If Olympic athletes can perform half a world away, Melbourne players ought to be able to improve the AFL club’s sorry interstate record, coach Mark Neeld believes.
The Demons are taking inspiration from Olympians as they seek their first win outside Victoria this season against bottom-placed Greater Western Sydney in Canberra on Saturday.
Melbourne’s four previous interstate trips this year have produced disappointing results – triple-figure thrashings from West Coast and Sydney, a 10-goal belting from Brisbane and a fade-out loss to Port Adelaide.
With Australia’s former long-time Olympic cycling coach Charlie Walsh working with the Demons this week, Neeld said the minimal effect a one-hour plane trip to Canberra should have was rammed home.
“It’s funny when a couple of players asked the question about people performing overseas,” Neeld told reporters on Wednesday.
“It’s very hard for those guys (such as Walsh) to reconcile that we think it’s difficult getting on a plane and travelling for an hour.
“That was an interesting response.
“It’s interesting you get 18-year-olds that can travel around the world and break world records.
“Obviously they’ve got a lot of mental strength and those sorts of things.”
Neeld was hopeful utility Jack Watts would be ready to return from a five-week absence with an ankle injury, after training well on Wednesday.
But the prospect of exciting forward Liam Jurrah adding to his one AFL game so far this season is slim.
Jurrah, due to face trial next month on assault charges, has not played at the top level since round eight.
He returned from an ankle injury through the VFL last weekend.
But Neeld said it was unlikely his fitness would be back to AFL level before the end of the season.
“We need to make sure that we set people up to succeed, not set them up to fail,” Neeld said.
“If Liam is not fit enough to play AFL footy, it could be a disaster.”