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Opinion

Four burning questions for Melbourne ahead of the AFL restart

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Editor
1st June, 2020
13

After a torturous decade, Demons fans only got to enjoy one season in the sun before it all came crashing down.

Last season’s spectacular fall from grace has already been the subject of an absurdly premature documentary. Surely you’d wait until you’d actually returned from hell before filming a series called To Hell and Back?

They looked nowhere near it in Round 1 against the Eagles although, to be fair, a 27-point loss to West Coast in Perth is far from a disaster.

Here are four burning questions for Melbourne before the season resumes.

1. Which Melbourne is the real Melbourne?

It defies belief. 14-8 to 5-17 in the space of 12 months. A high-pressure, ferocious team with an unparalleled ability to score one year; a slow, sloppy side who can’t make the scoreboard tick the next.

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It’s a cliche, but they really were two different teams.

Particularly worrying last season would be the fact they only played nine games against eventual finalists, so you can hardly say they were dudded by a hard draw, nor can you say a softer draw this season will be of any help.

They lost all nine of those games too by an average of 31 points. Last season’s five wins came against Gold Coast, Carlton, Sydney (the other three bottom-four sides), Fremantle and Hawthorn. Three of those wins were by less than a kick!

Last season wasn’t just disappointing, it was a few lucky bounces away from being historically poor.

I just don’t see where the improvement comes from either. Max Gawn better be an exceptionally good captain.

Simon Goodwin

Last year was beyond horrible. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

2. Have we done enough to solve our goal-kicking woes?

The biggest factor in the Demons’ disaster was an unfathomably large drop-off in scoring. They scored 730 fewer points in 2019 than they did in 2018. Sure, Jesse Hogan was good, but is he 123 goals in a season good? No way.

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But help might be on the way. Three of the biggest culprits last season were Tom McDonald (53 goals down to 18), Jake Melksham (32 to 15) and Alex Neal-Bullen (27 to 7) – who all missed significant time with injury. Throw Hogan’s 47-goals in there and that’s virtually the entire deficit in just four players.

More time for on the park for the trio still with the Dees will help massively, but replacing Hogan’s output will take some doing.

Ideally, a breakout season for Sam Weideman does the job, although the 22-year-old has never managed more than 11 games in a season and might need more time.

Former Bomber Mitch Brown could also be a smart pickup. He kicked 21 last season but was inexplicably delisted and, while his club debut was uninspiring, could provide a bigger benefit than his scoring output if he helps McDonald get off the leash.

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3. Is our gameplan the right fit for our list?

This could be worth a discussion on its own.

Melbourne, ever since the Paul Roos era, have been a very handball-happy side. Unfortunately, this invites pressure and has led them to being one of the worst users of the ball for a very long time.

Last season, their disposal efficiency was only better than Carlton and Gold Coast.

While they upped their kick-to-handball ratio from 1.18 to 1.4 in 2019, I think this was more down to them just not winning as much of the ball in close quarters.

It seems like they’re trying to emulate Richmond’s high-pressure ‘chaosball’ gameplan more so than West Coast’s precise kicking one. The problem is their midfield is simply too one-paced and they lack the star power on the outside necessary to make it work.

However, they have made some changes last offseason, bringing in Ed Langdon from Fremantle via trade and Adam Tomlinson from Greater Western Sydney via free agency to give the midfield some variety, especially on the wing.

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Tomlinson was ho-hum in Round 1, collecting just the 14 disposals, but his six marks was an example of the aerial prowess they’ve been screaming for in the middle of the ground.

Langdon, on the other hand, had a club debut to remember with 31 touches and a game-high (by some margin) 797 metres gained.

Angus Brayshaw of the Demons kicks on goal

Angus Brayshaw in Round 1. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

4. Should Simon Goodwin be feeling the heat?

Talk about getting your contract extension in at the right time. Goodwin signed a three-year deal just before the start of last season that ties him to the club until the end of 2022.

Boy oh boy would he be counting his lucky stars. Last year was the second bitter failure the Dees have suffered in Goodwin’s three-year reign. Fans still haven’t forgotten Round 23, 2017’s capitulation to the Magpies and, after 2019, have rescinded their forgiveness too.

In Goodwin’s defence, the side is still relatively young. Their Round 1 side was, on average, 25 years and two months old with 88 games under the belt – putting them at 12th in that regard and behind the likes of Carlton, Adelaide and St Kilda.

But, as Don Pyke found out, you have to dig yourself out of the mire very quickly in this industry.

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