When Paul Roos was appointed Melbourne coach at the end of 2013, he was met with great fanfare and expectation, which befitted his reputation as one of the premier coaches of the AFL. It was seen as a massive coup for the struggling club, as Roos had come from a winning culture at the Swans – he had taken them to seven finals series from eight full seasons, including their drought-breaking 2005 premiership.
Roos was supposed to forge a winning culture at Melbourne, turning them from perennial battlers into a competitive unit. While this was always going to be a difficult challenge, especially in the relatively short time span afforded to him, his coaching tenure up to this point should be considered a failure.
There is no doubt that the Demons have improved under Roos, yet this improvement has come too gradually and without enough consistency to satisfy their supporters. They went from two wins in 2013 to four wins in 2014 while they now have six so far this year, with another victory looking unlikely.
There have been some great positives to have come from this season, with Jesse Hogan looking like he will be a dominant key forward for a decade. Meanwhile, Angus Brayshaw has been terrific in the midfield and Tom McDonald has steadfastly held down a key defensive post all season.
Add in names such as Dom Tyson, Jack Viney, Alex Neal-Bullen and the still-unsighted Christian Petracca and Melbourne has the nucleus of a very good side. They also have wins against good opposition in Geelong, Western Bulldogs and Richmond.
However, it is the considerable gap between Melbourne’s best and worst and Roos’ seemingly casual demeanour through their frustrating inconsistency which has been extremely disappointing.
Roos conceded in his press conference that this inconsistency was a “pattern” over his last two seasons at the helm, yet he seemed indifferent to this indictment on his team. While not all coaches have the fiery passion of an Alastair Clarkson or Brad Scott, it is not a good reflection on his ability to galvanise the playing group. Neither was his assertion last week that his players’ minds were “already in Bali”.
It just adds to the perception already in some supporter’s minds that Roos only took the role for the money, given he was extremely hesitant to take the position when he was first offered it. Maybe it is the fact he knew his role was short term with the chance of premiership success unlikely which has led to a lack of motivation.
If this is the case, Melbourne should seriously consider giving the coaching position to Simon Goodwin in 2016, rather than in 2017 as it is currently agreed. We have seen how much of a difference a new coach and game plan can make to a team, with the recent immediate success of Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs testament to this.
Goodwin is highly respected, and could perhaps spark something within the Melbourne playing group which inspires them to reach for finals next season. They have the young talent to do so, and the sprinkling of experience with names such as Bernie Vince, Nathan Jones and Daniel Cross still running around.
For the sake of their long-suffering supporters, Melbourne must do whatever it can to best prepare for this: even if it means taking a gamble and giving the coaching reins to Goodwin a year early. If it proves successful, it could be the masterstroke which lifts Melbourne from the abyss into September action once again.