Goodbye Mick, we hardly knew you.
After more than 30 years and 718 games in the coach's box Mick Malthouse’s career finished with an act of defiance and the mundanity of an obligatory and clumsy press conference.
In the end he became what he’d never been before - just another sacked coach.
Malthouse has been an enduring presence in the lives of football fans for generations
He’s also been a remote and intimidating character, an old fashioned patrician whose passion for the game could never be questioned but whose love of its people was never expressed.
Malthouse is the consummate football politician. You don’t survive this long in the royal court of the AFL without knowing how to ply those dark arts.
As Carlton’s season crumbled Malthouse could no doubt sense the numbers men working against him in the party room.
This time his political instincts failed him.
His attempt to stare down CEO Steven Trigg’s public acclamation of a “rebuild” of The Blues playing stocks was a misstep as the numbers on the scoreboard didn’t lie.
Carlton were in trouble and so was Mick.
Then the classic Malthouse play. The blame game. It was the injuries. It was the burden of uncertainty weighing on the players like lead boots.
It was the media - it always has been.
It was back me or sack me.
It was over.
When Malthouse spoke on Melbourne radio 1116 SEN yesterday the countdown clock on his career was already ticking loudly after Carlton president Mark Logiudice had written to members telling them a decision would be made within two weeks on the coach's future.
Malthouse could read the writing on the wall and brought on the spill by rightfully calling out the absurdity of it all. What would Carlton’s dithering board learn from the next few games about his coaching that it didn’t know about him after 30 years calling the shots?
Carlton, a club prisoner to a glorious past and incapable of embracing its future, was cannibalising itself and Malthouse was on the menu.
There was no way Malthouse was about to subject himself to the theatre macabre of coaching under a death sentence against The Sydney Swans and Adelaide Crows whilst the public watched on waiting for the coup de grace.
His comments regarding Steven Trigg’s role in recruiting Eddie Betts to The Crows whilst he was CEO in Adelaide was the sting in the tail.
Forever the street fighter, Malthouse wasn’t going down without attempting to bloody an adversary. You wouldn’t expect anything else.
In the end Malthouse’s legacy in the AFL is secure.
He’s coached more games of football than any other. His 3 Premierships are testament to his know how.
Those who played in his teams mostly revere him.
His ability to adapt to a game that is virtually unrecognisable from the one he watched when he first sat with his clip board in the coaches box high above the Western Oval coaching Footscray in the early 80’s is testament to his insatiable appetite to compete and win.
Yet the fans who poured through the gates and which allowed him to build a rich and privileged career remained a mystery to him. The simple joys afforded by the game seemed to elude him.
Football belonged inside the white line and to its combatants. For Malthouse he no longer resides inside the confines of that inner sanctum.
Football will go on without Mick Malthouse. The fascinating thing will be what sort of a man he becomes without football.
In that regard I suspect his biggest challenge still lay ahead of him.