Podcasting about MFC since 2017

Five Key Dee-tails: Debutants, conversion and Viney

gettyimages-2057669821-2048x2048 (1)
Ben Wilmoth

After a long off-season riddled with intense speculation Melbourne returned to normal programming against Sydney last Thursday night and unfortunately for the Demons some of the same issues reared its ugly head.

Here are the five key dee-tails to take from the 22-point loss:

1. Scoreboard conversion hurts

For large periods of the loss to Sydney it was the same old story in the Demons forward 50. A scoreboard return of 2.8 at half time, granted in balmy conditions, hardly inspired confidence that conversion issues from last season had been rectified. The Dees’ 7.11 and 9.17 scorelines against Collingwood and Carlton in the finals series of 2023 still lingers in the minds of their supporters. Melbourne were unable to capitalise on periods of momentum in the first half, while Sydney maximised their 4th quarter dominance and put the game away. To Melbourne’s credit, they straightened up in the third with 5.0, largely thanks to three straight from Bayley Fritsch, but it remains a watch in the coming rounds. 

2. Forward depth exposed

The Demons assembled something of a makeshift front six against the Swans, with vital cogs Harrison Petty (toe) and Kysiah Pickett (suspension) on the sidelines, as well as new recruit Shane McAdam (hamstring). Without Bayley Fritsch’s four goal effort, only Jacob Van Rooyen hit the scoreboard – albeit miraculously – out of the forward mix. Josh Schache had his chances but wasn’t competitive enough and will likely be replaced either this week by Ben Brown, Tom McDonald or Tom Fullarton or when Petty returns for Hawthorn in Round 2. Pickett’s inclusion this weekend will be most welcomed, as Melbourne look to reignite some potency in the front half.

3. Debutants shone brightly

It was a long time in the making for Blake Howes who, after an injury-interrupted two years since getting drafted in 2021, looked right at home in the back half. Nervy early, Howes grew into the game with an exceptional 12 intercept possessions from his 17 disposals and was unlucky not to be named the Opening Round Rising Star nominee. Caleb Windsor continues to excite Dees fans with his imposing speed and looked comfortable at the level. It’s invaluable experience on the wing for the 18-year-old, with fellow winger Lachie Hunter recovering from a calf injury. 

4. Viney is the midfield general

Surrounded by superstar midfield teammates, Jack Viney continues to elevate his game and enhance his reputation as one of the game’s premier onballers. Renowned for his contested prowess and brute toughness, Viney kicked two goals, had seven score involvements and a goal assist against the Swans. We’ve seen the ‘striker’ role (coined by Nick Riewoldt a years ago) played so effectively by Christian Petracca and with Viney’s ability to hit the scoreboard this season, too, it could help bolster the Demons scoring.  

Viney was at his brutal best

5. Back six in good shape

Steven May might be Melbourne’s most important player. He reminded everyone on Thursday just how crucial he is to the function and structure of the Demons defence. Last quarter aside, Jake Lever and Adam Tomlinson held up for the most part against the Swan’s big men, while Jake Bowey (before breaking his collarbone in a courageous defensive effort) showed his class off half back. Judd McVee moves like a bona fide 200-gamer out of defence and picked up where he left off in his debut season last year. It will be a curious watch at selection to see if Simon Goodwin sends Christian Salem back to cover for Bowey or looks to Marty Hore to fill the gap. The Dees’ back six looked solid, especially when you consider the 65 inside 50s they had to contend with. There’s a healthy mix of experience and youth and it’s still the one area of the ground the supporters can be confident about.