Numbers look good for Demons, Watts - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Numbers look good for Demons, Watts

By Roger Vaughan 01/12/2008 07:15:44 PM Comments (0)

AFL wooden spooners Melbourne are selling hope and their fans are buying.

The Demons used plenty of symbolism on Monday as they presented a guernsey to No.1 draft pick Jack Watts.

Club president Jim Stynes confirmed at the MCG function that Melbourne's membership is 50 per cent ahead of this time last year.

"We're up past 12,000, so we're flying - last year, this time, we were 8,000," he said.

"It's hard to know what people are thinking, but the general consensus is that our supporter base are very happy with the decisions that we've been making.

"It's a vote of confidence of the leadership of the organisation, not just at board level, but with our CEO, our drafting, with our policies, keeping that youth focus."

Melbourne secured Watts effectively because they finished last and they are also seeking extra funds from the AFL to battle their parlous financial situation.

But the Stynes-led administration, which took over during the season, is slowly making progress.

Two days after recruiting Watts in the national draft, they held a media conference in a bastion of the city's establishment to welcome him to the AFL club most closely associated with that part of Melbourne society.

Demons legend Ron Barassi presented the No.4 guernsey at the MCG's Long Room Bar.

Another famous Demon, Norm Smith, wore No.4 and Watts had the same number when he starred earlier this year at the under-18 national championships.

Barassi shook hands with Watts in front of a giant portrait commemorating the club's team of the century.

Also present were Stynes, coach Dean Bailey and chief executive Cameron Schwab.

Stynes made a short speech trying to put Watts' recruitment into historical context, drawing links from Checker Hughes, to Smith, to Barassi, to himself and finally to Watts.

"We don't get to do this very often, hopefully we won't have to do it again too soon," Stynes said.

"Obviously we're very, very proud and we're proud of the history of this jumper."

If the kid, who is only 17, was feeling the pressure he hid it well.

"I'm sitting next to Jimmy Stynes and Ron Barassi, so I'm just privileged and really honoured to have this opportunity," Watts said.

Bailey likes what he sees so far, but is keen for Watts to finish his year 11 school commitments and then start enduring the pain of pre-season.

"He's been impressive, he's handled himself really well, really maturely," Bailey said.

"Training will start soon and he'll become just another player who will have to work hard on the track."

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