The Way-Too-Early 2013 Preview: Melbourne

MELBOURNE

The Demons have been in a bit of a rut lately.

Melbourne Finishing Positions 2007 – 2012

2007

14th

2008

16th

2009

16th

2010

12th

2011

13th

2012

16th

 

I’ll put the stats up, but there isn’t much to discuss there. What we will look at though is why they are where they are.

2012 Key Statistics

Melbourne 2012 Offensive

Average per Game

Competition Rank

Disposals

328.4

18th

Contested Possessions

134.1

16th

Clearances

33.8

18th

Inside 50s

45.2

16th

Marks Inside 50

9.6

15th

Hitouts

41.1

8th

Goals

10.2

15th

 

Melbourne 2012 Defensive

Average per Game

Competition Rank

Points Against

106.41

16th

Inside 50s Conceded

56.2

16th

Marks Inside 50 Conceded

12.7

13th

Tackles

66.7

7th

 

Melbourne 2012 Offensive/Defensive Differentials

Total

Competition Rank

Inside 50s Opponent Differential(Total Inside 50s minus Total Inside 50s conceded)

-241

16th

Marks Inside 50 Opponent Differential(Total Marks Inside 50 minus Total Marks Inside 50 conceded)

-67

14th

 

What are they great at?

Not much.

What are they good at?

The Demons were slightly above average when it came to laying tackles, and were around the same mark in hit outs as well. The tackles ranking is pleasing if only because it points to effort.

What do they need to improve?

Everything.

What are they bad at?

Pretty much everything. They really struggle at getting their hands on the footy, finishing dead last in both clearances and disposals.

How did it get this bad?

As the table at the top illustrated, the Demons haven’t made the finals since 2006. This means they’ve had a lot of high draft picks in the meantime. High draft picks means good talented players right?

Right?

The problems we see at Melbourne today exist because of what can only be described as woeful recruitment over the past decade. The poor drafting at the beginning of the decade led to a side with a serious lack of quality, experienced players in the second half of the decade. The 23 and above age bracket is the core of a football side, and the Demons have had problems here for a long while as a result of their draft day decisions and inability to effectively develop the talent they do have.

This 23 and above bracket is key to any side’s fortunes. If the players in this bracket aren’t good enough to snare you a premiership, then chances are you won’t be competing for one until the young players you recruit now reach that bracket, and thus become the core of your team. If the players you have in this bracket are horrible, then you are in real trouble, as you effectively have no choice but to struggle on field until the players you recruit get to that age.

Melbourne’s problem is the fact it has been stuck in this cycle for a while now, as we are about to detail.

The Seeds are Sown.

2007 was the year the current on-field rot began, finishing 14th after a 7th place finish in 2006. This rot however had its berth in the early 2000s.

2001 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Melbourne Still on List?
9 Luke Molan 0 N
25 Steven Armstrong 43 N
26 Aaron Rogers 0 N
55 Brad Miller 133 N

 

2002 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Melbourne Still on List?
14 Daniel Bell 66 N
15 Nicholas Smith 4 N
26 Jared Rivers 150 N
39 Gary Moorcroft 3 N
54 Cameron Hunter 2 N
66 Ryan Ferguson 47 N

 

2003 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Melbourne Still on List?
3 Colin Sylvia 138 Y
5 Brock Mclean 94 N
36 Chris Johnson 31 N

 

The recruiting decisions at the the turn of the century was the foundation of the problems that would start to surface in 2007. The Demons finished 14th in that year, and the major contributors were the same as the ones in 2003, when the Demons had also finished 14th.

Leading Disposal Winners

2003

Age

2007

Age

James McDonald 27 Cameron Bruce 28
Adem Yze 26 James McDonald 31
Daniel Ward 26 Nathan D. Brown 31
Cameron Bruce 24 Brad Green 26
Nathan D. Brown 27 Adem Yze 30
Leading Goal Kickers
David Neitz 28 Russell Robertson 29
Russell Robertson 25 David Neitz 32

 

2007 is around about the time the players drafted during the early 2000s should’ve begun to make the team their own. They didn’t, and this is a big reason why the Demons finished 14th.

Unfortunately the problem didn’t end there. Melbourne was going to be down the bottom for an extended period of time because their drafting between 2003 and 2006 wasn’t much better than the three years that preceded it.

2004 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Melbourne Still on List?
13 Matthew Bate 102 Y
15 Lynden Dunn 99 Y
43 Michael Newton 28 N

 

2005 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Melbourne Still on List?
12 Nathan Jones 135 Y
52 Simon Buckley 21 N
60 Clint Bartram 103 N
68 Heath Neville 0 N

 

2006 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Melbourne Still on List?
12 James Frawley 101 Y
30 Ricky Petterd 54 N
46 Colin Garland 80 Y
62 Isaac Weetra 2 N

 

The Demons basically had to start afresh in 2007. The core of the side from 2003 was still the core of the side despite advancing age, and the bracket of quality players between 23 and 28 was extremely thin thanks to poor drafting at the turn of the century.  The likes of Luke Molan, Daniel Bell, Nicholas Smith, Colin Sylvia and Brock McLean should’ve started to form the core of the side in 2007, however some of them weren’t even on the list.

The players drafted between 2004 and 2009 would have to form that 23+ core, meaning five or so years from 2007 onward of pain before that core would start to be filled around 2012. It was critical that the Demons get the next few drafts right.

2007 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Melbourne Still on List?
4 Cale Morton 73 N
14 Jack Grimes 53 Y
21 Addam Maric 21 N
53 Kyle Cheney 14 N
66 Tom McNamara 4 N

 

2008 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Melbourne Still on List?
1 Jack Watts 55 Y
17 Sam Blease 21 Y
19 James Strauss 18 Y
35 Jamie Bennell 57 N
51 Neville Jetta 36 Y
64 Rohan Bail 36 Y

 

2009 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Melbourne Still on List?
1 Tom Scully 31 N
2 Jack Trengove 59 Y
11 Jordan Gysberts 19 N
18 Luke Tapscott 29 Y
34 Max Gawn 4 Y
50 Jack Fitzpatrick 3 Y

 

When 2012 strolled around, the players drafted between 2004 and 2009 should’ve made up what was the core of the team. The bad news is they did. Nathan Jones, James Frawley and Colin Sylvia are the best of the early to mid 2000s bunch, while the late 2000s features a handful of intriguing players, but ultimately more question marks than sure things. The Scully departure hurt, but it isn’t the difference between sunshine and rainbows and what the Demons have.

In light of this, the “expected date of delivery” for the Demons on field redemption would have to be extended once again.

2010 National Draft
Pick Name Games Played Melbourne Still on List?
12 Lucas Cook 0 N
33 Jeremy Howe 35 Y
50 Troy Davis 0 Y
53 Tom McDonald 22 Y

 

2011 National Draft
Pick Name Games Played Melbourne Still on List?
36 Rory Taggert 0 Y
52 Josh Tynan 0 Y
54 James Sellar 16 Y

 

While it is probably too early to cast judgement on the past three years, it’s reasonable to say 2010 and 2011 don’t inspire much confidence beyond Jeremy Howe at this point. It’s important to note though that the Dees sent pick 12 in 2011 to Brisbane for Mitch Clark. Lucas Cook has already been delisted a mere two years after being a first round selection.

The Demons had sixteen selections in the first round* between 2001 and 2011. Only eight of them are still on the Melbourne list today. Six of those selections were in the top five, and only three of those players remain. Between 2001 and 2011 there is not a single player Melbourne drafted that you could categorically state was an unquestionable star. Frawley has an All-Australian selection under his belt but hasn’t approached that form since. Grimes has all the makings of a quality footballer but has an alarming injury history. Trengove has shown signs but seemed to stagnate last season. Sylvia is probably the most naturally gifted, but has never elevated his game to a consistent level. There are a handful of unknowns in there, and an unsightly amount of horror picks. If you want to know why Melbourne has struggled over the past ten years, then the above is exhibit A.

*By first round I mean a selection between 1 and 16. The concessions the new clubs received, as well as compensation picks, means over the past few years the “first round” has gone close to selection 30.

 2012 Off-Season

2012 National Draft
Pick Name
4 Jimmy Toumpas
26 Jack Viney (F/S)
48 Dean Kent
52 Matt Jones
68 Dean Terlich

This past off-season was a very interesting one for the Dees. They were one of the more active participants in the first ever AFL free agency period, saying goodbye to Brent Moloney (Brisbane) and Jared Rivers (Geelong), while welcoming Shannon Byrnes and Tom Gillies, both formerly of the Cats. Byrnes is a handy forward/onballer who was starved for opportunity at Geelong, while Gillies is a young full-back who was delisted.

During the trade period the Demons sent draft day calamity Cale Morton as far away as possible. They also bid farewell to Stefan Martin, who departed to the Lions, and another high draft pick, Jordan Gysberts, was sent to North Melbourne.

The Demons received Cameron Pedersen as part of the Gysberts deal, and added David Rodan for the draft equivalent of an already opened packet of potato chips, pick 88. Then they pulled the trigger on one of the more interesting deals of the period, sending picks 20 and 45 to Collingwood in exchange for pick 58 and forward Chris Dawes.

Reaction to the trade was mixed at best, and negative in most instances. It was commonly held that Melbourne paid too steep a price for a player seen to be a middling forward who had benefited greatly from being a part of a dominant Collingwood side over the past few years. Truth be told I think Melbourne did overpay for Dawes, but I can talk myself into the logic behind it if I really try. Dawes should provide a handy foil for Mitch Clark up forward for the immediate future.

While the Dawes deal attracted most of the attention, the biggest deal Melbourne made was the one to send picks 3 and 13 to the Giants in exchange for Dominic Barry, pick 20, and the second GWS mini-draft pick for use on 17 year old key forward Jesse Hogan. Hogan is a prize catch, a burly key forward in the Jonathan Brown mold, and the Demons will be hoping he forms a formidable duo with Clark in the years to come. Once again the Demons paid a steep price, but the potential reward is so much higher than in the Dawes deal so it is much more palatable.

They added two more very talented players on draft day as well. Thanks to the Father Son mechanism, and the Suns trading away pick two, the Demons were able to secure Jack Viney for the bargain price of pick 26. Viney is a tough inside midfielder and should automatically be one of Melbourne’s best. Jimmy Toumpas, taken at pick four, is a classy midfielder capable of playing inside and out. I saw him play in the 2011 SANFL Grand Final and couldn’t have been more impressed. I’d be very surprised if he didn’t turn out to be an excellent footballer at this level.

2013 Outlook

2013 will be another tough year for the Demon faithful, one that shouldn’t necessarily focus on results but rather getting the players playing the right way. There is a difference between being near the bottom of the ladder without hope, and being in the same spot with it. Over the past few years Demons fans have been in the former. Grimes, Trengove, Viney, Toumpas, Hogan and Clark is a nice nucleus to build around, and I think Melbourne fans will be feeling a little bit better about the direction their team is heading in come the end of the season.

About Adam Ritchie

My name is Adam. I started watching football with two fellow parapsychologists in an abandoned firehouse. When we’re not watching footy, we’re running our own pest control business. What do you mean I stole that from Ghostbusters?

Comments

  1. PeterSchumacher says:

    I suppose that there are still some Dees supporters left in this world.

    Another fine review.

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