With the 2019 AFL draft in the rearview mirror and club lists finalised for 2020, we decided – despite overwhelming popular opinion – that it’s not at all too early to start speculating about the season ahead.
As one of the oldest Australian Rules football clubs, Melbourne would have to be disappointed in their achievements to date.
After a 2018 season that saw them scrape into the finals – and then perform well – for the first time since 2006, they plummeted from fourth to second-last despite what most commentators considered to be an improved list, having traded in Kade Kolodjashnij and Steven May from the Gold Coast, plus Braydon Preuss from North Melbourne.
None of these imports were able to contribute much, playing a total of only 17 games between them.
The improvement expected from the younger players didn’t happen at the expected rate and – despite the dominance of Max Gawn, who continued his 2018 form – the midfield did not live up to expectations.
The Demons are already working towards an improvement in 2020 and so far have delisted three players and announced the retirement of Jordan Lewis. Lewis, who served the Demons well in his three seasons with them, was a leading light in 2018 but faded to play only 12 games in 2019 and the last seven of those were losses.
His stellar career at Hawthorn, combined with his service to Melbourne, means that he retires from the AFL as the 48th greatest game player of all time, one game behind former Essendon champion Dick Reynolds, who is a previous holder of the most games played record.
He will be remembered in retirement as a Hawthorn stalwart, where his 264 games and 145 goals saw him sitting in 13th position and equal 40th position on the Hawks’ top 100 game players and goal-scorers respectively. It is likely that he will remain somewhere on both Hawthorn top 100 lists and be able to attend top 100 functions for the remainder of his life.
One of the delisted Demons was former Blues player Jeff Garlett. The 30-year-old also had a disappointing 2019, which yielded only seven games and nine goals. The nine majors were enough for him to share equal billing as the current leading goal-scorer with champion Nathan Jones, but as both appear outside the top 50 Demon goal-scorers of all time, it was not a credential strong enough to earn him an extension on his contract.
Christian Petracca, on the other hand, continued to show his goal-kicking ability by booting 22 in the 22 matches he played in his fourth year at the club. In Round 15, he kicked two goals against Brisbane to dislodge 1970s half forward flanker Andrew Moir and 1960s ruck rover Bryan Kenneally from Melbourne’s top 100 goal-scorers list.
By season’s end, he had move up to 95th position on the list and sat only one goal behind the strong-marking John Lord from Echuca, who played in four premierships with the Demons in the 1950s and 1960s and Collingwood player Jeremy Howe, who was Melbourne’s leading goal-kicker in 2013.
Tom McDonald, the other top 100 goal-scorer on Melbourne’s list, became a century goal-scorer during the season and hopefully will be around for more than 15 games in 2020.