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At the end of a week in which we were duly reminded of the paramount importance of winning matches, Melbourne surprised nobody by posting losses against North Melbourne and Richmond to open their 2013 NAB Cup campaign. The Demons trailled for most of both games in steamy conditions at Etihad Stadium, came close to beating the Kangaroos in the opener and then succumbed to fatigue, injury and the faster and stronger Tigers in the second. While coach Mark Neeld summed it up saying, "we were pretty good, we were fairly pleased, the hit out against two of the league's middle of the road sides demonstrated that there's still a long way to go for his struggling side but at least, they're on the right track. There were eleven new faces on show for Melbourne so it would have been fanciful to expect them to dominate against more experienced opposition but there were many good signs, in particular the form of the youngsters, Jack Viney, Jimmy Toumpas, Dean Kent and recently turned 18 Jesse Hogan who is just too good to be cooling his heels with the Casey Scorpions which is exactly where he will be this year because of his GWS mini draftee status. The more mature bodied Chris Dawes, Shannon Byrnes, David Rodan, Cameron Pedersen and Tom Gillies all showed a bit in their cameos, so it was a big night for their club even if it didn't bring home the non-existent four points. After all (and I'm really loathe to use the word in any context related to the AFL) the evening was all about "experimenting", the most successful one being the continuation of the use of former number one draft pick Jack Watts in defence. He's bigger and stronger this year, has silky skills and disposal, a little more aggression and smarter. Jack was good value in both games, kicked a couple of goals and showed that he has grown into his role. The problem with the team's defensive set up was that it was too top heavy on the night and was short of at least one medium defender. I'm not sure why James Strauss didn't line up in any of the games but his presence and his accurate kicking would have been useful. In any event, this is one area where a little fine tuning should see great improvement over last year. The same could be said of the forward line which looked a bit cluttered and top heavy early on giving the Kangaroos' defence many chances to clear and making it difficult to capitalise on scoring opportunities. Their defenders benefited from some glaring umpire eyesight issues in the early stages but that can be put down to the time of year. In the second game, without Dawes who had presented well, Hogan playing further afield and Pedersen rucking after Spencer went off, the forwards fell by the wayside. Jeremy Howe led well and looked good and this division will be greatly enhanced when Mitch Clark finally returns from injury. Oh, and the search continues for a dangerous crumbing forward. The bane of our existence has for some time been the third world midfield and, on last night, it will continue to be so for a while yet. The Dees were well beaten at the stoppages in the opener as they struggled to win clearances but that had to be expected with so much inexperience in this division. Nathan Jones was the best in this area, David Rodan added bite and Toumpas and Viney will definitely play a role in the club's revival of fortunes. Jordie McKenzie was strong with his tackling but a liability with his poor footskills while skipper Jack Grimes was a bit subdued. The team lost a bit when Sam Blease who had been showing some zip and movement between the lines went off with an ankle injury. Later in the evening, injuries cruelled the Demons who were limited in the ruck after Jake Spencer and James Frawley left the field. The triple header system works against teams playing second in hot conditions and the Demons never looked like winning against the Tigers who had a more energy and cohesion. To Melbourne's credit, it fought the game out well and outscored both of its opponents in the second half of their games and but for the scoring system that only applies in the NAB Cup would have ended up square for the night. While that is no compensation for some, I don't think anyone other than the rottweiler who poses as the chief football writer of a local rag could say that Melbourne didn't play the game on its merits even if there was a fair bit of experimentation going on. Melbourne 0.2.2.14 0.5.6.36 North Melbourne 18.104.22.168 22.214.171.124 Goals Howe 2 Hogan Kent Watts Best Jones Howe Hogan Melbourne 0.1.0.6 0.2.3.15 Richmond 126.96.36.199 188.8.131.52 Goals Toumpas Watts Best Jones Toumpas Watts