Neil Craig of the Demons looks on during the round two AFL NAB Cup match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Melbourne Demons at Renmark Oval on March 3, 2013 in Renmark, Australia.
Neil Craig of the Demons looks on during the round two AFL NAB Cup match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Melbourne Demons at Renmark Oval on March 3, 2013 in Renmark, Australia. Morne de Klerk / Getty Images

Demons poor form could see Craig become new head coach

A MAJOR media outlet stating that Melbourne assistant Neil Craig had thrown his support behind Demons coach Neil Craig might be more prophetic than simple typo.

Craig is an assistant coach with the Demons, but he's not the senior coach … not yet anyway.

The former Adelaide mentor could be the man to replace the incumbent, Mark Neeld, if the Demons continue on their path of pitiful performances.

If you saw his post-match press conference after the Demons' 148-point flogging at the hands of Essendon on Saturday, Neeld, appeared to be a 'sacked coach talking'.

After two and a half hours of watching on from the coaches' box, he looked as beaten down as his team had been on the MCG turf, the defeat coming after their shocking 79-point loss to Port Adelaide the previous week.

It's only round two, so it's hard to believe a coach could already find himself being led to the guillotine, but Neeld's neck is definitely on the line with the blunders on and off the field mounting.

Essendon has had a considerable injection of performance-enhancing resolve, but with teams supposedly primed and ready to go at the start of a new campaign, 25-goal margins should not be appearing so early.

And they rarely do. Saturday's defeat was not only the Demons' worst at the 'G', it was the 20th biggest of all-time, and, most tellingly, the third largest in the first five rounds of a season.

With a blatant lack of intent, they had just over half the amount of possessions the Bombers had (452-262) and just 28 forward-50m entries to 78, and though they were chasing tail, laid just 35 tackles to 61.

The Demons face West Coast next weekend, before a pivotal encounter with the GWS Giants.

Of course you can't sack the entire playing group, so lose that and it could be the end for Neeld after just 26 games at the helm.

Not since 1994 when Terry Wheeler was replaced by Alan Joyce at Footscray after two rounds, has a coach been sacked so early.

But, the entire football department must take part of the blame for the Demons now being installed as wooden spoon favourite with most bookmarkers.

While one of the Demons' best players from 2012, James Magner languishes in the VFL as a 24-year-old rookie after he was denied a spot on the senior list this year, the club put considerable faith in spent forces and unproven 'talents' from rivals outfits, and had supporters fooled, actually believing they were on the right track.

But, their so-called 'moneyball' approach has so far come up short.

Shannon Byrnes and David Rodan are past their best, while key position players Tom Gillies and Cam Pederson are back-up options at best. Then there's the high-priced Chris Dawes, who is yet to prove he's more than a one-year wonder with Collingwood, can't get out there due to injury.

With Dawes and fellow power forward Mitch Clark up front and James Frawley and Tom MacDonald down back, on paper, the Dees could have a terrific spine, but, right now, the side simply has no back bone.


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