Neil Craig takes over from Mark Neeld as Demons coach this week. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/Getty Images
Last Five Matches
Round 20, 2012 – St Kilda 107 d Melbourne 82 at MCG
Round 5, 2012 – St Kilda 84 d Melbourne 66 at MCG
Round 9, 2011 – St Kilda 106 d Melbourne 86 at Etihad Stadium
Round 14, 2010 – St Kilda 100 d Melbourne 65 at Etihad Stadium
Round 22, 2009 – St Kilda114 d Melbourne 67 at MCG
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The early week sacking of Mark Neeld finally gives Melbourne players a chance to show it was the coach missing targets, dropping off tackles, and losing his direct opponent. In all seriousness, you have to wonder what the direction of the football club is, if Neeld was told to get games in to the Demons’ youngsters, and he is given the boot when it hasn’t worked out. The talk is that certain senior players weren’t happy with what he had produced as a senior coach, but given their performances the past couple of years, they’re probably amongst the players who should be taking the most responsibility.
Former long-time Adelaide coach Neil Craig comes in, taking over mid-season as he did for the Crows back in 2004. He replaced Gary Ayres after round 13 that year, and led the South Australian side to the minor premiership the next season and coached them to five straight finals series. This time he takes over ahead of round 13 – it might not be such a lucky number, given the playing list he has to work with.
St Kilda hasn’t been getting routinely flogged like Melbourne, but it hasn’t been able to finish off some golden opportunities to take the four points. Scott Watters’ team floundered late against the Bulldogs to go down by nine three weeks back, before an equally heartbreaking four-point defeat to the visiting Eagles in round 11. St Kilda will also be without Beau Maister for the next two months due to a hamstring injury. Goalsneak Terry Milera comes in, as does much-maligned big man Justin Koschitzke.
(Demons) Colin Sylvia – Few players at the Demons, and across the AFL, perhaps, have as much natural talent as Colin Sylvia. He has the skills to be a top-shelf midfielder and the strong hands to be a marking forward, but he is also infuriatingly inconsistent. With Mitch Clark and Chris Dawes both in the casualty ward for the next few weeks, the Dees need as many goals out of the likes of Sylvia as possible. The last six starts Melbourne has averaged 52 points per game, which would be woeful even for a first-year expansion team, not an established AFL club. It’s time for Sylvia to prove his worth and show some much needed leadership.
(Saints) Nick Riewoldt – Ever since he made his debut over a decade ago, Nick Riewoldt has been one of the AFL’s premier forwards, and premier players, for that matter. He is on the wrong side of 30, but continues to lead the AFL in marks per game, which is a testament to his work in both contested situations and his ability to outrun his opponent around the ground. He has a handy tally of 30 goals in 11 games this season, and in 13 career games against the Dees he has picked up 41 majors in 13 matches. Melbourne doesn’t really have a defender who can go with him all day, so Riewoldt could have a field day against his inexperienced opposition in what is his 250th game.
There have probably been few less watchable matches put forward all season, but all eyes will be on the MCG for Saturday’s twilight match as the Demons go around for the first time under Neil Craig. The Saints have won the last eight matches between these teams, but that isn’t surprising given how consistently deplorable Melbourne has been. The Dees are coming off a tough recent run against Fremantle, Hawthorn and Collingwood, where they have gone down by an average of 89 points . Their form was awful before that period, though, and only a final quarter surge against GWS in round four has prevented them from being the sad, winless team at the bottom of the table. The Demons have had 100-plus points scored against them in every match this season; keeping the anaemic Saints - who have managed to pass that mark just twice in 2013 – below that figure would be a good start. St Kilda by 38 points
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