Que Sera, Sera… What will Dee will Dee.

September 16, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons, Our history 

Nigel Dawe

Twenty-four times since 1930, the Premiers of one season have failed to make the cut of the following season’s finals. As such, the Melbourne Demons of 2022 did not add their name to that ignoble list.

OK, we may have been bundled out of September in two-straight sets thanks to the Swans and the Lions (who deserve praise for grounding our juggernaut to a halt, on our very home turf). But to say our Dees have lost their way would be a gross misrepresentation of the season we had, and where the club is at right now.

Referring to 2022 as ‘one that got away’, certainly – but any assessment more scathing than that and you need to brush right up on your history and your overall understanding of the game.

For starters, the worst slide ever experienced by a premiership team belongs to the Adelaide Crows, who put back-to-back winning campaigns together in 1997-98, all to tumble, if not free fall to 13th in 1999. Richmond limps into second place on the all-time hangover list with finishing 12th in 2021, after performing their own back-to-back treat in the seasons of 2019-20.

The less I dwell on seasonal slides, blame or blanks that can’t be filled, changed or ever made otherwise, the better and quicker I can cut to the positive chase (that has always been footy, and more to the point, the Melbourne Demons, for me).

There is always something to celebrate and cheer about when you are blessed (and perhaps cursed) with having a one-eyed affiliation, albeit deep affection for anything like a passion-fueled, group-willed and pride-driven entity, that is a football club.

As such, the Charles Brownlow medal is my healthy distraction right now – which our number 13 wearing Clayton Oliver is looming as a clear favourite to claim. Should Clarry be declared the winner on Sunday night, he will become our seventh recipient of the award, representing the eighth time it has been given to a Melbourne player.

Being twenty-two years since someone in the red and blue has taken out the award, we are due. Previous winners being: Ivor Warne-Smith (1926, 1928), Dr Don Cordner (1946), Brian Wilson (1982), Peter Moore (1984), Jim Stynes (1991), Shane Woewodin (2000).

One of my favourite lesser-known points of trivia when it comes to the Dees and the competition’s highest accolade, concerns the 1987 MFC team photo. It is the only time in the club’s history that three different Brownlow winners (for the club) are in the side’s line up. They being the number 30 wearing Peter Moore, the number 7 wearing ‘Wilo’ Wilson, and of course, the number 11 wearing ‘Dublin’s Jim’ Stynes.

Intriguingly, Clarry’s third-place in last year’s Brownlow count (with 31 votes) would’ve been more than enough for him to win the award in just about any other season. As it was, he finished six votes clear of the best ever tally registered by a Brownlow winner for the club. Jim Stynes polled a then tear away 25 votes back in 1991 to dominate the competition.

Should Clayton Oliver not lay claim to the club’s eighth Brownlow medal this week, there is still the distinct possibility that he’ll collect his fourth ‘Bluey’ club best and fairest award. Which would elevate him to equal first (alongside the great Allan La Fontaine and Jim Stynes) as the only players to do so. Being 25-years old, with surely a good six to seven years of football left in him, who knows how illustrious this ‘Barassi-like’ Shepparton-born gun will go on to be.

Oh so sweet September

September 1, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

September…. My favourite month of the year

Nigel Dawe

Before commencing this piece, I made a point of closing my eyes and taking a deep breath through my nose… and you can smell it… September that is – oh, so sweet September! There is nothing that stirs my inner 12-year-old to life than the thought of the Melbourne Demons headed to the finals.

Ironically, a book I was recently gifted by my sister called ‘Footy Banners’ sits at my elbow, and it has a snap on its cover which I figure in as a dot. It is the 1989 State of Origin at the MCG with the Vics streaming through their banner, and way up in the background between the major and the behind post (above the ‘M’ of the second Myer sign to the left) I’m there taking it all in as a then wide-eyed 12-year-old seeing his very first game at the ‘G.

As for that beautiful, mad 9th month of the year we call September (doubly so, seeing ‘sept’ stood for the numeral seven in ancient Rome) originally there were only 10 months in a calendar year. January and February weren’t added until quite some time later, and when they finally were, no one bothered to correct the other month names to reflect the ‘addition’.

Ancient history aside, our team is about to embark on its 41st September campaign, to hopefully net a 14th premiership, and if we do, it will be the 37th time in VFL/AFL history that a team has gone all the way after finishing the regular season in second place. Incredibly the Melbourne Demons have played in 90 finals matches, the exact same as the South Melbourne/ Sydney Swans. The ledger changes when you factor in the win/loss record though, the Demons having won 54 games to the Swans overall 40.

That’s the backstory, the one surging towards us concerns our third ever final against the red and white wearing Swans. For two foundation clubs, it is incredible that we’ve only met so few times. Who could forget the last time though? It was the second week of the finals in that magical year of 1987, a day in which our Demons left the field 76-point victors with Robbie Flower having kicked a game high four goals.

The first and only other time our two sides have met in September was way back in the preliminary final of 1936. That day we were beaten to the tune of 26-points by a then all-conquering team that won the flag three years prior, and were known as the ‘foreign legion’ because of the sheer number of players they had ‘acquired’ from abroad to bolster their ranks.

Back to the present day, and good luck Dees for our upcoming 91st finals match against the Swans, a wonderful omen – that being Jimmy Stynes Brownlow winning year. And let’s hope Simon Goodwin’s incredible post-season record continues, which currently reflects an 83% winning return.

Even the great Norm Smith claimed a 69% winning average in finals (mind you that was for 23-games in 11 different finals campaigns, compared to Simon’s six-games in his two post-seasons so far).

And ‘finally’, come what may, keep a quiet eye on the Geelong-Collingwood match, as there is an absolute potential hidden treat. Should our arch combatants in the black and white go down to the more favoured Cats, it will be their 100th loss in a final, making them the first team in the history of the league to notch up such a ‘wobble-some’ feat.

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.

Appreciating Greatness

June 19, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

Nigel Dawe

The double-edged thing about success when you get it, is that you shouldn’t ever expect or consider it your natural right or entitlement.

As a long-term devotee of this team of ours, I don’t for a moment reach for any panic button or delete keys because our side has suddenly dropped their last three games (after winning the previous 17). Quite the opposite, I think the next few weeks will be the most exciting, if not the most telling ones we’ve had for a very long time.

The great thing about champions (in any sport) is that they rise when all seems lost, it’s not the ginormous score lines or the sublime repeated passages of faultless precision, but the seemingly insurmountable tight spots they can somehow get out of, that might otherwise ensnare and crush those of a lesser mettle.

Whilst the last three weeks of footy haven’t been the most enjoyable ones I’ve ever experienced, they have reminded me of the thrill I have always taken from watching the Melbourne Demons (irrespective of them winning or losing).

It can sometimes be the individual prowess of a team member that refuses to submit (Gawny the week before last, it was easily the best game I’ve seen him play) and watching Gus Brayshaw and also the ‘Son of Todd’ – Jack Viney on the weekend, if all 18 Dees had applied themselves in such a way, then all-time record scores would’ve toppled!

But that’s sport, and the very thing that keeps you loyal and true with regards to the things that mean the most in life, as Winston Churchill himself well knew: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

And as such, I reckon our Dees will be back breathing fire after the bye, they will regroup and put all distractions aside so as to ascend the heights of this game once more. I’d love them to hear and take onboard the former American President Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Man in the Arena’ speech.

Finally, congrats to the new inductees of the AFL Hall of Fame, to a player – they are absolutely worthy candidates. But can someone honestly tell me how Garry Lyon was overlooked again? Did he previously run over a member of the selection committee’s grandmother, or family pet?

Pound-for-pound, ‘Lyon Heart’ was the best player (with the possible exception of one Robert Flower) I have seen in my 40-years of following the Melbourne Demons; the fact neither of these two ever won a Brownlow is also another bugbear of mine.

Keeping in mind, none other than Jack ‘Captain Blood’ Dyer once said in the mid to late-90s: “I look at him [Lyon] and I see everything I love about the game… It’s a mystical thing. A matter of mind over matter. It’s not something that you can switch on or off. Some days you know you are invincible and you go out and do the invincible thing. An ordinary player never has the feeling let alone the ability to take a game by the scruff of the neck. Great players do it from time to time. Champions do it most of the time. Garry Lyon is a champion who does it more often than any player I’ve seen since Laurie Nash.”

Should anyone require any remote confirmation of this, then simply watch a replay of the ’94 Semi Final against the Bulldogs, our #3 kicked a lazy 10-goals that day (double figures in a final being a feat that has only been done by four players in the history of the game, Lyon being one of them, not to mention the very last player to do so) after leaving the ground early in the final quarter.

What’s more, ‘Captain Blood’ also went on to very aptly say alongside his above-mentioned comments: “Lyon has already set himself up for a prominent place in the AFL Hall of Fame. I wouldn’t want to be in there if he wasn’t going to join me one day.”

So, let’s just hope that that day finally comes, and Dyer’s spirit, along with the spirit of every footy purist, can then rest in peace.

Here is Roosevelt’s ‘Man in the Arena’ speech

An ANZAC memory – Joe Pearce and the MFC

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

Joe Pearce – Melbourne Footballer and Fallen Gallipoli Soldier

Nigel Dawe

I wouldn’t readily call myself a creature of habit, knockabout with intermittent bouts of adherence to routine would be more in line with how I get through my days.

But that said, each and every ANZAC day I unfailingly make a point of listening to ‘The Pogues’ version of Eric Bogle’s 1971 classic ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ all whilst having a quiet, reflective ale.

Without exception each year one man comes clear to mind through the revering mist of deep respect and remembrance – this year Arthur Mueller ‘Joe’ Pearce.

A Melbourne stalwart and the first VFL footballer (along with 22 of his mates from the 7th Battalion) to lose his life during the twilight mayhem of the Gallipoli landings of 25thApril, 1915. All 23 soldiers, including our gallant Joe Pearce, who was only 30-years old at the time, were buried on that blood-stained beach of ANZAC Cove.

As a player, the number 19 wearing Joe Pearce (who played a then club record 152 games between 1904-13) was a bustling and formidable full-back that also refused any form of match payment. Gifted and by all accounts as fair as they come (in his spare time Joe was even a Sunday school superintendent) but none other than Collingwood’s Dick Lee – the Buddy Franklin of his day, once referred to Pearce as ‘clearly my best opponent.’

A cousin of the future Melbourne icon – Jack Mueller; when the club gave Joe Pearce a send-off before he left for the war, Pearce is known to have graciously said: “I have thought this thing over and I have considered it every way. I am young, strong, healthy and athletic and I think I ought to go, and if I don’t come back, well, it won’t much matter.”

But to this day, I believe Joe’s legacy matters immensely. Some two months after his passing at Gallipoli in 1915, Melbourne wore black armbands for a match against Essendon in his honour. A match that resulted in a truly fitting 19-point win (that being Joe’s old guernsey number) after the side came from behind following a burst of four inspired goals late in the final term.

Some years ago, I wrote about getting hold of an original 1909 Melbourne team photo, it has since become one of my most prized possessions: primarily because of the fact that a pensive Joe Pearce looms like a beacon at the far right in the very back row.

Upon closer inspection, Joe is the only member of that entire team to be gazing away from the camera. He is seemingly drawn by the spectre of a destiny that would not only see him die young, but in such a way that he’d never grow old – remaining of eternal inspiration to all in the Melbourne fold.

To Joe Pearce and the other 8,708 Australian soldiers that gave their lives at Gallipoli all those years ago – Thank you, and Lest We Forget.

The Pogues – The band played waltzing matilda

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