Plenty to like about Melbourne’s off-season moves
Battle for the top four rages in the AFL rages - will Collingwood finish on top? (SLattery Images)
If you were told a club were to end the exchange period with a top five pick, a father-son that would’ve been top seven, two premiership players and a 17 year-old who could very well have been top five next year, you’d be pretty impressed, right?
What if you were told that same club gave up pick 20 for Chris Dawes and were at one stage staring at three picks inside the top 13. Does that change your thinking?
Naturally, Melbourne have divided opinion this off-season.
Some love the way they’ve gone about it. Journalist Damian Barrett has repeatedly described it as a “scattergun approach” on the popular Trade Week Radio.
But who’s right? Is this the work of a smart footy club or the Brisbane Lions of late 2009 all over again?
Categorically, it’s the former.
Barrett and others might be well riled up by that notion, however when you dig beyond the surface, what Melbourne have done makes plenty of sense.
On the surface, Dawes for pick 20, plus an exchange of later picks that benefited Collingwood, seems downright crazy.
But ask yourself one question: What can we realistically expect the Melbourne recruiters to achieve with pick 20?
Of the top ten players at the Demons’ best and fairest count this year, only one – Jared Rivers way back in 2002 – was drafted between picks 15 and 32.
Before you put that down to chance, consider that Lucas Cook, Jordan Gysberts, Luke Tapscott, Sam Blease and James Strauss are among the players Melbourne have taken before pick 20 in just the last three years.
It’s probably too early to judge in a couple of cases there, but it sure wouldn’t fill Mark Neeld and company with much confidence that this group of players averaged only 7.6 games this year.
The definition of insanity, it’s often said, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Unless Melbourne’s list managers had become insane, they would’ve been well aware that holding on to pick 20 meant only a very small chance of finding a player that can both fill a need and have a noticeable impact on the team’s performance.
Dawes, meanwhile, will have an instant impact.
People forget how great Mitch Clark was playing this season prior to getting injured, but those that watched Melbourne in the first half of the year would know he’s one of the team’s biggest assets. Now, they’ve brought in support for that asset.
Instead of double-teaming Clark all the time, opposition defenders will have two big power forwards to man. Don’t be surprised if those four-to-five goal hauls that Clark delivers become six-to-seven goal hauls as a result.
In other games, don’t be surprised if Dawes steps up for three or four of his own.
Yes, at Collingwood he didn’t have a particularly impressive year. But being forced into the back-up ruckman role was clearly not for him – never once did he surpass ten hitouts – and that’s not the role he’ll be playing at Melbourne.
As for Melbourne’s other moves, it’s true that their draft positions this year could’ve been better. However, being able to get Jack Viney at pick 26 is a steal. Port Adelaide deemed him worthy of pick 7, but he may have ended up going higher without being a father-son.
17 year-old Jesse Hogan, although he won’t be able to play until 2014, has received big wraps. He’s already 195cm and 97kg, which is impressive in its own right, but at the draft combine he ran a 20m sprint at midfield standard and completed the 3km time-trial in 10m 20s.
In addition to these two youngsters, they’ve held on to pick 4.
By my calculations, that’s basically three top ten picks. Along with free agent and ex-Geelong forward Shannon Byrnes, who still has a few years to give and will be a positive influence for his young teammates, that’s also two premiership players. Finally, a promising 18 year-old by the name of Dom Barry was thrown in from their trade with the GWS Giants.
The only significant picks they started with that are no longer with them are picks 3 and 13. Pick 26 will be used on Viney, and the 28 year-old Rivers is yet to decide his future, but that’s it.
Surely, that’s a successful off-season. At the very least, it’s no reason for any form of fierce criticism.
Just remember, this time last year the Dees went against popular opinion and supposedly “overpaid” Mitch Clark. He turned out to be one of their – very few – shining lights in 2012.
Michael DiFabrizio is completing his journalism degree. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, and appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio. Follow Michael on twitter @mdifabrizio