On Saturday, I went to the MCG and watched the Melbourne Football Club turn up and play out the diehard’s worst nightmare. I don’t watch Melbourne every week, and I’m not one who’s on the inside, but while sitting with the members something occurred to me. Something is fundamentally wrong with such a once revered and great club.
It’s sad what they’ve become. A laughing stock. A punchline. Picked apart and stripped bare week-in, week-out from all angles by those in the press, in the stands and on talkback.
They’re a downtrodden, disheartened bunch. I hold supporters of the Melbourne Football Club in the highest esteem. Through all the horror and disgust; the disillusion and disgrace, they turn up the next week with hope pulled from God knows where.
But why is this such? Something has gone horribly wrong along the way. Most people would like to point the finger at the average drafting of the Neale Daniher era or Dean Bailey’s lack of a Plan B when things went wrong tactically. These have certainly not helped the club to create a revival that will stir a sleeping giant back to where it belongs.
Melbourne have never been right since Norm Smith was sacked in 1965. Many believe there is a curse associated with this; that the numerous finals and Grand Finals the Demons have played were lost due to some hex that was placed on the club the moment a Melbourne Board, on a Thursday evening over 4 decades ago decided his time was up.
This is maybe the area where the club could be at it’s strongest at the moment. Jim Stynes’ efforts galvanized a club that after successfully over 10 years ago fighting off a merger at the 11th hour; was broke, in debt and reeling from failures on field.
Regardless of Cameron Schwab’s near-sacking last season, the appointment of Don McLardle and the work of Garry Lyon have allowed this club to at the very least, have a functioning board.
Now, has this functioning board made a good appointment coach-wise for the first time in a long time? Yes.
However, is Mark Neeld’s game plan the right one for Melbourne? No.
Pushing the ball wide and moving it along the boundary at every contest isn’t going to work at a side which is currently too skilfully inept to do so.
Not only is this the case, but a midfield and forward-line that outright refused to chase any Brisbane player on the weekend is going to concede serious goals. The only time Melbourne looked anyway threatening was when they went through the middle.
When Jack Watts, Jack Trengrove and James Magner looked to centre the ball in the second-quarter, Melbourne looked at it’s most dangerous.
Jeremy Howe and Mitch Clark were given their best chance to get in a position to score and have influence on the game when the ball went long to the top of the goal square. When they were forced to lead wide, they were cut off and spoiled numerous times by Brisbane’s defence which had figured out Melbourne’s predictability going forward.
Also, Mitch Clark is not a full-forward. He was nullified by Matt McGuire and kicked two cheapies in junk time. Was slow on the lead, and was easily shoved out of contests.
Maybe at centre-half-forward he could lead up the ground and make space for Pettard and Howe to score goals. Leigh Matthews agrees – Clark is just not a full-forward.
Melbourne are going to go to the widest ground in Australia this week to play a Top 4 side and if they enact that game plan again, they might as well not show up. They could do an Essendon and book a dodgy plane over.
Mark Neeld’s pasting from the presser however? Spot on. This nonsense from Grant Thomas suggesting he’s alienated his players already is a joke.
Melbourne players are no longer given the free ride they got under Bailey. Swinging the axe should have happened more often, not only after 30-goal losses.
Aaron Davey and Brad Green neglected their roles as leaders on Saturday. Never, in my entire life watching football, have I seen two senior players blatantly lack enthusiasm, morale and general leadership at a time when the club needed something. This leads to the final issue at Melbourne, the playing group.
If the rumours I hear of Mitch Clark and Brad Green getting into an altercation pre-match are somewhat true, then that’s an absolute disgrace.
The occasion and the emotion of Saturday should have put such petty squabbling aside. I hope that is nothing more than vicious rumor, and that it was down to being emotionally drained and out-played that caused that loss, rather than being divided as a group.
Doom and Gloom out of the way, now the positives.
Jack Trengrove and Jack Grimes are the kids to lead that team out of the dark, with Brad Green and Aaron Davey non-existent as club ‘leaders’. James Magner is that rough edge that their midfield has needed for so long.
Jack Watts on a wing will work and Neeld needs to persist. Go direct, kick long, challenge and take risks through the middle. No one should be guaranteed a spot in the side; it should be earned, and this is something Neeld has made clear.
A strict coaching ethos, some bright kids, and some alterations to the game-plan will get them to where they want to go and more importantly, for the sake of those supporters, where they deserve to be.