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2017 season preview: Melbourne Demons

Stirling Coates Roar Guru

By Stirling Coates, Stirling Coates is a Roar Guru


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    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.

    Paul Roos, coach of Melbourne looks on during the 2014 NAB Challenge launch

    What’s changed?
    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.

    The verdict
    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.

    Prediction: ninth

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    The Crowd Says (3)

    • March 17th 2017 @ 4:45am
      Bob GOOCH said | March 17th 2017 @ 4:45am | ! Report

      Agree. 9th is just about right. As a member hope remains eternal but their JLT game against West Coast (who should have won by 10 goals) exposed there real short comings. The opening game against St Kilda at Etihad looms a season predictor for them

    • Roar Rookie

      March 17th 2017 @ 1:45pm
      Cam Mann said | March 17th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

      My massive fear is that it’s going to be expected that this ‘natural progression’ will have the players expect finals. So many media outlets have them playing finals already – I’ve seen them get well ahead of themselves before and be brought back to Earth the next week.

      The only thing that saves me from my normal melodrama is that a new coach will want this as much as as anyone and the Jordan Lewis addition. I don’t care if he plays 10 games a year. Having that leadership and first hand view of how to be the hunted and keep winning is invaluable.

      If we get in, it will be by fingertips – Unless we beat St Kilda in Round 1 in which case I’m blocking out Grand Final day to make sure I’m going.

    • March 17th 2017 @ 3:54pm
      Darren said | March 17th 2017 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

      They should have beaten Essendon in Round 2 last year, that performance was terrible, it was worse than the Carlton game. The Geelong game just looked like they gave it away. But remaining an optimistic Melbourne supporter, I believe last year’s final two rounds were signs of exhaustion of a still immature team and a long season.

      We faded badly in 2015 but it was about 6 or 7 rounds out. 2014 we didn’t win after the bye at all, or even look like doing so. I would consider lasting until round 21 as a sign of improvement in a young team.

      For the record, we actually beat the Etihad hoodoo, round 23 2015 we beat GWS there, so that should no longer be an issue. Beating St Kilda there, however is definitely another story.

      I am living in hope that I will see another final shortly, I hope it could be this year.

      I still feel there are many people (media, public and possibly even some other teams) that continue to underrate the team based on the poor performance from 2011-12-13-14 and into 2015. I hope they also continue to underestimate us and we can slide by without anyone noticing. A cheeky win against a top team will certainly help.

      The Monday-Sunday-Saturday-Friday run of four 6 day breaks in a row, with a trip to Perth in the middle of it will definitely not help. Also, being that we play the Swans at the MCG on the Friday at the end of this run, directly after the Perth trip will certainly not help our stocks in keeping future prime time slots. It almost looks planned if you were inclined to believe in conspiracy theories from AFL house.

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