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Footyology countdown: Demons ready to have a serious dip

Jordan Lewis, James Harmes, Nathan Jones and Michael Hibberd toast a 2017 victory. There could be a lot more of them in 2018. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Footyology countdown: Demons ready to have a serious dip

Rohan Connolly    

2017 record: 12 wins, 10 losses (9th)
List age ranking (oldest to youngest): 9th
List experience ranking (most to fewest games): 13th
Footyology draw ranking (easiest to hardest): 14th

Jake Lever (Adelaide), Harley Balic (Fremantle), Charlie Spargo (Murray Bushrangers), Bayley Fritsch (Casey Demons), Harrison Petty (Norwood), Oskar Baker (Aspley)

Jack Watts (Port Adelaide), Jack Trengove (delisted/Port Adelaide), Heritier Lumumba (retired), Liam Hulett (delisted), Jake Spencer (delisted), Mitch White (delisted), Ben Kennedy (delisted), Colin Garland (retired)

B: Jordan Lewis, Jake Lever, Neville Jetta
HB: Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald, Jayden Hunt
C: Dom Tyson, Jack Viney, Bernie Vince
HF: Christian Petracca, Tom McDonald, Jake Melksham
F: Jeff Garlett, Jesse Hogan, Mitch Hannan
Foll: Max Gawn, Nathan Jones, Clayton Oliver
Inter: Christian Salem, Angus Brayshaw, James Harmes, Alex Neal-Bullen
Emerg: Cam Pedersen, Sam Frost, Tomas Bugg

It’s easy to get carried away with a young side on the improve and overstate their potential. But Melbourne’s return to the big stage has been a long time in the making. And all the indications are that the Demons, in 2018, are more than ready.

Really, Simon Goodwin’s team should have played finals last year. Its final-round choke at the hands of Collingwood and West Coast’s last-gasp heroics in Perth against Adelaide still stick in the guts of many Demons. Perhaps, though, that’s just another reason this is the time.

Immaturity proved costly in the end last season, not just in the Collingwood game, but in defeats to North Melbourne (twice), Fremantle and Hawthorn (when the Hawks were at their lowest ebb). But the positives from 2017 carry more weight.

Melbourne, from quarter to quarter, won a lot more than it lost last year, the Demons winning 49 quarters in total, only Adelaide, Port Adelaide and Sydney with more. Its scalps included those of four finalists, including a trouncing of top team the Crows on their own patch.

It has a midfield bursting with young talent still on the improve, and in equal measures tough and skilful. It has an All-Australian ruckman in Max Gawn ready to return to his stellar 2016 levels after an injury-plagued year.

It has a potent forward set-up likely to be improved further with the emergence of Tom McDonald as a strong, powerful marking force near goal. And in an already impressive defence, it now has one of the best intercept marks in the caper in former Crow Jake Lever.

His combination with a tremendous trio of rebound runners in Michael Hibberd, Jayden Hunt and Neville Jetta looms as a major weapon for Goodwin, along with the luxury of being able to play a smart customer like Jordan Lewis back there with the emergence of other midfield stars.

In attack, while the Demons were only the seventh-highest scoring team of 2017, it won’t take much to improve that ranking substantially.

After a horror year filled with serious illness, injury and personal tragedy, spearhead Jesse Hogan is again ready to roll. And McDonald’s transition from defence to attack, already successful, could pay season-long dividends this year.

Jeff Garlett is a terrific small pressure forward, Mitch Hannan has the potential to go to another level, and Christian Petracca and Jake Melksham are just two of Melbourne’s midfield types just as dangerous when used as goalkicking forwards.

The Demons had seven players kick 20 goals or more last season. Only grand finalists Adelaide boasted a higher figure. And that number could also improve substantially should the likes of Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney and Dom Tyson start hitting the scoreboard even a little harder.

All the pieces of the puzzle now seem to fit right. And five seasons after Paul Roos inherited a list at rock-bottom, his successor as coach Goodwin, having added his own twists and flourish of an exciting, quick-running handball-based style, is like everyone at a long-suffering club, set to reap the rewards.

4th. The talent is there, the game plan and coaching are good, and the disappointment of the end to last season provides the motivation for Melbourne to have a serious crack at 2018.

THE LADDER SO FAR (click on team to read)
6. GWS

  1. I’m not so bullish on the Dees this year. I see the talent across the park and think they’ll have a good year, though unsure yet if they can put it together each week for the sort of consistency needed for a top 4 finish.

    I have them battling the likes of Port & Essendon and for 6th – 8th.

  2. I like the Dees. For me, they showed their wares when they toyed with the Tigers for three quarters last year. Unfortunately, as is the case with most up and comers, they went walkabout in at least one quarter, (the final one), and lost. Thank God for Jack Riewoldt that day as he really came to play.

    If Melbourne have any sort of backbone, they’ll be wanting to make up for last years abysmal final game. I’d be having a nice little wager on them being the side to make the leap up the ladder this year.

  3. After decades of disappointment, the AFL and the MFC have come up with a club/team that can deliver.
    There are options on every line. The only misgiving. The lack of marking power. Love TMac up forward. Love the options up forward. Love the running power, happy with the defence. What’s not to like. Go Dees Roboy and death to the Bombers!

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