Melbourne, along with St.Kilda were this year’s great improvers. Having spent a third season under the AFL’s answer to Yoda, Paul Roos, they exuded confidence, at times played with the skill and guile of the Hawthorn’s and Sydney’s of recent years. The gap between their best performances and their worst closed dramatically and players the raft of young talent they had bet on started to return the faith.
Now, they enter a new unknown, Paul Roos is no longer the senior coach, as Simon Goodwin finally steps into the hot seat after spending this year being groomed in the last 12 months. Whilst he knows the Paul Roos system, and he knows the players, he is still an untried senior coach and making the jump into continuing success will not be easy.
With a crop of young talent showing their skill on a weekly basis, and the revelation of Max Gawn, Goodwin certainly has a strong base to work from, but what two things do they need to continue the path they’ve been on?
Goal-scoring: Melbourne has long had issues with their ability to impact the scoreboard. Often relying on an even spread from their forward line and midfield, the Demons need to find another strong avenue to goal. Having tried and failed with the likes of Chris Dawes – the Demons need to pursue another goal-kicking target in this trade period.
They do have Jesse Hogan, who has long been heralded as a knight in shining armor – but he is young, inexperienced and ultimately unsure of where his future lies. Hogan topped the goal-kicking charts with 41, Jack Watts came in second with 38 and Jeff Garlett kicked 29. Watts is coming off a career best year, but isn’t a lead up forward and Garlett won’t solve their issues. The recently de-listed Brisbane forward Jackson Paine could be an option as well as Adelaide Midfield/Forward Jarryd Lyons.
Defence: Melbourne’s improvements have been on the back of their ability to shut the ball down in the midfield and then spread quickly. However, still being an relatively inexperienced team, when the opposition gets a roll on, they have a tendency to crumble in defence and then instances such as the final game blow-out loss to Geelong occur. Much like their forward-line Melbourne do have players that can carry the line, but they cannot do it alone. Tom McDonald and Colin Garland have been great servants to the club, but, much like Hogan, they cannot do it alone. Matt De Boer could be a good fit.
Melbourne have a strong base to build from, their brigade of youngster will be what carries to on for years to come, but a series of targeted trades for experienced bodies will see their improvements continue. The recruitment of Bernie Vince from Adelaide has shown that this is the way forward for the Dees.