Practice? Are we talking about practice?

It’s been an extremely slow news week, we don’t give a stuff about the NAB Cup grand final or the Herald Sun are putting all their important stories behind the pay wall.

The back page of today’s (Thursday) Herald Sun features a story announcing that Jack Watts isn’t playing in the VFL this week and his spot isn’t guaranteed for round 1.

Not earth shattering stuff If you watched the Melbourne game on Saturday night and heard Mark Neeld say that after such a poor performance none of his players were guaranteed a spot for round one.

“Right now if you want me to pencil in who is going to play round one, I couldn’t give you too many names” were Neeld’s exact words.

This article and the two others inside the paper add to the belting Watts has been copping from past players and now supposed experts of the game.

Malthouse, Carey, Schwarz, King and Cam Mooney have all been critical in their appraisal.

I must declare my bias as an unabashed Melbourne fan, although it’s about time to give Jack a break.

Sure, Watts’ NAB cup form has been underwhelming, his intensity in the first three rounds just hasn’t been there, but to borrow a line from Allen Iverson.

‘We talkin’ about the NAB cup. Not the game. But practice? We talkin’ bout practice? Practice?

Dane Swan didn’t even know who had won following a game he’d played in.

Coaches have admitted to phoning each other and collaborating on which players they would play and when.

The Bombers didn’t even turn up.

‘We aren’t talkin’ about the game. Not the actual game, when it matters. We are talkin’ about practice’

Secondly, while Jack may have spent three years in the AFL system, his first was spent playing school footy, the most bruise free form of the game, he hardly played for Sandringham in the TAC Cup in 2008 and spent most of the preceding years on the basketball court.

The rise of Nic Naitanui has been rapid and the higher he jumps the more pressure lands on Jack.

There’s so much to love about Nic Nat, he can jump over buildings, court announcers and can drop a rhyme into the microphone like Lupe.

I couldn’t agree more with his work on the ‘mic’ yesterday.

“I don’t know why people want to bring him down. When he puts on a bit more weight, he will be one of the most dominant players in the competition”.

Nics’ obviously has a better memory than most.

Watts was the most dominant player in the under 18 championships winning the Larke Medal, awarded to the player of the carnival.

He also owned the moment of the carnival, hauling in a pack mark on the siren and converting from 45m to win the game against Vic Country.

Later in the year at the Draft Camp Watts’, at 196cm, broke the record for the fastest white man in the 20m sprint, was 2nd in agility, 7th in vertical leap, 7th in repeat sprint and ran a 13.6 beep test.

Football ability – Check

Big game player – Check

Speed – Check

Agility – Check

Endurance – Check

Size – Check

If Nic Naitanui keeps taking our breath away the Melbourne recruiting department will be even more breathless trying to justify their selection.

On the above evidence you’d have to agree that as a club desperate for a tall forward, they chose the right man at number one.

If it wasn’t Jack, who was it? The top 10 from the 2008 national draft hasn’t exactly reached ‘super draft’ status just yet.

At the time of the draft there were always questions over Nic Nat’s ability to read the play and contribute in areas other than the clearances and the go home factor would have been ever present.

Next was Stephen Hill, who gets more of the ball at home than away and struggles with a tag.

Hamish Hartlett has been cruelled by injuries and played only 31 games.

The exception is the number five pick Michael Hurley who has dismissed any misconceptions he could only play full back and was too slow to play the position at AFL level.

Chris Yarran has taken his time to settle into the AFL life and only started having an impact at the Blues last year.

Mid 2008, the message to the recruiters was ‘get Rich or die trying’ and despite winning the 2009 Rising Star award Daniel Rich is still building the motor to allow him to use his lethal left foot more often.

Tyrone Vickery looked all at sea early although had a promising season in 2011

Phil Davis, despite being the biggest paid player of the lot has played only 18 games.

You have to wonder how much footy the past players and experts actually watch.

David Neitz has been the only ‘expert’ to mention the new game plan Melbourne has employed under Mark Neeld.

Melbourne is kicking longer and have the highest kick to handball ratio of all the clubs in the NAB Cup.

The delivery forward is less precise and the long balls are often attracting a crowd meaning Watts and Mitch Clark are rarely getting a one on one contest with their opponent.

Unfortunately, as Naitanui alluded too, Watts doesn’t yet have the body to be a lynchpin in this game style.

At this point in time he needs to be the third banana behind Clark and Stef Martin.

Watts will be elite as a half forward and that point could still arrive this year.

Despite what the experts say, his work rate is sufficient, his decision-making is elite, his kicking in underrated and his mobility for his size exceptional.

For those who say he isn’t competitive, get yourself a copy of the Richmond game from 2011.

Jack won’t be surprised by this criticism, he’s an easy target given he represents everything that people have been stirring Melbourne supporters about since the fifties.

Watts’ is the private school boy from Brighton; he’s confident, charismatic and sports the Hugh Grant haircut.

The Melbourne Football Club has long been criticized for being elitist and it wont be long before Jack’s exactly that.

About Adam Baldwin

RMIT Journalism student and sports nerd.


  1. Every footballer and coach will say big blokes don’t hit their peak until 25. The Tomahawk was lambasted for not being as good as everyone thought he should be. Now, at 23, he’s starting to hit some form and most commentators seem to have turned their attention to Watts. HE’S 20 YEARS OLD PEOPLE!
    Once he hits form in 3 or 4 years, everyone will be on the band wagon and looking for the next key position prospect that isn’t immediately good as Carey to have a go at.
    The pressure on these kids is criminal.

  2. John Butler says

    Adam, I’m with Cookie (and you). Though I confess to seeing some shockers from the Tomahawk.

    Everybody’s in such a rush with the big blokes. Give ’em time.

    But I think not all your trouble is from the outside.

    When Carlton played the Dees in rd 10 last year, I found myself a guest in the Members. It was a wet, dirty night for Melbourne and Watts, and some your supporters started to vent. A small, evil voice in my head prompted me to chant in sing-song tone, “shoulda got Nic Nat” with each Watts fumble. Expecting their wrath, I was flummoxed when, to a man, they agreed with me.

  3. Cookie – Good call on Hawkins. What I needed to complete the argument.

    John – Some supporters certainly understand the game better than others and while its great that everyone has an opinion people are often to quick to criticise when things aren’t going their way.

Leave a Comment