WHAT WE LEARNED: Melbourne's culture of defeat is coming home to roost, the Tigers aren't a top-four side and the Doggies are doing alright
Melbourne will reap what they sowed
Melbourne's barely concealed glee at dodging any serious sanctions over the AFL's tanking investigation may have been somewhat premature. The true cost of accepting a culture of defeat and believing high draft picks could cure all ills is only now coming home to roost. High draft picks need to be developed and nurtured or else their talent will be wasted. Melbourne's woes have not been caused by recruiting failures but by a failure to instil the right work ethic and processes into the kids they draft. If any of Melbourne's under-performing draft picks – such as Jack Watts, Jack Trengove or Sam Blease - were put through the Collingwood or Sydney systems, there is little chance they would be putting in such half-hearted efforts. Brock McLean last year admitted that players were uncomfortable knowing that losing games was becoming an accepted practice, and perhaps Tom Scully's reasons for leaving had less to do with the huge money on offer and more to do with continuing his development as a footballer.
All of which brings us to the long-term ramifications of Melbourne's current malaise, and that is there is no real way out of their predicament. The club can take partial responsibility for the fact that priority picks no longer exist, which means fewer good players coming to the club. It will also be unable to attract decent free agents unless it wildly overpays (as it has with Chris Dawes, who is on $500,000 a season, is yet to play a game, and kicked only eight goals as a key forward last year) and risks losing any decent players to free agency as they look to escape a toxic club with no finals prospects.
Don't believe the Richmond revival…yet
There is something cruel about the way people talk up Richmond's chances before the start of the season, only for another year of failure to eventuate. This was meant to be the season all of that stopped (not the hype bit, the failing bit), but if the two games so far this year have shown us anything it is that this team is nowhere near threatening for a top-four finish. Richmond may be able to scrape into the eight, which would be some achievement for a side with less finals appearances than Fitzroy in the last 30 years, but that is about all.
Forget about the stars, it is the performances of the lesser lights that will dictate Richmond's fortunes this year. Last year Shane Tuck was a clearance machine, but on Friday night he couldn't get near the footy, despite Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin drawing the hard tags of Clinton Jones and Sean Dempster. Shaun Grigg was also able to roam free last season, but his output this year suggests teams are less likely to let him off the leash. Tyrone Vickery, who was so influential in the round one win against Carlton, also looked a lot less dangerous, despite St Kilda's undersized defence. The Tigers may be up and about celebrating their first 2-0 start to a season in 16 years, but let's not forget that in 1997 they failed to make the finals and sacked their coach.
The Doggies are doing alright
Because it's more fashionable to slam a losing side than praise them and because the Demons broke all sorts of unenvious records later in the evening, the Bulldogs' 28-point loss to Fremantle went largely unnoticed on Saturday. But don't be disappointed, Dogs fans - in this town staying out of the papers usually means you're doing something right. Brendan McCartney is proving an astute hire as coach. In just his second year, the Dogs already look a handful in the midfield and are starting to put together the defensive side to their game.
They were dominant in patches against the Dockers, and were well on top in the centre, where young gun Tom Liberatore took advantage of Matthew Boyd's absence and a Ryan Crowley tag on Ryan Griffin to rack up 28 disposals, 11 tackles and 12 clearances in an arguable best-afield display. The polish was missing in the forward line, but that will come with time, especially as Jake Stringer matures. There's no disgrace in a five-goal loss to a likely top-four side, and Bulldogs fans only need to look at Melbourne (and possibly St Kilda) to know their team is coming along okay.
- Mitch Clark had all but signed with Fremantle before Melbourne stepped in with a bigger, better offer and wooed him away. Two years on, can we safely assume he's regretting that decision?
- Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. St Kilda coach Scott Watters has left Justin Koschitzke on the sidelines for the first two games of the season and now pundits think he is the sort of superstar who could turn their season around.
- Channel 7's Saturday coverage was the pits. Brian Taylor was his usual hyperbolic self, Basil Zempilas brought out the schoolboy humour and somebody up the chain thought it clever to editorialise Mark Neeld's facial tics (the result of a hit behind play more than a decade ago) as the result of stress. Awful.
- You've got to hand it to Quinten Lynch - he was still well-beaten by Matthew Kreuzer but the Magpies wouldn't have held off the Blues without the ex-Eagle's tireless efforts in the ruck.
- If 'belief' could possibly be a statistical category, Geelong would be the number one side in the competition. Write them off at your peril.
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