Dees winners? We'll know in about 2015
Win some, lose some: Jack Trengove, left, is still a Demon, while Tom Scully is captain of the Giants. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
FIRST instinct is to think it was all for nothing. That Tom Scully left, as soon as he possibly could. That he plays in western Sydney now, for a team with far more first-round draftees than Melbourne ever got. That the Demons are still trying to get off the bottom of the ladder, three long years later. That, regardless of whether the Demons ''tanked'' or not, losing so many games over so many years has left them with a group that hasn't experienced any serious sort of winning. It's really no wonder that Mark Neeld went after Chris Dawes, Shannon Byrnes and others at the end of last season. They know how teams win.
There's a sense in football that if you're down the bottom then you really need to make the most of your time there, to use it to get back up. The arrival of the Giants and Suns, and their hoarding of the juiciest draft picks, has created a even greater sense of urgency in the past few years. There still seems a fine line between legitimately preparing a non-finals side for the following season by sending players away for surgery, throwing kids in, trialling players in new positions and deciding whether to keep fringe dwellers or delist them.
The questions asked of Melbourne seemed to be about how many changes were made, in single hits, and about how exotic the positions they tried certain players in were. The Demons were asked, during the almost eight-month investigation, why Jack Watts wasn't played more often during his debut season. You could mount an argument that they were irresponsible to expose the skinny schoolkid as soon as they did.
What is clear is that draft picks alone will never solve any problems. Unless, of course, they are absolutely nailed. No club is ever going to get every pick right, because recruiters don't own crystal balls and, given Melbourne's rough recent history, it's reasonable to ask whether they chose poorly or brought good young players into a system that failed at developing them. It's probably a bit of both. Some players have been held back by injury. But still, too many of the club's early choices - Jordan Gysberts, Lucas Cook, Cale Morton, at the end of last year - were gone too soon after they got there. Not enough later picks have kicked on as yet. Hence, last year's clean-out.
While Scully's departure was a kick, the Demons still benefited from their four-win season in 2009. They got their captain, Jack Trengove, with pick two and he was the bonus: had the new priority pick system been in place they would have had to make a call and their call would have been Scully. The only established player they really overlooked (given what they had shown at draft time) was Dustin Martin, who went to Richmond at No. 3. While Nat Fyfe looks a top three player now, he was an inspired choice by Fremantle at No. 20 that year.
It's impossible to tell what Melbourne really did win by losing, though. They were given two first-round compensation picks when Scully left after 31 games, and activated both during last year's trade and draft period. It's hard to determine exactly what they gained, given they worked picks into trade deals, but they took Jimmy Toumpas with one of them (No. 4), and used pick 13 in deals that ultimately saw them end up with 17-year-old key forward Jesse Hogan, runner Dom Barry and Dawes. They were able to use their strong position near the top order to usher Jack Viney through to the second round. Going into trade month with only pick four would have made that a whole lot tougher to pull off.
The verdict? Give it a little longer. It won't be until at least 2015 that we'll really know what Melbourne's ''prize'' was three years ago.
Poll: Has the AFL made itself look foolish on the issue of tanking?
Total votes: 7350.
You will need Cookies enabled to use our Voting Feature.
Poll closed 20 Feb, 2013
These polls are not scientific and reflect the opinion only of visitors who have chosen to participate.