The Melbourne Demons have been very harshly dealt with by fans and the media alike in the last two weeks. They have been criticised for not performing to the standard that is expected of them but how can we expect that much from a team that is still so young and plagued with injuries.
The current injury list at Melbourne stands with the following players:
Rohan Bail (knee)
Clint Bartram (hip)
Robbie Campbell (knee soreness)
Aaron Davey (knee)
Jack Fitzpatrick (ankle)
Colin Garland (ankle)
Jack Grimes (foot)
Mark Jamar (knee)
Michael Newton (foot)
Jake Spencer (knee)
Luke Tapscott (hamstring)
This list stands at eleven players, in which nine of them could be considered regular players. Rohan Bail was in impressive form before succumbing to a knee injury, as were Luke Tapscott, Clint Bartram and Colin Garland. Then you have Jack Grimes, Aaron Davey and Mark Jamar who are key players for the Dees further weakening the team put onto the park each week. Robbie Campbell and Michael Newton would also be in the current team if not for their injuries. Having all these players out, especially at the same time, does not do the Dees any favours and with fifteen of the players who have played this season, playing less than fifty games it is clear that this is a developing team who should not have such high expectations on them.
At the start of the season it seemed as though Demons supporters and the media alike were expecting the Dees to make finals otherwise their season would be considered a failure. How not making the finals could be considered a failure for such a young and developing team is beyond me. Yes, improvement should be sought after at the club but unlike most developing teams the Demons have a significantly younger list and any improvement of their 12th position last season would be acceptable in my eyes.
I also believe the criticism of Dean Bailey is highly unfair. Bailey came to the club in a time where major change was needed both on and off the field and Bailey has recruited well. Jack Watts, Tom Scully and Jack Trengove are ever improving and they will undoubtedly become great players in the future but like most players they need time to develop. Bailey’s tactics have also come under fire with people criticising the ‘counter attacking’ style that they play. This style of play has been developed because Bailey realises that because his players are young and developing they will struggle to win the contested ball and clearances, this is a sign of a coach who knows what his teams’ strengths and weaknesses are and is playing a style that reflects that.
If we think back to three weeks ago the Demons were sitting in 8th position on the ladder and were being talked up as finals contenders yet losses to North Melbourne, St.Kilda and Carlton had turned the fans against them. Even though the North Melbourne game was one that they would expect to win, the losses against last years’ finalists St.Kilda and current top four contenders Carlton should not be considered the end of their season.
In the end the Demons and Dean Bailey should be judged on whether they have improved on their 12th position last year and the development in their list. In time Bailey will adapt his game plan to constantly match the strengths of his team and with the young list developing, I can see Melbourne being a force to be reckoned with in the next couple of years and Bailey and the players need to be given the space to achieve this without unnecessary criticism directed towards them.