CASEY has been overawed by Werribee at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday going down by 35 points tarnished the returns of AFL-listed players Steven May and Kade Kolodjashnij and the first game for new Melbourne recruit Kyle Dunkley.
Casey Demons 7.11 (53) defeated by Werribee 13.10 (88)
May was marvellous in his first game back from injury, recording 22 disposals and taking nine marks, including crucial intercept marks to stem Werribee attacks.
Head coach Jade Rawlings was impressed with the Melbourne defender’s effort in his return match.
“We thought Steven was sensational, we made a comment about him in front of his peers that his attitude all week towards playing VFL and playing was 10 out of 10,” Rawlings told Melbourne Media.
“We thought his performance was really strong… His marking, his kicking, his speed, it all really stood out.”
Starting the game down back, May settled in quickly after a few initial structure mistakes the coach put down to rust, but his impressive skills and his attitude made him the best on ground for Casey.
“He is a naturally talented person, that maybe gets lost a bit being a key back,” Rawlings said.
“But he knows how to mark it, he knows how to kick the ball.
“I was impressed with his level of team-first spirit, and how he got around young teammates who he didn’t know very well.”
Another Melbourne player returning from an extended injury lay-off was Kolodjashnij who played his first football match in over two months.
The pacey winger has been working hard recently in an effort to earn his recall to the AFL side.
“He is coming back from a history of concussions and it has been eight weeks of not being able to do much, to now a ramp up in his training to get to a point of playing,” Rawlings said.
“We thought he had some good moments.
“But I think he will be able to recover well and be better for the run… I know the AFL guys really want him back soon.”
The returning duo were joined by three others making their Casey debut on Saturday.
Recent Melbourne mid-season draft pick Dunkley, and VFL-listed pair Anthony Vella and Heath Briggs all laced up the boots for the first time in the red and blue.
Dunkley finished with 11 disposals in a solid first hit out for the Demons.
While the VFL pair who had been knocking on the door for their opportunities put in outstanding debut efforts.
“We thought Vella was terrific,” Rawlings said.
“He really stood out to us with how he kicked it and how he was prepared to carry it at times.
“In what was a pretty tough game, to have one of our debutants emerge was really pleasing.
“Briggs is someone who we have been wanting to play for a while, but he has had an ankle injury and a bit of illness.
“He did some stuff today which made it look like he could be a VFL player.”
But the combination of returning players and debutants made for a rather inexperienced side taking the field, which resulted in being overpowered and overworked by the Werribee side as the Demons fall to their third straight defeat and currently sit 11th on the VFL ladder.
“We are right at the crossroads [of our season],” Rawlings said.
“It’s been a tough year… Anyone who has watched us has seen we haven’t been able to maintain the intensity of four quarters.
“We are really inexperienced, it’s just a fact.
“But I think our best football is ahead of us in the second half of the year.
“We’ve got Collingwood next week, and I think in the second half of the year you will see us perform much better.”
The loss also diminished the tremendous achievement of club stalwart Mitch Gent who played his 100th VFL game, all for Casey.
The coach praised the savvy midfielder after the match.
“We really made a big deal about our VFL-listed guys who can achieve that milestone,” Rawlings said.
“It shows a lot of commitment, durability, and mental strength being able to be at an aligned club and play 100 games… It is a terrific effort.”
Next up for the Demons, they welcome rival Collingwood to Casey Fields next Sunday at 2pm, in a VFL-VFLW double-header.
Collingwood has been another inconsistent side at times this season currently sit 12th on the ladder.
But the Pies have shown glimpses of brilliance, especially last round knocking off the premiers in Box Hill, so it poses to be another tough challenge for the Demons next weekend.
CASEY DEMONS 2.2 3.4 4.8 7.11 (53)
WERRIBEE 4.3 7.4 9.8 13.10 (88)
May, Vella, Wagner, Munro, Gent
Lefau, Bedford, Chandler, Keilty, Munro, Kolodjashnij, Quigley