MELBOURNE TEAM OF THE DECADE 2000 – 2009
By The Forward Scout
B: Matthew Whelan, Alistair Nicholson, Nathan Brown
HB: Clint Bizzell, Jared Rivers, Cameron Bruce
C: Adem Yze, Travis Johnstone, Nathan Jones
HF: Aaron Davey, David Neitz, Colin Sylvia
F: Brad Green, Russell Robertson, Brad Miller
R: Jeff White, Brent Moloney, James McDonald
I/C: Shane Woewodin, Mark Jamar, Brock McLean, Paul Wheatley
Captain: David Neitz
Coach: Neale Daniher
Many questions were being thrown at the Melbourne Demons as they entered into the new decade – Could they really be a serious finals contender, with the absence of recently retired legends Garry Lyon, Jim Stynes, and Todd Viney? Could they honestly see an end to their premiership drought anywhere in the near future? With Neale Daniher steering at the helm, the determined Demons headed in to begin a rather successful era, in which they consistently made finals for the first half of the decade.
Season 2000 was superb for the Dees, seeing them make their way through to the Grand Final, before being shut down by the all-conquering Essendon machine. The Demons also played footy finals in seasons 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006, before a hoard of injuries and inconsistentcy unfortunately cruelled their players over the next 3 seasons.
Whilst they may not have had anybody with glowing superstar status in their side, the Dees had a hardy core group of committed senior players, who reliably carried out their job with minimal fuss.
Their defence was rock solid, with the likes of Matthew Whelan and Nathan Brown. Both were highly respected for the way they approached the game and were ‘team’ men, providing run and dash, and plenty of aggression out on the field. Alistair Nicholson, an underrated fullback, was plagued by injury, this ultimately forcing the end of his career, but when fit, he was a total rock in defence, often playing on the big forwards and more than holding his own. Jared Rivers won the ‘Rising Star’ Award in 2004, and has been a great rebounding defender who can play on the tall and small forwards. He was well backed up by Clint Bizzell, a terrific pick up from Geelong. And when he wasn’t in the middle or up forward, Cameron Bruce also added some versatility to the defence.
Travis Johnstone, the number one draft pick from the 1997 National Draft, stirred up a flurry of debate amongst supporters during his time at the club, but I’ve slotted him into the middle – when playing at his best, he was an extremely creative midfielder, always finding time and space, using the ball very well.
Adem Yze was a mercurial midfielder/forward, with mass ability to kick freakish goals. Yze used his pace and excellent skills to be a match winner in a multitude of games, and was very durable over his career, not missing many games through injury. And let’s not forget James McDonald who started off as a rookie and ended up a mighty captain of the club! McDonald was a terrific player in the middle, and was one of those trusty players who just did the job, week in, week out, in and under, getting the hard ball gets, and racking up possessions. It’s fabulous to see him out of retirement, helping out the lil’ newbies, GWS in their debut season.
Brad Green has been a wonderful contributor to the club since bursting on the scene in 2000, with ability to play key roles in the middle and up forward. Green’s accurate goal kicking, a signature feature of his game, allowed him to be one of the first picked in this side. Other current stars, Aaron Davey, Colin Sylvia and Nathan Jones, have also been key players in their time at the club.
Superstar player David Neitz is a super easy choice as captain in this side. Starting his career as a defender, Neitz found his niche as a key forward. Ever reliable, kicking bags of goals, he created a strong presence up forward, and goes down in history as having played the most games in Melbourne’s long history. Neitz is also the club’s all-time leading goal kicker! A true legend of the club! He was lucky to have an able sidekick helping him out in the forward line, in the flamboyant Russell Robertson, who was simply brilliant to watch. With his breathtaking marks, and his love of nailing important goals, Robertson is a true fan’s favourite, his love of the game and his club exuding from his pores!
Jeff White earns the number one ruck spot. After a decorated career at the club, following his move from Fremantle, White’s high leap and bounding athleticism started a new breed of ruckman, who could competently play as a tall midfielder. His knack of winning possessions round the ground was admirable, and he was often handy when pushed up forward. White will be supported by current day big man Mark Jamar, who appears to just keep on improving year by year, and is an important cog in the Demon’s drive to make a return to finals footy.
Shane Woewodin sneaks into the side ahead of players like Guy Rigoni and Andrew Leoncelli. Definitely all mighty fine players for the side in their time, but I went for Woey in the end, who won the Brownlow Medal in 2000. He was a seriously great player for the club, and fans were absolutely shattered when coach Neale Daniher made the call after the 2002 season, to trade Woey to Collingwood.
I snuck in Brock McLean and Paul Wheatley on the bench. Really, both those spots could easily have gone to experienced defenders Daniel Ward and Peter Walsh, who gave top service over a long period of time, with their run and drive out of defence. But I just felt tough nut McLean offered up more, as he could also play inside in the middle, and many were disappointed when he exited after season 2009, mainly because they felt he was to be the next Melbourne captain. Wheatley edges out Ward and Walsh, with his ability to break the lines and push up to a wing, and his long kicking is a big asset to the side.
David Schwarz was an unlucky omission from the side, but I guess the big Ox’s best days were behind him. Though he had a serviceable season in 2000, some old injuries caught up with him, and he retired midway through 2002. Credit to him though – Ox was a gun to come back after 3 knee reco’s! It really was such a brilliant effort, and to be able to still make an impact shows what a bloody good player he was. In the end, I gave the third tall forward spot to Brad Miller, an important swingman in his time at the Demon’s, who played some nice roles down back and also as a lead up forward.
Matthew Bate and Lynden Dunn played some commendable footy, but just not enough to push their way through, and young guns Colin Garland and James Frawley realistically didn’t play enough to snare a spot down back.
With motivated new coach Mark Neeld, and young up ‘n’ comings, like double Jack trouble, Jack Grimes and Jack Trengove, leading the way, let’s hope it’s not too far away until there is a ‘Grand Old Flag’ raised again at the AFL’s oldest and most famous club!
- The Forward Scout
These thoughts and opinions are those of the author and are not necessarily aligned with those of Nick Maxwell or the people at nickmaxwell.com.au
Comments may be moderated. If you don't see your comment, please be patient. It may be posted soon. Do not post your comment a second time. Thank you.