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Backline Setup and Structure

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19 hours ago, buck_nekkid said:

When we halve the centre and hold the ball forward, it looks OK.  When that failed on Sunday, the backline was exposed.  I imagine any Defensive setup would have been horribly exposed in these circumstances.  Biggest failure was tagging Mitchell with Nate.  He was busy, they were all over Clarry, and we had no one to give us drive from the middle.  Second biggest failure was continuing with the biggest failure after about 1/2 time...

Anyway, onto topic:

Oscar has been doing well in 1:1's and his field kicking is much improved.  He is a lock at FB now.

Jetta?  gone missing.  Very unusual, but he is along way from top form.  He also seems SLOW.

Lever - my god, did he stink up the place on Sunday.  He has been poor, but he was an absolute liability on the weekend.  Every kick pumped to the wing (straight to a hawks player), and terrible off the deck (cost us a goal directly by his fumbling).  Needs to go back.

Pig - has been good and OK, so gets some slack.

Lewis - when we are winning, he will look good.  Under pressure, he is a liability.  SLOW.  Old Grandpa needs to go sit on the Casey porch.

Frost - needs to settle, petal.  Needs some guidance on if he is a man on man defender or an attacking half back.  Boy cant be both.

So, the biggest issue with our game style is when it goes over the back.  We have no speed to go back with fast leading forwards or wingers.  This means any over-the back is a goal opportunity to the opposition.  Our game has to be built on 2 way running.  The high press is nice, provided we dont let them kick over it (Billy-Ray's torp to kneeboy).  Also, the hawks had #31 stationed in the centre circle for large period to run like a madman forward if they broke out of our HB line.  This and the Torp leave us vulnerable.

 My suggestion:

Oscar at FB, taking their FF.  Hunt and at least one other foot foot-speed (perhaps J Smith) to run both ways.  Angus to be groomed to replace Lewis.  Lever needs to go back to Casey to work out how he can play in the system, and not get games on his reputation.  His role in such a high press needs to be reviewed/redesigned/refined.

We could potentially try Bugg back to give Jetta a rest.  (casey for form)

Perhaps we could look at using the centre station idea to have a designated speedster to cover back and protect our ahrses if they get over the high press.

If Goodie is serious, he will send a strong message at the selection table.  If you play that Shyte, then you can do it at Casey.

Some good ideas in this modification and is a whole field recommendation. More talls in the fwd line might be an advantage yet at this point, I cannot see Weed doing anything creative if he is moved into this area - he may in time but not yet. That leaves Pedo to play his role as a support to the fwd line to help turn the tide when things get tough. Hunt must surely be required to run himself into the play, now. He is a good 2-way runner. Lever may just turn the corner but a week of reflection with Casey may do him some good to figure out his role in the back half. We have many midfielders that have had the ball kicked over them by the opposition/s that we have played - particularly in their attack - and unless we re-focus and achieve 2-way running, it will continue to occur. Just thoughts .

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43 minutes ago, buck_nekkid said:

Only damning in context:

how many times have we had a run on of 4 or more goals?

how many times have other teams suffered such a run on.

how many games did we win or lose when it happened?

it is a worthless piece of cheap journalism without context.

Exactly. I reckon Essendon would have similar or worse stats, but they are media darlings, plus the media have to all pile in on a different team each week. Carlton seem to be escaping such scrutiny. Guess a few 'journos' might have parted with a few $$$ backing us on the weekend.

Edited by Clintosaurus

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21 hours ago, stevethemanjordan said:

Lever benefitted from having a backline that played a less aggressive zone and a more one-on-one style setup which allowed him to play his natural role as an elite intercept player. He was number one in the comp. We're doing him no favours in the way we're playing as a defensive setup. No favours.

I'm similarly confused at why we'd go so hard after Lever and then play him in in a defensive structure that doesn't allow him to do what he does best. But this is nothing to do with him. It's to do with our style of defence.

It's the same with Oscar. After seeing him play so well yesterday, I can see him being a successful full back down the track once he builds his body a bit more. But again, playing him in a zone that needs players to guard space is not a strength of his. His strengths don't lie there. 

We need to rijig asap.

So, do we rejig our defence completely to fit in a new player, or do we rejig the player to fit our defence?

Agree that there appears to be very little cohesion within the unit.

Agree something needs to change - currently it is a sieve. 

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I urge you (if you haven’t already) to watch ‘on the couch’ for an insight into what a rabble we are in our defensive setup.

Brown pointed out some really ordinary defensive efforts from both Lewis and Vince which also highlighted their lack of speed which again is problematic in the type of defensive structure Goodwin is trying to implement.

The lack of accountability is pretty disguising from two very senior players.

 

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19 minutes ago, stevethemanjordan said:

I urge you (if you haven’t already) to watch ‘on the couch’ for an insight into what a rabble we are in our defensive setup.

Brown pointed out some really ordinary defensive efforts from both Lewis and Vince which also highlighted their lack of speed which again is problematic in the type of defensive structure Goodwin is trying to implement.

The lack of accountability is pretty disguising from two very senior players.

 

I enjoyed in a perverse way watching On the Couch and Footy Classified as they highlighted things I have been banging on about all summer. 

We lack pace.

We needed another Garlett type of player who can create something from nothing and has pace. 

Our game plan exposed our back half and leads to us leaking like a sieve in games. We must at a minimum have the last player between the opposition and their goal.

We don't take full advantage of Max by playing to him. 

Our skills across the list are poor, especially under pressure. 

We are in trouble if Vince and Lewis are in the back half together as we become even slower. 

Clubs have worked us out and like master coach Clarko did they can then cut us to ribbons. 

When Jaeger with a stuffed knee can run past 4 of our backmen and goal, that highlights problems for the footy world to see. 

We also continue to play poorly skilled players because they can do something else, yet ultimately it  leads to failure in today's possession dominated footy, because in a crunch they let you down.

No name players with pace, skill and effort will continue to cut us apart unless we react quickly. 

As a side note, the Hawks  who are quicker than us get Impey, how did he go Sunday. Personally I am far less impressed with big name players being chased than I am with identifying prospects who have pace,  skill and give effort all game. Forget Lynch, find another 3-4 of those types and we will be a good side with our other talent. 

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1 hour ago, monoccular said:

So, do we rejig our defence completely to fit in a new player, or do we rejig the player to fit our defence?

Agree that there appears to be very little cohesion within the unit.

Agree something needs to change - currently it is a sieve. 

Maybe we should have weighted any decisions about importing players upon that absolute. 

Are we building a house with no plans ?

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  -  Simon Goodwin - Senior Coach
  -  Brendan McCartney - Player/Coach Performance Manager
  -  Matthew Egan - Head of Player Development  
  -  Ben Mathews - Stoppage and Contest Coach
  -  Troy Chaplin - Backline Coach
  -  Craig Jennings - Game Analyst and Education Coordinator
  -  Jade Rawlings - Casey Demons VFL Coach

I assume all of the above names have something to do with the current state of our defence, but the buck surely stops with Goodwin & Chaplin. 

How hard is it for six defenders to each have an opponent and the spare, if we must have one, to provide cover against the most dangerous forward/s? It seems to me that we have a lot of coaches making things more difficult than necessary, just to justify their positions at the club.

Some of the goals we conceded on Sunday were unbelievable. Players not rushing the ball through the points from a metre out, spoils directed to the goal square, everybody up in contests leaving multiple Hawks on the ground, and so on. None of these are complicated. How can seven responsible coaches not ensure that we have the basics sorted, before they go about reinventing the wheel?
 

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5 hours ago, beelzebub said:

Maybe we should have weighted any decisions about importing players upon that absolute. 

Are we building a house with no plans ?

Most builders think architects are overated ! 

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On 4/16/2018 at 10:20 AM, stevethemanjordan said:

"Our two major problem areas are clearly our inability to convert inside 50's into genuine scoring opportunities and our inability to limit the opposition scoring when they enter their forward 50."

So what your saying is...we're no good at scoring, and we're no good at stopping the other team scoring.

Might be a long season...

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1 minute ago, poita said:

  -  Simon Goodwin - Senior Coach
  -  Brendan McCartney - Player/Coach Performance Manager
  -  Matthew Egan - Head of Player Development  
  -  Ben Mathews - Stoppage and Contest Coach
  -  Troy Chaplin - Backline Coach
  -  Craig Jennings - Game Analyst and Education Coordinator
  -  Jade Rawlings - Casey Demons VFL Coach

I assume all of the above names have something to do with the current state of our defence, but the buck surely stops with Goodwin & Chaplin. 

How hard is it for six defenders to each have an opponent and the spare, if we must have one, to provide cover against the most dangerous forward/s? It seems to me that we have a lot of coaches making things more difficult than necessary, just to justify their positions at the club.

Some of the goals we conceded on Sunday were unbelievable. Players not rushing the ball through the points from a metre out, spoils directed to the goal square, everybody up in contests leaving multiple Hawks on the ground, and so on. None of these are complicated. How can seven responsible coaches not ensure that we have the basics sorted, before they go about reinventing the wheel?
 

I'm not too sure the wheel is listening to the cogs !

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43 minutes ago, Fat Tony said:

Brainstorm: what about trialling Mitch Hannan in defence?

I don’t believe it’s a personnel problem.

Except maybe when we have both of of Lewis and Vince in the backline at the same time due to their inability to keep their feet and Keck of pace.

Most of our back six are fine and would benefit greatly from playing a less agressive and more defensive setup imo.

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9 hours ago, stevethemanjordan said:

I urge you (if you haven’t already) to watch ‘on the couch’ for an insight into what a rabble we are in our defensive setup.

Brown pointed out some really ordinary defensive efforts from both Lewis and Vince which also highlighted their lack of speed which again is problematic in the type of defensive structure Goodwin is trying to implement.

The lack of accountability is pretty disguising from two very senior players.

 

I'm pretty sure I know exactly what they'll show (Lever and Vince over-running ground balls, Vince not kicking ball away a metre out from goal which cost a goal etc.), but where can I watch this online? I don't have Foxtel.

Edited by Lord Travis

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14 minutes ago, Lord Travis said:

I'm pretty sure I know exactly what they'll show (Lever and Vince over-running ground balls, Vince not kicking ball away a metre out from goal which cost a goal etc.), but where can I watch this online? I don't have Foxtel.

Usually there’s someone who posts it on YouTube a few days later? 

Should be up tomorrow, I’ll share the link if I find it.

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Yeah I did a youtube search but only found older episodes. I'll wait a few days and see if it pops up then. Thanks anyway!

It's a shame Hunt's been out of form. His pace and running power both ways is exactly what we're missing at the moment. Here's hoping he did enough a Casey on the weekend to earn a call up. 

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24 minutes ago, Lord Travis said:

I'm pretty sure I know exactly what they'll show (Lever and Vince over-running ground balls, Vince not kicking ball away a metre out from goal which cost a goal etc.), but where can I watch this online? I don't have Foxtel.

Spot on LordTravis. But they show a lot more too. Lewis horribly out of position. Our press too high. Soft efforts.Too slow. It's really worth a watch if you can. They focus on us for the first 15 minutes.

A big point was that the big problems are structural.

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5 hours ago, stevethemanjordan said:

I don’t believe it’s a personnel problem.

Except maybe when we have both of of Lewis and Vince in the backline at the same time due to their inability to keep their feet and Keck of pace.

Most of our back six are fine and would benefit greatly from playing a less agressive and more defensive setup imo.

Agreed.

I still believe we have one of the strongest backlines in the league. That is individually. But as a unit, as players within our current defensive mechanism, we have one of the weakest.

Oscar is a promising up and coming KPB. Hibberd is a gun. Lever is a gun. Jetta is a gun. Hunt is a gun, but needs to improve his disposal (no more than Houli at Richmond though).

That's 5 really solid players. They are not a defence that should be leaking goals as we do. Our system is ridiculously flawed and I cannot understand why we've reverted to the aggressive press that killed us so much last year.

The first two rounds saw us test varying levels of the press, but against Hawthorn in the rain, the aggressive press was absurd. 

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19 hours ago, Clintosaurus said:

Exactly. I reckon Essendon would have similar or worse stats, but they are media darlings, plus the media have to all pile in on a different team each week. Carlton seem to be escaping such scrutiny. Guess a few 'journos' might have parted with a few $$$ backing us on the weekend.

This.

The 'brave' CFC over our same wretched period:

2018: 18th . . .

2017: 16th

2016: 14th

2015: 18th

2014: 13th

2013: (9th)

2012: 10th

 

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20 hours ago, Clintosaurus said:

Exactly. I reckon Essendon would have similar or worse stats, but they are media darlings, plus the media have to all pile in on a different team each week. Carlton seem to be escaping such scrutiny. Guess a few 'journos' might have parted with a few $$$ backing us on the weekend.

 

1 hour ago, Skuit said:

This.

The 'brave' CFC over our same wretched period:

2018: 18th . . .

2017: 16th

2016: 14th

2015: 18th

2014: 13th

2013: (9th)

2012: 10th

 

Unlike what many here think, I believe the media is active in its positive support for us, as evident in its talking up of Melbourne throughout the pre-season.

When Melbourne goes bad it's a story because we've been so bad for so long, and I think people do genuinely want to see us do well.

The expectation now is that we should not be performing still as we did on the weekend. It's a story because even people that don't support Melbourne are sick and tired of the rubbish they give up. Media folk are just as quick to talk us up and praise us as the next best thing as they are to talk us down. IMO, the scrutiny we have faced this week is completely justified. It was as bad a performance by a team as we've seen this year.

Carlton hasn't had anywhere near as much AFL assistance as us, and didn't have a Paul Roos or Peter Jackson brought it to right the ship. It's a non-story when they don't perform.

Essendon is building back from 4 years of excessive media scrutiny that goes far beyond any on-field ineptness. I don't think Essendon performing badly is interesting. Like Carlton, it's a bit of a non-story. The public is just exhausted of anything Essendon.

For all the complaining Melbourne fans make of us not getting coverage in the media, we actually get a hell of a lot. St Kilda didn't get anywhere near as much coverage about its performance as we have after one bad performance.

I get that the media are merchants of negativity, but even as one of the league's so-called "smaller" clubs, we have always seemed to get coverage akin to that of the powerhouses. 

This may be due to the club's "friends" in high places, and the weird number of people in the media industry that are Melbourne supporters (we probably have more former Melbourne players, and supporters working in the media than any other club).

We're scrutinised because people expect (and want) so much from the club. That's not a bad thing.

Besides, none of the coverage this week has been unjustified. We deserved to be hounded. That wasn't just a 67-point loss. It was -- as they say -- a football lesson.

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I think for me the issues almost boil down to a change in roles across some of the defensive lines, particularly:

Hibberd & Hunt: gone from the alternating free half backs to tighter man markers. Hibberd has been required to play deeper than he was last year  

Lewis / Vince: now playing the free half backs

It’s meant we’ve played with less pace, are quicker to close down up the ground, and then get exposed out the back. 

Perhaps Lewis going out will be a good thing for our defensive structures, particularly to be replaced by someone with pace who can implement the aggressive press more effectively. 

I understand wanting to get the ball into Llewis / Vince’s hands at HB, but it appears to be causing too many structural issues for our defence to deal with 

 

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There has to be a question about the value of zone defending but if you are to do it the major problem is midfield and forward pressure. 

Teams are getting quicker and moving the ball much faster, that's the Richmond effect. They're also conditioned to facing zone defending. They've come up against it since about 2014 if not before. The inexperienced teams that are learning the zone defence now - Brisbane and Carlton particularly - are getting destroyed.

What do we have to do to fix it:
1. Backline: Tighten the zone up and live with more one on ones if need be. If you're playing infront it's 3m infront not 10. Hunt for Frost is the obvious in for Richmond but that alone won't solve all our problems especially given Hunt is likely still a fair way from his best. Got to keep building the trust and communication between the defenders to get the balance right between who's up and who's down. And the backs have to stop feeling sorry for themselves once the ball is one the deck and work out how they'll support the guy who gets the ball. The ball carrier was a sitting duck against the Hawks, there was no one pushing as hard as they could to get a handball receive or spread for a switch.

2. Change the make up of the midfield and find players who will not let their men get between them and the goal. Speed and hard running are needed. As is more balance around stoppages.

3. The forwards have to be better organised and work harder with their pressure. It's why we went to 1 tall. I'd suggest we have to go back to 2 talls against the Tigers but there has to be that desperation to chase and tackle with force.

As for improving our overall standard of play - we have to find some cohesion with our handballs. We can't just be flicking it around one hot potato to another. All over the ground we've been dreadful at getting the ball out to a free runner. Hopefully a bit of pace on the wings helps but it might not happen overnight.

 

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On 4/17/2018 at 7:55 AM, buck_nekkid said:

Only damning in context:

how many times have we had a run on of 4 or more goals?

how many times have other teams suffered such a run on.

how many games did we win or lose when it happened?

it is a worthless piece of cheap journalism without context.

Totally agree.

I saw the numbers from whately.

What a [censored], it means nothing unless he has all other clubs to compare with.

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Key midfielders Jack Viney (foot), Angus Brayshaw (back) and Clayton Oliver (shoulders) have been on modified training programmes but appear on target to return to full training in the next month along with Oskar Baker (hamstring, Mitch Hannan (knee), Billy Stretch (toe) and Aaron vandenBerg (shoulder). Nathan Jones was apparently troubled by hamstring tightness and took it easy with a bit of sparring practice and Jake Melksham was the only player missing (possibly because his wife is expecting a child any day now).  And after Friday’s shocking news of Tom Mitchell’s broken leg at Hawthorn’s training, the really good news was that nobody ended the session on crutches or in a moon boot. The story going round during the break of a renewal of Tom McDonald’s toe woes was just that - a tale with no substance. There’s a blister on a big toe but mine’s worse than his and it’s not going to stop me from being at the MCG on Saturday 23 March when the season starts with a game against Port Adelaide. So with that game in mind, the attention turned to the blokes who were training their butts off in the warm-up to what promises a tough month or two heading up to the 2019 season.  I’ve tried to steer away from all of the media speculation about Melbourne being one of the top three in line for the premiership but the inescapable take away from the session is the observation that the maturing list now runs strong and deep in quality and the club’s recruiting appears to have added icing to the cake.  We are light years away from the position we occupied when Dave Misson arrived to find that the club’s fitness and training regime was well below the standards of most AFL clubs. We no longer need to go into raptures about young draftees stepping up to the plate for round one because that simply isn’t going to happen. The younger recruits will all be given plenty of time. However, there are three (perhaps four if you add former Collingwood VFL player Marty Hore) ready-made potential additions to the team who have arrived from other clubs to add strength to Melbourne’s 2019 campaign. The added depth will certainly put pressure on the veterans like Jones and Jordan Lewis - that sort of pressure being another plus for teams that want to go places in this tough competition.  The addition of another club’s captain to your list is something that doesn’t happen often so my first observation is that Steven May from the Suns looms as a significant addition to the ranks. That was made clear from my first sighting of him on the track - he cuts a very imposing figure out on the ground and one can’t escape the feeling that his move to Melbourne is one that will be a great one for his career and for the club. Imagine him and Jake Lever as additions to the defensive structure of the side that took part in last year’s finals. Imagine another revitalised former Sun in Kade Kolodjashnij and a fit and re-energised Jayden Hunt and/or Billy Stretch added to that mix tearing down the flanks or the wings. At 206 cm and 109 kg Braydon Preuss is a big man and it’s hard to reconcile why North Melbourne let him go. True, Todd Goldstein had a good season last year and Ben Brown and Majak Daw (before his tragic issues) were considered adequate pinch hitters in the ruck but Preuss is a monster who promises to provide major headaches to opposing clubs that struggle now to counter Max Gawn. With the new rules coming in this season, pity their ruck divisions at centre bounces and pity the defences having to counter resting talls.  Speaking of pity, I want to go back to the rehab group for a moment and talk Jack Viney who set the tone for the rest of the players in this group with his steely determination and toughness. Back in the day, it was generally considered that being on the injured list gave players the opportunity to slack off a bit at training. Pity anyone with that view when Jack Viney’s around! Late in the session, he was doing repetitions around the boundary with Brayshaw and Lever and he attacked them with brutality. It was understandable that he was able to beat off the latter but, by the end, he had Angus gasping in his wake. Viney was restricted to only 10 of a possible 25 games due to those nagging foot injuries and was rarely able to play at his best when he was on the field. On that basis, you could almost consider a fully recovered Viney as a “recruit” in 2019. The other players who impressed at training were 2018’s big improver James Harmes and the youngster who could take that improver’s mantle, Bayley Fritsch who seems to be relishing his first full AFL pre season.  Then there’s Christian Petracca. I’m looking for him to really break out this year. Imagine that!

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    THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS by Whispering Jack

    Melbourne atoned for the heartbreak of its frustrating finish to the 2017 season by, at long last, making the finals and then disposed of two highly credentialed and experienced teams in Geelong and Hawthorn before it capitulated meekly to eventual premier West Coast in the Preliminary Final in Perth. The club’s progression has been forward and upward since it finished 2013 with two wins and appointed Paul Roos as coach. The number has increased to four, seven, 10, 12, and now 14 games. The Demons made the finals for the first time in a dozen years and are now tracking for their first premiership in five and a half decades.
     
    In the women’s game, the club’s second season of AFLW competition was dogged throughout by inaccuracy in front of goal causing it to again just miss out on grand final honours finishing third after losing 4.7.31 to 5.3.33 to rivals and eventual premiers, the Western Bulldogs in the final round. The Demons were well led by Daisy Pearce and had a star player in  Karen Paxman. They will miss their skipper Pearce, who will be out of the forthcoming season on maternity leave - a first for the womens competition. The Demons started their men’s campaign with a win in their section of the novelty AFLX competition, then won their two JLT  Community Series games against North Melbourne in Hobart and St Kilda at Casey Fields, the latter in unconvincing fashion after building a big lead early.  The opening round AFL match against Geelong resulted in a disappointing loss after a missed shot from Max Gawn in the final thirty seconds ceded a 3 point loss. The club won its next two matches, again unconvincingly although their round 3 win against North Melbourne broke a long run of defeats going back over more than a decade. A poor game against Hawthorn and a final term collapse on Anzac Day Eve against the Tigers had Melbourne down with a 2 - 3 record.  The revival began against Essendon and continued over the ensuing weeks as the Demons stretched their winning run to six games culminating with big wins against Carlton and Adelaide at Alice Springs and a solid victory over the Bulldogs. At the halfway mark of the season they were challenging for a top four spot on 8 wins and 3 defeats. The improvement had come from the return of injured pair Tom McDonald and Angus Brayshaw, the dominance of Max Gawn in the ruck and the strong form of Clayton Oliver and the young midfield. Jesse Hogan was consistently in the goals. Jake Lever who had taken a while to get his bearings but was solid during the six game winning spree sustained an ACL injury in round 11 and it took a while for the defence to recover from his loss, regroup and consolidate. In the interim, the experimentation in this area was partly the reason for a poor month that saw a  three-game losing streak including a disappointing loss to lowly St. Kilda. Earlier defeats to Collingwood on Queens Birthday and away to Port Adelaide might have been expected but the  loss to the Saints hit hard and possibly cost the team the coveted double chance.  Melbourne might have lost its star recruit, Lever, in midseason but the club did unearth two young players in Bailey Fritsch and Charlie Spargo who were both drafted in the 30s and established themselves as regulars for much of the year although they understandably ran out of steam a little at the end of the season. The Demons regrouped after the slump. The back line steadied when Sam Frost returned to help the improving Oscar McDonald in a key defensive role but, after returning to the winning list against the Dockers in Darwin and the Bulldogs at the MCG, they suffered some disappointing losses involving an after-the-siren goal to Zach Tuohy in the return game against Geelong and a home upset against   Sydney after some shocking inaccuracy in the first quarter and a half kept the Swans in the game. The injuries were mounting and the loss of Hogan at that point in time appeared devastating to a team that had yet to record a win against a top eight side. All that changed dramatically over the next four games starting with the Eagles in Perth and followed with a big win over the Giants that saw Melbourne finish in fifth place with a percentage of 131%. Then followed the emotion of a return to finals football and sound victories against seasoned playoff teams in Geelong and Hawthorn in front of crowds that gave majority support to the perennial underdog buoyed by the return from injury of co-skipper Jack Viney and the emergence at last of young key forward Sam Weideman who more than amply filled Hogan’s shoes.  Not for the first time in the modern history of the club, the wall was hit out west. The Demons looked spent in the early moments of their preliminary final in Perth against West Coast and much like last year’s lapse at the final hurdle against Collingwood, this one game is likely to inhabit the players’ collective memory over the summer and into the new season. Many players excelled and grew in 2018 and the depth of the club revealed itself when injuries struck. Max Gawn won the ‘Bluey’ Truscott’ medal and led an emerging midfield including the co-skippers Nathan Jones and Viney, a resurgent Angus Brayshaw (3rd in the Brownlow), Christian Petracca and Christian Salem and the incredibly improved James Harmes who stepped up several levels in the course of a season. The forward line was the best in the competition as many avenues were opened up to goals, breaking down only in that last final. The disappointment of that performance will surely act as a spur for even further improvement in 2019. That improvement is expected to come from a defence bolstered by the recruitment of former Gold Coast skipper Steven May and the expected return of Jake Lever in the first month or so of the season. They join some solid performers in defence including Michael Hibberd and the indefatigable Neville Jetta - a star both on and off the field. The Demons also picked up a handy defender from the Suns in Kade Kolodjashnij and a big ruck back up for All-Australian ruckman Gawn in Braydon Preuss. The club drafted a bevy of youngsters who will all take time to develop at Casey. Melbourne farewelled Jesse Hogan, Dom Tyson and Dean Kent to other clubs via trades and Tom Bugg found a new home through the draft. Former club champion Bernie Vince retired late in the season after a meritorious 100 game career at his second club. Vince will not be entirely lost to the Demons as he has returned to the club in a part-time leadership and ambassadorial role for 2019.  The loss that will hurt deeply is that of retiring CEO Peter Jackson who has overseen the six year progression from a team that won only two games in 2013 to become a preliminary finalist in 2018. Gary Pert has stepped into the breach to finish the task of leading the club to the promised land and a premiership.

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    DRAFT STORY: THE BYSTANDERS by Whispering Jack

    It was an eerie feeling, like floating on air high above the events taking place on the ground below. This was the New Draft, a two day festival of little importance to Melbourne supporters on the first night and seemingly, of little consequence on the following day. It was as if we were the bystanders of the 2018 AFL National Draft. From the time the Demons traded away their first round selection in this year’s event as part of the deal to secure Jake Lever more than 12 months ago, it was always likely to turn out this way. A little over a month ago, the club held picks 36, 46, 54, 62 and 65 which, once transposed into a world of potential priority picks and father-son and academy bidders, meant that its first choice would be pushing close to a pick near number fifty. It was akin to leaving you standing three city blocks away from Marvel Stadium and well outside the Jack Lukosious zone in draft night calculations. Even when the trades improved things somewhat marginally to a starting point of 23 and 28 (eventually 27 and 33), it meant you had just moved from William Street to King Street but the entrance to the venue was still on the distant horizon. It was probably just as well that we were that far away because opening night was excruciatingly painful, producing a clumsy and almost unwatchable production compared with the American counterparts in the NFL and NBA which it shamelessly sought to emulate. Gillon McLachlan produced a fitting highlight when he pounced onto centre stage only to discover he had nothing to announce despite the sounding of all the bells and whistles but for us - nothing. Not even the prospect of a live trade managed to keep us in the game.  When the show was over, Sam Walsh, the precocious Croweaters, the King brothers (we drafted the wrong big Max King a few years ago) and a bevy of others were gone. The Swans pulled a swifty trade to get a great deal for their next academy sensation and the Blues did nicely to steal the 2018 Morrish Medallist from the Tigers. Those who were previously uninformed of the new format were left baffled and confused that the Demons weren’t selecting on the night. By the rising of the sun on day two, we were virtually on the promenade at Marvel Stadium, hoping for a little action now that we were a matter of a few picks away from pole position. The AFL had sneakily changed the starting time from 10.00am to noon but even then we were hardly bashing down the doors to get in despite the dreary conditions outside. But when the draft restarted, we somehow remained the bystanders. The months (and for some, the years) of following potential draftees, the national championships, junior competitions, TAC Cup finals, draft combines, phantom drafts, power rankings, teams of the year and the late speculation all flashed past our eyes to produce ... on the face of it ... not a great deal. On top of that, there were no bolters, no All-Australian sliders who somehow mysteriously drifted into our laps, nor even any players finding their way to us from a list of so-called hidden gems” that was floating about. In the end, Melbourne took an inside midfielder in South Australian Tom Sparrow with pick 27 after making an unsuccessful bid for the Bulldog’s father-son prospect Rhylee West. Then came a real bolter in Oakleigh Charger James Jordon at 33, another South Australian, Aaron Nitschke, at 53 and a mature aged defender in Collingwood VFL’s Marty Hore with 56. If there was any icing on the cake, it came when the club was not required to bid for Next Generation Academy dasher Toby Bedford who was taken late at pick 75. The return to type came with the selection of Kade Chandler in the rookie draft. I should make it clear that this is not a criticism of the selection decisions but rather I’m pointing to the low profiles of those picked. As with any draft decision made, the proof of their value is never determined on the night but well down the track, often years into the future. The apparent left-of-centre approach to the draft may well pay dividends in the future for a club with a young team on the ascent  - the players selected are not shrinking violets. They are all aggressive ball-winners known for their relentless attack on the football. In that respect, none of them are bystanders.

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    THE KID - A TRIBUTE TO COLIN by Whispering Jack

    There are some truly endearing memories that I have of the Kid, one or two of them off the ground and others on the field of play. It seemed to me that at every club function I attended, one of the constants was the sight of the much-loved Colin Sylvia, face smiling and friendly, surrounded by admirers, young and old, male and female. There was the promotional clip (Foxtel, I think) with Colin in the locker room beside skipper David Neitz draped in towels and joking. It was as if, from the very beginning, the new boy on the block was being typecast as a larrikin, albeit a lovable one who, in our hopes, would one day  become a hero. And that was the problem for the recruit from Merbein which, during my childhood produced another star Demon in Hassa Mann, a shy country lad who went on to captain the club, played in a few premierships and was a solid citizen off the field. The new kid from Merbein simply kept getting into trouble.  There were problems with a girlfriend, he broke team curfews, missed the odd recovery session, left the scene of a car accident (it’s unclear if he was the driver). He was often in the wrong place and the wrong condition at the wrong time but we all still loved him. After all, he was going to be our hero. On the field, he was something else. The first time I saw him was in a practice match for Melbourne’s then affiliate Sandringham, at the Beach Road Oval, ironically named after another blond larrikan Trevor Barker who also passed at far too young and age but from cancer. There was one brief moment that defined Sylvia’s potential as a contender when he gathered the ball near the centre, swiveled past an opponent and barreled the ball from 70 metres out. Years later when I recalled that piece of play with him at a club best and fairest night, he laughed and said he remembered it but thought the kick was “from closer to 80 metres out”. It took a year or so to get his career going and it built slowly but surely within a few years during which time he grew in stature to the point that it wasn’t necessary to call him by his surname. He was Colin and we loved him. The tough break for Colin was that Melbourne went into decline just as he was approaching his prime. Most supporters would agree that his best game came on Sunday, 24 May, 2009 on the MCG in front of almost 40,000 fans against Hawthorn when he amassed 24 kicks, 13 handballs, 9 marks and 4 goals that were just not enough to get the Demons across the line.  He continued to play good football for the year despite the fact that the club was regularly accused of tanking its matches and again into 2010 but at around that time, the injuries in the form of groin and shoulder problems came, the team was performing miserably as the veterans left while other young saviours who were replacing them struggled. The contender was also struggling to live up to his potential status as a hero; he was failing and the fun had gone. After 157 games and 129 goals, the Kid departed for Fremantle at the end of 2013. Things didn’t work out in the West and, amid ongoing controversy about his attitude and behaviour under Ross Lyon, Colin managed six more games that were mostly unremarkable. Career over before his 29th birthday with life after football bringing further challenges for a young man who found retirement from the game at its top level a tough gig.  Colin was working to get his life on track when his car collided with another vehicle last Sunday afternoon at the intersection of Nineteenth Street and Benetook Avenue in the Mildura suburb of Irymple. He died on the scene and will be buried today. We loved him to death - our deepest sympathies go to his family. “I'm the kid who has this habit of dreaming
    Sometimes gets me in trouble too
    But the truth is I could no more stop dreaming
    Than I could make them all come true” - Buddy Mondlock  

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    THE TRADING CHRONICLES 2018 by Whispering Jack

    PART TWO - NO CHOICE There was a time before he even played a single game at AFL level that Jesse Hogan was regarded as the player who would lift Melbourne from the bottom of the ladder. He’s been at the club since he was selected in the 2012 mini-draft but circumstances caused him to wait two seasons before making his AFL debut. He achieved Rising Star status in 2015, kicked more than 40 goals in three of his four seasons, had his disappointments with injuries, illness and personal issues with the loss of his father and yet, Hogan the Saviour seemed forever absent for the club’s most triumphant moments.  Hogan is now a Docker after the Demons traded him for national draft picks 6 and 23 on the final day of the AFL's trade period. This is despite the fact that he was contracted to Melbourne for 2019 and would have earned good money. There’s no doubting his quality as a footballer but he wanted to go home and the likelihood remained high that he might be gone after another season filled with unwelcome distractions of an uncertain future at the club. And not for the first time. When expectations are high for the future after making it to a Preliminary Final, full commitment to the cause beyond the now is paramount. In the end, there was no choice. Moving on to the future, the three players introduced to the Melbourne Football Club  have the attributes of commitment, willingness to work hard and the ability to fill needs. Former Gold Coast co-captain Steven May, a hard-at-it defender has a five year contract. The skillful Kade Kolodjashnij who brings run and carry to the table and mature ruckman Braydon Preuss both join the club with three year deals.  There is no certainty in the business of sport but Melbourne appears to have done well in a trade period that also saw it upgrade its draft position to a point where it now has two picks in the 20s. There is still a lot to do at the draft table, some rookie upgrades and possible acquisition of delisted free agents to fill the eight vacant places on the club’s lists. Where does this all leave the Melbourne Football Club? Age journalist Peter Ryan summed up the Demons’ trade period in At a glance: Assessing each club's 2018 AFL trade period when he wrote  “At a glance: Going for the flag”. Of course, it’s too early to make a reasoned analysis of the trade period because the outcome is never determined in the moment. Time will tell for all clubs and in 2018 there were so many different agendas and strategies. There were clubs that used it to dump the burden of high salaries, some wanted better draft position while others aimed to fulfill certain needs. In the end 42 players changed clubs by way of trades but by draft time at the end of November, there will be many more new faces at every club. The completed trades - Trade Tracker

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    THE TRADING CHRONICLES 2018 by Whispering Jack

    PART ONE - BETWEEN RUCKS AND HARD PLACES Melbourne has been rather pragmatic in its approach to the off season Free Agency and Trade period. After methodically releasing a larger than usual number of players through delistings, it has also traded away a couple of others who it clearly regards as being surplus to the requirements of team focused on a top four finish in 2019 and to this date, acquired a big ruckman to accompany its All Australian Max Gawn in that campaign. The Demons’ lists have undergone a major refit since the final siren sounded on Preliminary Final day. At that point, we knew of the retirements of Harley Balic and Bernie Vince and soon after the announcements came of Tom Bugg, Dion Johnstone, Mitch King, Pat McKenna and Cam Pedersen and rookie Lachie Filipovic. On Friday, the trades of Dean Kent (to St Kilda) and Dom Tyson (North Melbourne) were signed off, bringing the number of departures to double figures.  The Kangaroos traded Brayden Preuss to the Demons to give Melbourne the competition’s most potent ruck combination.  If things were going well for Melbourne’s football manager Josh Mahoney, they certainly went sour with the news late on Friday that Fremantle had withdrawn its interest in securing forward Jesse Hogan by way of a trade. The decision threw the Demons’ plans of securing Gold Coast defender Steven May along with a raft of other potential trades depending on the outcome of those deals. The Dockers have been chasing WA native Hogan for some four years and last week they paraded him through their headquarters. After it was announced that Hogan had passed his medical, it was thought to be a formality that a trade would be arranged after the obligatory bargaining period.  Fremantle General Manager of Football, Peter Bell, just two weeks into the job, announced - “We have been undertaking a due diligence process as part of a possible trade to secure Jesse Hogan. “As part of that process, we have had discussions with Jesse, the player’s management and Melbourne. “While discussions were proceeding it became clear that what Melbourne would be seeking for a trade would not be possible for our club to meet. “As such, we have informed Melbourne and Jesse’s management that we will not be continuing further with the due diligence process.” This was Bell’s reaction to Melbourne’s refusal to accept his club’s offer of National Draft Pick 11 and a future second-round pick with the Demons expecting two early selections including # 5 that the Dockers would be expecting in a deal with Brisbane for Lachie Neale (Bell is reportedly expecting two first round picks). The reaction might have come as a surprise but it needs to be looked at in the context of what is happening at the very top at the Fremantle Football Club. In August, its list manager Brad Lloyd departed for Carlton and the task of dealing with the free agency and trading was taken over by CEO Steve Rosich in concert with Bell after his appointment. They are certainly doing things differently in a trade period during which all of the other clubs have been businesslike in their approach — the Freo pair’s dealings over Hogan, Rory Lobb, Neale and a clumsy approach to Geelong’s Tim Kelly who wants to go to the Eagles have raised scorn and disdain throughout the football fraternity and their own fans aren’t happy either! This has left Hogan back with the Demons for the time being as he plays out the final year of his contract in 2019 (unless the Dockers have a change of heart in the next few days). Mahoney has made it clear that the club is not in a position to follow up a trade for May without completing a deal for Hogan.  The bonus for the club however, is that it can go into the pre season with a quality key position forward approaching the prime of his career while the team is in the premiership window. Meanwhile, at the other end of the continent, the Dockers are likely to languish, living with a dysfunctional recruiting structure and scorned by the rest of the football community. Good luck with that! Docker shocker as Freo pull pin on Hogan pursuit This is the full list of trades after five days: • Reece Conca joined Fremantle as a free agent. The Tigers don't get any compensation.
    • Richmond signed Tom Lynch as a restricted free agent. Gold Coast opted not to match the offer. The Suns got pick No.3 as compensation.
    • Luke Dahlhaus joined Geelong as an unrestricted free agent. The Western Bulldogs got a round two pick as compensation (No.27).
    • Scott Lycett joined Port Adelaide as a restricted free agent after the Eagles decided not to match Port's offer. Port got pick 20 as compensation.
    • The Cats traded Lincoln McCarthy, pick 55 and pick 58 to the Lions. In return, the Lions sent over picks 43 and 61.
    • Richmond sent Corey Ellis, Anthony Miles and a future third round pick to the Suns for a future third round pick.
    • The Blues used one of their special assistant pre-draft picks to send Nathan Kreuger to Geelong in exchange for pick 43.
    • The Lions and the Suns did a pick swap. Brisbane ended up with 32, 41, 44 and 77. Gold Coast got 24, 58 and 79.
    • Mitch McGovern and a future third round pick made their way from Adelaide to Carlton. Carlton sent back Shane McAdam (their second pre-draft special assistance pick) and a future fifth round pick.
    • Sydney sent pick 13 to the Crows. In return, they got pick 40. They also got picks 26 and 28 from Carlton.
    • Jared Polec and Jasper Pittard moved to North Melbourne from Port Adelaide. Also sent over: pick 48. In return, Power received pick 11 and a future fourth round pick.
    • Sydney's Gary Rohan was traded to Geelong for pick 61.
    • The Swans sent pick 61 to North Melbourne in exchange for Ryan Clarke.
    • St Kilda traded Tom Hickey, pick 60 and a future fourth rounder to the Eagles. In return, the Saints got pick 39 and a future fourth round pick.
    • Alex Fasolo joined Carlton as an unrestricted free agent. Collingwood got pick 57 as compensation.
    • Gold Coast signed Josh Corbett (Werribee) and Chris Burgess ( West Adelaide) as two of their special assistance picks.
    • Port Adelaide and Fremantle swapped picks: Power got pick six and a future third round selection, and sent picks 11, 23, 30 and 49 to the Dockers.
    • Sydney Swans have traded Dan Hannebery and its Rd 2 selection, currently number 28 (on traded from Carlton) to St Kilda for its Rd 2 selection, currently selection number 39 (on traded from West Coast), and its Future Round Two Selection.
    • Melbourne have traded Dean Kent to St Kilda for its Rd 4 selection, currently selection number 65.
    • Melbourne have traded Dom Tyson to North Melbourne for Brayden Preuss and its Rd 4 selection, currently selection number 62 (on traded from the Sydney Swans).
    • GWS Giants have traded Will Setterfield and its Rd 4 (71), to Carlton for its Rd 3 (43), and Future Round Two Selection.

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    CHANGES 2018 by The Oracle

    PART 1 - UPHEAVAL AND CHANGE Every year, as soon as the grand final siren sounds, the 18 AFL clubs enter into a new season that lasts for two months and ends in the drafts. This is the time of transition and sometimes upheaval for the clubs as their lists change in the hope for each of them that they can regenerate their lists to the point where they can challenge for a premiership flag. The official proceedings start today with the opening of the restricted free agency offer and unrestricted free agency period starts and on Monday, the NAB AFL Trade Period kicks off. The coming off season of change is looming large at the Melbourne Football Club in comparison with last year when the club farewelled only six senior list players (including one, Heritier Lumumba, who had retired before that season even began) and one rookie. Their replacements came via trades and the draft, leaving the 2018 Melbourne Football Club player list (with new players in italics) as follows - PRIMARY LIST: Oskar Baker Harley Balic Angus Brayshaw Tomas Bugg Bayley Fritsch Sam Frost Jeff Garlett Max Gawn Mitch Hannan James Harmes Michael Hibberd Jesse Hogan Jayden Hunt Neville Jetta Dion Johnstone Nathan Jones Jay Kennedy Harris Dean Kent Mitch King Jake Lever Jordan Lewis Oscar McDonald Tom McDonald Pat McKenna Jake Melksham Alex Neal-Bullen Clayton Oliver Cameron Pedersen Christian Petracca Harrison Petty Christian Salem Charlie Spargo Joel Smith Billy Stretch Dom Tyson Aaron vandenBerg Bernie Vince Jack Viney Josh Wagner Sam Weideman  ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY A Lachlan Filipovic Declan Keilty Corey Maynard Tim Smith  As in the past, the process has been going on for months and even longer in the case of the assessment of younger talent. The 18 clubs have all been working feverishly looking for potential trades and for which some players on their lists are moved on.  The Demons have already added two Category B rookies who will shortly commence their apprenticeships at the club. The changes were being foreshadowed even before season’s end when two Demons - Harley Balic and Bernie Vince - had also announced their retirements.  The floodgates were opened almost as soon as the final siren sounded at Optus Stadium on Preliminary Final day. The first delistings included Tom Bugg, Mitch King, Pat McKenna and Cam Pedersen, who announced his retirement, and rookie Lachie Filipovic. Yesterday, Dion Johnstone was added to that group.  Then there are those being mentioned in despatches as being on the trade table from Dean Kent who almost has his foot in the door at St Kilda, to Jesse Hogan, seemingly bound for Fremantle delisted) and others such as Dom Tyson and Aaron vandenBerg said to be exploring options for various reasons. This means a potential of a dozen new faces including names such as May, Kolodjashnij, Preuss and many more in the club’s new period of upheaval and change ...

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