In 2021, the Melbourne Demons finally went back to the days of old winning a premiership on the road in a once in a lifetime Perth grand final.
Only a week ago I posed the question, should Buddy Franklin remain at Hawthorn or head to the GWS Giants. Melbourne’s board, and Demons’ fans, are no doubt asking the same question right now about coach Mark Neeld.
And just like the Buddy scenario, everyone has an opinion, and there are pros and cons for both keeping Neeld in the job, and sacking him.
Patience may be a virtue, good things come to those who wait, success takes time, get the basics right and good times will follow – all very motivating and catchy lines, but ask Demons supporters about them.
Six wins from their past 40 matches, their last visit to the finals back in 2006, and since then not one winning season, and just 33 wins from 143 games.
Despite some obvious young talent, courtesy of high draft picks, it’s still difficult to see that flickering light at the end of the tunnel through the haze of losing.
So what do you do? Get rid of the coach is the easy option. He’s had over a year to get them going, hasn’t been able to yet, there’s no signs of things turning around in the immediate future, it’s the obvious decision to make. Isn’t it?
Wave bye bye to Neeld, despite tough financial times, open your purse strings as wide as you can, pay everything you can afford to bring in a high profile, proven coach to turn things around, and give him carte blanche (or again whatever you can afford) to achieve success?
Sounds good in theory, but attracting someone of that stature and coaching pedigree won’t be easy. Money is tight and unless paid substantially, why would a previously successful coach want to risk his reputation?
Another option, say farewell now to Mark, bring in another young, promising assistant from around the AFL, and let them have half a season to get things in place for 2014?
Or perhaps, give someone who has experienced coaching success elsewhere, Melbourne’s director of sports performance Neil Craig, a crack at the job.
Or maybe just leave Neeld in the job, and discreetly do interviews for his 2014 successor as the season moves on, finding the right man in plenty of time to let Neeld go at the season’s end.
All are options I suppose.
The bottom line is after so much losing, so much embarrassment, so many savage losses, and so much frustration, most Melbourne fans want to see something being done to change things.
If things remain as they are and no changes are made, then what can they expect? More losing, more embarrassment, and so on.
Most believe at the very least, Melbourne has to be seen to be doing something to turn things around.
But isn’t that what they have already done?
When he got the job at the end of 2011, Neeld put in place a plan that included overhauling the club’s playing list, changing training standards, improving leadership and developing a young team.
Isn’t that what he’s doing? Don’t those things take time? Shouldn’t he at the very least be given until the end of this season before deciding what should happen in 2014?
Sack him now, and won’t you be just bringing in a new coach to where Neeld was back in 2011?
Quite often when there is talk about a coach sacking, an underlying theme is tension between players and the coach, the players just don’t respond to that coach, or they won’t give their heart and soul for that particular coach.
None of those things seem to be bubbling over here.
It was interesting to hear captain Jack Grimes on SEN radio this week give an insight into what the players think.
“From the start, he (Neeld) always said to us that the game-day results will be the last thing we see,” Grimes said.
“For instance, the way we train – not to say the way we used to train was bad, or we were doing anything wrong – it’s just gone to a new level. We train like I’ve never trained before in my life. It’s just so much more intense, and so much more game-like.
“You can’t keep training and preparing the way we do, and keep getting the results that we are. We just have total faith in what we are doing. It will turn for us.
“I don’t think we’ve done it for long enough. We haven’t had this change for a long enough period for it to be so ingrained in us that it always comes out on game day. It’s unfair, the criticism that he (Neeld) cops.”
Sure a captain is going to stand by his coach I hear you saying, but what if Grimes is just calling it like it is, and he and his teammates do believe it will turn soon for them? What if the club keeps faith in Neeld, and he and his players do turn it around significantly by the season’s end?
Surely it’s worth waiting another 11 games at least to find out.
But ‘what ifs’ aren’t really want Demons fans want to hear right now. They just want to see that faint, flickering shining light down the tunnel.
Should the board stick or sack? I say stick.
If you like, line up your potential candidates to eventually move in if the downward spiral continues to the end of the season. But just think of the money saved, and what good guys and visionaries the board will all look like, if Neeld and his boys can start to swing things around.