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Rating our list - how many A-graders


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I rated our list last year and we’ve certainly improved since then. In fact I’m quite bullish now about our squad and have been since I saw vandenBerg play our first practice game against Freo, which confirmed that Jason Taylor has an awareness of what breed of footballer can be successful in today’s generation.

The fact that we’ll win seven games this year (and possibly eight) indicates we have improved and our quest for a few stars may finally be taking shape.

It’s not a sugar-coated rating like our club coaching comments, but hopefully I’m not coming across as a “nuff-nuff, kick the ball” fan either.

Unlike the first two years of Roosy’s helm, I can’t see a major cull about to happen again with Jamar’s retirement and possibly only four players delisted. Three rookies have to be upgraded, although if we have to, VB’s upgrade could be deferred to next year.

Obviously we need to find room in our cap for Gawny’s new contract and our A-lister recruit and that could mean Garland and Howe have to find new homes out of necessity.

As I said last year, feel free to tear strips out of my assessments – it’s a view after all.

Dees review

A-graders 2 (last year 1)

B-graders 12 (last year 9)

C-graders 9 (last year 8)


Nathan Jones – Yes, I know he’s not rated as highly as Fyfe, Danger, Cotchin, Mundy, Pendles etc and as such is not a top-end A-lister. But he’s still the only Demon who is regular tagged and that’s because his vision and accurate kicking make him a danger if he’s allowed to play unchecked. A sore shoulder early may have limited him, and at times he seems a tad slow, but it’s hard to be quick when you’ve always got someone on you. I rate him on a par with Sammy Mitchell and he’s the perfect choice as our captain given what we are trying to achieve with our game style. His game on the weekend, and that of Vince’s, needs to be ignored because it was so out of keeping he had to be sick.

Bernie Vince – He had a few super games last year but he did seem to overdo the slamming the ball on his foot to clear a stoppage. When he had a shoulder op and hurt his hammy pre-season, I think most of us suspected he’d struggle to repeat his 2014 form. But from the moment he played on Danger in Rd 3 and went after him like a hungry wolf, we were won over. A change in role and increase in responsibility has seen him become the best proactive tagger since Roosy’s other main man – Brett Kirk. His list of victims includes Armitage, Cotchin and Pendles.

B graders (12)

Tom McDonald – What a revelation this year and whilst he may just miss All-Australian, he’s shown himself to be one of the league’s premier tall defenders. How good was his first four weeks? From the minute he started running off Cameron and Tex and Jack Riewoldt, you knew he’d arrived as a player and it’s only been Travis Cloke who has really nailed him. A fantastic spoiler and strong intercept mark, his mobility (he’s the fittest bloke in the side) has made Roosy pinch-hit him as a forward. That will be easier to do once Frost is fit and able to cover for him.

Jesse Hogan – There are some who would now even rate him an A-grader, especially after his game on the weekend, and that’s where he’s heading. He’s not a thumping kick like Neiter, but he’s way more mobile. He’s already had to correct his stutter-kick technique a bit, so you suspect he’s just waiting for us to provide him with few more inside-50 entries, before he converts a bagful. Nice try by Roosy to push him ahead of Cripps for Rising Star, but making out he’s 19, when he’s been 20 all year, does him no favours.

Lynden Dunn – Last year was his breakout year, so this year is marked harder by comparison. His long-kicking makes him one of our few linebreakers and his game on Tom-a-Hawk was a beauty. He can be beaten by pace, but he’s very good at tunnelling forwards, which is why he was safer than T-Mac on Cloke.

Jack Viney – I called him our Joel Selwood last year and the view still holds and he even tagged the Geelong great. Jack just fights for every ball and you can’t underestimate how important a player with that intensity is. He still needs to polish up his delivery but he has pretty much stopped his bad habit of banging it on his foot from clearances now. With Vince, we have the best 1-2 tagger hit in the AFL – and the pair want to hurt offensively as well.

Max Gawn – It has taken a long time and he even spent the first 10 weeks this season in the magoos, but at 23 he has finally arrived. Sure he struggled against NicNat and Goldy but there’s no doubt he’s a weapon and unlike most of the big men, he’s a superb pack mark – something of a rarity these days. His manager has also been lucky because with every game he can ask another $10K to be added to a deal that will surely net him close to $2.1 million for three years.

Daniel Cross – It’s interesting to note that his one poor game for us in two years – against Essendon – was met with “he should be dropped calls” by quite a few. That’s the legacy of being 32 – too many want to send you off to a retirement village. But the next week he blitzed Brisbane. How disciplined is he? This year he’s even become our defensive intercept-mark floater, peeling off his high half-forward opponent – a role that has made it hard for Jack Grimes to get back into the side. Last off the training track, he’s the type of player you just pray is not dealt a James McDonald card at the end of the season.

Neville Jetta – His first half of the year was cruelled by a few heavy knocks and concussion – one of them from an inadvertent Howey flyer. But he almost always plays on the most dangerous small forward and normally acquits himself so well, especially in the air where he’s got a deceptive spring. He’s also starting to run off a bit, which is why I’ve upgraded him to a B-grader this year.

Jeremey Howe – We’ve all spent most of the season bemoaning his lack of intensity but since the Brisbane game we’ve seen the old Howey return. I wouldn’t be surprised if Roosy (or his wife) had a chat and said: I don’t care if you are leaving, the best thing for us is that you play well because we get a better deal on two levels – next year via a trade and this year by having a player who can kick the ball beautifully and quickly from defence.” The move of T-Mac forward may have helped a bit too, as Howey became our third tall defender and meant he rarely had to contend with a pacey small chasing him everywhere. I also think he’s starting to realize that taking a speccy is only about 5 per cent of the game – in this side it’s 60% stoppage intensity. I also reckon he’s a lot happier, as all of our guys are now that we are competitive, so don’t be surprised if he stays. But if money is his priority, then he’ll go, because we are close to the cap and have to do the right thing by Gawny.

Angus Brayshaw – From the moment he started doing set shots with Nathan Jones at the end of training, you knew this kid had balls. Even better was Roosy’s decision to bring him in for Rd 1, when a couple of early knocks appeared to have scuttled his chances. He just fits into everything Roosy wants – loves to tackle, presents well as a marking option when required and is a thumping kick on the run – Jeffy must love him almost as much as the skipper. He’ll go into the middle rotation next year with Petracca replacing him on the forward line. He’ll be tagged by Round 5 and I feel sorry already for those who will cop that assignment.

Jeff Garlett – In terms of what we gave up for him (pick 61 and 79 – neither used), he is the AFL’s bargain recruit of the year. He’s already kicked 33 goals, but he was recruited to provide pace and class and he’s done that in spades, often picking a defender’s pocket. Carlton fans will tell you he goes missing, but really which Carlton player doesn’t these days. He’s already our best small forward since Aaron Davey in his early years and he’s only just turned 26.

Heritier Lumumba

OK, there’s quite a few of you who will say he’s majorly overpaid and overrated. But as with Garlett, he was recruited to provide pace and the fact that we score more these days can partly be attributed to his gung-ho run from defence. Sure he looks at times like a chook with his head cutoff, but which would you rather, the slow, long kick to a contest that Garland provides or a chance at scoring on the rebound – Lumumba style. He’s also very good in the air on smaller opponents. I think at 28, he’s missed the boat on becoming a midfielder – but he’s certainly added something down back and effectively put Terlich out of business.

Christian Salem – Until he got injured he was a shoo-in for our most improved. There’s still a few calling for him to go into the midfield, but right now he’s just what we need down back – a left-foot clearance option like Adem Yze used to provide in our 2000 season. He tackles well and this year he worked on his ability to beat his man in the air pre-season and we started seeing a bit of that skill before his hamstring went. He’s another player that gives us a hard quality edge and he’s only just turned 20. My only worry with him is pace – so Misson please read and realise that 400m reps get you fit, but they won’t make you much quicker.

C-graders (9)

Jack Watts – What a transformation. I think everyone knows he’s a good bloke and his disposal skills and vision at training is elite. But when he ducked his head twice in Adelaide it seemed his time was up. You have to be courageous to play AFL football and he’d failed the non-negotiable test again. You could almost hear his teammates complaining behind his back: “How can Jack get away with that and we get told off for doing half as bad?” But Roosy stayed loyal and Jack past 100 games. But then Jack did something that only he could do – he drops himself. It was the first step towards regaining respect. Injury meant he had to come back quickly for the QB game and when he nailed Varcoe in a tackle and scored a goal from the free, you almost could almost hear his teammates cheering. Since then he’s shown enough, primarily as a wingman, to suggest he now grasps the fact that he has to bring intensity – and while he missed tackles against Motlop and Selwood against Geelong, you just had to cheer the fact that he was trying to lay them, instead of being a stop-go man. It’s too early to tell if Jack has arrived, but finally there’s signs that he’s almost there. He had a hiccup against St Kilda and against North, when he started going sideways and forgot his role was to take the game on, no matter the cost, but he was all dash and class against the Pies. He could be our Isaac Smith, and it will only take two good games before oppositions start tagging him because he uses it so well. But Jack has always been tagged – the labels have been coming off everyone’s tongue since the day he was drafted and are back out again after his flu–induced soft game against the Roos.

Dom Tyson – Our super recruit of 2014 has had second-year blues. While a knee injury has hurt, the intensity of our three main centre-bounce men – Jones, Vince, Viney – has hurt more with Dom now often having to line up on a forward flank. But in his favour is the fact that most sides now are rotating about six players through that role now – Roosy just has to get up to speed again on this. His left-foot kick can still be booming, but his lack of pace and awareness of an incoming tackler has frustrated all supporters more than once this year. He a leader type, so I imagine he’ll work himself into the ground next season to make amends and the signs against North were that it’s already happening. As I said last season, Misson needs to employ a sprint specialist coach in the off-season for him. If Dom can find an extra yard, then I can actually see him being sent back to defence – god knows we need some left-footers back there!

Col Garland – Col fitted everything that Mark Neeld loved. He was pretty good in the air, tackled well and a safe, long kick. Only problem was that when Roosy started talking about keeping possession, Col didn’t quite get that the down the line option was a last resort. It’s been a battle to get Col to take the game on and at at 27, you suspect that style may have passed him by. But my biggest annoyance is why our coaches never throw him forward – we’ve seen T-Mac, Dunny, Pedo and in the old days Rivers and Frawley sent up the ground, but not our Col. And yet he was a forward as a junior. I suspect that Col has a huge decision to make in the off-season. The Gawny deal will mean he will have to take a paycut to stay and there’s sure to be a bit of interest in him from clubs should he decide to use the uncontracted player card. The good thing from our point of view is that Roosy has shown both Howey and him great loyalty, so don’t rule out the paycut option.

Jack Grimes – Another tough decision for Roosy in the off-season. Grimesy is a smart team player who puts his body on the line, makes good position and reads the play well. But as many Demonlanders will tell you, his poor kicking, along with his lack of dash, lets him down. In one sense, Crossy has come in and is now playing his role, peeling off the high half-forwards and intercepting courageously. Can we afford two players like that in the one side? My own view is that you need smart players and I’d love him to stay on our list. But I can see his name being thrown up in trade week. Everytime I watch his brother at Richmond, I think Dylan’s the same as Jack – smart, reliable, selfless, just not a star.

Mark Jamar – What has been really pleasing is to see the Russian coaching Spencer and Kingy at VFL level and I think that now that Gawn has made it, his role next year is obvious. He’s always been a smart tapman – especially given that he’s not exceptionally tall as ruckmen go, and he doesn’t possess Nic Nat’s leap. Could we do what we have done with Byrnes and combine an assistant role at the club with playing for Casey?

Chris Dawes – He’s not that far behind Wattsy when it comes to critics and for completely different reasons. Dawes can never be questioned for not providing physical presence, just ask St Kilda’s Jimmy Webster, but his disposal skills and inconsistent marking make him the subject of frustration and derision. This year he’s also had to do a bit of back-up ruck work, but at 193cm, he’s easy fodder for most back-ups, particularly at centre bounces when he can’t use his strength. I can’t imagine him being traded, because I can’t imagine anyone desperately wanting a 27-year-old with dodgy calfs. If he clunks his marks like he did against North on the weekend, then he’s a major asset. But at worst, he’s a very good back-up tall for another year.

Dean Kent – Injury cruelled his pre-season and just when it looked like he was ready to string games together, his hammy goes ping. We picked him up as a wingman, but he’s a hard-worker who loves a goal – a bit of a Devon Smith. He’s one of those small forwards that bobs up every now and then and gets a bagful, or the winner. But pleasingly he is not lazy – just a tad selfish, but that’s forgiveable in the role he plays. Being a leftie, he should really compliment our 2016 forward press set-up with Jeffy and Petracca.

Jake Spencer – I’m sorry to be out of synch with Demonlanders, but ever since he ran through Ben McEvoy two seasons ago I’ve rated him – not as a star, but as a hardworking tapman that is the equal of all but the league’s top handful of ruckmen. In recent weeks they’ve tried to get him going as a VFL forward so that he could play in tandem with Gawny, but to be honest I can’t see him developing into a David Hale. But I can see him as a VFL B&F for Casey and the perfect player to have on your list in case of injury.

Aaron vanderBurg – There’d be quite a few who’d already rate him a B-grader but I reckon he still has a little work to do, although he’s been the find of the year. He’s tough and big-bodied and can hold his own in a marking contest but he’s got a bit of a flaw in his tackling technique, tending to fall on top of players. As with Angus, you can see him getting more time in the middle next year, as he did when he bullied the Tigers. His pace for a big guy makes him ideal though as a mobile medium forward. We used to be smart with our rookie list players – (Bruce, Robbo, James Mc, Jamar etc) and it seems we may have rediscovered that trait.

D-grade (7)

Jimmy Toumpas – A bit of a DL favourite, especially when you look back at what was on offer when we drafted him. But as I said last year, his lack of explosive pace and marking ability means he will struggle to make it as a wingman. But he has a nice shimmy-step and is an accurate kick and is an impressive trainer, so don’t be surprised if we keep him for another season – I mean it’s not as if he’s going to help make a deal anymore. I used to think he might make it as an inside-mid, but that’s become such a hard gig these days and he’s shown he panics too much for that role anyway. But he could be a useful linkman (a very poor man’s Andrew Gaff perhaps), providing he plays in a side that has quicks around him.

Aidan Riley – I said last year he’s a typical North Melbourne footballer – great tackler, fearless and can baulk players too. But he’s now faced with an almost insurmountable hurdle of trying to get into our midfield. As a result he’s been the sub in three of his four games this season and has had to come on and play as a small forward. He’s still only 23 so I’d like to see him persevered with for another year and he brings a level of intensity (charging pitbull) to the VFL that I think Casey needs. To me he’s a great back-up and I certainly wouldn’t like playing on him.

Jay Kennedy-Harris – I’m not sure whether it was the fact he kicked our goal of the year against Adelaide, but we all loved JKH last year with his clean hands and disposal skills. This year, however, he’s looked a little-boy lost. Personally I’d send him down back in the VFL and see if he can grow in confidence playing a role as a defender similar to Jetta.

Matt Jones – As with Rohan Bail, he’s really struggled to get a game this year – a victim of a better list and his inability to impose at AFL level as a wingman. This year he’s even had to accept a small forward role with Newton and then Stretch given his wing spot. He was super against Geelong (even snagged a couple) but a howler or two against West Coast hurt. I’ve seen him dominate VFL games though and as with Riley, I regard him as a really good, mature back-up and I hope we keep him for another season.

Cam Pedersen – It seemed at the start of the year, the more flexible, quicker version of him called Sam Frost was going to render him obsolete. But once Frosty went down, Pedo was summoned and he showed Dawesy how to go about playing as the second or third tall and he’s a really good, long accurate kick. If he was a tad quicker, he’d be a standout, but he’s still very useful as a back-up big. He’s now out of contract, but assuming the Russian retires, then I’d keep him on for another season – just in case turf-toe hits Frosty again. He may need to accept a bit of a salary cut or be rookie-listed, but it’s not as if another club will want him at his age – 29 by start of next season.

Jack Fitzpatrick – OK, I’d be the first to say I thought we should delist him last year. But as a defender he has real potential, so long as he doesn’t replicate his tunnel-ball moments. He’s always been quick, but this year he’s shown an ability to read the play. Just the other day Werribee were raving about his VFL game and I finally think he could become a regular, although you still wonder whether he can produce consistently. At worst he’s an ideal back-up tall defender and I suspect a few clubs will actually want him – so he may be useful trade bait if we could get the Prestia deal happening again. Given the size of the power forwards these days, I’d prefer to keep him, though as one day Dunny or T-Mac will get injured.

Ben Newton – He’s a player who’s really hard to get a gauge on because one minute he’s kicking a 50m goal on the run and the next 15 minutes he’s not in the play. On paper he looks the goods. He’s 183cm, a thumping left-foot kick and every now and then lays a bone-crunching tackle. But whether he’s ultimately good enough, or fast enough, is the question and the reason why a second-year should tell.

Viv Michie – Have a look at a VFL game and you will realize this guy oozes class. But unfortunately at AFL level he’s just not big enough or strong enough to play the major stoppage distributor role and he falls well behind Jonesy and Viney when it comes to laying tackles. He’s also not quite quick enough to play the high half-forward role, so you are left trying to figure out what to do with him. The answer isn’t good and it may mean terminating the third year of his deal. It will probably come down to him and Riley, although as with Pedo, this might be the year we have to resort to the re-draft as rookie option.

D-grade but showing signs (7)

Alex Neal-Bullen – We saw down at Geelong that he has a knack around goals but he was recruited as a midfielder and his size means that he will probably struggle long-term to make it as a small forward. But getting a game in our midfield is no longer easy and Angus and Vanders head the queue waiting ahead of him. But injuries happen, so at some point he will get his shot in the middle and he seems to have the smarts and toughness to succeed. My worry is that he’s not a quality kick, but we used to say that a bit about Jonesy and how wrong were we.

Billy Stretch – The second leg of the Glenelg double and the first thing you note is that he’s tiny compared to Stephen. So far we haven’t seen his dad’s aerial ability either. But what we have seen is a really clever link player who runs hard to position and works both ways. Given his size, that’s mandatory if he’s going to make it in the AFL. It’s too early to tell if he’ll become a Kade Simpson, but provided he doesn’t get brushed aside too often, he could be.

James Harmes – It’s no longer a gimme that every young player gets a game at Melbourne and Harmesy has had to work hard for it. But it probably shows the quality of our young midfield group that Harmesy has walked in and shown as much as any of them - Gus excepted. He’s still only 19 but plays with team-oriented confidence and has better aerial skills than JKH or Kenty, which means he might be able to hold his spot even with a full list next year. A certain upgraded rookie.

Jayden Hunt – Until recently a lot of us had him in the delist bin but his past month has seen him emerge as a lively small forward at VFL level. He’s still really light, so he’s not ready for AFL yet, but if Jeffy gets injured next season, then you never know. He also may, fitness permitting, graduate to the wing. But right now we should just be pleased that his back is right and his weapon (pace) makes him worthy of at least another year.

Max King – Last year we needed him to be a ruckman (injuries to Spencer and Gawn) and he just wasn’t up to it. This year our big three tapmen have all been fit, so Maxy has been forced to become a power forward, except that he’s still too lightweight to truly play that role. But he does have skill and is a good kick, so he’s well worth keeping on as a project for another year. Technically that means a rookie updagrade – our third.

Mitch White

From the minute he rocked up at training with black socks you knew he was blue-collar and he possesses a pretty lethal left foot. He just needed to keep his kicks a bit flatter and faster which he has started to do. It’s a bit hard to gauge his pace, but he certainly has all the other tools necessary to get a game and re-rookying him is a no-brainer.

Oscar McDonald

He’s skinnier than his brother and doesn’t look quite as tough. But he’s a much longer kick and if he develops a bit more muscle in the coming off-season, he should be just about ready to play AFL. The jury is still out on whether that is as a tall forward or defender.

De-list grade (3)

Rohan Bail – the fact that he’s spent almost the entire season in the VFL just shows how much we’ve improved. He’s always been a useful worker with good (not electric) pace but his disposal lets him down at times and that mark he dropped against West Coast probably spelt the end for him. Still 70 games, and almost as many concussions, is a great effort for a guy from Mt Gravatt.

Jordie McKenzie – He spent the pre-season trying his heart out as a defender and got unlucky to be promoted for the game against Fremantle. Did one really good intercept and was charging into goal … and you guessed it, sprayed his shot. Sadly that about sums up his career and at age 25, it seems his career will end at 79 games. He’d be a good one to see if we could convince him to stay on and play for Casey as his work ethic is inspirational – just don’t make him your skills coach.

Dean Terlich – Last year Jetta overtook him and this year Heritier has become our manic defensive sweeper/line breaker which means Dean has gone gameless. Terlich is still really good value for Casey and he’s one player with plenty of dash, but at times his poor disposal makes you groan. He has another year on his contract and he might be kept and be a very valuable player for Casey, but I suspect the carpet will be pulled from under him.

Let’s wait and see how they rate when their fit (3)

Jack Trengove – The first thing is that he has to get back to running without soreness. Then he has to play half a season in the VFL just getting used to playing again. And the third thing he has to hope for is that the AFL changes the rules and limits the interchange to 60 or less because any reduction in pace of the game will help him. As anyone who saw him play, he’s a great tackler, has a good leap and provided he can do a summer of sprints training with Matt Shirvington or some other specialist other than Misson, then he is a chance to come back and be a real factor late in the season as we push for the finals. Down the track I can see him replacing Crossy as that wise old tagging head that puts his body on the line.

Sam Frost – I actually loved the look of this guy. He’s mega-quick, tall, loves to tackle and can play almost any position – I’d even be happy with him tagging Isaac Smith on a wing. Ultimately he’ll most likely end up in defence like his brother at the Pies, but that might just mean T-Mac is finally able to go forward as well.

Christian Petracca – I don’t really know why his name comes up as a midfielder. Sure he might eventually play there, but he’ll almost certainly do his time as a medium tall up forward. If you saw him at training before his knee injury, he has a bit of the Dustin Martin’s about him – able to explode off other players and he’s got a good leap as well. He also won’t be shy tackling – Angusx2 I suspect.

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    POWER FAILURE by George on the Outer

    South Australians should be well familiar with the damage that storms can do to the power supply.  But Port Power forgot those lessons on Thursday night football as they watched the Melbourne storm descend upon them from across the border and ruin their hopes of a top four placing. Just as equally, the win to the Demons cemented their spot in the top two and sent out the message that a team who had been going around in circles for the past couple of weeks, has in fact, turned into a cyclone

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    Match Reports


    The circumstances were a little unusual last Saturday night as KC from Casey was unavailable to report on the Casey Dees due to work commitments. On the ground things were somewhat unusual as well given that, although there was a game to be won on the night, preparations were also being made for the forthcoming Thursday night clash against Port Adelaide with Ben Brown rested for large slabs of the evening. It turned out perhaps, to be a stroke of genius for Melbourne with Brown making a strong c

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    Casey Articles


    The magic of Melbourne’s magnificent start to 2021 is beginning to wear off. In its past six matches it lost to three teams that were outside the eight, out of form —  teams which it had very little trouble bearing last year. This week, the temperature is turned up even higher with the hard fought spot in the top four at risk. The really ominous factor about the Demons’ upcoming Thursday night meeting with Port Adelaide this week is that it is due to take place at the very place where its dec

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