough to make up for the significant early gulf between the two sides.

Speaking after the game, Teague described the slow starts as "a pattern". It's one neither he, nor the players, nor the club's coaching staff, have been able to rectify over the last year.

Remarkably, Saturday's contest was the ninth time in 13 games under Teague's reign at Ikon Park that the Blues have trailed by at least 30 points during a match.

Perhaps just as remarkably, Carlton has won two of those nine games from more than 30 points down and either drawn level or reclaimed the lead – only to then lose – in a further three.

They stormed home to defeat Brisbane from 37 points down in Teague's first match in charge, then overcame Fremantle from 30 points behind a fortnight later.

02:27 Mins
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Teague: 'I loved every minute of it'

David Teague expresses his great admiration for his players after their incredible win in his first game as head coach of Carlton

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Sandwiched in between those fixtures was a barnstorming comeback from 34 points down against the Western Bulldogs, where the Blues hit the lead in the second half only to lose narrowly.

That was followed by a clash against Melbourne in July last year, where Carlton again led late in the match despite trailing by 38 points in the third quarter. A five-point defeat was the result on that occasion.

Even in round one of this year, they kicked seven of eight goals against the reigning premiers Richmond to reduce a 50-point deficit to just 15 early in the final quarter. As is often the case, that comeback also fell just short as another slow start proved costly.

07:10 Mins
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Highlights: Richmond v Carlton

The Tigers and Blues clash in round one

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The fightbacks say a lot about the fitness and desire of the team. But the simple fact is, a Carlton side already starting from a low base is leaving itself with far too much to do far too often.

The Blues have won just three of 13 first quarters under Teague's watch. In four of those first quarters, they have been held goalless. Saturday's disappointing defeat was the first time they had been held scoreless for the term.

It came as Carlton was smashed around the ball, while its kicking efficiency (54 percent) and time in forward half (29 percent) statistics were also incredibly damning.

But, again, it wasn't a one-off.

 

16:02 Mins
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In 13 first quarters under Teague's watch between round 12 last year and now, Champion Data notes that the Blues rank 17th for disposal differential, 15th for contested possession differential, 17th for uncontested possession differential, 14th for clearance differential and 18th for goals per inside 50.

Then, from quarter-time onwards in those same 13 matches, the Blues rank fifth for disposal differential, second for contested possession differential, fifth for uncontested possession differential, first for clearance differential and fourth for goals per inside 50.

You could be forgiven for thinking you are watching an entirely different Carlton side after the first change.

Key stats from round 12, 2019 – round two, 2020

 

Q1

Rank

Q2-4

Rank

Disposal Diff

-10.2

17th

+9.9

5th

Cont. Poss. Diff

-1.9

15th

+7.0

2nd

Uncont. Poss. Diff

-11.0

17th

+4.3

5th

Clearance Diff

-1.1

14th

+4.0

1st

Goals per inside 50 %

16.1%

18th

23.8%

4th

 

So, is it the pre-match environment? The pre-match instructions? Maybe it's just a strange anomaly? Perhaps the most worrying aspect is that no one at Carlton seems to know why it continues to happen.

"If I could (put my finger on it), I would have done that a lot earlier … it's been a bit of a trend," Teague said after the match.

"Some days you're in the rooms and you go, 'gee the energy is really good'. And then it doesn't translate. Other days it's really quiet and you think, 'oh they're a bit off'. And then they come out and play well.

"I can't put my finger on it yet. We need to keep looking into that area. For me, to see what we did for three quarters, it's probably a mindset and that's something we are working on.

"We just need to continue to get better and grow, because our good footy is good."

Teague's message on the eve of Saturday's clash was "we need to compete longer". But, in reality, the Blues need to be better earlier.

If not, another season of promise is at risk of slipping away in an all-too-familiar fashion. 

THE TEAGUE COMEBACKS

Rd 12, 2019 v Brisbane
Trailed by 37 pts (Q2, 13 mins)
Kicked 8 of the next 9 goals
Won by 15 pts

Rd 13, 2019 v Western Bulldogs
Trailed by 34 pts (Q2, 21 mins)
Kicked 7 of the next 8 goals
Lost by 3 pts

Rd 15, 2019 v Fremantle
Trailed by 30 pts (Q1, 31 mins)
Kicked 6 of the next 7 goals
Won by 4 pts

Rd 16, 2019 v Melbourne
Trailed by 38 pts (Q3, 29 mins)
Kicked the next 6 goals
Lost by 5 pts

Rd 1, 2020 v Richmond
Trailed by 50 pts (Q3, 12 mins)
Kicked 7 of the next 8 goals
Lost by 24 pts

Rd 2, 2020 v Melbourne
Trailed by 42 pts (Q2, 15 mins)
Kicked 7 of the next 8 goals
Lost by 1 pt