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IMPRINT by Whispering Jack

Mark Neeld's initiation as coach of Melbourne was eerie to say the least. In a part of the world known for its theme parks and somewhat curiously dubbed "The Sunshine State", his team braved monsoonal rain conditions and broke even in its two matches played on the AFL's second newest football ground, Metricon Stadium.

The day broke with rain belting down laterally on the Gold Coast. I spent the morning shopping for a suitably fashionable poncho and picked up the bargain of my four day rain soaked visit to this place at a seedy looking shop on the highway. It cost me two bucks.

Then it was off to the Queensland Demons lunch brilliantly organised by Demondeb and hosted by Chris Connolly. There were Demon fans from everywhere - even as far as drought-striken WA who looked at the rain teeming outside with curiosity and even the arrival of the great Ronald Dale Barassi was not enough to stop the deluge as the Emerald Lakes Golf Club (where the function was being held) threatened to become one giant lake and the 18th green became a major water hazard. 

As game time neared, I grabbed my belongings, ditched my losing raffle ticket and wondered if I would ever again see the vehicle I left in the car park. The ominous sign at the beginning of the street warning of local flooding didn't make me feel any better.

The rain actually eased off a little as I entered the ground having first located my Demon supporting companions. I also spotted Jack Viney's father entering the ground with another former player, Kelly O'Donnell. So many coincidences. We stepped inside south east Queensland's football theme park as the rain started belting down again.

I think I've set the scene well for what was to come. The reconditioned ground at Carrara is now thankfully blessed with state of the art drainage systems but it was still impossible for the teams to put on a decent display of footy.

Melbourne, already without a handful of its best (including co-skipper Jack Trengove, Liam Jurrah, the exciting young Sam Blease, Jordie McKenzie and Cale Morton) left out some of its better and more experienced players for the second and started Mark Jamar and Brent Moloney in the green substitute vests for the Gold Coast Suns' game. The indications were clear that the result of the game was not particularly relevant.

The Demons were nevertheless quick off the blocks with the game's first two goals. The first was from a strong mark by Mitch Clark who provided a long awaited key position target in the forward line, the second a long goal from a busy Nathan Jones after a free kick. Some poor defensive errors let the Suns back in to level the scores at half time. 

The new Mark Neeld style was evident with more emphasis on defence, strong play at the stoppages and long kicks into attack. In some instances, this brought the team undone but the players kept their discipline. 

The Suns won the second half through opportunist goals and greater accuracy but Melbourne did unearth some talent apart from the obvious one in Clark. James Magner's ferocity at the football was outstanding at stoppages, Tom Couch not far behind him and Josh Tynan was also impressive fitting directly into Neeld's mould of a hard working no nonsense ballgetter. Jack Fitzpatrick toiled hard in conditions which were very trying for the young ruckman.

Matthew Bate got a lot of the football and worked hard to win the footy while Aaron Davey played probably his best football in two years to allay fears that his career was in steep decline. Late in the game he had an opportunity to snap the winning goal from a difficult angle but it just missed. Lynden Dunn missed what, for him, should have been a simple set shot but it too was wayward.

Melbourne 0.2.2 3.5.23

Gold Coast Suns 0.2.2 0.4.26

Goals:

Melbourne Bartram Clark Jones

Gold Coast Suns Hall 2 Fraser Rischitelli

Best: 

Melbourne Clark Jones Magner Bartram Bate Davey

Gold Coast Suns Ablett Rischitelli Hall Bock Prestia Weller

Injuries

Melbourne Nil

Gold Coast Suns Nil

Reports

Melbourne Nil

Gold Coast Suns Nil

Umpires Stevic McKenzie Gleeson 

The heavens opened up during the break just as I was in the (uncovered) queue for refreshments. This gave me a fairly good insight into what the players had to endure in the second game against the Lions when Neeld brought in his A team including Jack Grimes, Colin Sylvia, Brad Green, Jared Rivers and Rohan Bail. 

One would have expected a much better effort given that it was a much stronger side on paper but Melbourne never fails to disappoint and a scoreless quarter (half?) beckoned, punctuated by a James Frawley blooper that was uncharacteristic for him. Later his attempt to soccer the ball was almost the team's undoing but, in between, he was a solid defender. Bate and Magner continued to plug away and Dan Nicholson started coming into the game while Rohan Bail added to the mix with some coolness under pressure. James Sellar was also cool when he converted a free in front of goals but the coolest of them all was skipper Jack Grimes who twice beat his Brisbane opponent all ends up in the dying moments of the game.

In the end, it was a mixed day for the Demons who should have won the first game and deserved to lose the second. There were some good signs suggesting that bruise free football is now a thing of the past but the club still lacks a game breaker of Black Caviar quality like Gary Ablett Junior. In the absence of such a player, the rest of the team will need to work harder to develop their game in much the same way that Collingwood did some two or three years ago under Mick Malthouse. You can see Mark Neeld's faint imprint in that style in what he is bringing to the Melbourne. The way the players are having a decent crack at winning the hard ball suggests he is starting to get his message across.

Melbourne 0.0.0 2.1.13

Brisbane Lions 1.1.7 1.4.10

Goals:

Melbourne Sellar Sylvia

Brisbane Lions Banfield 

Best: 

Melbourne Bate Frawley Grimes Jones Moloney Howe 

Brisbane Lions Beams Lester McGrath Black Yeo Golby

Injuries

Melbourne Nil

Brisband Lions Nil

Reports

Melbourne Nil

Brisbane Lions Nil

Umpires Stevic McKenzie Gleeson

Official Crowd: 5150 at Metricon Stadium

Thanks to gsmith for the ticket into the ground. Much appreciated.

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Disappointed with Lynden Dunn after what was a good pre season. I wouldn't have expected him to have missed THAT shot.

He has to lose that mo as well.

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He has to lose that mo as well.

Give it up. I think he's taking it to the grave with him.

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Disappointed with Lynden Dunn after what was a good pre season. I wouldn't have expected him to have missed THAT shot.

He has to lose that mo as well.

He is the closest thing I have seen to Blakey from On the Buses with that mo

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IMPRINT by Whispering Jack

... You can see Mark Neeld's faint imprint in that style in what he is bringing to the Melbourne. The way the players are having a decent crack at winning the hard ball suggests he is starting to get his message across ...

To me the games on the weekend were almost a negative image of how we played last year. None of the flashy, attacking, lightning-ball-movement-thru-the-corridor (of course the conditions had a lot to do with that, but I have a feeling that even if it was a perfect day, we wouldn't have gone about it any different). But plenty of grunt, hard-at-it, defensive play & contested ball, kicking along the boundary & to the pockets, clearing the lines, defensive zones and so forth.

Sometimes it seemed to me that we were deliberately trying to avoid spotting up targets, for the sake of putting the ball somewhere safe where we couldn't be hurt on the turnover.

Don't know if this is how we're going to play this year, or if Neeld is throwing out a challenge that, OK, I can't teach you much about attacking front-running footy because you know that already, but what we need to do in the NAB Cup is to learn to stay in the contest when things get tough, because that's where we were hopeless last year. Either way, it's a big change, and it seemed that the extent of the change was even being exaggerated.

I think Neeld is making a huge imprint, even at this early stage. He's getting them to learn to play in a way we haven't done for years. We're never going to win big games against top teams unless we're able to tough it out at least as good as they do.

I just hope we don't lose the rapid ball movement on the rebound in the process. I hope that we become multidimensional & can play flashy or tough (or anywhere in between) as the situation demands, rather than just exchange one monodimensional game for another (a la Ross Lyon's Saints)

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Thanks for report WJ.

your contributions are one of the reasons for my now membership instead of mere observation.

Hope to contribute as my boldness grows with the team

It appears development has occurred and training drills and coaching methods have changed but it would also seem the conditions and NAB rules were not conducive to anything to gauge progress on.

Like all posters on demonland I am looking for ward to the season

I hope that with the strong multi faceted player list we have we can select the best team for the opposition and circumstances we are playing all year.

In other words I think we can use the list each game and not have a set 22 best players. I think all players are best at some stage it is the coaches role to identify them. I am reminded of games when Northey or Daniher got playeys to play above themselves. It is difficult to maintain that standard and there should be no criticism in not playing if it is recognised that circumstances do not suit.

All that said we are not likely to play in too many monsoons are we???

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To me the games on the weekend were almost a negative image of how we played last year. None of the flashy, attacking, lightning-ball-movement-thru-the-corridor (of course the conditions had a lot to do with that, but I have a feeling that even if it was a perfect day, we wouldn't have gone about it any different). But plenty of grunt, hard-at-it, defensive play & contested ball, kicking along the boundary & to the pockets, clearing the lines, defensive zones and so forth.

Sometimes it seemed to me that we were deliberately trying to avoid spotting up targets, for the sake of putting the ball somewhere safe where we couldn't be hurt on the turnover.

Don't know if this is how we're going to play this year, or if Neeld is throwing out a challenge that, OK, I can't teach you much about attacking front-running footy because you know that already, but what we need to do in the NAB Cup is to learn to stay in the contest when things get tough, because that's where we were hopeless last year. Either way, it's a big change, and it seemed that the extent of the change was even being exaggerated.

I think Neeld is making a huge imprint, even at this early stage. He's getting them to learn to play in a way we haven't done for years. We're never going to win big games against top teams unless we're able to tough it out at least as good as they do.

I just hope we don't lose the rapid ball movement on the rebound in the process. I hope that we become multidimensional & can play flashy or tough (or anywhere in between) as the situation demands, rather than just exchange one monodimensional game for another (a la Ross Lyon's Saints)

I have to say you made some great points and i also think it was a big change in game style even in that crap weather. I aso think we look like sydney of 2005 and the saints of 2009-10 with a big defence mind set and you know what that means at the moment were playing to our strength which is our backline and neeld has seen our backline as our strongest tool at this time and slowley he will build the plan to suit our players but for now our backline is strong.so go with a defence game plan.

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