In 2021, the Melbourne Demons finally went back to the days of old winning a premiership on the road in a once in a lifetime Perth grand final.
It was an impressive journey in the finals, beating the Lions to the tune of 33 points and withstanding Brisbane’s pressure in the third quarter where Demons fans would have been worried that the Lions would storm home and send the mighty red and blue to a semi-final.
The Demons brought out their two most impressive performances of the season, with Max Gawn playing like he was God in the preliminary final against the old stagers of Geelong, kicking five goals, and Christian Petracca strengthening comparisons to three-time Norm Smith Medallist Dustin Martin, bringing one of the greatest individual grand final performances ever seen.
It was scintillating 45 minutes of football which would have left many Melbourne faithful at ease. As a Melbourne supporter myself, when Marcus Bontempelli kicked the goal to put the Bulldogs up by 19 points, I muttered, “I’m never going to see a Demons premiership.”
Even I couldn’t have predicted that the Demons would bring out some of the strongest scoring periods ever to be seen in a grand final and making the score look worst than the game was.
Only four teams have won consecutive premierships in the AFL era. Two of the back-to-back premiership occasions were as part of a three-peat. These teams were Adelaide (1997-1998), Brisbane (2001-2003), Hawthorn (2013-2015), and Richmond (2019-2020).
Adding to these statistics, no two teams have ever won consecutive premierships consecutively. Across the entire VFL/AFL history, this has only occurred twice. This was first achieved by Collingwood (1902-1903), Fitzroy (1904-1905), and Carlton (1906-1908). The second and most recent time this has occurred was by Essendon (1949-1950) and Geelong (1951-1952).
If Melbourne were to win again in 2022, it would put Richmond and Melbourne in rare company winning consecutive premierships consecutively.
With the Demons breaking a 57-year drought, the question now arises as to whether they can repeat and do it again to win their 14th premiership in history. Without bias, I genuinely believe that the Demons can definitely back up their drought-breaking premiership. Some of you may be asking, why do you believe that?
Well, there are a few reasons why I believe that they can.
The Demons have learnt how to be unselfish team players
This cannot be stressed enough. The Demons are unselfish. They don’t rely on one player to win the game. They don’t rely on individual accolades to push them towards the finals.
In the grand final, young ruckman Luke Jackson was on a hot run rucking. Max Gawn surrendered his rotation, telling Simon Goodwin to leave him there and it worked. Jackson rucked perfectly to allow clearances for the Demons to get three goals in 31 seconds.
They, like the Hawks during their three-peat, have a ‘one soldier out, another soldier in’ mentality.
Adam Tomlinson went down with an ACL injury against North Melbourne in Round 7. Up until then, he was one of their most important players as the third tall in the defensive half and proved he could hold his own against Geelong and Hawthorn in Round 4 and 5.
The injury would have caused concern for the Demons faithful, having to rely on then-11-gamer Harry Petty to fill the void. The young defender took a couple of games to warm up to the occasion but more than filled in for Tomlinson and will make it hard for Tomlinson to come straight back in barring injury.
The continued emergence of their youth
Yes, a lot of their stars and big names led the way in the premiership, but what could have easily been overlooked was the presence of their youth.
Jake Bowey in his seventh was clean with ball in hand. Jackson with his presence and hit outs to advantage in the third quarter patch. Harry Petty manning opposition players to allow Steven May and Jake Lever to do their best work.
Tom Sparrow with 14 disposals and an explosive goal on the run in the third quarter patch. Trent Rivers was smooth defensively. Kozzy Pickett may not have put his best performance ahead goal and disposal wise, however, his 23 pressure acts and what he did that wasn’t seen on the stats sheet allowed others to get goals and force the turnover.
The continued development and emergence of their youth should hold them in a strong position next year and beyond.
Max Gawn still has at least two years of strong football ahead of him, while their stars are only coming into their peak now
People forget that Max Gawn is 29 years old. It sure doesn’t feel like it. It feels like only yesterday we saw him emerge into the man mountain that he is today.
Gawn still has plenty left in the tank, barring potential injury.
Players like Brayshaw, Petracca, Oliver, and Fritsch are only just starting to hit their peak and have plenty of strong football ahead of them. The dangerous one-two combination of Oliver and Petracca roving to their skipper has them around the mark of a grand final berth every year for the next few years.
What are your thoughts, Roarers? Do you think the Demons can join a couple of exclusive groups following the 2022 season, or will they fare slightly down on the magnificent form that they displayed in 2021?
Who is your early 2022 premiership favourite?