The sacking of Mark Neeld was inevitable. Most of the football community were asking the question when rather than if his time was up. Melbourne have been in tatters for several years, yet the problem extends far further than the coach.
Neeld received a phone call from Peter Jackson just before 8am this morning which revealed his fate. Just five days out from their game against the Saints, Melbourne will be looking to notch up a win, as players seek to impress interim coach Neil Craig. Traditionally, interim coaches perform well, as the players know they are fighting for their careers.
Neil Craig has a fantastic coaching record, taking the Crows through multiple finals campaigns, yet he seems to be a forgotten man when the discussion of who will coach Melbourne next year comes up. Craig was gifted a talented list when he took over the Crows coaching role after Gary Ayres was given the boot, which contrasts harshly with the Demons list.
A restructured board, financial help from the AFL and a new coach will help massively. But it was the mistakes from the past in moving on the older generation that really killed the Demons. Moving Brad Green on and making Jack Trengove a co-captain was a grave mistake. The attempt to rectify the leadership problem by trading for older heads was also poor, but justifiable.
There is one glaring, vexing problem that seems to be unsolvable- developing the players. There is absolutely no doubt that the Dees have some real quality pushing through. Yet it seems only Jeremy Howe and Jack Grimes are players that can perform well consistently. We have seen Tom Scully move on and finally play quality football on a consistent basis and perhaps that is because the media is no longer focusing on him. The same could happen to Jack Watts if he chooses to move on.
Development comes from three vital sources – coaching, leadership around the group and the reserves. Casey is dominating in the VFL and there are experienced players around that club to mentor the young Demons.
Leadership around the group could be fostered. Mitch Clark and Chris Dawes must demand respect and teach Jesse Hogan how to do so as well. Nathan Jones is there for Trengove in the midfield. Grimes and Frawley have the backline covered for experience. There are leaders in every part of the field; they just need to start winning games to build confidence.
Finally, the coach. With Neeld being too harsh and Dean Bailey being too soft, the Dees have been left confused. Craig can develop the talent by commanding respect and getting at least two or three wins.
The sacking of Neeld was necessary, but probably should have been done last week. Neeld may be up for an assistant coaching job, which he should relish when the spotlight will finally be taken off him.