I never thought the time would come. The time where I no longer prioritise my weekends around when the Demons are playing. But after eight soul-destroying rounds of football, that is the decision I’m now faced with.
Football has always been about unconditional love. You support your team through the good times and the bad and stay to the end of the match, regardless of whether your team’s up or getting flogged. But now the misery and overwhelming feeling of hopelessness is starting to become too much.
Melbourne, like every other club, is always pressuring supporters to become members and tip in their hard earned cash to ensure its viability and to turn up to games to support the players. It’s part of the game that I’ve always accepted and never really questioned. That’s until now. It’s a pretty tough sell when you’re asked to stick behind a playing group that doesn’t look like it cares enough.
As a former Fitzroy supporter, I’m used to more than my fair share of downs. While I’m still to realise the ultimate footy fan’s dream, my basic hope is simple: to watch a Melbourne team that has a crack every single week. And if the Demons can achieve step one, it would nice to build on this and become a side that wins more often than it loses. I don’t think this is too much to ask. But I’m struggling to accept just how far away we are from these basic aims.
It is now apparent the period of tanking and bottoming out under Dean Bailey has been a complete waste of four years. With largely the same personnel, we are a shadow of the team which pushed Collingwood to a draw and 1 point in 2010, when the Magpies won the flag.
And there are far more questions than answers when you look for reasons for the current state of hopelessness. My feeling is the rot started to set in when James McDonald was told to retire at the end of 2010. The skipper was arguably in career best form before he tore his hamstring that season, but after a lengthy lay-off he returned to play some good footy and provide excellent leadership to a young group. But this obsession with getting games into young players at the expense of veterans should not apply to your captain. If Dustin Fletcher had had the misfortune of playing at Melbourne under Bailey, he would have been sent to pasture four years ago.
Post McDonald, the Demons have been completely rudderless on the footy field. The senior trio of Brad Green, Aaron Davey and Brent Moloney have had dramatically sharp declines in form and desire and the younger, talented players have floundered with the lack of support from experienced players. There has been much criticism of Melbourne’s drafting in recent years but I’m still not sure where the problem lies. Were the draftees overrated in the first place, or has a shocking culture sapped their ability out of them?
So this Sunday I’m facing a dilemma. We have an away game against Carlton. Despite Carlton’s recent woes (and wouldn’t I love for my team to have the Blues’ problems), we have as much chance of getting close to them as the likelihood of peace in the Middle East. As a Demons’ home game member, I’d have to part with 20 bucks to watch a playing group that doesn’t have a crack (except for a too small minority). I feel awful for saying this, but this far out from the game, I’d say I have better things to do with my time.