The way people talk about Paul Roos, it’s like along with bringing a long-awaited flag to the Demons, the bloke will be turning back the boats, working out how to build a cheaper Camry and beating Mike Willesee to the Corby interview at the same time.
Is he a good coach? Well, he coached the Swans to a premiership, so of course he is. But is he the messiah that will turn around the absolute rabble that the Demons have been for the last seven years? Not in my book.
I don’t for a minute want to claim that coaching a team to an AFL premiership is an easy feat. But the esteem it adds to a coach’s name is often so huge that their appointment is seen as a panacea for a club desperate for success.
Roos had a great record at the Swans. In the six years he was at the helm, they made the finals in each of them and won one flag. Perhaps they should have won two, given the close result in 2006, but the reality is they didn’t.
His record has seen every club in need of a coach bend over backwards to try and snare him since his retirement from Sydney. Brisbane even sacked their favourite son, triple-premiership captain Michael Voss, because they mistakenly thought they could get Roos.
Roos will be an improvement on the disasters that were former coaches Dean Bailey and Mark Neeld, but it would be dangerous to expect him to work wonders with a club that’s been so completely mismanaged in every area for such a long period of time.
This isn’t to say that the Demons won’t improve in 2014. Along with installing Roos, there has been a well overdue change in the personnel administering the club, including at the CEO level.
It was the one of the world’s great mysteries – up there with the Bermuda Triangle and Jack the Ripper – how former Melbourne CEO Cameron Schwab lasted as long as he did as a football administrator. Schwab “resigned” as CEO of Richmond in 1994, Melbourne in 1999 and Fremantle in 2007, before “resigning” from Melbourne again last year.
One of the first changes evident from the new coach and administration has been the recruiting strategy, particularly in relation to experienced players from other clubs.
Recently, Melbourne has focused on recruiting low-performing discards from other clubs, thinking it was engaging in some sort of ingenious Moneyball strategy that the other clubs didn’t know about. The reality was the other clubs did know about the strategy, but didn’t engage in it because it was stupid. This season the club has gone for more established discards such as former Crow Bernie Vince and Bulldogs veteran Daniel Cross, as well as talented Docker Viv Michie, who will relish the opportunities provided at a weaker club.
An interesting move was the trading away of the number two pick in the 2013 national draft for GWS midfielder Dom Tyson. Roos is clearly confident that the Demons already have enough talented 18 year olds at the club to set a foundation for success, and that more value could be obtained from nabbing a more established player.
It’s good to see the Demons concentrating on midfield depth after being smashed there in 2013. Once opposition teams tagged Nathan Jones, it was almost sad to see first-year player Jack Viney at times being the sole piece of midfield resistance.
One player that has also been earmarked to bolster that midfield this year is 2008 number one draft pick Jack Watts. Goodness knows he’s played everywhere else on the park with little success, but he’s “trained the house down” and is in “best nick of his career” according to the club. We’ll expect more of the same then from him in 2014.
Up forward, the Demons have a potentially powerful forward line with Mitch Clark, Chris Dawes and 2012 mini-draft recruit Jesse Hogan. Some reasonable talent there, but don’t expect too much from them in 2014; Clark will be coming back from a serious injury, Dawes is inconsistent and Hogan still an unknown. Aside from living highlight reel Jeremey Howe, it’s hard to see where the goals are going to come from.
It all adds up to another season in the wilderness for the Dees, albeit one where they’re not wandering aimlessly, asking random has-beens to join them as players, and letting a proven failure lead them as CEO. Hopefully they have a bit more structure both on and off the field.
And as for Paul Roos, it’s fair to say that his appointment as senior coach doesn’t excite me too much. As for who’ll replace him On the Couch, however …