Melbourne buries Giants and some demons
Tom Scully of the Giants is tackled by Daniel Nicholson of the Demons (Photo: Slattery Images)
Yesterday when Bruce McAvaney mentioned that Melbourne and GWS were playing for 16th position there was giggling in the commentary box.
Late in the second quarter when the game was already over, conversation turned to the increased presence of beards and mullets in the AFL.
Melbourne to its credit turned this much-anticipated contest into a fizzer. It was a shame really because it offered so much.
There was the return of Tom Scully, an event that Tim Watson – a player from a more loyal and physically violent era – was clearly relishing.
With an old-timers glee he predicted: “I reckon his old teammates have got a surprise in store for him!”
Mark Neeld was more accurate when he described the Scully saga after the game as “good theatre”. That is, all show.
Jack Grimes gave him a little talking to, and an elbow or two, when he found Scully skulking next to the umpire before the first bounce but that was about it.
Polite anti-Scully demonstrators were advised by security personnel to put away their offending paraphernalia which included a badly written banner, a couple of money bags with “$cully” scribbled on them, and an overcoat with large denomination notes pinned to it.
I suspect Neeld knew that focussing on Scully would be a waste of effort.
Scully is the sort of lightly framed skill merchant hovering on the fringes that solid men like to run through but never seem to find the opportunity to do so. On receiving the ball he slides into space or offloads so quickly and accurately that an opponent doesn’t have time to line him up.
The Giant’s Callan Ward received more serious attention from the Demons when he belatedly challenged Jack Grimes on the boundary line. A furious Nathan Jones ran in, sparking a melee.
Funnily enough, Melbourne’s under performing number one draft pick of 2008, Jack Watts, playing down back, was given the treatment by Mark Whiley, a forward two years his junior.
Counteracting the self-martyrdom generated by the Scully affair was the awkward presence of James McDonald – the long serving former captain they dumped in 2010. McDonald performed some vigorous tackles throughout but failed to summon any aggression from his former teammates.
Instead, they were almost apologetic if they collided with him, and Nathan Jones was seen helping him up off the ground after McDonald had tackled him head first into the turf.
Potentially adding to the tension was the fact that Kevin Sheedy had been dying for this game to come about. Apparently he is still bitter about being rejected for the Demons coaching position in 2007, and was hoping to deepen their woes
Six weeks ago Melbourne was at rock bottom. Mourning its President and the loss of a star recruit when the season began it found itself at the foot of the ladder with an red-faced angry and haunted looking first year coach.
It was hard to believe it won three games in excess of 14 goals last year, and finished just three games out of the eight. 2010 and 2011 were meant to be the foundation for an era of sustained growth but instead it has found itself vying again for the wooden spoon.
Unbelievably it then defeated a previously dominant Essendon in a rugged display, and was very competitive at times against Collingwood.
With those performances it deserved to be favourite for this match however GWS had shown vast improvement, pushing Richmond the previous week.
The Giants were expected to win the wooden spoon this year and so have nothing to lose. Melbourne, being the oldest club and in danger of suffering the ignominy of finishing below two new developing teams, had everything to lose.
Despite a poor opening, it dominated the match without too much effort. The playing group looks more confident and relaxed and Neeld seems to have lost his angry face.
Encouraging for Melbourne is the fact that it appears a serious gap still exists between it and to the two new clubs. The win should ensure it won’t claim its third wooden spoon in five years.
The game was boring as hell but Melbourne used it to bury some demons.