Saturday, 18 February 2006

Pre-Season Fever

Hands up who really takes intra-club games seriously? For every player going ballistic and having a hundred touches it usually means that he was playing against somebody who is also contracted to us and happens to be shit. At least wait until the gimmick practice matches against Fremantle in Bunbury to start making decisions about who's a gun and who is for the tip.

Not that I was actually there today, but when has that ever stopped anyone from providing quality reportage. Either that or I could just pilfer the afl.com.au report instead,

Russell Robertson kicked an attention-grabbing five goals, but Melbourne looks to have found a ready-made senior player in top draft choice Nathan Jones after the solidly built youngster starred in Friday's intra-club match at Victoria Park.

Jones, who turned 18 last month, was taken at pick 12 by the Demons in last year's NAB AFL draft after a stellar season at under 18 level which culminated in 36 touches in a losing side in the TAC Cup grand final.

And in his first hit-out at senior level the 179cm pocket rocket showed why he was regarded as one of the fittest players in the TAC Cup last year as well as the best ball winners as he helped himself to more than 20 possessions in an eye-catching performance that has almost certainly ensured him a place in the Demons' side for the first round NAB Cup game against the Western Bulldogs in Darwin next week.

However what made Jones' performance even more noticeable was the fact his 85kg body already looks capable of standing up to senior level football as showed when he courageously stood under a high ball in the opening minutes and was met heavily only to immediately get up and keep playing.

And his smother directly off the boot resulting in yet another possession in the second term had the couple of hundred Demons' fans in attendance in raptures.

After the game Melbourne coach Neale Daniher attempted to play down the excitement over Jones but was candid when asked whether his performance ensured a place in the NAB Cup next week.

"I would have thought so," Daniher said.

Daniher was more effusive over the performance of the Demons' top draft choice from the previous year in Matthew Bate, a wingman who did not play in the AFL last year but was a member of Sandringham's VFL premiership side.

"Matthew Bate is ready to play and that's what you take out of a game like this," he said.

"We will take Bate to Darwin and we think we might have a footballer there this year."

In hot conditions, which Daniher said was an ideal preparation for next Friday's clash in the tropical heat of the Top End, the Demons also unveiled some exciting rookie list players.

The first was 18-year-old Andre Gianfagna, who began the game by kicking two goals (one a great goal on the run from near the boundary) on Brad Green while 19-year-old Daniel Hughes - a player Daniher described in the Cameron Bruce mould - also looked promising.

However another rookie in defender Matthew Warnock had a far tougher morning opposed to a red-hot Robertson, who was easily the most eye-catching of the Demons' senior players.

Robertson kicked 5.4 and took two of his trademark screamers to show he is more than capable of matching last year's fantastic season in which he kicked 73 goals and was considered the most unlucky player to miss All-Australian selection.

"He is a good player that Russell Robertson," Daniher joked after the match before praising the performance of young Warnock.

"It was a good experience for young Matty, we have got a lot of faith in him and we might take him away to Darwin next week."

The Demons were without skipper David Neitz (resting), Daniel Ward (calf), Brent Moloney (shoulder) and Ben Holland (finger) and that quartet will all miss next week's NAB Cup opener, but Brock McLean and Phil Read could play after missing the intra-club match with minor niggles.

Veteran midfielder Simon Godfrey (rolled ankle) was the only player injured on Friday but will play in Darwin while other players to impress were new recruit Byron Pickett, experienced trio Clint Bizzell, Mark Jamar and Shannon Motlop - who all look much fitter, youngster Chris Johnson and the classy Travis Johnstone, who racked up possession after possession until being rested early in the third quarter.


This bit should concern anyone,

The first was 18-year-old Andre Gianfagna, who began the game by kicking two goals (one a great goal on the run from near the boundary) on Brad Green


Was Gianfagmania running riot, or has Green completely lost the plot? Personally I'm favor of flogging him off to the highest bidder at the end of the year - if we can extort a first round pick from a dud side on the basis of his goalkicking alone it'll be the biggest scandal around. Good news for us if the Pies are rubbish again and their mutant fans start clattering for "big" signings. He played for Manchester United once you know, in case you missed that nugget of information on one of the 9545 occasions commentators have pointed it out.

Roll on Darwin and the Bulldogs. We're taking the pre-season cup lightly this year, and they're huge candidates to be hyped by everyone and do nothing so if we plaster them I'll start thinking about finals football. Until then nothing has been proven and we still exist in some sort of existential footballing limbo.

Next week: Nietschze, Nihilism and how it fits perfectly into being a Melbourne fan.

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