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The Roar


You can only beat who is in front of you, but June will present Melbourne’s biggest test

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8th May, 2023

Usually toward this stage of the season into May, you start to get a rough idea of the main contenders for the flag, the challengers to sneak into the top eight, and the teams fighting at the bottom to avoid the wooden spoon.

After eight rounds, the Demons are looking impressive as they sit second on the ladder, four points behind the Pies.

Coach Simon Goodwin has been doing an incredible job over the past few years in particular, elevating the club to another level that most supporters never knew was possible. When they’re on their game and firing on all cylinders, the Dees pose as arguably the biggest threat to the competition.

Their most noticeable strength, the midfield, has carried over its domination into 2023, as players such as Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver, and Jack Viney have been allowed the freedom to roam and take more risks moving up the ground as well as making a real impact around stoppages.

One of the biggest questions leading into the season for Melbourne was the ruck position. Blessed with two elite ruckmen in Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy, would the two of them be able to gel and develop some kind of stability?

So far, the experiment is working. Albeit a short sample size of four matches played together, they’ve been able to conjure up a way of sharing the hit-outs on top of averaging 2.5 goals and just over 30 disposals per game when on the field together. Those statistics have not been dominated by just the one player carrying the load.

What’s stood out as the most formidable area this season for the 2021 premiers is the forward line and ability to convert chances after promising passages of build-up play. Despite the Dees being able to put up high scores, the goal-scoring department has been evenly spread throughout and they’re not just relying on the likes of Fritsch and Pickett. Their percentage has also benefited as a result, ranking first in the competition with 138.3%.


Yet, does that substantial percentage say more about the Dees or more about the opposition they have faced thus far?

Interestingly, Melbourne has been the most inefficient side in front of goal in the last two seasons. Ranked first in total average behinds amounting to 12.3 per game in 2021 and 11.9 the following year. Although those statistics took into account finals football, the discrepancy between the rest of the league was an eye-opener and it was a part of their game which was often criticised for not being able to put away games earlier.

This year though, Goodwin’s men have averaged the least amount of behinds so far with 9.1, 0.9 better than the next best St.Kilda.

Brodie Grundy of the Demons handballs.

Brodie Grundy of the Demons handballs. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Wins against a struggling West Coast and North Melbourne outfit added with a 50-point demolition of the Swans (I won’t put that in the same category as the Eagles and Kangas) who have been decimated by injuries and lost for answers, have not provided a stern enough test. You can also throw Richmond and Gold Coast in that mix.

Their most complete performance came coincidentally in the opening round against the Dogs despite them starting to find their best form these past few weeks. Melbourne was completely torn apart in every facet of the game against the Lions despite the late comeback, proving to be their only genuine assignment to date this season against a serious premiership contender.

The month of June will prove to be most critical for the Dees and that’s when we’ll start to get a real picture of what this side is really made of.


Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong, St Kilda, and Brisbane will be five of their next seven opponents starting from June until mid-July. Only after that, can we truly start to judge.

Some of those matchups will be fascinating, in particular the clash against the Pies where Grundy will face his former teammates. In a way, it will be good (hoping everyone stays fit) that we’ll be able to witness an intriguing battle in the ruck, where with better luck of the draw, the Dees might have matched up with the Collingwood the best after the injuries sustained to Darcy Cameron and Mason Cox.

As previously touched on at the beginning, Melbourne’s midfield so far has had the license to move up the ground also thanks to the lack of competitive opposition in front of them. When June arrives, will those empty spaces left behind be exposed by a better-equipped team?

The Dees should obviously be content with their 6-2 start and Goodwin will no doubt use it as confidence and a stepping stone to further improve. In saying that, consistency has been a slight issue in the past year or so as they’ve proven to be capable of going through phases of being unreliable.

As the pressure heats up and the level of opposition increases, does Melbourne have the personnel to reach another Grand Final under Goodwin?