By Hayley Wildes
Last week, the Melbourne Demons underwent a mid-season shake-up in light of their 3-9 start to the 2019 AFL season and the moves led to major changes at the Casey Demons.
In a stunning move, Casey coach Jade Rawlings was named as Melbourne’s new forward line coach in a full-time position and stepped aside from his role at Casey immediately.
Rawlings, who led the Demons to the 2018 VFL grand final, was in his second year at the helm and had instilled a tough, defensive-minded game style at Casey.
Sam Radford, who was an assistant coach to Rawlings at Casey, took over the reins as VFL coach.
As published on Melbourne’s official website (melbournefc.com.au) last week, general manager of football operations at Melbourne, Josh Mahoney highlighted why the changes were made mid-season.
“Over the last couple of weeks, the club has taken the opportunity to seek feedback from players, coaches and football staff to identify the clear opportunities for us to improve for the back-half of the season,” he said.
Speaking of Radford, Mahoney said he was the standout candidate to take over from Rawlings at Casey.
“He’s already got established relationships out there with the players, he knows our game style, he’s coached senior footy in his own right to premierships at amateur level and we know he’s excited by that opportunity.”
On the weekend after the changes were made, there were positive signs for both Melbourne and Casey, with Melbourne claiming a hard-fought 14-point win over Fremantle at the MCG and Casey – in Radford’s VFL head coaching debut – recording a 15-point win over Coburg.
It wasn’t always pretty for Casey on Sunday, but the Demons did enough to get the job done against the lowly Lions as AFL-listed players Jordan Lewis (39 disposals), Corey Maynard (27 disposals), Corey Wagner (18 disposals and 12 tackes) and Braydon Preuss all stood out, while Cranbourne’s Anthony Vella was again exciting with his pace and ability to take the game on.
Despite the final margin being just 15 points, 9.11 (65) to 8.2 (50), Casey looked in control for much of the game and had nine individual goal-kickers.
The win sees the Demons improve to 4-6 on the season and while they still sit 11th on the ladder, they are just one win behind eighth-placed Geelong.
Round 13 shapes as a vital one for the Demons, who take on seventh-placed Box Hill at Casey Fields on Saturday from 2pm. A win will see the Demons further bridge the gap between themselves and the bottom half of the top eight.