Jon Pierik July 14, 2012
Brent Moloney. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
MELBOURNE coach Mark Neeld says dropped midfielder Brent Moloney remains an important player, but the challenge for him is to return to the senior side and play at a ''great standard'' heading into contract renegotiations.
Moloney, 28, is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, meaning the Demons can retain him if they match any offer from a rival club.
Moloney and his manager Bruce Kaider, of One Management, are set to test the market. Officials from some clubs believe the hard-nut onballer would be an ideal fit for a club challenging for the flag next season.
In a difficult season for the Demons , he has worked hard behind the scenes this season to ensure spirits, particularly of his fellow midfielders, have remained high.
After struggling for touch in recent weeks, Moloney has been dropped for the first time since early in 2008 but is determined to regain form when he lines up for VFL affiliate Casey against Bendigo today at Windy Hill.
''Brent is working really hard,'' Neeld said yesterday. ''[He's] just not in good nick. We can't ask him to work any harder. [He's] just unable to find as much of the footy as what everyone would like.''
Moloney, who has not had a great deal of consistent help on the field, was used as a substitute against Richmond last weekend and had just six disposals. He had 14 against Collingwood in round 11 and managed his season average of 16 in the following weeks against Greater Western Sydney and the Brisbane Lions. He averaged 23 last season when he won the club best and fairest and polled 19 Brownlow Medal votes.
The Demons are rebuilding under Neeld and it remains to be seen where Moloney fits into these plans.
''What I could also say is that if he gets back into really good form and plays out the year … [at a] great standard, that is great timing for players to be in great nick and be out of contract,'' Neeld said.
While Moloney looks to kickstart his season, Tom Couch, another inside midfielder, will begin his senior career against Fremantle today at Etihad Stadium.
At 24, Couch, the son of 1989 Brownlow medallist and Geelong midfielder Paul, has shown great determination to remain in the system. He spent 2007 with Geelong's VFL team and St Joseph's, shifted to Woodville West Torrens in Adelaide and Glenelg, before linking with Collingwood's VFL team in 2010. Last year was spent with Bell Park in the Geelong league.
''Tom is a really good stoppage player and over the last month in the VFL he is starting to get into his game the ability to get out and get away from the stoppages to complement his work at the stoppages,'' Neeld said.
Couch will be thoroughly tested by the Dockers, who under Ross Lyon play what Neeld described as a ''close, combative brand of footy''.
The Dockers, outside the top eight on percentage, have the chance to move up in the next three weeks with games against the Demons, Greater Western Sydney and Port Adelaide.