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1974 by Whispering Jack

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This is the sad chronicle of 1974, another year we would prefer to forget ... [WARNING: this is not for the fainthearted]

I am reluctant to reveal the story of the last former Swans player to take on the coaching reins at Melbourne but history records that South Melbourne great Bob Skilton, who was captain-coach at the Swans for two inglorious years in 1965-1966, was at the helm at Melbourne from 1974-1977. His best finish was sixth in 1976 but his debut season was a horror year for the Demons. Here's how it unfolded.

Round 1, 1974

Carlton v Melbourne

Saturday, 6 April

Venue: Princes Park

Attendance: 16,724

Carlton 1.3.9 5.4.34 8.8.56 14.13.97

Melbourne 3.3.21 5.5.35 5.7.37 6.12.48

Goals Brewer 2 Baker Clennett Giampaolo Wells 1

The first up game under new coach Bob Skilton against competition power house Carlton was too much for the young Demons to handle. After a competitive first half in which Footscray recruit Garry Baker dominated the ruck, they fell away badly to lose by 49 points. Veteran Graham Osborne did a fine job on Alex Jesaulenko but Carl Ditterich failed to fire.

Round 2, 1974 Melbourne v St. Kilda

Monday, 15 April

Venue: MCG

Attendance: 36,708

Melbourne 3.6.24 7.12.54 10.16.76 11.20.86

St. Kilda 1.4.10 2.8.20 9.12.66 14.16.100

Goals Baker Flower Tilbrook 2 Brewer Clennett Owens Slade Wells

Playing on their home track and holding a 34-point lead at the main break, the Demons folded in the second half to the fast-finishing Saints and went down by a disappointing 14 points. Flower, Clennett and Baker were Melbourne's best.

Former Demon Paul Callery, who was best on ground in his first match against his old side, wrote a scathing article in The Age and earned the displeasure of the Demon faithful from that day on.

Round 3, 1974

Melbourne v Geelong

Saturday, 20 April

Venue: MCG

Attendance: 21,041

Melbourne 3.2.20 7.5.47 9.7.61 16.10.106

Geelong 7.2.44 10.6.66 14.9.93 16.14.110

Goals Clennett Keenan 3 Baker Collins 2 Alves Brewer Chamberlain Smith Tilbrook Wells

Melbourne conceded a four goal lead at quarter time and trailed all day but came back strongly to miss out by only four points in the end. Alves, Clark and Wells were the team's best players while ruckman Peter Keenan booted three goals in the last quarter canceling out the three goals he gave away from frees earlier in the day.

Future captain Steven Smith played his first game for the club and kicked a goal in his first game.

Round 4, 1974

Richmond v Melbourne

Saturday, 27 April

Venue: MCG

Attendance: 28,080

Richmond 3.5.23 7.9.51 10.12.72 13.16.94

Melbourne 2.6.18 4.8.32 6.10.46 9.15.69

Goals Hardeman Smith 2 Brewer Collins Ditterich Flower Wells

Richmond was in its way to a second successive premiership and was simply too strong in the wet for Melbourne. The experienced Wells, Hardeman and Alves were the Demons' best on a day when Garry Baker limped off the field with a strained medial ligament.

Round 5, 1974 Melbourne v North Melbourne

Saturday, 4 May

Venue: MCG

Attendance: 23,616

Melbourne 2.2.14 5.6.36 5.8.38 13.11.89

North Melbourne 4.3.27 11.8.74 15.12.102 19.15.129

Goals Keenan 4 Fitzsimmons Hardeman 2 Clark Ditterich Slade Tilbrook Wells

This was North Melbourne's first win against Melbourne on the MCG since 1969. The Kangaroos were heading for the finals and held a 64-point lead at the final break before Melbourne came home with an eight goal final term but still went down by 40 points.

Best for the Demons were Clark, Alves and Wells while their woes with injuries continued as Gary Hardeman broke his toe.

Round 6, 1974

Collingwood v Melbourne

Saturday, 11 May

Venue: Waverley

Attendance: 25,157

Collingwood 4.4.28 7.8.50 9.10.64 13.11.89

Melbourne 5.1.31 8.3.51 11.3.69 12.7.79

Goals Tilbrook 5 Wells 2 Alves Fitzsimmons Hardeman Osborne Slade

A game against the old enemy used to bring out the best in the Demons and this game at Waverley was no exception, The Magpies held Melbourne out by 10 points after trailing at every interval. John Tilbrook kicked the first two goals of the day on his way to five for the day after earlier announcing his intention to play gridiron in the USA.

Runner Sam Allica was reported for abusive language and suspended for eight matches on a day when the Dees' best were Alves, Owens and Clennett.

Round 7, 1974

South Melbourne v Melbourne

Saturday, 18 May

Venue: Lake Oval

Attendance: 11,204

South Melbourne 4.9.33 7.12.54 11.14.80 13.16.94

Melbourne 4.3.27 8.5.53 9.6.60 11.10.76

Goals Tilbrook 6 Wells 2 Baker Fitzsimmons Moore

After a close opening half, the Demons trailed by a point but they disappointed their Skilton on his return as coach to the Lake Oval to lose by three goals in wet conditions after several days of record rainfalls in the Melbourne metropolitan area. Best were Clarke, Brewer and Alves and Tilbrook booted six goals.

Round 8, 1974

Melbourne v Hawthorn

Saturday, 25 May

Venue: MCG

Attendance: 18,030

Melbourne 2.4.16 4.7.31 5.9.39 6.15.51

Hawthorn 4.7.31 7.13.55 11.19.85 13.21.99

Goals Alves Baker Brewer Clennett Dullard Keays

The Demons were never in the hunt against the strong Hawthorn team. A verbal altercation between Skilton and Hawthorn player Don Scott gave the otherwise dull encounter some life while Demon youngster Neil McMullin was admitted to hospital with a broken jaw after a clash with Leigh Matthews. It was not the first nor the last time Matthews was involved in an unsavoury incident with a Melbourne player. Alves, Wells and Clennett were the best players for their side.

Round 9, 1974

Footscray v Melbourne

Saturday, 1 June

Venue: Western Oval

Attendance: 15,115

Footscray 5.3.33 8.11.59 12.13.85 13.16.94

Melbourne 2.3.15 4.4.28 6.6.42 8.8.56

Goals Alves Owens 2 Flower Slade Smith Wells

The Demons were desperate for a win and turned to two youngsters for their first games against the Bulldogs in Bill Barham (whose father was a bush champion who the club tried to recruit in the 1950s) and Greg Wood from Wallan who had kicked 176 goals in the previous year. However, it didn't help and Melbourne lost its 17th game on end, this time by 38 points drawing criticism from the Age which described every Melbourne forward move as "an aimless meander into strange territory". Ditterich, Alves and Baker were Melbourne's best.

Round 10, 1974

Melbourne v Fitzroy

Saturday, 8 June

Venue: MCG

Attendance: 12,414

Melbourne 1.3.9 6.5.41 13.7.85 19.10.124

Fitzroy 3.5.23 8.8.56 10.13.73 13.15.93

Goals Brewer Williamson 5 Flower 3 Smith 2 Alves Baker Wells Wood

On Bastille Day 1973, the Demons were still a chance to make the finals but their loss that day put paid to that and eventually saw off Ian Ridley as coach. Now, after 19 game consecutive losses, the run of defeats came to an end against the Lions who were also the last side they had tasted victory against.

Sullivan, Flower and Delmenico were the best players for the Demons who would have been encouraged by the form of their younger players in the windy conditions. The team overcame a poor opening half to run out victors by 31 points.

Round 11, 1974

Melbourne v Essendon

Saturday, 15 June

Venue: Waverley

Attendance: 21,396

Melbourne 3.3.21 5.4.35 9.5.59 10.10.70

Essendon 5.5.35 7.7.49 12.10.82 15.15.105

Goals Brewer 5 Flower 3 Alves Williamson

The Demons couldn't repeat the dose the following week when they confronted the Bombers at Waverley.

Carl Ditterich sat on the bench for most of the day recovering from injury but when he came on, he had little influence. Wells, Brewer and Giampaolo were the team's best in their 35 -point loss.

Round 12, 1974

Melbourne v Carlton

Saturday, 22 June

Venue: MCG

Attendance: 23,336

Melbourne 2.2.14 5.4.34 8.7.55 11.13.79

Carlton 4.5.29 9.10.74 12.15.87 15.18.108

Goals Brewer 3 Baker 2 Williamson 2 Clark Flower Smith Wells

Wells, Hardeman and Baker were the best of a Demon combination that battled manfully against the odds as the Blues coasted to a near 5 goal victory.

Round 13, 1974

St. Kilda v Melbourne

Saturday, 29 June

Venue: Moorabbin

Attendance: 13,854

St. Kilda 4.3.27 4.4.28 7.10.52 11.13.79

Melbourne 0.2.2 5.4.34 9.6.60 13.10.88

Goals Flower 4 Williamson 3 Wells 2 Alves Clark Ditterich Wood

The Demons overcame a slow start and a 25-point quarter time deficit to overrun St. Kilda in the final half to win by 9 points. They were helped by some inspired play from young defenders Adrian Dullard and Frank Giampaolo while Carl Ditterich, finally played in a win over his old side.

Round 14, 1975

Melbourne v Richmond

Saturday, 6 July

Venue: MCG

Attendance: 21,146

Melbourne 2.6.18 4.13.37 7.17.59 11.24.90

Richmond 3.4.22 9.10.64 19.12.126 23.15.153

Goals Ditterich 3 Baker Williamson 2 Brewer Clark Scott Wells

The Tigers dominated this fixture after quarter time. Melbourne had no answer to their free-scoring dominance and did not help matters with their errant shooting at goal.

Again, it was left to the more experienced players in Sullivan, Ditterich and Hardeman to add some respectability after a 10 goal Richmond third term.

Round 15, 1974

Geelong v Melbourne

Saturday, 13 July

Venue: Kardinia Park

Attendance: 10,881

Geelong 2.4.16 5.5.35 8.7.55 12.11.83

Melbourne 4.2.26 6.5.41 6.7.43 9.9.63

Goals Barham Chamberlain Ditterich 2 Flower Smith Williamson

Melbourne gave Geelong a run for its money and led at half time before the customary third term fade out put paid to their chances of winning the game.

Round 16 1974

North Melbourne v Melbourne

Saturday, 20 July

Venue: Arden Street

Attendance: 9,094

North Melbourne 1.0.6 7.3.45 11.5.71 19.14.128

Melbourne 4.5.29 5.5.35 8.7.55 9.10.64

Goals Baker 3 Brewer 2 Barham Scott Smith Wood

It was Greg Wells' 100th game but the occasion wasn't enough to lift the Demons whose final score was doubled by the Kangaroos on their home turf at Arden Street.

After a slow start, North recovered to take the lead at half-time and extend their margin at three-quarter time before running away with the game in the final term. Best for the losers were Giampaolo, Wells and Baker.

Round 17, 1974

Melbourne v Collingwood

Saturday, 27 July

Venue: MCG

Attendance: 22,893

Melbourne 3.9.27 8.16.64 12.16.88 15.21.111

Collingwood 5.2.32 7.7.49 12.7.79 17.13.115

Goals Hardeman 4 Barham Brewer 3 Wells 2 Baker Flower Wood

An inaccurate Melbourne gave finals contender Collingwood a fright at the MCG and was unlucky to lose by 4 points. Elder statesmen Hardeman, Wells and Alves were Melbourne's best.

Round 18 1974

Melbourne v South Melbourne

Saturday, 3 August

Venue: Waverley

Attendance: 13,188

Melbourne 2.6.18 5.10.40 8.11.59 11.17.83

South Melbourne 2.2.14 6.7.43 7.11.53 14.13.97

Goals Flower 4 Wells 2 Baker Barham Brewer Carroll Ditterich

The Demons three away another winning opportunity with poor kicking for goal after leading at the final break. Their best at Waverley against the Swans were Ditterich, Flower and Wells.

Round 19, 1974

Hawthorn v Melbourne

Saturday, 10 August

Venue: Princes Park

Attendance: 8,754

Hawthorn 3.6.24 7.11.53 14.17.101 17.20.122

Melbourne 1.2.8 5.6.36 8.10.58 14.13.97

Goals Baker 5 Brewer 4 Alves Barham Ditterich Hardeman Wells

Melbourne put in a brave effort which could easily have been even more flattering but for the fact that they hit the post three times on their way to a 25-point loss.

A hamstring injury to centreman Denis Clark saw Tony Sullivan moved into the middle where he put in an outstanding performance. Greg Wells was also in fine form while Chamberlain and Baker were also good.

Round 20, 1974

Melbourne v Footscray

Saturday, 17 August

Venue: MCG

Attendance: 17,951

Melbourne 1.1.7 3.6.24 7.11.53 10.15.75

Footscray 6.7.43 11.10.76 15.18.108 23.21.159

Goals Brewer Scott 2 Alves Barham Biffin Chamberlain Ditterich Flower

The Demons copped a mauling from the Bulldogs for the second time in the season. This time the margin was 14 goals in a game played in front of the faithful at the MCG. The Dogs were aiming for the finals and coach Bob Rose demanded a percentage booster, which is exactly what he got from his charges as they produced their team's biggest winning margin yet against the Dees whose only winner on the day was Stan Alves. Of the others only Barham and Sullivan could hold their heads up high.

Round 21, 1974

Fitzroy v Melbourne

Saturday, 24 August

Venue: Junction Oval

Attendance: 7,803

Fitzroy 2.4.16 4. 7.31 10.15.75 14.16.100

Melbourne 3.2.20 6.6.42 13.8.86 20.13.133

Goals Wells 4 Barham Brewer 3 Baker Giampaolo Smith 2 Ditterich Dullard McMullin Osborne

Stung by their pathetic effort against Footscray, the Demons struck back against Fitzroy at the Junction Oval. Wells, Ditterich and Giampaolo were their best in a fiery game which reached fever pitch after Ditterich clashed with the Lions' ruckman Dean Farnham. The wild brawl that ensued involved almost every player on the field.

Fitzroy veteran Kevin Murray broke the VFL record for the most games played to that time.

Round 22 1974

Essendon v Melbourne

Saturday, 31 August

Venue: Windy Hill

Attendance: 13,561

Essendon 5.4.34 12.6.78 17.9.111 20.17.137

Melbourne 5.2.32 5.6.36 10.12.72 15.13.103

Goals Brewer Dullard 3 Giampaolo Wells 2 Alves Barham Hardeman

Keenan Smith

Melbourne completed its nightmare season by going down to the Bombers at Windy Hill in the final game. The wooden spoon was already secured and Melbourne was really only in the hunt for a win in the first quarter. Essendon piled on 7.2 to 0.4 in the second quarter and the 1974 nightmare was over for Melbourne.

It was left again to seasoned players in

Wells, Sullivan and Biffin to hold their team together with some dignity in the second half.

Two years later, Melbourne which had improved dramatically under Skilton's coaching and beat a now lowly Collingwood in a must-win final round. However, the Demons were deprived of a place in the top five when the Bulldogs managed a draw against top side Carlton after a Blues' shot for goal was touched on the line seconds before the final siren allowing the Bulldogs to edge the Demons out by just ½ a game.

It would then be another 11 years before Melbourne would have the opportunity to taste finals action.

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