Melbourne Season Review: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Gawn

GEEvMEL

It’s bloody difficult to try and sum up Melbourne’s season.

 

Normally if you’re writing a piece to review a full football season there’s some sort of theme which you can rely on as a common thread to build your article around.  But this season was so up-and-down that it’s hard to find a constant positive or a constant negative.  In fact, I reckon you could easily write a positive article and a negative article about the Demons and be completely correct on both counts…

 

Demons disappoint – crucial losses and last round massacre haunt Roosy’s retirement

 

Tipped by some to shake up the finals race in 2016, Melbourne reverted to its disappointing performances of the last nine years in a disappointing campaign.  Expected to climb the ladder led by 2015 Rising Star Jesse Hogan, the Dees capitulated at key moments, starting with an insipid loss to the depleted Bombers in round 2.  While they managed wins against teams like the Tigers, Pies and Suns who were all in the middle of form slumps at the time, old habits were hard to throw.  Skill errors haunted the Demons at inopportune times.  Jeff Garlett had a poor season compared to his 2015 standards, shamefully exposed for a lack of courage against Hawthorn.  Players like Grimes, Trengove, Garland and Dunn failed to break into the senior side for any extended period.  Even players like Salem and much heralded first round draftee Clayton Oliver spent time in the twos.

 

The clubhouse leader for the “lowest point of the Season” award was clearly the Essendon game, but this was overtaken at the last minute by the disappointment of the Carlton game.  Fortunate to still be holding on to a chance of playing finals after a narrow win against Gold Coast and a lucky win over the tired reigning premiers, the Dees blew their chance at history, being overrun by a Blues side showing far more passion and pride in their performance. 

 

The lack of passion was exposed brutally by the Cats in Round 23.  Jumping the demons early, the Cats clearly had much more to play for than the dispirited Dees, who struggled to overcome the midfield dominance of Brownlow favourite Patrick Dangerfield.  Tom McDonald battled bravely but could not hold back Tom Hawkins who found form in the lead up to another finals campaign for the blue and white hoops.  The Dees suffered a 111 point loss – the biggest in Paul Roos now ended coaching career.

 

Hogan’s performances were reflective of the late season malaise, managing 3.11 in his last six games of the season.  Many will speculate if he had other things on the other side of the continent on his mind.

 

Demon delight – Melbourne takes big step forward in promising season

 

Recording two wins over top four sides in 2016, including a spectacular win over the three time reigning premiers Hawthorn, Melbourne has a lot to look forward to in 2017. 

 

Max Gawn highlighted in the pre-season that he needed to lift his game to match the leading ruckmen, such as Goldstein.  He backed up the talk by leading the Dees from the middle, dominating ruck contests and surely earning an all-Australian selection.  His work helped set up a strong midfield of Tyson, Viney and Hogan who led Melbourne to solid wins over other mid-table rivals including Collingwood, Richmond and Port Adelaide.  Captain Nathan Jones continued to be his usual reliable self.  Fans would have been thrilled to see the flourishing of former no.1 draft pick Jack Watts, who showed his potential on many occasions, none more so than by kicking the sealer in a narrow win over the Suns.

The Dees had four rising star nominations (Oliver, Harmes, Petracca and O McDonald) which bodes well for 2017, along with gun half back Jayden Hunt, who many acknowledge was unlucky to miss.  Most weeks the Dees were fielding the youngest side in the league, and the experience gained by these players this year will hold them in good stead.  The experience of winning interstate is a rare one for the MFC in recent times, and wins in Gold Coast, Adelaide and Darwin show that they are moving in the right direction.

 

 

While the end of the season was lacklustre, and a reflection of a long season endured by a young side, the Dees will enjoy the off season before setting up for an assault on 2017 under new coach Simon Goodwin, with the addition of some further players in Melksham and possibly Hibberd, with finals a probable target.

 

So I guess that’s the consistent theme.  Inconsistency.   Depending on whether you were a glass half full or glass half empty type, there’s enough evidence on either side to be either critical or complementary of the Melbourne FC season.

 

So how do I feel about it?  I say let’s forget Round 23 and focus on the good stuff.  In my view, the last round should be doomed to history and the video files deleted from the MFC computer.  I didn’t know what to expect when I turned up to Kardinia Park to watch the Demons on Saturday – I was hopeful for a win, of course, but I’ve never been less affected by such a comprehensive loss.

 

I didn’t get angry, or excited, or even start hoping for a comeback.  Mid way through the final quarter I did something I have never done before – left the game early when we were being flogged.  Believe me, I’ve sat through quite a few of those losses in the last few years, so I could have made that move a very long time ago!

 

With finals being ruled out the previous week, my heart wasn’t in it in the stands, and I can forgive the players for not feeling that into it either.  Much like them, my eyes were already on having a break from footy and heading into 2017.

 

The key during the off season will be for new leader Goodwin to focus on the many positives of the 2016 season, and to address but not dwell on the negatives.  Hopefully the experience gained this year, and a solid injury-free pre-season for our young list, leads to a more consistent, and hopefully successful, 2017.

 

 

About Joseph Ryan

Lawyer, amateur sportsman, and full-time sports-watcher. Follows Melbourne Demons and Melbourne Storm and is trying to be better at golf.

Comments

  1. “a lucky win over the tired reigning premiers”? How so? I mean, apart from the Hawks missing a few shots.

  2. Interesting read Joseph. I prefer your glass half full version. Many players had their best seasons with the Dees and the youth will surely only get better.

    Max is a cult hero who will bring fans through the gates for years to come. As my 3yo grandson says ‘Go Big Maxie Gawn”.

    Am most intrigued to find out who will be delisted.

  3. Dave Brown says:

    As an outsider, Joseph, I reckon Jack Watts’s emergence is one of the stories of 2016. Maligned for so long, really the victim of a rubbish football machine. It’s great to see him now confirm his ability and it is a good indicator Melbourne is heading in the right direction

  4. Tony, I’ve heard it suggested that we were lucky to catch Hawthorn on an off day – as evidenced by that rain of behinds in the second quarter. It’s admittedly flimsy but it’s the only way you could try and deflate that win in any way.

    Agree Grapevine, I prefer the glass half full version too! Great seeing kids who are of an age where they can’t remember Jimmy now wearing 11 on their back for our newest ruck hero. The Demon Shop may have stocked up on the digit ‘1’ thinking it might be for a different player – they would be thrilled with how Max has played this year.

    I agree Dave, for so long we’ve all heard that a good footy culture makes good footy players – have a look at how players have improved from going to a good club (Jack Fitzpatrick might be adding his name to that list) and declined when they have gone to a lesser club. Jack Watts’ form is a sure fire sign that we are getting things right in our footy department.

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