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The five players your team can least afford to lose: Melbourne Demons

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Roar Guru
3rd October, 2021
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The Melbourne Demons had 17 wins, one draw and four losses in the 2021 home-and-away season, winning their first nine matches but only eight of the last 13 games, which included a draw and four losses.

But their last four matches were wins, and in a final-round thriller they secured top spot on the ladder, from where they bounced to their first premiership in 57 years.

As the season’s best team, they’re last in this series.

The Demons had nine players play all 25 games: Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca, Max Gawn, Angus Brayshaw, Alex Neal-Bullen, Jake Lever, Trent Rivers, Kysaiah Pickett and Charle Spargo.

The Demons had seven players selected in the AFL All Australian squad of 40, with five of them selected in the starting 18. That meant one of those seven players had to miss out on being selected in this article. There were also players who weren’t selected in the All Australian squad who played their role well, which made it difficult to choose the six players in this article. I’ve saved the most challenging list for last!

The Demons mob Max Gawn after kicking a goal after the siren to win the game against Geelong.

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

To be eligible for selection a player must have featured in at least five games in 2021. Here are the five players, plus an honourable mention selected, the Demons can least afford to lose.

Honourable mention: Steven May
Steven May had a tremendous season and was named at fullback in the All Australian starting 18, and deservedly so. Despite that, Melbourne could cope without him, as they won both games he didn’t feature in. Along with that, he played with an injury for the majority of the preliminary final and the entirety of the grand final, but the Demons still won both games comfortably.

5. Bayley Fritsch
Fritsch was chosen in the All Australian squad of 40 but missed out of the final 22. He kicked the second-most goals of any player in the competition, with 59 majors. He was such a difficult player to match up for opposition teams, as he is agile and hits the scoreboard.


4. Jake Lever
Lever was selected in the back pocket of the All Australian starting 18. He averaged the most intercepts of any player in the competition and averaged the second most contested marks of any Demons player. He has the capability to play anywhere in the back six.

3. Max Gawn
Gawn was rewarded for his consistent season by being selected in the ruck and being named captain of the All Australian side. He averaged the second most hit-outs of any player in the competition. His performance in the preliminary final against Geelong, in which he kicked five goals, showed his versatility. One of the reasons he was selected only third is that Luke Jackson showed that the Demons could cope with Gawn on the bench in the grand final.

2. Christian Petracca
Petracca was selected on the half-forward flank in the All Australian side. He averaged the most score involvements of any player in the competition. His grand final performance showed that he is a difficult player to replace. He was consistent when it counted, winning the Norm Smith Medal

1. Clayton Oliver
Oliver was named in the midfield of the All Australian. He averaged the most contested possessions of any player in the competition. Along with that, he averaged the fourth most clearances of any player in the competition and an average of the ninth most centre clearances of any player in the AFL. He was unlucky not to win the Brownlow Medal, as he finished with a team-high 31 votes.