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Time to leave, Jack

Jack Watts of the Demons in action during the 2013 AFL round 02 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Melbourne Demons at the MCG, Melbourne on April 06, 2013. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Jack Watts needs to leave Melbourne according to Damian Barrett
JACK Watts needs to leave Melbourne.

Melbourne needs to let him go.

Things just haven¹t worked for individual or club since they joined amid manic publicity at the 2008 national draft, and even in a best-case scenario from here, they are not going to work for a very, very long time.

The Demons are not going to become successful soon.

Given their past six completed seasons (highest ladder finish of 12th in that period) and already the guarantee of a tumultuous 2013, it is possible to mount an argument the Demons will not even approach success in Watts¹ football-playing lifetime.

Managing Watts has always been difficult for Melbourne. Fifty-seven matches into his career, he neither feels comfortable at the top level nor has an on-field position in which he feels at home.

He¹s been tried as a forward, a wingman, most recently as a defender.

Melbourne¹s woeful plight clearly has not suited Watts. It has suffocated his ability to display the attributes which were considered worthy of being picked at No.1 in the national draft.

Watts is only 22, but he¹s no longer an excited kid playing footy. The goings-on at Melbourne have got to him.

Maybe it can be traced back to his very first game in the AFL, round 11 2009. Having quarantined Watts from the pressures of the big-time for the first half of the season, Melbourne officials abandoned the cotton-wool approach and, putting its own public relations requirements ahead of  Watts, unveiled him in front of 61,000 spectators in the Queen¹s Birthday game against Collingwood.

It was disastrous for Watts.

The Demons abandoned him again in round two this season. Any one of 16 players could have been subbed out of the embarrassing match against Essendon, yet it was Watts in the third quarter who was ordered to wear the red vest.

Then the club axed him from its round three team. But then chose not to play him in the VFL, instead keeping him on standby on the possibility one of the selected 22 became injured before the West Coast match.

Happy to listen to the club¹s reasoning on that, but not going to endorse it as the right course. Having been subbed, then dropped, Watts needed to play in the lesser competition.

Really interested to see what Melbourne does this week. If it selects Watts to play against GWS, what message is it trying to send? If it forces him into the VFL, you have to ask why it didn¹t do that last weekend.

Watts is not blameless in this situation. He certainly hasn¹t enhanced his status in his short time in the game, and when AFL playing list expert Terry Wallace last year re-analysed the 2008 national draft, he rated Watts a mid-20s selection only.

Those who know Watts and others who observe him closely question his game-day work rate and his passion to be the best he possibly can.

When it comes to taking a life-and-death approach to all matters football, he is no Joel Selwood. But then again, no one else is, either.

It is said of Watts that he doesn¹t hurt enough.

Watts is out of contract at the end of this season. He will have been a Melbourne player for five years by then.

Watts is a loyal young man, but to consider staying a Demon would be daunting, as finals will not be played at any stage of a fresh deal.

Negotiations will be delicate between Watts and Melbourne. The player does not deserve a pay rise, but in the weird way footy often works, Melbourne will need to offer him one in order to be a chance to keep him.

Watts was made aware last trade period of interest from rival clubs, including Carlton and North Melbourne. The interest will be more significant this year.

He owes it to himself to consider leaving this time around, as life at a Collingwood or Hawthorn would almost certainly transform his on-field fortunes.

The Demons need to acknowledge that they have not been able to get the best out of Watts, and may never be able to get the best out of him.

They could demand, and probably get, a first round draft selection for him. Win for the player, win for the club.

Twitter: @barrettdamian