LAY OFF Jack Watts.
That is the message from Melbourne midfielder Bernie Vince ahead of his return to Adelaide on Saturday evening, where he will play his first game against his former club the Crows at Adelaide Oval.
Vince believes the media and supporter criticism of Watts is not warranted.
"As soon as something happens to Melbourne, it seems to be Jack Watts' fault," Vince told
"The media must watch him so close. He's the first one that gets something written about him or said about him and to Jack's credit, he tries to [block] it out as best as he can, and he does it pretty well.
"But there comes a time where it would get to you and you kind of can't not hear or read things.
"I think people have got to get off his back a little bit."
Melbourne great Garry Lyon was one such commentator who spoke about Watts' lack of urgency around the ball after the Demons' loss to Gold Coast in round five.
"It's in his DNA. I'm sure every coach he's had has said to him 'you've got to be more urgent around the footy. It's got to be life and death'," Lyon told's Access All Areas.
"But it doesn't appear to be at this stage."
But Vince says Watts' laconic style is a product of the way he plays the game.
Since being traded from the Crows to the Demons for pick No.23 in last year's trade period, Vince has noticed the respect Watts commands amongs Melbourne's playing group.
"What I've learnt is how much influence he has over the group," Vince said.
"He reminds me a lot of (star Crows forward) Taylor Walker in his early days.
"He has a huge influence over the young guys and everyone looks up to him."
A revered and popular figure during his time at the Crows, Vince is unsure of the reception he will get from the supporters who adored him during his time at West Lakes.
"I don't know how it's going to be. It's going to be a little bit weird … it's going to be good fun," he said.
Vince is hopeful Walker will be passed fit to play in his first game this season against the Demons, following knee surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in April last year.
Walker returned via the SANFL last Friday night, booting three goals in front of a 10,000-strong crowd.
"I think he should come straight back in, it'll be a bit of fun playing against him," Vince said.
"It'll be interesting to see whether he does get up.
"But realistically, if I was in his position and the club's position, I'd probably be leaning towards the careful side and giving him another week back in the SANFL."