Melbourne coach Mark Neeld says he is focusing on educating his players

Neeld not simmering, just teaching
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 3:32 PM

PERHAPS it was because it was Easter Monday but the atmosphere that pervaded Melbourne at midday was that of a fresh start.

Following an exhausting week off the field last week for the club's leaders that ended with a 108-point loss to West Coast at Patersons Stadium, Melbourne coach Mark Neeld opened the week highlighting the positives.

After reviewing the game with the coaching group his assessment was that Melbourne had been able to play in the way he wants it to play for two-and-a-half quarters. Neeld said the team's ball movement had improved and the players' adherence to the team's structures was reasonable.

There was no sense he was happy, however he was not simmering in the same way he had been following the loss to the Lions. His focus was on the education process underway rather than expressing positive or negative feelings towards the performance.

"Sometimes it [doesn't] come down to a decision between positives and negatives, it's about educating them on how we want to play and looking for continued improvement," said Neeld.

"Really the test of a good organisation is being able to do that no matter the scoreboard [or] result and we'll certainly go down that line."

When asked whether improvement was needed from the club's senior players, particularly Brad Green and Mark Jamar, Neeld refused to single them out.

"We're zero and two (no wins, two losses) so they are not the only ones that need to improve across the board," said Neeld.

In fact, he said, if observers looked at the other end of the scale there were some encouraging signs.

Mature aged rookie James Magner played his second good game in a row while 19-year-old Tom McDonald, in his first game for the season, tried to provide some run out of defence. New recruit Mitch Clark kicked five goals from limited opportunities responding well after a disappointing round one and Jeremy Howe and Jack Watts showed good signs playing in unfamiliar roles that found them in the middle at centre bounces.

All good signs but Neeld was not backing away from the results so far. He admitted they were less than what was wanted at this stage. "We thought we'd go a little better than we have," he said.

Despite the results Neeld said morale was good. "The players are realistic they know where they are at but round two, we're zero and two. That is not ideal clearly," he said. "One of the good things to come out of the weekend was the opportunity for our younger guys to see a top club and see the work-rate that they have."

So this week attention turns to Richmond, also without a win for 2012. The Demons have won four of their past six games against the Tigers but lost to them by seven points in round 22, 2011.

The VFL performances of rookie Tom Couch (who was recently elevated to the senior group) and more established players Luke Tapscott and Cale Morton have put them in contention for selection. Neeld hopes that Brent Moloney and Stefan Martin will be available but will become more certain of their situation as the week passes.

A rocky week has passed. The football club has shown what it stands for and has stood by individuals. If a new sponsor can be found the experience may make the place stronger.

In the immediate term however the on-field trend must start to swing upward. Neeld thinks it can.

"When you get a group of highly talented athletes, if you can instil a really good work ethic, there is an opportunity to improve," said Neeld. "That is what we have got, a really young group, inexperienced in terms of games played. We just need to get them out there and have a look at the good sides and be able to hold the game-plan for a little bit longer and they will improve."

About the AFLCA
Round 21 Leaderboard
95 Nathan Fyfe (Fremantle)
92 Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide)
83 Josh Kennedy (Sydney)
72 Gary Ablett (Gold Coast)
72 Matthew Priddis (West Coast)
70 Lance Franklin (Sydney)
68 Dyson Heppell (Essendon)
65 Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood)
64 Joel Selwood (Geelong)
61 Jordan Lewis (Hawthorn)