Garry Lyon, it is time.
You have been dodging and weaving your way around this, dipping your finger in and out of the honey pot for years, but now your club needs you. How much more heart ache must true red and blue fans endure before it finally clicks?
It was as disgusting as it was disappointing when Melbourne went out against Essendon, a club they have a an above average recent record against, and quite literally gave up, after promising to come out firing in the attempt to earn back the football world’s respect. Instead, Melbourne are now in hell.
The Demons recorded 190 fewer disposals, 44 fewer contested possessions, 26 fewer tackles and only five goals against the Bombers, yet what is striking is that under Dean Bailey, they moved the ball well – it was their number one strength.
As Jack Watts trotted off towards the bench, the substitute’s vest awaited him. He made no eye contact with coach Mark Neeld in his pre-game address, and made no eye contact again when he was subbed, and once more in the post-game spray.
If Melbourne want to change, it is high draft picks, and now senior players such as Jack Watts, that need to be the change. It’s not going to happen with a flick of a switch.
Colin Sylvia lacks heart and desperation, Watts is consistently disappointing, Mark Jamar’s work-rate is non-existent, Aaron Davey plays for himself, Shannon Byrnes has offered nothing as a ‘leader,’ David Rodan is gutless, and quite quickly the list goes on.
From the outside looking in, it appears that there is a rift between the coaches and the playing group, again referring back to the “culture” of which Melbourne have been associated with as poor for quite some time.
Melbourne are in danger now of slipping into the ether. More bad blood has been spilled between fans and the club, with one fan in particular on the night of the thrashing visibly upset, demoralised, embarrassed, ashamed and unable to comprehend what had just happened.
The minds of the players are fragile, the coaching department isn’t getting it done and the recruiting department has failed to bring in competitors who want to play Australian rules football. Instead, players are quite happy to pick up their pay cheques and continue to live the high life with profile, money and women.
It seems that Melbourne players are more concerned with the competition of who can grow their beard the longest. Perhaps one on who can hit the most targets at training would be more adventurous. Less tattoos, less hair style, less flair, less beard and more footy.
Maybe what is needed here first and foremost is discipline. No more beards, no more silly hair cuts, flashy boots and individual performances. Perhaps a ‘bring your mouth guards to training’ approach would be best suited.
But it is time now for club great Lyon to stand up affirmatively and say ‘I will lead you, follow me.’
Lyon must either do one of two things. Commit to Melbourne and throw away his luxurious media deal and take the reign, leading the club he loves and adores, or disassociate himself completely from the club.
Lyon has long been revered as a Melbourne man. It is said that he is held in such regard at the football club that players would quite literally kiss the ground he walks upon. If so, then why is Lyon not embracing the aura that so apparently surrounds him?
Melbourne have been rebuilding for the better part of seven years, and if anything the current squad looks to have gone backwards in that time.
There is no urgency about Melbourne, no desperation. Nathan Jones must be wondering if there is somewhere else he would rather be, as he is the only player who can be relied upon weekly to give a hard-nosed and competitive performance, for he has no friends willing to do the same.
Meanwhile, those that were traded, delisted or left as free agents from Melbourne last year would be rejoicing that they’re out of the woods. That is exactly what it has come to.
The fact that the Demons under Mark Neeld have an average losing margin of ten goals is beyond disbelief. This club is in shambles, and soon it will turn into damage control.
But from the outside looking in, the icing on the cake was the fact that in the face of the 148-point defeat, it was Mark Neeld who faced up solely to the wolves who let rip, as Cameron Schwab remained behind closed doors, happy to let Neeld to hang out to dry.
Fish rot from the head. Schwab, Chris Connolly; it’s time to go.
Call it what you like, gutless, insipid, disgraceful, putrid – when your club is on its knees, the one thing it can control is the display of solidarity, something that was also non-existent.
Neeld looked a broken man, a desperate man, distressed and embarrassed, and all of that could have been better spun if senior figures of the club offered Neeld to face this together. The co-captains of Jack Trengove and Jack Grimes wouldn’t have been a bad idea either, but if the club can fail to come together after a 148-point shellacking, then they are in dire straits.
“Trust yourself,” “attack and hunt with speed” and “mistakes do not matter” were the points Neeld highlighted in his pre-match address. He left out one major point: play for each other and play for the jumper that you have the privilege of representing.
Lyon, the time is now, and despite what you may think, the Melbourne Football Club needs you. Melbourne are desperate for leadership, they are crying out for structure and the pressure and intensity you played with, and now must lead with.