A QUICK GLANCE AT 2010:
Potential, one of the most overused words when it comes to AFL lists, cannot help but rear its ugly head when you speak of the Melbourne Football Club. After four years in the football wilderness, the Demons, through the AFL draft, have built a young and exciting list which could ‘potentially’ be anything.
The 2010 season was one Melbourne desperately needed to start its climb off the bottom of the table. The Dees finished 12th with eight wins, 13 losses and a draw against the eventual premiers. Considering where they were a few years ago, we can rightly view the year as a successful campaign.
Brad Green took his game to a new level in 2010, booting 55 goals – a career high – and providing a much needed forward target. He was arguably unlucky to miss out on a position in the 2010 All-Australian side, however victory in the club’s best and fairest award was a deserved recognition for a fantastic season.
Green aside, Aaron Davey was brilliant yet again last season, while ruckman Mark Jamar and full-back James Frawley were rewarded for breakout years with All-Australian selection.
Despite recently missing out on the captaincy to Green, Aaron Davey shapes as the most vital player to Melbourne’s 2011 prospects. With his sublime foot skills, uncanny ability to find space where there isn’t any and scorching pace, the 27-year-old is the glue that holds Melbourne’s young team together. When in trouble, the Dees invariably look to give the ball to Davey and he rarely disappoints with his pinpoint delivery. Coach Dean Bailey has also mentioned recently he would prefer to use the left footer’s pace and skill forward of the ball where possible in 2011.
THREE MOST IMPORTANT GAMES IN 2011:
Round 12 – v Collingwood, Monday 13 June at MCG
If you asked Melbourne supporters what would be the most important game of the upcoming season, a large majority would answer with the Queen’s Birthday clash against Collingwood. This annual match is always the Demons’ most publicised one for the year. They seem to have a little mental edge over the Pies on this day too, emphasised by the drawn match in 2010.
Round 7 – v Adelaide, Sunday 8 May at MCG
Round 8 – v North Melbourne, Saturday 14 May at Etihad Stadium
For mine though, how this young and emerging list goes against the reigning premiers is irrelevant. What is critical for Melbourne in 2011 is how they perform against 2010’s bottom eight sides. Last season, the Demons showed what they are capable of by inflicting the greatest loss of Paul Roos’ coaching career on the semi-final bound Swans, as well as two outstanding performances against Collingwood. But these two consecutive matches against the Crows and the Kangaroos – who finished 11th and 9th respectively in 2010 – will be more crucial.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2011:
Melbourne’s defensive unit is clearly its strongest line on the field. In Frawley, Colin Garland, Jared Rivers and Matthew Warnock, the Demons have a great mix of youth and experience in the key defensive positions. They also have the ultra impressive Jack Grimes, who shapes as the key half-back playmaker every good side needs in order to create forward momentum.
The Demons forward line is often described as their weakest link. However statistics show once Melbourne actually gets the ball inside forward 50, their conversion rate isn’t all that bad. While another big year is obviously needed from new skipper Green, the real excitement lies in the potential improvement of former number one draft pick Jack Watts and livewire Liam Jurrah. Watts is probably still a couple of years away from his very best football, but Jurrah’s astonishing leap and freakish skills means he could take the league by storm this year.
However, Melbourne needs to show the most improvement in the midfield. The Dees simply didn’t get their hands on the football enough in 2010, resulting in an extremely poor number of entries inside 50. Ruckman Jamar will again be vital, as he more often than not gives the Demons first use of the ball from stoppages, while Colin Sylvia needs to take the next step and become a genuine ‘A-grade’ midfielder to help out Davey.
For this year to be considered a successful season for the Melbourne Football Club, they will probably need to win at least 12 games, which would roughly see them finish around the bottom of the top eight.
I expect the Demons to disappoint more than a few times in 2011. However I also believe these disappointments will be countered by a couple of victories against genuine premiership contenders, giving fans a glimpse of the not too distant future.