The bigger issues at the Demons
Rohan Connolly and Michael Gleeson believe Melbourne's disappointing performance on the weekend highlights bigger issues at the club.PT5M21S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2hgo8 620 349 April 8, 2013
- Video: The big issues at Melbourne
- Greg Baum: Haunted Demons fans
- Rival coaches offer advice
- Schwab on thin ice
- Vote: How many games will the Dees win in 2013?
Melbourne, it seems, is like Baghdad: in a permanent state of rebuilding. This was the rebuild of a rebuild, but may yet beget another rebuild.
Demons in hell
An ugly set of numbers. Melbourne walk in after losing to Essendon, 6th April 2013. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Melbourne Heart on Monday sacked three former captains, jettisoned stale players and invested its future in youth.
Heart finished second-bottom. The Melbourne Football Club aches for such a lofty finish. Like the soccer team that plays at the ground where it lives, the Demons would sympathise with the idea of wiping the playing slate clean.
The trouble for the Baghdad Demons is they essentially wiped the playing slate clean last year. They cut, moved or lost 12 players at the end of last season. List managers from other clubs believe this year the Demons have 10 players, excluding rookies, coming out of contract, with two more - Col Sylvia and Aaron Davey - free agents. Of those 10 uncontracted players, one is the beleaguered Jack Watts - the player emblematic of the floundering club's fortunes - another is a club captain, and several more are young players requiring time. The scope for more structural renovation of the list is not great.
Viewed in isolation, Melbourne's list management and recruiting in recent years is a catalogue of busts. The conga line of early draft picks dancing into the club and out again, particularly through the 2007-10 period, is damning. But these busts cannot all be of a recruiter's making. Quite simply, they can't have got them all wrong.
Some were surely good players when they walked into the club, if not when they walked out.
Not every club would have taken Watts with the No.1 pick. But every club at the time would have figured him, at worst, to be in the top five. Likewise, Jack Trengove and Tom Scully (admittedly the Demons did try to keep him). Cale Morton was pick four in 2007 and he has been given another chance by West Coast. Not all recruiters liked him that high in the draft, but plenty thought he was capable.
In 2010, Lucas Cook was a first-round, key-position player taken slightly sooner than most expected. He lasted two years, had a few injuries, and left without playing a senior game. ''They didn't get all of their picks wrong,'' a recruiter said. ''Some were, but they can't all be wrong, because so many other recruiters had blokes in similar brackets, so you would expect some of them to come through.
''You play Jack Watts alongside Luke Hodge and have Hodge telling him what to do, how to train, how to behave. Or play him next to Matthew Scarlett and learning from Corey Enright, and Jack Watts is a different player.
''It's really hard commenting on another club because you are not in there, but you wonder about the senior players and the culture of the place, the development programs, but in the end all of that comes back to the coach.''
Another club analyst pointed out few later draft picks or speculative rookies had come through at the Demons in the manner they had at all other clubs.
These are whole-of-club problems. It is not recruiter, coach or director alone who is to blame.
''You look at [Melbourne's VFL side] at the weekend and unfortunately they don't have a lot there that are going to make them better,'' the club analyst said.
''[Rohan] Bail won't, Dom Barry is not ready yet, [Chris] Dawes will improve them when he is fit, Max Gawn was OK in the VFL but probably doesn't make them better, [Neville] Jetta won't help them. [James] Strauss was OK but how much does he help them? [Luke] Tapscott dominated the VFL but does he have the run for AFL?''
The problem for Melbourne is that, despite conceding 28 goals at the weekend, the defence is relatively good. James Frawley is an All-Australian, Colin Garland is a capable player, and Tom McDonald is a promising player but is a boy being asked to play key defence.
The problem is the midfield. Melbourne's best midfielder is the honest Nathan Jones, its next best - Jack Viney - has played two AFL games. Trengove appears to be labouring and looks to lack power in his kicking. Sam Blease has pace and potential, and Jimmy Toumpas is like Viney - a kid who should become a good player in time.
For modern football, which requires up to 10 midfielders a side, Melbourne has too few in number and far too few in class. David Rodan and Shannon Byrnes were brought in for depth but are not, on the evidence available, the players to offer the rented house to live in while the rebuilding is done.