AFL Round 6 – Melbourne v Sydney: Unattractive footy? Could not be further from the truth!

Driving home from last night’s match at the MCG between Melbourne and Sydney, I heard the commentators making a number of critical comments about the Melbourne football team, and its style of play. They were all valid, but they all missed the point.

Yes, their style of play was not clear. Yes, their future strategy is uncertain. Yes, they have many older players who are not experienced players. Yes, in a sense, their style of play is not attractive.

Yet here is the nub of it all. From the point of view of the purist, it is nothing much to watch. But from the point of view of your average Demons fan, any match that is competitive is attractive BY DEFINITION.

Unless you have suffered as Demons fans have suffered since the says of the Old Testament stories of the 50s and the 60s, you cannot appreciate the relief that comes from seeing your team actually playing what appears to be a brand of football. Too often, especially in the last few years, fans have come away ashamed and embarrassed at seeing their team play what appears to have been another sport entirely. The opposition was playing footy, their team wasn’t.

Paul Roos has straightened this team up. Sure, there is a long way to go. Perhaps we will never get there. But, while I left the MCG last night disappointed, I did not leave embarrassed. The Demons were competitive. Yes, there were lapses but, mercifully, they were brief. There were also passages of play bordering on brilliant. Sadly, these were few, and also brief. All things considered, though, it was not such a bad show.

There were certainly some highlights, Dom Tyson’s goal on the end of a very effective passage of play being perhaps the greatest. Christian Salem’s goal was also a beauty, and it was great to see Howe take a screamer again. It was nowhere near his best, but it was still excellent. Chris Dawe also showed some flashes of form.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel I can complete a match report without mentioning Jack Watts. Let me preface my remarks by saying that I do not know Jack personally, but I have no reason to doubt that he is a fine young man. He is also a far better footballer than I have ever been or will ever be. The difference is, though, that I don’t aspire to play for the Melbourne Football Club.

There were so many occasions last night when Jack took possession of the ball, but had absolutely no idea what to do with it. You could see the cogs moving in his head as he quickly considered – and then dismissed – four of five options in rapid succession. Eventually he either hand balled feebly, or simply had the ball taken away from him. To me, this prevarication speaks of lack of confidence. Of course it is still early days, but the days are becoming less early, and Jack seems to be one player who is not noticeably benefitting from the coaching of Paul Roos.

The radio commentators last night were critical of the bronx cheers Jack received from the Melbourne supporters. But what do they expect? He has dropped so many straightforward marks in recent weeks, it is very hard to react any other way when he finally holds one – or two. To be fair, I thought his last quarter was better. He seemed to finally throw caution to the wind, but it was far too little, far too late. To me, he lacks the physique to be a successful AFL footballer. No doubt he would be able to get away with it if he had sublime speed or skill – like Robbie Flower, for example – but he doesn’t.

Anyway, enough of Jack.

The big question in my mind is the future of Paul Roos. There has been a reasonable amount of loose talk about the possibility of Cameron Ling taking over in a couple of years’ time. While I like and admire Lingy enormously, I see absolutely no reason to believe he would have any more success coaching the Melbourne Football Club than did Mark Neeld or Dean Bailey.

I fantasise about the possibility of Roos staying at Melbourne for a decade or more, by a series of two or three year contracts. Who knows, perhaps he will eventually stay at Melbourne for 25 years, take them to premierships, and become their equivalent of Jock McHale?

Yes, all right, time to splash cold water on my face. But all I say – in response to last night’s radio commentators – is that Melbourne fans ask nothing more than that their team be competitive. Last night, at least, we got that.

About Stephen Whiteside

Stephen Whiteside is primarily a writer of rhyming verse. He has been writing for over thirty years, and writes for both adults and children. Many of his poems have been published in magazines and anthologies, both in Australia and overseas, or won awards. His collection of rhyming verse for children, "'The Billy That Died With Its Boots On' and Other Australian Verse", was published by Walker Books in May 2014. Stephen performs regularly at folk festivals around the country - mostly in Victoria. He is also a great fan of the Australian poet C. J. Dennis. He is a foundation member of the C. J. Dennis Society, and is closely involved in the organisation of the annual Toolangi C. J. Dennis Poetry Festival. Stephen is a long-suffering Melbourne supporter.


  1. Yes, I can see your point.

    It was a disappointing game for the neutral to watch as was the Force game on another channel. I found myself watching the stories within stories and Jack Watts was one of them. Like you I don’t know him. Like you, I wish him well. From the couch he seems to lack motivation and hence, intent. Determined intent. It doesn’t seem to matter enough to him, else he’d be busting a gut to chase etc.But I may be way off the mark.

    We would love to publish some of your verse if you are inclined.

    Please let us know about the CJDennis festival

  2. Neil Anderson says

    Agree entirely about not being embarrassed is the first emotion to conquer. I suppose fans of the top four sides can’t comprehend what we’re talking about in this regard, but those of us who have suffered ‘since the Old Testament’ days as you say, are in the business of looking for small mercies.
    I would love to have thrown in a CJ Dennis quote to illustrate my point but realized I lacked the competence.
    Suffice to say Demon supporters who think back to the glory days of the fifties and the Bulldog supporters looking back to that glory year of 1954 are probably just a bunch of ‘Sentimental Blokes’.

  3. You make a good point about Watts’ apparent lack of motivation, John. He is such a contrast in that respect to Nathan Jones.

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