Podcasting about MFC since 2017

Five Key Things Dees Must Get Right In 2024

Ben Wilmoth

After an unthinkably tumultuous off-season the Demons will open their 2024 account on Thursday night against the Swans with a point to prove. Despite the relentless media scrutiny, this remains a highly talented list and a team very much in the premiership race.

Let’s look at the five things that have to go right for Melbourne to be contenders again this season. 

1. Kill the noise 

Melbourne’s culture has been the source of intense speculation over the off-season, after the heartbreak of yet another straight sets finals exit. This was matched with off-field challenges that could potentially threaten to linger over 2024. The medical retirement of Angus Brayshaw also rubbed salt into the wounds. However, Melbourne must shut out the noise that was so amplified over the summer and remind their proud and loyal supporters in the early stages of the campaign that this is very much a stable and focused club. Winning games of footy is the perfect tonic, but the right behaviours need to be exhibited off the field, too, throughout the entire campaign.

2. Make a strong start

The Dees have the equal-second hardest start to the season, with three interstate trips in the first six rounds, as well as facing Brisbane in Round 5. Breaking even would be considered a pass mark, but imagine the galvanising influence of road victories or taking down the Lions at the ‘G. Banking early wins would not only silence outside noise and relieve pressure, but inspire internal confidence that the group is in the hunt yet again. Anything akin to a 5-1 or 4-2 start would be a massive tick coming into the bye round before Melbourne prepares themselves for the blockbuster Anzac Eve clash against Richmond (a match they would be expected to win).

3. Improve forward half connection

While boasting one of the league’s most unbreakable defences and a midfield packed with superstar firepower, Melbourne’s much-maligned forward half connection remains a central focus for senior coach Simon Goodwin and his team. Judging by the pre-season hit-out against Carlton, fans would be cautiously optimistic. Less bombing and more poise with the ball was glaringly evident in the attacking third of the ground. Christian Salem’s move to the midfield, Caleb Windsor’s dash and dare on the wing and Jack Billing’s composure as a distributor inside 50 all look to have enhanced Melbourne’s forward entries. The growth of Jacob van Rooyen, along with his key forward sidekick in Harrison Petty (if he can stay fit) will also be critical to Melbourne’s ability to connect.

4. Younger brigade to step up

For years, Melbourne has relied on their top-line superstars to get the job done each week. Max Gawn, Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver, Steven May and Jake Lever are all superstars in their own right (apologies to Bayley Fritsch) and will each play crucial roles in Melbourne’s season. Where the side can gain considerable growth as collective is with their second tier. It’s players like Kysaiah Pickett (85 games), Trent Rivers (77), Tom Sparrow (74), Jake Bowey (47) and Judd McVee (25) – all aged under 23 except for Sparrow – but have shown extraordinary promise at the level. The time is now for the younger cohort to relish greater responsibility and have a greater impact on the output of the side.

Sparrow looks primed to explode

5. Evolve the game plan 

We’ve heard this phrase many times before: ‘contest and defence’. It’s engrained in every coach and player throughout the organisation; the very DNA and identity that the club built its 2021 premiership off the back of. They protect the corridor at all costs and strive to play the game in their front half. After exiting finals by a mere combined total of just nine points last September, Goodwin will feel no need to clear the whiteboard and start again, but the Dees must make some adjustments. The refining of structure, system and roles is necessary to complete in an ever-evolving and unforgiving 18-team competition. The recruitment of Andrew McQualter from Richmond as assistant coach may prove ingenious in injecting fresh ideas from a new voice, with emphasis on forward handball and overlap run through the middle of the ground seemingly on the cards already.

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