Melbourne 2012 Season Preview

INS: Mitch Clark (Brisbane Lions), James Sellar (national draft), Rory Taggert (national draft), Josh Tynan (national draft).

OUTS: Addam Maric (delisted), Tom Scully (GWS), Matthew Warnock (Gold Coast), Austin Wonaeamirri (delisted).

YEAR IN REVIEW: The Dees won eight games, had a draw and finished 13th, but, in Dean Bailey’s fourth year, it wasn’t enough. The shellacking down at Skilled Stadium brought an end to Bailey’s tenure. Was he on the right path? We’ll probably never know. But their percentage dipped by nine and the gulf between their best and worst was far too great again. Then Tom Scully, the midfield dynamo and no.1 pick in the 2009 national draft, walked out. It was a tough year for all concerned.

GAME BREAKER: Ricky Petterd has the talent and 2012 might just be his year. He’s a busy player who heaps pressure on the oppostion with his chasing and tackling. He laid a competition-high 13 tackles inside forward 50 against Richmond last season. With an injury-free campaign, he could become one of the AFL’s really dangerous half-forwards – particularly if his goalkicking improves.

RISING STAR: There are kids scattered through the Melbourne list who might be about to become solid senior footballers. Jeremy Howe, the high-leaping Tasmanian, is one. Howe’s pre-season has been packed full of highlights, and there is genuine substance to go with the high-flying marks having already been likened to former high-flyer Russell Robertson. Went better than a goal per game in his first 11 outings in the AFL last season, and has changed his body shape with a big off-season.

KEY ARRIVAL: The Demons needed a strong presence in attack, and they made the aggressive big man from Brisbane their target. It took everything they had – and pick No.12 – but Mitch Clark is at Melbourne. Clark has played his best footy in the ruck, roaming around the ground and using his athleticism to great effect. But he’ll spend most of his time stationed in the forward line and should make life easier for the lighter-framed Melbourne forwards. Expect Ricky Petterd, Jeremy Howe, Lynden Dunn and Jack Watts to benefit from his ability to draw defenders.

COACH FACTOR: Mark Neeld looks, sounds and acts like a senior coach. Whether he’s barking orders at training or giving blunt replies to journos in press conferences, the former Collingwood assistant seems ready. The former teacher would have been a hard taskmaster in the classroom, and Melbourne players won’t be afforded any shortcuts. He started life as a coach with Old Geelong in the VAFA in 1997, and he has since served time in the under-18 system and local leagues in Geelong. His four years under Mick Malthouse at the Magpies completed a lengthy apprenticeship.

STATS THAT MATTER: The Demons had an average winning margin of 49 points, bettered only by grand finalists Collingwood (57) and Geelong (50) Their average losing margin was a whopping 56.

THE VERDICT: 13th. There has been so much change at Melbourne on and off the field that it will take coach Neeld alot longer than 12 months to get this club back on track. The Demons have had the luxury of recruiting A-grade talent than other established club over the past four years, which gives them hope for the future, but the lack of leadership and direction from its senior players has been a concern for too long. Not since David Neitz and Garry Lyon has this club had a captain who has bled for the jumper, and I’m not sure that Jack Trengove and Jack Grimes as co-captains was the right call. Former Lion Clark will straighten them up front and give the midfielders a big target to kick to but it won’t be enough to see the Demons return to finals action.

BEST 22

B: Bennell Frawley Garland

HB: Grimes Rivers Morton

C: Gysberts Jones Trengove

HF: Davey Watts Jurrah

F: Petterd Clark Green

Foll: Jamar Moloney Sylvia

I/C: Martin, McKenzie, Bail

SUB: Howe

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