Ladder Position: 13th
Win/Loss: 8/13 (1 Draw)
It’s hard to judge what the Demons could achieve in 2012. New coach, new captains, no Tom Scully hanging over their heads. Much has been said of the Demons being the ‘dream list’ for the prospective coaches during the Great Coaching Merry-Go-Round of 2011, but whether that dream can be associated with short-term benefits is yet to be seen. 2011 was a tough one for Melbourne supporters. A strong 2010 was hoped to be backed up with a finals push in 2011, but it was not to be – eight wins and a judgement that the side had moved backwards. Turmoil behind closed doors resulted in a dark day for supporters, simply known as ‘186’ – that horrendous loss at Geelong that resulted in Dean Bailey’s sacking. Better is to be expected, to be sure.
But then, it is hard to know what to expect. Mark Neeld is not the only new coach – in fact, the entire coaching team is virtually new, with the exception of midfield coach Brian Royal. What has been occurring, however, is toughness. Attendees at training sessions are reporting the hardest Melbourne pre-season they’ve ever witnessed. It’s incomparable to the (seemingly amateurish) times under Dean Bailey, and bodes well for fitness levels and the Dees’ ability to finish off games.
The Melbourne draw is kind. Their double opponents are GWS, Richmond, Fremantle, Brisbane and St Kilda – only one finalist from 2011. However, they do face 2 trips to Perth, 2 to Sydney as well as a trip to Darwin for the Port Adelaide game. In particular, Round 23 against Fremantle at Patersons Stadium looms as a danger game should both Melbourne and Freo be in the finals hunt.
Players to watch:
Nathan Jones – It has struck that Jones is almost criminally underrated. A prime example of everything Melbourne was labelled by the media as not being in 2011 – full of heart, always hard at the footy and never shirking the contest – he was rewarded with 4th in the Dees B&F in 2011. Keep an eye out, because if he cleans up his disposal he’ll be lethal.
Jack Watts – Ah, the old Leigh Matthews target. Watts had a strong middle season in 2011 after being handed the sub vest for the Gold Coast game. Expect further showings, more goals and even more assists in 2012 as he moves to really stamp his authority.
Jack Trengove – The youngest ever captain. And, at this stage, quite possibly the better pick of the two picks of that draft. Had a good 2011 and will look to push on with a strong 2012.
Tom McDonald – Who? Tom McDonald is almost certainly going to fill a role, whether up forward or down back, for the Dees in 2012. Drafted in 2011 as a tall option, he debuted late in the 2011 season with two strong games. What has been seen of him has been liked by Demons supporters for a strong 2012.
Sam Blease – Blease is one of those small streak tear-you-apart-off-half-back players that every side should be forced to have as they’re just such a joy to watch. His foot-speed, especially for a guy who has come back off a leg break, is just incredible, and if he finds his niche he could really tear a side apart.
James Magner – Seems a bit odd to include a rookie, but the way he’s going many are tipping him to play Rd 1. Magner is everything Melbourne didn’t have in 2011 – that nuggety, tough, go-all-day midfielder. Good bet to really seize his chance at AFL level.
Well, it’s a tough one. Admittedly, your previewer in this situation is biased, and my bias says 8th. However, realistically it can be expected that Melbourne pick up ten wins. They have a relatively easy draw, and there are a lot of tools in place for Mark Neeld to work with, and where they pick up those ten wins from is almost impossible to predict apart from the two against GWS.