Neeld buries demons
Mark Neeld and his elite performance manager David Misson. Photo: Getty Images
MELBOURNE coach Mark Neeld has distanced himself from the Dean Bailey era at the Demons, believing last year's catastrophic loss to Geelong, which triggered his predecessor's sacking, no longer has any relevance to the club.
Melbourne takes on Geelong at Simonds Stadium today, where Neeld's theory will be tested.
Although he said it was hard to find weaknesses among the Cats' side, he said today's Melbourne team was different to the one dealt the embarrassing 186-point defeat.
Neeld reportedly even banned players from talking about last year's match ahead of today's game, saying the media did enough of that.
''There's nine players playing for Melbourne who didn't play in that game,'' he said. ''There's a new coaching group, there's a whole heap of Geelong players that are playing who didn't.''
''It's something that happened in the past. I don't think there is any need to mention it, to be honest. That's for you blokes [reporters] to twitter and girls to twitter. You do that for us. We don't have to worry about that.''
Neeld said 19-year-old Tom McDonald faced a huge task today.
''We see Tom as a future consistent key-position defender, and they [Geelong] have got some reasonable forwards. They've got [James] Podsiadly, [Tom] Hawkins, young Mitch Brown, so he'll rotate through the three of them.''
Neeld said Jack Watts, a No. 1 draft pick who was dropped ahead of the game after playing 42 straight senior matches, still had the hunger to play in the AFL
Neeld said although the 21-year-old wasn't playing well, he was far from being jaded.
''It's not a concern at all. He's talented, he's played a whole heap of AFL games in a row. It's a good effort for a 21-year-old kid. He's got a few things [to work on], one of which is the tackling aspect.''
Watts was disappointing last week against St Kilda, failing to curtail Sam Fisher in a unfamiliar negating role. He will play for Casey against Geelong in the curtain-raiser today.
Neeld said he was not sure how long Watts would stay in the VFL, but said he had been receptive to feedback and the changes needed to lift his performance back to AFL standard.
''We've had a couple of really good chats … and he's on the training track confronting the things we want him to confront, and we'll see how he goes at VFL level.''
Neeld said Watts still had a promising career in the AFL and could foresee him playing several vital roles for the club.
''He's tall enough to play as a key forward, there's no doubting that. Can we put some muscle mass on him to enable him to wrestle with those big defenders? Yeah, I think we can.
''He's also got that athletic ability and the agility to play through the midfield, which is hard to match up on. I think he'll spend his career being able to play in a number of positions.''
Former captain Brad Green, who is recovering from a finger injury, is expected to return to the VFL next week.
''He had the pins or wires removed from his finger on Wednesday afternoon, so we are … expecting Brad to play the week after next one,'' Neeld said.
But it is unknown when Green will return to the AFL, after being dropped following the Demon's 108-point loss to West Coast in round two.
''We'll see how his form goes,'' Neeld said.