Melbourne vice-captain Jack Viney has turned his back on AFL free agency in favour of re-signing with the Demons for another five years.
Etihad Stadium had for so long been a place of nightmares for the Melbourne faithful.
Time after time, supporters would make the trip down, only to witness a lifeless Demons outfit pummelled into submission.
But this season Melbourne are 3-1 at Etihad – the insurmountable summit has now become a place of optimism.
Sunday’s sublime effort against the Western Bulldogs saw Melbourne elevated into the discussion of premiership contenders. On the back of three convincing wins, for the first time in maybe a decade, Melbourne backed up the growing hype around the success-starved club with ruthless and constant aggression.
Melbourne took total control, led by the continued outstanding seasons of Michael Hibberd (27 possessions) and Jordan Lewis (31 possessions). They contested the ball and were manic in applying pressure, which saw the Bulldogs renowned handball game crumble.
In a play repeated several times, the ball got picked up and moved with slick movement and ferocious speed, with Mitch Hannan and Jack Watts the shining lights up forward.
Clayton Oliver and Jack Viney led a midfield brigade which battered their counterparts into submission.
By contrast, the Bulldogs forward line was never really in the game, with Tory Dickson and Tom Boyd unsighted for the first half, and Jake Stringer racking up more jumper punches then possessions for the game.
This allowed Oscar MacDonald and Sam Frost to rebound and deliver Melbourne an irrepressible drive, which was key to their win. This was a growing sign, along with the likes of Alex Neal Bullen and James Harmes, of Melbourne’s continued growth.
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Stringer and Co. were far from being alone in sub-par performances, with arguably only Marcus Bontempelli, Mitch Wallis and Tom Liberatore qualifying for a pass mark.
Having had their midfield and forward rendered useless, frustration built for the Bulldogs, resulting in a series of spot fires and jumper punches.
Being bullied by an up-and-comer in a street fight – and the Bulldogs are a strong contested team – this should have spurred a reaction from the reigning premiers.
Yet it only got worse for Luke Beveridge’s men, as the backline dissipated and Melbourne extended the lead to a final margin of 56 points.
Most exciting for Simon Goodwin is this team has gone from strength to strength without their two stars, in Max Gawn, the game’s best ruckman, and Jesse Hogan, one of the best young forwards. The prospect of that pair in an in-form Melbourne team is mouth-watering.
For the first time in forever, Melbourne may have genuine credentials for its finals ambitions. Dees supporters may even dare to dream bigger in such an open competition.
And even if these ambitions aren’t realised yet, the Demons are unquestionably on the road to better times.