It couldn’t get much worse for Melbourne in 2012. The death of Jim Stynes, the Aaron Davey-Mark Neeld-Jason Mifsud racism scandal, EnergyWatch, the Liam Jurrah issues as well as a terrible year onfield all combined to produce one of the worst rides for supporters of any side in recent history.
What’s worse is that sitting here right now, there’s not much hope to build on. Yet.
2012 started badly and just got worse. Melbourne’s four wins consisted of three victories over GWS and the Gold Coast, as well as the Round 10 upset over Essendon. Their injury toll was supreme on top of this. Mitch Clark, Mark Jamar, Clint Bartram, Davey, Jurrah and Colin Sylvia were all key names who missed significant game time due to injury; fringe players also suffered a massive toll.
Furthermore, with the change in coach at the end of the 2011 season, there were players that struggled severely even when they were in the side for whatever reason. Brent Moloney, Davey, Jamar and Ricky Petterd all barely produced when they got onto the field. Neeld ultimately was stuck with a terrible situation where he was forced to give games to underperforming players just because so few players were actually playing well.
Those that played well, however, were superb. Nathan Jones is quietly going about becoming a midfield star, as his gruntwork and contested ball goes to the elite level. Jeremy Howe deserves Mark of the Year through sheer number of entries (at time of writing, he had eight entries into the three-options selection on the AFL website this season), but his ball use through the midfield has improved significantly as well. Mitch Clark is a revelation at full-forward and deserving of the money Melbourne are paying him. And a kid named Tom McDonald is slowly but steadily becoming another piece of a quality Melbourne defence, reading the play superbly.
Ladder position: 16th
Draft picks: 3, 4, 13, 26, 45, 64, 82
Free Agents available: Brent Moloney (Restricted), Matthew Bate, Lynden Dunn, Jared Rivers, Brad Green
Needs to pick up: Probably better to list what Melbourne don’t need and go from there. But critical is further class through the midfield to help out Jones, probably in the form of multiple players. A couple of forwards to crumb around the feet of Clark and offer another marking option would work wonders as well.
Expectations for 2013: The good thing for Melbourne supporters is it should get better. Improvement will come. 2013 is probably unlikely to see dramatic improvement though. 5-6 wins.