Melbourne coach Mark Neeld says he has been hurt by an accusation from Grant Thomas that Neeld had upset the club’s indigenous players.
Former St Kilda mentor Thomas had written in an online column on Monday that rookie AFL coach Neeld had spoken to his team’s indigenous players in a group, while addressing all the other players on an individual basis.
A furious Neeld spoke to Thomas on the phone and Thomas removed the offending paragraphs from his column on the ninemsn.com.au website.
However Thomas still managed to fire some shots at Neeld, describing him as a dictator who was “all froth and bubble” and unable to build relationships with players.
Thomas said Neeld’s coaching style was “it’s my way or the highway”.
“One senses that wasn’t the way he played and it’s not really his temperament or personality, which players see through very quickly,” Thomas wrote.
“He may very well be the first coach to lose his players before he started.”
Neeld, who began his senior coaching career with a 41-point loss to Brisbane at the MCG on Saturday, told Fox Footy’s “On the Couch” program he was deeply offended by the online column.
“There was an accusation in an article by Grant that I had dealt with the indigenous group at the club in an incorrect manner, one that offended them,” Neeld said.
“I took offence to that enormously because it’s simply untrue.
“The club have contacted the AFL at my request and I am certain that the AFL will follow it through.
“It’s a blight on my character. It’s a blight on the way the Melbourne Football Club deals with indigenous players and it’s simply untrue.
“I’m really hurt and so is my family and I think it’s unacceptable.”
Thomas said he appreciated getting a call from Neeld.
“He explained to me the situation. Given that the other evidence I had was second-hand and Mark’s was first-hand, I took him on face value and was happy to withdraw the comment I made,” Thomas told Nine’s Footy Classified program.
Thomas however remained critical of Neeld’s attack on his players in his post-match press conference.
“I was very surprised by it. I thought it was very early to distance himself from the playing group,” Thomas said.
“He laid the blame squarely at the playing group, Mark.
“It was a very surprising outburst. He should involve himself more in it and take more responsibility for the performance.
“They were trying too hard to put in place a game plan that he’s trying to adopt at Melbourne.”