A WHISPERING campaign against Chris Scott by a small group of his former players became awkwardly public on Thursday night.
It was awkward for everyone, not least for 300-gamer and club champion Jimmy Bartel, who has finally let his feelings be known publicly.
Early on Thursday night on K Rock radio, Scott conceded he'd probably do a few things differently regarding Bartel's departure last year: "It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't perfect from Jimmy's side either, to be frank."
Such has been the innuendo surrounding Scott and his players, 3AW, where Bartel was to speak, tweeted: "Jimmy Bartel will respond to Chris Scott's criticism of how he handled his retirement."
Suddenly, a fight was being picked.
Bartel responded: "I'm a little bit confused by it. I'd love for him to elaborate on how he thinks I should have handled it better."
From afar, reckon it goes something like this.
Scott and the Cats thought Bartel's career was over. Bartel didn't. The club won. Bartel is pissed off.
Some players see the writing on the wall, such as Cameron Mooney and Matthew Scarlett, and retire.
Some players, even the champs, including now at Hawthorn, are cut before their time is up and go on to play elsewhere with heavy hearts, such as Steve Johnson and Paul Chapman.
Some players are simply cooked and that was Bartel.
The problem was Jimmy wanted to play, he was made to feel unwanted, the coach skipped the exit/goodbye meeting and suddenly whispers become radio spats.
Scott didn't elaborate his failings, but for Bartel to wonder how he could've handled it better reeks of bitterness. Because to say you wouldn't do anything differently in a dispute if you had your time again is a falsehood.
Clearly, 2016 was a disappointing end for a lot of people at Geelong.
Corey Enright retired. Bartel wasn't wanted and retired. The Selwood-Dangerfield label annoyed the club. And Geelong and Scott didn't have their greatest night against Sydney in the preliminary final and have naturally attracted heat for the performance.
This Scott v former players business, however, snuck up in the new year.
Mooney - who had the fortitude to put his name to his opinions - was first to question Scott's communication skills.
Firstly, Mooney wrote a column in the Geelong Advertiser on September 21 last year criticising Scott for not announcing early enough that Bartel would play in the preliminary final amid huge media scrutiny.
Back then, it smacked of a mate looking after a mate.
In the new year, Mooney took it up a notch. In February on SEN, Mooney said Scott needed a flag within two years or would probably face the sack.
Two weeks later, again on SEN, Mooney said: "From what I know it's (communication) something he's working on and something he's been told that he needs to work on."
He added: "Now it's his group and we're going to see what kind of coach he is with his group."
This week Mooney changed tack and gave a tick to Scott. "The loss of his brother really made him change the way he goes about his relationships with players," Mooney said. "From what I hear there has been a massive, massive change."
Mooney says how it sees it, but it feels unbecoming all of this, former players and the former coach in the headlines.
The Cats clearly disagree with Mooney because they have signed Scott to a two-year extension after this year.
The communication theory from Mooney was also batted down by Cats chief executive Brian Cook this week, again on SEN. "I don't think that sort of criticism is warranted," Cook said. "I think the job is difficult for all senior coaches and some master it better than others in the relationship stakes, but I can ensure you that Chris Scott does have very good relationships with his people.''
It was grating for Cook to have to answer that question, while others at Geelong believe the whispering campaign has got to ridiculous levels.
Scott is trying to ignore it all.
When told a column would be written about him as a coach - which was before Bartel spoke on radio on Friday - and about where he sits after six seasons amid Mooney's comments, and last year's horrible defeat, Scott didn't want a bar of it.
For a brief second he had that half-back flankers look on his face.
The fact is the club knew of the criticisms, public and not public, and were angry and disappointed about them.
The club's view was to shut up and, anyway, Scott's record was there for all to see:
A 72 per cent win-loss record in six seasons, which is highest in the 110-year history of the AFL for any coach with over 100 games.
This with only seven players left from the 2011 grand final team and half the list turned over in the past two year.
A 34-14 win-loss record against other premiership coaches, including 10-5 over Al Clarkson and 3-0 over Luke Beveridge.
Most importantly, he has had side contending except for one season during a rebuild, which is a terribly difficult environment, and which has some at Geelong believing they had overachieved, especially last year.
All of this, of course, comes after Scott won a flag in his first year as coach.
It is said Scott inherited a Ferrari when he took over from Mark Thompson at the end of 2010, but the truth it was a battered one. The Cats lost the 2010 prelim to Collingwood by 81 points and lost the best player in the game a few weeks later, when Gaz hightailed it north.
Scott picked up a team when many thought its era was over and rejuvenated them to win the 2011 flag. Put it another way, would they have won it if Bomber stayed as coach?
Since then it's been an elimination loss, a prelim final finish, a semi-final and another preliminary final, all the while seeing champs retire and retiring off others.
This campaign against Scott has grown too many legs for what it's worth.
It really became silly when there was a suggestion late last year that Scott and former assistant coach Blake Caracella had fallen out, which led to Caracella leaving for Richmond. Not a bad story until you learn Scott and Caracella play doubles tennis every week against club physio Mark Young and club doctor Drew Slimmon.
Where does all this start?
Scott can coach, make no mistake, and while Mooney's comments seem a little pointed and Bartel's ready for a spat, the reality is until Scott wins a second premiership there will be doubters about his coaching - despite his incredible record.
A win from a team which he has developed, traded and drafted for and educated would end that talk.
First things first though, he has to reset the team from last year's first-half embarrassment against Sydney and in some people's minds that's finding a next-level toughness - which is the role of the coach.
Now in the media, Bartel will now have to pass comment on Scott's performance. It should be interesting listening.
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