Tuesday, 15 March 2005


The Age previews our 2005 season.. Given that nobody actually reads the Age you don't have to take any of it seriously.

In the disappointment of five straight losses to end 2004, and an eventual finish of seventh, it was easy to forget that Melbourne headed the AFL ladder as late as round 18, when the Demons' win-loss record stood an impressive 14-4.

That was no fluke, either. A month before the finals, Melbourne was every bit as serious a flag contender as fellow upstarts St Kilda and Geelong proved to be, the Demons having earned plenty of respect with their exciting, hard-running game, and a real evenness across the line-up.

And there's little reason not to expect the same from Melbourne in 2005, even if recent history has taught Demon fans that a football year ending in an odd number usually means disaster.

While it may not have the out-and-out superstars of a Brisbane Lions or West Coast policing its midfield, Melbourne has a depth of engine-room talent the envy of most of its rivals, featuring a group of players whose improvement has been steady rather than spectacular.

Cameron Bruce and Brad Green are now far more than the handy forward goalkickers they started out as, their skill a real plus in the centre square, while lesser lights such as James McDonald and Matthew Whelan are also more important contributors these days. Geelong pick-up Brent Moloney has impressed during the pre-season and gives coach Neale Daniher another string to his midfield bow.

There's an outstanding ruckman in Jeff White to work with them. Then there's a clutch of fast-emerging kids; goalsneak Aaron Davey, backman Jared Rivers and key forward Brad Miller are the pick, but Brock McLean, Daniel Bell and Colin Sylvia are capable of making just as big an impression.

The "ifs" for the Demons are probably at either end of the ground. There's still a dependence on ageing skipper David Neitz for goals, Melbourne's bad days usually corresponding with his. A greater goalkicking return from Miller, Russell Robertson or Ben Holland would certainly ease those concerns.

Defensively, too, Melbourne can look a little vulnerable, full-back Alistair Nicholson game enough but outclassed against the very best key forwards, Rivers too young and inexperienced to be expected to handle centre half-back week after week. A successful return by Ryan Ferguson from a season ruined by injury certainly would give the back line a more solid look.

But Melbourne is well-coached enough, hungry enough, and has enough class throughout its list to overcome those doubts. This time, there will be little excuse should the odd number at the end of the year coincide with another Demon slide.

Serious analysis aside they eventually get to the "our experts select " section,

Rohan Connolly 4th

Karen Lyon 5th

Jake Niall 7th

Emma Quayle 7th

Peter Schwab 6th

Robert Walls 6th

Tim Watson 7th

Caroline Wilson 2nd

I'd like to give her the benefit of the doubt but anyone who thinks we're the second best side in the competition needs their head examined. I think those who have 6th are the closest to the mark.

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