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The $600,000 man

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Demons aren't saying goodbye to coach

After a lengthy board meeting yesterday, Melbourne Demons have stuck with coach Mark Neeld despite a string of heavy losses this season.

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A proposed move by the Melbourne Football Club board to swiftly remove Mark Neeld from the most miserable position in football and temporarily replace him with Neil Craig was derailed at Monday's lengthy board meeting by the Demons' new chief executive, Peter Jackson.

To sack Neeld now would cost the Demons an estimated $600,000 and the club does not have that amount at its disposal, although the prevailing view on Monday was that timing, and not the club's ailing bank balance, handed Neeld what can only be described as a reprieve. The board remains virtually united that Neeld must go but Monday's meeting saw support for the coach from Craig, who was clearly not pushing to step in. The reality is that Neeld's sacking is no longer a decision but a negotiation.

Jackson, who outlined his vision to redesign the club's dysfunctional football operation with a clear priority to appoint a new football operations boss, was also cautious about a move on the coach. But the football operations appointment - complete with AFL endorsement - should come within weeks and potentially as soon as next week after Monday's Queen's Birthday clash with Collingwood.

Under the pump: Mark Neeld drives away from the MCG.

Under the pump: Mark Neeld drives away from the MCG. Photo: Joe Armao

And yet Neeld remains on tenterhooks in a position which can only be described as untenable. After yet another ritual belting on Sunday he spoke of the pressure on his recruiters to get it right at the end of 2013 when clearly he will not be in the job. He is no certainty to coach beyond Monday and president Don McLardy could not even guarantee that.

Monday's board meeting came one month after Jackson took over and the new CEO outlined to the board the radical restructure required to make the club - and not just the football department - functional and potentially successful. A request for special funding from the AFL will be formalised over the coming weeks and the AFL's money will not come without specific guarantees.

The statement released by McLardy was hardly an endorsement for Neeld. It read: ''Our on-field performances have not met expectations this year and everyone in the football department continues to face ongoing assessment in their roles as do those employed in other areas of the club. The club will make no further comment at this time, in relation to the senior coach position.'' In other words the board could not back the coach and he remains under review.

McLardy's decision to sack Cameron Schwab some eight months after recontracting him for three years proved costly and came as a result of the team's worst MCG loss - to Essendon. Like Dean Bailey's sacking it had been on the cards but knee-jerk. Reading the form, Neeld could still go any day now.

Jackson has repeatedly made it clear that the coach alone cannot shoulder the blame for the on-field shambles and needed some clear air to be adequately judged. But clear air is not something the Melbourne Football Club can afford any more than it cannot afford an immediate payout of $600,000.

Should financial relief come it will come from the AFL and the league is not in the business of paying out coaches. The AFL has within its power the potential to remove boards and Melbourne's must demonstrate it means to change.

Perhaps Jackson on Monday managed to persuade the board just how small a part of the problem is the coach. Neeld's reprieve ultimately appears symbolic as much as anything. And certainly short term.

26 comments so far

  • Well well well. They should just kick him in the balls and roll him off a cliff.

    big gaz
    Date and time
    June 04, 2013, 9:48AM
    • What rubbish. This and other articles in The Age today were written on the expectation that Neeld would be sacked. It didn't happen but that didn't stop the articles - because it doesn't sell newspapers. Unprofessional journalism and poor editing at best. Read the Herald Sun to get a, surprisingly, much more accurate and journalistic description of the facts.

      Kevin Armstrong
      Date and time
      June 04, 2013, 10:03AM
      • Yep, certainly Jesse Hogan's 'article' which read like a eulogy was.

        Rohan J. Carringbush
        Date and time
        June 04, 2013, 10:58AM
    • so if Mark Neeld is worth $600K based on his results i think it's time i asked for an raise as i'm actually good at what i do...

      what a high salary for an unproven coach!!!

      Date and time
      June 04, 2013, 10:25AM
      • It's not his salary, it's the cost of getting rid of him. Again Caro has been very misleading on this, although I'm not 100% sure if the author chooses the headline.

        This aside, it's embarrassing how bad Caro is. I now read her articles for more of a laugh, I just don't treat it seriously anymore. It annoyed me too much when I did, and I can't justify treating it seriously either.

        Mr Environment
        Date and time
        June 04, 2013, 11:09AM
      • Yes, a high salary indeed but mere chickenfeed compared to, say, a journalist who derives an income from print, radio AND television. Perhaps Neeld should have a career when they sack him if he wants to earn serious money..

        Date and time
        June 04, 2013, 12:08PM
    • Neeld is not a senior coach, and the club has gone beyond a joke.

      Date and time
      June 04, 2013, 10:29AM
      • Four premierships in a row at Ocean Grove would suggest otherwise.

        ocean grove
        Date and time
        June 04, 2013, 12:24PM
    • In my view, the club had no great expectations for the 2013 season... A down year if you like, and afterall, the coach still had 2 years on his contract. Why else would they pick young players who needed operations (Toumpas), or that could not play till the following year (Hogan) in 2013. As gap fillers they picked a number of experienced players, and with the exception of Daws, these guys have not performed. The reality is that its a tough competition and suddenly with the loss of players due to injury and suspension its more of a down year than anyone expected! The expected down year has quickly turned into a disaster for the team and the coach and the club, and they didn't have a strategy to for this situation... I'd expect now that this is Mark Neeld's end; but due to lack of $$ (resulting from the lack of membership and gate receipts), don't expect that to occur before the end of the season.

      Date and time
      June 04, 2013, 10:34AM
      • Peter Jackson hey.....wonder if Frodo is available!

        Craig Xyz
        Date and time
        June 04, 2013, 10:35AM

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