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Demons raise bar after breakout AFL season

Melbourne emerged from years in the AFL doldrums in 2018 and are widely expected to challenge for the premiership cup this season.

Demons raise bar after breakout AFL season

Melbourne emerged from years in the AFL doldrums in 2018 and are widely expected to challenge for the premiership cup this season.

TOM MCDONALD of the Demons handballs during a Melbourne Demons AFL training session at Gosch's Paddock in Melbourne, Australia.
TOM MCDONALD of the Demons handballs during a Melbourne Demons AFL training session at Gosch's Paddock in Melbourne, Australia. Picture:Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Much is expected of Melbourne in 2019 after last year's barnstorming run to a preliminary final.

And the brash young Demons are just fine with that - they know they've raised the bar.


After more than a decade in the doldrums - their previous finals appearance was in 2006 - Simon Goodwin's side is a genuine premiership contender again.

Melbourne were handed one of the more difficult draws in the league after they defeated seasoned finals regulars Hawthorn and Geelong before being bundled out at the preliminary final stage by eventual premiers West Coast.

"Off the back of playing finals last year there are going to be raised expectations, but that's only natural and healthy," Demons co-captain Jack Viney told AAP.

"It doesn't affect us too much in how we go about our business day-to-day though.

"We're really focused on the process. I know it's pretty dull but expectations don't really play a part in how we go about bettering ourselves every day."

A fit and firing Viney will play a key role in any successful Demons side.

The 24-year-old co-captain didn't feature at AFL level until round nine last year as he continued to battle niggles associated with a foot injury.

Viney underwent an ankle operation post-season in an attempt to finally get himself right and while it impacted his 2019 preparation, he's confident it was the right choice.

"Over the last two years I've really struggled to get consistent training blocks in with consistent loads through my feet and body," he said.

"But I'm confident we've got it fixed. I've done pretty much double the amount of kilometres that I did last pre-season, so there's no doubt that will hold me in better stead."

It's hard to imagine a Melbourne side that's finally challenging for a flag will be doing so without Jesse Hogan.

The prodigiously-talented spearhead had been a beacon of hope for fans ever since joining the club as a 17-year-old, but the urge to play in his home state became too strong and he was traded to Fremantle.

In the post-Hogan era, Tom McDonald and Sam Weideman are set to hold down the key forward posts.

While sad to see Hogan go, the Demons used the resultant draft picks to bring in Steven May and Kade Kolodjashnij from Gold Coast.

May shapes as a major upgrade to a backline that leaked too many goals at crucial times, most notably in the preliminary final take-down by West Coast.

Viney agrees there were important lessons to be learnt from the hiding but dismisses the notion it will act as a motivating factor as the Demons look to climb the AFL mountain again.

"Certainly in the off-season it left a sour taste in my mouth and motivated me to have a deep look at what we were doing and how we performed in the finals series and particularly the last game," he said.

"You want to know what you can do better but I feel like as a group we debriefed it, we found clear things that we wanted to do better and then went about doing them to make sure that we don't put ourselves in that position again."

MELBOURNE

Coach: Simon Goodwin

Captains: Nathan Jones and Jack Viney

Last five years: 17-13-11-9-4

Premierships: 12 (1900, 1926, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1948, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1964).

Key five: Max Gawn, Jack Viney, Steven May, Tom McDonald, Clayton Oliver.

One to watch: Jake Lever. The star defender's ability to return to full fitness after a second knee reconstruction will be crucial to Melbourne's premiership tilt. If he can slot back into a backline that now boasts former Gold Coast skipper Steven May, the Demons defence will be a tough nut to crack.

Ins: Toby Bedford (Dandenong Stingrays), Austin Bradtke (Category B rookie), Kade Chandler (Norwood), Marty Hore (Collingwood VFL), James Jordon (Oakleigh Chargers), Kade Kolodjashnij (Gold Coast), Aaron Nietschke (Central District), Braydon Preuss (North Melbourne), Tom Sparrow (South Adelaide), Guy Walker (Category B rookie), Corey Wagner (Casey).

Outs: Harley Balic (retired), Tomas Bugg (delisted), Lachlan Filipovic (delisted), Jesse Hogan (Fremantle), Dion Johnstone (delisted), Dean Kent (St Kilda), Mitch King (delisted), Pat McKenna (delisted), Cameron Pedersen (delisted), Dom Tyson (North Melbourne), Bernie Vince (retired).

Best line-up:

B: Neville Jetta, Oscar McDonald, Jake Lever

HB: Christian Salem, Steven May, Michael Hibberd

C: Mitch Hannan, Nathan Jones, James Harmes

HF: Jake Melksham, Tom McDonald, Kade Kolodjashnij

F: Aaron vandenBerg, Christian Petracca, Alex Neal-Bullen

R: Max Gawn, Jack Viney, Clayton Oliver

I: Jordan Lewis, Angus Brayshaw, Bayley Fritsch, Sam Weideman

Predicted finish: 3rd

AAP


AAP




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