It’s fair to say so far in 2012 the Demons are having the season from hell. In March all of the football community, but particularly the Melbourne Football Club mourned the loss of its great clubman, former Brownlow medalist and president Jim Stynes. Now all of our thoughts are with the Stynes family.

The Demons opened the season with an embarrassing loss to Brisbane on their sacred MCG, a ground that Melbourne annihilated interstate teams on last year such as Adelaide and Fremantle to the tune of 96 and 89 points respectively. A Neeld tactic probably straight from the Collingwood playbook of bombing the ball long to a tall forward line is practically impossible given the Demons injuries this year. Gawn (season), Spencer, Cook and Jurrah have been unavailable early, as have key ball carriers Jetta, Gysberts, Tapscott and Sylvia. Sylvia and Jurrah have had their fare share of off field controversy in the preseason too.

With the coach and a club favourite rumored to be embroiled in a recent ‘he said, she said’ off field spat, things have gone from bad to worse with the Demons slipping to their fourth consecutive loss to the Bulldogs in the Jim Stynes tribute match. While it was a spirited performance, the club is perhaps is at its lowest ebb. Did Tom Scully foresee anything other than dollar signs that lead to his controversial defection to GWS last year? His on field talent and emerging leadership potential is being sorely missed in 2012.

However in some brighter news Scully’s departure resulted in the Demons receiving two future first round draft picks (one immediately after their first pick and the other mid-first round). Their first-round selections can be activated in any of the 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2015 draft selection meetings. The Demons have already committed to picking potential star father-son Jack Viney in 2012, which will almost certainly cost them a first round pick.

If they activate one or both of their Scully compensation picks this year they could end up with two picks inside the top 5 (provided they finish in the bottom four), another one at 10 and even a fourth first round ‘priority pick’. Under the current rule, if a club wins four games or less in a season, it receives a priority pick before the start of round two in that year’s NAB AFL Draft. That’s Viney and up to three additional first round picks in what former Crows recruiting manager Matt Rendell recently said in terms of talent is “probably going to be the best draft ever, in the history of drafts.”

Asked about where the current list is at, new president Don McLardy said “I’m concerned we’ve been building for four years … how come we don’t appear to be much different? “I’m hoping by the end of the season we’re going to look at that in a different light, but at the moment I can understand everyone’s frustration and concern about whether we’ve gone anywhere.”

Brisbane coach Michael Voss labeled the Demons “the superpower of the future” after they defeated the Swans by 73 points at the MCG in 2010. However in addition to emerging youngsters Sylvia (24), Bartram (22), Frawley (21), Morton (20) and McKenzie (19), among Melbourne’s better players that day were the older brigade/leaders in McDonald (33), Bruce (30), Green (29) and Davey (26). The first pair are now on other AFL lists and the second pair are struggling with form loss and injury. McLardy said if Trengove was in Selwood’s position of being mentored by fellow midfielders and leaders such as Ablett Jnr, Bartel and Chapman, he would have advanced much quicker.

Clearly the Demons are still in a period of transition, which requires the new leadership group of Trengove, Grimes, Bartram, Clark, Frawley, Garland, Jamar and Jones to nurture a fresh crop of talent.
As we have seen in recent years many modern TAC Cup draftees such as Andrew Gaff (Eagles), Dyson Heppell (Bombers), Toby Greene and Devon Smith (both Giants) are ready to step up and have an impact at AFL level immediately. No club is in a better position to secure the richest football talent available in this year’s national draft.

The team still has a relatively young goal-to-goal line in Frawley (23), Garland (24), Trengove (20), Watts (21) and Clark (24). Jurrah, Martin and Howe may be dangerous forwards and the likes of Jamar, Moloney, Jones, Sylvia, Grimes, Gysberts, Pettered, McKenzie, Magner and Morton comprise a sturdy engine room. In terms of getting games into their current youngsters, they are way ahead of Gold Coast and GWS, for which some members of the media have tipped as flag favourites in 4-5 years. Get it right in the next nine months and Melbourne could be pushing for finals again as soon as next year with a premiership on the horizon.

Written By: Roger “Shooter” Cooper