AFL Round 10 – Melbourne v Hawthorn: Neelding change – urgently

It’s amazing, the changes in fortune one goes through in 365 days.

Cast your mind back to 2 June, 2012. It couldn’t possibly get worse for Melbourne. (We were later proved wrong. Very wrong.) 0-9, and seemingly no chance of a victory until at least our round 13 game against the Giants, following the bye. Our assignment, the high-flying Bombers, sitting pretty in 2nd at 8-1 and looking finals-bound. A regulation game then, with Essendon expected to win easily.

The rest is history.

Elation. Euphoria. Emotion. Relief.

Mark Neeld, the man who had faced one of the toughest starts seen to a coaching career, getting it back on track with a stirring six point victory over the Bombers, one of the great upsets.

It’s amazing, the changes in fortune one goes through in 365 days.

2 June, 2013. It couldn’t possibly get worse for Melbourne. 1-8, and seemingly no chance of a victory until at least our round 13 game against the Saints, following the bye. Our assignment, the high-flying Hawks, sitting pretty in 2nd at 8-1 (albeit with a game in hand) and looking finals-bound. A regulation game then, with Hawthorn expected to win easily.

History couldn’t repeat, could it?

Well… no. And now, one year to the day that Mark Neeld scored his first victory as a coach, he faces the sack.

It wasn’t exactly a bad start to the day. The mood around the Demon Army was concise. Though there were some rumours – both good and bad – flying around the cheer squad regarding our future, we were also subjected to a pretty good display of football by some corporate workers who paid somewhere in the vicinity of $2000 to have a run around on the G. Of course, there were the near traditional cries of ‘you would be better than some of Melbourne’s players’ amongst other things, but this merely served as a reminder that there are people out there, still prepared to put in the effort for the Melbourne Football Club.

Then it was game time… well I wouldn’t exactly call it a game.

It didn’t start badly. It took 13 minutes for Hawthorn to register a goal. At that stage, it looked like it was going to be one of those days – Hawthorn failing to take their opportunities, and Melbourne staying slightly in it due to capitalising on theirs. How wrong I was.

The margin at quarter time was 24 points. Such was the domination of Hawthorn in that first quarter, recording 12 scoring shots to three, as well as keeping us goalless, that the margin should have been 50. It loomed as a familiar day.

Familiar day it was, one minute into the second quarter. Jarrod Roughead mark on the wing, handball to Isaac Smith, allowed to run inside 50, where James Frawley, instead of leaving his man, runs past Smith’s direct route to goal, allowing Smith to run 10 metres further into goal before slotting it straight through the middle.

Frustrating. And then…


Before you know it, 64-13 becomes 82-13. The siren sounds, and Melbourne are 69 points down.

Frustrating. For the second week in a row, Melbourne were basically 70 points down at half time.

It’s amazing, the changes in fortune one goes through in 365 days.

The second half, then, was akin to last week against the Dockers. The game is shot, and Melbourne produce a better effort. A couple of warning shots, from Jack Fitzpatrick, who was quiet, and Chris Dawes, his polar opposite who had recorded 10 marks to that stage, signalled that Melbourne were out to regain some respectibility to the scoreboard, and Dawes finally delivered with Melbourne’s second goal. Finally, effort.

Another three goals, to Jack Watts, Aaron Davey and Dean Kent respectively, and there’s the slight chance we may even keep this under 50 points. However, with the game gone, it was time to look at the positives.

‘Young Dean Kent, he looks good.’ ‘Chip Frawley has been fantastic on Buddy.’ ‘Nathan Jones, as superb as he normally is.’ ‘How good has Chris Dawes been across half forward?’ Any positivity around the Demon Army is good positivity, and despite David Rodan missing a set shot after the siren to reduce the margin to 58 points, there was still a smidgen of respect. Melbourne had taken a quarter off the premiership favourites.

The last quarter was dull from a Melbourne perspective. Skill errors, Hawthorn goals, the usual. Nothing special here. Hawthorn even managed to increase the margin to 102 points late on, before a late Michael Evans goal allowed Melbourne to lose by ‘only’ 95.

So, where does that leave Mark Neeld? Well, Neeld remains confident that he’s staying on as coach of the Melbourne Football Club. But, all things, whether good or bad, such as this piece, must come to an end, and I have a feeling that at the board meeting the following day, Neeld may well be sacked.

It’s amazing, the changes in fortune one goes through in 365 days.

MELBOURNE    0.3    1.7       5.10       6.12  (48)
HAWTHORN     3.9  12.10    14.14    21.17  (143)

Melbourne: Howe, Dawes, Watts, Davey, Kent, Evans
Hawthorn: Breust 5, Roughead 3, Hill 2, Smith 2, Franklin 2, Puopolo 2, Lewis, Burgoyne, Birchall, Grimley, Simpkin

Melbourne: Dawes, N. Jones, Frawley, Rodan.
Hawthorn: Sewell, Breust, Burgoyne, Lewis, Smith, Mitchell.

Umpires: Farmer, Hay, Mitchell

Official crowd: 28,546 at the MCG.

Votes: 3 – Bruest, 2 – Sewell, 1 – Burgoyne

About Michael Thompson

One of a rapidly diminishing few Melbourne Football Club diehards remaining. Studying Sports Management at La Trobe University but still hoping for a Sports Journalism role someday. Also a writer for the Mernda Football Club.


  1. Dear Michael, I love the fact that you cheer yourself up with the idea that you are due to play the Saints soon and therefore win a game, and in this weird bottom dwelling universe we are now part of, you have a chance. Good to have something to look forward too. Just don’t know if all this sacking of coaches calls is the answer. A Saints fan started talking about sacking Scott Watters when we were walking down the ramp. So much knee jerk reaction going on. Everyone (commentating) need to take a bex and a lie down.


  2. Michael Thompson says

    Yvette, I’m personally against the idea of sacking Mark Neeld, but a lot of people are obviously wanting him to be sacked, which is pretty disappointing.

  3. Rick Kane says

    Frawley did a good job on Buddy? Demons had two players on Buddy, as far as I could tell, for most of the game. Not sure why. Up until Hawks ninth goal we had eight separate goal kickers.

    Cheers Michael, liked how you contexted an ultimately non-existent contest.

  4. Michael Thompson says

    I think the thing about Chip was that he did his hammy later on in the game, that might be where the second man who played on Franklin came in. Otherwise from what I saw Chip was shadowing Buddy all the way and did a decent job. 2.3, last time he kicked 3.7 from memory.

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