The Melbourne Football Club had one of the worst seasons in its long history; only winning a handful of games, losing Tom Scully to GWS, the sad passing of club legend Jim Stynes, the Liam Jurrah fiasco and many more incidents that would push most clubs off the edge.
It is fair to say that the Demons have been to hell and back, and credit is due to Mark Neeld, who has always stood strong with his belief and his theories.
In the recent free agency and trade period, the Demons picked up some absolute gem recruits. Critics are saying it could be a quick fix, though Neeld and his team have handpicked players who suit Neeld’s gamestyle; hard and tough and able to help the young players develop and change the losing football culture at the club.
Neeld has also removed the dead wood who have shown glimpses of talent here and there but are just not consistent enough.
Just two years ago, Ricky Petterd was touted as a future star, but following battles with a consistent shoulder injury, he has not been able to return to that form. Lucas Cook, who was a high draft pick a few years back, has not developed into the player Melbourne would have hoped and has been delisted as a result. Cale Morton has also not progressed into the footballer Melbourne want, so he has been traded, much to the delight of the red and blue faithful.
It’s about time Melbourne had the balls to not accept mediocrity. For many years now, the Demons they have accepted losing, going along with the mentality of ‘the draft picks will fix our problems’. It wasn’t long ago that David Neitz was smashing Luke McCabe, Jeff Farmer was weaving in and out of packs and drilling goals and Russell Robertson was trying to take mark of the year every single week. Those were the days Melbourne was up and about.
This is the first time in a while Melbourne supporters would be on the edge of their seats for Round 1 to come. With the addition of Chris Dawes, David Rodan, Shannon Byrnes and Cameron Pedersen, it gives Melbourne some hope – finally. Dawes and Byrnes might not be superstars but they have come from a winning culture which they can pass onto the inexperienced youngsters.
Mitch Clark played out of his skin before he was struck down with injury this year. Come Round 1, Mitch Clark in the square and Chris Dawes at centre half forward will get the Melbourne supporters into their seats to witness the new Melbourne. Rodan will add a bit of spark and experience to the midfield while Cam Pedersen is a proven performer and can play a number of roles, which will only benefit them with verstality. For a number of years, Melbourne has lacked genuine leg speed in the midfield and with the addition of Rodan and Byrnes, this will help the cause greatly.
Melbourne has accepted mediocre performances for far too long, and this is all about to change; the red and blue is about to explode. A bit of hope and excitement is floating around the place, and with the Pre-Season Draft and National Draft looming, you can be sure the Demons will be topping up with some quality kids. With Neeld at the helm, he will teach them and develop them into the players he wants to bel none of this inconsistent soft business.
Mediocrity will be accepted no more; almost good enough will not be good enough. Neeld has brought back the basics with him from Collingwood and installed a culture that Melbourne needed so badly. Hard and tough, never give in.
Season 2013 is a year of hope for the Demons. Their number of wins is sure to rise and with it, their self-belief.