Demons legend Garry Lyon launched into his former club after the team was derailed by the Angus Brayshaw concussion controversy in their finals exit at the hands of Carlton.
The drawn-out saga over Collingwood’s Brayden Maynard being eventually cleared of a ban for taking out Brayshaw the previous week dominated Melbourne’s attention in the lead-up to their clash with the Blues.
Melbourne were below their best in the 11.7 (73) to 9.17 (71) semi-final loss and the 2021 premiers have lost all four of their finals, which have been at their home ground, since winning their breakthrough flag in Perth.
The Demons face the prospect of being labelled underachievers who have failed to maximise their talent and premiership window.
“The bottom line is for the second year they’ve failed to capitalise on an area of the game where they’ve had complete dominance in and it continues to let them down,” Lyon said on Monday’s On The Couch program in reference to their poor accuracy in front of goal.
“I want them to identify the issue and blind Freddy can identify it and I want it coached. Coached better, the system coached better.
“It’s hard to back up again after a premiership. They’ve backed up twice in a row. Top four twice. I want you to back up again and put yourself in a position again.
“The thing I want most is you suck it up, cop all of this coming at you and don’t feel sorry for yourself, and you reload. That’s what Simon Goodwin needs to do with this group.”
The Melbourne coach said he expected criticism after again falling short.
“When you’ve had two years where you set yourself up in an opportunity to perform strongly in finals and you lose twice in straight sets, there’s gonna be criticism out there,” Goodwin said.
“But as a footy club, we know we’ve got a list that’s building and we’re still going to continue to add to that.
“And we also know that we’re going to continue to put ourselves in a position where we can have success that we want to have. But that just doesn’t happen. It’s hard to do and a lot has to go right.”
To compound matters, ruckman Brodie Grundy appears destined to seek a trade to his third club in as many seasons after watching their finals exit from the sidelines.
Melbourne’s gamble on recruiting former Magpie Grundy over the off-season and partnering him with captain and superstar ruckman Max Gawn has failed to pay dividends.
Grundy played 17 games this season but just one after round 17 and wasn’t used in the finals, with Josh Schache named substitute as Gawn pushed through a broken big toe in the loss to Carlton.
A dual All-Australian at Collingwood, Grundy is expected to head to Sydney, whose lead ruckman Tom Hickey has retired.
Jack dealing with pain at Lions
Jack Payne remains in doubt for the Brisbane Lions’ preliminary final against Carlton after the key defender was again restricted to light duties due to an ankle injury.
Payne wore a moon boot after the Lions’ qualifying final win over Port Adelaide and has not trained fully since, the imposing back kept to light running in joggers at Tuesday’s open training session in Springfield.
The club’s medical report explained Payne would be assessed further on Thursday after “taking the next steps towards proving his fitness” on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old has become one of the Lions’ most important players this year, filling the void left by retired Marcus Adams in a vital partnership with Harris Andrews in Brisbane’s last line.
He matched up well on back-to-back Coleman medallist Charlie Curnow in the sides’ only other clash in round eight this year, limiting the full forward to just one goal.
Darcy Gardiner, pushed out of the AFL squad by a resurgent Ryan Lester this season, shapes as the likely replacement if Payne can’t prove his fitness.
“He’s got a little bit of a sore foot and ankle,” Andrews said of Payne before Tuesday’s session.
“He’s played a really vital part for us this year, so fingers crossed he’s right to go.
“His development’s been unreal for us. I feel like this year we’ve had to show that we’ve got great depth.
“Guys like Darragh Joyce and Darcy Gardiner; those guys can come in and play their role.”
Blues forwards coach Ash Hansen jokingly suggested Lions boss Chris Fagan should make the call early in the week to save him some time.
“If Fages can let me know, it’ll save me watching Jack for a while,” he said.
“I’ll study Gardiner as well and do all the right prep work so we can give the guys the best chance to play. From an offensive point of view it doesn’t change our selection so much.”
Gardiner has played just two AFL games this season – losses to Adelaide and Hawthorn – injury allowing Lester the chance to steal the 27-year-old’s place in the back six.
He gives away about 10 kilograms and four centimetres to Payne, but Gardiner boasts 156 games of experience as a regular in the Lions’ defence since 2014.
Irish talent Joyce managed five games while Lester and Gardiner were injured earlier this season and had four campaigns with St Kilda before heading north this year.
“I still approach the game the same way as I would if Payney was out there, regardless,” Andrews said of how the selection impacts his own assignment.
“These guys have all played a lot of AFL football and understand how to play the game, so nothing has changed in that regard.
“We’ve gone away from having those really tight match-ups to playing in a system, and there’s a really clear understanding … of what needs to be done in each role.”
Greene-Maynard contest looms as showstopper
Even Brayden Maynard’s teammates want to see the Collingwood bull go toe-to-toe with Toby Greene.
The hard-nosed defender is free to play in the Magpies’ AFL preliminary final after being found to have no case to answer for his smother that knocked out Angus Brayshaw.
Maynard shapes as the perfect option to go with superstar GWS captain Greene at the MCG on Friday night.
Toby Greene. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
Greene was suspended for the 2019 preliminary final win over Collingwood and missed GWS’ loss earlier this year through injury, making a potential match-up all the more tantalising.
“I want to see that happen to be honest,” defender Nathan Murphy told AAP.
“Bruz, he’s had a go at him in the past couple of years, Q’s (Isaac Quaynor) had a go.
“So I dare say there probably will be a match-up there but our system will look after them as well. We want to see those boys playing to their strengths as well so we won’t forget that.
“But as a football fan as well I would love to see some of that (Greene-Maynard) match-up happen – it would be great.”
Greene isn’t the only dangerous part of the Giants’ forward line.
Smalls Toby Bedford and Brent Daniels are smart and creative, while Jesse Hogan is in the midst of a career-best season and kicked 4.4 against Port Adelaide.
If Greene is the main event, Murphy is more than happy to take on Hogan as an entertaining sideshow.
“For a number of years now, he’s been a really dominant forward and what he’s capable of in terms of being really athletic, but also really strong with his body work as well,” Murphy said.
“He’s honestly been one of the harder opponents I’ve had to play on and GWS are moving the ball in a way which is allowing him to play to his strengths,
“I get really excited by these things, it’s finals football, it’s why you want to play football because you get to play on the best.
“But the thing about us is there’s no one-v-one match-ups. We’re a seven-man backline that will help each other out.
“So I know if I do get him I won’t ever really be left on an island, they’ll always be helping me – which is a nice feeling to have.”