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CASEY COME BACK by KC from Casey

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The Casey Demons snared their first big scalp for the season when they ended the Box Hill Hawks’ unbeaten run at Casey Fields on Sunday. The 39 point victory was a great come back after back to back defeats and sees them placed in the VFL top eight after six rounds. 

All eyes were on Demon co-captain Jack Viney who was making his comeback after being blighted with foot injuries beginning in the latter stages of 2017, resulting in a long rehab period that stretched into the first third of this year. Viney was in the thick of things with an early touch that led to a Jay Kennedy Harris goal and was solid throughout, albeit on limited game time of about 70% in his first outing.

The home side took most of the first term to size up the opposition and drew away to an eight point lead at the first break with an after the siren goal from Angus Scott who was at the end of a fine pass from Jeff Garlett. The second quarter was something of an arm wrestle with the Hawks proving a difficult opponent to shake off until about midway through the third with Tom Bugg and Tim Smith adding some brilliance up forward, capitalising on some classy work from Billy Stretch who was having a day out in the perfect conditions. He was ably assisted by speedy redhead Oskar Baker who is improving with every run. 

The fine weather and excellent condition of the ground despite the rains of recent days made for a high standard game. Despite constant attention from his Box Hill opponents Viney demonstrated his toughness and quality and if comes up feeling cherry ripe after the game, it’s unlikely that he will be seen playing at this level very often again, if at all. 

Garlett was also full of class while Stretch and T Smith put their hands up for a recall but, given Melbourne’s recent form, will have to bide their time. Cam Pedersen was, as usual, a tower of strength.

The game was a good showcase of the club’s depth both at AFL and VFL level with skipper Jack Hutchins’ return imminent along with a few others unlucky to miss out this week. Corey Wagner was the best of the VFL players and would have relished playing alongside brother Josh who was also handy in defence.

The Demons’ dominance continued throughout the final term after a period with the defence led by Joel Smith and Declan Keilty asserting their authority and the final margin of 39 points marred by some inaccuracy in front of goal, really didn’t do justice to their effort around the ground on the day. 

It was a welcome victory however, after a few weeks in the doldrums with consecutive losses and the break for the bye. The Demons are looking forward to their encounter at SkyBus Stadium, Frankston against the reformed Dolphins who are enjoying their return to the competition with two wins to date.

Casey Demons
4.4.28 6.6.42 10.11.71 16.15.111
Box Hill Hawks
3.2.20 5.5.35 7.5.47 11.6.72

Casey Demons Bugg 4 T Smith 3 Scott 2 Baker Balic Garlett Kennedy Harris Pedersen Stretch C Wagner 

Box Hill Hawks Lewis 4 Brolic Ceglar Glass Hanrahan Moore Pittonet Schoenmakers  


Casey Demons Stretch T Smith Pedersen Baker Bugg J Smith

Box Hill Hawks Mirra Moore Jones Lewis Cousins Ceglar


Oskar Baker 1 goal 1 behind 12 kicks 8 handballs 20 disposals 6 marks 1 tackle 81 dream team points 
Harley Balic 1 goal 1 behind 12 kicks 5 handballs 17 disposals 10 marks 2 tackles 91 dream team points 
Tomas Bugg 4 goals 10 kicks 10 handballs 20 disposals 2 marks 10 tackles 120 dream team points 
Jake Di Pasquale 2 kicks 5 handballs 7 disposals 1 mark 1 tackle 23 dream team points   
Lachlan Filipovic 4 kicks 2 handballs 6 disposals 4 tackles 16 hit outs 46 dream team points 
Sam Frost 8 kicks 4 handballs 12 disposals 4 marks 41 dream team points 
Jeff Garlett 1 goal 2 behinds 12 kicks 7 handballs 19 disposals 1 mark 4 tackles 84 dream team points 
Jayden Hunt 14 kicks 5 handballs 19 disposals 1 mark 1 tackle 59 dream team points 
Dion Johnstone 1 behind 3 kicks 3 handballs 6 disposals 1 marks 3 tackles 28 dream team points 
Declan Keilty 3 kicks 4 handballs 7 disposals 1 tackle 19 dream team points 
Jay Kennedy Harris 1 goals 4 kicks 11 handballs 15 disposals 1 marks 3 tackles 52 dream team points 
Jay Lockhart 14 kicks 2 handballs 16 disposals 3 marks 3 tackles 65 dream team points 
James Munro 7 kicks 11 handballs 18 disposals 1 marks 6 tackles 65 dream team points 
Cameron Pedersen 1 goal 1 behind 6 kicks 12 handballs 18 disposals 9 marks 8 tackles 10 hit outs 120 dream team points 
Harrison Petty 7 kicks 4 handballs 11 disposals 4 marks 2 tackles 49 dream team points 
Angus Scott 2 goals 4 kicks 4 handballs 8 disposals 2 marks 6 tackles 62 dream team points 
Joel Smith 1 behind 11 kicks 11 handballs 22 disposals 9 marks 5 tackles 103 dream team points 
Timothy Smith 3 goals 3 behinds 14 kicks 6 handballs 20 disposals 10 marks 7 tackles 134 dream team points 
Billy Stretch 20 kicks 13 handballs 33 disposals 5 marks 7 tackles 130 dream team points 
Jack Viney 1 behind 8  kicks 13 handballs 21 disposals 2 marks 1 tackles 74 dream team points
Corey Wagner 1 goal 13 kicks 6 handballs 19 disposals 5 marks 2 tackles 74 dream team points
Josh Wagner 13 kicks 6 handballs 19 disposals 5 marks 4 tackles 83 dream team points 
Mitchell White 9 kicks 3 handballs 12 disposals 3 marks 13 tackles 94 dream team points


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On 5/14/2018 at 11:03 AM, Vogon Poetry said:

I ventured to Casey yesterday against my better judgement because when you get a chance to see 17 Demons running around and the weather is good the lure is just too strong.  Here's how I thought our blokes went.  As always when making these comments remember that the ground is big and it's very hard to see exactly what's happening on the other side.  There was a slight breeze blowing to the forward pocket at the northern end so that's where I stood.

Jack Viney:  First clearance of the match and first kick was just great to see.  He was harder and faster around the stoppages than everyone else and did a lot of the grunt stuff.  Looked in good touch and was generally very clean and kicked the ball well when he got the opportunity.  But he was heavily tagged for 3 quarters so he didn't find much space.  I'd be stunned if he wasn't back next week.

Billy Stretch:  I was a huge fan but was frustrated by his lack of improvement but yesterday I saw another side of Billy because instead of playing wing he played on ball, centre square and inside mid as well as outside.  And he did it very well.  He found the ball regularly, he had clean hands and pretty good decision making.  Initially he found his kicks and handballs smothered but as the game went on and he got his confidence he got better and better.  He's not as small as you might think and he's starting to use his body well in contested situations.  Finished with a lovely goal and was one of, if not, the best on the ground.  It is hard to see where he fits into the team though but will remain with us or in the AFL system based on yesterdays performace.  His challange is to back it up.  Promising signs but a way to go.

Frost:  Played a solid game with some good contested marking at times and a bit of dash and continued to do what he does.  He's a tweener at the moment, probably a bit too good for VFL but not good enough for AFL.  Still prone to silly mistakes like letting the ball go over the back of packs when he's last up but was a good contributor on the day.

Pedersen:  Full of fumbles I thought in the first half and not much of a contributor but stuck at it and played better as the game went on.  A great mark in the second quarter and a good contributor.  He played KPF and relief ruck.

JKH:  Played mainly forward and didn't really get into the game much.  Kicked the first goal of the match and I thought he might be in for a good one but faded and whilst he was far from poor he wasn't a major contributor.  It's hard to see where he goes from here.

Harley Balic:  He's an interesting player and one that if and when he plays senior footy for us will do it competently.  Played mainly high forward and was very clean with the ball, found it well and kicked it well.  Is capable above his head and knows where to run to provide options and find space.  It was his first game back for a while and he'd be pretty pleased with it.  It's hard to see where he fits in and will need some injuries to get a chance you'd think but when he plays he may well make it hard for whoever he replaces to get back in.  I like him and think at present he's a terrific 23 to 30 player on the list but he might improve significantly over time.  One to watch.

Jayden Hunt:  Poor old Jayden.  Looks bereft of confidence and really struggled to find the ball and get involved.  He just needs to start to try and enjoy his footy again and concentrate on the basics.  We all know what he can do but he didn't do it yesterday.

Tomas Bugg:  I'm not a fan but there's no doubt he can play at this level.  Started quite slowly but fought his way into the game and then really dominated it for a period where he kicked 3 goals quickly.  They were at the other end to me so I can't really judge them but he was a good contributor in the typical Buggy way.  It's really nice to see he's left the fake toughness behind and is just playing footy.

Oscar Baker:  Played wing and did it well.  I've seen him three time now live and yesterday was the best of them.  In the past the major knock is a lack of composure and an inability to see options and take them.  But yesterday was much better and he used the ball quite well.  He runs hard and takes the game on and has clean hands.  He goes hard for the ball too.  My view is he's still a long way from senior selection but moving in the right direction.  He certainly has some great attributes and he's great to watch and improving.

Harrison Petty:  I love this kid and that's what he is, a kid.  He reads the play really well, he reads the ball in the air really well and he's got sure hands above his head.  And when he gets it he has good vision and executes really well.  He was far from dominant yesterday but you can just tell he knows how to play footy and is a great prospect.  Two more preseasons I reckon and we'll all be happy.

Jeff Garlett:  It's hard to appreciate how quick he is unless you see it close hand.  And it's hard to understand how he can see options in a sea of players as quickly as he does.  But he does and was a clear cut above this level yesterday although he didn't get a lot of it.  He applied pressure and provided options yesterday as well as spending some time on ball.  Reality is he's a cut above Spargo at the moment (no criticism of Spargo) so I guess his selection will come down to how he's playing his role and whether Goody wants him back.  But he will get back and he is in our best 22 when he's going.

Dion Johnstone:  I think he's struggling at the moment and he played mainly back yesterday in what for me was a new role for him (I can't remember where he played against Richmond when I last saw him).  He's tough and he has a go but he's struggling to find the ball and get involved.  Hope he picks up but at the moment he's miles away.

Josh Wagner:  Solid and hard at it and a very good VFL player who did his bit yesterday in a very good team effort.  But he won't be pressing for a call up given yesterday's performance and that of the seniors.

Joel Smith:  He's getting back if he isn't back already.  I loved his game yesterday.  He was involved, he was clean, he did things faster than almost everyone else, he ran well and he provided options and got into space as well as being strong in the air.  His kicking is a weakness but I'd be very surprised if he doesn't press very hard for a game in the next month or so on that form.  He's great to watch.

Tim Smith:  I've watched Tim over a long period now and although he's played some good games I've never thought he had AFL attributes -  until yesterday.  He was fantastic I thought.  Strong in the air, strong on the ground and found plenty of it.  He's not called Bull for nothing and for the first time yesterday I thought he really could play AFL footy.  Great game.

Dec Keilty:  He played a really solid strong game without dominating.  I didn't see him make a mistake and he took some solid marks.  He was one of our three talls who, against good opposition, played their role well.

Lachlin Filipovic:  I like this kid.  He had to play against Ceglar who is a good near quality AFL ruckman and would replace McEvoy very competently.  Flipper did well in the ruck but struggled around the ground and in the air against a much more mature player.  But he does get involved and he has surprisingly good skills for a ruckman of his height and appears to make pretty good decisions.  I'd be amazed if he's not retained as a long term development project because he's showing good attributes.


The game was a pretty fierce contest yesterday and Casey were relentless in their pressure and tackling and it was a genuine 4 quarter effort. The Hawks always threatened as they have very good system and use it well by foot but Casey just fought so hard all day that they finally wore them down to kick away to what appears to be a comfortable win but wasn't.  Good fun yesterday and great to see the spirit and effort of all the players.

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  • Match Previews, Reports & Articles


    I always believe in starting off any report by accentuating the positive and in that regard, as at the time of writing, the Demons have not reported any injuries so that’s my major positive from today’s practice game v the Magpies (albeit that we know the club is somewhat lax in reporting these things so my best wishes go out if any of today’s participants are in intensive care at the Alfred).  Another positive was that Razor Ray performed his umpiring duties admirably which is more than I can say about the two other duds who shall remain nameless because I’m trying to stay positive. On that note, Melbourne proved that it can win games against good opposition away from home in front of a 70% hostile crowd (and let me remind you that Collingwood finished 2018 a mere bee’s diaphragm away from the premiership), Angus Brayshaw showed he is already approaching his stellar form of last year unperturbed by the injuries he was carrying late last year and a change in head gear. A fully fit Aaron vandenBerg will also be a major plus over last year. The Max Gawn/Braydon Pruess ruck/forward combo worked a treat and will have opposition defenders struggling as they reach for the footy in stratospheric heights. The 6-6-6 set up will suit the style of the club  as we head into a new year and a new day. More positives from the dominance of the midfield despite missing a swag of stars. Promise of some good contributions to come from Christian Petracca, Alex Neal-Bullen, James Harmes and Christian Salem - virtually the secondary midfield and the run of a rejuvenated Jayden Hunt and the enthusiasm of young Tom Sparrow - the Demons’ bird in the hand for the future. Oscar McDonald was great in defence and one asks how good will this line be when Steven May comes in and Jake Lever returns from his knee injury. In the meantime, the club’s mature-age draftee from Collingwood VFL’s Marty Hore looks like a good bet to fill a spot from the get go. Sam Frost was also good. And how about new leadership group member Nev Jetta, who was initially ruled out of the AFLX extravaganza through injury, but recovered dramatically enough to not miss a beat in the game today? The Demons started slowly when they conceded a couple of goals to Jamie Elliot but after that, they moved into positive mode and it soon became game, set and scratch match.   Melbourne 4.1.25 5.4.34 8.6.54 11.6.72 Collingwood 2.1.13 3.5.23 4.5.29 7.6.48 Best Gawn Preuss Harmes Salem Brayshaw O McDonald Goals Preuss 2 Garlett Harmes Kennedy Harris Neal-Bullen T Smith Sparrow Stretch Weideman

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    Match Reports

    SCRATCH by Paddy Gosch

    The Demons are set to take on the old enemy Collingwood in a good old fashioned Scratch Match on Friday Morning. It is unknown what form the match will take, how many quarters there will be, their length, the amount of rotations or even whether they'll keep score. One thing we do know for sure is that both coaching staffs will be keeping their cards close to their chests to ensure neither will glean too much from their competition. The Dees will likely be without some of their stars as Tom McDonald and Nathan Jones trained in the rehab group on Wednesday, the former pulling out of the AFLX 2.0 as he will be going under the knife for a "very minor procedure" to ensure he plays in the JLT and is "no chance to miss Round 1". Other players in the rehab group at the latest training sessions included Jake Lever (knee) and Mitch Hannan (knee). Steven May (hamstring) was attending the AFL's Indigenous Conference will not play as he aims to be fit for Round 1. Neville Jetta,  who was also at the Conference is unlikely to play as he too has been in the rehab group for the past few weeks. Both Jack Viney (foot) and new recruit Kade Kolodashnij (adductor) were not at Wednesday's skills work session and have already been ruled out of any preseason practice matches. Viney is eyeing a Round 1 return whereas Kolodashnij will return early in the season. New recruit Aaron Nietschke tore his ACL during last Friday's match simulation at Casey Field's and will miss the whole of the 2019 season. Bayley Fritsch who replaces Tom McDonald as Melbourne's only representative at the AFLX will also likely miss. Of the rest of the playing group most will be available but I would assume that some of the players who had off-seasons surgeries might have shorter game times. Clayton Oliver and James Harmes both had shoulder surgeries and have only recently returned to the main training group and despite having resumed contact and keeping up their match fitness in rehab might be restricted in their game time if they play at all. Christian Petracca who had a procedure to clean up his knee in the offseason has had a stint in the rehab but has returned the main group as has Angus Brayshaw (back). I would expect Jake Melksham and Oskar Baker to sit this scratch match out as both have only just returned to the main group. It will be interesting to see if the Dees will trial their new two ruckman game plan with the inclusion of Braydon Preuss to the list. Both he and Max Gawn have done full preseasons but with Brodie Grundy unlikely to line up due to only just returning to Collingwood's main training group following a toe complaint the Dees might decide to rest Max and let Preuss go solo. Other Magpies players who will miss the game are Jordan De Goey, who injured his ankle in a match simulation last week, Will Hoskin-Elliot (leg), Jeremy Howe (corked thigh) and Lynden Dunn (knee). The match which will be played at the Olympic Park Oval on Friday 22nd February @ 10:00am. The game will be LIVE streamed by the club on their website and on the club's app. https://www.melbournefc.com.au/news/2019-02-20/practice-match-info Match details Collingwood v Melbourne
    Date: Friday, February 22
    Match start time: 10.00am (AEDT)
    Live stream begins: 9.45am (AEDT)
    Venue: Olympic Park Oval
    Entry: Free Live stream Thanks to Zurich, the match will be streamed live across the Melbourne website and app, with pre-match coverage beginnning at 9.45am AEDT. If you can't watch live, the full match will be available via the website and app post-game. Getting to Olympic Park Oval Olympic Park Oval is located on the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Batman Avenue. Public transport Olympic Park Oval is located a short walk from Richmond train station. Jolimont station is also located a 10 minute walk away. Tram route 70 also stops near the ground at AAMI Park (stop 7D). Tram route 48 and 75 are also located in the vicinity near Jolimont Station. Bus 246 (Latrobe Uni - Elsternwick Station) travels down Punt Road, stopping at the corner of Olympic Blvd. From here patrons can walk to Olympic Park. Read more about public transport here. Parking info Non-event car parking is available opposite AAMI Park at the National Tennis Centre. See more info here. Limited parking may also be available across the river on Alexandra Avenue. Around the ground Membership and merchandise tent Melbourne will have a marquee set up for Membership queries and merchandise purchases on Olympic Boulevard. Food and beverage The Glasshouse at the Holden Centre will be open for food and drink purchases.

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    IMAGINE by Whispering Jack

    The Demons made their official return to the training track for 2019 on a sunny Saturday morning at Goschs Paddock with most of the interest initially centred on a small patch of ground in one of the pockets where the rehab group was going through the paces. Some good pieces of news on that score. The  rehab group is considerably smaller than it was prior to the Christmas break with Christian Petracca (knee), James Harmes (shoulder), Jayden Hunt (shoulder), Neville Jetta (shoulder), Oscar McDonald (hip) and Tim Smith (foot) all having fully recovered and training with the main group.  More good news. The remaining rehabbers were all training at a reasonable level leaving one to think that they all should be right for the opening of the season, with the exception of Jake Lever (knee) who might not be that far away by the end of March. 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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