AFL preview series: Melbourne Demons – 6th

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Surely it’s time. It has to be. It must be. Melbourne are going to return to the finals for the first time since… whenever it was.

    The internet wasn’t around back then; the only records of it are being preserved in a vacuum-sealed chamber.

    The Western Bulldogs won a premiership. Richmond won a flag. Richmond! Surely the Demons can do something simple like play a final in this new world order.

    They bloody well should. Anything less will only be categorised as an underwhelming disappointment, and the club will be in disarray.

    B: Neville Jetta Oscar McDonald Christian Salem
    HB: Jayden Hunt Jake Lever Michael Hibberd
    C: Angus Brayshaw Clayton Oliver Jordan Lewis
    HF: Christian Petracca Jesse Hogan Mitch Hannan
    F: Jeff Garlett Tom McDonald Alex Neal-Bullen
    Foll: Max Gawn Nathan Jones Jack Viney
    Int: Dom Tyson Sam Frost Jake Melksham Bernie Vince
    Em: Cameron Pedersen James Harmes Bailey Fritsch

    This is a good looking football side, with weapons across most lines.

    The midfield is the engine room, with Jack Viney and Clayton Oliver set to lead the way at the coalface for the best part of a decade together. Max Gawn is in the top handful of ruckmen in the competition, and if everyone is at their best he’s probably number one. He’s a master technician in his tapwork, but is at his best when owning the field with physical presence in marking contests.

    Viney and Oliver at Gawn’s feet both crave body contact in all its forms on a football field – if they’re not getting hit while their hands are on the footy, they’ll go looking for it.

    As the two young bulls have taken up the clearance cudgels, Nathan Jones has gradually become a more outside player. The same can be said for Dom Tyson too, but whether he’s suited to a role requiring more precise disposal remains to be seen. The likes of Billy Stretch and Corey Maynard would be eyeing this spot.

    Angus Brayshaw will hopefully get a chance to prove what he can do after just 15 games in the last two years.

    Jordan Lewis adds experience and gravitas but many Melbourne supporters would like to see him pushed out of the side, claiming that his output does not match his reputation.

    Another senior member, Bernie Vince, may also feel some selection heat as the year progresses. If the Dees are going well enough to have these two playing VFL, they are a certainty to rise.

    For the moment, however, the midfield is a neat mix of youth and experience, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s missing something.

    That something is Christian Petracca.

    Christian Petracca Melbourne Demons AFL 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Every club would love to have the next Dustin Martin or Patrick Dangerfield, but Melbourne is the only one that has the heir apparent. Petracca has the skill set to match feats with the superstar duo, and we can look forward to a midfield-forward split that allows him to wreak the most havoc.

    The Demons weren’t the heaviest scoring team of 2017, but they did have an eight-game mid-season stretch where they averaged 104 points per game, which is extremely healthy.

    This year, they should have the services of Jesse Hogan for the entire season after he endured a torrid 2017, and he’ll set his sights on 50 goals. Tom McDonald moved forward last year to great effect, and can also push up for 40 goals plus. Out of nowhere, a formidable key forward duo has emerged.

    Jeff Garlett was in the All-Australian conversation as a forward pocket last season, but has been known to mix his form from year to year. Alex Neale-Bullen is another pressure player that is trending in the right direction, one of the most improved players at Melbourne last year.

    Bailey Fritsch has made a bit of a name for himself over the pre-season, and plays taller than he is. He and Mitch Hannan might be playing for the same spot, both what we’d call ‘moment’ players, rather than four quarter contributors.

    Jake Melksham might have finally found his niche in the half-forward group in the second half of 2017, driving the ball in with pace and length.

    Down back, Jake Lever has been brought over from Adelaide, but has hopefully left his grand final scars behind. He’s one of the best interceptors in the league when given free reign, and will be at his optimum when played as the third tall, assuming Oscar McDonald and Sam Frost play the key positions. These latter two can play smaller if required, if opposition sides commit to a small-ball approach.

    They’ll be a tall trio that is hard to break down, the more they play together.

    Neville Jetta is a professional back pocket, while the rebound and drive will be led by Michael Hibberd, fresh off an All-Australian season. Jayden Hunt has the speed to break open games, and Christian Salem has the poise to make every possession count. It is really time for him to stand up.

    Jayden Hunt Melbourne Demons AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    The latter two could also be moved to the wings at different stages, to provide a bit more class in the middle of the ground. The Dees don’t get enough value for money from their forward 50 entries, and no longer have Jack Watts, who was their best user through half-forward.

    It’s the one area Melbourne is still lacking, and will surely be addressed through trading or the draft at season’s end.

    Melbourne won the equal fourth most quarters of any club in 2017. Twelve wins and a ninth-placed finish tell us the gap between their best and worst was too great. Too many matches thrown away.

    They lost to Fremantle at the MCG by two points after conceding a seven-goal third quarter. A four-goal lead against Richmond in the final term was frittered away. A three-point loss to Hawthorn after allowing them a 27-point quarter time lead. Losing to North Melbourne twice. Twice!

    But the big one for Dees fans was in Round 23. Rocking up to their Saturday afternoon match against Collingwood knowing a win would secure them a finals berth, they were entitled to expect a fierce opening. Instead, they saw the limpest possible opening term, and a 32-point deficit at the first break. It still burns a fiery rage within the Demon faithful. Do the players feel the same?

    We’ll know soon enough how much it means, when Melbourne faces off against Geelong first up in the match of Round 1. A win there, followed by games against Brisbane and North, would see a 3-0 start and a season set up for September action.

    If the Dees are serious, they’ll be 6-3 at absolute worst by Round 9. From there, they get to make the running.

    Melbourne has the talent. They certainly believe they are good enough. But do they have the resilience when things aren’t going their way? It’s the last piece of the puzzle.

    Prediction – sixth

    Cam Rose’s AFL ladder prediction
    6: Melbourne Demons
    7: Greater Western Sydney
    8. Essendon
    9. Hawthorn
    10. Collingwood
    11. Western Bulldogs
    12. St Kilda
    13. West Coast
    14. North Melbourne
    15. Fremantle
    16. Brisbane
    17. Carlton
    18. Gold Coast

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (34)

    • March 12th 2018 @ 8:03am
      1DER said | March 12th 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

      Spot on with the Dees. This is the year when it is a must they push well into the final eight and head towards making a grand final by 2020. The group is in perfect age and experience bracket , however, as highlighted the lack of finals experience will be a big factor come September should Vince and Lewis be not included in best 22.

      The last six (6) games of the season will define whether they have what it takes to jump to the next level. Included are games Geelong (A) – Adelaide (A) – Swans – Eagles (A) and Giants

      Along with Port will be big improvers in 2018 and should be 8-4 at worst at the bye.

    • March 12th 2018 @ 10:18am
      JustAnotherVoiceOnTheInternet said | March 12th 2018 @ 10:18am | ! Report

      Good article Cam, surely the Demons have to feature somewhere in the top 8, surely! I’ve actually got them a bit higher, I think they have one of the most talented lists in the league, but on the back of capitulating to the Pies last year that lack of finals experience may well come back to bite them.

      Instead at 6th I’ve got the Crows. Logic suggests they should be a lot higher than that, but I do these ladder predictions with logic every year and that gets me nowhere. Logic didn’t have the Tigers coming from 13th to the flag.

      History however does suggest that when a team gets thumped in the grand final they find it very hard to back up the next season – think West Coast in 2016.

      My predictions:

      6. Adelaide
      7. Port Adelaide
      8. Essendon
      9. Hawthorn
      10. Collingwood
      11. Western Bulldogs
      12. St Kilda
      13. West Coast
      14. Fremantle
      15. Brisbane
      16. Carlton
      17. North Melbourne
      18. Gold Coast

      • March 12th 2018 @ 10:47am
        Neil from Warrandyte said | March 12th 2018 @ 10:47am | ! Report

        Agree about Adelaide sliding. The way they started their pre season late last year would suggest they do have some mental demons that they are trying to deal with. Recent history would suggest that grand finalists are generally slow starters as well.

        • March 12th 2018 @ 11:01am
          Aflisagoodgame said | March 12th 2018 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          They got an older list soon they’ll have to rebuild. Betts will be average in a year’s time. Why is nobody talking about Rory Laird out of contract? He’s just as good as Sloane.

          • March 12th 2018 @ 11:39am
            Harsh Truth Harry said | March 12th 2018 @ 11:39am | ! Report

            Betts is a gun and will be for more than one year. The Crows will be thereabouts in 2018, trouble is Pyke is still dealing with his own demons in failing as a coach in the glaring spotlight, he froze, he choked, he put his clipboard away, sat on his hands and cost the Crows the 2017 flag that was theirs for the taking. It is Pyke who should apologise to his players, his president, his members. He needs to come clean and state that it was his fault and that he failed to make one single move in a grand final.

            • March 13th 2018 @ 1:11am
              Don Freo said | March 13th 2018 @ 1:11am | ! Report

              He doesn’t ‘need’ to do that at all. You say brain dead things.

          • March 12th 2018 @ 4:11pm
            Ditto said | March 12th 2018 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

            As comments aimed at Melbourne are going a bit slow, I feel compelled to respond to a poster’s suggestion that Adelaide are old and will be shortly be rebuilding. Adelaide’s average age is around the 24 1/2 mark, the average age of the rest of the competion is around 24. This has occurred solely because Adelaide at the end of 2017 traded out relatively young players, Lever 21, Cameron 23 and Wigg 21 and traded in senior types, Gibbs 28, Gibson 31 and didn’t dip into the youth of the draft much. The dynamics of the list hasn’t really changed. In fact if they had chosen to use a draft pick on an 18 year old rather than Gibson their average age would be somewhere in the middle of the order. The strength of the group is reflected in ther list of players aged 22 to 24; Crouch x2, Knight, Kelly, Atkins, Laird and McGovern. This represents a strong core of players for Adelaide to continue to be towards the top of end of the ladder for years to come. What’s more all these players natural draft years are 2012 and 2013, years when Adelaide was denied access to the first 2 rounds of the draft, so I’m very confident that the likes of Gallucci, Polholke, Milera and Fogarty will become quality AFL footballers. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Adelaide to need to rebuild.

            • March 13th 2018 @ 1:15am
              Don Freo said | March 13th 2018 @ 1:15am | ! Report

              The only time average age is ever an issue is if it is under 20 or above 30. It never is.

              Close to the dumbest stat around. Players are at their best in the 23 to 27 age group. An average age of , say 25, would be the oldest in the league…and probably the best.

      • March 12th 2018 @ 2:19pm
        sammy said | March 12th 2018 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

        would make for an interesting elimination final..Crows v Port. But I suspect that if Adelaide get going early this season and register wins in their first few games which will be a real barometer – Essendon away then Richmond at home, they should be pushing for top 4 and maybe even top 2

    • March 12th 2018 @ 10:42am
      Greg Falk said | March 12th 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

      Melbourne out of the 8…ask me why at the end of September

    • Roar Rookie

      March 12th 2018 @ 10:56am
      Mattician6x6 said | March 12th 2018 @ 10:56am | ! Report

      A replication of 88&00 a waits for the dees this year.

    • March 12th 2018 @ 11:02am
      Ditto said | March 12th 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

      Melbourne are the bludgers of the competition, years at the bottom, incentivated to continue failing by the thought of another top end draft pick. Brought in Roos who was able to dull expectation further. They couldn’t wait for Frawley to walk out the door so they could get another top end draft pick. Will get what they deserve. Pegged 11th.

      • March 12th 2018 @ 4:06pm
        Harsh Truth Harry said | March 12th 2018 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

        At last someone who talks some sense in here, well said Ditto! exactly my thoughts bloke!

    • March 12th 2018 @ 11:03am
      Aflisagoodgame said | March 12th 2018 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      I’m not a demons fan but they will win the premiership. Look at the tigers and dogs. Petracca will win a Norm Smith. Except for some random reason I feel Jordan Lewis won’t play in it like Suckling in 2016.

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