COMMENT

Melbourne announced only what is patently obvious anyway, that it is in an unholy mess.

Nearly half-way through a season that has been an unmitigated disaster, following yet another 15-goal defeat, as the fans desert in droves, the Demons could say only that they were having a good, long look at themselves, and that new chief executive Peter Jackson would have an even better and longer look.

Concerning beleaguered coach Mark Neeld, Melbourne announced only that there would be no announcement. The ''full confidence of the board'', as everyone knows, is bad enough for a coach, but this was even worse: neither full confidence, nor the total loss of of it, but ''ongoing assessment''. The procrastination becomes its own mute announcement.

Of course, Melbourne is not obliged to act on ghoulish public interest, nor at the whim of media that spent most of Monday peering under the door and over the wall of the embattled club. It should not be panicked into acting precipitously.

But this crisis did not just spring upon the Demons. From the 13-goal defeat to Port Adelaide on opening weekend, it has been staring the club in the face.For more than two months, the Demons have been looking into it.

By now, the committeemen must know whether they take Neeld at his word, that there is method somewhere in this murkiness, that even as the losses mount, incremental gains are being made, that this is all part of the plan. If not before Monday's board meeting, then certainly after it, they must have known whether they thought this was vision or delusion.

I agree with Neeld that you have to be on the inside truly to know. The board is on the inside. And instead of either backing Neeld or moving on, it could say only that it wasn't not backing him.

The committee will say it has its reasons. President Don McLardy's statement is rich in bureaucratic jargon, but otherwise hollow. It leaves the impression the redrawing of a few flow charts will solve everything. But how about the one so conspicuously missing, with a line linking the centre circle to the goal square? A football club is a business not quite like any other. It trades chiefly in hope, a perishable commodity. Such hope as it ever has is invested in the senior coach. He must either be fully in, or fully out.

It is incomprehensible that Neeld has been left hanging. Melbourne's next match is its biggest of the year, the Queen's Birthday clash with Collingwood. Unless another announcement is imminent, it will be played in a void.

What are the players to make of it when Neeld stands before them at the whiteboard this week? What are the fans to think? Melbourne's membership department shingle was out pre-game at the MCG last Sunday, and extraordinarily, it looked to be doing a trickle of business. If only the Demons' board would do the same.