IN 2016 it was the Bulldogs, last year it was Richmond, is this the year of the Demon? Their fans will be quick to squash these rumours, taking a ‘one week at a time’ approach especially after their previous heartache. There are some signs that point to Melbourne being a realistic premiership chance this season, but I wonder just how accurate these ‘signs’ are in forecasting the Dees flag hopes.
IF you like what you read be sure to check out more SportsbyFry articles by hitting this link. Make sure you keep up to date with the latest AFL articles and follow my fan pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to never miss a minute of the action!
DEMONS fans don’t need to be told to keep a lid on it. They tragically had their hearts ripped out of their chest a season ago in the final match of the year. As if missing the finals for the 11th straight season wasn’t painful enough, the club mailed out an official AFL finals ticket guide to fans prior to Round 23. All they needed to do was defeat Collingwood in order to lock up a top-8 spot, but their loss coupled with the West Coast Eagles infamous win meant they were cruelly denied from playing in September once again.
A red-hot month might mean Melbourne’s fortunes are about to change. They have dismantled their last four opponents by an average of just under 80 points with their fast, free-flowing brand of footy becoming increasingly hard to ignore. They have smashed their opponents in the contested possession tally in those games and they average a league-best 162 contested touches each time out.
IN fact, their midfield dominance is largely what fuels the Demons new brand of footy. They lead the league in centre clearances and are second in total clearances. Of course, having an All-Australian calibre ruckman in Max Gawn helps their cause, but the rest of Melbourne’s midfield is made up of hard-working, tough players. Nathan Jones, Clayton Oliver, Jordan Lewis and Jack Viney aren’t known for their outside polish, but rather for their work in heavy traffic to fight for the footy.
Image from heraldsun.com.au
THEIR midfield dominance isn’t the only reason they are rolling right now as they continue to pile on the points with ease. They have kicked over 15 goals in all of those recent wins, with Jesse Hogan having an enormous impact. Not only is the young key forward hitting the scoreboard, he is accumulating plenty of the football as he ventures outside the forward 50 with regularity. He is nearly averaging 20 touches a game, easily a career high and he is second in the race for the Coleman with 31 goals. The rest of his teammates are ably supporting him, but it’s clear he has taken his game to another level this season.
EVER since losing to the Tigers in Round 5, the Demons have been clicking. They have taken down six straight foes in easy fashion. It’s worth mentioning those wins have come against the likes of Gold Coast, St Kilda, Carlton and a skeleton Crows outfit that was missing Sloane, McGovern, Tex, the Crouch brothers and lost Seedsman before the opening bounce. That’s hardly a list of teams that should be feared.
THAT being said Melbourne is getting it done against the teams that they should be beating if they want to be taken seriously. Their three losses this season have come at the hands of Richmond, Geelong and Hawthorn, three teams widely regarded as finals outfits and even premiership chances in 2018. The string of W’s isn’t showing any sign of slowing down either. After their Round 13 bye, they will be heavy favourites when they face Fremantle, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs in three of their next four games.
Image from melbournefc.com.au
SO the question still remains, how legitimate are the Dees’ chances of claiming a flag? If we have learnt anything from the success stories in the last 24 months it’s to expect the unexpected and it’s too early in the year to rule anything out. A matchup with the Pies on the weekend will be eagerly watched by thousands of fans including yours truly, to see just how well Melbourne stacks up against a team that isn’t trending downwards.
LOSING an important cog in the defense in Jake Lever (ACL) for the season could see Melbourne start to slide, but I think they are here to stay. Now does that mean I think they will win a premiership this year? Far from it. Their recent dominance has fans daring to dream, but I don’t think finding some form in May means they will lift the cup in Septemeber. Maybe the glass slipper will fit this season, although I have my doubts the Dees can go all the way.
IF I was a betting man I’d predict the Demons to be playing in finals with a 5th/6th finish on the ladder likely. They may even claim a W in round one of the finals, but that’s where I see them finishing. Maybe another underdog story is destined to be the narrative of 2018 and we’ll find out just how serious Melbourne is in the coming weeks. I’m going all in on Freo becoming the 2019 Cinderella story if the Dees can pull off a premiership we will never forget. Dare to dream right?
Banner from thenewdaily.com.au