Results not adding up for Essendon and Carlton
THANKS to a history of success that has brought big supporter bases, Essendon and Carlton have traditionally been regarded as members of the competition's 'Big four' alongside Collingwood and Richmond.
Well, the Bombers and the Blues now find themselves back as part of the 'Bottom four', and possibly for an extended period.
They weren't supposed to be - it has, after all, been nine years since they occupied the bottom two rungs on the ladder.
But due to a series of poor decisions - at the recruiting table, in the coaches' box and in the medical rooms - here they are among the four teams that look certain of finishing with just five wins or less this season.
And while Gold Coast and Brisbane are sandwiched between them, you could argue that fans of the two Queensland combinations have far more reason for optimism that those of the two Victorian 'heavyweights'.
Following its woeful effort at the Gabba on Saturday night, Carlton is now favoured to finish last, and while it will claim the coveted No.1 pick in the national draft if it does, it has been down that road before - in 2005 ... and in 2006 ... and in 2007, and look how far it's progressed.
But the Carlton faithful can at least look forward to also having a new coach in charge in 2016, and surely it won't be caretaker John Barker. His players' capitulation, kicking just three goals to 17 in the final three quarters against the Lions, was hardly an endorsement of his services.
After seeing what fellow Alastair Clarkson assistants Adam Simpson (at West Coast), Leon Cameron (GWS) and Luke Beveridge (the Bulldogs) have achieved, expect the Blues to sign Brendon Bolton to try and reinvigorate the playing list.
Essendon fans though don't have that luxury.
In June, this column asked whether James Hird had the best interests of his beloved Bombers at heart, and that was before they had suffered their seventh and eighth-biggest losses in the proud club's history.
The latest (112 points) came against Adelaide on Saturday when the hosts kicked just four goals to 24 after quarter-time.
Certainly, if it was any other name at any other club, that name would have been sacked, or fallen on their sword.
But Hird is contracted for 2016 and desperately wants to lead the club he captained to a premiership in 2000 without the WADA cloud hanging over its head.
The long-running supplements saga should come to an end in November at a court of arbitration hearing.
But whether the players are cleared once and for all or not, how much damage has already been done?
As a show of support this year for their embattled club, 60,000 members joined the Bombers.
Surely they, and the players, need a fresh face leading their club. And not a figurehead that is a constant reminder of the turmoil that it has been plunged in to.
Heaviest LOSSES of 2015
138 - CARL v Haw
112 - ESS v Adel
110 - ESS v STK
105 - MELB v Haw
98 - MELB v WB
92 - GC v WC
89 - SYD v Haw