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  1. One hundred years ago today, the Melbourne Football Club began the long haul up from wooden spoon status by taking on St Kilda who had missed out on the finals in 1923 by a game and percentage. In 1924, the VFL competition consisted of nine teams of 18 players each on the field and no reserves with teams playing each other twice in a home-and-away season of 18 rounds (16 matches and 2 byes). The Roaring Twenties were well under way, but the world was still recovering from the devastation of the First World War (up to 17 million dead) and the plague of Spanish Flu which infected about a third of the world's population of about 1.5 million killing between 25 and 50 million people from February 1918 to April 1920. Adolf Hitler was sentenced to prison in 1924 for his involvement in a failed coup d’état by the Nazi Party, and J. Edgar Hoover was appointed head of the FBI in the USA. Stanley Baldwin became Prime Minister of Britain for the second time after winning a landslide victory. In Australia, with a population a touch under six million, the prime minister was Stanley Melbourne Bruce. Take note of that middle name; Bruce was born in Melbourne, went to Melbourne Grammar and held the country’s highest office from 1923 to 1929, meaning he was still there when Melbourne won the flag in 1926, its first premiership since Federation. Among those born in 1924 were actor Frank Wilson, actor Patsy Adam-Smith, artist David Boyd, academic and educator Leonie Kramer, tenor and Aboriginal activist Harold Blair, entertainer Bobby Limb, Olympic high jumper John Winter and artist Clifton Pugh. In sports other than Australian football:- • Collingwood premiership player Bill Twomey Senior won the 130-yard Stawell Gift in 12.1 seconds, off a handicap of 8½ yards, as one of the shortest-priced favourites in the event’s history. He also won the Ararat Gift, and three different events in one afternoon at Warracknabeal that year. Three of Twomey’s four sons Mick, Pat and Bill, and grandson, David Twomey – son of his fourth son, Peter – all played with the Magpies. • The Balmain Tigers defeated South Sydney 3-0 in the NSWRFL premiership final. • The Melbourne Cup was won by six-year-old stallion Backwood (ridden by Bunty Brown and trained by Richard 'Dick' Bradfield). The race was won in a time of 3:26.5 with a field of eighteen. Legendary football administrator Charles Brownlow, who also played for and captained Geelong in the VFA before the formation of the VFL, died on 23 January 1924. The Charles Brownlow Trophy (commonly known as the Brownlow Medal) awarded to "the best and fairest player" in the VFL (now the AFL) was instituted in his memory. Decided by the field umpire’s voting at the end of each home-and-away match, only a single vote was cast per game from 1924 to 1930. The VFL introduced new initiatives including the convention of home teams wearing black shorts and away teams wearing white shorts. The fixture was scheduled from 1924 to ensure that neither South Melbourne and St Kilda (who played home games at either end of Albert Park Lake) nor Melbourne and Richmond (who played at the MCG and Punt Road Oval) had home matches on the same day due to the heavy transport and labour burden associated with running the two close venues at the same time. This arrangement continued as long as the clubs played at their nearby locations. The 1924 VFL premiership was determined by an experimental finals system, which the VFL used for this season only. The format was similar to the round-robin used in the 1897 Finals System, but included the minor premier's right to challenge, which existed under the amended Argus System. All four games in the opening round were played on 26 April 1924. The reigning premiers, Essendon suffered an upset 16 point defeat at the hands of Collingwood while Fitzroy withstood a blistering comeback from Carlton to win by two points. Melbourne also lost to St Kilda by the same margin while South Melbourne had a 27 point victory over Richmond. The Fitzroy versus Carlton match was the first in VFL history in which both teams scored 100 points. Geelong had the bye. The Junction Oval located at the western end of Albert Park Lake was the scene of Melbourne’s season opener. The Fuchsias, as they were then known, had appointed Fitzroy champion and premiership player Gordon Rattray as its playing-coach. However, he was still residentially tied to Fitzroy and thus deemed ineligible to play for Melbourne. He therefore served the entire season as its non-playing coach. Round 1 St. Kilda vs Melbourne Saturday 26 April 1924 Venue: Junction Oval Attendance: 15,000 ST. KILDA 1.2.8 4.7.31 8.10.58 12.12.84 MELBOURNE 2.8.20 5.11.41 10.11.71 11.16.82 Goals: Dave Elliman 6 Percy Tulloh 2 Edgar Dunbar George Haines Derek Mollison Melbourne which had finished last in 1923 with three wins, started as favourite against the eventual wooden-spooner but fell short in a thrilling match. The Redlegs appeared more settled with only one newcomer, Jonny Egan, while the Saints had three recruits on their team. Ruckman Bob Corbett put in a strong performance but was let down by his teammates in the middle. Winger Alf Wilson was given a bath on the wing after a late start to training due to cricket commitments. Melbourne had the advantage of the wind in the first quarter but conceded the first goal and was wasteful with conversion, scoring two goals from 10 scoring shots of which one goal came from a free to forward David Elliman. Percy Tulloh, goaled from a free early in the second term and with three goals each in this period, Melbourne held a 10 point lead at half time. Elliman was on target in the third quarter with four of his team’s five goals for the term. St Kilda had rallied at one stage to take the lead but Melbourne responded to lead by 13 points at the last break. St Kilda opened the final quarter strongly with two early goals and the teams traded goals, with the Saints snatching the lead with the last kick of the day. Elliman who finished with six goals had earlier had the opportunity to seal the game but his shot missed. Melbourne's best were Derek Mollison, Percy Tulloh and Erica Donaldson. Field umpire Jack McMurray said it was one of the "most pleasant matches" he had ever officiated. He dished out 54 free kicks to St Kilda and 31 to Melbourne on the day. The father of St Kilda player W. Cubbins suffered a heart attack in the crowd during the exciting finish and later passed away. In the seconds Melbourne 13.19.97 defeated St Kilda 10.4.64 The game gave the club pause to reflect, especially as it had the bye in the following round. To be continued …
  2. If the week when preseason training melds into scratch matches with other clubs, is the first marker for the beginning of a new season, then this has certainly been a torrid opener for the Melbourne Football Club in its campaign to remain a leading AFL premiership contender in 2024. The Demons were already under enormous scrutiny from the media and football’s fan base (including their own) after consecutive straight-sets finals exits, with Clayton Oliver’s well documented woes, the Joel Smith ban for a positive drug test, a mounting injury list that is heavily skewed against its forwards as well as the spectre of the off field scuttlebutt surrounding the long running battle in court with a former club chairman. It would be fair to say that very little improvement was seen in the situation during the week although, I do maintain that some small rays of light still presented themselves on the horizon. More of that later. Sunday’s match simulation was a bit like Melbourne’s recent weather. The game against Richmond opened brightly with 20 minutes of magical sunshine and five goals, followed by an hour of drenching rain and ten consecutive goals against, during which time the team’s style and cohesion was neither recognisable nor existent. There were moments of sunshine in the next stanza, the lead regained and lost again, then the heavy weather returned in the final term when the Tigers were more fierce in general play against a team lacking the rhythm of life required to win four points that weren’t even on offer. Jack Viney and Christian Petracca were the standouts and Kozzy Pickett was at times special a la Bruce McAvaney among many others who played out small cameo roles. Like Jacob van Rooyen who was clunking the ball well in the early proceedings. Newcomers Jack Billings, Caleb Windsor and young pup, Kynan Brown all showed something, youthful Will Verrall had nice half leaping around in the ruck (but perhaps not yet ready for senior action) when he replaced skipper Max Gawn who called it a day after two quarters (of seven) but not before booting a late goal at the end of the deluge. He then joined the 14 absentees, the ill, the injured and suspended, sitting on the sidelines as the team limped to a 23-point defeat after four quarters. But all was not lost … yet. Clayton Oliver and Christian Salem returned to the football fray in the fifth quarter, several classes above what was a VFL level after-game in three stanzas. Clarry warmed the cockles of our hearts, picking up hardball gets at will and booting the goal of the year deep on the boundary. Let’s hope he gets himself fully right for the all clear to play ASAP because he has too much talent for it to be wasted. First round draft pick Koltyn Tholstrup impressed in his outing as Melbourne slowly edged closer to Richmond and finished two points in arrears at the final bell. Some people still believed the end of the world had come. The team was given three days off but if you thought the rest period would be uneventful, you were wrong. By Monday morning, the critical reaction to the first up February scratch match loss ranged from indifference to apocalyptic. Some felt for the club’s safety in the wake of its various woes and things got worse on Tuesday with the news that Joel Smith was facing four new anti-doping rule violations from Sport Integrity Australia — three for trafficking cocaine and one for possession after his phone records revealed text messages to other players allegedly offering the drug. A news item appeared in the Murdoch press which quoted an unnamed source suggesting the 28-year-old was being "scapegoated" by the club which prompted the response from the club that "Joel has made it very clear that he has no issues or concerns with anyone at the Melbourne Football Club." Some not unexpected editorialising followed from the usual suspects in the media who appear to have been carrying on a vendetta about the club’s culture for a number of years. Read between the lines and the verdict was that the club’s dynasty was over with only one premiership to show for it. I want to comment about some of the editorialising in the media on the Joel Smith situation and allegations of poor culture at the club. Perhaps the more prominent critics need to take look in the mirror and reflect on their own behaviours in response to other such controversies of the past and, in particular, the way a certain club reacted in not dissimilar circumstances. I expect when the outcome of the current investigation is revealed, that our club faces up to what occurred with the proper responsibility that the situation warrants. No denial, no obfuscation nor blame-shifting as we saw elsewhere a decade ago. The acceptance of responsibility if and when the circumstances so deserve will be one of the measures of our culture. More turbulence on Wednesday with rumours swirling that the career of Angus Brayshaw who played such a pivotal role in the achievements of that dynasty was about to end due to ongoing issues with concussion that have stalked him throughout his career. The hammer blow came on the following day when it was confirmed that the Demon champion was retiring from the sport at the age of 28 after recent scans revealed microscopic changes in his brain after he was knocked out in last year's qualifying final by a mistimed smother from Collingwood defender Brayden Maynard, for which the Pies player somehow avoided suspension. A premiership player highly regarded for his football prowess and strong leadership, Brayshaw, who has been at the Club for nine years is much loved by the players, coaches, staff and supporters. Brayshaw walks away with five more seasons still to run on his multimillion-dollar contract, which expires at the end of the 2028 season, having played 167 games for the club. He finished third in the 2018 Brownlow Medal count and had two top five finishes in the Bluey Truscott Trophy for club champion. He will always be remembered for his courage and resilience epitomised in the goal that put the Demons in front in the third quarter of the 2021 Grand Final, after which the team was never headed. Some quotes from a shattered hero of the club:- “I am devastated that I can no longer play the game that I love, but I respect the verdict of the medical professionals, and the importance of putting my health before my career. “I am really proud of what I have achieved over the past decade. I have been able to live out my childhood dream and while it’s been cut short, I am forever grateful to everyone who has been involved. “Concussion is a massive issue facing our game. I hope from this, a terrible result for me personally, can come some positive outcomes for the future of player safety.” Brayshaw is certain to maintain some role with the club in 2024, his loss as a player will be difficult to cover. The manner of his leaving, his wonderful words in the hour of disappointment at the premature retirement and his positive demeanour together affirmed the solid culture of resilience that his legacy at the club will hold forever. The weekend couldn’t arrive too soon after all that but I did promise some rays of hope on the horizon. There was no apparent sign of any organized training during the week so no new injuries that we know about so far plus … There was a well attended season opener at the MCG which marked a welcome return to football after the venue was used for three concerts by an NFL groupie which decimated the surface of the ground which is now under repair. The Coterie sponsored function, on the other hand, saw a lift in spirits. Firstly, there seemed to be much optimism about the return to training of a number of the injured brigade. I won’t go into any detail because nothing was “official” and therefore best to wait until we see visual evidence of their return. Secondly, the speeches from coach, captain and the club chair were all positive, inspiring and reflective of a fair degree of confidence for the coming season. Similarly, the interviews with players from every line including the newbies. There was a wonderful tribute to Gus who understandably wasn’t in attendance only hours after his retirement announcement. I sense that the composition of next week’s Community Series Practice Match against Carlton at IKON Park will be as close as possible to the expected Round Zero lineup in Sydney, give or take Kozzy Pickett who isn’t available for the latter match up. I think that after all these years, I’m pretty good at reading a room. There seemed to be an undercurrent from players and officials that they are quietly seething at the poor rap, some of it insulting, they’ve received from sections of the media of late and that they are ready to show their resilience emphatically on the field of play which is, of course, the only sane way to respond.
  3. When the dust settled on 2023, the Melbourne Football Club coach Simon Goodwin lamented that the club knew it needed to score more to land a second premiership in the current era. He opined that an average of one more goal per game would have had his charges in football’s stratosphere. Goodwin was right and, based on his team’s scoring opportunities, that extra goal (and more) was well within its grasp if only they had better converted their shots at goal. Take the side’s last six defeats (mainly in the second half of the season) for season 2023:- Rd 11 - Fremantle 12.7.79 defeated Melbourne 10.12.72 Rd 15 - Geelong 11.12.78 defeated Melbourne 8.15.63 Rd 16 - GWS 7.5.47 defeated Melbourne 5.15.45 Rd 22 - Carlton 9.6.60 defeated Melbourne 8.8.56 Qualifying Final - Collingwood 9.6.60 defeated Melbourne 7.11.53 Semi Final Carlton 11.7.73 defeated Melbourne 9.17.71 Incredibly, the Demons amassed 125 scoring shots to 102 in those six losses to net a total score of 47.78.360 against 59.43.397. The figures don’t lie - given a touch more accuracy in front of goal and you’re looking at a premiership but instead, for the second year in a row, it was out of the finals in straight sets. In 2023, the team was by far fitter in body than the one that limped out of 2022. It’s biggest loss was an outlier by 27 points in the Gather Round vs Essendon in Adelaide and the rest were all close losses, many by less than a goal. As a measure of how close Melbourne was to a possible flag in terms of the team’s strength was that in its two matches against the premiers it scored a total of to 15.29.119 to 18.14.122. Let that sink in! Things were different for much of the first half of the season. The Demons were in scintillating form during their two practice/simulation matches with the combination of Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy looking a treat as they dominated in the ruck as well as scoring goals when rested. The club appeared to be in good shape all over the ground as the season approached. The midfield led by Jack Viney, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver was in electrifying form! The optimism seemed vindicated in Round 1 with a massive 50-point thumping of the Western Bulldogs at the MCG. Ben Brown and Kysaiah Pickett booted four goals apiece but the celebrations were marred by the latter’s two week suspension over his high bump on Bailey Smith. Pickett went on to score 37 goals for the season but was rarely in that electric form displayed in the opening round. Brown scored another four in the team’s loss to Brisbane in the following round but injuries cut him down to a total of only seven games and three more goals for the season. Things went awry in Brisbane when skipper Gawn went down early with what at first appeared to be a season threatening knee injury. His stunned teammates looked dazed in the moments after their leader left the field and it was only after a long delay later in the game, occasioned by the failure of the Gabba lights, that they were stung into action; a flurry of goals left them 11 points away from what would have been a remarkable victory. Gawn’s injury was not as severe as first thought and was well covered by Grundy over most of the following rounds of his absence with one glaring exception in that Gather Round game in the wet at Adelaide against the Bombers when defender Steven May was also sorely missed. Aside from that defeat, the team coasted through most of the first half of the season, putting away some of the competition’s lesser lights until it returned to Adelaide in Round 10 to play in the wet again, this time as Naarm in the Indigenous Round against Port Adelaide. Disaster struck. The home team controlled the first half but the midfield trio of Oliver, Petracca and Viney restored life and clearance dominance to the team which surged with seven goals from a game-high deficit of 25 points to a 17 point lead late in the third quarter. Lachie Hunter was involved in a controversial report which resulted in an after the siren goal to Port which overcame the Demons by four points in the driving rain. It was later revealed that Oliver had badly damaged his hamstring in the final term, possibly a factor in this loss and certainly, a major blow for the team’s 2023 campaign as his absence lingered over the following months interspersed with hospital visits for foot blisters and other ailments as he struggled to regain fitness. The cloud of darkness hovered over him for the remainder of the year and while he did well on his comeback late in the season to be among Melbourne’s best in the finals, it wasn’t the same old Clarry. Suddenly, coach Goodwin was confronted with a series of dilemmas which were spread through the middle and into the run towards the finals. In the first instance, he did well to cover the absence of his champion midfielder. He was fortunate to have Christian Petracca, already in starring form and Jack Viney stepped up to the plate in stunning fashion. The defence was well led by key position stars Steven May and Jake Lever and buttressed by Angus Brayshaw and novice Judd McVee who comfortably took over and remained in the role of a medium defender in the temporary absence of Christian Salem. The forward line however, was just managing although it had found a player of the future in young key forward Jacob van Rooyen. Kade Chandler finally began to make an impact and was kicking goals and Alex Neal-Bullen was quietly and continuously adding energy and grunt to the prime endeavour of keeping the ball in the forward line through the application of pressure. Despite the looming problems with scoring goals, Melbourne brought down the rampant eventual premiers Collingwood in the Kings Birthday match, ending their long run of victories stretching back to Round 4. The result was close but it was comprehensive. After Bayley Fritsch went down with a foot injury in the game against GWS in Alice Springs, Goodwin gave Jake Melksham the opportunity to not just revive his career but also, to turn himself into an important fixture in the forward line. Petracca spent more minutes up forward and Brayshaw moved into the middle for cover. Tom Sparrow was given more responsibility in the midfield and Trent Rivers and Kysaiah Pickett went there at times as well. Some important victories were to follow against potential finals opponents in St Kilda and Brisbane. The Gawn/Grundy connection was sagging and the coach took the difficult decision to omit the dual All-Australian ruckman recruited from Collingwood and leave the ruckwork mainly to his skipper who was starting to put in some Herculean solo efforts. Goodwin also cemented the move of Harry Petty from defence to attack. With the finals a little over a month away, the dream was seemingly about to come true for Demon fans as the team found its forward connection and demolished the Tigers on a Sunday at the MCG in late July. The strong marking Petty kicked six goals from his six shots at goal, while Melksham and van Rooyen booted four goals each without a miss. That’s 14 goals straight from a team that had a reputation of failing to hit the proverbial barn door. It appeared that things were looking up. But … (why is there always a “but”) A week later, Goodwin’s forward line plans were thrown into disarray when his team overcame cellar dwellers North Melbourne after an insipid first half in which they lost Harrison Petty for the remainder of the season with a foot injury. Fortunately, Joel Smith succeeded in partially covering the situation when moved up forward to add two goals in a display that secured him the spot vacated by Petty (and before him, other injured forwards in Tom McDonald and Ben Brown). However, the die was being cast as far as the forward line was concerned. When the team played out its last game in the finals, that entire trio of dead eye forwards who had kicked 14 goals straight against the Tigers was missing and the results were there for all to see. Melbourne stumbled early in its game against Carlton but regrouped to dominate the last half and was arguably robbed of victory when a long bomb from Petracca was controversially called touched by the goal umpire. The subsequent goal review was inconclusive and the umpire’s decision stood. Ironically, the Blues were also the beneficiaries of victory in the semi final after an Alex Neal-Bullen snap was adjudged a goal by the goal umpire was overturned on replay. Such is life. After overcoming an arm wrestle against Hawthorn, Melbourne put on the afterburners in Sydney to smash the Swans but lost Jake Melksham to a torn ACL on a day when Bayley Fritsch marked his return with five goals despite coming off the field in distress during the game. The club’s accuracy woes in the final series referred to above and well documented elsewhere came back to haunt it in September. Things weren’t helped by the hammer blow delivered to Angus Brayshaw by Collingwood’s Brayden Maynard who controversially avoided suspension at the AFL tribunal. Nevertheless, the AFL subsequently sought to make Maynard’s “legal” action “illegal” by amending the rules concerning what is meant by a reasonable attempt to smother, a change that may well make no difference in practice. Nor is this any consolation to either Brayshaw or the club which could easily claim that the hit cost it victory in this game and, along with the defeat, a chance to win the premiership. The club made an unfortunate second consecutive straight sets exit from the finals when it kicked its way out of the semi final against Carlton, a situation compounded by some poorly uncharacteristic defensive play at the death knock. It was season over on a Friday night but the news of the passing of club icon and arguably its greatest ever, Ronald Dale Barassi placed all of us under a dark cloud. The man who was hero to a whole generation of young Demon fans and whose name is synonymous with courage, resilience and integrity and above all, success, had left us forever. Tearfully, we mourned the loss of a true legend. As mentioned above, one of the highlights of the season was the seamless introduction of the talented Judd McVee into the Demons’ defence. He was there throughout the season and blossomed with every passing week. Much the same can be said of fellow Sandgroper Jacob van Rooyen who kicked 28 goals for the year in his 20 games after calls for his debut were answered in Round 3. The youngster fitted in comfortably as a key forward with an occasional run in the ruck with just the right amount of aggression at the ball. It sometimes got him into trouble and he overcame a trying week when exonerated after a marathon hearing of an appeal against a striking suspension incurred as he was attempting to spoil Gold Coast’s Charlie Ballard in Round 8. Van Rooyen was sorely missed due to suspension when the Demons lost their semi final to the Blues. Others to gain AFL experience and show promise were Bailey Laurie and father/son prospect Taj Woewodin while 2021 midseason draftee Daniel Turner looked a key defender prospect for the future at Casey and in his limited appearances with Melbourne. After making a solid start to their VFL premiership defence with wins in their first four matches, the Casey Demons stumbled slightly but remained contenders for a top four finish until the last month of home and away matches. A few close defeats and the same yips in front of goal that were encountered by their senior counterparts left them in the position where they had to beat North Melbourne in a wild card game in order to compete in the finals proper. That was achieved easily but the elimination final against Footscray turned into an embarrassing 79-point loss after the non-selection of several otherwise eligible players just in case they were needed for the AFL finals. The AFLW team also failed in their premiership defence after a solid first half of the season. They were led brilliantly by new skipper Kate Hore but faltered late when the going got rough and injuries and illness hit the group. The Demons still finished second with eight wins and a percentage of 222.9, the ‘points for’ of 653 being the highest in AFLW competition history. Forward stars Hore and Eden Zanker jointly shared the AFLW Goalkicking Award with a record 20 goals for the home and away seasons. Zanker kicked three goals in the final against Geelong to finish with 23 for the season, another league record (equal with Brisbane’s Dakota Davidson). The team’s luck ran out in the finals with losses to North Melbourne and Geelong (narrowly in the end) ending the season in disappointing fashion. Tyla Hanks and Kate Hore tied for the best and fairest with Lauren Pearce in third place ahead of another tie for fourth between Sinead Goldrick and Olivia Purcell. Hore was named as the All Australian captain in her first year as leader taking over from Daisy Pearce. Zanker was named All Australian for the first time. The disappointment of straight sets exits by both the men and women was somewhat offset by a $1 million dollar windfall in becoming the One Club - McLelland Trophy Winners which earned praise from MFC Chair Kate Roffey who noted that the real value of the prize was the “extraordinary commitment it takes across the entire Club to field and support two extremely high performing teams each weekend”. After the disappointing finish to the men’s AFL competition, attention turned to the trade and draft period. Brodie Grundy was traded to the Sydney Swans after the failure of the Gawn/Grundy experiment left him on the outer with one AFL appearance in the run into the business end of the season. That he missed out on playing in a final against his old club Collingwood and again in the semi against Carlton when the club was down in talent, was baffling given that the tactical substitute, Josh Schache was kept off the field completely in the latter game. Many observers felt that the handling of the situation provided poor optics for the club and devalued his trade worth. The Swans took him as cheap bargain for a dual All-Australian and they cashed in on another money ball deal picking up free agent James Jordon for nothing. Michael Hibberd retired with a premiership and several years of solid service under his belt. Luke Dunstan who tore his ACL at Casey late in the season, also retired. Jake Melksham was delisted but redrafted as a rookie while loyal servant James Harmes was traded to the Western Bulldogs. Former NGA recruit Deaykin Smith, who was Casey’s 2023 best and fairest but delisted, found his way to North Melbourne. The Demons traded for needs and picked up former high draft pick Jack Billings from St Kilda, high flying excitement machine Shane McAdam from Adelaide and Brisbane Lions’ ruckman/forward Tom Fullarton (who is now on the injured list). They later redrafted former player Marty Hore, back from Williamstown. In the draft, the club used two first round picks to secure Caleb Windsor (Eastern Ranges) and Koltyn Tholstrup (Subiaco WA) and took father/son prospect Kynan Brown (Oakleigh Chargers) as a rookie. Christian Petracca capped off his finest individual season with a second 'Bluey' Truscott Memorial Trophy as Melbourne's club champion, polling 602 votes to finish 75 votes clear of runner-up Jack Viney, with key defender Jake Lever third on 456 votes. Angus Brayshaw (453) and Steven May (451) rounded out a closely fought top five. Conspicuously missing from that list was four-time 'Bluey' winner Oliver who missed a significant part of the season with a torn hamstring and foot blisters and had post season knee surgery amid some controversy about his recovery from those issues. Soon after the grand final, it was even claimed that the club had put him on the trade table and not long after, he was hospitalised following a seizure that resulted in a head injury. There were also issues with a case of driving while unlicensed. All of this was grist for the media mill. It was becoming clear that Oliver was struggling with mental issues and in late December, he headed home from the Demons’ training camp in Lorne as he continued to deal with ongoing health challenges. He was left to heal and maintain his fitness away from the playing group and rejoined them a month later looking in reasonably good nick and hopeful of a full return to the fold in the last month of the 2024 preseason. Oliver retained the unwavering support of the playing group and the supporters throughout his ordeal and it’s worth reflecting how the club still performed strongly in his absence for most of the last half of 2023. Though he showed some good form on return, it was not reflective of the devastating 40 plus possession performances that he is capable of peeling off with regularity. However, in his absence, others stepped up and those extra midfield minutes of experience not only contributed to Melbourne comfortably finishing in the top four, but the benefits should carry through and hold the club in good stead in the AFL competition in 2024 and beyond. More so, with Clarry’s full return to health in mind and body. We can’t wait! Another controversy erupted in the early post season when forward Joel Smith tested positive for cocaine. Smith was suspended from the Demons' football program while Sport Integrity Australia investigated the circumstances of a positive test after the Demons' win over Hawthorn in Round 23. The matter is still ongoing. There was no shortage of off-field controversy with litigation ongoing in the courts between former president Glen Bartlett and Melbourne Football Club Board members. It was recently reported that mediation talks aimed at ending the long-running dispute had broken down while a separate dispute over the fairness and transparency of the Board’s election process also appears headed for court. Watch these spaces*. On a more positive note, another off-field development that occurred after season’s end was the long-awaited announcement of a feasibility study to identify a location for the Club’s long term home base at a redeveloped Caulfield Racecourse. The $570 million redevelopment would see its in-field, which is Crown land and about 10 times the size of the MCG, opened up as a community precinct, to be known as the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve. It is expected that the Demons would be a key tenant along with local sporting and community organisations and groups. The Melbourne Football Club sits in the premiership window with great playing depth, a healthy culture and excellent leadership both on and off the field. It remains a strong contender as 2023 ends and we look forward to a resurgence in 2024 with a team that has a reputation as one of the hardest to beat in the competition and simply awaits the return of its straight shooters. Bring it on! * in keeping with current Demonland policy, we will not accept discussion on matters being litigated in the courts or on sensitive matters relating to the mental health of our club’s playing group or derogatory comments and language about players and coaching staff. We ask that you please understand that this is partly a result of both medical and legal advice received and that you respect our decision. We are here to support our great club and its players. THANK YOU We take this opportunity to thank the many people who continue to keep Demonland running starting with all of you who contribute to our forums. A special mention to Nasher who is our IT guru and physically looks after the running of the site and to contributors Whispering Jack, George on the Outer, The Oracle, KC from Casey and Meggs as well as Binman who joins George and me on our Demonland podcast. Thanks to anyone I’ve forgotten (please forgive me) and to our great team of footballers and the club and its staff who make it all happen. Go Dees in 2024 - Andy
  4. It would be fair to say that the departure of Tom Scully in September 2011 from the Melbourne Football Club to seek fame, glory and a million dollars a year in the northern suburbs of Sin City was not received well by the Demon faithful. After all, the club had taken him as first selection (a priority pick) in the 2009 AFL National Draft and bestowed on him the prized 31 guernsey formerly worn by the all time club champion and six time premiership player Ron Barassi Junior. How dare he leave us? Scully went on to have moderate success with expansion club, the GWS Giants over seven seasons, adding 121 games to the 31 played for the Demons. He even had a fleeting taste of finals football before the relationship soured amid concerns as to the Giants' handling of an ankle injury he incurred early in 2018. His career ended after 35 games at Hawthorn under the coaching of Al Clarkson who was trying vainly to sustain his club’s crumbling dynasty. Several months after Scully’s retirement in February 2021 at the height of the Covid19 epidemic, his first club broke a 57 year premiership drought. The team was led by skipper Max Gawn (today a 6 time All-Australian) who was selected with the thirty-fourth selection in the same draft as Scully. On Grand Final night, the famous number 31 guernsey was worn by Bayley Fritsch who booted six goals in the magical victory. He was picked at number 31 in the 2017 draft. Today, a little over two years after Scully’s retirement, the Giants are well back in the pack while the Hawks are in a deep hole. And the fascination with high draft picks continues. There’s a highly fancied youngster who the pundits have pegged as a certain number one, much like Scully in his day. There’s also speculation that the club where Scully’s career came to a sudden and silent end, might be tanking to snare that prized number one pick come November. There’s also a somewhat unsavory pastime among some Melbourne fans who are “death riding” rival club Fremantle; wishing failure on them so that the Demons can derive maximum benefit from the fact that they hold the Dockers’ first and second round picks in this year’s draft thanks to their trading of selections when Luke Jackson crossed to Fremantle. Demon fans should know better. The pursuit of Scully all those years ago failed to achieve the holy grail. Instead, it heaped more years of desperation and humiliation upon them as they searched vainly for that special someone. The messiah who, in the words of the disparaging parody song that emerged on social media after his departure, was the “someone like you.” History tells us that Melbourne eventually found much better than that someone who could singlehandedly and magically bring about success. Rather, it methodically and slowly built a whole team with many component parts that, with a lot of hard work and a modicum of good luck, enabled them to reach the pinnacle. Harley Reid alone will not help achieve this. Greater Western Sydney and Melbourne Demons in tug of war over young superstar Tom Scully
  5. George on the Outer has prepared a "warts and all" analysis of each opposition team's prospects for 2017 ... WHERE IT CAN ALL GO WRONG - THE WARTS AND ALL ANALYSIS OF EACH TEAM'S PROSPECTS [PART 1] With all of the summertime hype in the football news at this time of the year, I thought it was appropriate to temper the high expectations of the fans (not that any of that would happen on Demonland) with some truly deep analysis of the opposition going into season 2017. What I discovered was that, as is customary, every team is “training the house down” and not a single club is dissatisfied with its trades and signings. So I decided to have a look at the real story of what can and should go wrong for each of the sides in 2017. The teams have been selected at random and here are the first five:- Geelong Dangerfield and Selwood. They alone got the pussies across the line in at least six games last year. Without that contribution they would surely have inhabited the lower reaches of the ladder. The Premiership years have now passed by the Cats and whilst they spent up big to lure Dangerfield back to his home territory (who wouldn’t?) the plan didn’t quite get them up last year. I can't see it sustaining them as their list goes into decline and with the likes of Lachie Henderson trying to hold the backline together, it simply isn’t the Geelong of old. Essendon Despite the AFL handing out more of their largesse, in the form of access to additional players and essentially first pick in the draft to the Bombers in last year's draft, so avoiding a collapse following the suspensions for drug taking offenses, few true fans of the game will be hoping for anything good for this club. With an ageing side with a good number of their players sidelined from the game for more than 12 months, they are coming from a long way back. A full forward who can’t find the goals, a captain who can’t find a Brownlow medal, and a club that can’t find its records, they most likely won't find a way to win too many games either. At least Worsfold had all the excuses in the world for poor performances last year but in 2017 there will be nowhere to hide and we might well discover why he was sacked by the West Coast Eagles. West Coast Speaking of the Eagles, I suspect that with the collapse of the WA mining boom, the same downward trend will also affect afflict West Coast. Despite a 16-6 record and a home final in 2016, the Eagles were thrown out in week 1. Probably the loss of Nic Natanui in Round 21 affected them the most his absence for most of season 2017 will continue to hurst. While he is next to useless around the ground, his height and leap give his mids plenty of the ball, so without that, how will an aging Priddis and an aged new recruit Sam Mitchell fare? With a good number of their home games against top 2016 sides, they won’t enjoy the easy ride they have had in years past. And maybe, just maybe the competition can afford to pay for eastern state umpires to control their home games. It will help the locals to understand the rules of the game, which is currently beyond them. Fremantle Oh how the mighty have fallen! The Dockers had been slated as probably Grand Finalists before the season began having made it to the big dance in 2015. But they finished with only 4 wins in 2016! It all went to pieces in Round 3 with the demise of Aaron Sandilands. Without the dominant ruckman (a beanpole of 211cm) the Dockers simply couldn’t get the ball. And it got worse in Round 5 as Nate Fyfe broke his leg again and sat out the season. Mundy also was injured and saw the writing on the wall, along with Ballantyne as they offered their services to anyone who would take them during the trade period. No takers, so they are stuck with Ross Lyon and his coaching plan of stopping the opposition at all cost, without being able to score themselves. Shane Yarran wasn’t keen to stay around either, and dumped on the club as he exited prior to Christmas. It must be a wonderful workplace although in Yarran's case who knows whether his next workplace is going to be much better. No Pavlich in 2017, and with an ageing/old list, there is little cause for redemption. Richmond The Toiyges never fail to disappoint. Despite making three finals series and getting bundled out without progressing any further, they still didn’t recruit the right types to help them take the next step, if there ever was one. Over the years they had built a list around half a dozen capable players, and then imported the likes of Houli, Grigg, Maric and Chaplin to enable them to reach finals. But they stopped building 3 years ago, and all that has happened is every one of these players is just older and slower, or not there anymore. They threw everything at Chris Yarran and Dion Prestia to keep the feral fans happy, but Yarran never made it to the field and Prestia is still running laps in late January. [To be continued ... ]
  6. My trip back in time continues ... 1956 - WHEN THE DEMONS RULED (PART TWO) by Whispering Jack Round 10 1956 Saturday 23 June at MCG Attendance 36,361 Melbourne 5.1.31 8.4.52 11.7.73 12.10.82 South Melbourne 2.1.13 3.7.25 6.10.46 8.11.59 Goal kickers Frank Adams 3 Denis Cordner Robert "Bob" Johnson Ian Ridley 2 Tony Bull Peter Marquis Athol Webb The undefeated Demons continued on their winning way with a comfortable 23 point victory at home against the Swans after leading at every change. Round 11 1956 Saturday 30 June at Glenferrie Oval Attendance 15,500 Hawthorn 3.4.22 3.7.25 5.10.40 5.12.42 Melbourne 1.1.7 6.7.43 8.7.55 11.14.80 Goal kickers Clyde Laidlaw Ian Ridley 3 Ron Barassi Athol Webb 2 Robert "Bob" Johnson After a slow start, Melbourne got into gear in the second quarter against Hawthorn at Glenferrie Oval, keeping the hosts to two goals after the first break and winning by a little over six goals. Future coach Dennis Jones made his debut in this game. Round 12 1956 Saturday 7 July at MCG Attendance 26,772 Melbourne 1.6.12 4.9.33 8.12.60 11.13.79 Richmond 2.0.12 3.1.19 5.1.31 7.3.45 Goal kickers Robert "Bob" Johnson Ian Ridley Athol Webb 2 Ron Barassi Brian Dixon Dennis Jones Laurie Mithen Stuart Spencer In a milestone game Geoff McGivern (100) and Ron Barassi (50), accurate kicking for goal kept the Tigers in the game for most of the first half but the Demons were far too strong in the end. It was Richmond's lowest score against Melbourne since 1925. Round 13 1956 Saturday 14 July at MCG Attendance 46,022 Melbourne 5.7.37 8.8.56 12.10.82 14.10.94 Carlton 4.1.25 6.4.49 9.7.61 12.7.79 Goal kickers Stuart Spencer 5 Ian Ridley 4 Peter Marquis 3 Robert "Bob" Johnson 2 The Blues put up some stiff resistance but the Demons, with their rovers Spencer and Ridley dangerous in front of goal, held sway by 15 points. Round 14 1956 Saturday 21 July at MCG Attendance 47,956 Melbourne 0.5.5 3.10.22 6.14.50 7.17.59 Footscray 1.4.10 4.6.30 7.8.50 10.12.72 Goal kickers Stuart Spencer 3 Peter Cook Robert "Bob" Johnson Ken Melville Athol Webb Melbourne lost its first game for the season and only its third in 12 months after a tight tussle with Footscray on the MCG. Scores were level at the final break but the Bulldogs were too strong and drew away to win by 13 points against the inaccurate Demons who hit the post four times during the game. Round 15 1956 Saturday 28 July at Brunswick Street Attendance 13,000 Fitzroy 2.2.14 4.6.30 5.9.39 7.11.53 Melbourne 1.4.10 3.7.25 8.12.60 11.15.81 Goal kickers Stuart Spencer 3 Terry Gleeson Ian Ridley 2 Ron Barassi Brian Dixon Noel McMahen Laurie Mithen Melbourne started slowly against Fitzroy but took over after half time to get back on the winning list. Round 16 1956 Saturday 4 August at Kardinia Park Attendance 29,687 Geelong 0.5.5 3.9.27 5.9.39 8.10.58 Melbourne 2.3.15 3.5.23 3.8.26 8.8.56 Goal kickers Robert "Bob" Johnson 3 Ian Ridley Stuart Spencer 2 Peter Cook After going thirteen rounds without a loss, the Demons suffered their second defeat in three weeks at Kardinia Park. The home side dominated for most of the game in the centre of the ground but when Melbourne kicked four goals in eight minutes at the start of the last quarter, it set up a grandstand finish. The Cats regained composure to just hold on to draw a game behind the league leaders. Round 17 1956 Saturday 11 August at MCG Attendance 16,186 Melbourne 5.3.33 10.6.66 12.10.82 16.18.114 North Melbourne 3.2 8.3 11.4.70 11.5.71 Goal kickers Athol Webb 6 Ian Ridley 4 Robert "Bob" Johnson 3 Ron Barassi 2 Stuart Spencer Stung by two defeats in the space of three weeks, Melbourne blasted North Melbourne to the tune of 43 points at the MCG on a day when full forward Athol Webb booted six goals. Round 18 1956 Saturday 18 August at Victoria Park Attendance 31,089 Collingwood 4.1.25 6.1.37 7.2.44 9.6.60 Melbourne 1.1.7 6.5.41 7.10.52 10.13.73 Goal kickers Stuart Spencer 3 Ron Barassi Robert "Bob" Johnson Ian Ridley 2 Brian Dixon The Magpies on their home turf held the early ascendency but the inaccurate Demons took control in the second quarter to win by 13 points. Ruckman Denis Cordner celebrated his 150th game as he neared the end of a stellar career. Future skipper John Beckwith played his 100th game for the club. Melbourne finished the season three games clear of their nearest rivals Collingwood and Geelong with the latter suffering a late season slump missing out on the double chance with a final round defeat at the hands of Essendon. After looking like the Demons' biggest threat for the flag, the Cats were out of the race a week later when they lost the first semi-final to the Bulldogs. Ladder W D L % P Melbourne 16 2 - 146.0 64 Collingwood 13 5 - 125.9 52 Geelong 13 5 - 121.9 52 Footscray 11 7 - 114.2 44 ---------------------------- Carlton 10 7 1 113.7 42 Essendon 10 8 - 95.8 40 Hawthorn 7 10 1 88.9 30 Fitzroy 7 11 - 89.3 28 South Melbourne 6 11 1 88.1 26 Richmond 6 12 - 86.8 24 St. Kilda 4 13 1 88.0 18 North Melbourne 3 15 - 69.6 12 Second Semi Final 1956 Saturday 1 September at MCG Attendance 91,680 Melbourne 1.4.10 3.6.24 8.9.57 11.14.80 Collingwood 1.4.10 3.7.25 8.10.58 8.16.64 Goal kickers: Robert "Bob" Johnson Stuart Spencer 3 Ron Barassi Clyde Laidlaw Noel McMahen Ian Ridley Jim Sandral A crowd of more than 90,000 watched as two traditional rivals in Melbourne and Collingwood slugged it out a close game in windy conditions on the first day of spring at the MCG. Scores were level at quarter time and the Magpies held a one point lead at each of the next two breaks before the Demons kicked away in the final term to win by 16 points. The first half was dominated by the defences of both sides with the highlight for Melbourne being a 65 metre goal from skipper Noel McMahen. The lowlight was the injury to Geoff McGivern following a collision with John Beckwith during the second quarter. He played on to the end of the quarter with ankle and knee injuries but was unable to reappear for the second half and did not play in the grand final. This was therefore his last game. The team had to be recast after the main break with McGivern's replacement Jim Sandral playing an important role as the game's tempo increased dramatically. The teams booted five goals each in a high quality third quarter, but the fast-fading Magpies managed just 0.6 in the last to allow the fitter Demons to take control of proceedings. Rovers Spencer and Ridley, who had dominated their opposition all day, opened the last quarter with Demon goals before the Pies put in a period of sustained pressure which only netted them four points. Bob Johnson kicked his third goal, and his team's last, from a difficult angle after a 40 yard dash by Ian Ridley make the result safe. Best for Melbourne were Spencer, Johnson and Cordner. GRAND FINAL DAY 1956 Saturday 15 September at MCG Attendance 115,802 1956 Seconds Grand Final 1956 Melbourne 4.6.30 9.8.62 11.12.78 16.14.110 South Melbourne 2.2.14 8.4.52 8.10.58 10.12.72 Goal kickers Ben Crameri 8 Terry Mountain 3 Tony Bull 2 Peter Brenchley Longney Dick Atkinson Brian Collopy It was a big day for the Melbourne Football Club. In the hours before the senior team ran out for their clash against Collingwood, the Seconds team was in action against South Melbourne and thanks to an eight goal haul from rookie Ben Crameri they were never seriously challenged. The Demons' led by 20 points at three quarter time and smashed the opposition in the final term to win by 38. Best were Crameri, John Lord and Carlton recruit Graham Kerr. Seniors VFL Grand Final 1956 Melbourne 2.4.16 6.11.47 10.16.76 17.19.121 Collingwood 3.3.21 4.3.27 5.6.36 6.12.48 Goal kickers Stuart Spencer Athol Webb 5 Ron Barassi Robert "Bob" Johnson 3 Ian Ridley Collingwood won the right to challenge Melbourne in the Seniors Grand Final with an emphatic 39 point victory in the Preliminary Final against Footscray but the Demons were still hot favourites to go back to back as premiers, having already beaten the Magpies three times during the season. The Melbourne team sheet read: B: John Beckwith Peter Marquis Trevor Johnson HB: Don Williams Noel McMahen (captain) Keith Carroll C: Frank "Bluey" Adams Ken Melville Brian Dixon HF: Jim Sandral Clyde Laidlaw Laurie Mithen F: Robert "Bob" Johnson Athol Webb Ian Ridley FOLL: Denis Cordner Ron Barassi Stuart Spencer 19/20: Terry Gleeson Ralph Lane COACH: Norm Smith The premiers out-matched the Pies in skill and ability and eventually won their second straight flag comfortably - sealing their status as one of the greatest teams in VFL history. Collingwood’s Bill Serong kicked the first goal after three minutes and, despite the answering goal from Athol Webb, they were full of running and held a slender lead at quarter time after a late goal for the Demons from Bob Johnson. After the break, the tide turned. Webb booted his second thirty seconds into the quarter and Stuart Spencer pounced after a ball-up in the goal square for another. From then on, it was one way traffic. Every Collingwood player was beaten in his position and Melbourne was in control with Denis Cordner dominant in the ruck and Laurie Mithen brilliant at ground level. The Demons held a 22 point lead at the half time siren. The Demons came out and did all the attacking with Spencer and Johnson dangerous in front of goal. The match was over at three-quarter time with the Pies trailing by 40 points but the ruthless Demons went on their merry way with Webb helping himself to three goals in the last term to make the match a rout. The only thing the Magpies won was the free kick count (32-24) but otherwise they were smashed everywhere on the ground. Stuart Spencer was best on ground with his "powerful" roving and five goals. Ron Barassi and Ken Melville were also amongst the best. Athol Webb also had one of his best games. Keith Carroll suffered a broken nose and concussion after being struck with an elbow in the second quarter. He was already being operated on by the time the game ended. Unsurprisingly for such a large crowd the match grossed an all-time VFL record crowd and gate receipts to match - raising £19,718. The match was to be the final game for four excellent footballers in Denis Cordner, Noel McMahen, Ken Melville and Stuart Spencer who had won the last two best and fairests. The fear was that with the loss of so much experience and talent, the team would be unable to maintain the momentum and possibly even fall by the wayside but the team was up to the task and won the flag again in 1957. The Demons were entitled to be called the champions of the nation as they also recorded wins against Port Adelaide (SANFL), East Perth (WAFL) and Tasmania’s North West Football Union in exhibition games Stuart Spencer capped off his carry with a second consecutive Keith “Bluey” Truscott Memorial Trophy for the club’s Best and Fairest player. Voting 1st Stuart Spencer 87.5 2nd John Beckwith 87 3rd Ron Barassi 50 Other Awards Best Clubman - Ralph Lane Outstanding Service - Brian Dixon Most Unselfish - Athol Webb Best First Year Player Jim Sandral The leading goal kicker was Robert B Johnson (43) Off the field, the club made a profit of £1,268 for the year. The dominant Demons of sixty years ago could truly lay claim to the mantle of the greatest ever sides produced in VFL/AFL history.
  7. 1956 - WHEN DEMONS RULED (PART ONE) by Whispering Jack The year 1956 was special one for many Australians. It was the year when for the first time a Summer Olympics were staged outside the Northern Hemisphere. The Games of the XVI Olympiad were predominantly held in Melbourne and from 22 November until 8 December, 1956 Australia held centre stage on the world scene, probably for the first time ever. During the Games, even the country's most popular sport, Australian Rules football was given a place with the playing of a game between amateur footballers on the MCG. A month or so earlier, the football club that bore the host city's name won its eighth VFL premiership with a dominant performance in the grand final. This is the story of that team's glory year. The Demons were already a club to be feared among the VFL's then twelve teams. Under coach Norm Smith they had risen from second last in 1953 to a grand final in 1954, a game in which they were comfortably beaten by Footscray. A year later, the team skippered by Noel McMahen were premiers. They were young, talented and driven, inspired by a man recognised as a master strategist of the game. They were hungry for more. Melbourne was left homeless in the early part of the season when the MCG was rendered unavailable due to preparations for the Olympics. They trained at alternative venues; Olympic Park during the brief preseason period and then, from the start of the season, to Albert Park. They were only able to unfurl their premiership flag from the previous year when they returned to their home ground, the MCG, in Round 5 against Geelong. A lesser side might have struggled in those circumstances but not Melbourne which was unbeaten when it stepped into the MCG for the first time and maintained that status for the first thirteen weeks of the season. The young side that Smith and club secretary Jim Cardwell had built over the past year was beginning to mature into a very special combination with some outstanding players like Ron Barassi, John Beckwith, Robert "Bob" Johnson and Athol Webb. Their only losses for the season were the return game at the MCG against Footscray in Round 14 which was the only time they lowered their colours at home and a fortnight later against Geelong at Kardinia Park. The depth of the side was evident when the seconds won the curtain raiser to the Grand Final before a then record crowd of 115,000. The seniors then came out and crushed traditional rival Collingwood to win their second consecutive premiership with a team hailed as the best Melbourne side ever to take the field. Here is how the season unfolded. Round 1 1956 - Saturday 14 April at Punt Road Attendance 25,000 Richmond 2.1.13 4.4.28 5.4.34 8.7.55 Melbourne 4.6.30 6.8.44 10.14.74 12.16.88 Goalkickers Robert "Bob" Johnson Stuart Spencer 3 Ron Barassi Laurie Mithen 2 Ralph Lane Ian Ridley The Demons were untroubled against the Tigers who were unfancied against the reigning premiers and that is exactly how things turned out at Punt Road in the season opener. The visitors led at every change with 6'6" big man Bob Johnson and clever rover Stuart Spencer each booting three goals. Round 2 1956 Saturday 21 April at Princes Park Attendance 18,656 Carlton 1.0.6 1.5.11 1.7.13 6.11.47 Melbourne 5.5.35 8.9.57 10.15.75 12.18.90 Goalkickers Athol Webb 4 Ron Barassi Laurie Mithen 2 Robert "Bob" Johnson Ralph Lane Ian Ridley Stuart Spencer The team was far too strong for the Blues at Princes Park keeping the home side down to a single goal for the first three quarters. Round 3 1956 Saturday 28 April at Western Oval Attendance 33,265 Footscray 2.6.18 2.8.20 5.10.40 5.11.41 Melbourne 1.2.8 3.4.22 5.6.36 9.13.67 Goalkickers Stuart Spencer 3 Robert "Bob" Johnson Ian Ridley 2 Ron Barassi Athol Webb The Bulldogs challenged strongly and led at the final change before the Demons powered home with a dominant last term aided by a strengthening wind. Round 4 1956 Saturday 5 May at Punt Road Attendance 23,000 Melbourne 3.8.26 5.10.40 6.16.52 10.19.79 Fitzroy 1.1.7 4.3.27 4.4.28 9.6.60 Goalkickers Ian Ridley 3 Robert "Bob" Johnson 2 Ron Barassi Peter Cook Brian Dixon Laurie Mithen Athol Webb The Demons held sway for most of the game and recorded a comfortable win despite some poor kicking for goal. Round 5 1956 Saturday 12 May at MCG Attendance 47,130 Melbourne 2.7.19 3.13.31 5.18.48 6.20.56 Geelong 2.2.14 5.5.35 5.7.37 6.12.48 Goalkickers Ron Barassi Ian Ridley 2 Robert "Bob" Johnson Clyde Laidlaw Melbourne was finally able to unveil its 1955 Premiership flag and it was before a big crowd in a clash between the VFL's only two undefeated sides. The game was marred by heavy rain with much of the ground under water. Stuart Spencer kicked 0.11 an equal AFL/VFL record for inaccuracy. Most of his points were from kicks off the ground. The team trailed at half time but a powerful third quarter saw the team draw clear and record an 8 point win in the end. Round 6 1956 Saturday 19 May at Arden Street Attendance 11,000 North Melbourne 4.2.26 5.3.33 5.6.36 6.6.42 Melbourne 1.2.8 3.6.24 6.9.45 11.18.84 Goalkickers Ron Barassi Stuart Spencer 3 Athol Webb 2 Robert "Bob" Johnson Laurie Mithen Ian Ridley The Kangaroos wrested the early lead at Arden Street in a game in which their spearhead kicked all but one of their six goals for the day. His opposite number at full forward for the Demons, Athol Webb kicked two before severely bruising his chest and shins when he ran into a goalpost at full-speed. Despite being nine points behind at the main break, the Demons controlled the second half to run out comfortable winners and doubling North's score. Round 7 1956 Saturday 26 May at MCG Attendance 46,868 Melbourne 1.1.7 5.8.38 7.10.52 11.13.79 Collingwood 4.5.29 6.5.41 9.6.60 9.7.61 Goalkickers Ian Ridley 4 Stuart Spencer 3 Ron Barassi Robert "Bob" Johnson 2 This was the first of four clashes for the season for traditional rivals Melbourne and Collingwood. It was a tense, close encounter with the Magpies holding the ascendency at three quarter time but the home team was up to the challenge with their roving division led by Ian Ridley and Stuart Spencer dominant in front of goal to run out victors by 18 points. Round 8 1956 Saturday 2 June at Junction Oval Attendance 26,300 St. Kilda 1.7.13 1.9.15 4.11.35 6.11.47 Melbourne 1.2.8 5.3.33 7.5.47 9.7.61 Goalkickers Robert "Bob" Johnson Ian Ridley Athol Webb 2 Trevor Johnson Jim Sandral Stuart Spencer A vigorous but inexperienced St. Kilda team took things right up to Melbourne at the Junction Oval come away with the victory. They were undone however, by poor kicking for goal in the early part of the game. Athol Webb moved to a half-forward flank and his speed was a major contributing factor in the victory as were the performances of rovers Stuart Spencer and Ian Ridley. Round 9 1956 Saturday 9 June at MCG Attendance 32,543 Melbourne 2.3.15 9.10.64 13.14.92 15.17.107 Essendon 0.4.4 0.7.7 1.11.17 4.15.39 Goalkickers Robert "Bob" Johnson 7 Ron Barassi Stuart Spencer 2 Brian Dixon Ian McLean Ian Ridley Athol Webb Big Bob Johnson was in sensational form up forward with seven goals in a 68 point demolition of a poor Bomber combination at the MCG in the last game before the mid-season bye. Over the next fortnight, the Australian National Football Carnival was held at Subiaco Oval in Perth with the Victorian team running out easy winners. Ron Barassi was the only Melbourne player to gain All Australian honours at the end of the Carnival. (to be continued)
  8. AFL HANDOUTS by George on The Outer Are some more equal than others? Between the clubs themselves and AFL House, it is difficult to get a true appreciation of the financial well-being of individual clubs. The annual reports take well into the New Year in some cases and the AFL doesn’t produce its own report until May the following year! Even then, it seems to be un-published for months afterward. Perhaps it is planned that way, in the middle of the new football season, when no-one cares what happened last year. Regardless, it is interesting to extract the information from all these data-bases and put them together. It is worth noting the absolute financial support that the AFL is providing to the Northern state clubs, outside of draft picks, additional salary cap space and cost of living allowances. Here are the results for the 2015 Year: 2015 Base Bonus Additional Total Profit/Loss GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY GIANTS 7,890,840 1,200,000 11,490,642 20,581,482 -529,000 GOLD COAST 7,890,840 1,200,000 8,854,524 17,945,364 -300,000 ST KILDA 7,890,840 1,200,000 8,337,466 17,428,306 -848,000 BRISBANE LIONS 7,890,840 1,200,000 7,349,619 16,440,459 -681,000 WESTERN BULLDOGS 7,890,840 1,200,000 6,640,343 15,731,183 388,000 NORTH MELBOURNE 7,890,840 1,200,000 5,492,480 14,583,320 530,000 MELBOURNE 7,890,840 1,200,000 4,909,031 13,999,871 562,000 PORT ADELAIDE 7,890,840 1,200,000 3,795,418 12,886,258 211,000 RICHMOND 7,890,840 1,200,000 3,416,500 12,507,340 459,000 HAWTHORN 7,890,840 1,200,000 3,267,685 12,358,525 3,300,000 SYDNEY SWANS 7,890,840 1,200,000 3,144,805 12,235,645 300,000 ESSENDON 7,890,840 1,200,000 2,737,272 11,828,112 -1,300,000 FREMANTLE 7,890,840 1,200,000 2,570,346 11,661,186 763,000 CARLTON 7,890,840 1,200,000 2,495,684 11,586,524 -2,700,000 WEST COAST EAGLES 7,890,840 1,200,000 2,386,781 11,477,621 5,500,000 COLLINGWOOD 7,890,840 1,200,000 1,904,152 10,994,992 850,000 ADELAIDE CROWS 7,890,840 1,200,000 1,542,653 10,633,493 1,400,000 Some of the outcomes are explainable, such as Geelongs loss resulting from a building programme at Kardinia Park. Others such as Carlton seem to have arisen purely from spending more than they earn, particularly when the on-field results continue to be mediocre. What is truly amazing is the extent of support provided to St.Kilda and the Western Bulldogs, when compared to clubs like our own. Similar membership bases, similar fixtures, similar ladder positions and yet St.Kilda were gifted an addition $3.5 million dollars more than Melbourne. The Bulldogs were given an extra $1.5M. Worrying signs for the AFL is that despite all this additional money thrown their way, the Saints still lost nearly $850,000. Not all that can be as a result of a lousy fixture, Etihad stadium or a lowly finishing position. The other point to note is despite these individual anomalies, the extent of support from the AFL is probably about right. Take away the outliers and 12 of the teams receive monies within a $4 million range. What is galling for a many fans is that the likes of Richmond, Essendon, Carlton and Collingwood are receiving nearly as much support financially. Yet these same clubs demand priority in fixturing and TV slots. These are the clubs who claim others are held up by their largesse. As Julius Sumner Miller used to say “Why is it so?” Perhaps it’s because some clubs are more equal than others, in the socialist Animal Farm known as the AFL.
  9. UPSETS IN TAC CUP by Whispering Jack TAC Cup Semi Day was a day of upsets with the more highly credentialed teams in both games bowing out of the finals series. The wind was occasionally swirly but the conditions at IKON Park were fine enough to have suited good football. However, the standard of both games never reached great heights, leaving one to wonder whether this marks a general downward trend in the junior ranks of the game where other sports are attracting greater numbers or whether it was simply the pressure of a tough, hard elimination series. At least the tussle between the Murray Bushrangers and the Oakleigh Chargers was close with the Chargers winning by a solitary goal although they were in control after the main break after a close first half. The Bushies were coming back strongly at the end and goaled on the siren but they were outplayed in the third quarter when it really counted. Oakleigh deserved the win because it came up with a great team effort in which very few players stood out but they all combined to produce a winning outcome. The Chargers' on-ballers Kade Answerth and David Cunningham looked the best of the bunch but I'm not certain whether they're draftable. Diminutive Lachie Byrne-Jones showed great pace but at 170cm he will also struggle to attract support from recruiters. On the other hand, there were some outstanding individuals in the losing team. We all know Josh Schache is a leading contender for the #1 draft pick in November and that his reputation is partly built on straight shooting for goal but that wasn't in evidence early when the big key forward kicked three behinds in the first half. The left footer was played all over the ground and was more comfortable up forward in the second half when he finally rammed home a couple of goals. Morrish Medallist Clayton Oliver is a 187cm midfielder who has played senior football in the country as well as a couple of games for Richmond's VFL team as a 23rd player. In one game for the Bushrangers this season he booted six goals from the middle picking up 27 disposals and six clearances. He is strongly built and plays in the style of another Oliver - Wines from Port Adelaide and the weekend's events should see him move into the top twenty in draft calculations. Murray Bushrangers 2.4 3.9 5.12 9.13 (67) Oakleigh Chargers 2.4 4.6 7.10 10.13 (73) GOALS: Murray Bushrangers: Oliver 2 Schache 2 Smith Tiziani Payne McMullan Smith Oakleigh Chargers: Phillips 2 Walker 2 Byrne-Jones Thompson Kerr Ridley Lane Cuningham BEST: Murray Bushrangers: Tiziani Oliver Waite Schache Payne Brodie Oakleigh Chargers: Byrne-Jones Answerth Beddison Walker Phillips Firns The second game was disappointing as a spectacle and once again it was won by an underdog that played consistent team football but this time the Ranges took the lead early and dominated throughout to win by 10 goals. I came to the ground expecting big things from Falcons players Darcy Parish, Charlie Curnow and Rhys Mathieson who are all high in draft calculations but they were overshadowed by a dominant performance from Ryan Clark of the Ranges. The midfielder was in everything, tackling hard, running hard and leading the team both inside and out. Considering that I haven't seen him in top 20 draft calculations, he was something of a revelation. He was good enough to make it into TAC Cup Team of the Year so it's clear that he's had a consistent season. Medium/small forward Blake Hardwick kicked three goals and always looked dangerous in front of goal. Darcy Parish wasn't prolific but he is all class, can play inside and out has a great future in the game. His partner in crime Rhys Mathieson has great presence, works hard and can hold his head high despite his team's loss. Although they played in a losing team, I've seen enough of them in the middle for Vic Country in the Under 18 National Championships to be able to say that, along with a couple of northern academy midfielders (Mills and Hopper), they are the cream of the crop in this age group. The third of the noted Falcons Charlie Curnow had a poor day after a solid start with some early marks but his kicking let him down. Geelong Falcons 1.4 3.6 4.12 6.14 (50) Eastern Ranges 4.0 7.3 10.8 15.14 (104) GOALS: Geelong Falcons: McCartney 2 Kol Mathieson Blair Wagener Eastern Ranges: Hardwick 3 Brolic 2 Stephenson 2 Collins D Clarke Mitchener Cerra Cotte Gallucci Cyster Hannon BEST: Geelong Falcons: Doedee Witherden Wagener Connors McNamara Kershaw Eastern Ranges: R Clarke D Clarke Maibaum Collins Mitchener Parsons My take from my limited viewing of the 2015 draft pool to date (the Under 18 National Championships matches shown on Foxtel, a streamed game on the AFL site and these two games) is that I would not be surprised if Melbourne was to trade away its first draft pick if the opportunity arose to pick up a quality player by way of trade. It's not so much that the players mentioned in dispatches around the mark where the Demons' first choice is likely to be aren't of interest but because you might not lose a great deal going down the order a dozen spots. With names like Oliver, Clarke, Bonner, Milera and Weideman available a little later in the order, we could be looking once again at a trade like that which brought Dom Tyson and Christian Salem to the club two years ago. TAC Cup Finals Wrap: Week Two Review
  10. DEMON SELECTION CONTROVERSY ADDS TO AFL WOES by a staff reporter The AFL is confronting yet another crisis at the weekend in the wake of its endorsement of decisions by both Fremantle and North Melbourne to "rest" players for its final round leading to allegations that the moves might alter the course of the finals series and seriously compromise the integrity of the competition. The new controversy came to light when the Melbourne Football Club mysteriously omitted fan favourite Jack Watts from its line up to play the GWS Giants at Etihad Stadium on Sunday raising allegations on national television by a Fox Football panelist that the Demons were not taking their final round match seriously in the hope of falling to 15th place to improve their draft position and their chances of selecting a highly fancied midfielder in this year's AFL National Draft. A Melbourne Football Club spokesman told reporters that his club was angry at the claim and said that Watts would be of more value to the club and to the AFL's cause sitting in the stands at Etihad because this game was in desperate need of having as many "bums on seats" at the ground as possible in light of fears that the final round fixture had the potential to highly embarrass the competition with a record low crowd. The official added that Watts was face of a club promotion to help make the ground look at least half full by giving away life size cardboard cut outs of human figures to be strategically placed on seats around the stadium. A local business has also joined in on the promotion by providing 500 plastic inflatable ladies which can later be used for other purposes. "The AFL allowed Port Adelaide to do the same thing for years, so I don't see what their problem is," said the club official who preferred to remain anonymous. He also said the club will be pumping crowd noise recorded in last year's AFL grand final through the ground's PA system to add atmosphere to the occasion although there was some concern after a rehearsal yesterday failed to co-ordinate the crowd's roar with several Jeremy Howe screamers. Meanwhile the AFL's Integrity Office is poised to launch a tanking investigation into the Gold Coast Suns who are likely to finish the season in 16th place if they lose tonight's game at the SCG against the Swans. Allegations of bringing the game into disrepute arose against the northern franchise team which is likely to have third or fourth selection at this season's AFL national draft after critics cited this 2013 article in which their captain Gary Ablett claimed the club was "on track to win a premiership by 2015" - Suns on track for 2015 flag, says Ablett. When questioned by Brett Clothier of the AFL Integrity Unit on Friday afternoon about his club's failure to live up to his prediction, Ablett is reported to have told him that he was "joking at the time". Clothier immediately contacted the Gold Coast Suns to inform them that he expected charges to be laid against the club early next week. Eric Blair, the AFL spokesperson on these matters said the leagues policy was not to comment on integrity-related issues but in this case he was able to say that the AFL was gravely concerned that a senior player had the temerity to take these things lightly. "There's too much of this hilarity going on and people need to realise that football's a serious business," he said. Former Purana Taskforce detective superintendent Gerry Ryan who joined the AFL last year as part of its beefed up integrity unit is likely to head the investigation and also report on the cardboard cut out situation to his boss Gillon McLachlan before the next AFL board meeting due in October.
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