Dees served duck for dinner

August 12, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons 

Round 21 – Melbourne V Collingwood

Liam Chambers

When Ed Langdon made his “all duck and no dinner” jibe, he may have been thinking of Tzu Sun’s quote “continue to find ways to anger and irritate your opponent, for decisions made out of anger are often petulant and rash, which can lead to advantages for you”.

Unfortunately, rather than being petulant and rash, the Magpies instead looked more focused and ruthless. Langdon was brutally targeted within the first thirty seconds and a minute later Collingwood had their first goal courtesy of Jordan De Goey.

Melbourne’s response was instantaneous. Having won the hitout, Jack Viney secured a free and kicked inside 50 where Christian Petracca caught the loose ball in the air, spun around and snapped the goal. The other Christian (Salem) then won a free for his run down tackle inside the 50m line. His set shot from 48m sailed through. It was three in a row when Jack Viney took a handball from Luke Jackson, then chipped it across the line.

150th gamer Jamie Elliot got one back for the Pies with his mark and set shot score from 35m out. Jake Melksham restored the Demon’s two goal advantage after he was tackled high, half a metre inside the goal line.

Later in the quarter, Mason Cox took a contested mark 30m to the left of goal, scoring the Pies’ third from his set shot. Less than a minute later, Bayley Fritsch took a brilliant contested mark himself when Luke Jackson’s long kick from 70m found the high scoring forward in front of goal. His conversion racked up the Dees’ fifth goal and a combined eight overall for the quarter. That total increased to nine when Ash Johnson marked and scored from 50m.

It was a one point game when Jamie Elliot was awarded a free kick directly in front of goal. Then with a minute to go Christian Petracca kicked to the space in front of Bayley Fritsch. The ball was tapped down and controlled. Unfortunately Fritsch ran out of room to score but cleverly hand passed back to Kysaiah Pickett who had positioned himself at the top of the square. The small forward then ran a couple of metres and kicked into the open goal.

The drama wasn’t over yet though. Right on the siren, Chris Salem marked and was awarded a 50m penalty for an incursion. The penalty brought him to within scoring range but his set shot veered wide of the target.

Melbourne had a few opportunities to extend their lead at the start of the second term but the chances went begging. Then Ed Langdon took a contested mark 20m in front and kicked cleanly to give the Demons a sixteen point lead. Tom Sparrow followed up with a steely nerved 50m set shot and we were twenty three points ahead. The advantage didn’t last long as Jamie Elliot claimed his hat trick from a 25m set shot.

Melbourne had dominated the inside 50 tally all game but the Pies’ efficiency once they got close to goal was better. It happened again when Brody Mihocek found some space 25m from goal to snap and close the gap to ten points. The momentum had swung Collingwood’s way and the Dees were struggling to turn back the tide.

Finally they found a way to stem the black and white tsunami when Ben Brown marked deep in the pocket. He bent his run around kick perfectly and stretched the lead back to sixteen points. Melbourne now knew that they were in a real fight and would have to scramble for every advantage as well as defend desperately in face of Collingwood’s forward pressure.

The Dees was playing well though and when Bayley Fritsch secured a free, then a 50m penalty, he kicked superbly from just outside 50. We couldn’t afford to relax however, as Collingwood again showed their efficiency inside 50 when Ash Johnson was able to snap the loose ball from 25m to the left of goal.

No doubt the Demons would have been ruing those missed opportunities after having controlled the play so convincingly in the first half. Melbourne had prevented the Pies from intercepting marks and also dominated inside 50s and contested marks. We hadn’t done a lot wrong but Collingwood had defended well and as previously noted was hugely efficient when they got to within scoring range.

It was all Dees for the first ten minutes of the second half, but we had little to show for that effort. Then the Pies broke through and Brody Mihocek was able to kick from the 50m line to Beau McCreery who marked the ball at the top of the square.

Melbourne fans were getting understandable nervous as Collingwood was holding the margin to two goals and threatening to make it an even tighter contest. Charlie Spargo finally provided some relief for the pent up faithful with his brilliant dribble 10m from the right of goal.

The Pies dragged it back again after the ARC deemed Brody Mihocek’s set shot had scrapped through, despite the Umpire’s behind call. It was twelve points and now becoming more of a psychological battle. Having won so many close games, Collingwood had to fancy themselves to prevail. The Dees would be thinking what do we have to do now to ram home our advantage?

Then the mind games became even more intense when Patrick Lipinski picked up the ball just inside 50 and found enough room to launch a bullet and make it a one goal game.

The Pies had pulled out a large number of tricks from their bag in the third quarter. The question now was how many surprises had they left? Melbourne would have to get seriously desperate to prevent the serial comeback kings from pulling off another unlikely victory.

The tension was unbearable. There were near misses and howlers on both sides. Then Jamie Elliot was awarded a free kick for a tackle 15m to the right of goal. Now it was a one point match. Collingwood was fighting tooth and nail when Ash Johnson took a mark and scored from 40m to take the lead. The Dees were behind for the first time since the opening minutes.

Ben Brown had missed a couple on the night but he didn’t miss a set shot from 35m and Melbourne was back in front. The lead change again when Josh Daicos scored from 45m. After the bounce, it was a case of blink and you miss it as Gawn, Oliver, Petracca and Viney combined to get the ball inside 50 where Alex Neal-Bullen kicked from 40m to again restore the lead.

By now Demon fans all over the country were being revived by concerned friends. The outcome was impossible to predict with just over eight minutes left on the clock. Then, in what initially looked like a dubious call, Ash Johnson was awarded a free in front of goal for an illegal push. He went back to kick his fourth and the lead changed for the fifth time in the quarter.

Ultimately Melbourne couldn’t find a way to score another major and Collingwood, yet again, found a way to win in the fourth quarter.

We will have learned a lot from this last game but it would have been the sweetest taste if we could just have hung on to beat our arch nemesis. Still that’s footy. Even the most optimistic Demon would have to concede that we’re extremely unlikely to secure a top two spot now. However a top four place is very much alive.

Carlton have been having their own problems lately but they’ve already beaten us pre season and we would underestimate them at our peril. Then of course there’s our last game against the Lions who will be out for revenge after being thrashed in Round 15.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!

Melbourne’s stevedores offload Dockers

August 4, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
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Round 20 – Fremantle V Melbourne

Liam Chambers

They say that a week is a long time in football and conclusively, there’s been a 100% turnaround in the Dees’ performance. Round 20 was arguably our best display of 2022.

From the start you could sense the difference in the Demons. They were chasing every ball and applying unrelenting pressure to the Dockers. Melbourne’s hand passing was impressive but most importantly they were playing as a team in a way we’ve rarely seen this year. Their great strength last season was the philosophy of team first, individuals second. That tenet has been re-stamped into each player’s DNA and it showed in their attitude.

We were dominating play and spending most of the first ten minutes in our forward 50. Somewhere over the last couple of seasons, the Dees have adapted well to playing in wet conditions; something Freo still struggle to master. It was only a matter of time before Melbourne scored and it came via a perfectly place kick from Christian Petracca which was marked by Kysaiah Pickett. The set shot was a straightforward kick from 20m in front.

After the goal, the Demons looked comfortably in control. The belief was back. The trials and tribulations of the past three months were behind them and there was a renewed focus. You can argue about the catalyst that brought about this change; conceding 110 points to the Dogs last week, the mid week evaluation of recent performances, even Angus Brayshaw resigning for six more years. Perhaps a combination of all three mixed together with some other unknown variables. Whatever the reason, the change was palpable.

As if on cue, Bayley Fritsch showed his versatility and talent by picking up the tapped down ball, then running around the Dockers’ defence and striking off his left boot to score form 25m out. Then after winning the hitout, Melbourne again proceeded towards goal. Inside 50, they pounced and tackled, giving Fremantle no opportunity to get the ball out and creating a stoppage in front of goal. Charlie Spargo crumbed the ball and got a kick away before Freo had a chance to fully react. The review showed the ball hadn’t been touched and Melbourne was three goals to the good.

Although the Dees have had good first terms in recent games, this time it was different. This was total domination and there was little their opponents could do to arrest the onslaught. When the Dockers made it into our defensive 50 we didn’t concede an inch. Their forays were fought off with determination. There was a confidence that we could handle whatever Fremantle could throw at us.

When you sling enough mud, some will eventually stick and so it was when Freo finally scored with three minutes to go. Michael Frederick was awarded a free to the right of the square and went back to kick the set shot. Then Michael Walters slammed through a goal after collecting the ground ball 20m out.

Melbourne took it in their stride. With a minute to go, Jayden Hunt kicked a long ball to Fritsch inside 50, where the forward missed the mark but controlled the sherrin, running on before tapping in his second.

The Dees’ first goal after the break just epitomised the rediscovered team spirit. Jack Viney one handedly picked up the bouncing ball, spun around, charged through Andrew Brayshaw before passing to Tom Sparrow who passed to Ed Langdon. The wing-man took off at speed, getting the kick away where it sailed inside 50, was tapped down then collected by James Jordan who chipped it through the posts.

When Max Gawn took a mark deep in the pocket, he spotted the aforementioned Ed Langdon in a better position just inside the 50m line. Taking the Freo defence by surprise Gawn kicked to Langdon who took the mark and kicked long and accurately to put the Dees ahead by 26 points.

Both sides had chances after that but were unable to capitalise. Then as half time was closing in, Jake Melksham proved again why he’s back in the side. Another stoppage enabled Clayton Oliver to flick the ball up, literally from ground level, to the waiting Melksham. The veteran forward found enough space to get around the defence and snap from 30m. Michael Walters got one back just before the siren but the Dees still led by a healthy 27 points.

Melbourne continued in the same vein at the start of the second half. Their pressure, if anything, intensified. Freo was basically locked into their defensive 50. Eventually they got out but no matter how hard they fought, the Dockers were still having difficulties penetrating the Dees’ defence. Then they got a desperately needed break when Griffin Logue was able to control the ground ball on the edge of the square and tap in a goal.

Fremantle had closed the gap but could they to back it up and seriously threaten the Demons? That question was answered quickly when Angus Brayshaw’s kick to space was marked by Bayley Fritsch deep in the pocket. Fritsch’s 50m kick, from a tight angle was perfect.

Max Gawn again won the hitout and kicked the ball to inside 50. Charlie Spargo ended up with possession. His 40m kick didn’t quite have the distance but was incredibly marked by Sam Weideman right on the edge of the goal square. Weideman went back a couple of metres and stretched the advantage to 34 points.

The Dockers continued to apply pressure but couldn’t get any reward for all their efforts. Frustratingly for the home fans, it was Melbourne who got the next major when Charlie Spargo was awarded a free on the boundary line to the right of goal. His round the corner kick sailed through, pushing the margin passed 40 points. To add to Freo’s woes, it started to rain again.

As the minutes ticked down in the last quarter, the situation was looking increasingly dire for Fremantle. Meanwhile Melbourne continued to push their opponents hard. There was no way we were getting run down this time.

Michael Frederick got one back with his round the corner kick but it was purely a consolation goal. Within a few minutes, Jake Melksham had marked the ball 30m out and hand passed to Kysaiah Pickett as he flew past into a scoring position. It was an easy stroll and tap into the open goal. Kozzie had his hat trick when when Fritsch kicked to the small forward as he again ran towards goal, marking on the edge of the square. Pickett sprinted around and kicked, ratcheting up the advantage to 46 points.

With the win, the Dees remain in second spot. It was arguably their best performance all season. It also showed the deep desire to win back to back flags. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Collingwood game in Round 21 is our most important so far this year.

If we win, we will have given ourselves a great chance to finish in the top two. It won’t be easy. The Pies have won their last ten games in a row. They’ve also beaten us in sixth of our last seven meetings. However, if we play with the same determination and team spirit we showed in Round 20, then I have no doubt that we will win!

Go the Mighty Dees!!!

Third time lucky for Dogs

July 29, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
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Round 19 – Western Bulldogs V Melbourne

Liam Chambers

Josh Bruce seems to be a sort of talisman for the Dogs and they raise their game when he’s in the side. The warning signs were there last week with a convincing win over St Kilda. Melbourne, of all the top sides, have had the most difficult draw in the latter half of the competition. If we were expecting a relatively easy win against the Bulldogs though, then we were sadly disappointed. We played some great footy but, yet again, the fourth quarter was our undoing.

On paper, it was a no-brainer. Melbourne, sitting in second spot, were firm favourites to win, potentially quashing the Bulldogs finals aspirations in the process. However, having lost the two previous encounters, the Dogs would be up for a fight. The home side opened the scoring when Marcus Bontempelli marked in the right hand pocket and scored from the set shot. They also got the second when in form Jamarra Ugle-Hagan crumbed the loose ball and kicked from the edge of the square.

The Dees had opportunities but failed to put them away. That was until Bayley Fritsch stooped to collect ball and tap it home. It was a quick response from the Dogs with Aaron Naughton being awarded a free in front of goal. He kicked cleanly to stretch the lead to ten points. Alex Neal-Bullen kicked from a similar position at the other end less than a minute later. It was shaping up to be a tight contest.

Riley Garcia found enough space in the pack, just inside 50, to turn and snap another for the Bulldogs. Then it seesawed back to the Demons again as Jake Melksham went about ensuring his place in the side with a round the corner kick from 25m out. Melksham was also involved in the follow up when his weighted kick from the 50m line bounced nicely in front of Kysaiah Pickett, allowing the small forward to collect and run it into goal for his first of the evening. Another player looking to secure his top flight spot is Sam Weideman. His set shot goal from 30m won’t have damaged his prospects. Neither will his 50m kick after the siren, giving Melbourne a fifteen point advantage at quarter time.

The Dees’ lead increase to twenty one points in the first minute of the second term when Bayley Fritsch marked an impressive centring kick from Ed Langdon on the wing. Then the Bulldogs restored the quarter time margin with Rhylee West was able to catch the falling ball and kick a goal from the edge of the square.

Tim English drew the Dogs closer to Melbourne with his set shot directly in front. Then Cody Weightman was awarded a free kick 20m to the left of goal and it was a three point game. The match started to swing back to the Dees when Jack Viney was straight onto the ball after the centre bounce. It was tapped down inside 50 and Bayley Fritsch pounced, snapping his third.
Tom Sparrow stretched the lead further with his snap from 35m.

Melbourne was in the zone and over running the Bulldogs. When they’re in that sort of form, they’re impossible to stop and Luke Jackson had another chance from a set shot. This time he didn’t miss. Another stoppage and the Dees got the ball inside 50 where Fritsch was again waiting. He grabbed the ball, then turned and snapped for his fourth. It was a twenty seven point lead but the Dogs weren’t lying down.

Cody Weightman did a Fritsch at the other end and snapped one back. That was an important goal for the hosts and basically kept them in the game. Just before halftime, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan kicked his second from a 40m set shot. The quarter finished with both sides scoring equally and the Demons’ fifteen point advantage was back where it started.

Melbourne was having difficulty putting the game to bed. They had seen a twenty one point lead pulled back to three point, then a twenty seven point advantage reduced to fifteen. It was imperative now that the Dees consolidate and build on their dominance. They had the perfect start and a touch of good fortune when Jake Melksham took a mark in the pocket before being awarded a 50m penalty for a late contact. The lead was back to twenty one and Simon Goodwin couldn’t argue he wasn’t getting his Woolies worth from the forward.

Like the Power last week, the Dogs desperately needed the win if they were to secure a finals berth. They were fighting for every point and had a few near misses before Adam Treloar scooped the ball and got enough purchase to send it through the posts. Ominously, the match was swinging back in favour of the Bulldogs again. They eventually got their second of the half when ruckman Tim English kicked a 50m ball on the run. Aaron Naughton got the hosts to within a point when he took clean possession from a stoppage and launch the ball 30m for his second goal.

The Dees needed a quick response and they got it; winning the bounce and getting the ball straight inside 50 where James Harmes took possession, stumbling in the process but still managing to get a kick away and score. Sam Weideman knows he has to keep performing to retain his spot and when he marked 45m from goal, he needed to be accurate. He was and Melbourne was able to pull away again. Bayley Fritsch had another opportunity right on the siren but this time the result was a minor score.

The final quarter has been Melbourne’s Achilles heel many times this season, even when they’ve won the game. They couldn’t afford to allow the Dogs another bite of the cherry. Alas, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was ready for the taste test when he marked the ball 30m from goal. His accurate set shot racked up his hat trick and reduced the Dees’ advantage to single digits. The scenario was looking uncomfortably familiar and the Bulldogs were sniffing an upset.

There was a reprieve when the hero of Round 18, Kysaiah Pickett collected the ball just outside the 50m line and ran on, kicking and scoring from 40m.

Ugle-Hagan wasn’t finished though and his contested mark and conversion from 35m reeled Melbourne back in. Then disaster struck when a defensive error gave the ball to Marcus Bontempelli, who quickly hand passed to Jack McCrae. The midfielder didn’t hesitate to snapped an unexpected goal. It was now a two point game with seven minutes still left on the clock. The Demon fans were left holding their breath wondering if we could hang on for the win.

That question took on even more urgency when Riley Garcia marked in the pocket and played on before kicking from 25m and putting the Dogs in front by three points. Then, as the final seconds ticked down, Ugle-Hagan sprinkled some salt over Melbourne’s woulds with his running kick from just outside the 50m line.

There’s no sugar coating the situation the Dees’ now find themselves in. We need at least two wins from out final games to have any chance of a top four finish. All the remaining games are against top six sides. Our Round 20 match-up is against Freemantle who currently sit fourth on the ladder. To make matters even more difficult, we have to play them in Perth. One thing I’ve learned this season though is when you’ve written off Melbourne, they turn all expectations on their head.

Congratulations to Angus Brayshaw on signing his new six year contract. A Demon for life.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!

We got the Power

July 23, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons 

and the Kozzie Pickett show

Round 18 – Melbourne V Port Adelaide

After last week’s disappointing loss to Geelong, Melbourne were looking for a win to steady the ship. Port Adelaide meanwhile would be fighting for a finals berth and wouldn’t be holding back. Definitely a case of survival of the fittest.

The Dees had a slow start with a few chances going begging. When we were getting inside 50, Port were defending well and getting the ball out quickly. Both sides seemed to be conserving energy in the 25 degree heat; which would feel almost tropical compared to the southern winter chill.

The opening goal was a long time coming but eventuated when Travis Boak took a handpass and found enough space to run and kick from 30m out. The next came much more quickly with key forward Todd Marshall marking and kicking from 45m.

Melbourne don’t get held goalless too often in opening quarters and they would have been hoping to rectify that quickly at the start of the second term. Instead it was the Port Adelaide’s ruck Jeremy Finlayson who took a mark inside 50 and went back to kick his side’s third. Neale Daniher, watching from the seats would have been quietly urging his beloved Demons to make the breakthrough.

It took a few more minutes but finally Melbourne had their first goal after Kysaiah Pickett received the ball in the right hand pocket. He did a 360 degree turn before kicking around the corner. It got the fans going and also fired up the players.

A minute and a messy build up later gave the Dees their second. Bayley Fritsch crumbed the ball close to the square and was just quick enough to turn and dribble it through. Melbourne’s prospects were looking brighter as they took on the Power with a vengeance, lifting their intensity. It paid dividends when Alex Neal-Bullen fought to keep possession and the ball from bouncing out of bounds. Jack Viney took the hand pass and punched the sherrin over his shoulder where Luke Jackson grabbed it and chipped in the Dees’ third to take the lead.

Unfortunately the advantage didn’t last long because Miles Bergman kicked a banana from the pocket. That lead was also fleeting as Port managed a turnover during an attempted clearance inside 50. Christian Petracca didn’t hesitate to kick to an unattended Fritsch, who just walked in his second.

It was becoming a game of goal tag when veteran Charlie Dixon marked the ball, before being awarded a 50m penalty plus a Logie for acting after Max Gawn gently tapped the ball from his grasp. Dixon didn’t waste his gifted opportunity.

The turf is different in Alice Spring as Pickett found out while chasing the ball as it headed for the boundary line. When it bounced back in, Kozzie took the Port defence by surprise, kicking another round the corner and sparking another change of lead. The Demon fans in the stands were getting their money’s worth.

After the energetic previous quarter, the second half start was a fairly pedestrian affair. That was until Connor Rozee was awarded a penalty on the 50m line and hit the target to put Port back on top. After that goal, the visitors starting surging, making the most of their momentum. However, they could only manage a few minor scores until Miles Bergman got another; this time from a 35m set shot.

Fortunately, the Dees were able to absorb Port’s dominance without suffering too much damage. Then right at the halfway mark, Melbourne made their move. They got up the ground to their forward 50 where Max Gawn tapped down the incoming ball. Pickett had run into the pocket but was unable to collect the ball with opposition players quickly closing in. Instead he kicked as the ball was bouncing up and watched it fly through the sticks.

A few minutes later Pickett had his fourth after been taken high in a tackle and accurately kicking a 40m set shot. Ben Brown was able to add to the tally when he marked Charlie Spargo’s kick 30m from the goal line.

After a quarter where Port Adelaide dominated for long periods, the Dees had managed to extend their lead to ten points. Now they needed to build on that score to seal victory. Melbourne’s first of the final term came from some clever creative play, starting with Toby Bedford’s kick along the boundary to Bayley Fritsch, who in turn kicked into the space in front of a goalward bound Jake Melksham. The recently returned Melksham collected the bouncing ball and ran on, hotly pursued by the Port defence but still managing to kick the goal from close quarters.

Ben Brown got his second from a set shot to make it five in a row for the Demons. With a handy twenty point lead, Melbourne still needed to be mindful of Port’s desperation to make the top eight. A loss for the Adelaide side would all but spell the end of their season. When Pickett kicked his unprecedented fifth of the game from just outside the 50m line, it did indeed look like curtains for the Power.

With the clock ticking uncaringly towards full time, Port needed to act quickly and precisely. Theoretically, there was still time but then the final nail was hammered in when Kozzie marked in the pocket and played on round the corner to claim his half dozen.

Port still didn’t sit back though and the Dees couldn’t afford to rest on their laurels as there was still life, so potentially still hope. This was underlined when Travis Boak got his second via a finish from 30m out. The margin was still twenty five points but there was almost ten minutes left to play.

Shortly after that goal, Todd Marshall also got his second when he marked the ball on the goal line. It was an easy conversion and the gap was down to nineteen points. The Dees needed to defend urgently and strongly but were unlucky when William Drew was paid a mark that appeared to have been touched. The midfielder kicked and scored from 45m.

Suddenly a Port comeback threat looked a realistic prospect with three minutes still left to play. There was some frantic toing and froing but Melbourne hung on and finished with a fourteen point margin. Port ate into our percentage in the final minutes but we ended up with an important win.

It’s a tough home run from here, starting with our Grand Final opponents from last season. We’re still not quite back to our best and the team spirit still needs some honing but we can raise our game and be in good position to finish near the top of the table. There’s a good chance the teams we play in the next month will be the same ones we face come finals times.

Kysaiah Pickett showed us the way in Alice Springs; lets grab the momentum and run!

Go the Mighty Dees!!!

Our memories of Noel McMahen

July 22, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons, Our history 

NSW Demons Legends Dinner – Noel McMahen – 2004

Michael Peters

Noel McMahen, one of the fine players of Melbourne’s greatest era, has died aged 95. Demon supporters in Sydney will remember Noel for his visit to us in 2004, when he spoke to us in the Sydney Cricket Ground Members Dining Room.

Noel played 175 games with Melbourne from 1946 to 1956. This included membership of the Melbourne Premiership teams of 1948, 1955 and 1956. Noel was a Victorian State representative in 1952 and 1954. He was Melbourne Captain in 1955-56.

Noel was a magnificent Melbourne back man, who repeatedly drove Melbourne into attack from the back line after fierce tackles and with long driving kicks, I had the good fortune of seeing Noel and the team win the 1948 premiership, one would have to say in part because of Essendon’s woeful kicking for goal (7 goals 27) in the first drawn Grand Final; Melbourne comfortably won the replayed Grand Final against the favourite Essendon.

Noel McMahen’s fierce tackling is best exemplified by the his famous “shirt front” tackle of the Collingwood champion Bob Rose in the 1955 Grand Final, which remains one of the best-remembered tackles in the history of the. Game.

Noel was named in the Melbourne Team of the Century in 2001 on the. Half Back Flank. He will be remembered always as one of our All Time Greats

 

Vale Noel McMahen: from Mordialloc boy to a Melbourne Immortal

Nigel Dawe

GREATNESS, in a game like Australian Football, or more specifically at a club like the Melbourne Demons (the world’s oldest football club) resides not in the retrievability or conciseness of mere statistical facts; in spiffy, well-worded player bios or tables of match possession tallies and totals.

If it did, history would recall the number 35 wearing Noel McMahen as simply the 667th player to appear for the Melbourne Demons in the post-1897/ VFL era; or merely the man to have played the 32nd most games for the club with a tally of 175 between 1946 and 1956.

Even the dictionary definition of Greatness: “the quality of being extremely good in ability or quality and therefore admired by many people” doesn’t really come all that closer to capturing the essence or mercurial quintessence of what true greatness means.

‘Bulldozer’ as Noel McMahen – the feared halfback flanker (and future club hall of famer) was affectionately known, weighing in at 86kg and 184cm as a player, became one of the most revered heart and soul figures to embody and iridescently bleed red and blue, the club has ever seen.

Perhaps the most famous of all snapshots of McMahen is drawn from the opening stages of the 1955 Grand Final. The second of seven-straight Grand Finals the club would appear in; and the first they would win of the overall five premierships from this era. In his first year as club captain, Noel flattened – in fair but brutal shirtfront fashion the magpie star and playmaker Bob Rose, it resulted in a free kick and the first goal of the game. But it also set the tone for a win that went on to forge not just success that day, but the sport’s greatest dynasty, lasting the best part of a decade.

Ironically, it is often not the gleaming periods of success that define or shed the truest light on someone’s career or mettle, but the dark moments of defeat and struggle – dealt with and then surmounted, that tell a tale that can’t be gleaned from amidst the halcyon glare of ultimate triumph and victory.

What makes McMahen special, from a club stalwart perspective is not just the premiership successes he enjoyed (the first as a fresh-faced newbie in 1948) but also the barren seasons he endured in between, where wins were few and the hardships many. One such season was that of 1951 – Melbourne notched just the one solitary win to finish last by a full three games. But it was a year McMahen finished with a club best and fairest, gaining mileage for the rest of his life: “This pretty much meant I was actually the competition’s ‘worst and the dirtiest’, seeing our team were playing so poorly.”

The self-effacement aside, who could ever hope to lead a team in the AFL to premiership glory (as McMahen did) twice in the only two seasons they were made team captain (not to mention that second year, 1956 – an Olympic year – being considered by many as the club’s greatest ever season) is something that will surely remain an unrepeatable feat, for as long as football is played.

As the sun brightly sets on the life of Noel McMahen – a life that commenced in 1926, the very year of the Melbourne Football Club’s most famous premiership win of all, and the same year a young Ernest Hemingway appropriately released his first novel ‘The Sun Also Rises’. It would be no exaggeration to say, the game itself, not to mention the team of the red and the blue, will ever see the shining likes of a Noel McMahen again.

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