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Melbourne's institutionalised losers may never be able to change

Paul Roos implores his charges to lift at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Paul Roos implores his charges to lift at Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images

COMMENT

At what point does someone become so desensitised to failure that it barely hurts at all anymore?

You could argue that we've all developed a callous when it come to Melbourne. Or maybe the nerve endings have gone the way of Port Adelaide's midfield and ceased functioning properly? 

Back-to-back wooden spoons, draft disappointment after draft disappointment, Tom Scully's move to Blacktown, the deaths of Sean Wight, Dean Bailey and Jim Stynes, Mark Neeld and all that came with him, Liam Jurrah, ''non-tankinggate'', racist Facebook posts from major sponsors.

Is it any wonder that the princely Paul Roos, selling a sturdy, successful game plan built on defence would be able to lure the fans into believing?

The years 2012 and 2013 yielded no fewer than 18 defeats by more than 10 goals for the Demons. Their 2013 percentage of 54.1 was the seventh worst of any side since World War II. Included in the six teams ''ahead'' of them in that list were the first two offerings of the GWS Giants, and Fitzroy's tragic final season. The only way was up for Melbourne.

When a club emerges from an era as soul-destroying as that of Neeld, it will cop losses somewhere between honourable and disappointing, so long as it never materialises into the horridness experienced not long ago.

The figure of  54.1 has risen to 72.8, and the wins have doubled from two to four. Roos' outfit is a more challenging side to topple than the one which Neeld and later Neil Craig guided last year. The coach's pre-occupation with absorbing opposition forays has meant that Melbourne has conceded fewer points than top-eight aspirants Adelaide and the Gold Coast, and if you want to throw them in for good measure, Richmond.

Yet through 19 rounds of 2014, the Demons lie 17th on the ladder. Below the Blues, the Bulldogs, and the Giants. Also below the Brisbane Lions, an admittedly in-form unit, but one that fought back from a 14-point final stanza deficit to prevail by nearly four goals. The Lions' comeback was built upon the power forward pairing of Daniel McStay and Michael Close. Franklin and Tippett it was not.

In his coaching life, Roos has tended to be a winner. In eight completed seasons at Sydney, he steered the Swans into seven finals series. He has an aura about him, surpassed by few in the game. To preserve that aura he will need to conjure up something special.

"It's hard to know [with] each individual why, but I think there's clearly some that might not be able to get over what's happened here in the past," Roos said after the game, pondering whether some of his charges had developed an irrevocably defeatist mindset.

Just who are these players potentially incapable of ever getting their heads around the concept of winning consistently? Regrettably there are no shortage of contenders. Only those on the inside will know exactly what these players feel and think when an opening for four points emerges.

Of the group that sank to a 19th straight defeat at Docklands on Sunday (that's 3.7 kilometres or 10minutes' drive from the MCG without traffic for those Demons fans wondering), only two (Chris Dawes and Aidan Riley) have played in more victories than losses during their AFL careers.

There were 11 players in the Melbourne lineup that have both played more than 50 games, and won no more than 26 per cent of them. When half of a side could be described as an institutionalised loser, is it any wonder that the coach thinks that a fair few may never be able to break the tag.

Roos last week committed for 2016, meaning that he now has just over two years to reform the culture. His comments on Sunday suggest that it will be in his role as an amateur shrink that the success or failure of his tenure will turn.

10 comments so far

  • I think Paul Roos has given those on the list he inherited an opportunity to show him who they are and what they stand for. Now it is, no more Mr Nice Guy, you get paid the big bucks to make the hard decisions. I have my own suspects, however I am not going to presume I have to knowledge to guess who Roos has in his cross hairs. Some surprises, some not so surprising. One I am going to stick my neck out with is Frawley!

    Commenter
    Seen
    Location
    The Light
    Date and time
    August 04, 2014, 12:42PM
    • How will we mark Roos if they fail to make the finals next year?

      Commenter
      Go
      Location
      Dees
      Date and time
      August 04, 2014, 1:17PM
      • Win, loss ratio, easy and simple!

        Commenter
        Mark On
        Location
        Progress
        Date and time
        August 04, 2014, 1:32PM
      • My point is that, if Melbourne does not make the finals next year then, the Roos appointment may go down as a failure.

        Commenter
        Go
        Location
        Dees
        Date and time
        August 04, 2014, 3:29PM
      • You are hard person Go. There is a lot to be done at Melbourne, and you have put it on one man to remedy. Your opinion, you're entitled to that.

        Commenter
        Mark On
        Location
        Progress
        Date and time
        August 04, 2014, 6:49PM
      • As a die hard Dees supporter finals next year is not something we even think about finals contention would be an absolute victory.

        Commenter
        chrisfromfawkner
        Date and time
        August 04, 2014, 7:08PM
    • The majority of the Cameron Schwab / post-Danaher mess has been cleared away (admin, coaches), there are just some players & the toxic culture they have been infected with left.
      Once Roos has the chance this off-season to deal with that, he then has another 2 years to build something. Thats a fair deal.

      Commenter
      The Rev
      Location
      Revenstan
      Date and time
      August 04, 2014, 2:07PM
      • So if what Roos is saying about ingrained 'trauma' on players is true - and I think there's still some clarity needed around this - and that he will 'move on' players as a result, isn't this roughly akin to saying that someone who is traumatised by the events of the past needs to get over it otherwise they'll lose their job? In what other workplace would that attitude be tolerated, particularly when the 'trauma' was created by the workplace in the first place?

        Commenter
        janeygotagun
        Date and time
        August 04, 2014, 3:22PM
        • Like most clubs, The Dees can't cover injuries or unforeseen retirements. I think if they had Clarke fit to play and Hogan, the Dees would have won a couple more games and thier game style would not have been ultra defensive. The Dees need to recruit a quality forward to replace Clarke. If they can have some scoring options to compliment Defender next year the teams confidence will rise accordingly

          Commenter
          Go Blues
          Date and time
          August 04, 2014, 3:40PM
          • As supporters we have become institutionalised too, we go every week for several years and more and expected to lose. But this year has been different - yeah we haven't won games we should have won but at least we should have won some games. Don't mind the defensive style right now if we win. With a couple of bad exceptions we have been competitive. Expected far more from one or two potential 'leaders' these last few weeks though and if this is where the article is going....... agree. Expected collateral damage and if disappointing to lose potential talent it has to happen to get where we are now better positioned to go

            Commenter
            mikegriffiths-in-oz
            Location
            melbourne
            Date and time
            August 04, 2014, 8:27PM

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