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Try a 'love-fest', Mick tells Dees

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Matt Murnane

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Our footy experts review Adelaide's morale-boosting win over Carlton, and Jeremy Howe's high-flying mark for Melbourne.

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TRIPLE premiership coach Mick Malthouse says embattled Melbourne needs a ''love-fest'' to get its season going, suggesting his former assistant Mark Neeld erase all signs of negativity and focus on what has gone right during his ''horrendous'' initiation to coaching.

Malthouse, who acts as a mentor to Neeld, having nurtured his coaching career at Collingwood, fears the first-year coach could become consumed by the team's mounting deficiencies, and risks losing what little ground the Demons have made in the first eight rounds.

Melbourne plunged further into free-fall on Saturday night, recording its lowest score since round five, 2009, in a disastrous 101-point loss to Sydney at the SCG, 21.12 (138) to 5.7 (37), that left the bottom-placed team still winless.

Jeremy Howe of the Demons takes a screamer against the Swans.

Jeremy Howe of the Demons takes a screamer against the Swans. Photo: Getty Images

The 0-8 start has prompted Malthouse and Melbourne's director of sports performance, Neil Craig, to rate Neeld's first eight weeks in the senior job as the toughest any AFL coach as endured.

It has also left senior commentators such as Matthew Lloyd ''confused'' about the game plan Neeld is trying to implement, and at a loss as to where the Demons can improve for the rest of the season.

''The way I would handle this would be to make it a love-fest,'' said Malthouse, who sits third on the all-time list for wins as a coach.

''You don't point the fingers any more. You cannot say, 'Don't do this or don't do that. You're doing this wrong or doing that wrong','' he said on 3AW yesterday.

''This has got to become, 'I'm with you. We're getting smashed but I'm with you'.

''Let's ask ourselves, 'What do we love about the game?' Let's start to build it up.

''Do something different but don't keep focusing on your deficiencies, they will just drag you down. If you keep attacking your deficiencies, any strong points disappear automatically.''

There was more bad news for the Demons yesterday, with troubled forward Liam Jurrah set for another extended stint on the sidelines - this time because of a leg injury.

Melbourne is preparing for a daunting next three weeks with games against Carlton, Essendon and Collingwood at the MCG before a bye and then a clash with Greater Western Sydney.

In an interview on Channel Nine's Sunday Footy Show aired yesterday, Craig admitted the club was bracing itself for the scrutiny it will face should Melbourne still be winless after 11 rounds.

But the former Adelaide coach said the season had not been a complete write-off, pointing to the emergence of young gun Jeremy Howe and the solid form of midfielder Nathan Jones. Howe, who took a mark-of-the-year contender against Sydney, has been one of the few shining lights for the Demons, lifting his output this year by averaging 15 possessions (up from 12 in 2011), while Jones has also won praise for his work ethic, averaging 22 disposals and five clearances, two more than last season.

The decision to appoint Jack Trengove and Jack Grimes as co-captains has been heavily criticised already this year, but Craig said the inexperienced pair were ''up for the challenge'' and both ''oozed'' leadership qualities.

He also gave a strong endorsement of Neeld: ''What I can say to the Melbourne supporters is that you've got a very strong person who knows exactly where he is going and is open-minded, but very clear about what he wants.''

Malthouse said the club's senior players were letting Neeld down - naming midfielders Colin Sylvia, Brent Moloney and ruckman Mark Jamar.

''I know Brad Green has just come back into the side, but Moloney and Sylvia, they are players that really need to stand up along with Jamar, and I'm not 100 per cent sure they are,'' Malthouse said on Channel Seven's AFL Gameday.

''And it's leaving a lot to the younger players.''

Malthouse said he did not know how much time Melbourne would give Neeld to teach the players without that development turning into wins. But he shot down criticism that Neeld was confusing the players by tweaking the game plan.

''When you start to lose games, you start to work out that sometimes the game structure doesn't suit the team, and you might have to keep throwing it around,'' Malthouse said on 3AW.

13 comments

  • This is the worst effort I have ever seen from a Melbourne side and I have been a supporter for well over 50 years. Most of the team appear to be going through the motions and disinterested. It seems that the only thing they really care about is the money they are being paid. They lack pride, com mitment and passion and they simply surrender. This disgraceful situation is one that has to shared by the entire group of players and coaches. Last year the playing group of pretty much the same players did win games and did play, in the most part, with some semblance of determination and pride. That is not happening this year and it is clear that they do not want to play for Neeld. He might be a good bloke bit he is not a good coach and the MFC hierarchy need to acknowledge that they have appointed a dud and initiate plans to move him out as soon as possible. Mick Malthouse is on his own in supporting his previous assistant coach but the results speak for themselves. Neeld has failed and he and the players who do not want to put in an effort should be sacked.

    Commenter
    Robbo
    Location
    Mt Eliza
    Date and time
    May 21, 2012, 11:04AM
    • I find it hard to blame the coach when he's inherited a rabble of a team that's mired in controversy. Honestly, I don't see the Demons doing much better even if they had any of the AFL's best coaches.

      Commenter
      A. K.
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 21, 2012, 11:06AM
      • Might be worth looking at the negative impact of the new coach and the people he has brought in. For example, what heppened to Melbourne's two long term doctors (both life members) at the start of the year?

        Commenter
        Mick
        Date and time
        May 21, 2012, 11:44AM
        • What were the odds at the start of the season for Melbourne to take home the wooden spoon? I bet no one thought GWS and GC would be above them after 8 rounds.....

          Commenter
          OutWest
          Location
          Perth
          Date and time
          May 21, 2012, 12:08PM
          • When the only positive is the colour of the Melbourne jumper its very easy to allow cynical remedies take over.No one individual ,including Neeld as the new coach can be held responsible.How many times do we see "flat"footballers come of age in a new era of a club. The Dees need love and plenty of it.Their completely "crushed"emotionally and their team interest is DEAD!! I have followed Melbourne since their golden era of the 50's and this is the poorest I've ever known them! While it is sad ,particularly with the most recent memory and passing of Jim Stynes, every player throughout the AFL has two arms, two legs , and an elite level of fitness to make them compete . You cannot tell me this plan or that strategy is not right or Neeld is not liked by his players.Rubbish.!! As far as this highly paid level of footballers are concerned ,each must adapt as a professional and if the older group have lost interest or are placing their personal ego ahead of a changing club they should move on.The "old"boys club image should be cleaned out as this has also contributed to the on field disasters . Given the opportunity ,Mark Neeld will be fine,as any "Knee jerk" reaction will only add as it has in the past to reignite a "club" cancer.

            Commenter
            Will 99
            Date and time
            May 21, 2012, 12:16PM
            • Howe didnt take a mark of the year 'contender' he took mark of the year and possibly the century.

              Maybe Melbourne need to sit down and have a team bonding session involving a few beers together.

              Commenter
              umrum
              Location
              kal
              Date and time
              May 21, 2012, 12:26PM
              • Yet again we see the coach taking the blame for a group of players sulking that things aren't as they'd like them. Neeld is an excellent coach and tactician and he needs to cull the list into what he believes the club needs to succeed. For too long Melbourne players and supporters are not prepared to take the hard road but this time there in no excuse. I thought the sacking of Bailey was a little hasty and the role of Gary Lyon in selecting Neeld a little bemusing as I believe he was a part of the process that appointed Dean Bailey but Neeld is now the coach so if senior players do not want to play for him then he should play ones that do and let Maloney, Jamar and whoever else dissents enter the free agency market as VFL players. Historically Melbourne as a team and a club seem selective about when they want to play. Each year they carry on about the Queens Birthday clash as being their biggest for the year yet is has no more significance than any other. If they get themselves "up" for this game then what about the one before or after. This is what is inherently wrong with this club. Neeld can and will fix that so it's time for tough love. How many coaches must be sacked before players are held accountable?

                Commenter
                Digby
                Location
                Melbourne
                Date and time
                May 21, 2012, 12:30PM
                • The fact that the single good point from our drubbing by the Swans was a single spectacular individual feat backs up the comments from Robbo of Mount Eliza completely. when a mark is all anyone can say about the Dees that is positive, it's a rubbish weekend.

                  Commenter
                  Igomi Watabi
                  Date and time
                  May 21, 2012, 12:31PM
                  • Neeld is an imposter & has to go. Virtually every player has regressed this season on his watch aside from maybe Nathan Jones. His cliched tough talking drill sargaent routine has lost the players. Who sacks all the senior players from the leadership group & replaces them with kids? I defy anyone to say that if they were in the same situation they'd keep providing leadership after clearly being told they were not up to that task. Regular public criticism of players is another example he's out of his depth. It's no surprise that since Craig has left Adelaide have excelled & even Port are showing some heart since Bailey went there. Late 2010 to Mid 2011 we looked on the up & we schooled the tigers with pressure footy & now look at the 2 sides. We'll be lucky to beat GWS

                    Commenter
                    Hank Scorpio
                    Date and time
                    May 21, 2012, 12:53PM
                    • @Hank Scorpio
                      Couldn't agree more.

                      The excuses for losses at the start of the year were that the players were trying to adjust to a new gameplan and strategy that the new coach is implementing.
                      I don't see Adelaide and the Bulldogs having the same problems with new coaches and new gameplans. Maybe it's not the players but the coach's gameplan that is the problem. At the very least Neeld has to get the players up and about for a game, we've only seen it happen in the Jim Stynes tribute game, the St Kilda match and parts of the Geelong game.
                      As an outsider looking in, I can't see Neeld being half the coach that Bailey was, and look how that ended.

                      Commenter
                      Unlce Tony
                      Location
                      Deepressed at my desk
                      Date and time
                      May 21, 2012, 1:47PM

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