Melbourne 8.6.54 – Port Adelaide 19.19.133: Progress?

March 31, 2013

Where to begin? Firstly let me say it’s great to be back after spending last year overseas. I wasn’t as active online as I would have liked to be, but it got to the point where it wasn’t worth getting up at 5am to watch a team playing without much passion or desire. I decided to take the second half of the season off and come back in 2013 for what would hopefully be, after a second full pre-season under Mark Neeld, a very different Melbourne team.

Unfortunately what showed up today is a slightly different team in terms of personnel, but attitude-wise it was as bad as we’ve seen. The big screen pre-game promised us we would see things like “magic moments”, “rising stars” and “big wins”. What followed was as insipid and uninspiring a performance as we could possibly have imagined. From start to finish, Port were on top and they never had to get out of second gear. That’s the scariest part – they never had to react to something we did, never had to change something in their game plan. From start to finish they were first to the ball and were allowed to do what they liked.

In the first five minutes we struggled to get a clean disposal, let alone a forward 50 entry. When we did eventually get something going forward it had to be perfect, because ball to ground meant Port were a couple of kicks from a forward thrust of their own. Forward pressure was almost non existent.

They literally had spare players everywhere when they had the ball. It was so frustrating to see Melbourne players constantly trailing their man who marked uncontested, and then rushing to stand the mark as if they had given their all to prevent it. But it was clear to all in the stands that they hadn’t- while we struggled to clear the ball from our back line, with pressured or even uncontested kicks often resulting in either a throw in, a mark to them, or even a rushed behind courtesy of Tom Gillies.

I guess I should talk a bit about what was going on on the scoreboard. We got off to the worst possible start, conceding the first three. Mitch Clark kept us in touch early with a couple of great set shots, from 50 on the boundary,and a banana from the opposite pocket. At that stage it was three goals to two. Then Port hit back, Howe kicked a set shot after a strong grab, and right before the quarter time siren they kicked another to go in ahead by 14. We had to work so hard to get those goals, but Port responded with ease every time. 14 down at the first break.

We were in it, but only just. We needed to start the second quarter well. Two minutes in they had kicked two. A third by Jay Schulz after an early mark of the year contender and the score was 51 to 19. How does that happen, straight after a break? Neeld must have given them some sort of advice on how to get back into the game. Yet they do what I assume was completely the opposite. It’s just not good enough at this level. Goals from Byrnes, Howe Viney and Peterson again kept us within range, but they were all broken up by Port goals. When Peterson kicked his goal at around the 28 minute mark we were 20 points down. My dad was encouraging us to go forward and kick another before half-time, but I would have been equally as happy merely not conceding. Well we gave one up almost instantly, and they even had time for a couple of misses.

And that was the most frustrating thing about it. We had to work so hard for a clean mark or a goal, yet they were able to score with ease. It was basic things that were costing us too. I touched on it earlier but before anything, the effort has to be there. We just didn’t want it. And after an entire pre-season building up to this moment, it just doesn’t make any sense.

So we went into the main break 29 points down instead of 20. It’s a huge difference given how hard we were working for our goals compared to them. Again we needed a response at the start of the third. And again we got the complete opposite. Monfries kicked one to put them up by 37, and that was when the Melbourne supporters began to find their voice. We demanded our players to some passion, to show that they weren’t going to accept what was happening. We not no response. Clark went down with an ankle injury and with him went any hint of a fight-back. Port kicked away and were up by 64 at the last change. 

I stopped concentrating about halfway through the third, choosing to focus my energy on posting angry messages on Twitter, a far more worthwhile and fulfilling exercise than attempting to will on a team clearly not interested in putting up any sort of fight.

It would take far too long to run through the list of players who were below par, so I’ll talk about the one stand out. Jack Viney’s game today was one of the best debut games I’ve seen by a Melbourne player. He embodied everything we weren’t. He clearly wanted the ball, wanted to create something, and had the talent to execute. His pick up and spearing left foot pass to Clark for our first goal was outstanding, and hopefully a sign of things to come. That he was our best player by far today should really be a kick up the arse for the more “senior” players, although I believe some of them have been given a free ride for far too long.

Aside from Viney, I thought Matt Jones showed a bit. Not nearly as talented, but he had a crack. And at the end of the day, that’s all we as supporters can ask. While skill errors are frustrating, they will always happen. Players are human after all. But you can have all the talent in the world, if you aren’t willing to put in the effort, good luck getting a kick on an AFL ground. Jones, as a 25 year old debutante, showed that persistence pays, and it was great to see him have an impact.

After the game, Neeld said:

We didn’t see that coming. Our execution was poor and Port Adelaide was able to captialise significantly on that. Once that happened it was clear to everyone at the ground that our confidence dropped unbelievably.

Inexcusable. Why didn’t we see that coming? Why was our execution so poor? Why did our confidence drop so dramatically? These are AFL footballers. They do this for a living. They are paid to face these kinds of situations, and to deal with them. Not shy away and roll over. If this is the kind of reaction we get every time something goes wrong, well it’s just unacceptable.

The captain had this to say:

We are [shellshocked]. It’s a pretty good way to sum it up I reckon. We are all in this together. We feel like we let the supporters down most of all, and we’re frustrated. There’s a lot of guys that probably have to have a good hard look at themselves but we’ll stick together through it. 

Grimes was okay, probably in our best two or three, but this game required the captain to step up and make a difference. I’m not sure if he is capable of taking a game by the throat. Time will tell, but for me the sooner Viney is captain the better.

Overall, plenty of room for improvement. And it doesn’t get any easier with Essendon at the G’ next Saturday night. A lot will be said this week, both in-house and in the papers, but ultimately our performance is all that counts. There will surely be omissions.  Some players will be held accountable but we can’t make twenty changes. Most of the players that played today will be given a chance at redemption. They must take their chance. For themselves, for their careers, but more than anything, for the club. For the supporters that give their time and money to supporting the Melbourne Football Club. Because our support should not be taken for granted. We give our support but we expect something in return. No one is asking for a premiership in 2013, but we definitely have the right to expect that the players who represent our football club will put in 100% every time they wear the jumper. Anything less is unacceptable.

Let’s see how we respond.

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Blog hiatus

June 5, 2011

Just a quick post to update you all on why I haven’t been posting much recently. I have been very tied down with work recently, and as the posts I write generally take significant amount of time I just haven’t been able to find the time before and after games.

I will still be tweeting as often as I can, and during games. Posting will resume ASAP

Thanks

St Kilda preview: Undermanned but honest

May 21, 2011

Apologies for the lack of coverage of the North Melbourne game. I had half a preview written up but then had to leave home and didn’t have time to finish it before the game. And since that game I really have wanted to take my mind off football, because last week’s game I found was thoroughly depressing. And what made it even worse was that I did my back yelling at the umpire for that Wonaeamirri in the back which wasn’t paid, forcing me to watch the last quarter and a half in excruciating pain while we went from 2 points down to 40. Correlation between the two? I think so.

Anyway, on to today’s game and we face a St Kilda team who are playing as poorly as they have in the last 8 years. You could say that now is a good time to play them, but with the state our team is in at the moment, I don’t think now is a good time to be playing anyone.

Here’s how we will line up:

B: Joel Macdonald, Matthew Warnock, Jared Rivers
HB: Nathan Jones, James Frawley, Jack Watts
C: Addam Maric, Aaron Davey, Luke Tapscott
HF: Jordan Gysberts, Michael Newton, Colin Sylvia
F: Ricky Petterd, Brad Green, Liam Jurrah
FOLL: Stef Martin, Brent Moloney, Clint Bartram
I/C: Matthew Bate, Jordie McKenzie, Neville Jetta, Michael Evans
EMG: Jamie Bennell, Max Gawn, Jeremy Howe

As expected, there were a heap of changes after last week, with four of them forced. I must say I am happy with all five. We know how good Jordie McKenzie is, Matthew Bate is Matthew Bate, Jared Rivers will always be a welcome inclusion even if it comes with the disappointment of Colin Garland’s injury, and Joel Macdonald is one who I rate highly enough on his day. The interesting one is Michael Evans, who will make his debut after some strong form in the VFL. Amazing that Cale Morton can’t get in the side this week. Evidently, he is really struggling for form at the moment, and who knows this kid may turn out to be another rookie-list wonder boy, but there is something seriously wrong. Is it his attitude? Is it his boring tweets (no-one gives a fuck what you’re having for dinner)? Whatever it is, it needs to be fixed quickly because someone like him, not that the number you’re drafted at means anything, should be playing in the 1’s.

No matter who is and isn’t playing today, we need 100% effort from each and every one of them. St Kilda are so low on confidence that a start like last week could easily put them to bed. I can’t believe I’m saying that after what happened last week, but if a start like that is obtained, I have no doubt that we will not let the same thing happen again.

As always the centre clearances will be important. Brent Moloney needs to find a way to get touches without the Russian, and will be crucial to us getting those clearances. It’s Nathan Jones’ 100th game, and no matter what you think about his footballing ability (much improved this year anyway), he is one who always gives 100% when he runs out in the red and blue.

Must cut this one short as I am heading to the game now.

COME ON MELBOURNE

Melbourne 22.17.149 – Adelaide 8.5.53: A great win soured by Grimes injury

May 10, 2011

Happy post match blog is what I wanted, and happy blog is what we’ve got. An outstanding 96 point win over Adelaide yesterday at the MCG was far more than anyone expected, but was certainly no less welcome. Unfortunately while the performance was almost perfect, it was soured by the news that the foot injury sustained by Jack Grimes in the first quarter is likely to keep him out for the remainder of the season.

Good news first though. As I said yesterday, after the West Coast game we all had doubts about whether that performance was a true reflection of where we are at, or whether it was just a ‘blip’ on the radar. After yesterday, we still don’t know. But what we do know is that when we want to, we can be competitive with any team in the competition.

Yesterday was certainly our best performance since the Sydney game in round 17 last year. On a cold and wet day in Melbourne, we were doing everything right in the first quarter except put the score on the board. We were winning clearances by the dozen, Brent Moloney immense in that department winning 19 for the game, and once we got it in the forward-line it never seemed to come out. Liam Jurrah and Lynden Dunn were our only goal kickers for the term, both from snaps, but goals were the exception rather than the rule in quarter 1. Dropped marks, missed set shots and poor decision making close to goal cost us dearly. The conditions made it tougher than usual to be clean with the ball, but there was still no excuse for some of the marks that went down. At the other end, Adelaide made the most of the only two chances they had, and amazingly they were within 7 points at quarter time, 2.7.19 to 2.0.12. Grimes was subbed off late in the quarter with what Twitter (handy in these kinds of situations) told me was a foot injury and was replaced by Austin Wonaeamirri.

In the second quarter it really was more of the same. Jack Watts, who played a stellar game, took a strong mark near the boundary, played on and just missed to the near side. Just on Watts, his contested marking has become a real feature of his game, he just needs to improve the bit that comes after. He is certainly coming along nicely, and I am optimistic that he can become an elite player in the next season or two.

As the quarter continued, the inaccuracy became more and more worrying. The longer it went on, the more likely it seemed Adelaide were going to get back into the game.  We went on a bit of a run late in the quarter, which featured a 55m bomb from Luke Tapscott for his first AFL goal. Bartram kicked a rare goal after a great bit of play from Sylvia and suddenly it looked like we would be heading into half time with at least a decent show for our efforts. It didn’t turn out that way, as Adelaide kicked two late goals to bring the margin back down to 14 at the long break.

A very disappointing way to end the half, but the signs were there. If we could keep that kind of intensity up in the third quarter, we knew the game would be over by three-quarter time. A mate mentioned to me that it had a feel of the Hawthorn game in round 2, only we were the dominant team this time around, but wasteful in front of goal. I agreed, and going by that logic we were going to blow them away in Q3.

And blow them away we did. It started with a Ricky Petterd mark and goal, which swung back further than a Glenn McGrath yorker. It was followed by two in a row from Colin “Hank the Tank” Sylvia (thank you DemonsHQ Twitter account) and a goal from Aussie, and suddenly the lead was out to 40 points. It didn’t end there, with Petterd bagging two more, Aussie kicking one from the square which was nearly touched, and Watts and Green both kicking goals themselves. Adelaide were only able to kick one for the quarter, and just like that we were 60 points up at 3/4 time and the game was over.

In the fourth it was again more of the same, unfortunately we were just not able to extend the margin beyond the 100 point mark, but a fantastic win nonetheless. Nathan Jones’ Goal of the Year contender was certainly a highlight of that quarter.

After the game, Dean said:

The game’s about the players. I see five of you writing [down that] the game’s about the players and the rest of you are obviously not sure about it. But they’re the ones who actually contribute and they’re the ones who lay the tackles and they’re the ones who put their bodies on the line. The game’s about them and I was pleased to see them contribute and they’ve had a terrific week at training. They’ve contributed to everything and they’ve worked hard and they got a really good result today.

And went on to say:

We played at a very good standard today but we’ve got to keep doing it. We can’t go from West Coast standard to this week’s standard and accept something that is in between. Because it won’t get us the result we’re after.

And he is absolutely spot on. Firstly, it was great to see him back in the coaches box again. Amazing what you can do as a coach when you can actually see the game. Secondly, you have to hand it to him for giving the credit 100% to the players, and he is correct in saying that. But he will be feeling mightily relieved after the game. There’s no doubt the pressure was on him this week like never before in his time, if not internally then certainly externally, and I think it is correct to say the players and the coaching staff have responded well. He understands the way it works with fans and the media. If the team plays well, it’s all down to the players. If the team plays poorly, it’s the coach’s fault. That’s just the way it is, however unfair it may be.

His second point is spot on as well. These kinds of performances must be the norm, not the occasional spikes in the graph. It’s no good coming out flat against Norf next week (more on them later), it must be the same intensity, the same relentless pressure, but maybe a little more accuracy in the first half. The effort, however, must be the same.

I don’t think there was anyone you could say had a bad game, unlike last week where nearly everyone was lucky to still be in the side. In particular Moloney was amazing with his almost world record breaking 19 clearances (Brownlow odds anyone?). He just seemed to be everywhere at the stoppages. Him and Jamar have some sort of psychic connection going in that Jamar always seems to know where he is going to be. Long may it continue.

Down back, Matthew Warnock did a good job overall on Tippett, some of his last-ditch spoils were outstanding. Colin Garland and James Frawley (welcome back) did a great job providing run out of defence, but it really came down to the amount of clearances we won, and the amount of inside 50’s we kept them to. Dean made an interesting comment after the game, saying that if you lose the centre clearance your defenders are defending right near their goals, whereas if you win it out of the middle, the defenders are defending from further up the ground which puts them under less pressure. It was obviously something they stressed during the week, and it certainly paid off.

All the usual suspects played their part, and it was a welcome return to form for Brad Green and Aaron Davey. Green was finally able to find the footy, and looked to be under less pressure with the inclusion of Petterd and Matthew Bate. The jumper grab after he kicked that goal was a great moment, and you could see how much it meant to him. Davey played the quarterback role well, with his disposal efficiency much better than it has been so far this season. Addam Maric also had a much better game than he did in round 1, hopefully he can take that form into next week.

There are plenty more players who deserve recognition, but yesterday really was an outstanding 4 quarter, team effort. Let’s see it again next week.

To the bad news now, and I along with all supporters am shattered for Jack Grimes. Firstly, here’s what club doctor Andrew Daff had to say:

It is expected Jack will make a full recovery. This is clearly a serious injury but we have time on our hands to manage it correctly to ensure he has no long-term issues in the future.

And that has to be the main thing. While it is disappointing for us now, the most important thing is that he makes a full recovery and doesn’t have any recurring problems in the future. I’m no doctor but I know that stress fractures can be problematic in the future if he does not get sufficient rest and rehabilitation. He has been touted by many as the next captain of Melbourne, and we can’t have a captain who keeps getting recurring injuries ala James Hird. Short term pain, long term gain and all that.

More disappointing news with Jake Spencer going down with a knee injury likely to keep him out for the rest of the season as well. I know many people don’t rate young Pencils as a footballer, but clearly the club sees his as a long-term project, and for this kind of injury to occur is very bad news. Again, let’s hope for the best.

And so, we move on to next week where we face Norf Melbourne at the dreaded Etihad Stadium. Last time we won there? Heck if I know, and we’re playing a home game later in the year there too. Disgraceful fixturing by the AFL. I hate Demitriou….another day.

I really really hate North Melbourne. I hate their supporters (the few they have), I hate their coach, and I hate their supporters. All year last year, with Brad Scott leading the charge, they went on about how their young list was better than Melbourne’s. Not just that it was a good young list, specifically that it was better than Melbourne’s. We know who’s list is better, but we don’t go ringing SEN telling Mark Fine how great our list is compared to theirs specifically. We don’t ring SEN at all, but again another day. Point is, they’re a poor club crying out for recognition when no-one wants to give them any. Those losses last year hurt big time, even though one was in round 22, and nothing short of an effort like yesterday’s will do.

Unfortunately with the Grimes injury and Trengove’s suspension, we will have to make at least two changes to what would have otherwise been an unchanged line-up. Jamie Bennell will certainly, I think, come back in for Grimes and possibly Morton or Jetta in for Trengove.

For now though, let’s enjoy the win. It’s been a while since we had one like this.

Adelaide preview: The biggest game since 2007

May 8, 2011

I’m feeling some very mixed emotions towards today’s game. I think anxiety would be my overriding emotion because we don’t know if the team we saw get smashed by West Coast last week is the one that is going to turn up to the MCG today. I’m also feeling excitement because it’s our first home game in a month. And whatever you think about the team’s current form, there really is nothing like being at the G’ watching the boys in red and blue run around.

To team news first, and as expected there are a number of changes. Here’s how we will line up:

B: James Frawley, Matthew Warnock, Clint Bartram
HB: Nathan Jones, Colin Garland, Luke Tapscott
C: Ricky Petterd, Jack Grimes, Colin Sylvia
HF: Jack Watts, Liam Jurrah, Addam Maric
F: Brad Green, Matthew Bate, Aaron Davey
FOLL: Mark Jamar, Brent Moloney, Jack Trengove
I/C: Jordan Gysberts, Lynden Dunn, Austin Wonaeamirri, Rohan Bail
EMG: Joel Macdonald, Michael Newton, Neville Jetta

Jared Rivers, who is out with an ankle injury, is the only forced change and Matthew Warnock comes in to replace him. We will certainly miss Rivers, who has been our best defender this season, aside from Garland. We are facing what I consider to be the most promising young forward line in the league. Kurt Tippett, Taylor Walker and Chris Knights can all take marks and kick goals. More on them later.

As for the omissions, I don’t think you can argue that any of the three did not deserve to be dropped. But then again, who didn’t based on last week, aside from Garland, Bail and Watts? Once I saw Stef Martin was out, I was almost positive Michael Newton would be making his season debut as a forward/ruckman. I was therefore surprised to see Addam Maric included alongside Ricky Petterd and Matthew Bate instead of Juice. While it is certainly risky going in with just Mark Jamar rucking on his own, I think a bit more mobility around the ground could be the way to go. If he goes down we will be looking at possibly Lynden Dunn or Colin Sylvia, who I remember competing in a ruck contest a few years back and winning it well. Maybe Liam Jurrah could do a bit of ruck work as well.

Ricky Petterd and Matthew Bate both had to come in after last week’s forward line debacle, and I think they will provide good leading targets in the forward 50 as well as being able to push up the ground and create space for Jurrah. They will also hopefully take some pressure off Brad Green, who has been struggling for form so far this season. I agree with Supermercado from Demonblog on this one, he should be played almost exclusively inside the forward 50. And for christ’s sake man, lead towards the middle, not the boundary!

As for Cale Morton and Jamie Bennell, well Morton needs to go back and find form with Casey. He needs to go back to basics, because that is what is letting him down at the moment. His kicking skills, once his best attribute, are now really letting him down and he has become a liability. There has been quite a bit of talk recently about whether going back to the VFL really does enable players to get into AFL standard form because the pace is so much quicker. For me, I think Morton is one who would benefit from a stint with Casey as it will allow him that little bit of extra time to make his decision and then execute the skill correctly. Let’s hope he can do it because he is a talented player who is letting the team down at the moment.

Regular readers will know that I am a big Jamie Bennell fan. I know a lot of people think otherwise, but I think he adds something to our team that no-one else does, in that he is very skilled, very quick and can play forward, back and in midfield. I hope he is back in the team soon.

As I said earlier, we face today what I consider to be the most promising forward line in the competition. As well as Tippett, Walker and Knights, they have Patrick Dangerfield who could possibly be quicker than Aaron Davey, they have Richard Douglas who can kick goals and also win plenty of ball, and they have Scott Thompson, who’s departure at the end of 2004 is one that still pains me to this day. I say it every week, the way to stop their forwards is to stop the supply. We are almost dead last in the competition for inside 50’s conceded and it really is not good enough. Not enough of our midfielders are accountable enough defensively, and it is something that will need to be significantly improved from last week.

We know all about our record against them at AAMI Stadium, but our record against them at the MCG is not too bad in the last few seasons. I think. Well we beat them here last season after a terrible first half, but are not likely to get away with a start like that, or the starts against Brisbane and West Coast today. Our foot must be on full throttle right from the start. There are plenty of things we can analyze, plenty of stats that we will need to win, but overall the attitude must be one of desperation, hunger and mercilessness. Last week’s performance was unacceptable, especially the first quarter, and the supporters will most certainly not be in a forgiving mood today. This is the biggest game of Dean Bailey’s career, and he needs the players to stand up for him. If they can’t find any motivation for this game, I think the executioner might well be sharpening his axe.

It’s time to get our season back on track. No more excuses. And most of all, I just want to write a happy post match blog for once.

Come on Melbourne!

West Coast 15.16.106 – Melbourne 6.16.52: Lost for words

April 29, 2011

It’s hard to know where to begin. How about some Nathan Jones comments:

At the moment, with emotions running high, it’s probably one of the worst losses I’ve played in.

And I don’t think that view would have changed having slept on it. As I said yesterday, last night was an opportunity on prime time national television to make a statement over in Perth. Instead, the whole of the football public now knows that at the moment we are well off the pace in terms of finals calculations.

The first quarter was abysmal. 5 goals to 0 was one thing, but we were literally letting them do as they pleased out there. They were breaking tackles like we weren’t even there, and were finding free players at will. When we finally managed to get the ball we either bombed it straight back to them (God forbid we have a forward who actually holds his position) or were caught in possession trying to run it out with backwards handballs. We weren’t helped by the worst umpiring decision in the history of the game which gifted LeCras a goal from directly in front, but you can’t say they didn’t deserve it the way we were playing. At quarter time the game was all but over.

We needed some sort of spark at the start of quarter 2, and Jones provided it with a fantastic running goal. They hit back almost immediately and from there the quarter was pretty even. Colin Garland did well in defence playing a sweeping role of sorts across half-back. I can’t remember too many times where he was beaten in a one on one, so he can hold his head high. Jack Watts was also having a very good game by his lofty standards, taking strong contested marks and disposing well by foot.

So 26 points down at half time and in true Melbourne fashion we were playing shit football, were never going to win, but were just close enough to keep you interested in the the second half. Dean Bailey doing an interview just before the third quarter began was not a great look in my opinion. I’m all for players and coaches giving media greater access on game days but he needed to be 100% focused on the game at that point.

As for the second half? We needed a good start to the 3rd quarter but instead they kicked a couple of quick ones and the game was over. Tee fact that they subbed off LeCras at 3/4 time said it all. It was threatening to get really ugly at the start of the 4th, but at full-time a 54 point margin flattered us in my opinion.

I do, very quickly, want to talk about the umpiring. The certainly did not cost us the match last night, but you could tell they were very influenced by the home crowd. The LeCras free in the first quarter was one of the worst I have seen. When the umpire blew the whistle he had a look on his face which showed that he knew he had given the free kick away, as did the entire crowd and the Channel Ten commentators (enjoy calling the netball next year). A disgraceful decision.

The other one I want to bring up is the Garland out on the full one. Yes it was the right decision, but the boundary umpire had made his decision, only to be overturned by a field umpire who after hearing the reaction from the crowd, looked up at the replay and then changed the call. Are they allowed to change decisions after looking at replays? Definitely not. Would it have happened at the MCG. Not a chance. As I said, I don’t think for one moment they had any impact on the result, but just as players and coaches get criticized for their performances, so should the umpires.

And now back to the real issues of the game. Comments from Dean Bailey:

It is a poor performance. We need to get back on the training track and, not only get confidence there, but lift our intensity.

When you travel interstate you obviously want to get off to a good start, you want to win a couple of the really key indicators in the game like contested possessions and you want to get your accuracy right and your tackling right.

Particularly when you travel interstate those areas are really important and in the first quarter that’s what let us down. We turned the ball over too much… and turned it over trying to go inside-50 too often as well.

If we knew what we needed to do at the start of the game, why then did we give up a five goal to nothing first quarter? It is inexcusable after four years of senior coaching experience for your team to come out like that at the start of a game. The fact is these types of performances have occurred far too frequently since Bailey has been in charge. Already this season we we have had the 1st quarter against West Coast, the 3rd against Hawthorn, the 1st against Brisbane, the 3rd against Gold Coast and parts of the 1st and 3rd against Sydney. These kinds of moments are costing us games and it is just so demoralizing for supporters to see it happening again and again. Why does it keep happening?

Plenty of supporters are calling for Bailey’s head right now, and after that performance I don’t blame them. I’m not quite ready to start joining Facebook groups as I think we should be giving him at least half the season, but if things are still going the way they are by then I think his head will be very much on the chopping block.

It doesn’t help when your players give you that kind of an effort. Can I ask what has happened to Brad Green? Last year he couldn’t be stopped, now he can’t seem to get into games. His goalkicking is really struggling, but it doesn’t help when most of your shots are taken from the boundary. Lead to the middle for Christ’s sake and make it easier for yourself.

And what about Jack Grimes? Top kid and all that but in what way does he impact games? All he does is get cheap kicks in defence and half the time he turns it over. I’m not really sure what his role in the team is.

Onto next week, and we’re back at home finally against Adelaide. It will have been a whole month since we’ve played at the G’ and despite last night, I’m looking forward to the game. Changes will need to be made. Ricky Petterd must come back in. Not sure who comes out, maybe Wonaeamirri. But the fact is we need to see some sort of sign that we have turned the corner. We don’t want to hear any talking from anyone at the club. Just put in the hard yards this week on the track, and let the football do the talking.

West Coast preview: A true test

April 28, 2011

Tonight sees us travel to Perth, a place we haven’t won since 2004 (remember Peter Vardy’s last quarter heroics?) to face a West Coast team which has surprised many so far this season. After last year’s wooden spoon, many believed it would be more of the same this year and that John Worsfold would be sacked before season’s end. It hasn’t quite turned out that way so far.

More on them later, but first to team news. Here is how we will line up tonight:

B: James Frawley, Jared Rivers, Clint Bartram
HB: Jack Grimes, Colin Garland, Luke Tapscott
C: Brad Green, Nathan Jones, Rohan Bail
HF: Jordan Gysberts, Colin Sylvia, Aaron Davey
F: Austin Wonaeamirri, Liam Jurrah, Jack Watts
FOLL: Mark Jamar, Brent Moloney, Jack Trengove
I/C: Jamie Bennell, Cale Morton, Lynden Dunn, Stef Martin
EMG: Matthew Warnock, Ricky Petterd, Addam Maric

No change for the third consecutive game, which is a good thing. It means no injuries, it means we have stability and it means the players who have played in the last couple of games haven’t done much wrong. Which is true, to an extent. Both wins have been unconvincing performances against much weaker opposition than what we face tonight. On the other hand, wins are wins and I really don’t think we should be complaining after a 90 point win on the road.

I know many supporters want Ricky Petterd back in the team, and while I think he is a very good player, at the moment team balance means he just doesn’t quite fit in to our best 22. He just has to keep working hard at training, and as soon as there is a spot available no doubt he will be given an opportunity.

I like these comments from Brad Green:

We are judged on teams around us like West Coast and Richmond and Brisbane and North Melbourne, and we are all in the same boat trying to win games of footy like this.

Which I agree with. Games like tonight are the kind of games we need to be winning in order to take that next step at a team. As I said earlier, we haven’t won over there since 2004. It’s time to end that hoodoo. Last season they beat us at home in what was, in my opinion, our most disappointing performance of the season. Coming off such a close loss against the Bulldogs the previous week, to lose to the eventual wooden spooners in front of a decent MCG crowd was really not good enough. A win tonight would go some way to putting that right as well.

West Coast have some very good players all over the ground. Down back they have Darren Glass, who will probably line up on Liam Jurrah. Up forward they have Quinten Lynch, Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling, all very capable tall forwards. In midfield they have Andrew Embley and Matt Priddis who are both in really good form at the moment. And of course in the ruck they have Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui. There’s also the small matter of Mark LeCras, who is returning from injury much earlier than expected.

I think the key to tonight’s game will be to control the tempo of the game. If we allow them to keep the ball and use the open spaces of Patersons Stadium, we will be in trouble. Again, it comes down to winning the clearances out of the centre and around the ground, and to do that we will need Mark Jamar to have a blinder in his 100th game.

There’s no doubt Mark Jamar is persistence personified. At 28 years of age, he is certainly above the average age for a 100 gamer. He played second or third fiddle to Jeff White and Darren Jolly and then Paul Johnson after 2005 and was certainly not performing consistently enough for fans to think he had any future at the top level. In 2009 he struggled with injuries but in the games he did play he performed very well, especially as a tap ruckman. 2009 definitely set him up for his breakout 2010 where he won All-Australian honours, and again he has continued his form into 2011. Let’s hope we can have a big win for the Russian.

A good interview with him on the official site.

I really think tonight is a big opportunity for us in more ways than one. We are getting good prime time free to air exposure as the only game on tonight, and it is a real chance to show the football world that we are a genuine top 8 contender. It is a chance for us to put last year’s result right, and a chance to break our Perth hoodoo. Let’s take it.

GO DEES

Gold Coast preview: It’s the attitude that counts

April 17, 2011

Good afternoon from Melbourne, unfortunately.

Today’s game against the Gold Coast Suns is not a danger game in terms of the result. We are literally playing against a bunch of teenagers, a rugby league player and Michael Rischitelli. There can be no excuses for anything other than a comprehensive victory.

But there is something about this team that isn’t sitting right with me. What Brent Moloney did after last week’s game was totally unacceptable and he deserved everything he got. I can’t understand people who say the penalty was too harsh. Would he have done it if we were playing Collingwood this week? No chance. What kind of example is that for the younger players? I love Beamer and the way he plays, but professional footballers should not be going out until all hours just after a game. I heard someone important talking during the week about how preparation for the following week begins immediately after the full-time siren. I’m not sure he should be playing today.

Shane Crawford makes a lot of sense in his article in the Herald Sun today. On the importance of recovery:

The fact that the team is travelling interstate this week makes recovery so much more important. Drinking that night probably put back his recovery from last week by two or even three days.

And on our season so far:

The Demons’ form is ordinary. A draw with the Swans was OK, but the second-half performance against Hawthorn in Round 2 was unacceptable. To have captain Brad Green suggest that the Hawks will be a contender for the flag could not camouflage just how poor the Demons played. They were not much better against the Lions last Sunday, falling over the line to register their first win of the season.

Couldn’t agree more, especially on the Green point which was what I was saying in the days after that game. There was too much “Hawks are awesome” and not enough “we were terrible”. We had that game at half-time. They lifted a couple of notches and we couldn’t match them.

Anyway, that game has been done to death, but the game against Brisbane was not much better. If not for some individual brilliance from Liam Jurrah we could have been 7 or 8 goals down at half-time against a better team than the one we’re playing today, but still an awful one at AFL level. The Sydney game wasn’t great either, and while they’ve proven that they are a genuine finals contender, we didn’t play well that day.

One more extract from Crawford’s column:

It’s time for Melbourne to make a stand. The club has accepted mediocrity for far too long. If the Demons stick together, they have a real window of opportunity. If they don’t, then they will just be another side that teases and frustrates their supporters once again.

And it starts today. While the result should be a foregone conclusion, it’s the attitude that really counts. Sure we could coast through this game and still win quite comfortably, but I think all supporters want to see ruthlessness today. No mercy.

GO DEES

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Unfortunately the game is on delay on 7, so no in-game tweeting today unfortunately. Will be on Twitter as soon as the game is over on TV, which may or may not be after the final siren.

Brisbane preview: Time to bounce back

April 9, 2011

A quick preview today, only because there’s not really much to be said.

I think it’s fair to say there’s been a pretty massive fallout from the Hawthorn game last Sunday. Supporters have made their thoughts clear, and as you would expect, the players and coaches agree. Nothing short of a 4 quarter effort will do tomorrow.

To team news first, and here’s how we will line up:

B: Luke Tapscott, James Frawley, Clint Bartram
HB: Jared Rivers, Colin Garland, Jamie Bennell
C: Colin Sylvia, Jack Grimes, Rohan Bail
HF: Austin Wonaeamirri, Stef Martin, Jack Trengove
F: Brad Green, Liam Jurrah, Jordan Gysberts
FOLL: Mark Jamar, Brent Moloney, Aaron Davey
I/C: Nathan Jones, Jack Watts, Cale Morton, Lynden Dunn,
Emg: Matthew Warnock, Ricky Petterd, James Strauss

As expected, changes have been made. Jordan Gysberts, Austin Wonaeamirri and Cale Morton come in to the side replacing Addam Maric, Neville Jetta and Ricky Petterd. Maric and Jetta were the two obvious ones but after that it was always going to be tricky. Unfortunately it’s more a case of too many players deserving to be dropped rather than too many players playing well, but there are plenty still on notice. Fans overall seem to be disappointed that Petterd has been dropped, and I tend to agree, but we were smashed in midfield last week. I don’t think it would be wise to weaken that area, and taking Jones out would be doing that. Once we get it into the forward line we are usually a good chance to score, we just need to get it in more often.

So, the Brisbane Lions. To be honest I don’t really know too much about them. I watched their first quarter last week against the Bulldogs and it was probably the worst quarter of football I have ever seen. Basic skill errors like dropped marks and missed targets were a strong feature and while they probably had the better of the play in the opening 1o minutes they couldn’t find a way to kick goals. With Jonathan Brown out this will most likely be a problem for them again this week.

If we play somewhere near our best then realistically I can’t see them getting near us. Forward, back and in the centre we have the advantage talent wise. But if we play like we did in the third quarter last week, we will not win this game. Talent is one thing, but if they want it more than us then they will get it. We must approach this game as if we are playing Collingwood and only that way will we get the best out of ourselves. They have a few decent players like Daniel Rich and Tom Rockliff, but nothing that you can say we won’t be able to handle. We are in control of our own destinies this week, it’s about how much we want to win for ourselves, and to show the football public that we are still a genuine chance for the top 8. It seems unlikely after the way we played against Hawthorn, but remember it is only round 2 and there is still a lot of football to be played.

For now though, let’s just get the 4 points tomorrow.

Hawthorn 16.26.122 – Melbourne 12.5.77: The scoreboard tells the story

April 3, 2011

What can you say about that?

The scoreboard certainly  tells the story. A team can be as inaccurate as they please if you give them 42 scoring shots to 17. If you convert all of those shots to behinds, we would only have won by 6 goals. Chances are the ball would not have left our defensive 50 the entire match. If you convert all those shots to goals….let’s not depress ourselves any further.

The first 10 minutes were dominated by the Hawks. We couldn’t get our hands on the ball, our defense was under enormous pressure and even when we did get it the disposal was poor. Luckily for us they were inaccurate, kicking 1.7 or something before we could get it past halfway, or so it seemed. We finally got going through Dunn and Davey, both kicking nice goals on the run, and suddenly we were level. We then amazingly took the lead after Watts converted a set shot after a strong grab in the 50. We had settled and were looking alright. Hawthorn kicked another goal before the break and we went into quarter-time only a point behind.

In the second quarter we took control. Everything crap we were doing in the first 1o minutes turned into awesomeness as we started to win the 50/50’s and were looking dangerous going forward. Green, Jurrah and Jamar all kicked goals from set shots, Jamar’s coming on the end of some brilliant team play further upfield. At the other end Hawthorn’s forward line was non-existent, Garland and Rivers letting nothing past them. Green kicked one in the goal square after Jurrah handballed over the top, then Trengove snapped a goal after some outstanding forward-line pressure and it was really looking like it could be our day. We were up by 27 points, the Hawthorn supporters were quiet while the Dees fans were going bananas. If only we’d known what was to come.

Still, chances went begging in that second quarter. We had them on the ropes but were not able to put them away. They were able to scrap a goal through Bateman whose mongrel kick somehow went straight, and ended up going into half-time only 19 points up. We were playing well, but they are the kind of team who can kick goals very quickly. We knew they would come out firing in the second half, the question was whether we would be ready.

The answer, in short, was no. They got the first goal of the term through Bruce who, after trying to fuck it up by handballing to Cyril Rioli’s (or “squirrel” as the bloke behind me was calling him) feet, got on the end of the return pass from Rioli and snapped the goal. We had to respond and we did through a Petterd set shot from about 25 out. Why he was the sub last week is beyond me, but hopefully it doesn’t happen again.

From there, it was all Hawthorn. I can understand just being outplayed and outmatched by a better team, but we have no-one to blame but ourselves. They lifted a notch like we knew they would, and unfortunately we couldn’t respond. After dominating the contested ball in the second quarter, I don’t think we won any 50/50 contests in the third. They were first to the ball, they wanted it more than us and were looking dangerous every time they got the ball. Aside from the fact that they kicked 8 goals, the ball hardly left our defensive 50. From kick-ins and from general play we were literally kicking the ball straight back to them. Uncontested.

We’ve never had a decent kick-in structure. It was shit under Daniher and I see no signs that it has improved at all under Bailey. At least back then we could get Wheatley to bomb it 65 metres. If it’s not the coach’s fault then it comes down to the players for not executing it.

Speaking of which, half way through the third quarter it looked like our players were already hoping for three-quarter time. Where was the on-field leadership? It isn’t basketball where you can call time-outs whenever you please. A game like that with such a young group was crying out for the experienced players to stand up and take the game by the throat. I’m talking about players like Brad Green, Brent Moloney, Aaron Davey, Nathan Jones and Colin Sylvia. They were nowhere to be seen and it’s just not good enough. We let a lot of experience go at the end of last season and it’s games like these where the experienced boys we do have needed to stand up and take control when players like Grimes, Frawley, Garland are having to defend for 25 minutes without any help. We conceded 74 inside-50’s in that game. And we’re meant to be fighting for a top 8 position? Fuck me.

I would go as far as to say that that third quarter was the worst quarter ever under Bailey. To go from 27 points in front to 33 down in one quarter…it just can’t happen. And to be honest, the scoreboard doesn’t truly reflect their dominance. They kicked 8.10 for fuck’s sake.

It just seems all too familiar for Melbourne supporters. Sure we can blame it on the umpires for not knowing the rules, but 42 scoring shots? That’s more than the fucking Gold Coast, a bunch of teenagers and rugby league players. Certain individuals need to take a good hard look at themselves and decide whether that shit is going to be put up with again.

One player who can hold his head up high is Luke Tapscott, who was our best player in just his second game of senior football. I love the way he goes about his game, the way he backs himself not only with his kicking but under the high ball. That mark he took near the goals in the second quarter was sensational. He really does look like he has the makings of a star and let’s hope he can continue his form. His place in the team looks a lot safer than some of the more experienced players at the moment.

So what now? We’ve got Brisbane next week in the early Sunday match, who were smashed today by the Bulldogs. We know they are undermanned, we know they are shit, but if we play like we did in the third quarter today we will not win. It’s as simple as that.

Over to you, boys.