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The biggest Dee-sappointment of 2019

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Expert
18th August, 2019
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You know where I’m going with this by just reading the title.

It’s pretty bad, I know but it’s certainly not as bad as the Dees in 2019.

12 months ago, much of the AFL world was caught up in Melbourne Demons mania.

In Round 22, 2018 the Dees knocked off eventual premiers West Coast on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Perth and were set for their first finals appearance in a decade.

That win was the first of four in a row, including an elimination and semi final victories over Geelong and Hawthorn.

But for the Dees, that’s where the glory ended.

They would go on to win just five of their next 22 games.

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Which brings us to here.

There are a number of factors behind the Dees’ downfall and the biggest can be traced back to the preliminary final in Perth.

West Coast burst out of the blocks with a four goals to nil opening quarter and by half time, had their spot in the grand final booked.

A goalless first-half by the Dees saw them staring at a 63-point deficit at the main break before bowing out of season 2018 on the back of an 11-goal thumping.

That was the beginning of the end for the Demons.

The loss itself wasn’t the worst part, though.

It was the response (or lack of) to the final that was the most baffling.

In February this year, coach Simon Goodwin confirmed that he and his players would not watch the game in full.

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“I certainly haven’t looked back. I’ve been more inclined to look forward,” Goodwin told SEN at the time.

“I haven’t dealt with it with the players. I actually haven’t really watched it again.”
Goodwin confirmed he “touched on (the final) briefly” with his team but did not review the game in full.

“We were lucky enough to play in three finals (last) year… two really positive experiences and one where we know we need to handle moments better,” he said.

“We needed to handle the situation better (but) I don’t need to sit there and tell them where we went wrong. The players know that.”

Simon Goodwin

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

I don’t know if it was arrogant, naïve or plain silly from Goodwin… maybe a combination of all three.

But the decision to not review the game that ended his side’s season, despite the improvement over the year, was a costly one.

The main reason being that the Eagles went on to win the premiership a week later.

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You’re telling me there’s nothing the Dees could’ve learnt from that loss and the side that dealt the blow?

Because I can assure you, there were plenty of other teams who would’ve watched that game (and the grand final) and taken something out of it.

That’s quite often what aspiring premiership sides will do.

Watch the best, in order to beat the best and become better than them.

But to me, Goodwin’s comments reflect a side that was simply content with the season gone by, rather than one hungry to go one step further in 2019.

For a side that has been so starved of success for quite a long time, you’d think that coming within a sniff of the big dance would’ve spurred them on to improve even more.

Instead, the Dees have gone many steps back.

12 to be exact – from fifth in 2018 to 17th in 2019.

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If it weren’t for a last gasp, one-point victory over the Suns in Round 8, the two teams would be equal last on the ladder.

Melbourne Demons AFL Finals line up

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

From a united, excited side of 2018, the Dees appear divided and directionless.

There are few better examples of this than Clayton Oliver on Friday night against the Swans.

In what many have labelled as the Dees’ worst loss of the season, Oliver cracked it with teammate Bailey Fritsch, who opted to hit up a teammate in a better position in Melbourne’s forward 50 than give up a cheeky handball it his way.

Later in the game, Oliver found himself in a similar position to Fritsch and instead of handballing to one of two teammates either side of him, he had the shot on goal himself which resulted in an out of bounds throw in.

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They look like anything but a team and Oliver isn’t the only one feeling the pinch.
You can’t help but feel for Tom McDonald.

Following a move up the ground in 2017, McDonald had a breakout year as a forward in 2018, kicking 53 goals.

But it’s been a different story this year, after being shifted up and down the ground to cover every hole where needed.

He finally found form in the Dees’ thrilling victory over Carlton in Round 16, booting six goals before suffering a season-ending knee injury during the third quarter.

And that’s not all.

Last season McDonald’s brilliant form was complimented by Jesse Hogan, who last season booted a career-high 47 goals.

It seems easy to forget the influence Hogan had last year because he isn’t in the frame at Melbourne this year and therefore isn’t part of this downfall, but he was just as influential as McDonald up forward last year and they were a lethal one-two punch.

The sad thing for the Dees is that these issues are just the tip of the iceberg.

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The sadder thing is that 2018 appears an outlier instead of a look at things to come.

Simon Goodwin

(Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Right now, it’s hard to know who the Dees are. They’ve clearly lost that high energy and sheer joy that was on display last year.

As for what they stand for?

That’s just as unclear.

Right now, it’s apparent there’s nothing left in the tank and the club haven’t worked hard enough to improve their game.

That traces back to the root of this problem.

The decision to not watch and analyse the 2018 preliminary final already set them back, because they weren’t willing to work hard and improve their game.

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Instead, settled for the success that came their way and assumed it would be enough to help them ride the wave again this year.

I assume that after 22 rounds, they realise they were wrong.

The question now is has their best already left the building?

Simon Goodwin and his three-year extension better hope not.

As the sun sets on a horrific season, Melbourne will need to work harder to bounce back in 2020.

And make sure their best is good enough, not just assume that near enough will be more than enough to get them to the end.