Brisbane were undoubtedly the darlings of the AFL in 2019, enjoying a meteoric rise from 15th to 2nd after nine seasons out of the top eight.
The AFL’s 2018 trade period has come and gone in the blink of an eye and the Melbourne Football Club has found itself at the forefront of the action.
Marching towards the 2019 season, still long off on the horizon, the Demons are desperate to see some degree of marginal improvement. After making it as far as the preliminary finals before bowing out against eventual premier West Coast, it’s clear Melbourne has the right formula.
What’s unclear is how they take that formula and take that extra step forward towards a grand final and eventually a premiership.
Melbourne’s trade period came down to two crucial moves. Full forward Jesse Hogan has departed the club, departing for Fremantle in exchange for pick 6 and pick 23.
23-year-old Hogan first arrived at Melbourne way back in 2012 and since then has played 71 games and booted 152 goals – a picture of consistency but yet to explode through to the top tier due to a wide range of factors.
Melbourne’s next big move came just moments later – sending pick 6 straight to the Gold Coast Suns in exchange for co-captain and champion defender Steven May and fellow Sun defender Kade Kolodjashnij.
May played 123 games in his time with the Suns. Kolodjashnij played 78.
And that’s the Melbourne puzzle for 2019 – the big moves – and if the cookie crumbles like it should, Melbourne may just have made all the right moves to sure themselves up as a genuine premiership contender.
Melbourne finished the 2018 season in fifth spot on the ladder with 2299 points scored – the number one scoring side in the competition. Minor premiers Richmond sat in second and runners-up Collingwood in third. Premiers West Coast finished fifth.
At the other end of the ground Melbourne conceded 1749 points – ninth best in the competition. Geelong finished first overall, Richmond in second and West Coast grabbed fifth spot once again.
In simple terms – simple maths even – Melbourne has removed Hogan’s contribution of 47 goals and 23 behinds – and will hope to fill that hole by improving defensively at the other end with the addition of May and Kolodjashnij.
Tom McDonald was Melbourne’s highest goal scorer this season, booting 53 goals from 20 matches – the same amount played by Hogan. With Hogan gone from the scene, Sam Weideman – who slotted 10 goals in 10 matches as Hogan’s post-injury replacement – will face even more time under the spotlight and for anyone who saw Weideman play in the second half of the season – that’s an exciting prospect.
Melbourne can also expect the same steady contributions from Jake Melksham (32 goals), Alex Neal-Bullen (27 goals) and Mitch Hannan (22 goals). These five players – the most important of all being an improving Weideman – leaving the Demons with plenty of reasons to feel confident that they can find an additional 47 goals to cover Hogan.
At the other end of the ground things start to get really interesting. Neville Jetta, Steven May, Jake Lever, Michael Hibberd, Jordan Lewis, Christian Salem, Kade Kolodjashnij and Oscar McDonald will now come together to form what should been one of the most intimidating defensive outfits in the competition.
The biggest improvement of course will be in the form of May – capable of taking on dominating tall forwards like Lance Franklin, Tom Hawkins and Tom Lynch – the exact type of forward which has left Melbourne fans in ruins time and time again.
Some serious weaknesses covered in exchange for a quality player who is more than covered by not only the players around him, but the emerging youth at the club.
At one end of the ground the traditionally introverted Hogan is gone, and with him goes approximately 300 points a season. At the other end of the ground however Hogan has been replaced by a man who screams leadership out on the ground and is more than capable of stop or impeding goal after goal, round after round – that might just be sailing through without him.
Melbourne is a club that screams volatility and trying to predict their path has always been foolish – but as it stands, on paper – Melbourne might just be the team to watch in 2019.