Melbourne have come a long way since their shambolic start to the decade. With the ‘Roos Revival’ complete and the succession plan well underway, can they take the next step and break a ten-year finals drought?
Let’s have a look at the list changes made in the off-season.
Additions: Jordan Lewis (Hawthorn), Michael Hibberd (Essendon), Pat McKenna (GWS Giants), Mitch Hannan, Dion Johnstone, Lachlan Filipovic, Tim Smith, Declan Keilty, Corey Maynard (draft)
Subtractions: Lynden Dunn (Collingwood), Jack Grimes, Chris Dawes, Matt Jones, Dean Terlich, Ben Newton, Viv Michie, Max King (delisted)
What happened last year?
Despite the positivity the Demons generated into 2016, it was actually something of an up and down year. Granted, the club have endured a decade of pure misery to the point where ‘ho-hum’ is still a huge improvement.
But in any case, Melbourne only sported a winning record at two points of last year; they were 1-0 after Round 1, and were 5-4 after Round 9. They spent most of the year at or just below level ground, and even fell to 7-10 at one point.
Their 29-point win over the Hawks set the AFL world on fire in Round 20, and while a comfortable win over the Power in Adelaide had them set, on form it appeared, for an unlikely finals berth, they were beyond putrid in the last fortnight and ended up finishing 11th.
The addition of Jordan Lewis will give the still-young Demons some much needed leadership and experience as they look to take the first foray into September football in over a decade, while some experienced bodies in Lynden Dunn, Chris Dawes and Jack Grimes were offloaded or delisted, showing the Dees think their youngsters have what it takes.
In fact, you could say Demons have put a fair few chips on their current list to take them up the ladder, with the last two years of trade activity leaving them without a pick in the first two rounds of the draft.
What needs to happen in 2017?
Discipline and consistent effort was something Roos complained about at length during his time, and underperformance in these areas clearly cost the Demons a finals berth in 2016.
As era-shifting as their Queen’s Birthday demolition of Collingwood and late-season triumph over the Hawks looked to be, efforts like the loss to the top-up Bombers in Round 2, the sloppy win over Gold Coast in Round 19, and the last-fortnight capitulation against Carlton and Geelong were unbecoming of a finals side.
Simon Goodwin may also want to encourage the Demons to move the ball a little bit more by foot this season, with their handball-to-kick ratio one of the highest in the competition.
While such a gameplan has its benefits – especially to a physical team like Melbourne – their heavy reliance on moving the ball by hand allowed teams to hound the ball carrier in numbers without fear of leaving themselves exposed elsewhere on the field.
As such, no team was tackled more in 2016 than the Demons, and this put their disposal efficiency below the league average where normally a handball-happy style of play would see it increase.
At least one win at Etihad Stadium wouldn’t go astray either.
Melbourne have the talent to return to finals in 2017, but they had the talent required to do so last year and they didn’t.
The Demons simply didn’t offer a level of effort consistent enough to be a finals team last season, and that’s something they might need more than one year with their ‘new’ coach to fix.