Season 2021 – Look Out, Here We Come!

January 23, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

Nigel Dawe

Neither a monkey or even a dust mite on our backs this year!

I don’t know if you’d call it hard core, committed, neurotic, fanatical or just ridiculous, maybe it’s a swirling, churning one-eyed combination of all five, but ever since I was a kid I have ‘occupied’ myself during the final credits of every film with trying to recognise or fleetingly pick out any famous Melbourne Demon last names.

As such, I don’t think I’ve ever spotted a ‘Barassi’ or a ‘Warne-Smith’ represented in any capacity of a matinee film; however, the other day after having sat through near on 3 hours of ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ with my 7-year-old daughter, I spied (and I’m not making this up) a ‘Lyon Beckwith’ in the film’s credits!

Not sure about you, but having a first name after perhaps the best player we’ve had at the club in the past 50 years and a last name after a two-time premiership captain from the ‘50s, would have to be an absolutely one-off celluloid occurrence, not to mention a red and blue referential miracle.
Needless to say, with me there is no pre-season, post-season or outright season in itself when it comes to the Melbourne Demons figuring, or pardon the pun ‘featuring’ in some daily way in my heart and mind. But that said, this pre-season is shaping as one of the most promising and talent crackling affairs that I can ever personally recall.

Our bounding, fit and seemingly balanced mix of players aside, it’s the cast that we’ve managed to assemble (almost by stealth) in our coaching and administrative quarters, that has me daring to believe and now menacingly murmur – “Yes, this will be our year!”

At some point over the passing of seasons, I remember hearing and retaining a comment made by the great (now in his 95th year) dual-premiership captain – Noel McMahen along the lines, “not until you fill the four heads [being Chadwick, Warne-Smith, Norm Smith and Cardwell] in the famous ‘Architects of Five Premierships’ photo, will you see anything like the success of what we saw in the ’50s and ’60s.”

Without lumbering the calamitous weight of expectation on the shoulders of our current ‘equivalents’, I’m looking so forward to seeing the collective effects generated by Alan Richardson, Mark Williams, Simon Goodwin and Gary Pert, add on a seasoned Adem Yze for good measure, and you have that aforementioned photo recreated, and then some.

While there’s quite a lot of talk around the traps about our club having the longest current premiership drought (57 years of silver-less Septembers to be precise) I don’t see this as being either a monkey or even a dust mite on the back of anyone associated with the club.

Football is a game played in a stand-alone, year-by-year fashion by players that live and die (without sounding too gladiatorial) by their exploits in ‘real-time’, such things as ‘seasons without a premiership’ are light years away from the realm of any footballer’s direct sphere of influence or control. That our oldest current player in Nathan Jones was born in 1988, puts into perspective the illogical chronological conundrum of holding anyone physically accountable for an overall inter-generational lack of success.

As for ‘premiership windows’, I always cringe when I hear this modern-day dupe of a phrase, for mine, like the best of budding cat burglars – every year is a premiership ‘window’ to be scrambled into in red-hot pursuit of the ultimate loot. If you don’t agree, then refer to the ‘Baby Bombers’ of ’93 or the marauding Hawks of ’08, to name just two supreme groups that came from the clouds to pull off the ultimate of ‘steals’.

I’d love someone to have mentioned such a ‘cute’ inanimate concept like a ‘premiership window’ to the game’s brimstone coaches of by-gone eras like Norm Smith or Checker Hughes; the notion of not having the troops committed or competent enough to win the competition in any given season would’ve absolutely confounded them.

Similarly, in the words and rollicking ‘Ocean’s 11’ spirit of perhaps world sport’s most celebrated and successful coaches of all-time, Vince Lombardi once ‘unpacked’ his approach to such things, by matter-of-factly saying, in his very concise ex-school teacher way (and something that could now well suffice for a rallying catchphrase for our primed Dees of ’21):
“Want it; desire it; earn it; take it.”

Architects of 5 premierships - Chadwick, Warne-Smith, Norm Smith and Cardwell

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Percy Beames – the game’s first three-time Grand Final best on ground performer

October 27, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

Percy Beames

Nigel Dawe

The celebrated German thinker Georg Hegel once said: “Philosophy is a gallery of heroes of thought” and if he’d have grown up in Victoria at any time after 1858, then I dare say he may well have come up with the equally fitting line: “Footy is a gallery of heroes of sport.”

But humour aside and that said, I was prompted on a serious note to draft up something today to honour not just this season’s, but the game’s outright forgotten Demon, and inaugural triple Grand Final blitzing trail-blazer.

Not to take anything away from Dustin Martin, because his performance the other night in Brisbane was something all footy fans may well never forget; I say ‘may well’ because that is exactly the fate that awaited our fleet-footed boy from Ballarat, Percy Beames – the game’s first three-time Grand Final best on ground performer (in the consecutive Melbourne winning teams of 1939-40-41).

I’m not sure if it’s a simple case of oversight or just plain over-exuberance on the part of the footy community to extol the performances and virtues of a contemporary player (and ours wouldn’t be the first generation to fall into the same wide-eyed and appreciative trap) but I can’t imagine the same snub of a player’s efforts (irrespective of how long ago they ‘took place’) occurring in a sport like American baseball. That country’s ‘national sport’ is unlike any other in terms of the reverence they ensure is afforded ‘recollecting’ the memory and exploits – to a fact and stat, of their greats.

Not that it’s ever a safe or even a wise thing to compare the performances of players from different eras, though it is a fascinating undertaking: one not unlike wading into a thick smoke-filled house lined with a thousand haphazardly placed mirrors. But where the blur clears somewhat, enough to gain a glimpse of clarity for the purposes of an informed opinion, is in the basic tale that the stats tell.

Of the three Grand Finals Percy Beames and Dusty Martin left every other player in their tenacious wake, it’s worth first mentioning that Beams scored a total of 12 goals (as a rover) to Martin’s 10 goals (having played on the half-forward line in two of his three Grand Finals).

Again, this article is not about proving who performed better or is more earning of ultimate bragging rights, but the incredible ‘given’ of Beames’ big dance outings, was the fact he lined up against the white-hot calibre of captain and Brownlow medallist of both teams in 1939 (Harry Collier) and 1941 (Dick Reynolds). The 1941 heroics of Beames are made all the more extraordinary when you consider that Reynolds was an absolute all-time great, not to mention a triple-Brownlow winning trojan!

Then factor in Richmond’s Captain Blood, who literally prowled the turf for opposition scalps in the ‘hit-out’ of 1940, and you have the gleaming stage upon which Beames rose to stamp his authority on the toughest game of all, three times-in-a-row.

So as to clearly establish the standing and place that Percy Beames occupies at the club (he was the first Melbourne player to reach 200 games, as well as being a handy cricketer, and the only player in the entire post 1897/VFL-era to captain both the MCC and the MFC) you have to look no further than the fact there is a ‘Percy Beames Bar’ in the members section of the MCG. I don’t know about you, but that would have to take the cake, albeit eternally warm the grand old spirit of any former great!

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Victory But No Glory

October 2, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Round 18 – Essendon Vs Melbourne

Liam Chambers

We won the battle but lost the war. Even Max Gawn’s offer to take out a Dockers’ membership had no affect on the final top eight. Life is full of what ifs and if onlys but the truth is we are the ones in charge of our destiny; however much we wanted Fremantle to triumph. There’s an old saying “never grow a wishbone, where your backbone ought to be”.

Despite some wobbles along the way, there were promising signs for the Dees in 2020. Christian Petracca finally began to fulfil his potential. Congratulation on making the All Australian squad. Commiserations to Steven May, who was nominated but didn’t make the final cut. A travesty of justice. Both players were important in the Dees win against Essendon, alongside Jayden Hunt (returning to form) and Bailey Fritsch (managed to surprise the opposition when they least expected it).

With Mitch Brown continuing to mark well, his early attempt to convert didn’t make the distance. Similarly Bailey Fritsch’s effort a few minutes later missed the target. Jayden Laverde got the first goal for the Bombers. Then another Jayden (Hunt) replied almost immediately. Finding a pathway to inside 50, he launched a forty metre kick for the Dees’ opener. Melbourne continued to display patience, building up to a good position and getting the ball to Fritsch. Another great grab inside 50 but again, one he was unable to convert.

When, right on quarter time, Jake Stringer took a mark from a driving midfield kick, Simon Goodwin thought about leaving the Coaches box. Instead he turned around, waited and watched through his fingers as Stringer kicked Essendon’s second after the siren.

Back from the break, the Dees continued their patient build up, sticking to the plan and not panicking. They strung some nice moves together via Joel Smith, Fritsch, Sam Weiderman and finally to Petracca just inside 50. Tracca briefly thought about taking the shot before spotting and kicking to Alex Neal-Bullen in the pocket. Neal-Bullen took his time to catch his breath before bending back a great shot on goal.

The pace picked up after that and it was third time lucky for Fritsch, marking near the goal after being left unattended. Melbourne’s fourth goal was a display of extreme team politeness when Petracca launched the ball inside 50 to Charlie Spargo. Spargo passed to Weiderman who decided Hunt was a better option as he ran towards the goal square. Hunt took the gift and ran in his second.

When Neal-Bullen took a hospital pass from Petracca, he was lucky not to be crushed between two Bombers. Managing to slip through at the last second, he bullet kicked his second goal from forty metres out. Encouraged by his team’s goal kicking display, Simon Goodwin took an early trip to the sideline in what looked like being a big payday for the Demons. Goody wouldn’t have been disappointed to see Clayton Oliver’s kick and Petracca’s accurate mark on the inside 50 line. Tracca’s ensuing shot from sixty metres was outstanding.

Essendon needed to claw their way back but Max Gawn wasn’t going to make it easy for them as he continued to dominate in the ruck. Even though Melbourne maintained control of the game, they struggled to put it beyond the Bombers’ reach. Finally Kysaiah Pickett was able to weave some magic with a nice pick up and pass to Hunt, setting up a shot from just outside 50 to record his hat trick. It looked a case of signed, sealed and delivered for Melbourne.

Then just before three quarter time, having absorbed all the Dees’ pressure, Essendon got the ball up the ground and into the waiting hands of James Stewart, twenty five metres from goal. Having left the door opened a chink, Melbourne gave their opponents a small glimmer of hope. That hope needed to be stuffed out in the first few minutes of the last term but instead the Bombers decided to make a game of it. When James Stewart got back to back goals, he reduced the margin to twenty one points.

With renewed confidence, Essendon piled on the pressure, forcing errors from the Dees. Initially their efforts only resulted in minors scores. Then Joe Daniher, who up to that point was only a glorified spectator, began to look decidedly more confident. Melbourne’s defence held up well though and when Hunt got a fourth against the run of play, it again looked all sewn up.

The Bombers weren’t finished though and Devon Smith restored the margin. Another twist and James Stewart again marks in front of goal. Three minutes to go and Dylan Sheil kicks another from forty five metres. Suddenly it was a seven point game. Nobody in red and blue wanted to lose this vital game, least of all by a few points right on the siren.

Cue the cavalry. In the midst of a desperate confusion, Jake Melksham collected a spilled ball and kicked to an unmarked Fritsch, who ran towards goal, easing the pressure that threatened to derail the Dees’ season. Melbourne then launched an outright attack to maintain the momentum.

Mitch Brown was awarded a fifty metre set shot and used his time wisely before kicking. The ball dropped lower as it approached goal but was tapped back into the field rather than over the line. Fritsch didn’t waste the opportunity and snapped it back for another goal. With a three goal margin, the Bombers were out of options and the Dees gave themselves a chance to play finals.

We know now that the other result didn’t go our way but we can take heart and continue to rebuild.

Go the Mighty Dees and bring on 2021!!!

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Keeping Chunk

September 18, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons 

The Hawthorn Burgoyne playbook shows how resigning Nathan Jones to a one year contract as player and assistant coach would be a smart move by the MFC with the 2021 soft cap reduction in number of  coaches, playing lists and salary caps. Jones in a positive move for the club becomes an experienced mentor particularly for younger players, development coach and player who may or may not reach 300 games – win win all round!

Another major plus is that the MFC doe not repeat the mistakes of the past with previous loyal long serving players and captains of the club – Junior McDonald and Brad Green.

Note: Thanks to Mark McGowan (AFL) and Lisa Alexander (Offsiders) for highlighting this issue and opportunity. 

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They Might Be Giants But Dees Stood Taller

September 18, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Round 17 – GWS Vs Melbourne

Liam Chambers

Both teams needed a win to stay in the running. For the Dees though, there would be no more second chances. Melbourne got off to a great start when Oskar Baker held his nerve to kick a set shot from a difficult angle and secure his first goal.

The Dees contained the Giants with some good tackling, pushing forward and attacking the Giants’ defence. Christian Petracca, looking determined early on, was also a good sign. Clayton Oliver landed a nice kick to Alex Neal-Bullen which he marked and converted from forty metres out for number two.

Up the other end, Toby Greene missed a sitter, letting the Dees off the hook. On occasion, Melbourne string a run of play together that is just pure poetry. This time, Kysaiah Pickett started by running through the pack just inside 50 and scooping up the ball. He then handed it to Aaron vandenBerg, before running on to receive it back again, accelerating and lobbing it to Sam Weiderman. Weiderman thumped it to Charlie Spargo who controlled the bounce on the run before straightening up and kicking directly through the uprights.

In a tough decision against Jake Lever for making contact after the ball was marked, Daniel Lloyd was awarded a 50m penalty. He couldn’t miss from that distance. A minute later the Giants had a second when Harry Perryman took an opportunistic kick in the middle of a scrum in front of goal.

After that GWS piled on the pressure but it was Jayden Hunt at the other end who got the next goal. To round off the term, Christian Petracca controlled a great one handed pick up and snapped one in from forty metres to put the Dees seventeen points in front.

There was no time to relax though, especially after Brent Daniels’ kick from the pocket got a lucky bounce to tumble in the right direction towards goal. Would have been a great score if we did it. Melbourne knew they couldn’t sit back and wait for a good last quarter performance. Applying some really intense pressure, they fought like demons around the goal square; especially Pickett who seemed to have the ball every time a Giant lost it. Eventually though it was Oskar Baker who struck, scoring his second banana.

Steven May was again having a stellar defence game but eventually Zac Williams snuck through when the guard was down, marking the ball twenty five metres from goal. GWS were again inspired to pile on the pressure but against the run of play Petracca was able to kick the ball towards the goal square. Waiting was Jayden Hunt who tapped the high bouncing ball towards Kysaiah, who ran it into the goal.

However, Lloyd was having a good game and snapped a goal from the 50m line to keep up the pressure. Then Jeremy Finlayson was able to cruise behind the defence and kick another from twenty metres out. Disappointingly both goals had come from Melbourne turning the ball over. Matt De Boer was lucky to be awarded a free after Jake Melksham was harshly pinged for a questionable infringement. De Boer converted and GWS took the lead for the first time.

Simon Goodwin opened a fresh packet of chewing gum.

With the scores even steven going into the second half, there were more than a few nervous Demon fans. One factor in our favour though was Toby Greene’s inaccurate kicking on the day. One player not having an off day was Trent Rivers and his first goal in AFL was a beauty.

Undeterred, the Giants were back up the field, pressuring our defence and culminating in Brent Daniels kicking his second. Then Zac Williams also got a second and when Jeremy Cameron added to the tally, it started looking bleak for the Dees with the scores at 66-54.

We needed to go hard and did, defending and tackling well before going on the attack. Christian Salem, after grabbing the ball on the edge of the 50m line, launched a powerful volley to sneak one in. He doesn’t score many goals but when he does, they are spectacular. With GWS getting the most points on the board for the previous two quarters, Melbourne needed to throw caution to the wind. They would have to go for it or go home.

They say that good things come in small packages and Charlie Spargo proved that by kicking his second from a forty metre a set shot. With both sides desperate for a win, every goal now was precious. When Bailey Fritsch marked cleverly thirty metres from goal and converted, it was back on for the Dees.

With so much on the line, both sides were making sloppy errors. Melbourne got the ball up the field only to see GWS bring it back down again. Then Rivers, on his left foot, kicked the goal of the night for the Dees and increased the volume to eleven (points). Kudos to Ed Langdon for his part in the goal. His hard chasing got the ball into a scoring position.

With Goody shouting from the sidelines, Brent Daniels managed to claw one back with thirty seconds to go. Then the Giants threw the kitchen sink at Melbourne but the seconds ticked down in our favour for a famous win.

We play Essendon in our last game. We have to win and hope the Bulldogs lose. Alternatively we have to win by a significant margin and hope the Giants beat St Kilda by thirty or forty points. Then we could slip through on percentages.

Just because the Bombers have been lacklustre over the last few games and been accused of not turning up, we underestimate them at our peril. Essendon have some good players and we need to play like the opposition are on top of the ladder (and I don’t mean how we played against Port Adelaide).

Go the Mighty Dees!!!

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