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  1. DIGGING DEEP by Whispering Jack That wily old campaigner Kevin Sheedy had to dig deep into his bag of tricks to come up with a message for this week's game between the fledgling GWS Giants and Melbourne. Instead of informing all and sundry that his team, composed of mainly pimply faced teenagers mixed in with a handful of broken down old hacks and two or three players poached for nothing from other clubs considered it an honour to grace the wonderful ground which really gave birth to our native game, Sheedy couldn't help but go feral by baiting Melbourne fans with stereotypes about visiting the snow and with tales about how his club lured Tom Scully away from the club and into the fleshpots of Rooty Hill. As with much of what Sheedy says and does these days, it's all smoke and mirrors stuff - deception to mask the inadequacy of his team which was put together with the money and influence of a higher power being the AFL. There was no recruiting acumen and no finesse involved. The Giants' recruiters picked heir marks, offered more than their current clubs could possibly pay and had them hook, line and sinker. Clubs whose investments in the game were garnered through a century and a half of the hard slog had players pirated by people using their money. Talk about insult and injury! The truth of the matter is that Sheedy's new franchise is bleeding the AFL of millions of dollars to gain the sport a foothold in a new heartland in the western suburbs of a city that isn't interested the game at all. You only had to look at the rows and rows of empty seats at Skoda Stadium where the visiting Tiger fans almost outnumbered the bewildered looking locals at last week's affair to tell you that it's just not working. The truth is that Sheedy's ploy is a total distraction. An attempt to move the focus away from the fact that there's a game to be played and won and onto personalities like Scully, who jumped ship at the first opportunity to make a bigger buck (and good luck to him if he can get paid for routinely producing less on the field than half a dozen of his pubescent teammates) or James McDonald who, quite frankly, must have been embarrassed by the coach's suggestion that he be made captain for the day just so he could stick it up the fans who supported Junior so well for more than a decade. The first game between Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney Giants deserves much more than the piffling build up and humbuggery of Kevin Sheedy. It deserves to be taken seriously as a game of football for four points and not as a circus. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Sheedy has made it. Hopefully, Mark Neeld won’t take the bait. THE GAME Melbourne v. GWS Giants at the MCG – Sunday 26 June 2012 at 3.15pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 0 wins GWS Giants 0 wins At the MCG Melbourne 0 wins GWS Giants 0 wins Since 2000 Melbourne 0 wins GWS Giants 0 wins The Coaches Neeld 0 wins Sheedy 0 wins MEDIA TV - Channel 7 & Fox Footy Channel live at 3.00pm. RADIO - ABC774 3AW Triple M THE BETTING Melbourne to win $1.31 GWS to win $3.55 LAST TIME THEY MET Never. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE Backs James Sellar James Frawley Jared Rivers Half backs Daniel Nicholson Tom McDonald Jack Watts Centreline Rohan Bail Jack Trengove Jack Grimes Half forwards Jeremy Howe Lynden Dunn Nathan Jones Forwards Mitch Clark Colin Garland Colin Sylvia Followers Mark Jamar Brent Moloney Jordie McKenzie Interchange Matthew Bate Aaron Davey Joel Macdonald James Magner Emergencies Sam Blease Troy Davis Cale Morton In Rohan Bail Matthew Bate Aaron Davey Joel Macdonald Out Sam Blease Brad Green (hip) Cale Morton Luke Tapscott (suspension) GWS GIANTS Backs Jack Hombsch Tim Mohr Sam Darley Half backs Shaun Edwards Phil Davis Toby Greene Centreline Tom Scully Callan Ward Adam Treloar Half forwards Taylor Adams Jeremy Cameron Rhys Palmer Forwards Nathan Wilson Jonathan Patton Mark Whiley Followers Dean Brogan James McDonald Dylan Shiel Interchange Tomas Bugg Jonathan Giles Devon Smith Luke Power Emergencies Chad Cornes WIlliam Hoskin-Elliot Andrew Phillips In Jonathan Giles Jack Hombsch Nathan Wilson Out Chad Cornes (rested) Andrew Phillips Sam Schulz (calf) THE PERILS OF LONG RANGE FORECASTING Let's face it. The minute the AFL issued its programme of matches way back twhen the full roster of Greater Western Sydney players was far from finalised, we were all smacking our chops in anticipation of what shaped not only as an eminently winnable game for Melbourne but also as a probable crushing of the club we had quickly grown to loathe because of the tactics used to lure Tom Scully away from the club. After all, Melbourne's first encounter in 2011 with that year's debutants from the Gold Coast had resulted in a 15 goal victory even though most judges felt the team didn't even raise a gallop until the final quarter. Surely, this would be another massacre of similar proportions? Well, we've seen some changes since then. Things have not gone well for Melbourne with injuries, loss of form, a slow adaptation to a new style of play and some extraordinary and well documented on and off field events derailing the first half of the club's season. Not even in our wildest nightmares did we expect Melbourne to be on only one win at this juncture. A similar thing could be said of Greater Western Sydney who most expected to go through 2012 winless. Not only did they beat the Suns earlier in the season, but they have been impressive with some real competitive performances, particularly in recent times. It's no mean feat to be on even terms with Geelong on its home turf even if the Cats are seemingly on their way down and the Giants did well last week to be within sniffing distance late in their game against the Tigers. On Sunday, the Giants will experience the MCG for the first time and the big ground should suit them because they run and spread well, a feature which has for the most part been lacking at Melbourne this year. The Demons have loaded up with big bodies in order to exploit the youthful Giants and it will be interesting to see how the game plays itself out. What puzzles me is the GWS decision to omit Chad Cornes who routinely stars against Melbourne and whose form this year had been widely acknowledged as one of the reasons why his team has been so competitive. Last week he had 23 touches against Richmond and whilst not as prolific against Geelong in the game before that, his contribution was significant. In his team's only win this year, Cornes had 28 possessions, took 12 marks and was easily best on the ground. It's hard to believe that he's been rested for this game on this ground and in the heavy conditions anticipated for Sunday. I wouldn't be surprised if this was yet another Sheedy ploy and a late change will see Cornes running out for the game. What Melbourne needs to win on Sunday is a good start. After a couple of weeks of competitive starts against Carlton and Essendon, the Demons were woeful for almost a quarter and a half as they conceded more than eight goals as a result of some sloppy play, loose checking and poor kicking for goal against the Pies on Queens Birthday. A similar start will lead to a day of embarrassment. On the other hand, the Giants will need everything to go their way much as it did last week against the Tigers when virtually every foray into the forward line resulted in a goal while Richmond was extremely wasteful up forward. The result was that the home side needed only fourteen shots to achieve twelve goals while the visitors scored one less goal with 31 attempts in their two goal win. In other words, it was only a matter of accuracy in front of goal that was the difference between a close result and an absolute thumping. These things rarely happen two weeks in a row and, on that basis I believe the time has come for Melbourne to kick off a better half of the season and I'm tipping Melbourne and Black Caviar to make it a double for the weekend. Both will end up saluting the judges. Demon fans - prepare to wave your jackets in the direction of the GWS coaches box at the end of the game! Melbourne by 36 points.
  2. DIGGING DEEP by Whispering Jack That wily old campaigner Kevin Sheedy had to dig deep into his bag of tricks to come up with a message for this week's game between the fledgling GWS Giants and Melbourne. Instead of informing all and sundry that his team, composed of mainly pimply faced teenagers mixed in with a handful of broken down old hacks and two or three players poached for nothing from other clubs considered it an honour to grace the wonderful ground which really gave birth to our native game, Sheedy couldn't help but go feral by baiting Melbourne fans with stereotypes about visiting the snow and with tales about how his club lured Tom Scully away from the club and into the fleshpots of Rooty Hill. As with much of what Sheedy says and does these days, it's all smoke and mirrors stuff - deception to mask the inadequacy of his team which was put together with the money and influence of a higher power being the AFL. There was no recruiting acumen and no finesse involved. The Giants' recruiters picked heir marks, offered more than their current clubs could possibly pay and had them hook, line and sinker. Clubs whose investments in the game were garnered through a century and a half of the hard slog had players pirated by people using their money. Talk about insult and injury! The truth of the matter is that Sheedy's new franchise is bleeding the AFL of millions of dollars to gain the sport a foothold in a new heartland in the western suburbs of a city that isn't interested the game at all. You only had to look at the rows and rows of empty seats at Skoda Stadium where the visiting Tiger fans almost outnumbered the bewildered looking locals at last week's affair to tell you that it's just not working. The truth is that Sheedy's ploy is a total distraction. An attempt to move the focus away from the fact that there's a game to be played and won and onto personalities like Scully, who jumped ship at the first opportunity to make a bigger buck (and good luck to him if he can get paid for routinely producing less on the field than half a dozen of his pubescent teammates) or James McDonald who, quite frankly, must have been embarrassed by the coach's suggestion that he be made captain for the day just so he could stick it up the fans who supported Junior so well for more than a decade. The first game between Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney Giants deserves much more than the piffling build up and humbuggery of Kevin Sheedy. It deserves to be taken seriously as a game of football for four points and not as a circus. Unfortunately, that's exactly what Sheedy has made it. Hopefully, Mark Neeld won't take the bait. THE GAME Melbourne v. GWS Giants at the MCG – Sunday 26 June 2012 at 3.15pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 0 wins GWS Giants 0 wins At the MCG Melbourne 0 wins GWS Giants 0 wins Since 2000 Melbourne 0 wins GWS Giants 0 wins The Coaches Neeld 0 wins Sheedy 0 wins MEDIA TV - Channel 7 & Fox Footy Channel live at 3.00pm. RADIO - ABC774 3AW Triple M THE BETTING Melbourne to win $1.31 GWS to win $3.55 LAST TIME THEY MET Never. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE Backs James Sellar James Frawley Jared Rivers Half backs Daniel Nicholson Tom McDonald Jack Watts Centreline Rohan Bail Jack Trengove Jack Grimes Half forwards Jeremy Howe Lynden Dunn Nathan Jones Forwards Mitch Clark Colin Garland Colin Sylvia Followers Mark Jamar Brent Moloney Jordie McKenzie Interchange Matthew Bate Aaron Davey Joel Macdonald James Magner Emergencies Sam Blease Troy Davis Cale Morton In Rohan Bail Matthew Bate Aaron Davey Joel Macdonald Out Sam Blease Brad Green (hip) Cale Morton Luke Tapscott (suspension) GWS GIANTS Backs Jack Hombsch Tim Mohr Sam Darley Half backs Shaun Edwards Phil Davis Toby Greene Centreline Tom Scully Callan Ward Adam Treloar Half forwards Taylor Adams Jeremy Cameron Rhys Palmer Forwards Nathan Wilson Jonathan Patton Mark Whiley Followers Dean Brogan James McDonald Dylan Shiel Interchange Tomas Bugg Jonathan Giles Devon Smith Luke Power Emergencies Chad Cornes WIlliam Hoskin-Elliot Andrew Phillips In Jonathan Giles Jack Hombsch Nathan Wilson Out Chad Cornes (rested) Andrew Phillips Sam Schulz (calf) THE PERILS OF LONG RANGE FORECASTING Let's face it. The minute the AFL issued its programme of matches way back twhen the full roster of Greater Western Sydney players was far from finalised, we were all smacking our chops in anticipation of what shaped not only as an eminently winnable game for Melbourne but also as a probable crushing of the club we had quickly grown to loathe because of the tactics used to lure Tom Scully away from the club. After all, Melbourne's first encounter in 2011 with that year's debutants from the Gold Coast had resulted in a 15 goal victory even though most judges felt the team didn't even raise a gallop until the final quarter. Surely, this would be another massacre of similar proportions? Well, we've seen some changes since then. Things have not gone well for Melbourne with injuries, loss of form, a slow adaptation to a new style of play and some extraordinary and well documented on and off field events derailing the first half of the club's season. Not even in our wildest nightmares did we expect Melbourne to be on only one win at this juncture. A similar thing could be said of Greater Western Sydney who most expected to go through 2012 winless. Not only did they beat the Suns earlier in the season, but they have been impressive with some real competitive performances, particularly in recent times. It's no mean feat to be on even terms with Geelong on its home turf even if the Cats are seemingly on their way down and the Giants did well last week to be within sniffing distance late in their game against the Tigers. On Sunday, the Giants will experience the MCG for the first time and the big ground should suit them because they run and spread well, a feature which has for the most part been lacking at Melbourne this year. The Demons have loaded up with big bodies in order to exploit the youthful Giants and it will be interesting to see how the game plays itself out. What puzzles me is the GWS decision to omit Chad Cornes who routinely stars against Melbourne and whose form this year had been widely acknowledged as one of the reasons why his team has been so competitive. Last week he had 23 touches against Richmond and whilst not as prolific against Geelong in the game before that, his contribution was significant. In his team's only win this year, Cornes had 28 possessions, took 12 marks and was easily best on the ground. It's hard to believe that he's been rested for this game on this ground and in the heavy conditions anticipated for Sunday. I wouldn't be surprised if this was yet another Sheedy ploy and a late change will see Cornes running out for the game. What Melbourne needs to win on Sunday is a good start. After a couple of weeks of competitive starts against Carlton and Essendon, the Demons were woeful for almost a quarter and a half as they conceded more than eight goals as a result of some sloppy play, loose checking and poor kicking for goal against the Pies on Queens Birthday. A similar start will lead to a day of embarrassment. On the other hand, the Giants will need everything to go their way much as it did last week against the Tigers when virtually every foray into the forward line resulted in a goal while Richmond was extremely wasteful up forward. The result was that the home side needed only fourteen shots to achieve twelve goals while the visitors scored one less goal with 31 attempts in their two goal win. In other words, it was only a matter of accuracy in front of goal that was the difference between a close result and an absolute thumping. These things rarely happen two weeks in a row and, on that basis I believe the time has come for Melbourne to kick off a better half of the season and I'm tipping Melbourne and Black Caviar to make it a double for the weekend. Both will end up saluting the judges. Demon fans - prepare to wave your jackets in the direction of the GWS coaches box at the end of the game! Melbourne by 36 points.
  3. RIPE FOR THE PICKING? by JVM I spent the better part of Sunday between fighting off a self-inflicted headache from the previous late night's celebrations (which included watching a replay of the game) and fending off congratulatory phone calls from friends and acquaintances who have been giving me a hell of a bagging during what has truly been an annus horribilus for Demon fans. The majority of the callers were Bomber fans and this left me wondering whether they were being nice and magnanimous or alternatively, were they getting in first to avoid an almighty ribbing. The Collingwood fans in my circle were noticeably absent from my list of callers. I suspect they were too busy preparing for the twilight game at the G that evening against Gary Ablett and his team of schoolboys where they would witness the only team in the competition to go 0 and 10. Strangely enough, that lot have managed to go through a half season of abject failure with very little media scrutiny and their coach was even re-appointed without an obligatory visit to the psychiatrist's couch. And nobody even said, "boo"? But I digress. The Bomber fans were totally stunned by the resolute nature of the Demon defence and the intensity and resolve of the group. A few came up with lame excuses citing the fact that the Bombers were ordinary in the game before against GWS and they were heading for a fall - ripe for the picking. Now, Melbourne comes up against the traditional enemy in Collingwood which brushed off the Suns like little insects providing nothing more than a minor irritation. It's leader who wears as many hats as he has chins was, as is customary, spending the days following that win talking up problematic issues within a rival club in a clear attempt to destabilise the coach and his team. No problem there but would he be commenting in similar fashion if it was Nathan Buckley who was under the pump? Buckley is fairly safe for the time being because the Magpies have won the last seven games on the trot, are playing with a confidence that borders on arrogance and have established themselves as premiership favourites. They have reached this point despite some serious injury woes with their champion midfielder, Scott Pendlebury, the latest in a long line of victims. So are they ripe for the picking too? THE GAME Melbourne v. Collingwood at the MCG – Monday 13 June 2011 at 3.15pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 79 wins Collingwood 142 wins 5 draws At the MCG Melbourne 59 wins Collingwood 75 wins 3 draws Since 2000 Melbourne 5 wins Collingwood 9 wins 1 draw The Coaches Neeld 0 wins Buckley 0 wins MEDIA TV - Channel 7 & Fox Footy Channel live at 3.00pm. RADIO - SEN ABC774 3AW Triple M THE BETTING Melbourne to win $8.00 Collingwood to win $1.08 LAST TIME THEY MET Collingwood 19.15.129 defeated Melbourne 6.5.41 Round 12 at the MCG The Demons were fresh off a big Friday night win over the Bombers and, given their excellent record against the Pies in both of their matches in the 2010 season, their was a fair amount of enthusiasm for the contest in the days leading up to the game. This dissipated early in the piece when the Magpie Machine applied the press and the Dees wilted. The last quarter was a procession of goals all going the way of Collingwood who recorded their biggest win over Melbourne in fourteen years. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE Backs James Sellar Jared Rivers Tom McDonald Half backs Daniel Nicholson Jack Watts James Frawley Centreline Jack Grimes James Magner Cale Morton Half forwards Nathan Jones Colin Garland Colin Sylvia Forwards Jack Trengove Mitch Clark Jeremy Howe Followers Mark Jamar Brent Moloney Jordie McKenzie Interchange Sam Blease Lynden Dunn Brad Green Luke Tapscott Emergencies Matthew Bate Aaron Davey Joel Macdonald In James Frawley Out Joel Macdonald COLLINGWOOD Backs Chris Tarrant Nathan Brown Heritier O'Brien Half backs Martin Clarke Nick Maxwell Marley Williams Centreline Jarryd Blair Dale Thomas Simon Buckley Half forwards Ben Sinclair Chris Dawes Alex Fasolo Forwards Tyson Goldsack Travis Cloke Dayne Beams Interchange Alan Didak Jamie Elliot Sharrod Wellingham Tom Young Emergencies Paul Seedsman Kirk Ugle Cameron Wood In Darren Jolly Dane Swan Chris Tarrant Out Scott Pendlebury (leg) Kirk Ugle Cameron Wood Umpires M.Stevic (9) M.Nicholls (15) J.Bannister (33) B.Hosking (16) UNLEASHING THE GENIE by JVM Has Mark Neeld been playing around with our heads? The thought came to me when I studied the replay of last Saturday night’s triumphal victory over Essendon and I noticed such a stark difference between the way the team played the game in comparison to its early season performances. Back in round one against Brisbane, they played it hard in the first half and were only a bee’s diaphragm short behind the Lions at the main break. A great deal of the play was being directed towards the flanks and the team was rather one-dimensional in its forward movement. If it didn’t hit the big bloke (Clark) who was often being double teamed in the marking duels, the ball would be repulsed easily. After half time in particular, the Brisbane midfield, led by a rampant Simon Black took control in the heat of the afternoon while their counterparts virtually waved the white flag. They seemingly were unable to run and spread to combat the effectiveness of their opponents. The result was a disaster. In between round one and ten a lot of bad things happened but in the past couple of games there has been a discernible lift in the intent of the players and suddenly, against Essendon, they won the possession count and played with confidence and flair for four quarters. The result was a victory over a team that would otherwise be sitting on top of the AFL ladder. It was as if someone had unleashed the genie from the bottle - a triumph. Of course Bomber fans will tell you that they lost because they were awful, they were sloppy, the conditions were bad and they kicked badly but that doesn’t give enough credit to the strength of Melbourne’s defensive play or the fact that, for the first time this year, they had more than a single effective attacking target. We don’t know yet whether they’ve completely turned the corner but a win is a win is a win. The question now is whether they can repeat the dose against the Magpies and no doubt many would simply laugh at this suggestion. Collingwood is coming off seven successive wins and is, along with the Eagles, the form team of the competition at the moment. And they might be without Scott Pendlebury who has a cracked tibia but they welcome back a handy replacement in Brownlow Medallist Dane Swan – available after a hamstring injury - as well as Chris Tarrant and Darren Jolly. You might recall that the Pies were so cocky about the equivalent fixture last year that the sent Swan off for a couple of week’s R and R in Arizona before he came back and destroyed all before him to win the Charlie. One advantage that Melbourne has is that Mark Neeld should have full knowledge of the workings of the Collingwood midfield. The big question mark is whether he knows how to shut them down because many others have tried and failed in that task. Guy McKenna couldn’t come close even with one midfielder who equalled the world possession record of 53 so the Demons have their work cut out for them. In any event, I don’t think the Demons are ready yet for the back to back stuff and most of us will be happy to see another gritty, determined performance that sees them finish within five goals of the traditional enemy. Collingwood by 29 points.
  4. ENDING THE DAYS OF PAIN by Whispering Jack The media is reporting that one of the Melbourne Football Club's responses to recent intense media criticism in the wake of the team's poor winless record after nine rounds has been to institute a series of meetings for selected supporters where they can question the club chairman Don McLardy, CEO Cam Schwab, Coach Mark Neeld and his assistant Neil Craig on matters relating to all aspects of its performance. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the first of these sessions on Tuesday night and can vouch for the fact that the evening could in no way be described as a "crisis" meeting although that is precisely the impression that many have of the club at present - a club in crisis. It was however, all about the way the club is moving to end the long days of pain it has been experiencing for more than half a decade. From my point of view as a concerned supporter, the one and a half hours were in fact as positive, constructive as they could be in the club's circumstances. The three speakers, McLardy, Neeld and Craig outlined their plans and strategies and made a good fist of reassuring a group of fairly hardnosed supporters that the club is on the right path despite the fact that it sits winless at the foot of the AFL table in a season in which two very young franchises are currently ahead of them (albeit narrowly). I know there are many sceptics but I have to say I was impressed by what the three had to say. McLardy outlined where the club is off the field and this has been well documented. We a positive net asset position despite the loss of a major sponsor. McLardy defended Cameron Schwab and pointed to the red and blueprint which Schwab put together and which has earned praise from the AFL administration. Neeld put together a very impressive presentation. He presented statistics of various indicators to show how his game plan is developing. It's a game plan that's based heavily on defence - not just from back line players but from every position on the field. He pointed out that statistics indicate that only one premiership team in the past three decades hadn't finished in the top four in defensive statistics (Brisbane Lions in 2003 were sixth but in the second half of that season were first). Neeld cited Dean Cox who said the difference between WCE of 2010 and 2011 was that the players adopted and embraced a strongly defensive approach. Needless to say the coach is convinced the tide will turn but it might still take time. Both he and Craig said they were staggered that players were saying they went through their toughest pre season after the new guard took over. They said that in their view, training loads were kept fairly conservatively (to avoid major injuries) and the intensity will be ramped up more during the next pre season. Neeld's view is that many players are brought up with attacking mindsets. The most talented players coming into the TAC Cup system are usually midfielders or forwards. They often remain good attacking players but don't measure up defensively. He found this with many players at Melbourne. He is convinced that the indicators show that his methods are working. Against Carlton, Neeld was happy with the figures both from a defensive and an attacking viewpoint. We were good in a number of areas but during the last quarter when the players were tired, Carlton was able to ramp up the pressure and many of our players reverted to old habits and didn't work hard enough defensively. The easy way to coach would probably have been to follow the same path as Neeld's predecessors, a path that might have brought better results in the short term but would never have given the club a chance to challenge the big boys in much the same way as it struggled against them last year. We all well remember the meaning of "bruise free" and "186" from 2011 even if there were some big moments against the competition's lesser lights. It goes without saying that we can expect changes in the makeup of the team and clearly, the midfield will be the area that gets a fair bit of attention. Craig defended Neeld and his other assistants and pointed to the unbelievable initiation he's had into coaching ranks including the Jurrah situation, the Davey/Mifsud racism furore, the death of Jimmy, the injuries and poor form. Craig also defended Schwab noting that he hadn't seen any sign of interference from the CEO into football department matters (nor McLardy for that matter). Craig was full of praise for the entire leadership group. For all that, Melbourne remains on the bottom of the AFL ladder, and faces Essendon and Collingwood in its next two matches. The days of pain may not be over yet. THE GAME Essendon v Melbourne at the MCG Saturday, 2 June 2012 at 7.40pm. HEAD TO HEAD Overall Essendon 126 wins Melbourne 79 wins 2 draws At the MCG Essendon 63 wins Melbourne 43 wins 1 draw Since 2000: Essendon 10 wins Melbourne 6 wins The Coaches Hird 0 wins Neeld 0 wins MEDIA TV Channel 7 Fox Footy Channel live at 7.30pm RADIO 3AW Triple M THE BETTING Essendon $1.05 to win Melbourne $10.00 to win THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 15.11.101 defeated Essendon 10.8. 68 at the MCG It was a great night for the Demons as the unexpectedly bested the Bombers in all parts of the ground. It was a big night for Melbourne's young midfielders with Gysberts, Trengove and McKenzie in outstanding form and Scully doing well on return. The problem from Melbourne's point of view is that its goal kickers that night were:- Green 4 Jurrah 3 Jetta Moloney 2 Howe Scully Sylvia Watts How many of these players will be in action on Saturday night? THE TEAMS ESSENDON Backs Cale Hooker Dustin Fletcher Courtenay Dempsey Half backs Ricky Dyson Kyle Hardingham Jake Carlisle Centreline David Zaharakis Jobe Watson Brent Stanton Half forwards Angus Monfries Stewart Crameri Patrick Ryder Forwards Leroy Jetta Michael Hurley Alwyn Davey Followers Tom Bellchambers Ben Howlett Heath Hocking Interchange Travis Colyer Sam Lonergan Nathan Lovett-Murray Melksham Emergencies David Hille Tayte Pears Henry Slattery In Dustin Fletcher Kyle Hardingham Leroy Jetta Out Mark McVeigh Tayte Pears Henry Slattery MELBOURNE Backs James Frawley Jared Rivers Tom McDonald Half backs Jack Trengove Jack Watts Colin Garland Centreline Jack Grimes James Magner Nathan Jones Half forwards Rohan Bail Mitch Clark Joel Macdonald Forwards Jeremy Howe Brad Green Luke Tapscott Followers Mark Jamar Brent Moloney Jordie McKenzie Interchange Sam Blease Lynden Dunn Daniel Nicholson Colin Sylvia Emergencies Matthew Bate Jamie Bennell James Sellar In Joel Macdonald Colin Sylvia Out Jamie Bennell James Sellar THE TROUBLES by Whispering Jack It's hard to fathom that twelve months down the track from their last meeting that the two combatants in this game would be at almost polar opposites to each other and that Essendon would be starting as such an odds on favourite to win. The Bombers are sitting in equal top position on the ladder with just one loss for the season (by a single point to Collingwood on Anzac Day) while the Demons have lost their first nine matches of the season. That's enough to make it a lay down misere that an Essendon brimming with confidence will win and win easily and that's how I'm predicting the game to pan out. Part of the question why is already explained above in some shape or form. The type of game that is being instilled into the Melbourne team is radically different to that which applied in past years and the team is not yet ready in terms of make up and fitness to conquer top eight teams in full flight. In last year's encounter, we caught a glimpse of a better Melbourne midfield. It was headed by Brent Moloney who won the club's best and fairest and polled 19 Brownlow votes. Beamer's form has been well down on that and he would be very lucky to have polled a vote at all to this stage of the season. But the better midfielders that night included Jordan Gysberts, Jack Trengove, Jordie McKenzie and Tom Scully, who all racked up good numbers on their possession counts. Two of those players haven't played this year. Gysberts is injured and Scully jumped ship. The so called "compensation" for the latter won't kick in for a while. Other potential young midfielders on the list also languish with injuries and loss of form. So the club's all important midfield has taken a hit just at the time when it's most needed and much development time is being lost. But if the midfield has taken a hit then there's also the matter of the attack. Even with the changes that Neeld's defensive approach entails, the end game is always to score ... at least more than the opposition in any given game. So here is something that the club's harshest critics seem to have missed. Last year, Melbourne's top three goalkickers were:- • Liam Jurrah 40 goals • Brad Green 37 goals • Colin Sylvia 25 goals That's 102 goals between the club's three most attacking playmakers. These players alone directly contributed almost five goals per game between them and I dare say would have been responsible for setting up a few more goals to others on a weekly basis. It's not unreasonable that we should have expected this trio, Mitch Clark and perhaps Ricky Petterd as well, to do most of the team's scoring. Alas, after nine matches we have had very little from the players we might have otherwise expected to contribute to the scoreboard. Instead, we have this:- • Liam Jurrah 0 goals • Brad Green 2 goals • Colin Sylvia 1 goal Now, if you take the three top goalkicking forwards as completely out of the equation as the above figures indicate, it's not likely that a young team with a completely new style of play to learn is going to show very much, particularly if the midfield is also performing at well below its best. Sure, you might say it's the coach's role to get the best out of his players and that will certainly be the case in the medium to long term but after nine games in these circumstances, there's is no reason to do anything other than to cut him some slack. The troubles are by no means over but there needs to be a much greater understanding of Neeld and his team's plight. When it all starts to click the results will be quite dramatic; the club will be in a much better place and the days of pain will be over. But, I don't think we can expect that to happen this week. Essendon by 34 points.
  5. ENDING THE DAYS OF PAIN by Whispering Jack The media is reporting that one of the Melbourne Football Club's responses to recent intense media criticism in the wake of the team's poor winless record after nine rounds has been to institute a series of meetings for selected supporters where they can question the club chairman Don McLardy, CEO Cam Schwab, Coach Mark Neeld and his assistant Neil Craig on matters relating to all aspects of its performance. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the first of these sessions on Tuesday night and can vouch for the fact that the evening could in no way be described as a "crisis" meeting although that is precisely the impression that many have of the club at present - a club in crisis. It was however, all about the way the club is moving to end the long days of pain it has been experiencing for more than half a decade. From my point of view as a concerned supporter, the one and a half hours were in fact as positive, constructive as they could be in the club's circumstances. The three speakers, McLardy, Neeld and Craig outlined their plans and strategies and made a good fist of reassuring a group of fairly hardnosed supporters that the club is on the right path despite the fact that it sits winless at the foot of the AFL table in a season in which two very young franchises are currently ahead of them (albeit narrowly). I know there are many sceptics but I have to say I was impressed by what the three had to say. McLardy outlined where the club is off the field and this has been well documented. We a positive net asset position despite the loss of a major sponsor. McLardy defended Cameron Schwab and pointed to the red and blueprint which Schwab put together and which has earned praise from the AFL administration. Neeld put together a very impressive presentation. He presented statistics of various indicators to show how his game plan is developing. It's a game plan that's based heavily on defence - not just from back line players but from every position on the field. He pointed out that statistics indicate that only one premiership team in the past three decades hadn't finished in the top four in defensive statistics (Brisbane Lions in 2003 were sixth but in the second half of that season were first). Neeld cited Dean Cox who said the difference between WCE of 2010 and 2011 was that the players adopted and embraced a strongly defensive approach. Needless to say the coach is convinced the tide will turn but it might still take time. Both he and Craig said they were staggered that players were saying they went through their toughest pre season after the new guard took over. They said that in their view, training loads were kept fairly conservatively (to avoid major injuries) and the intensity will be ramped up more during the next pre season. Neeld's view is that many players are brought up with attacking mindsets. The most talented players coming into the TAC Cup system are usually midfielders or forwards. They often remain good attacking players but don't measure up defensively. He found this with many players at Melbourne. He is convinced that the indicators show that his methods are working. Against Carlton, Neeld was happy with the figures both from a defensive and an attacking viewpoint. We were good in a number of areas but during the last quarter when the players were tired, Carlton was able to ramp up the pressure and many of our players reverted to old habits and didn't work hard enough defensively. The easy way to coach would probably have been to follow the same path as Neeld's predecessors, a path that might have brought better results in the short term but would never have given the club a chance to challenge the big boys in much the same way as it struggled against them last year. We all well remember the meaning of "bruise free" and "186" from 2011 even if there were some big moments against the competition's lesser lights. It goes without saying that we can expect changes in the makeup of the team and clearly, the midfield will be the area that gets a fair bit of attention. Craig defended Neeld and his other assistants and pointed to the unbelievable initiation he's had into coaching ranks including the Jurrah situation, the Davey/Mifsud racism furore, the death of Jimmy, the injuries and poor form. Craig also defended Schwab noting that he hadn't seen any sign of interference from the CEO into football department matters (nor McLardy for that matter). Craig was full of praise for the entire leadership group. For all that, Melbourne remains on the bottom of the AFL ladder, and faces Essendon and Collingwood in its next two matches. The days of pain may not be over yet. THE GAME Essendon v Melbourne at the MCG Saturday, 2 June 2012 at 7.40pm. HEAD TO HEAD Overall Essendon 126 wins Melbourne 79 wins 2 draws At the MCG Essendon 63 wins Melbourne 43 wins 1 draw Since 2000: Essendon 10 wins Melbourne 6 wins The Coaches Hird 0 wins Neeld 0 wins MEDIA TV Channel 7 Fox Footy Channel live at 7.30pm RADIO 3AW Triple M THE BETTING Essendon $1.05 to win Melbourne $10.00 to win THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 15.11.101 defeated Essendon 10.8. 68 at the MCG It was a great night for the Demons as the unexpectedly bested the Bombers in all parts of the ground. It was a big night for Melbourne's young midfielders with Gysberts, Trengove and McKenzie in outstanding form and Scully doing well on return. The problem from Melbourne's point of view is that its goal kickers that night were:- Green 4 Jurrah 3 Jetta Moloney 2 Howe Scully Sylvia Watts How many of these players will be in action on Saturday night? THE TEAMS ESSENDON Backs Cale Hooker Dustin Fletcher Courtenay Dempsey Half backs Ricky Dyson Kyle Hardingham Jake Carlisle Centreline David Zaharakis Jobe Watson Brent Stanton Half forwards Angus Monfries Stewart Crameri Patrick Ryder Forwards Leroy Jetta Michael Hurley Alwyn Davey Followers Tom Bellchambers Ben Howlett Heath Hocking Interchange Travis Colyer Sam Lonergan Nathan Lovett-Murray Melksham Emergencies David Hille Tayte Pears Henry Slattery In Dustin Fletcher Kyle Hardingham Leroy Jetta Out Mark McVeigh Tayte Pears Henry Slattery MELBOURNE Backs James Frawley Jared Rivers Tom McDonald Half backs Jack Trengove Jack Watts Colin Garland Centreline Jack Grimes James Magner Nathan Jones Half forwards Rohan Bail Mitch Clark Joel Macdonald Forwards Jeremy Howe Brad Green Luke Tapscott Followers Mark Jamar Brent Moloney Jordie McKenzie Interchange Sam Blease Lynden Dunn Daniel Nicholson Colin Sylvia Emergencies Matthew Bate Jamie Bennell James Sellar In Joel Macdonald Colin Sylvia Out Jamie Bennell James Sellar THE TROUBLES by Whispering Jack It's hard to fathom that twelve months down the track from their last meeting that the two combatants in this game would be at almost polar opposites to each other and that Essendon would be starting as such an odds on favourite to win. The Bombers are sitting in equal top position on the ladder with just one loss for the season (by a single point to Collingwood on Anzac Day) while the Demons have lost their first nine matches of the season. That's enough to make it a lay down misere that an Essendon brimming with confidence will win and win easily and that's how I'm predicting the game to pan out. Part of the question why is already explained above in some shape or form. The type of game that is being instilled into the Melbourne team is radically different to that which applied in past years and the team is not yet ready in terms of make up and fitness to conquer top eight teams in full flight. In last year's encounter, we caught a glimpse of a better Melbourne midfield. It was headed by Brent Moloney who won the club's best and fairest and polled 19 Brownlow votes. Beamer's form has been well down on that and he would be very lucky to have polled a vote at all to this stage of the season. But the better midfielders that night included Jordan Gysberts, Jack Trengove, Jordie McKenzie and Tom Scully, who all racked up good numbers on their possession counts. Two of those players haven't played this year. Gysberts is injured and Scully jumped ship. The so called "compensation" for the latter won't kick in for a while. Other potential young midfielders on the list also languish with injuries and loss of form. So the club's all important midfield has taken a hit just at the time when it's most needed and much development time is being lost. But if the midfield has taken a hit then there's also the matter of the attack. Even with the changes that Neeld's defensive approach entails, the end game is always to score ... at least more than the opposition in any given game. So here is something that the club's harshest critics seem to have missed. Last year, Melbourne's top three goalkickers were:- • Liam Jurrah 40 goals • Brad Green 37 goals • Colin Sylvia 25 goals That's 102 goals between the club's three most attacking playmakers. These players alone directly contributed almost five goals per game between them and I dare say would have been responsible for setting up a few more goals to others on a weekly basis. It's not unreasonable that we should have expected this trio, Mitch Clark and perhaps Ricky Petterd as well, to do most of the team's scoring. Alas, after nine matches we have had very little from the players we might have otherwise expected to contribute to the scoreboard. Instead, we have this:- • Liam Jurrah 0 goals • Brad Green 2 goals • Colin Sylvia 1 goal Now, if you take the three top goalkicking forwards as completely out of the equation as the above figures indicate, it's not likely that a young team with a completely new style of play to learn is going to show very much, particularly if the midfield is also performing at well below its best. Sure, you might say it's the coach's role to get the best out of his players and that will certainly be the case in the medium to long term but after nine games in these circumstances, there's is no reason to do anything other than to cut him some slack. The troubles are by no means over but there needs to be a much greater understanding of Neeld and his team's plight. When it all starts to click the results will be quite dramatic; the club will be in a much better place and the days of pain will be over. But, I don't think we can expect that to happen this week. Essendon by 34 points.
  6. IN THE BUNKER by the Oracle Last week Melbourne travelled interstate for the second time this year and it returned home once again in disgrace - a loser by a margin in excess of 100 points. Make no mistake about it. Despite the protestations of all and sundry, the club is on the rack. Intense media scrutiny now follows the embattled Demons to the point where every move made by the club is analysed and subjected to critical assessment. Things reached such a state this week that coach Mark Neeld implored Demon fans to stick fat and join him in the bunker. One scribe looked at the appointment of Neeld and opined that the failure of those charged with making the appointment to carry out a "psychological profile" of the man was evidence of some damning failure of judgement on their part. Some are calling for heads to be lopped off. And don't you love these pundits in the media like David King who question Neeld's appointment today but were deathly silent six or seven months ago when he was appointed? Which is probably why King (whose last big statement came during last year's finals when he declared Geelong would not win the flag) never made it beyond a very mediocre assistant coach at AFL level. I also wonder when I read some of this stuff in the media as to whether Ron Barassi, Kevin Sheedy or Mick Malthouse would have passed the psychological profile test. I recall the early days of Alastair Clarkson's coaching reign at Hawthorn and think of the massive criticism directed at the man who was under siege at the time when his team was being flogged on a weekly basis. They were calling him a coaching lightweight and baying for his blood. And it wasn't just his blood - it was the players, the board, the administration and someone might even have taken a stab at the bootstudder. But Clarkson promised to change his club and eventually, he delivered on that promise. All in good time. Mark Neeld also made a similar promise but gave no guarantees as to how much time it would take to effect change. Of course, no one expected to see the team sitting at 0/8 and none of this is to take away from the fact that the team's performances this season have been well below that which we expect from an AFL outfit five years into what is supposed to be a rebuild. There are players, senior to the club whose performances thus far have been frustratingly lifeless and devoid of passion. They need to lift or else they might find that their careers will end swiftly in a very short space of time. Perhaps, they've already seen the writing on the wall. There are many changes happening on the AFL scene these days and recent history indicates that clubs can rise quickly once they get themselves on the right track. West Coast came from last to a top four side in 2011. The Crows who languished near the bottom last year are currently the flavour of the month. It might be a bitter pill to swallow for supporters seeing their team languishing at rock bottom (if we've in fact reached that point yet) but Melbourne will not remain in this position forever. Coincidentally, the Demons face Carlton at the MCG this Sunday. The same opposition it played in August last year just a week after they were disgraced by Geelong in the game that saw the sacking of Dean Bailey amid the turmoil of a dreadful 186 point loss. We can't expect miracles to happen this time around but we must remain steadfast and give the coach the time necessary to bring about the changes he promised. The media loves such situations but for the time being, we need to be calm and remain bunkered down with the coach and I'll happily join him in the trenches as soon as he produces the results of his psychological profile tests. Anyway, now is not the time to be baying for anyone's blood. THE GAME Melbourne v Carlton at the MCG - Saturday 27 May, 2012 at 3.15pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Carlton 115 wins 2 draws Melbourne 88 wins At MCG Carlton 47 wins Melbourne 49 wins Since 2000 Carlton 9 wins Melbourne 8 wins The Coaches Ratten 0 wins Neeld 0 wins MEDIA TV - Fox Footy Channel live @ 3:00pm. Radio - 3AW Triple M THE BETTING Carlton to win $1.04 Melbourne to win $11.00 THE LAST TIME THEY MET Carlton 21.8.134 defeated Melbourne 7.16.58 at the MCG, Round 20 , 2011 It was the week after 186 and Dean Bailey was gone. Club legend Todd Viney took over as caretaker coach and immediately there was new fire in the team's belly as it went on the attack from the outset. The problem was that the Demons left their kicking boots at home and kept missing easy shots in front of goal. With a little over two minutes left in the first term, the scoreboard read: Melbourne 3.6.24 Carlton 3.1.19. Then a series of errors brought on by inexperience and a couple of umpiring bloopers gave the Blues three quick goals and swung the game's momentum. Chris Judd then took the game by the scruff of the neck and Carlton's class and superior ability gave them a further eight unanswered goals in the second quarter. The Demons worked hard in the last half but the loss of Tapscott (neck) and Strauss (broken leg) simply added to their woes. TEAMS CARLTON Backs Zac Tuohy Michael Jamison Aaron Joseph Half backs Bryce Gibbs Lachlan Henderson Chris Yarran Centreline Kade Simpson Chris Judd Heath Scotland Half forwards Dennis Armfield Matthew Kreuzer Andrew Walker Forwards Eddie Betts Shaun Hampson Jeff Garlett Followers Robert Warnock Mitch Robinson Brock McLean Interchange (from) Josh Bootsma Paul Bower Andrew Collins Ed Curnow David Ellard Kane Lucas Matthew Watson In Josh Bootsma Andrew Collins Aaron Joseph Kane Lucas Brock McLean Robert Warnock Matthew Watson Out Nick Duigan (calf) Marc Murphy (shoulder) Bret Thornton Jordan Russell MELBOURNE Backs James Frawley Jared Rivers Clint Bartram Half backs Jack Grimes Colin Garland Tom McDonald Centreline Rohan Bail Brent Moloney Sam Blease Half forwards Jack Trengove Jack Watts Brad Green Forwards Jeremy Howe Mitch Clark James Sellar Followers Mark Jamar Lynden Dunn Nathan Jones Interchange (from) Jamie Bennell Jordie McKenzie James Magner Dan Nicholson James Sellar Emergencies Troy Davis Joel Macdonald Luke Tapscott In Rohan Bail Lynden Dunn Dan Nicholson James Sellar Out Aaron Davey Liam Jurrah (ankle) Cale Morton Colin Sylvia BRUISE FREE REVISITED The two combatants were comprehensively beaten at their last start but, while there's been some pressure on Brett Ratten whose team was on the cusp of premiership favouritism a fortnight ago, it's been Mark Neeld who has been copping most of the flak from the media. However, it's Neeld who only eight matches ago took over a fairly young list with a tough fixture and major problems including injury woes on the field and substantial issues off it. Who would have thought six months ago that his two major playmakers Liam Jurrah (criminal case, wrist and ankle injury) and Colin Sylvia (back) would not kick a goal between them in the first eight rounds and be restricted to a total of five matches with severely limited game time? Let's not forget what it was that Neeld took over. A struggling side whose last coach (excluding Viney the caretaker) won just over a quarter of his games culminating in 186 after almost four years, with the same media heads claiming he was unfairly treated when ousted. Yet this team was notorious for its inability to handle the press and when it played against teams that employed that style of play, it would routinely get thumped. Take this week's opponent and remember the "bruise-free" game of round 10 last year. Those of us who witnessed that monstrosity of a game would be well aware of the enormity of the challenge facing a new coach charged with overturning the mindset within a team that produced such a performance. Can you overcome that in two months when there is so much else of a negative nature swirling in the background? I suppose you could do exactly that. You could make no changes to your game plan and continue on exactly as the previous coach did in the past and, given the personnel available, you might be sitting at 2/6 or, if you were really lucky, 3/5 but, in truth, you would really be going nowhere. Your old guard who have become inured to producing inconsistency and tend towards laziness would continue on that well worn track. They would smile when they win and smile when they lose. They would be bruise free. Defeat would not only leave you physically painless. It wouldn't hurt you in any way whatsoever and, while that happens, you're never going to get anywhere in the long run. By round nine when you come up against Carlton you'll probably play bruise-free football again. You'll get flogged and the experts will bash you anyway. And that's the point. Mark Neeld saw the problems he inherited and embarked on a programme he believed necessary to overcome them. He wanted a team that was going to be hard to beat and not easy to win against. Neeld made mistakes in the short term but some of the circumstances conspired to make more difficult the metamorphosis from a team going nowhere that sometimes played nice but was a rabble when it counted into a real football team. He never promised a rose garden and the task has proven more difficult than anticipated but we suspected that some of the personnel weren't up to it physically and emotionally and that others needed more experience before the new order could take on an flourish. That won't happen against Carlton this Sunday because the team is still very much a work in progress but if you come back in a year's time, you'll see something different. Carlton by 55 points.
  7. IN THE BUNKER by the Oracle Last week Melbourne travelled interstate for the second time this year and it returned home once again in disgrace - a loser by a margin in excess of 100 points. Make no mistake about it. Despite the protestations of all and sundry, the club is on the rack. Intense media scrutiny now follows the embattled Demons to the point where every move made by the club is analysed and subjected to critical assessment. Things reached such a state this week that coach Mark Neeld implored Demon fans to stick fat and join him in the bunker. One scribe looked at the appointment of Neeld and opined that the failure of those charged with making the appointment to carry out a "psychological profile" of the man was evidence of some damning failure of judgement on their part. Some are calling for heads to be lopped off. And don't you love these pundits in the media like David King who question Neeld's appointment today but were deathly silent six or seven months ago when he was appointed? Which is probably why King (whose last big statement came during last year's finals when he declared Geelong would not win the flag) never made it beyond a very mediocre assistant coach at AFL level. I also wonder when I read some of this stuff in the media as to whether Ron Barassi, Kevin Sheedy or Mick Malthouse would have passed the psychological profile test. I recall the early days of Alastair Clarkson's coaching reign at Hawthorn and think of the massive criticism directed at the man who was under siege at the time when his team was being flogged on a weekly basis. They were calling him a coaching lightweight and baying for his blood. And it wasn't just his blood - it was the players, the board, the administration and someone might even have taken a stab at the bootstudder. But Clarkson promised to change his club and eventually, he delivered on that promise. All in good time. Mark Neeld also made a similar promise but gave no guarantees as to how much time it would take to effect change. Of course, no one expected to see the team sitting at 0/8 and none of this is to take away from the fact that the team's performances this season have been well below that which we expect from an AFL outfit five years into what is supposed to be a rebuild. There are players, senior to the club whose performances thus far have been frustratingly lifeless and devoid of passion. They need to lift or else they might find that their careers will end swiftly in a very short space of time. Perhaps, they've already seen the writing on the wall. There are many changes happening on the AFL scene these days and recent history indicates that clubs can rise quickly once they get themselves on the right track. West Coast came from last to a top four side in 2011. The Crows who languished near the bottom last year are currently the flavour of the month. It might be a bitter pill to swallow for supporters seeing their team languishing at rock bottom (if we've in fact reached that point yet) but Melbourne will not remain in this position forever. Coincidentally, the Demons face Carlton at the MCG this Sunday. The same opposition it played in August last year just a week after they were disgraced by Geelong in the game that saw the sacking of Dean Bailey amid the turmoil of a dreadful 186 point loss. We can't expect miracles to happen this time around but we must remain steadfast and give the coach the time necessary to bring about the changes he promised. The media loves such situations but for the time being, we need to be calm and remain bunkered down with the coach and I'll happily join him in the trenches as soon as he produces the results of his psychological profile tests. Anyway, now is not the time to be baying for anyone's blood. THE GAME Melbourne v Carlton at the MCG - Saturday 27 May, 2012 at 3.15pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Carlton 115 wins 2 draws Melbourne 88 wins At MCG Carlton 47 wins Melbourne 49 wins Since 2000 Carlton 9 wins Melbourne 8 wins The Coaches Ratten 0 wins Neeld 0 wins MEDIA TV - Fox Footy Channel live @ 3:00pm. Radio - 3AW Triple M THE BETTING Carlton to win $1.04 Melbourne to win $11.00 THE LAST TIME THEY MET Carlton 21.8.134 defeated Melbourne 7.16.58 at the MCG, Round 20 , 2011 It was the week after 186 and Dean Bailey was gone. Club legend Todd Viney took over as caretaker coach and immediately there was new fire in the team's belly as it went on the attack from the outset. The problem was that the Demons left their kicking boots at home and kept missing easy shots in front of goal. With a little over two minutes left in the first term, the scoreboard read: Melbourne 3.6.24 Carlton 3.1.19. Then a series of errors brought on by inexperience and a couple of umpiring bloopers gave the Blues three quick goals and swung the game's momentum. Chris Judd then took the game by the scruff of the neck and Carlton's class and superior ability gave them a further eight unanswered goals in the second quarter. The Demons worked hard in the last half but the loss of Tapscott (neck) and Strauss (broken leg) simply added to their woes. TEAMS CARLTON Backs Zac Tuohy Michael Jamison Aaron Joseph Half backs Bryce Gibbs Lachlan Henderson Chris Yarran Centreline Kade Simpson Chris Judd Heath Scotland Half forwards Dennis Armfield Matthew Kreuzer Andrew Walker Forwards Eddie Betts Shaun Hampson Jeff Garlett Followers Robert Warnock Mitch Robinson Brock McLean Interchange (from) Josh Bootsma Paul Bower Andrew Collins Ed Curnow David Ellard Kane Lucas Matthew Watson In Josh Bootsma Andrew Collins Aaron Joseph Kane Lucas Brock McLean Robert Warnock Matthew Watson Out Nick Duigan (calf) Marc Murphy (shoulder) Bret Thornton Jordan Russell MELBOURNE Backs James Frawley Jared Rivers Clint Bartram Half backs Jack Grimes Colin Garland Tom McDonald Centreline Rohan Bail Brent Moloney Sam Blease Half forwards Jack Trengove Jack Watts Brad Green Forwards Jeremy Howe Mitch Clark James Sellar Followers Mark Jamar Lynden Dunn Nathan Jones Interchange (from) Jamie Bennell Jordie McKenzie James Magner Dan Nicholson James Sellar Emergencies Troy Davis Joel Macdonald Luke Tapscott In Rohan Bail Lynden Dunn Dan Nicholson James Sellar Out Aaron Davey Liam Jurrah (ankle) Cale Morton Colin Sylvia BRUISE FREE REVISITED The two combatants were comprehensively beaten at their last start but, while there's been some pressure on Brett Ratten whose team was on the cusp of premiership favouritism a fortnight ago, it's been Mark Neeld who has been copping most of the flak from the media. However, it's Neeld who only eight matches ago took over a fairly young list with a tough fixture and major problems including injury woes on the field and substantial issues off it. Who would have thought six months ago that his two major playmakers Liam Jurrah (criminal case, wrist and ankle injury) and Colin Sylvia (back) would not kick a goal between them in the first eight rounds and be restricted to a total of five matches with severely limited game time? Let's not forget what it was that Neeld took over. A struggling side whose last coach (excluding Viney the caretaker) won just over a quarter of his games culminating in 186 after almost four years, with the same media heads claiming he was unfairly treated when ousted. Yet this team was notorious for its inability to handle the press and when it played against teams that employed that style of play, it would routinely get thumped. Take this week's opponent and remember the "bruise-free" game of round 10 last year. Those of us who witnessed that monstrosity of a game would be well aware of the enormity of the challenge facing a new coach charged with overturning the mindset within a team that produced such a performance. Can you overcome that in two months when there is so much else of a negative nature swirling in the background? I suppose you could do exactly that. You could make no changes to your game plan and continue on exactly as the previous coach did in the past and, given the personnel available, you might be sitting at 2/6 or, if you were really lucky, 3/5 but, in truth, you would really be going nowhere. Your old guard who have become inured to producing inconsistency and tend towards laziness would continue on that well worn track. They would smile when they win and smile when they lose. They would be bruise free. Defeat would not only leave you physically painless. It wouldn't hurt you in any way whatsoever and, while that happens, you're never going to get anywhere in the long run. By round nine when you come up against Carlton you'll probably play bruise-free football again. You'll get flogged and the experts will bash you anyway. And that's the point. Mark Neeld saw the problems he inherited and embarked on a programme he believed necessary to overcome them. He wanted a team that was going to be hard to beat and not easy to win against. Neeld made mistakes in the short term but some of the circumstances conspired to make more difficult the metamorphosis from a team going nowhere that sometimes played nice but was a rabble when it counted into a real football team. He never promised a rose garden and the task has proven more difficult than anticipated but we suspected that some of the personnel weren't up to it physically and emotionally and that others needed more experience before the new order could take on an flourish. That won't happen against Carlton this Sunday because the team is still very much a work in progress but if you come back in a year's time, you'll see something different. Carlton by 55 points.
  8. TWILIGHT ZONE by Whispering Jack Last night an intrepid group of people associated with the legal profession met for the annual Devil’s Advocates dinner mc’d by former MFC board member Bev O’Connor and hosted by prominent Melbourne family lawyer, Ralph Glezer. You have to be intrepid if you’re a Melbourne fan because, as Chris Connolly told the audience, there is a great deal being thrown at us from the cheap seats in these early days of the club’s new coaching regime. It was a theme of the night that rather than being in the deep trouble as painted by some of the pundits, the Demons are indeed building for a better future. Connolly noted that in recent years the club had repaid its debt, reshaped its deal with the MCC, acquired a valuable asset in the Bentleigh Club, grown its membership. The necessary ingredients for long term success are being put together so that despite the short term pain of the current 0-7 win/loss ratio as the team learns a new style of play, the vision that will see a strong Melbourne in the years to come remains on track. Glezer congratulated the gathering and all club supporters who stand firm at this time. It was fitting that he was able to pay a special tribute to the late Jim Stynes who was responsible for much of the club’s financial resurgence on the day on which the AFL, the MFC and the Reach Foundation proudly announced the launch of the Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award. Three players in attendance, Matthew Bate, Cale Morton and Stef Martin all impressed with their approach to the difficult season so far. It’s difficult for the supporters who measure things by way only of reference to the premiership table. The football department has other indicators that also need to be looked at in terms of the process of change sweeping through the club. Neil Craig and Josh Mahoney also confirmed that the club has this vision that is certainly being embraced internally. Craig spoke of the particular difficulties faced by new coach Mark Neeld and asked what new coach would have such a controversial start with distractions such as the incident involving Liam Jurrah (couple with his injury), the death of Jim Stynes, the false claims of racism against him and the sponsorship fiasco with Energy Watch? Craig made it clear that the club and Neeld had handled every obstacle put in their way with great dignity while those at other clubs and in the media who have been overcritical have a lot to answer for by comparison with the way in which they have conducted themselves at this time. The wheel will turn. Despite this, the feeling among the lawyers was not particularly optimistic but their mood was improved with estate agent Phil Kingston's wit and incise humour when auctioning items at the end of the function. It suddenly dawned on me that if a group's collective mood can be changed so swiftly then why can't the same stand for a group of footballers whose confidence has been down for several weeks? I'm therefore looking forward to this week’s twilight game at the SCG and I’m going out on a limb by saying that the Demons are ready to take off and make the critics eat humble pie. I think they will win this game and thereafter continue to show improvement for the remainder of the season. Laugh, if you wish but I’m very bullish on Melbourne when it comes to taking on the Swans even in the confined spaces of the SCG. In recent years, Sydney has struggled against Melbourne which sent vocal critic Paul Roos off with an almighty thumping in 2010. Roos is obviously smarting from the embarrassment because he never misses an opportunity to sink the boots into the Demons. I will get great pleasure in seeing Melbourne do likewise to his old side this Saturday. The last time the teams met was at the MCG in round 1 last year when they drew. For the purpose of the exercise, these were the teams as selected that day. MELBOURNE (Round 1, 2011) Backs Clint Bartram Jared Rivers Joel Macdonald Half backs Jack Grimes Colin Garland Jamie Bennell Centreline Nathan Jones Brent Moloney Luke Tapscott Half forwards Rohan Bail Colin Sylvia Liam Jurrah Forwards Jack Watts Brad Green Addam Maric Followers Mark Jamar Lynden Dunn Aaron Davey Interchange Neville Jetta Stefan Martin Ricky Petterd Jack Trengove Emergencies Jake Spencer James Strauss Matthew Warnock SYDNEY (Round 1, 2011) Backs Paul Bevan Ted Richards Martin Mattner Half backs Rhys Shaw Heath Grundy Andrejs Everitt Centreline Daniel Hannebery Kieren Jack Nick Smith Half forwards Lewis Jetta Adam Goodes Ben McGlynn Forwards Ryan O'Keefe Sam Reid Jesse White Followers Shane Mumford Josh Kennedy Jarrod McVeigh Interchange Jude Bolton Gary Rohan Mark Seaby Byron Sumner Emergencies Craig Bird Jed Lamb Brett Meredith I look at the two teams and note only two players from the Melbourne side of that day are not available to play - Neville Jetta (ankle injury) and Addam Maric (now with Richmond). You could include Mitch Clark and James Magner and you have what is notionally a far superior list than that which drew with the Swans in round 1 last year. Then I look at Sydney's team from that day and there's no Adam Goodes, Shane Mumford or Gary Rohan and many of its payers have been well below par in form over the past couple of weeks. They can't replace that lot for quality, their confidence is down and yet the Swans are red hot favourites to win. I know it's not much to go on but it's enough for me to come up with one of my famous inspired hunches. My conclusion from this is that it’s only a matter of time before Melbourne realises that it’s all in the head and that they quite capable of beating an out of form Sydney that is missing key players. If the Demons grab the opportunity and a confident mood starts spreading through the team a win is possible. I’m tipping the Demons by 12 points. THE GAME Melbourne v Sydney at the SCG Saturday 19 May at 4.40pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Sydney 106 wins Melbourne 92 wins 2 draws At SCG Sydney 13 wins Melbourne 8 wins Since 2000 Sydney 12 wins Melbourne 7 wins 1 draw The Coaches Longmire 0 Neeld 0 MEDIA Fox Footy Channel live at 4.30pm. RADIO SEN ABC774 THE BETTING Sydney to win $1.09 Melbourne to win $7.50 LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 11.18.74 drew with Sydney Swans 11.18.74 in Round 1, 2011 The teams sparred against each other all day and first one and then the other held the ascendency. The Demons, with Ricky Petterd on fire as the sub who came on in the final term, grabbed the lead late but a Ryan O’Keefe behind tied things up. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE Backs James Frawley Jared Rivers Clint Bartram Half backs Jack Grimes Colin Garland, Tom McDonald Centreline Cale Morton Brent Moloney Nathan Jones Half forwards Jack Trengove Jack Watts Liam Jurrah Forwards Jeremy Howe Mitch Clark Aaron Davey Followers Mark Jamar Jordie McKenzie Colin Sylvia Interchange Jamie Bennell Sam Blease Brad Green James Magner Emergencies Rohan Bail Lynden Dunn James Sellar In Sam Blease Brad Green Liam Jurrah Jack Watts Out Rohan Bail Matthew Bate Jack Fitzpatrick Ricky Petterd SYDNEY SWANS Backs Martin Mattner Ted Richards Rhyce Shaw Half backs Nicholas Smith Heath Grundy Jarrad McVeigh Centreline Lewis Jetta Josh P Kennedy Nick Malceski Half forwards Ryan O'Keefe Tommy Walsh Daniel Hannebery Forwards Ben McGlynn Sam Reid Trent Dennis-Lane Followers Mike Pyke Kieren Jack Jude Bolton Interchange Craig Bird Alex Johnson Luke Parker Lewis Roberts-Thomson Emergencies Andrejs Everitt Jesse White In Mike Pyke Lewis Roberts-Thomson Tommy Walsh Out Andrejs Everitt Mark Seaby Jesse White New Tommy Walsh (St Kilda) THE YEAR SO FAR by Sam the Stats Man Who would ever have believed that almost a third of the way through the season, two of Melbourne’s true playmakers Liam Jurrah and Colin Sylvia would not have scored a goal between them for the Demons? Injuries and poor form are again dogging the club as we look at the players statistically over the first seven rounds:- BAIL, Rohan MFC 7 games, 3 goals, CFC Sen 1 game, 0 goals – yet to really fire. BARTRAM, Clint MFC 7 games, 1 goal - moved to the leadership group at the start of the year, Bartram has rejuvenated his career with some steady if not spectacular performances. BATE, Matthew MFC 7 games, 5 goals - attempting to resurrect his career but three games as opening sub haven't helped greatly. BENNELL, Jamie MFC 2 games, 0 goals, CFC Sen 4 games, 1 goal - great at Casey but unimpressive so far in the big league. BLEASE, Sam MFC 1 game, 0 goals, CFC Sen 5 games, 5 goals - disappointed at his only start in the AFL but has worked hard at Casey. CLARK, Mitch MFC 6 games, 17 goals - Melbourne's recruit of the year. COOK, Lucas CFC Sen 2 games, 3 goals, CFC DL 1 game, 5 goals - has been in the background at Casey after recovering from injury and is still some way from making an AFL debut. COUCH, Tom ® CFC Sen 6 games, 2 goals - showing excellent form at Casey but missed a big opportunity last week when he missed with illness. DAVEY, Aaron MFC 6 games, 5 goals - well down on form and confidence. Needs to improve his fitness. DAVIS, Troy CFC Sen 6 games, 2 Goals - continues to show good form and promise with the Scorpions. DUNN, Lynden MFC 5 games, 6 goals, CFC Sen 2 games, 3 goals - career at the crossroads. Does well at Casey and not too bad when with the Demons. EVANS, Michael ® - out indefinitely with a back injury. FITZPATRICK, Jack MFC 1 game, 0 goals, CFC Sen 6 games, 9 goals – clawed his way back into the senior side last week but needs time and senior experience in his legs. FRAWLEY, James MFC 6 games, 0 goals - working hard in defence against the odds. GARLAND, Colin MFC 7 games, 0 goals – steady and workmanlike but needs to produce more. GAWN, Max - the handy young ruckman is out for the year following his second ACL injury. GREEN, Brad MFC 2 games, 1 goal, CFC Sen 2 games, 2 goals – disappointing drop off in form and then a broken thumb at Casey have cruelled his season to date. GRIMES, Jack MFC 6 games, 0 goals, CFC Sen 1 game, 0 goals - co-captain has not had a great impact this season and missed a week through suspension. GYSBERTS, Jordan CFC Sen 3 games, 0 goals - we've seen very little of Gysberts who suffered a broken jaw at Geelong after shrugging off an ankle injury. Will miss another three to five weeks. HOWE, Jeremy MFC 7 games, 6 goals - solid this season having added endurance and strength to his repertoire to go will his high marking skills. JAMAR, Mark MFC 7 games, 0 goals - dominant in the ruck at times although not as in tune with the onballers at his feet as he was two years ago. JETTA, Neville - came back from a shoulder injury (that wasn't successfully dealt with in the first place) only to incur torn ankle ligaments and recently had a setback with an infection. JONES, Nathan MFC 7 games, 7 goals - hard work on the track is starting to pay off. JURRAH, Liam CFC Sen 2 games, 2 goals - the wrist injury and legal issues have soured his season so far. LAWRENCE, Kelvin ® CFC Sen 5 games, 3 goals, CFC DL 2 games, 3 goals - battling rookie starting to show some consistency in the VFL. MACDONALD, Joel MFC 4 games, 0 goals, CFC Sen 2 games, 0 goals - spare parts man in defence recently despatched to Casey. MAGNER, James MFC 7 games, 3 goals - one of the club's few success stories of 2012 so far, midfielder Magner would be in the top three in the club's best and fairest at this stage. MARTIN, Stefan MFC 2 games, 1 goals, CFC Sen 1 games, 1 goals - a hip injury has marred his progress. McDONALD, Tom MFC 6 games, 0 goals, CFC Sen 2 games, 4 goals - making solid progress with the Demons after breaking into the side. MCKENZIE, Jordie MFC 7 games, 1 goal - a hard worker often given some tough assignments in the midfield. MOLONEY, Brent MFC 5 games, 2 goals - well below the form that made him club champion in 2011. MORTON, Cale MFC 5 games, 1 goal, CFC Sen 3 games, 1 goals - has worked hard to restore his status at the club after a couple of disappointing seasons. NICHOLSON, Daniel ® CFC Sen 3 games, 1 goal, CFC DL 1 game, 0 goals - slowly coming back at Casey from injury and a week's suspension for disciplinary reasons. PETTERD, Ricky MFC 2 games, 0 goals, CFC Sen 3 games, 3 goals - form well below expectations to date. RIVERS, Jared MFC 7 games, 0 goals - is having a reasonably good season in a defence under fire. SELLAR, James MFC 5 games, 1 goals, CFC Sen 1 games, 0 goals - filled roles in defence and on the ball without being outstanding. SHEAHAN, Jai ® MFC CFC Sen 7 games, 0 goals - rookie who has barely put a foot wrong in defence at AFL level. SPENCER, Jake CFC Sen 4 games, 1 goal, CFC DL 1 game, 1 goal - slowly progressing on return from almost 12 months absence after an ACL injury. STRAUSS, James CFC Sen 1 game, 0 goals - suffered concussion in the opening round of the VFL season, missed a couple of weeks and is due to come back after incurring ongoing leg problems related to last year's broken leg. SYLVIA, Colin MFC 3 games, 0 goals - suffered a fracture in his back on the eve of the season and has struggled since his return. TAGGERT, Rory CFC Sen 3 games, 2 goals - injured his back in the preseason but has been very impressive on return at Casey. TAPSCOTT, Luke MFC 4 games, 0 goals, CFC Sen 4 games, 3 goals - missed most of the pre season and has not struck the form of early last year. TRENGOVE, Jack MFC 7 games, 3 goals - co-skipper has struggled in the role and doesn't look 100%. TYNAN, Josh MFC 1 games 0 goals, CFC Sen 2 games, 1 goal - impressed when given an early opportunity but was dropped back to Casey. Currently out for a couple more weeks with a foot injury. VINEY, Jack * CFC Sen 1 game, 0 goals - suffered a broken jaw late in his only game with Casey. Showed great promise before being injured. WATTS, Jack MFC 5 games, 4 goals, CFC Sen 3 games, 7 goals - had a reasonable start after being dropped to Casey after the NAB Cup games but lapsed again and returned to the VFL for a couple of weeks. WILLIAMS, Leigh ® CFC Sen 2 games, 2 goals, CFC DL 1 game, 3 goals - injury and illness have restricted him to bit pieces in a few games with the Scorpions.
  9. THE REVERSAL OF FORTUNES by JVM One of the common practices when writing up previews of games is to go back to the last time the competing teams met each other but in the case of games between Melbourne and Hawthorn, there’s been such a sameness of late from one year to another that one need hardly bother. Apart from a game played in the wet at the MCG near the end of the 2010 season (a 21 point loss that some might have described as “gallant”), most of the others have been severe blowouts. When the two teams last met it was a nine goal win to the Hawks but my impression of that game was that on top of being totally dominant for most of the game, they were being charitable and never got out of second gear as they strangled a second rate opposition that was heading in the direction of a steep cliff with a steep and perilous descent awaiting (of course, that was still six days away). The details of that last encounter can be seen below. But the thing that I want to discuss here is a game that produced a happier outcome for the Demons almost six years ago to the day. It was also a Friday night game played at the MCG in the autumn and it was the last time Melbourne beat Hawthorn. The score was 20.16.136 to 9.7.61. It need not be said that both teams had different line ups at the time. Melbourne’s was:- Backs Bate Carroll Whelan Half backs Yze Rivers Bell Centreline Green Bruce McLean Half forwards Robertson Miller Davey Forwards Jamar Neitz Pickett Followers White Moloney Johnstone Interchange Bartram Dunn Godfrey McDonald Emergencies C Johnson Holland Read Hawthorn came in with this line up: Backs Jacobs Dawson Sewell Half backs Smith Roughead Guerra Centreline Bateman Mitchell Vandenberg Half forwards Clarke Boyle Brown Forwards Dixon Williams Miller Followers Everitt Hodge Crawford Interchange Birchall Campbell Kane Ladson Emergencies Lewis Ries Taylor The game was an absolute massacre. The Hawks tried to unsettle the Demons with their aggression but Byron Pickett had some ideas of his own. Once the initial heat dies down, it was the experience of Melbourne that told. Scoop Junior wrote in his report for Demonland that the Demon midfield “dominated when the game opened up to the outside. Through superior class, skill and deeper rotations, the Demons made Hawthorn look second rate at times. Brock McLean and James McDonald were keys in tight, winning plenty of ball at the stoppages, while Cameron Bruce, Travis Johnstone and Brent Moloney provided great drive.” David Neitz who always produced the goods against the Hawks booted six goals and Melbourne was untroubled to record another win and to establish its place in the top eight after opening the season with three defeats. The team made the finals that year, beat St. Kilda in an elimination final and ended up the best performed of the Victorian clubs. On the other hand, Hawthorn finished well of the pace. We all know what happens next – the reversal of fortunes. The Hawks, with a young emerging side rose swiftly up the ladder in 2007 and by 2008 had pulled off the seemingly impossible – a premiership well ahead of time. The Demons, with an older more experienced side fell into a heap. By the end of 2007 it was well inside the bottom quartile of the competition, flattered by a final round win against a tanking Carlton. A win that would prove costly at a future time. The collapse was complete twelve months later. And so the teams meet again on a Friday night in autumn with the Hawks at their peak and the Demons still languishing. It would seem that it’s almost an unfair contest but, as history showed back then, situations and tiems can change rapidly. Is it possible that waiting in the wings for Melbourne there’s a potential Buddy or Cyril who can lift the team to great heights? Time will tell. THE GAME Melbourne v Hawthorn at the MCG Friday 11 May 2012 at 7.50 pm. HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 74 wins Hawthorn 80 wins At MCG Melbourne 35 wins Hawthorn 39 wins Since 2000 Melbourne 5 wins Hawthorn 14 wins The Coaches Neeld 0 wins Clarkson 0 wins MEDIA TV – Fox Footy Channel, Channel 7 7:30 pm (live) RADIO – SEN ABC774 3AW Triple M THE BETTING Melbourne $13.00 to win Hawthorn $1.03 to win. THE LAST TIME THEY MET Hawthorn 20.12.132 defeated Melbourne 12.6.78 in Round 18, 2011 at the MCG It was all pretty much routine fare for a Melbourne v Hawthorn encounter of late. The Hawks overpowered the Demons early and floated away to the easiest of wins. Buddy kicked his five, Cyril got a few, Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis were unstoppable in the midfield and Melbourne was fairly innocuous. Brad Green flew the flag with four goals (but wasn’t so convincing the next day On the Couch) and Jeremy Howe undelined his potential with a few. Stef Martin and Nathan Jones did well and the rest … pffft! THE TEAMS MELBOURNE Backs James Frawley Jared Rivers Clint Bartram Half backs Jack Grimes Colin Garland Cale Morton Centreline Ricky Petterd Brent Moloney Jack Trengove Half forwards Nathan Jones Mitch Clark Jamie Bennell Forwards Jeremy Howe Colin Sylvia Aaron Davey Followers Mark Jamar James Magner Jordie McKenzie Interchange Rohan Bail Matthew Bate Jack Fitzpatrick Tom McDonald Emergencies Lynden Dunn Joel Macdonald Luke Tapscott In Jamie Bennell Jack Fitzpatrick Ricky Petterd Out Lynden Dunn James Sellar (calf) Luke Tapscott HAWTHORN Backs Benjamin Stratton Stephen Gilham Brent Guerra Half backs Matt Suckling Ryan Schoenmakers Grant Birchall Centreline Jordan Lewis Sam Mitchell Brendan Whitecross Half forwards Luke Breust Lance Franklin Isaac Smith Forwards Michael Osborne Jarryd Roughead Cyril Rioli Followers David Hale Shaun Burgoyne Brad Sewell Interchange Paul Puopolo Shane Savage Liam Shiels Clinton Young Emergencies Kyle Cheney Bradley Hill Broc McCauley In Stephen Gilham Clinton Young Out Jarrad Boumann Luke Hodge (knee) Umpires B Rosebury R Findlay J Bannister AT BEST I read in one of the media previews of the game the comment that "Melbourne will need to be at its best to upset Hawthorn on Friday night." No kidding? The Hawks are going into the game as red hot favourite to win despite the fact that they're not travelling as well as might have been expected this season, remembering that on the eve of the season they were highly fancied among many of the experts to win this year's flag. And they might still do that after showing a dramatic lift in tempo last week against their bitter rivals, the Saints, who have always had the wood on them, particularly in their Saturday night fixtures. Last week, Hawthorn was particularly ruthless against St. Kilda with Cyril Rioli kicking six goals and Buddy Franklin returning five. The Hawks will be eager to not only win the four points but also to build up percentage given the tightness of the competition and their unflattering start of only two wins in the first five games. Melbourne already has nightmares about its recent record against this opposition and these are not confined to thoughts of their regular season reminiscences alone. These teams often meet in the pre season and the outcomes have been equally disasterous with this year proving no exception. Way back in February, the Demons gave Mark Neeld his first win in what remotely resembled a game of football when they bested the Magpies in a tightly fought NAB Cup game at Etihad Stadium. Hopes were high among the Demon faithful that this year was truly going to be something different under the new coaching regime. The midfield was strong in the contest for the ball, the defence stood up and the forward line functioned as perfectly as one could expect in the month of February. A week later and all that was shattered. The team has barely come close to looking like a cohesive unit in the past three months apart from some momentary glimmers in recent weeks but, to be competitive against the might of Hawthorn? I think not. There is so little for one to hang the hat on as the team goes into battle against an implacable foe. Despite the comment about needing to be at its best to beat them, there has to be a serious doubt about whether the team can even come close to the Hawks at this stage of its development. Despite the fact that Melbourne has been showing improvement of late and continues to do well in winning contested possession, it still legs well below its opponents on a week to week basis in winning the uncontested football. At least this week it appears to have acted at selection to address its lack of leg speed which is regarded as one of the factors in explaining this deficiency but that alone will not be enough. Hawthorn to win by 47 points.
  10. THE REVERSAL OF FORTUNES by JVM One of the common practices when writing up previews of games is to go back to the last time the competing teams met each other but in the case of games between Melbourne and Hawthorn, there’s been such a sameness of late from one year to another that one need hardly bother. Apart from a game played in the wet at the MCG near the end of the 2010 season (a 21 point loss that some might have described as “gallant”), most of the others have been severe blowouts. When the two teams last met it was a nine goal win to the Hawks but my impression of that game was that on top of being totally dominant for most of the game, they were being charitable and never got out of second gear as they strangled a second rate opposition that was heading in the direction of a steep cliff with a steep and perilous descent awaiting (of course, that was still six days away). The details of that last encounter can be seen below. But the thing that I want to discuss here is a game that produced a happier outcome for the Demons almost six years ago to the day. It was also a Friday night game played at the MCG in the autumn and it was the last time Melbourne beat Hawthorn. The score was 20.16.136 to 9.7.61. It need not be said that both teams had different line ups at the time. Melbourne’s was:- Backs Bate Carroll Whelan Half backs Yze Rivers Bell Centreline Green Bruce McLean Half forwards Robertson Miller Davey Forwards Jamar Neitz Pickett Followers White Moloney Johnstone Interchange Bartram Dunn Godfrey McDonald Emergencies C Johnson Holland Read Hawthorn came in with this line up: Backs Jacobs Dawson Sewell Half backs Smith Roughead Guerra Centreline Bateman Mitchell Vandenberg Half forwards Clarke Boyle Brown Forwards Dixon Williams Miller Followers Everitt Hodge Crawford Interchange Birchall Campbell Kane Ladson Emergencies Lewis Ries Taylor The game was an absolute massacre. The Hawks tried to unsettle the Demons with their aggression but Byron Pickett had some ideas of his own. Once the initial heat dies down, it was the experience of Melbourne that told. Scoop Junior wrote in his report for Demonland that the Demon midfield “dominated when the game opened up to the outside. Through superior class, skill and deeper rotations, the Demons made Hawthorn look second rate at times. Brock McLean and James McDonald were keys in tight, winning plenty of ball at the stoppages, while Cameron Bruce, Travis Johnstone and Brent Moloney provided great drive.” David Neitz who always produced the goods against the Hawks booted six goals and Melbourne was untroubled to record another win and to establish its place in the top eight after opening the season with three defeats. The team made the finals that year, beat St. Kilda in an elimination final and ended up the best performed of the Victorian clubs. On the other hand, Hawthorn finished well of the pace. We all know what happens next – the reversal of fortunes. The Hawks, with a young emerging side rose swiftly up the ladder in 2007 and by 2008 had pulled off the seemingly impossible – a premiership well ahead of time. The Demons, with an older more experienced side fell into a heap. By the end of 2007 it was well inside the bottom quartile of the competition, flattered by a final round win against a tanking Carlton. A win that would prove costly at a future time. The collapse was complete twelve months later. And so the teams meet again on a Friday night in autumn with the Hawks at their peak and the Demons still languishing. It would seem that it’s almost an unfair contest but, as history showed back then, situations and tiems can change rapidly. Is it possible that waiting in the wings for Melbourne there’s a potential Buddy or Cyril who can lift the team to great heights? Time will tell. THE GAME Melbourne v Hawthorn at the MCG Friday 11 May 2012 at 7.50 pm. HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 74 wins Hawthorn 80 wins At MCG Melbourne 35 wins Hawthorn 39 wins Since 2000 Melbourne 5 wins Hawthorn 14 wins The Coaches Neeld 0 wins Clarkson 0 wins MEDIA TV – Fox Footy Channel, Channel 7 7:30 pm (live) RADIO – SEN ABC774 3AW Triple M THE BETTING Melbourne $13.00 to win Hawthorn $1.03 to win. THE LAST TIME THEY MET Hawthorn 20.12.132 defeated Melbourne 12.6.78 in Round 18, 2011 at the MCG It was all pretty much routine fare for a Melbourne v Hawthorn encounter of late. The Hawks overpowered the Demons early and floated away to the easiest of wins. Buddy kicked his five, Cyril got a few, Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis were unstoppable in the midfield and Melbourne was fairly innocuous. Brad Green flew the flag with four goals (but wasn’t so convincing the next day On the Couch) and Jeremy Howe undelined his potential with a few. Stef Martin and Nathan Jones did well and the rest … pffft! THE TEAMS MELBOURNE Backs James Frawley Jared Rivers Clint Bartram Half backs Jack Grimes Colin Garland Cale Morton Centreline Ricky Petterd Brent Moloney Jack Trengove Half forwards Nathan Jones Mitch Clark Jamie Bennell Forwards Jeremy Howe Colin Sylvia Aaron Davey Followers Mark Jamar James Magner Jordie McKenzie Interchange Rohan Bail Matthew Bate Jack Fitzpatrick Tom McDonald Emergencies Lynden Dunn Joel Macdonald Luke Tapscott In Jamie Bennell Jack Fitzpatrick Ricky Petterd Out Lynden Dunn James Sellar (calf) Luke Tapscott HAWTHORN Backs Benjamin Stratton Stephen Gilham Brent Guerra Half backs Matt Suckling Ryan Schoenmakers Grant Birchall Centreline Jordan Lewis Sam Mitchell Brendan Whitecross Half forwards Luke Breust Lance Franklin Isaac Smith Forwards Michael Osborne Jarryd Roughead Cyril Rioli Followers David Hale Shaun Burgoyne Brad Sewell Interchange Paul Puopolo Shane Savage Liam Shiels Clinton Young Emergencies Kyle Cheney Bradley Hill Broc McCauley In Stephen Gilham Clinton Young Out Jarrad Boumann Luke Hodge (knee) Umpires B Rosebury R Findlay J Bannister AT BEST I read in one of the media previews of the game the comment that "Melbourne will need to be at its best to upset Hawthorn on Friday night." No kidding? The Hawks are going into the game as red hot favourite to win despite the fact that they're not travelling as well as might have been expected this season, remembering that on the eve of the season they were highly fancied among many of the experts to win this year's flag. And they might still do that after showing a dramatic lift in tempo last week against their bitter rivals, the Saints, who have always had the wood on them, particularly in their Saturday night fixtures. Last week, Hawthorn was particularly ruthless against St. Kilda with Cyril Rioli kicking six goals and Buddy Franklin returning five. The Hawks will be eager to not only win the four points but also to build up percentage given the tightness of the competition and their unflattering start of only two wins in the first five games. Melbourne already has nightmares about its recent record against this opposition and these are not confined to thoughts of their regular season reminiscences alone. These teams often meet in the pre season and the outcomes have been equally disasterous with this year proving no exception. Way back in February, the Demons gave Mark Neeld his first win in what remotely resembled a game of football when they bested the Magpies in a tightly fought NAB Cup game at Etihad Stadium. Hopes were high among the Demon faithful that this year was truly going to be something different under the new coaching regime. The midfield was strong in the contest for the ball, the defence stood up and the forward line functioned as perfectly as one could expect in the month of February. A week later and all that was shattered. The team has barely come close to looking like a cohesive unit in the past three months apart from some momentary glimmers in recent weeks but, to be competitive against the might of Hawthorn? I think not. There is so little for one to hang the hat on as the team goes into battle against an implacable foe. Despite the comment about needing to be at its best to beat them, there has to be a serious doubt about whether the team can even come close to the Hawks at this stage of its development. Despite the fact that Melbourne has been showing improvement of late and continues to do well in winning contested possession, it still legs well below its opponents on a week to week basis in winning the uncontested football. At least this week it appears to have acted at selection to address its lack of leg speed which is regarded as one of the factors in explaining this deficiency but that alone will not be enough. Hawthorn to win by 47 points.
  11. THE VOICE - THE PEOPLE SPEAK by The People This week's match preview comes from Demonlanders. Thanks to everyone who contributed. Interesting! July 30th, 2011. We journeyed down to Kardinia Park to take on the Geelong Football Club in the middle of winter with a team that had shown some signs of promise. We seemed to be developing as a team which was headed in the right direction, regardless of the inconsistency from week to week. We turned up at Kardinia Park feeling as though we didn't really want to be there, as if we didn't believe we could win. I felt that the match was something we needed to survive our way through and then move on to next week. This attitude and a ruthless Geelong team saw us torn to shreds, not only on the scoreboard but the loss ripped the fabric of the club apart and took a part of our dignity. As we all know, Dean Bailey was sacked as the club tried to deal with it, but in reality we haven't been the same club since and we haven't fully gotten over it. There's been a painful darkness lurking in the corners of our collective MFC psyche since that day. There is only one way that the club can deal with what happened on that day last year, and sacking Dean Bailey or any other off field measures are completely insufficient. We need to go back to Kardinia Park and retrieve our dignity. It won't come easily, but must be torn back from Geelong; we must fight to take it back, and we must win to take it back. We must be ruthless in attacking every contest with absolute and brutal desperation. We must gut run from start to finish. We must treat every goal not with joyous celebration but with a sober resolve to bounce the ball and do it again. We need to punish Geelong every time they make a mistake or hesitate. This weekend is our opportunity to cast out the darkness, and we need to approach it head on, without compromise or excuse. Let's go to Kardinia Park, and let's fight to win our dignity back. Let's go to Kardinia Park together - MFC1858 THE GAME Geelong v Melbourne at Skilled Stadium on Saturday 5 May 2012 at 1.45pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Geelong 123 wins Melbourne 83 wins 2 draws At Skilled Stadium Geelong 35 wins Melbourne 17 wins 1 draw Since 2000 Geelong 13 wins Melbourne 6 wins 1 draw The Coaches Scott 0 Neeld 0 MEDIA TV Fox Footy Channel 1:30pm (LIVE) Delayed telecast - Channel 7 3:pm. RADIO SEN Triple M THE BETTING Geelong to win $1.03 Melbourne to win $12.00 LAST TIME THEY MET Geelong defeated Melbourne at Simmons Stadium in Round 19, 2011 (we all know what's happened and we need no further reminder) THE TEAMS GEELONG Backs Matthew Scarlett Harry Taylor Josh Hunt Half backs Corey Enright Tom Lonergan Andrew Mackie Centreline James Kelly Allen Christensen Joel Corey Half forwards Mitch Duncan James Podsiadly Steven Motlop Forwards Steve Johnson Tom Hawkins Mitch Brown Followers Trent West Jimmy Bartel Paul Chapman Interchange Cameron Guthrie Joel Selwood Billie Smedts Jesse Stringer Emergencies Shannon Byrnes Tom Gillies George Horlin-Smith In Mitch Brown James Kelly Out Taylor Hunt (soreness) Mathew Stokes (ankle) MELBOURNE Backs James Frawley Jared Rivers Clint Bartram Half backs Tom McDonald Colin Garland Jack Grimes Centreline Cale Morton Brent Moloney Jordie McKenzie Half forwards Nathan Jones James Sellar Jeremy Howe Forward Colin Sylvia Mitch Clark Aaron Davey Followers Mark Jamar James Magner Jack Trengove Interchange Rohan Bail Matthew Bate Lynden Dunn Luke Tapscott Emergencies Jamie Bennell Joel Macdonald Ricky Petterd In Mitch Clark James Frawley Out Joel Macdonald Jack Watts The Demons return this week to where it all began - or ended depending on your outlook. A completely new coaching panel. A completely new game plan. A very different Demons outfit. But no one who is a part of our great club can forget 186. So what does this all equate too? The bottom line is who the hell knows. The Demons looked like they have started to turn the corner a bit with the game plan and effort required but as we know all too well Melbourne is nothing if not sporadic. I cannot see a win no matter how I look at the game but there are still many things that can be achieved out of this game. For starters - a result that is far closer. An effort and intensity level that matches or builds on last week. An improvement in the execution of our game plan. Beamer must atone (regardless of how crook he was last year). Our midfield must give our backmen a chance and our forwards a look at the ball more than 40 times. Would it be folly to suggest this week that we adopt the old adage of everyone has one man for the day, regardless of where they play? Trengove on Bartel Jones on Chappy Beamer on Selwood Frawley/McDonald on Hawkins Bartram on Stokes Grimes on Christensen Sylvia on Enright Clark on Scarlett Morton on Mackie Watts on Corey ... and the list goes on. If nothing else, our boys will learn the work rate of a champion team, but if every player is responsible for just one man of flesh and blood, whom they must make it their life's ambition for that day to beat, then maybe, just maybe the Demons can make a game of it! - Grandson of a Gun Geelong is not playing the way they have in past years. Some of their wins have been unconvincing and they have lost twice to teams that failed to make last year's top eight. On the other hand, while Melbourne hasn't been all that flash, it isn't quite plumbing the depths of last year's devastating result at the Cattery. If the Dees can maintain their steady rate of improvement of the last couple of games then they might surprise the football world. Not necessarily with a win but with their best performance at this venue since the drawn game in 2006. - Demon Head The Demons are heading to Simmons Stadium this weekend to take on last year's premiers. It's a tough road trip for any side in the competition, let alone for the heavily scrutinised Demons who were pantsed by 186 points in the corresponding fixture in 2011. Every player who gets an opportunity this week will be driven by the humiliation of last year. None more so than #22 who, in a year where he polled exceptionally well in the Brownlow, couldn't manage a single possession in a half of football. He and the others will be keen to atone for last year's effort. If the 31 goal loss to Geelong was to have any silver lining, it is to be the subsequent introspection, and overhaul of the clubs footy department. This fresh start and direction looks to have galvanised the club as a whole. Led by Mark Neeld the Demons are working on a game style and culture which is intended to get the Melbourne Football Club back towards being a quality, consistent AFL side. Egos have been battered as home truths have been told, the leadership group has been overhauled. Inconsistency from week to week and questionable endeavour will no longer be tolerated. Gone are the days of Melbourne playing top picks for the sake of development. It's obvious to all that the transition from the past environment to the current one has not been an easy one for many of the players. 5 losses in 5 rounds has been a tough start to the season, especially with 3 of these losses coming against the lions, tigers and bulldogs. However the signs are starting improve as Neeld picks through the list to find a core group of players who will give their all in implementing his game style for four quarters. A four quarter effort which will be required this weekend if the Demons are to be any match for the Cats at their home. A competitive effort will also set the side up for the coming weeks where the Demons will play the majority of the form sides in the competition. A win during this period would do wonders for the confidence of the playing and coaching groups and set the side up for more victories in the second half of the year. I think the Demons will show a lot of heart again this week but will be hurt on the scoreboard by a polished Geelong outfit. Cats by 6 goals, 25 less than last year. - DemonWA
  12. THE VOICE - THE PEOPLE SPEAK by The People This week's match preview comes from Demonlanders. Thanks to everyone who contributed. Interesting! July 30th, 2011. We journeyed down to Kardinia Park to take on the Geelong Football Club in the middle of winter with a team that had shown some signs of promise. We seemed to be developing as a team which was headed in the right direction, regardless of the inconsistency from week to week. We turned up at Kardinia Park feeling as though we didn't really want to be there, as if we didn't believe we could win. I felt that the match was something we needed to survive our way through and then move on to next week. This attitude and a ruthless Geelong team saw us torn to shreds, not only on the scoreboard but the loss ripped the fabric of the club apart and took a part of our dignity. As we all know, Dean Bailey was sacked as the club tried to deal with it, but in reality we haven't been the same club since and we haven't fully gotten over it. There's been a painful darkness lurking in the corners of our collective MFC psyche since that day. There is only one way that the club can deal with what happened on that day last year, and sacking Dean Bailey or any other off field measures are completely insufficient. We need to go back to Kardinia Park and retrieve our dignity. It won't come easily, but must be torn back from Geelong; we must fight to take it back, and we must win to take it back. We must be ruthless in attacking every contest with absolute and brutal desperation. We must gut run from start to finish. We must treat every goal not with joyous celebration but with a sober resolve to bounce the ball and do it again. We need to punish Geelong every time they make a mistake or hesitate. This weekend is our opportunity to cast out the darkness, and we need to approach it head on, without compromise or excuse. Let's go to Kardinia Park, and let's fight to win our dignity back. Let's go to Kardinia Park together - MFC1858 THE GAME Geelong v Melbourne at Skilled Stadium on Saturday 5 May 2012 at 1.45pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Geelong 123 wins Melbourne 83 wins 2 draws At Skilled Stadium Geelong 35 wins Melbourne 17 wins 1 draw Since 2000 Geelong 13 wins Melbourne 6 wins 1 draw The Coaches Scott 0 Neeld 0 MEDIA TV Fox Footy Channel 1:30pm (LIVE) Delayed telecast - Channel 7 3:pm. RADIO SEN Triple M THE BETTING Geelong to win $1.03 Melbourne to win $12.00 LAST TIME THEY MET Geelong defeated Melbourne at Simmons Stadium in Round 19, 2011 (we all know what's happened and we need no further reminder) THE TEAMS GEELONG Backs Matthew Scarlett Harry Taylor Josh Hunt Half backs Corey Enright Tom Lonergan Andrew Mackie Centreline James Kelly Allen Christensen Joel Corey Half forwards Mitch Duncan James Podsiadly Steven Motlop Forwards Steve Johnson Tom Hawkins Mitch Brown Followers Trent West Jimmy Bartel Paul Chapman Interchange Cameron Guthrie Joel Selwood Billie Smedts Jesse Stringer Emergencies Shannon Byrnes Tom Gillies George Horlin-Smith In Mitch Brown James Kelly Out Taylor Hunt (soreness) Mathew Stokes (ankle) MELBOURNE Backs James Frawley Jared Rivers Clint Bartram Half backs Tom McDonald Colin Garland Jack Grimes Centreline Cale Morton Brent Moloney Jordie McKenzie Half forwards Nathan Jones James Sellar Jeremy Howe Forward Colin Sylvia Mitch Clark Aaron Davey Followers Mark Jamar James Magner Jack Trengove Interchange Rohan Bail Matthew Bate Lynden Dunn Luke Tapscott Emergencies Jamie Bennell Joel Macdonald Ricky Petterd In Mitch Clark James Frawley Out Joel Macdonald Jack Watts The Demons return this week to where it all began - or ended depending on your outlook. A completely new coaching panel. A completely new game plan. A very different Demons outfit. But no one who is a part of our great club can forget 186. So what does this all equate too? The bottom line is who the hell knows. The Demons looked like they have started to turn the corner a bit with the game plan and effort required but as we know all too well Melbourne is nothing if not sporadic. I cannot see a win no matter how I look at the game but there are still many things that can be achieved out of this game. For starters - a result that is far closer. An effort and intensity level that matches or builds on last week. An improvement in the execution of our game plan. Beamer must atone (regardless of how crook he was last year). Our midfield must give our backmen a chance and our forwards a look at the ball more than 40 times. Would it be folly to suggest this week that we adopt the old adage of everyone has one man for the day, regardless of where they play? Trengove on Bartel Jones on Chappy Beamer on Selwood Frawley/McDonald on Hawkins Bartram on Stokes Grimes on Christensen Sylvia on Enright Clark on Scarlett Morton on Mackie Watts on Corey ... and the list goes on. If nothing else, our boys will learn the work rate of a champion team, but if every player is responsible for just one man of flesh and blood, whom they must make it their life's ambition for that day to beat, then maybe, just maybe the Demons can make a game of it! - Grandson of a Gun Geelong is not playing the way they have in past years. Some of their wins have been unconvincing and they have lost twice to teams that failed to make last year's top eight. On the other hand, while Melbourne hasn't been all that flash, it isn't quite plumbing the depths of last year's devastating result at the Cattery. If the Dees can maintain their steady rate of improvement of the last couple of games then they might surprise the football world. Not necessarily with a win but with their best performance at this venue since the drawn game in 2006. - Demon Head The Demons are heading to Simmons Stadium this weekend to take on last year's premiers. It's a tough road trip for any side in the competition, let alone for the heavily scrutinised Demons who were pantsed by 186 points in the corresponding fixture in 2011. Every player who gets an opportunity this week will be driven by the humiliation of last year. None more so than #22 who, in a year where he polled exceptionally well in the Brownlow, couldn't manage a single possession in a half of football. He and the others will be keen to atone for last year's effort. If the 31 goal loss to Geelong was to have any silver lining, it is to be the subsequent introspection, and overhaul of the clubs footy department. This fresh start and direction looks to have galvanised the club as a whole. Led by Mark Neeld the Demons are working on a game style and culture which is intended to get the Melbourne Football Club back towards being a quality, consistent AFL side. Egos have been battered as home truths have been told, the leadership group has been overhauled. Inconsistency from week to week and questionable endeavour will no longer be tolerated. Gone are the days of Melbourne playing top picks for the sake of development. It's obvious to all that the transition from the past environment to the current one has not been an easy one for many of the players. 5 losses in 5 rounds has been a tough start to the season, especially with 3 of these losses coming against the lions, tigers and bulldogs. However the signs are starting improve as Neeld picks through the list to find a core group of players who will give their all in implementing his game style for four quarters. A four quarter effort which will be required this weekend if the Demons are to be any match for the Cats at their home. A competitive effort will also set the side up for the coming weeks where the Demons will play the majority of the form sides in the competition. A win during this period would do wonders for the confidence of the playing and coaching groups and set the side up for more victories in the second half of the year. I think the Demons will show a lot of heart again this week but will be hurt on the scoreboard by a polished Geelong outfit. Cats by 6 goals, 25 less than last year. - DemonWA
  13. THE PULSE by Whispering Jack Somewhere in the twilight at the MCG last week I detected a faint pulse beating inside the Melbourne team. After taking a few poundings in the early rounds, there were glimmers of hope that there might really be something there upon which new coach Mark Neeld could work. It was Mitch Clark, proudly wearing the number 11 guernsey that was a thematic part of the day, who set the tone but he didn't get the ball delivered well enough or often enough and his kicking for goal was (like some of his fellow forwards) not good enough. In any event, he succumbed to what could have been a horrifying fate and missed the final quarter's battle. There were others who we thought might have done their collective dashes and been consigned collectively to our memories of the past but who lifted a notch to enable the pulse, albeit still a little feeble, to come to our notice. Aaron Davey, Matthew Bate and Cale Morton all lifted and were responsible for some of the team's better patches of play. We saw a little bit of run, a little improvement in hunger for the ball, a little bit of zest and passion. It wasn't enough to help record a win but it was the first sign that things are getting better. Behind that, there are injured players who have missed proceedings so far, on the comeback trail. Players with the ability of Colin Sylvia and Liam Jurrah would have been invaluable last week against the Bulldogs won't be playing against the Saints but they aren't far away. There are others whose return is imminent and will also help the cause by adding depth and skill to the mix. This is a young list which has recently been much maligned and superficially so by the pundits who have failed to adequately do their research. How many of Melbourne's early draft picks who are undergoing so much criticism have reached the desired figure of 40 to 50 games before they can pass on to the levels expected before they can rise and go forward in this industry? When these players reach that mark, things will get better. The style of play is still being drummed into the players. Disciplines are being instilled at levels that are meaningful. The young leadership is learning some tough lessons. It's a slow process and although we might not understand it and it doesn't appear to be working in terms of getting wins on the board, it's certainly not looking like a bruise-free style of game. If the pulse is getting stronger, then things will get better. THE GAME Melbourne v St. Kilda at MCG Sunday 28 April 2011 at the MCG at 7:40pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 118 wins St. Kilda 83 wins 1 drawn MCG Melbourne 58 wins St. Kilda 31 wins Since 2000 Melbourne 9 wins St. Kilda 8 wins The Coaches Neeld 0 wins Watters 0 wins MEDIA TV Fox Footy Channel Live at 7:30pm RADIO 3AW Triple M THE BETTING Melbourne to win $6.50 St. Kilda to win $1.11 THE LAST TIME THEY MET St. Kilda 16.10.106 defeated Melbourne 13.8.86 Round 9, 2011 at Etihad Stadium A Melbourne team, depleted by injuries and suspensions, had every chance to win this game but allowed Steven Milne too much latitude early and then spent much of the rest of the game catching up. It almost did so but some silly errors early in the final quarter allowed St. Kilda to surge ahead and win in unconvincing fashion. Michael Evans was excellent on debut. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE Backs James Frawley Jared Rivers Clint Bartram Half backs Cale Morton Colin Garland Jack Grimes Centreline Jordie McKenzie Brent Moloney Tom McDonald Half forwards Nathan Jones James Sellar Jeremy Howe Forwards Colin Sylvia Lynden Dunn Aaron Davey Followers Mark Jamar James Magner Jack Trengove Interchange Rohan Bail Matthew Bate Joel Macdonald Jack Watts Emergencies Jack Fitzpatrick Ricky Petterd Luke Tapscott In Jack Grimes Colin Sylvia Out Mitchell Clark (concussion) Luke Tapscott ST. KILDA Backs Jason Blake Sam Gilbert Jarryn Geary Half backs Sean Dempster Sam Fisher Tom Simpkin Centreline Brendon Goddard Lenny Hayes Nick Dal Santo Half forwards Leigh Montagna Nick Riewoldt Jack Steven Forwards Terry Milera Rhys Stanley Stephen Milne Followers Ben McEvoy Dean Polo Clinton Jones Interchange David Armitage Jamie Cripps Jason Gram Jack Newnes Emergencies Tom Ledger Arryn Siposs Beau Wilkes In Jason Gram Out Justin Koschitzke (suspended) Umpires Pannell Mitchell Mollison Given that it's the Anzac Round I thought I would keep the Irish connection to the Melbourne Football Club going with a favourite Eric Bogle song performed by the Irish band The Fureys. This is for Jimmy and Sean and all of our great fallen - WHO ARE THEY KIDDING? As St. Kilda prepares to take on its opponent for this week I'm hearing noises coming from the camp about concerns on its behalf about the improving Demons. Apparently, Scott Watters is talking them up warning that "Melbourne is on the verge of its first win of the year" ahead of its clash with St. Kilda at the MCG. The team will have to be careful not to be the first to lose points this season to the Demons. Come now. It was only a fortnight ago that the Saints kept the Demons opponent from last week to two goals in the first three quarters. Last week, St. Kilda was a tad unlucky to lose to the Dockers so it's not as if they're down on form or that they have much to worry about. Further, the Saints have all of the star quality in this game. Who does Melbourne have to match against the likes of Goddard, Riewoldt, Hayes, dal Santo, Montagna and even Milne who always seems to get his goals in the early stages of games against Melbourne? No, there might be a faint pulse but I can't see Melbourne getting within 5 goals of the talented Saints even with the inclusion of Jack Grimes and Colin Sylvia. St. Kilda by 31 points.
  14. CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE by The Oracle It was twelve months ago that Melbourne played in that horrendous game against Hawthorn when it appeared totally shell-shocked in a third quarter from hell. Then followed a roller coaster ride for much of the season before the club encountered the big dip into oblivion which continues to haunt the club to this very day. Despite a new coach, a truckload of new assistants and sports scientists, the club seems beset by a crisis in confidence not made any easier thanks to a number of off field well documented disasters. Last week, the club came close to hitting rock bottom losing to the Eagles by a record 108 points to the Eagles at Paterson's Stadium. The performance was horrible and not far away from the worst of the past few years - the infamous 30 July, 2011 game against Geelong at Skilled Stadium or whatever they call that wretched place these days. This time the Demons gave the Eagles access to 78 inside 50s, failed to effect a single tackle inside their own 50 and gave their opponent a record winning margin. Fortunately for Melbourne, while Richmond's form has been encouraging so far this year, the Tigers are not in the same ball park as the Eagles, the MCG is a more welcoming venue than Paterson's Stadium and the weather is likely to be more comfortable than the 31 degree heat of Perth. That still might not be enough to Melbourne's crisis of confidence. THE GAME Richmond v Melbourne at the MCG Saturday 15 April 2012 at 1.45pm. HEAD TO HEAD Overall Richmond 100 wins Melbourne 79 wins At MCG Richmond 66 wins Melbourne 59 wins Since 2000 Richmond 11 wins Melbourne 9 wins The Coaches Hardwick 0 wins Neeld 0 wins MEDIA TV – Fox Footy Channel Live at 1.30pm Channel 7 (delayed at 3pm) RADIO - ABC774 SEN TripleM THE BETTING Richmond $1.28 to win Melbourne $3.85 to win THE LAST TIME THEY MET Richmond 17.15.117 defeated Melbourne 17.8.110 at the MCG, Round 22, 2011 The stage was set early in the game when the Tigers jumped out of the blocks and had three goals on the board - two from free kicks - before the Demons started playing. The difference was 26 points by half time but a Melbourne fightback, triggered by a dynamic Colin Sylvia (5 goals) saw it take an 8 point lead into the final term. The Tigers regained momentum in the final term and held on to win by 7 points. THE TEAMS RICHMOND Backs Steven Morris Alex Rance Chris Newman Half backs Bachar Houli Dylan Grimes Brandon Ellis Centreline Shaun Grigg Dustin Martin Daniel Jackson Half forwards Brett Deledio Tyrone Vickery Shane Edwards Forwards Brad Miller Jack Riewoldt Robin Nahas Followers Ivan Maric Trent Cotchin Nathan Foley Interchange Jake Batchelor Reece Conca Addam Maric Shane Tuck Emergencies Matt Dea Angus Graham Matthew White In Addam Maric Out Jake King (knee) MELBOURNE WEBJET DEMONS Backs Clint Bartram James Sellar James Frawley Half backs Colin Garland Jared Rivers Tom McDonald Centreline Nathan Jones Jack Grimes Rohan Bail Half forwards Jeremy Howe Jack Watts Cale Morton Forwards Aaron Davey Mitchell Clark Matthew Bate Followers Mark Jamar James Magner Jack Trengove Interchange Lynden Dunn Jordie McKenzie Stefan Martin Luke Tapscott Emergencies Jack Fitzpatrick Brad Green Joel Macdonald In Aaron Davey Stefan Martin Cale Morton Luke Tapscott Out Jamie Bennell Brad Green Joel Macdonald Ricky Petterd Umpires J Schmitt J Armstrong A Mitchell THE TURNING OF THE WHEEL There have been developments in the past 24 hours which undoubtedly will play a role in turning around both the on and off field fortunes of the Melbourne Football Club in what has so far been a disastrous start to season 2012. On Thursday morning the club announced the appointment of Tim Lamb as a national recruiting officer. Many might ask "Tim who?" but at least the announcement was positive news for once after more than a month of negative media. Something a little positive for a change. Things got appreciatively better in the evening w Melbourne has secured Australia's No.1 online travel agent Webjet as its joint major sponsor when the club announced that it had secured Australia's No.1 online travel agent Webjet as its "joint major sponsor" to feature on the front of its guernsey and training apparel. That's great news after the club's ditching of a sponsor last week because of racist comments published on the facebook page of its CEO. And the reference to a "joint major sponsor" suggests that there might be more good news on the way in the form in the near future another major sponsor announcement. But what's that got to do with this week's game against the Tigers? Well, some might say "very little" but if there is an overall cloud of doom and gloom hanging over the club then every piece of good news to lift the playing group will help. This is particularly so if, as I maintain above, that the Demons have being undergoing a crisis in confidence. Any sign of that dark cloud dissipating could mark the beginning of something new. The turning of the wheel. Of course, there needs to be a lot more to lift a team that's suffered a couple of soul destroying defeats and I believe that team selection this week brought about some necessary changes in balance and an infusion of a different mix of player which is definitely going to help things against Richmond. Mark Jamar laboured last week when he was forced to take on the combined ruck might of Cox and Naitanui at Paterson's Stadium. Stef Martin's return will therefore be invaluable. The addition of Cale Morton and Luke Tapscott, both former first round draft picks and both capable of adding some variety to the team mix. Then there's Aaron Davey who comes into the side and frankly, is fighting to restore his standing as one of the club's quality players after an injury interrupted 2011 that was also attended by some poor form. With the Jason Mifsud controversy off his back, let's hope that he can now return to form and play with some of that old determination and flair that marked his career over the previous six or seven seasons. The return to the MCG and some more mild conditions after battling in 30 degree heat on consecutive weeks will help as will some encouragement from opposition coach Damien Hardwick who told reporters: "They're actually playing OK footy." I think that was somewhat tongue in cheek from a coach whose only worry might be that his charges attack the game with an element of complacency but it does demonstrate that the concern is that a flaky team like Melbourne might actually hit back this week. And whilst I believe the Demons will do that and return to a level of competitiveness in this game and in the weeks to come, it might not be enough against the Tigers whose strength (its midfield) will be too much for the Demons most glaring weakness. Richmond by 10 points.
  15. CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE by The Oracle It was twelve months ago that Melbourne played in that horrendous game against Hawthorn when it appeared totally shell-shocked in a third quarter from hell. Then followed a roller coaster ride for much of the season before the club encountered the big dip into oblivion which continues to haunt the club to this very day. Despite a new coach, a truckload of new assistants and sports scientists, the club seems beset by a crisis in confidence not made any easier thanks to a number of off field well documented disasters. Last week, the club came close to hitting rock bottom losing to the Eagles by a record 108 points to the Eagles at Paterson's Stadium. The performance was horrible and not far away from the worst of the past few years - the infamous 30 July, 2011 game against Geelong at Skilled Stadium or whatever they call that wretched place these days. This time the Demons gave the Eagles access to 78 inside 50s, failed to effect a single tackle inside their own 50 and gave their opponent a record winning margin. Fortunately for Melbourne, while Richmond's form has been encouraging so far this year, the Tigers are not in the same ball park as the Eagles, the MCG is a more welcoming venue than Paterson's Stadium and the weather is likely to be more comfortable than the 31 degree heat of Perth. That still might not be enough to Melbourne's crisis of confidence. THE GAME Richmond v Melbourne at the MCG Saturday 15 April 2012 at 1.45pm. HEAD TO HEAD Overall Richmond 100 wins Melbourne 79 wins At MCG Richmond 66 wins Melbourne 59 wins Since 2000 Richmond 11 wins Melbourne 9 wins The Coaches Hardwick 0 wins Neeld 0 wins MEDIA TV – Fox Footy Channel Live at 1.30pm Channel 7 (delayed at 3pm) RADIO - ABC774 SEN TripleM THE BETTING Richmond $1.28 to win Melbourne $3.85 to win THE LAST TIME THEY MET Richmond 17.15.117 defeated Melbourne 17.8.110 at the MCG, Round 22, 2011 The stage was set early in the game when the Tigers jumped out of the blocks and had three goals on the board - two from free kicks - before the Demons started playing. The difference was 26 points by half time but a Melbourne fightback, triggered by a dynamic Colin Sylvia (5 goals) saw it take an 8 point lead into the final term. The Tigers regained momentum in the final term and held on to win by 7 points. THE TEAMS RICHMOND Backs Steven Morris Alex Rance Chris Newman Half backs Bachar Houli Dylan Grimes Brandon Ellis Centreline Shaun Grigg Dustin Martin Daniel Jackson Half forwards Brett Deledio Tyrone Vickery Shane Edwards Forwards Brad Miller Jack Riewoldt Robin Nahas Followers Ivan Maric Trent Cotchin Nathan Foley Interchange Jake Batchelor Reece Conca Addam Maric Shane Tuck Emergencies Matt Dea Angus Graham Matthew White In Addam Maric Out Jake King (knee) MELBOURNE WEBJET DEMONS Backs Clint Bartram James Sellar James Frawley Half backs Colin Garland Jared Rivers Tom McDonald Centreline Nathan Jones Jack Grimes Rohan Bail Half forwards Jeremy Howe Jack Watts Cale Morton Forwards Aaron Davey Mitchell Clark Matthew Bate Followers Mark Jamar James Magner Jack Trengove Interchange Lynden Dunn Jordie McKenzie Stefan Martin Luke Tapscott Emergencies Jack Fitzpatrick Brad Green Joel Macdonald In Aaron Davey Stefan Martin Cale Morton Luke Tapscott Out Jamie Bennell Brad Green Joel Macdonald Ricky Petterd Umpires J Schmitt J Armstrong A Mitchell THE TURNING OF THE WHEEL There have been developments in the past 24 hours which undoubtedly will play a role in turning around both the on and off field fortunes of the Melbourne Football Club in what has so far been a disastrous start to season 2012. On Thursday morning the club announced the appointment of Tim Lamb as a national recruiting officer. Many might ask "Tim who?" but at least the announcement was positive news for once after more than a month of negative media. Something a little positive for a change. Things got appreciatively better in the evening w Melbourne has secured Australia's No.1 online travel agent Webjet as its joint major sponsor when the club announced that it had secured Australia's No.1 online travel agent Webjet as its "joint major sponsor" to feature on the front of its guernsey and training apparel. That's great news after the club's ditching of a sponsor last week because of racist comments published on the facebook page of its CEO. And the reference to a "joint major sponsor" suggests that there might be more good news on the way in the form in the near future another major sponsor announcement. But what's that got to do with this week's game against the Tigers? Well, some might say "very little" but if there is an overall cloud of doom and gloom hanging over the club then every piece of good news to lift the playing group will help. This is particularly so if, as I maintain above, that the Demons have being undergoing a crisis in confidence. Any sign of that dark cloud dissipating could mark the beginning of something new. The turning of the wheel. Of course, there needs to be a lot more to lift a team that's suffered a couple of soul destroying defeats and I believe that team selection this week brought about some necessary changes in balance and an infusion of a different mix of player which is definitely going to help things against Richmond. Mark Jamar laboured last week when he was forced to take on the combined ruck might of Cox and Naitanui at Paterson's Stadium. Stef Martin's return will therefore be invaluable. The addition of Cale Morton and Luke Tapscott, both former first round draft picks and both capable of adding some variety to the team mix. Then there's Aaron Davey who comes into the side and frankly, is fighting to restore his standing as one of the club's quality players after an injury interrupted 2011 that was also attended by some poor form. With the Jason Mifsud controversy off his back, let's hope that he can now return to form and play with some of that old determination and flair that marked his career over the previous six or seven seasons. The return to the MCG and some more mild conditions after battling in 30 degree heat on consecutive weeks will help as will some encouragement from opposition coach Damien Hardwick who told reporters: "They're actually playing OK footy." I think that was somewhat tongue in cheek from a coach whose only worry might be that his charges attack the game with an element of complacency but it does demonstrate that the concern is that a flaky team like Melbourne might actually hit back this week. And whilst I believe the Demons will do that and return to a level of competitiveness in this game and in the weeks to come, it might not be enough against the Tigers whose strength (its midfield) will be too much for the Demons most glaring weakness. Richmond by 10 points.
  16. WHO ARE WE? by Whispering Jack A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since Melbourne's NAB Cup win over Collingwood when we were all so excited about the direction the club was taking under new coach Mark Neeld. It might have been a Mickey Mouse NAB Cup game in which both teams were missing regular key players, but there were definite signs that the hard work of summer was about to pay some dividends. It's hard to believe that only one month has elapsed since that time of unbridled optimism for the immediate future of the Melbourne Football Club. Since then the club has lurched from one disaster after another starting with the Liam Jurrah crisis and reaching a crescendo with a disastrous situation created by Jason Mifsud, an AFL official talking out of school to media person Grant Thomas who promptly published untrue allegations against Demon coach Mark Neeld. What should be a major crisis for the AFL and it's leadership has been turned into an opportunity for diverse groups and individuals to dump on one of its clubs. In the interim, Melbourne has barely raised a whimper on the field copping a couple of NAB Cup wallopings and a humiliating 41 point drubbing at home against the Brisbane Lions who finished in 15th place last year. Moreover, the club has been subjected to a blaze of criticism from good judges of football and from the bad. David King claims that "Melbourne has been masquerading as a football club for years". Robert Shaw says "Jack Watts was hijacked by the Melbourne Football Club at 17 years of age ... straight into an institution." Others accuse the playing group of being mentally and physically fragile, lacking in talent and demonstrating a shortage of the pride, passion and interest necessary to achieve success. Some of the criticism is justified but some of it is muddled and without any depth of thought or insight. The usual response when a team gets a lashing from the press is to return fire and prove the pundits wrong. Melbourne's problem is that it faces a the difficult task of rejuvenation in what has become it's "house of hell" - Paterson's Stadium - a cursed place where not a single current Melbourne player has seen victory. It last won there in Round 19, 2002. A few years before that, the Demons did manage to produce a shock victory over the Eagles in Perth with an undermanned and depleted side. That was in round 14, 1998 when Melbourne 14.12.96 defeated West Coast 11.13.79 in Robbo's break out game. It would be an understatement to say that the club needs a repeat of the heroics the team produced on that day. Demon coach Mark Neeld has ridden the waves of last week's disasters with class. He was impressive in handling the after match presser last Saturday and has been strong on the Mifsud issue correctly shunning the advice of AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou to take legal action over Thomas' comments. Neeld is resolute. He isn't interested in pursuing personal vendettas or engaging in witch hunts over who leaked the story to the AFL official who passed on the malicious gossip to someone who wasn't too particular about fact checking, a practice employed by most reputable journalists before going to print. He knows he has to keep focussed on the main purpose of his job and that is to develop his list, to win games and ultimately, premierships. The greatest coach in the club's history was brought down in the midst of preoccupation with a defamation action, a situation from which it has never fully recovered. The team Neeld takes across the Nullarbor must not be distracted by the off field events. The players need to show that they're prepared to have a dip as they did a month ago against one of the competition's flag favourites. Their performance this week against the Eagles could well define the direction they will take in the coming months and years. It will prove who we are as a club. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (American author and poet) THE GAME West Coast Eagles v Melbourne at Paterson's Stadium - Saturday 7 April 2012 at 4:40pm (AEST). HEAD TO HEAD Overall West Coast 27 wins Melbourne 15 wins At Patersons Stadium West Coast 13 wins Melbourne 5 wins Since 2000 West Coast 11 wins Melbourne 7 wins The Coaches Worsfold 0 wins Neeld 0 wins MEDIA Fox Footy Channel live at 4.30 pm (Victoria) RADIO SEN ABC774 THE BETTING West Coast to win $1.06 Melbourne to win $9.00 LAST TIME THEY MET West Coast 16.14.110 defeated Melbourne 9.8.62 at Etihad Stadium Round 21, 2011 The Demons were two weeks into the post Dean Bailey era and after a competitive first twenty minutes or so, managed to sink into the standard insipid fare they produced at the time. Jeremy Howe was a stand out and Sam Blease showed some flashes but for the most part it was dross. THE TEAMS WEST COAST EAGLES Backs Beau Waters Darren Glass Will Schofield Half backs Adam Selwood Eric Mackenzie Shannon Hurn Centreline Andrew Gaff Matthew Priddis Matthew Rosa Half forwards Ashton Hams Quinten Lynch Jack Darling Forwards Josh Hill Josh Kennedy Chris Masten Followers Dean Cox Luke Shuey Daniel Kerr Interchange Andrew Embley Nic Naitanui Scott Selwood Ashley Smith Emergencies Sam Butler Patrick McGinnity Gerrick Weedon No change. MELBOURNE Backs Clint Bartram James Frawley Joel Macdonald Half backs Colin Garland Jared Rivers Jamie Bennell Centreline Nathan Jones Jack Grimes Jack Watts Half forwards Jeremy Howe James Sellar Ricky Petterd Forwards Brad Green Mitchell Clark Lynden Dunn Followers Mark Jamar James Magner Jack Trengove Interchange Rohan Bail Matthew Bate Stefan Martin Jordie McKenzie Emergencies Aaron Davey Tom McDonald Josh Tynan In Jamie Bennell Lynden Dunn Ricky Petterd James Sellar Out Sam Blease Aaron Davey Brent Moloney (injured) Josh Tynan New James Sellar (Adelaide) Umpires L Farmer M Leppard G Fila RAINY DAY WOMEN #12 & 35 "Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good They’ll stone ya just a-like they said they would They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to go home Then they’ll stone ya when you’re there all alone But I would not feel so all alone Everybody must get stoned" - by Bob Dylan I couldn't help thinking about this Dylan song every time I picked up a newspaper or switched on the radio or television set this week. And just so you don't get any wrong impressions, the writer has said of his work that the reference to stoning was in the biblical sense. It seems no matter what happens, whether the truth is told about us or not, whether we do the honourable thing or not, we're going to get "stoned" and the critics are out there like vultures circling their prey particularly because we're vulnerable at the moment. And perhaps it's because of that vulnerability that the West Coast Eagles are treating this game with a touch of caution. They happen to be almost the flavour of the month after coming into last season as the previous year's wooden spooner, rising to preliminary finalists and opening last week with a big away from home win against the Bulldogs (who should prepare themselves for a stoning if they fail in Adelaide on Saturday). The Eagles don't have an A class midfield like the other premiership contenders but it's handy and has some emerging young contenders like Shuey, Gaff and Masten to go with experienced hands in Priddis, Kerr, Scott Selwood and Rosa. The Eagles also have what many would call the competition's predominant ruck division in Cox and Naitanui. The comparison with Melbourne couldn't be starker if you go on last week's form where it got nothing from its ruck division or from its onballers at the stoppages. When you then consider that the Demons couldn't better the Eagles at home two years ago when they were wooden spooners, it suggests we're in for another one-sided contest again this weekend. While the indications are that the team hasn't bottomed out after the disruptions of the past month and the process of adjusting to a new style of play, there are some glimmers of hope on the horizon. The two young co-captains are in the starting midfield. Jack Grimes had about four minutes there in last year's Adelaide game before he was injured. There are many who believe he has the capacity to add some flair to the Demon on ball division. Likewise, Trengove who had an interrupted pre season and showed some early good signs last week is ready to take another step forward in the midfield. Nathan Jones is progressing well in his second year in a leadership role and James Magner was a revelation in his debut last week. With players like these stepping up to the plate, there is no reason why club could not improve quickly around the stoppages and reverse the disasters of the last half of last week's game. It's a tough ask especially with Melbourne winning only 4 of its past 28 games on the road (and half of them were on neutral territory). On the other hand, the Demons have a strong defence when it gets its act together and it’s been augmented this week by the size of James Sellar. Similarly, the attack now has a tall key in Mitch Clark who took a while to get going last week. This week Ricky Petterd and Lynden Dunn come in to assist him and we’re all waiting for Jack Watts and Jeremy Howe to take the extra step forward. I keep coming back to that 1998 game when the Demons won against all odds in the west. I think of how competent and composed the current squad looked against Collingwood a month ago and how the team dominated possession in the latter half of last week’s first term but failed to score goals to match their ascendency. These are all long shots but if they click, the score will be a lot closer than many of the experts who are stoning us right now would have us all think. West Coast by 16 points.
  17. THE HEAT IS ON by the Oracle The forecast for the coming days in Melbourne is that the place is warming up. Friday will be hot and sunny and likewise for Saturday with a maximum temperature predicted of 29 degrees with a possible late shower. Not only that but the heat is well and truly on at the Melbourne Football Club because nothing else will be acceptable for this week's season opener and the coaching debut of Mark Neeld than a big win over the Brisbane Lions. The Demons had a lacklustre 2011 after promising so much late the year before and they failed to deliver. Instead, they fell in a disappointing heap during the last couple of months of the home and away season as things turned ugly with the sacking of coach Dean Bailey attended by rumours of internal divisions. However, there was one area where the team excelled during the year and that was in MCG home matches against clubs from interstate. They drew their opening encounter against the Swans, beat the Lions a fortnight later and had some monster victories against the likes of Adelaide and Fremantle at the home of football. Consequently, it must be considered a bonanza for the Melbourne Football Club to be handed a round 1 home game against Brisbane who finished 15th last year and who start without the services of their forward line playmaker in Jonathan Brown against the club that managed to steal the Lions' other key forward Mitch Clark from under their noses during the off season. In turn, Clark will have a pivotal role in his first game for his adopted club. Having been presented with Jimmy Stynes' famous number 11, Clark will undoubtedly feel the sense of occasion wearing the champion Demon's guernsey into battle on an emotional afternoon in which the fans will have the opportunity to applaud their fallen hero's exploits in the week following his funeral. And after that, they will be hoping to applaud the new generation of heroes in the cauldron of their home ground. Why not? The Demons have had a tough pre-season with the fallout from the departure of Tom Scully, the reconstruction of the football department with a new coach and a number of new assistants and other key personnel, the changes of leadership at the top both on and off the field, injuries, the Liam Jurrah saga, the controversy over the development of Jack Watts and the passing of the great Jimmy Stynes. These Demons must be used to the heat by now! THE GAME Melbourne v Brisbane at The MCG - Saturday, 31 March 2011 at 1.45pm. HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 19 wins Brisbane 10 wins MCG Melbourne 5 Brisbane 2 wins Since 2000 Melbourne 8 wins Brisbane 7 wins The Coaches Neeld 0 wins Voss 0 win MEDIA TV Fox Footy (live at 1:30pm AEST) RADIO SEN ABC774 3AW Triple M THE BETTING Melbourne $1.42 Brisbane $3.00 THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 12.10.82 defeated Brisbane 11.5.71 at The MCG Round 3, 2011 The Lions got the jump on the Demons and looked set for a big win when they led by five goals into the second term but the home side fought back thanks to the midfield dominance of Brent Moloney and the magic of Liam Jurrah who was at his best and booted five goals. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE Backs Joel Macdonald James Frawley Clint Bartram Half backs Rohan Bail Jared Rivers Colin Garland Centreline Jack Watts Jack Grimes Nathan Jones Half forwards Jack Trengove Brad Green Jeremy Howe Forwards Aaron Davey Mitch Clark Stef Martin Followers Mark Jamar Brent Moloney James Magner Interchange Matthew Bate Sam Blease Jordie McKenzie Josh Tynan Emergencies Tom Couch Lynden Dunn James Sellar New Mitch Clark (Brisbane) James Magner (Sandringham) Josh Tynan (Gippsland Power) BRISBANE Backs Niall McKeever Daniel Merrett Ashley McGrath Half backs Mitch Golby Matt Maguire Daniel Rich Centreline Tom Rockliff Jed Adcock Pearce Hanley Half forwards Jared Polec Joel Patfull Todd Banfield Forwards James Polkinghorne Matthew Leuenberger Ryan Lester Followers Ben Hudson Simon Black Jack Redden Interchange Claye Beams Rohan Bewick Sam Sheldon Cheynee Stiller Emergencies Ryan Harwood Billy Longer Jesse O’Brien New Ben Hudson (Western Bulldogs) THE HARDEST TEAM TO BEAT Rookie coach Mark Neeld has been working over the summer in an attempt to make Melbourne a harder team to play against and the reason is obvious. The feeling in the football fraternity is that the Demons are fragile and this was borne out in 2011 when they gave supporters a roller coaster ride lurching from massive victories to pathetic losses from one week to another. Inconsistency in performance is not only infuriating, it's a sign that a team has some deep seated problems. When the chips were down this team awful as it was on that fateful day in July last year when it meekly succumbed to the eventual premiers Geelong without so much of a whimper to Geelong at Skilled Park or Simmonds Stadium (whatever they’re calling it these days – we all know where it is). Several months down the track and the entire group is well aware that this performance needs to be erased from the memory banks and that it can only be atoned for on the field by a major improvement in standard and endeavour right across the ground. Many of us thought we were getting there when the team beat Collingwood in NAB Cup Week 2 despite it being a pre season game against a weakened Magpie line up. But it took less than a week for that to unravel with a weak effort against Hawthorn and then again a week later in Adelaide. The excuse that these aberrations occurred in Mickey Mouse matches played in March was proffered but only partly accepted.The fact is that Melbourne has not finished higher than 12th since 2006 and the team building excuse is wearing off. What is needed are some visible signs of progress and Saturday can't come soon enough. So what will we be looking to see with the Demons? The way is see it, Melbourne looks the better side on paper in most of the positions around the ground but the big question mark is how will its revamped midfield perform? What can it do against an up and coming Brisbane group that includes the likes of Rich, Rockliff, Redden and the irrepressible Simon Black. Melbourne has a good array of hard workers who have been winning the contested ball but falling down with the (in)efficiency of their disposal and some poor decision-making. Neeld has worked them hard in the off season and there's more grunt there so if his team can win in this department and get the ball to Clark and co on the forward line, I expect the Dees will get off to a good start. Melbourne by 33 points.
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