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At the end of a week in which we were duly reminded of the paramount importance of winning matches, Melbourne surprised nobody by posting losses against North Melbourne and Richmond to open their 2013 NAB Cup campaign.

The Demons trailled for most of both games in steamy conditions at Etihad Stadium, came close to beating the Kangaroos in the opener and then succumbed to fatigue, injury and the faster and stronger Tigers in the second. While coach Mark Neeld summed it up saying, "we were pretty good, we were fairly pleased, the hit out against two of the league's middle of the road sides demonstrated that there's still a long way to go for his struggling side but at least, they're on the right track.

There were eleven new faces on show for Melbourne so it would have been fanciful to expect them to dominate against more experienced opposition but there were many good signs, in particular the form of the youngsters, Jack Viney, Jimmy Toumpas, Dean Kent and recently turned 18 Jesse Hogan who is just too good to be cooling his heels with the Casey Scorpions which is exactly where he will be this year because of his GWS mini draftee status.

The more mature bodied Chris Dawes, Shannon Byrnes, David Rodan, Cameron Pedersen and Tom Gillies all showed a bit in their cameos, so it was a big night for their club even if it didn't bring home the non-existent four points.

After all (and I'm really loathe to use the word in any context related to the AFL) the evening was all about "experimenting", the most successful one being the continuation of the use of former number one draft pick Jack Watts in defence. He's bigger and stronger this year, has silky skills and disposal, a little more aggression and smarter. Jack was good value in both games, kicked a couple of goals and showed that he has grown into his role.

The problem with the team's defensive set up was that it was too top heavy on the night and was short of at least one medium defender. I'm not sure why James Strauss didn't line up in any of the games but his presence and his accurate kicking would have been useful. In any event, this is one area where a little fine tuning should see great improvement over last year.

The same could be said of the forward line which looked a bit cluttered and top heavy early on giving the Kangaroos' defence many chances to clear and making it difficult to capitalise on scoring opportunities. Their defenders benefited from some glaring umpire eyesight issues in the early stages but that can be put down to the time of year. In the second game, without Dawes who had presented well, Hogan playing further afield and Pedersen rucking after Spencer went off, the forwards fell by the wayside. Jeremy Howe led well and looked good and this division will be greatly enhanced when Mitch Clark finally returns from injury. Oh, and the search continues for a dangerous crumbing forward.

The bane of our existence has for some time been the third world midfield and, on last night, it will continue to be so for a while yet. The Dees were well beaten at the stoppages in the opener as they struggled to win clearances but that had to be expected with so much inexperience in this division. Nathan Jones was the best in this area, David Rodan added bite and Toumpas and Viney will definitely play a role in the club's revival of fortunes. Jordie McKenzie was strong with his tackling but a liability with his poor footskills while skipper Jack Grimes was a bit subdued. The team lost a bit when Sam Blease who had been showing some zip and movement between the lines went off with an ankle injury.

Later in the evening, injuries cruelled the Demons who were limited in the ruck after Jake Spencer and James Frawley left the field.

The triple header system works against teams playing second in hot conditions and the Demons never looked like winning against the Tigers who had a more energy and cohesion. To Melbourne's credit, it fought the game out well and outscored both of its opponents in the second half of their games and but for the scoring system that only applies in the NAB Cup would have ended up square for the night.

While that is no compensation for some, I don't think anyone other than the rottweiler who poses as the chief football writer of a local rag could say that Melbourne didn't play the game on its merits even if there was a fair bit of experimentation going on.

Melbourne 0.2.2.14 0.5.6.36

North Melbourne
1.2.2.23 1.4.5.38

Goals
Howe 2 Hogan Kent Watts

Best Jones Howe Hogan

Melbourne 0.1.0.6 0.2.3.15

Richmond
1.2.5.26 1.2.9.30

Goals
Toumpas Watts

Best Jones Toumpas Watts

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First thing is first, we will not make finals.

I can tell you the coaching team were extremely pleased with aspects of our team defence which has barely been spoken about on here. Watch the North game again and have a look how many times they had to slow the play down, kick sideways and take risks because we defended as a team. North had so many more possessions because they had to mess around with the ball at the back, and we pushed forward slowly and created pressure. Forget the kicking, forget breaking the lines, this is the base of our game and Neeld has improved the team....the rest will come.

Other positives:

Jack Watts has developed into a player who can defend well, counter attack well and find the ball extremely well. Another 2 years and he can become similar to Goddard, maybe not as good but close.

We actually beat North if you don't count the extra 3 points they got for the super goal. For christ sakes!!! WE BEAT NORTH AT ETIHAD...there is a massive improvement.

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Blowed if I know why we haven't picked up a nippy crumbing forward who can kick goals.

'Cos we can't find one.

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So we "experimented" AND we lost to Richmond.

Presumably now The Age and their award-winning star sports journo can find us guilty again of "tanking". But perhaps this is exactly why Vlad has so much trouble getting his head around what constitutes the "crime".

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Based on what you're saying, we should indeed play finals footy. If we've improved so much over the off season and beaten North at Etihad, then who's to say that new guys won't rapidly improve after a few H&A games under their belts.

Not bad for the first time they've had a competitive hit out against opposition other than themselves.

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First thing is first, we will not make finals.

I can tell you the coaching team were extremely pleased with aspects of our team defence which has barely been spoken about on here. Watch the North game again and have a look how many times they had to slow the play down, kick sideways and take risks because we defended as a team. North had so many more possessions because they had to mess around with the ball at the back, and we pushed forward slowly and created pressure. Forget the kicking, forget breaking the lines, this is the base of our game and Neeld has improved the team....the rest will come.

Other positives:

Jack Watts has developed into a player who can defend well, counter attack well and find the ball extremely well. Another 2 years and he can become similar to Goddard, maybe not as good but close.

We actually beat North if you don't count the extra 3 points they got for the super goal. For christ sakes!!! WE BEAT NORTH AT ETIHAD...there is a massive improvement.

Nothing all that insightful there. Yes, we defended and covered space a lot better in the North game. I haven't seen many here say anything to the contrary.

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How is it good when the players do not have the ball in hand for far greater percentages than the opposition? I get what your saying, our defensive structures stood up, but when you dont get first hands on the footy, dispose of it well, then the only positive you can take out that situation is for the defensive strusture to stand up.

Its a poor mans positive IMO

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First thing is first, we will not make finals.

I can tell you the coaching team were extremely pleased with aspects of our team defence which has barely been spoken about on here. Watch the North game again and have a look how many times they had to slow the play down, kick sideways and take risks because we defended as a team. North had so many more possessions because they had to mess around with the ball at the back, and we pushed forward slowly and created pressure. Forget the kicking, forget breaking the lines, this is the base of our game and Neeld has improved the team....the rest will come.

Other positives:

Jack Watts has developed into a player who can defend well, counter attack well and find the ball extremely well. Another 2 years and he can become similar to Goddard, maybe not as good but close.

We actually beat North if you don't count the extra 3 points they got for the super goal. For christ sakes!!! WE BEAT NORTH AT ETIHAD...there is a massive improvement.

thanks football. I missed the game totally as I had something i had to do, & forgot about it, so missed the radio as well.

dropped into the pub on the way home to see if it was still on, & found we went out in a close straight sets.

I like what you described that we are building our defensive end with some growing success & WJ wrote we were tallish, & this seems a modern way going forward with many tall defenders able to do most defensive roles, but with so much backend height, sticking the structures is crucial.

this will take us a little while to warm into the season letting the players find their collective form together.

I'm hoping by Rnd 6, we will be starting to get it together.

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Our defence was very good, but it has been good for a long time.

We got beaten again in the stoppages.

Our movement of the ball was good, except coming inside 50, where it was terrible.

Midfield quality, and ball into 50 quality need a huge amount of work.

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Knowing when to go to the man with the ball still a work in progress but signs of improvement have begun. There were a few times still when 2 Demons went to the ball carrier leaving an easy handball release option for the ball carrier to an unmanned team mate. who was then able to set up play under limited pressure. As we get better at that judgement call we should force more turnovers or at a minimum more consistently prevent a quick forward transition by our opponents.

All in all out structures were better and we looked more competitive physically in terms of strength and endurance.

And a few kids showed a bit!

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First thing is first, we will not make finals.

I can tell you the coaching team were extremely pleased with aspects of our team defence which has barely been spoken about on here. Watch the North game again and have a look how many times they had to slow the play down, kick sideways and take risks because we defended as a team. North had so many more possessions because they had to mess around with the ball at the back, and we pushed forward slowly and created pressure. Forget the kicking, forget breaking the lines, this is the base of our game and Neeld has improved the team....the rest will come.

Other positives:

Jack Watts has developed into a player who can defend well, counter attack well and find the ball extremely well. Another 2 years and he can become similar to Goddard, maybe not as good but close.

We actually beat North if you don't count the extra 3 points they got for the super goal. For christ sakes!!! WE BEAT NORTH AT ETIHAD...there is a massive improvement.

I like it!

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We still need to get our hands on the ball far more often. That gets back to our lack of A grade mids.

What I did like in the North game:

1. We had more inside 50's. How often can we claim a stat like that ?

2. We had 7 marks inside 50 in what was in reality less than a half of footy. By comparison North had 4. Marks inside 50 has always been a massive stat for me.

Both were very positive signs.

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The second halves of both games were reasonable.

One massive positive was simply the polish on Toumpas and Watts.

Knowing our luck ,I don't want to build up Hogan too much yet .

Col and Frawley looked at sea, which is weird considering how much they should be used to the ball flying down there.

The umpiring was retarded last night, in all departments, which just frustrated me.

The tackling and defensive effort was lots better than last year.

The kicking has improved 10-15% and could get better with the omission of the usual suspects.

Great to see Nev and Pickles get a go .

Last year we had no crumbers quick enough .Jetta ,Viney ,Toumpas ,and Evans will fix that .

Big UPS.

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I wasn't sure when I left Etihad as to whether to be happy or disappointed with our performance on the night. In the end, my thinking was on the positive side because, on the way home I met a person involved in the fitness industry with connections with AFL trainers who told me that there was a view among those involved in the industry that Dean Bailey left us with a basket case of a team that was way behind best practice. He said that he has observed some outstanding improvement since Mark Neeld took over. He also said he felt there was a noticeable improvement in our skills coinciding with our better fitness. We're be no means out of the woods but at least it's something to hang your hat on.

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Anyone know where I can find the match stats from these games?

Match reviews on the AFL website include all stats including those of individual players.

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Sorry to temper the positives about the north game, but according to the experts on bigfooty (north forum), the Roos should've won by 30 plus pts, and that Melbourne's fight back was due to north easing up.

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Sorry to temper the positives about the north game, but according to the experts on bigfooty (north forum), the Roos should've won by 30 plus pts, and that Melbourne's fight back was due to north easing up.

The umpiring kept Norf in it.

And they lost without the supergoal system.

Anyway-let them have their fun , we will do them this year or I'll take up trout fishing.

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Sorry to temper the positives about the north game, but according to the experts on bigfooty (north forum), the Roos should've won by 30 plus pts, and that Melbourne's fight back was due to north easing up.

Of course they would say that sort of thing. No doubt they would put down the result of their last premiership match, the First Elimination Final on Sunday, 9 September, 2012 (West Coast 24.18.162 - North Melbourne 9.12.66) to the team easing up after the five minute mark of the first quarter.
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I thought it was a good hit out overall. We still have a long way to go. Im looking forward to the remaining NAB Cup to see if our side can gel a bit better. I dare say as we get closer to the real thing we will play close to our full side....shes going to be a bumpy year...the joys of trying to move up the ladder

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Anyone know where I can find the match stats from these games?

Also the AFL Phone App

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