An immediate return to finals is firmly on Melbourne’s agenda ahead of the 2021 AFL Premiership Season.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Demons’ captain Max Gawn said the ninth placed finish of last season was still at the forefront of the side’s mind.
“I think the worst position on the ladder to come is ninth, it really leaves a bitter taste in the off-season and your whole pre-season is based around improving that spot,” Gawn said.
“It’s something we really want to get back to, playing good football in September.”
Gawn identified the continued emergence of midfield star Christian Petracca as a key factor for Melbourne’s success in 2021.
“There’s always more levels you could go, but being a Best and Fairest winner, third in the Brownlow, and in the All Australian midfield, it’s a pretty good level to be at,” Gawn said.
“I’d be happy if he just maintained that.”
After moving into a major midfield role and enjoying a breakout season for the Demons, Gawn has Petracca pegged for a leadership role this year.
“He’s well and truly a leader amongst our group,” Gawn said.
“He’s just passed the 100 game mark, so hopefully he can take our midfield up to a better ranking.”
Melbourne’s hopes in 2021 also hinges on the development of young talent, including second year ruckman Luke Jackson.
Jackson only played six games in his debut season, however Gawn expects to see the second year project playing more senior football this year.
“It’s really fun to work with Jacko (Luke Jackson), he’s one of the better athletes I’ve seen come through the doors and he’s a pretty good footballer as well,” Gawn said.
“We’re probably one of two teams that might play a double ruck option with one experienced ruck and one younger ruck.”
“He’s one of those people who is a sponge, so I have to make sure my coaching is on point so I get him to do all the right stuff, because he will do it.”
Melbourne is entering the 2021 season with one of the healthiest lists in the competition, however the club will be missing its big off-season signing Ben Brown.
Brown moved from North Melbourne after playing just nine games in 2020, but will miss the start of the new season with persistent knee swelling.
Melbourne’s key forward stocks are also missing Sam Weideman, after the young forward suffered a stress fracture in his upper leg.
“We have a relatively fresh list apart from the two tall forwards,” Gawn said.
“I’m not sure if that can be related to the speed of the game or the shorter pre-season so far.”
Despite the injuries, Melbourne has bolstered its key forward depth with SSP signing Majak Daw.
“He’s the happiest bloke going around at the moment,” Gawn said.
“You can see the excitement written on his face.”
“He played a scratch match against the Doggies for a half in the VFL on the weekend and went okay, four months in retirement and he looks better than what I would.”
Gawn said there were no expectations on Daw’s return to senior football.
“He’d have expectations on himself,” Gawn said.
“But from Goody (Simon Goodwin), Burgo (Darren Burgess) and the playing group there’s no expectations.”
“We just want him to play some good football at some point this year… but I wouldn’t mind a little ruck combination from him as well.”