CARLTON coach David Teague believes his side is not living up to its own expectations this season, questioning whether the Blues were wilting under the pressure they have put on themselves to succeed.
A candid Teague said Carlton must start turning positive performances into wins if it is to "get there" this year, also turning the spotlight on his own press conference from earlier in the week where he denied the extent of co-captain Patrick Cripps' back injury.
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The Blues conceded on Sunday morning that Cripps did have a fractured back earlier in the year, despite Teague downplaying those suggestions last Thursday. The team later fell to 3-6 on the season with a disappointing 26-point loss to the unbeaten Demons.
Cripps' injury, his contract situation and speculation surrounding the future of star key forward Harry McKay have all culminated in a turbulent period for the club as it looks to break an unwanted eight-year finals drought.
But, speaking after the loss to Melbourne, Teague said he didn't believe the off-field issues such as Cripps' fitness and the headlines surrounding his future were influencing the on-field results.
"The on-field stuff, that's at the front of our mind and that's what we're working on and training," Teague said.
"I don't think that stuff, from an individual point of view … Harry is having a great year, so you wouldn't think it's having an impact on him. Patrick had an injury and was down a little bit for a while, but he's been cracking in pretty hard.
"I don't think it's had a big impact. What's impacting our group is we're probably not living up to our own expectations and the pressure we're putting on ourselves. We're not living up to that yet.
"We all want to get there as quickly as possible. The year before last year, we probably thought we would hopefully get there and be in every game. This year, again, we've been in most games.
"But we've got to start turning those into wins. That comes from doing the basics for 120 minutes and being really tough for 120 minutes and working hard for 120 minutes.
"Even today, they didn't get a big run-on but there were periods of the game when we needed to get stronger and cleaner and use the ball better. They won some really good hard balls in some good areas of the ground and that hurt us."
Cripps responded to reports he was playing with a fractured back, emerging from the defeat to Melbourne as one of Carlton's best players with 27 disposals, 10 tackles and seven clearances.
Teague said on Thursday he was "not sure what the actual findings were" in relation to Cripps' injury, before the club clarified its position on Sunday and confirmed that its co-captain had indeed fractured his back earlier in the season.
Speaking after the game, Teague elaborated on the "worst press conference" he had done and explained why he had dismissed the extent of his star midfielder's injury issues earlier in the week.
"I assessed his game better than I handled the media conference the other day … that was pretty average by me," Teague said.
"I thought the injury was in the past. It hampered him in rounds two and three, so when it got brought up I was probably a bit frustrated. I probably wasn't as honest and as direct as I could have been.
"At the end of the day, the message I wanted to get across is that he's fine now. I could've been clearer with the messaging around that. For me, the fans need to know he's right and he's out there. Last week he just didn't have a great game.
"I thought it was probably one of my worst press conferences."
Teague said he was aware that Cripps was playing with a fractured back earlier this year.
"I knew the full extent," Teague said.
"I just thought it was in the past. To be honest, at the start of the year, I probably didn't share it all. But there are times when you want to protect your player.
"This one, the frustration probably came up because it was in the past. We were dragging up old news, because he probably just didn't have his best day.
"Our medical staff, I have absolute trust in them. I think they do a very good job. But do they feed that information back to me? Absolutely. I'm clear about what's going on. I even did anatomy at university, so I'd like to think I know a little bit more than most.
"They do a great job and we'll always put the best interests of our players at heart. That's something that I think this club really prides itself on. You can see that with Charlie Curnow, we're not going to rush him back."
An unbeaten Melbourne moved to 9-0 for the first time since 1956 with its comfortable victory over Carlton, with coach Simon Goodwin crediting the foundation his side is building for the remainder of the campaign.
"It's a brilliant platform," Goodwin said.
"It's just great for the work that the people have put in and it's the reward for our players for the buy-in for where they're trying to get their game to.
"It's also magnificent for our supporters who continue to rock up here at the MCG, to see them so excited with how their team is playing.
"They look the same way. They're competitive, they're tough, they defend. They (the fans) get excited by the actions that we as coaches get excited by … the chase, the tackle, the spoil, the one-percenter. That's pleasing."