TEAM FIRST: John Barker has put behind him the disappointment of not being named Carlton coach. He is working closely with head coach Brendon Bolton.
TEAM FIRST: John Barker has put behind him the disappointment of not being named Carlton coach. He is working closely with head coach Brendon Bolton. TRACEY NEARMY

Barker shows two into one does work at Carlton

TWO years ago, John Barker and Brendon Bolton were battling for the one position - head coach at Carlton.

It says a lot about the character of both men that they are now fighting alongside one another try to bring success to the Blues.

Certainly, the bubbly, ever-smiling Bolton is a hard man to hold a grudge against.

"He's a good fella," Barker says of the man who has been calling the shots at Ikon Park since appointed the long-term successor to Mick Malthouse in August 2015.

Barker, who has been an assistant with the Blues since 2011, under Brett Ratten and then Malthouse, had stepped up as caretaker coach when the latter was axed just eight rounds into the 2015 season.

Already a popular figure with the players, Barker endeared himself to fans during 14 games in charge, for three wins.

While most would have walked away, Barker was only too happy to stay on - and the new coach was happy to have him - when Bolton got the nod.

Barker, 42, says, "Bolts and I have got a really good relationship" - one that began at Hawthorn in 2010 when working for Alastair Clarkson.

"My ego is not that big that I can't put the club first," Barker says.

 

Assitant coach John Barker and head coach Brendon Bolton look on during a Carlton training session at Ikon Park
Assitant coach John Barker and head coach Brendon Bolton look on during a Carlton training session at Ikon Park Robert Cianflone

"It always has to be the case, regardless of whether you're a player, coach or administrator.

"The best people at football clubs, the most effective, are the ones that put the club first. I'm no different.

"It wasn't about me; it was about the club."

That's not to say, the former key forward who played 168 games with Fitzroy, Brisbane and Hawthorn during a 13-year career, doesn't still harbour a desire to win his own senior coaching role one day.

"I'm obviously fully committed to the Carlton football club, and really keen to be a part of their progression. I want to be as big a part of their improvement as possible," he says.

"(But) if the right opportunities present then no doubt I'd be keen to be a senior coach at some stage."

He was close again last year when seemingly over the line at one of his old clubs, Brisbane, before Chris Fagan got the nod.

Until that door opens again, Barker is determined to help his one-time coaching adversary oversee what has been a substantial rebuild to a side that won the wooden spoon in 2015.

"It's always exciting seeing quite a few young guys come through a club," Barker says. "They bring exuberance that filters through the whole environment

 

Barker speaks with his players
Barker speaks with his players Darrian Traynor/AFL Media

"We understand where we're at. We need to keep growing and building and they (the players) need to keep seeing little wins along the way.

"Four-point wins are the best type, but we need to keep having those other little wins as well."

In charge of the stoppages, Barker's preparation will be pivotal when the Blues look to secure a second straight victory after last week's upset over Essendon when hosting the Gold Coast tonight at Docklands.

Patrick Cripps, Bryce Gibbs, Ed Curnow and skipper Marc Murphy are providing Carlton real impetus in the middle and Barker plenty to work with.

Back to his best after an ankle injury crippled his 2016 campaign, Murphy gathered 32 disposals, 10 tackles, six clearances and two goals against the Bombers.

But, the Suns will be full of confidence after their record-breaking win over Hawthorn, and with Gary Ablett, Aaron Hall and David Swallow linking with in-form ruckman Jarrod Witts, are No.1 for centre clearances. Ablett specifically collected 36 disposals, 10 clearances and two goals last week.

Barker admits his focus turned to the Suns "pretty quickly".

"They've got going, in part on the back of some pretty solid work in the midfield," he says. "They are a formidable group, as we saw on the weekend. So it's a big challenge."

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