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Demonised coach shrugs off trial by fire

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Martin Blake

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IT'S hard to remember an AFL coach who had a tougher initiation than Mark Neeld.

Every week, there is another drama to confront. And if there is no drama, someone might just manufacture one for him.

This week's is his two-captains-on-the-bench stance against Geelong last weekend, a policy that Neeld insists just ''fell that way''. A ''speechless'' Paul Roos went in hard, and yesterday it was analyst Mark Maclure's ''he's lost the senior players'' comment on Fox Footy, and suggestions that senior players Brent Moloney and Mark Jamar are testing the free agency water.

Melbourne coach Mark Neeld.

Melbourne coach Mark Neeld. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

Before that, it was Liam Jurrah. Then the Aaron Davey affair. And Leigh Matthews' criticism of Neeld's handling of the media. Melbourne keeps losing and has nothing to deflect the blowtorch on the club and its new coach. Yesterday was no different.

''I don't think these press conferences should be 100 per cent about responding to everything that's said in the media, because it's so vast,'' Neeld said. ''But people such as Paul Roos and Leigh Matthews, yeah you take that on board. It's part of the feedback you get which is healthy.

''People outside the club like those two … people inside the club like [director of sports performance] Neil Craig for example, [assistant coach] Jade Rawlings, very experienced people.

''We made a decision based on what was the best thing for Melbourne, which I think sometimes can get overlooked if you're not privy to every bit of data that comes across the desk. You're not the one making that decision, we are. You take that stuff on board. There's some good people with some really good ideas.''

Neeld has turned Melbourne upside down, which amounts to an acknowledgement by the club that the past three years under Dean Bailey's coaching were wasted. It is a monumental decision to make but Neeld is not taking half-measures. If he is going down, then he will be swinging.

He makes no bones about saying his team is in ''development'' , even though the Demons have been there for at least three years already. He classifies his style thus: ''A fair coach. We're in a development phase, so certainly one who's about educating the players about how we want to play. That's how I'd summarise that.''

The 0-6 record speaks for itself. But Neeld sees signs that are not necessarily reflected on the scoreboard. ''I just feel we've been able to play the game more the way we want to play. I put it down to that, pretty much. Things take time.''

What he craves is a club with an even keel, ''an environment that's after continual improvement. You shouldn't know whether you've lost, you've won or you've drawn. That's the way we're going, albeit we haven't cracked it for a win, but I think the improvement in the last few weeks has been good. We want to win, and we're coaching to win all the time.''

36 comments

  • Two Captains, Both on the bench... a policy decision that "fell that way"... this demonstrates rules , policies, paradigms, stratagems....in short, authoritarianism with a lack of consideration to flexibility, adaptability, gut feeling and allowance for individuality and the fact that a team is made up of individual humans, and morale is built on the feeling that an individual can be just that whilst being part of a team. Some of the press releases in the pre-season exposed him as playing more to the press to justify his appointment than fostering team and group solidarity. IMO this guy is way out of his depth and belongs in the army where the captains remain behind the lines and the grunts do the heavy lifting. That is not acceptable in a club.

    Commenter
    hard edge
    Location
    the boundary
    Date and time
    May 11, 2012, 7:57AM
    • You do know that this is your opinion, no different to the media. It's speculative! The ones to blame are the squad that played under Dean, there is clearly a cultural problem with players down there and Neeld's hands are tied with the group he has (where would he be without his coup to get Mitch!!). They should've traded Davey, offed Green and bought back J macd. Good luck to Neeld, he has the toughest job in football and I admire that he's backing himself with his left field decisions. Although, being that far left field didn't help Grant Thomas win a flag. I'm a blues supporter and want to see Melb get up and win one, once we've gone back to back ;)

      Commenter
      Dee's have the blues
      Location
      carlton
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 1:40PM
  • Toilet of a football club

    Commenter
    BerkofromBurwood
    Date and time
    May 11, 2012, 8:08AM
    • Dear Lemons,

      this is what you get for tanking.

      Commenter
      PanickedAttack
      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 8:11AM
      • Melbourne must surely now rue not hiring Sheedy when he was interviewed. He might be slightly out of touch tactically, (a young group of assistants could offset that) but what he could bring to this depressed club is positivity. Can you imagine having a boss like Neeld?

        Commenter
        H
        Location
        Redfern
        Date and time
        May 11, 2012, 8:40AM
        • "IT'S hard to remember an AFL coach who had a tougher initiation than Mark Neeld."

          Er... Damien Hardwick in 2010? Lost the first 9 and Richmond weren't going to win a game, were a Fitzry-esque basket case apperently

          Short media memory

          Commenter
          cardtrader
          Location
          Richmond
          Date and time
          May 11, 2012, 8:41AM
          • Very good point.

            Although at least Hardwick didn't have to deal with anything like the Mifsud/Davey situation, and no-one expected Richmond to be any good (although not 0-9 bad either). Neeld inherited a list that has been repeatedly overrated. There shouldn't have been expectations on Melbourne to finish within sparrow's fart of the 8, but those expectations existed nonetheless.

            Commenter
            Arky
            Date and time
            May 11, 2012, 9:48AM
          • Agee. And throw in Cousins and Connors punching on after a thrashing by Sydney when we socred one goal in a half of footy!

            Commenter
            tough
            Date and time
            May 11, 2012, 1:27PM
        • And to think I was hoping that the News Ltd digital pass would spare us from this type of sensationalist dross. Instead, Fairfax appears to have decided to report on it. the term schadenfreude springs to mind, funny how quiet the media has gone re: the form of Mitch Clark. positive stories don't sell papers though, do they?

          they were terrible for the 1st 3 games, were a genuine chance in the next 2 and have now embarked on a run of games that no bottom 8 club would have a snowflakes chance of winning which will almost certianly see them 0-11. thats OK though, if you (the royal You, being the media) get your way you'll have him sacked and then you can write endless articles about how the MFC lacks the resolve to stick by their appointments

          Who in their right mind would be a coach these days?

          Commenter
          BG
          Location
          Prahran
          Date and time
          May 11, 2012, 9:24AM
          • Actually, Richmond (a fellow cellar dweller) has had an equally ridiculous draw. You had the Lions at home and bulldogs and lost in the first two weeks. The same two weeks the tiges had Carlton and Collingwood.Like you we play the top 8 from last year in the first 11 rounds but unlike you we expect to win games.

            The Dees are in real trouble - but I'm not sure blaming Neeld is the problem.And have to agree that the media is making it hard for Neeld and would be digging for dirt like mad.

            Commenter
            kepler22b
            Date and time
            May 11, 2012, 11:28AM

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