MELBOURNE coach Mark Neeld last night reacted savagely to the 101-point defeat in Sydney, dumping veteran Aaron Davey, highly rated midfielder Colin Sylvia and No. 4 draft pick Cale Morton for Sunday's clash with Carlton at the MCG.
The Demons also lost Liam Jurrah to injury from the team humiliated in Sydney, and with seven ''ins'' listed on the team sheet, another three could be gone as the fallout from a catastrophic 0-8 start continues.
Neeld called the SCG thrashing ''unacceptable'', and last night followed through on his threat to make changes.
The careers of Davey, the 2009 best and fairest, and Sylvia are at a flashpoint today after poor starts to the season. Sylvia is suffering from a delayed start because of injury. Melbourne's affiliate VFL club, Casey, does not have a match this weekend, so the players will sit out all football.
Among the seven players picked as potential replacements is untried defender Troy Davis, 19, from Geelong Falcons.
Neeld yesterday reiterated his stance that the changes at Melbourne would take time, and he won support from Richmond coach Damien Hardwick. The Tigers' mentor recalled that his start to his coaching career was numerically worse than Neeld's. Richmond lost nine straight under Hardwick at the beginning of 2010 before making a late rally.
''He knows what he is trying to do - you can see the pieces of the puzzle coming together slowly,'' Hardwick said. ''We're just now better at having that good play going for a sustained period of time.
''Having known Mark, he is very solid in his philosophies on footy. No doubt it will eventually turn; it just takes time. It does take time for a playing group to get the game plan they are trying to implement. We were 0-9 and in exactly the same situation, but I think after that we won five or six of the next 11 games.
''They are, at stages, playing some good footy and at stages they are not playing as well as what they would like. But they'll hang in there, they'll hang tough. They've got some good players, and they'll get the job done sooner rather than later.
''He is very thorough in what he does. He'll continue on his path and won't deviate from his plan. And that's what will get the job done for him, much like it has happened for us. We've taken a good 2½ to three years to get where we are now and we are still not there. It does take a large amount of time to get where you need to go.''
Neeld, hired after a successful stretch as an assistant coach to Mick Malthouse at Collingwood, has had a tumultuous start to his career as a head coach, with one
analyst suggesting his appointment was a ''disaster''. But few AFL head coaches do not make it to the end of their first season. (Malcolm Blight was the most recent to be cut, at St Kilda in 2001.)
Neeld said yesterday his coaching staff and the playing group had held ''confronting discussions'' this week and the major changes he was introducing needed more time to bed down. ''We're eight weeks into what's going to be a long journey, if that's the right term,'' he said.
Neeld said longer-term thinking was required. ''You guys [the media] get to analyse every Saturday what is a short-term result. We're certainly focusing on the performances on the weekend, but what we're focusing on is behaviours and actions which are going to lead to change.
''If we jump from scoreboard to scoreboard and make short-term reactions, the chances of having sustained change for the better diminish.''
Meanwhile, the Blues have named ruckman Robbie Warnock for his first game of the season after recovering from a hamstring injury. Like Melbourne, the Blues went hard at the selection table, dropping Jordan Russell and Bret Thornton, with the possibility that more will go when the teams are finalised tonight.