Not exactly a story, is it?
Yet the media have jumped on Mark Neeld and the Melbourne Football Club like it’s nobody’s business. Everything from having ‘lost the senior players’ to ‘choosing the wrong captains’ to ‘instituting the wrong game plan’ has been brought up. Neeld has gone from being the ‘dream candidate’ to smelling worse than Spotswood on a dry day. I’m interested as to how, but more importantly why it has turned so quickly.
Firstly, a few points about Melbourne. Dean Bailey, Melbourne’s previous coach, had a very poor record of 22 wins, 59 losses and 2 draws, winning a mere 26.5% of games. The culmination of his coaching career was the incredible 186 point smashing by Geelong at Skilled Stadium. Their average losing margin in 2011 was 56 points. Bailey’s wins came against Essendon and Richmond, as well as interstate sides playing in Melbourne. The Dees were notorious for not having any element of the ‘press’ that all other sides were attempting to implement to some degree, leading to their beltings.
The situation came to a head with the Geelong annihilation. Bailey was sacked, as such a losing margin is quite rightly not acceptable at any AFL club.
Mark Neeld has arrived and is now attempting to implement the press. Nick Maxwell is on record as to how difficult it is to learn. West Coast are an example of how long it can take. He’s had one pre-season and eight games to do so. Moreover, he has done this while admitting, along with fitness guru Dave Misson, that the club’s fitness levels were the worst they’d seen at AFL level.
Yet he cops a beating in the press for doing so.
Damien Hardwick, in 2010, had Richmond at 0-9. Bookies paid out on them going winless. There was talk of special draft concessions. Now they’re pushing on finals. Dimma didn’t get the sort of attack that Neeld is taking.
In fact, one wonders why it is Neeld. He’s made mistakes, something which we all do as humans. But he’s pushed on, taken them in stride. He hasn’t been weak-willed about it. Reports coming out of the club, rather than out of media outlets and opinions on radio stations, suggest that everyone is committed fully, but it’s a tough ask as other clubs have previously found out. Neeld is unfortunately behind the pack, as all the clubs bar GWS and GC have some variant of the press, whether successful, in place for their defensive game plan. As a result, Melbourne are getting found out, badly. But everyone knows where it can take them, and thus are putting up with it.
Why can’t the media just let him get on with it? Why not attack Brad Scott, who very well could lose his job if the Kangaroos miss the eight with their easy draw? Why not Brett Ratten with the problems Carlton have with dealing with high-pressure football? Michael Voss and the continually poor Lions?
Instead, they light up on a guy who’s only been in place eight games for doing what he knows is successful at Collingwood.