After breaking its 57-year premiership drought, Melbourne will be looking to continue its winning ways as it defends its premiership in season 2022.
1st (17-4), 130.8%
Having finished in the bottom four in 2019 and just missing out on making the eight in 2020, Melbourne supporters and football spectators were unsure about what to expect from the Demons in season 2021.
Melbourne won its first nine games of the year, including scalps against Geelong, Richmond, and Sydney before going down to the Crows by one point in an Adelaide Oval thriller.
They proved to be one of the best teams in the competition, always finding themselves around the top of the ladder for most of the year.
Melbourne ended the year on top of the AFL ladder with 17 wins, and it came down to its last game of the home and away season to win the McClelland Trophy, thanks to Max Gawn’s goal after the siren down at the Cattery.
In the Finals series, the Demons showed why they were the standout team all season, overpowering Brisbane and Geelong in both Qualifying and Preliminary Finals.
All before a barnstorming second half in the Grand Final to deliver a grand new flag for the Dees faithful.
Luke Dunstan (Free Agent – St Kilda), Jacob Van Rooyen (Pick 19 – Claremont), Blake Howes (Pick 39 – Sandringham Dragons), Taj Woewodin (Pick 65 – East Fremantle), Judd McVee (Pick 19 Rookie Draft – East Fremantle), Andy Moniz-Wakefield (Category B Rookie – NT Thunder)
Aaron Nietschke (Delisted), Austin Bradtke (Delisted), Jay Lockhart (Delisted), Kye Declase (Delisted), Marty Hore (Delisted), Aaron vandenBerg (Retired), Nathan Jones (Retired), Neville Jetta (Retired).
With a healthy list and no off-season surgeries required, Melbourne has had the entirety of its squad on the training track.
Adam Tomlinson looks to be recovering well from the ACL injury that he suffered in the middle of last season. Transitioning back into full training, the 28-year-old utility has been driving the standards on the track as he looks to win back a spot in Melbourne’s back six.
Premiership defender Harrison Petty is in doubt for Round 1 after undergoing surgery on a calf injury suffered in match simulation at training.
If fit, Tomlinson could replace the 22-year-old, but the Demons have plenty of options if they want to give Tomlinson more time with Joel Smith and Jayden Hunt also impressing coaches during pre-season.
Ben Brown’s pre-season last year was hampered due to knee surgery, but this year Brown is raring to go, looking fitter roaming far and wide across the field and taking marks for fun.
A couple of draftees and younger players that fans didn’t get to see much of last year have also lit the track up. Andy Moniz-Wakefield, Kade Chandler, and Toby Bedford look next likely to take the small forward role, should any of Alex Neal-Bullen, Kysaiah Pickett, and Charlie Spargo miss any football this year.
He might not play much this year, but Melbourne’s first-round selection this year, Jacob van Rooyen has looked very good, impressing fans with his ability to grab a contested mark and kick goals with limited opportunities.
What to look forward to:
The unfurling of the premiership flag
With no crowd restrictions, you can expect Melbourne supporters to fill the MCG in Round 1 when the Demons face the Western Bulldogs in the Grand Final rematch, as the club unfurls the premiership flag.
It will be a perfect opportunity for supporters who missed out on the celebration the club had in December. It will also be the fan’s last chance to celebrate the club’s historic 2021 AFL premiership before the club goes and defend its title.
Continued development of young guns
Season 2021 saw Melbourne’s 2019 draftees Luke Jackson, Kysaiah Pickett, and Trent Rivers break out and play major roles for the club.
The trio played the majority of the season and illustrated what they can bring to the team at such a young age.
Pickett showed how dangerous he was as a small forward kicking 40 goals. When not kicking goals, the 20-year-old was causing havoc for the opposition and was ranked second tackles inside 50 with 39.
Rivers proved he can be relied upon as a small lockdown defender, regularly taking the opposition’s best small forward. The 20-year-old also showed with ball in hand how damaging he can be by foot, providing plenty of run and carry off half-back averaging 15 disposals and three rebound 50s per game.
Taken with Pick 3 in 2019, Jackson has shown he is one of the best young key position players in the game. The 20-year-old forward-ruck gave Melbourne another dimension to its attacking lineup.
Normally taking the opposition’s fourth-best defender, Jackson was able to use his size and athleticism to his advantage, kicking 16 goals for the season.
He also provided Max Gawn with a chop out in the ruck when the captain needed a rest. Jackson’s competitiveness allowed the Demons’ midfield to continue their dominance; he averaged 10.6 hit-outs per game.
It’s a big year for:
Season 2021 was a year of missed opportunities for tall forward Sam Weideman. Looked upon to lead Melbourne’s forward line, the 24-year-old struggled to break into the Demons forward mix, playing only five games.
After his breakout game against Geelong in the elimination final back in 2018, in which he kicked three goals and collected 24 disposals. Weideman has been unable to cement his spot in the team due to form and injury.
Weideman dominated for Casey in the VFL and kept knocking on the door for selection in the senior side. In six games, he averaged 17.7 disposals and kicked 21 goals.
However, he was unable to break into the AFL side, with Luke Jackson, Ben Brown, and Tom McDonald ahead of him in the pecking order.
Taken with Pick 9 in the 2015 draft, Weideman has now been in the AFL system for six years and has played 49 games and kicked 49 goals. If the young forward intends to finally cement his spot into Melbourne’s best 22 this year, he will need to improve his consistency within games.
Throughout the pre-season, Simon Goodwin has used the key forward in a roaming centre half-forward role, allowing him to get further up the field and use his athleticism.
Weideman also continued to show that he will be a problem for opposition defenders, consistently taking contested marks while kicking a couple of goals during match simulations.
If selected, the 197cm forward will likely be used as a second ruck option to give Max Gawn a rest when the captain needs one. In several training sessions when playing against Gawn in the ruck, Weideman demonstrated he is more than capable to play the role.
Despite signing a two-year contract extension at the end of last year, season 2022 will be a defining step in Weideman’s career, in whether he can take his game to another level.
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Biggest unanswered question:
Can the Demons fix their goal-kicking woes?
In 2021, Melbourne had no problem scoring averaging the most shots on goal per game (28.4). They also kicked the fourth most goals and were behind other top eight teams in the Western Bulldogs, Brisbane, and Sydney.
However, despite having the most shots at goal, the Demons were among the bottom five teams for goal accuracy, ranking 14th.
Although it didn’t cost them many games, in over half of the Demons’ matches, they finished with more behinds than goals.
Several of their top goal kickers were among the culprits for kicking the most behinds, including Kysaiah Pickett (40.28), Bayley Fritsch (59.24), Tom McDonald (33.22).
Clayton Oliver (11.18) and captain Max Gawn (16.17) also had trouble in front of goal. With Luke Jackson’s accession and his ability to spend more time in the middle, Gawn might expect to split his time between the middle and forward line, if so this is an area that he must improve on in 2022.
Coaching pressure index:
Heading into 2021, Simon Goodwin was under pressure, having missed the finals for consecutive years after making it in 2018.
Season 2021 could have been his last if Melbourne failed to make the eight again, however, the club’s drought-breaking premiership released said pressure on Goodwin. The Demons will now look to extend the premiership-winning coach’s contract long-term.
Goodwin’s spot as Melbourne’s head coach is no longer under question, and with the list, he has at his disposal there is no reason why he couldn’t become a multiple-time premiership coach in the near future.
Predicted Round 1 lineup:
1st – 4th
Melbourne should be aiming for another top-four finish. With several stars and quality role players on its list, the Demons shouldn’t be happy with any other result, especially since the club was able to retain the core of the team in the off-season.
Although it will be a little harder this year as the Demons go into the year as the hunted, rather than being the hunter. Melbourne has a relatively comfortable fixture but will have to go up against other top four sides in the Brisbane Lions, Western Bulldogs, and Port Adelaide twice.
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