Melbourne won't make finals for years: Ling

By Martin Smith

The Melbourne Football Club is seemingly at its lowest ebb, but long-suffering supporters have been warned it will take at least five years for the Demons to contend for finals footy again.

The Dees sit at the bottom of the AFL ladder with an embarrassing percentage of just 28.39 after losing their first two games of the season by a combined total of 227 points.

Saturday night's loss - a 148-point thumping at the hands of Essendon - was the biggest at the MCG in the club's 154-year history.

The stats sheet from that match gave a clear indication of the gulf between the two sides, and a damning assessment of Melbourne's uncompetitiveness.

The Demons had 50 less inside 50s than the Bombers, 190 less possessions, 70 less marks and 16 less tackles.

Just as embarrassing was the fact Essendon forward Stewart Crameri matched the Demons by himself, kicking six straight goals to Melbourne's woeful total of 5.6.36.

Such is the depth of Melbourne's plight, premiership captain Cameron Ling has warned it will be years before they contend for September action.

"It's a long process," Ling told Channel 7's AFL Game Day on Sunday.

"There's no easy way around this and they are just shattered players. Being a past player ... looking at them upset is hard to watch.

"(Coach) Mark Neeld spoke before the game about wanting a competitive hit-out or a competitive effort from his players. He probably got that for 10, 15, 20 minutes maybe at most and then it all fell away so, so badly.

"It's a long process. I think you're talking five, six, seven years before they're at least knocking on the door of finals."

Despite the club's woes, President Don McLardy has insisted Neeld's job is secure.

In a letter to members and supporters published on Monday, McLardy said the club needed stability.

"Our club has endured extremely tough times recently, and has dealt with critical issues with professionalism and resilience. This is another of those times. Despite temptation and outside pressures looking for us to make radical changes, these will not occur.

"We will be using every internal and external resource available to us in the short term to make improvements as rapidly as possible. However, we highly value internal stability – the lack of which has been a downfall of our club in the past - and we will not bow to the external elements that try to destabilise our club at times such as these."

"At this difficult time, we continue to seek support from all our supporters and members for the long term good of the Melbourne Football Club. We understand that some of you will be angry and disillusioned, that some will say we have heard all this before, and that some will lose heart and temporarily give up.

"My message to you is that a club is only as strong as its supporters."

Things aren't expected to get any easier for the Demons in Round 3 when they face the highly-fancied West Coast on Saturday afternoon.