Round Review for Round 19, 2011
What a whirlwind 48 hours it has been for all involved at the Melbourne Football Club. After the players served up an abominable performance against a raging Cats outfit down at Skilled Stadium, the entire football world felt pity toward the Demons. I think even Port Adelaide would say they were uncompetitive.
The issues with the players and coach at Demonland – other than the 186-point destruction of the football club – are almost too numerous to discuss. The players need help, the coaching committee needs an overhaul and I won’t even get started on the politics of the board members. So let’s look at the players and coach.
If you’re a repeat reader of my columns, then you’ll know that I’ve had issues with the Demons nearly all year. I’ve both built up and cut down Brad Green and Colin Sylvia, while also being a harsh critic of Jack Watts. Well simply put, I’m sick and tired of flip-flopping my thoughts on these players as they go about their roller coaster season, so this will be the final thing I have to say on this trio.
Let’s start with Green. Appointed captain after the classless dismissal of former skipper James McDonald, Brad Green has proven that, even though he is a good footballer, he’s an atrocious leader of men. During Saturday’s onslaught when the Demons were desperate for a leader to step up, Green faded into obscurity and feebly went down with the ship.
Where was his heart and leadership when the Melbourne Football Club needed it the most? In his football club’s biggest hour of need, Brad Green dropped the ball. That should say something to the Melbourne hierarchy about who they need to lead this club back to respectability. Unfortunately for Melbourne, there is a severe lack of leaders at the club, with a future leader in Scully all but on a plane to Greater Western Sydney.
Next man up is Colin Sylvia, the prodigiously talented midfielder that, at 25 years old, has the footballing maturity and leadership of an under-11s player. Do you remember the strongest, fastest kid in under-11s? He’d handball into the ground and run the length of the park playing 1-on-18 because he was simply better than the rest? That’s who Colin Sylvia the footballer is.
I don’t know Colin Sylvia the man. He’s probably an absolute gentleman. But Colin Sylvia the footballer is a self-involved front runner that when the going gets tough, he most certainly gets going. In the opposite direction. With the right discipline from the right coach, Sylvia could have, at one point in his career, been a top 10 footballer in the AFL. Maybe even top 5. Unfortunately for Melbourne, that ship has sailed. At 25 years old and no accountability in his game, Sylvia will never ever, ever play in an AFL premiership side. Ever. Especially not at Melbourne.
Now, where were we? I think we were up to Jack Watts. The number one draft pick that was meant to come in and save a once-proud club that hadn’t tasted premiership success in the better part of a half-century. The “Great White Hope”, I believe he was being called at one point. How wrong that seems now.
In Saturday’s “match”, Jack Watts was absolutely torn apart by the genius that is Steve Johnson. He isn’t the first one, nor will he be the last. What I want to know is why in the name of centre-half forwards was Jack Watts playing that deep in defence? He is not a swing-player in the Michael Hurley mould that can play forward and back, nor is he the second-coming of Sydney’s kryptonite Adam Hunter. He is a centre-half forward who, by the look of it on Saturday, playing defense is as foreign to him as a razor blade to Travis Johnstone. Yet all season, Dean Bailey and his coaching committee have thought it wise to play Watts in any position they see fit rather than let him live and die on the lead. It is very poor management of a player that at one point looked very promising.
Now, it is hard to think that that promise will come to fruition. I understand that big forwards take a few years to develop. Well, Jack has had a few years now. Where’s the development? In the 2008 Draft, the one in which Watts was the belle of the ball, there are at least twelve players that I would have over Watts, based on production, football IQ and ability.
At the moment, Watts is a product of poor coaching and bad player development. For his sake, I hope Melbourne’s next coach coaches Jack Watts as the player he could be; a strong marking, athletic centre half forward.
Now I know I’ve singled out three players here but realistically, all are to blame. On Saturday afternoon, the Cats wrapped rings around the Demons. It looked like a training drill, where the Cats were the Cats and the Demons witches hats. They wouldn’t chase the ballcarrier or the ball. They were out-possessed by an unprecedented 228 disposals. Unbelievably, there were out-tackled as well, even though the Cats had the ball a staggering 510 times. Of the Demons’ 282 possessions, they were tackled 91 times, a rate of one tackle every three possessions.
Along with Watts, Sylvia and Green, Brent Moloney, Jared Rivers, Liam Jurrah, Jordan Gysberts, Jack Trengove, the Demons had no winners on Saturday. Just sheep waiting for someone to lead them.
There is talent on this list. My word there is. But where is the leadership? Where is the heart and desire to build a team that can contend for a flag? Where is the dedication that lifts a team from good to great? From a team to a dynasty? On Saturday afternoon, we witnessed a team that had it and a team that is a long, long way from it.
As you know by now, Dean Bailey has been fired as the coach of the Demons. My only question is why wait this long to do it? Six rounds into season 2011, it was nearly painfully obvious that Dean wasn’t the man for this job. In a year where all the development and tanking was meant to pay dividends, the Demons only looked the better side against one other; the infantile Gold Coast Suns. Oh, they beat the Lions, eventually, but were brutalised by the West Coast Eagles and were lucky that Buddy Franklin couldn’t find the goals as they went down by 45-points to Hawthorn.
After that lackluster start, it should have been painfully obvious to the MFC board members that Bailey had run his race. That these players wouldn’t play for him. Not because they didn’t like or trust him, but because of bad management.
That bad management is today’s confession from Bailey that he did coach for draft picks. He coached to lose. It’s happened before hasn’t it, Carlton, but that doesn’t make it any more right. It is oh so wrong in sports and Melbourne should be heavily fined for such an offence (if losing Tom Scully isn’t a harsh enough penalty). But let’s discuss that at a later date. Right now, the discussion is about Bailey.
As I’ve voiced my issues with the mismanagement of Jack Watts, I don’t believe Dean Bailey was a good coach. He was a very poor tactician and didn’t seem to have any proactive solutions or strategies that he employed. But regardless of that, the Melbourne Football Club board of directors effectively crucified Bailey when they ordered him to tank for draft picks.
The issues with Sylvia, Moloney and Watts can all be attributed to the fact that Dean Bailey was informed to lose games. This meant that, early in his tenure, the front-running of a large proportion of Melbourne’s players and unaccountability was acceptable. A very hard habit to break players out of once he had to coach to win games.
After effectively coaching two seasons to deliberately lose, how was Bailey then meant to become an authoritative figure that wouldn’t allow selfishness and ill-discipline in his charges? After accepting mediocrity and selfishness from players in order to obtain high draft picks, how then does a coach make his players accountable? The tanking for his first two seasons sets an extremely poor precedent of what is expected of players at the club. A precedent that proved to hard to overcome.
So now the question that remains; who takes over from Dean? The list at Melbourne is promising if it is moulded together by the right coach. Jack Watts may be able to be saved. It will take work, but he’s a big lad that can take an excellent mark. Jordan Gysberts, James Frawley, Jack Trengove and Luke Tapscott are promising players, while down at Casey youngster Lucas Cook looks a top prospect once he adds 10kg to his skinny frame.
There are a many senior players at the club that won’t be around when Melbourne push for a premiership, with Green, Moloney and Sylvia, I believe, not key ingredients to a premiership-winning team. But for the next two-three seasons, they are important pieces in getting the Demons back to Finals football. Will it be Paul Roos (he said no), Garry Lyon (ditto) or Mick Malthouse running the show? Only time will tell, I guess. But as James Hird taught us last year; no doesn’t always mean no.
Five things I liked from Round 19
Drew Petrie: Underrated forward in the AFL is big Drew. Clunked some good marks up forward for the Roos and always provides a contest. I believe he will have a big future as a coach once his AFL career is over.
Barry Hall: Not many people like Barry, but I love the man. Has kicked ten goals in two weeks since announcing his retirement effective after this season, and has nailed 24 goals in his past six games. Unlike some forwards that play on for too long, Barry seems to want to go out on a high while still playing good, competitive football. Well done, big fella.
Hawthorn: Look out for this mob. They know how to get the job done. They’ve got class in Buddy Franklin, Luke Hodge and Cyril Rioli, while Michael Osborne, Sam Mitchell, Josh Gibson, Paul Puopolo and Grant Birchall provide the grunt. A real dark horse come finals.
Dane Swan: Can someone check to see if this bloke doesn’t just run around the MCG with his own football? Every time you look, this man has the ball. Not every possession is dynamite, as noted by him leading the AFL in skill errors, but that’s more a testament to where he’s winning the football; under 15 bodies who are fighting hair and skin to get the pill.
The fight for 3rd-5th: Hawthorn, Carlton and the West Coast Eagles are all still in contention to finish third on the AFL ladder. As it stands, Hawthorn leads Carlton by half a game, who lead West Coast by half a game. Hawthorn and West Coast have the most favourable runs home, as I predict West Coast should finish the season with a 5-0 record from the last 5 rounds. Unfortunately for Blues fans, their boys run into Fremantle at Paterson’s Stadium and play Hawthorn in Round 22. The winner of that game will finish third, while Carlton must then rely on the Eagles dropping at least one game in order to finish in the top four. Should be an exciting finish.
5 things I didn’t like from Round 19
Razor Ray: Someone needs to tell this bloke to pull his head in. He touts that whistle like it’s a crown and has too much influence on the outcome of too many games. The only call more farcical that the Selwood holding the ball call was the arm-pull that gave West Coast’s Jack Darling a certain goal from a free kick. Not the first time that Razor’s blown the whistle for ridiculous calls. To be brutally honest, I think he may have replaced Scott McLaren atop my Umpires-who-have-a-heightened-sense-of-authority table.
Fremantle’s performance: The Dockers have a good young list with arguably one of the best midfields in the competition. How then do they kick two goals in three quarters of football? Yeah, yeah, the weather. Think you’re clever? The Hawks kicked 11 goals in three quarters and outshot the Dockers 30-14. Need to get better.
Brent Prismall’s injury: Very sad to see Brent Prismall go down with what was his second serious knee injury in his career. With news that he needs a full knee reconstruction, it’s a bad blow for a young bloke who has shown a lot of potential. Good luck with your operation and recovery, Brent.
Sub rule: I’ve never been the biggest fan of the sub rule and Essendon’s injuries on Sunday is a big reason why. Bombers were dropping like flies and, as they faded badly in the second half, having limited rotations made a tough situation impossible. Maybe the AFL could look at emergency subs? Better yet, install the old four player interchange system!
Zac Dawson: You’ve never seen me sing Zac Dawson’s praise in this space and, mark my words – you never will. He is arguably the worst player in the AFL and shouldn’t even be on St. Kilda’s list in 2012. His late hit on the Suns’ Josh Fraser was an extremely weak act.
Well, that’s it from me for another week. Disagree with what I’ve said? Let me know in the comments section below. I always love a good football debate! Go Swans.