AFL 2018: Stephen Silvagni tense interview with Footy Classified.
WELL that was tense.
Footy fans expected plenty of tough questions from the Footy Classified panel for Carlton list manager Stephen Silvagni on Monday night.
But the responses from Silvagni were just as strong and passionate, culminating in one of the most gripping AFL interviews seen or read on any platform so far this season.
Silvagni and the Blues are under ample pressure as the club approaches its fourth trade period and draft of the well-publicised rebuild.
And there’s extra attention on what they do during the post-season, especially considering the predicament of the young list and the poor win-loss record to date in 2018.
From some heated exchanges with two Footy Classified panel members, explanations over some questionable trades and Patrick Cripps’ contract, to his sons, coach Brendon Bolton and an expected rise up the ladder, nothing was off limits.
UMBRAGE WITH CARO
The tension began as panellist and former chief football writer of The Age Caroline Wilson questioned Silvagni’s influence at the Blues.
Wilson wrote in October of the “shameful treatment” outgoing chief executive Steven Trigg had received from the Blues, including chairman Mark LoGiudice.
Wilson claimed that Silvagni was one of LoGiudice’s “henchmen” and had been “gunning for Trigg for some time”.
Then recently on 3AW, AFL legend Leigh Matthews asked whether Silvagni was “the most powerful person at that football club … that doesn’t sound right as a principle”.
Cue the fiery exchange.
Silvagni: Where do you think (Matthews) got that from? Where do you reckon that actually started? How would Leigh Matthews know what I do? … He’s never stepped foot in the club. And I wouldn’t know what he does at the Brisbane Lions. But really, to be perfectly honest, I think it really started with some of your articles … in relation to you suggesting that I have power at the club.
If you really want to know my position at the football club, I’m actually an employee of the Carlton Football Club. I don’t go to board meetings, Go to executive meetings.
Wilson: You don’t give a report to the board?
Silvagni: I go to probably two board meetings a year. That’s what I do. I don’t go to executive, don’t go to match committee. I don’t go to pre-game, post-game. I don’t select the coach or the assistant coaches, I don’t select staff, conditioning staff. What I am in charge of is the list management and recruiting.
In front of the firing squad on @FootyClassified Stephen Silvagni @CarltonFC held his ground strongly and never dodged a question. Upfront, forthright and assertive. Footy is as territorial as it is passionate. We witnessed that tonight. Great TV. 👏👏👏
Wilson: You are …
Silvagni: … I’m not too sure where my power comes from.
Wilson: I think a lot of people draw that conclusion because of your close relationship with the president (Mark LoGiudice) and you are friends with the president. He came on board and one of the first people he bought into the club was you. Are you embarrassed as a Carlton person and a person who is proud of the brand, the way your president treated your CEO (Steven Trigg) last year? And you must have been aware of what was going on at the footy club at the time, certain when it happened, were you disappointed in Steven Trigg the handling of him?
Silvagni: To be perfectly honest, I actually wanted to have this discussion with you some 12 months ago. I actually left a message where you actually wrote an article that I was one of the henchmen to actually get rid of Steven Trigg, which was truly untrue. You said …
Wilson: … You were aware of the decision …
Silvagni: Hang on, you said I was one of the henchmen, that I actually was part of getting rid of Steven Trigg, which was untrue.
Wilson: I put it on Mark LoGiudice and I said you were aware of it.
Silvagni: … which was untrue. Steven Trigg actually gave me my start at the Carlton Football Club …
Wilson: … Are you disappointed in the way he was treated?
Silvagni: Steven Trigg and myself actually had a good relationship and I actually owe this job to Steven Trigg. It put a bit of a wedge until we actually worked how all this sort of happened. So …
Wilson: … Did it put a wedge between you and Mark LoGuidice?
Silvagni: No, of course not, because I don’t have any decision on any person at the Carlton Football Club.
Wilson: You never discussed it with the president?
Silvagni: I never did, other than the list and players …
Wilson: … I’m surprised you didn’t.
Silvagni: Well, that’s fact.
Craig Hutchison: So you take offence clearly at that.
Silvagni: Totally … because it was either a rumour or lies, in terms of the Steven Trigg article.
Wilson: Well, I only wrote that after the decision had happened. I talked about a group of powerbrokers at the club, I still believe you have enormous influence at the club, only in football – and that’s what you should have. And to that end, I’m wondering why it took you up until June or early July — and I put Mark in this as well — to come out and actually speak about it publicly. Do you think that was a bit tough on the coach?
Silvagni: Well can I ask you one thing, one thing: What other list manager has come out publicly to talk about performances?
Wilson: I think a list manager who is given a role of rebuilding the football club and making such big decisions, that you are saying you will back the coach, come what may, because you know what he’s had to deal with …
Silvagni: So how many rebuilds have there been over the last six years?
Wilson: At Carlton?
Silvagni: No in the competition? And name me one list manager that has to come out publicly and actually state their case In relation to a rebuild?
Wilson: Well I have heard Craig Cameron give interviews when he was back at Richmond … Anyway, the point is you had a massive role … well you did choose to come out eventually. Didn’t you think someone should have come out and support or spoken?
Silvagni: Well we have come out. But at the end of the day we have been really clear to our members. We haven’t wavered from our plan. We’re sticking to the plan, sticking to the process. And to be really blunt, our members know what we have done. We’ve actually done everything that we have said we would do three years ago. And we haven’t wavered.
QUESTIONABLE LIST CALLS
The patience of many Carlton fans is wearing thin.
This season, the Blues have won just one. In fact they’ve won just two of their past 26 matches.
Bit Silvagni pointed out the array of players aged under 22 that had been playing consistently this season, again asking Blues supporters to stick fat.
“We’re virtually two and a half years into the build. We have been to our three drafts, which we basically said to our members and our supporters — we were really strong on that. And we need patience really,” Silvagni said.
“It’s no quick fix. We have a very young list and we have to be patient and develop our talent.”
Panellist and Essendon great Matthew Lloyd questioned some of the moves Silvagni had made in recent years, including the acquisitions of ex-Giants Liam Sumner and Jarrod Pickett.
“I think you look at Pickett, on talent himself and when he’s fit, he’s a dangerous player,” Silvagni said. “What we gave up for him was a back-end pick.
“But when you are making roughly out the last three years, on average over 10 changes on your list, you can’t bring in 10 18-year-olds. You actually have to support yourself with some senior players on the lists — hence why some of those players were brought into the club.
“Now, some of the players aren’t long term, but they were there purely not only to play. I guess some of them weren’t there to play regular AFL footy, but right at the minute where the injury list is at, some of them are playing. But some were actually brought on to the list to actually play VFL footy, support our kids.
“You’ve got to understand you get one pick every 18 and if you look at the cards we were dealt with at the start of out term — and that’s all we can be judged on, the last three years — and what were we able to trade through in that period, we have actually traded probably five or six players out/
“There was (Lachie) Henderson, basically that’s Harry McKay. There’s Chris Yarran, that’s David Cuningham. There’s Zach Tuohy, that’s Caleb Marchbank. There’s Bryce Gibbs, really two first-round picks … there was also Tom Bell when we traded him out, that helped us get Charlie (Curnow).”
SO WHEN WILL THE RISE COME?
Silvagni didn’t put a timeframe on a surge back up the AFL ladder, but said “the real jump will come when we get older players through the door”.
“That’s obviously a focus. But having said that, we’re not just going to jump at any player. We will be patient in terms of what we select at the draft and what we go after free agency in the trade situation,” he said.
Asked if Pick 1 could be on the table should the Blues hold it at season’s end, Silvagni said: “I think you look at every option. Everything is for sale.”
THE RELIANCE ON PATRICK CRIPPS
Blues great David Parkin said the Blues “will kill” star midfielder Patrick Cripps, such is the reliance on him at the moment.
But Silvagni said Cripps would benefit in the long run.
“A rebuild is never easy … and it will affect players in certain ways. But Patrick is a young player and he will gain the benefits of this rebuild,” Silvagni said.
“Now, it’s really easy to build a list to get to eighth, ninth and 10th … but to build a list to win a premiership will take time and patience.”
On Cripps’ future, Silvagni couldn’t guarantee a contract extension would be announced this week, saying the parties were “still in negotiations” but still confident “we will get a deal done”.
THE PLAYING GROUP CULTURE
Despite the array of losses, Silvagni said spirits were high at the Blues.
“It’s a good culture. The group of boys we have got there are good lads,” he said.
“We have a good leadership group, we have also got a developing young leadership group. The culture of the players, they work extremely hard.
“Now, you build your own culture to be perfectly honest. Your culture can be gone in 24 hours. But it is what you want to put into it.”
WHY BLUES FANS SHOULD BACK BRENDON BOLTON
Silvagni stood by his under-fire coach — and encouraged others to as well.
“Stick fat with him, because he’s a good teacher,” Silvagni said.
“Obviously he’s going through a difficult time because of the injuries on our list and our age demographics. And he’s coaching a team that really each week hasn’t got anywhere near its best team out there. Now, it will come … it’s been a tough year, a really tough year, but it will hold us in good steads in years to come.”
J-SOS AND B-SOS
Silvagni said he treated his oldest son, Jack, “like any other player”, but agreed he was often harshly judged due to his own awesome playing credentials.
“Unfairly — probably at times,” he said.
“I guess he’s had a little more exposure and more pressure on him than anyone else picked in his draft … that could be debatable but, that’s probably coming from a father’s point of view. But I treat him like anyone else.”
Silvagni also confirmed he would “step away” from Carlton’s decision-making process when it came to possibly matching a bid for father-son prospect Ben Silvagni, who recently represented Vic Metro during the Under 18 national championships.
And just when we thought the atmosphere had softened slightly, there was an interesting exchange between Silvagni and Lloyd at the end of the interview.
Hutchison made reference to a tense history between Silvagni and Lloyd, who’s brother who’s also involved in list management at Fremantle and has been linked to the vacant Blues football manager role.
Silvagni: We might see your brother on here one day.
Lloyd: You know what? In Perth, he cops it just as hard. That’s what you have to understand, so it’s not personal …
Silvagni: No, it’s not personal but I think …
Lloyd: And this man here (Chris Judd) puts up with (it).
Silvagni: But there are plenty of conflicts in footy, aren’t there?
Lloyd: I’m sure you have got plenty yourself.
Silvagni: Yeah, yeah.
And then we all took a breath … especially Chris Judd.