‘A sense of destiny’: Demons to finally deliver a flag…


Is it finally Melbourne’s turn? It is, without a doubt, the most important, if not the only, question this week after 57 years.

The Western Bulldogs had their time in 2016 and will do everything they can to repeat it this year.

In 2005 and 2007, Sydney and Geelong, respectively, broke decades-long hoodoos.

In 2017, the Dogs were followed by Richmond, who had a surprising run of success that no one anticipated coming. And there are certain parallels between the Tigers and the Demons that we can see.

Throughout pre-season, the Melbourne camp talked about how something was different this year, and it revolved around their selflessness. They’d eventually draw a line in the sand and prioritize the team as a player.

Most clubs have a theme for the new season, but we won’t know what it is until we see it. Richmond’s philosophy moving into 2017 was one of connection and vulnerability, which served as the foundation for their championship dynasty.

Each team must discover its own path to something special beyond kicks, marks, and handballs, and the Dees appear to have found it. Instead of being a team of champions, they decided to be a champion team.

The Tigers started 2017 with a 5-0 record before losing their first game, whereas Melbourne started this year with a 9-0 record as they barnstormed their way through the season.

Richmond, like the Demons last year, missed the finals the year before they won their first championship. However, both teams had seen the writing on the wall in previous seasons.

From 2013 to 2015, the Tigers lost three elimination finals in a row before crashing out in 2016. Because the fall was so severe, so abrupt, and so painful, it compelled the necessary modifications that led to the final achievement.

Melbourne cruised to a preliminary final in 2018, overcoming perennial powers Geelong and Hawthorn along the way, after missing out on finals the previous two seasons. They came into 2019 as one of the favorites to win the league.

A Sense Of Destiny Demons To Finally Deliver A Flag Hellip

Before their preliminary final match in 2018, the Demons. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Paul Kane) )

It’s evident that the Dees lacked maturity in dealing with expectation, and they’ve recognized that they got ahead of themselves after their prelim. They slipped all the way to 17th place after a tremendous bombing.

It prompted Simon Goodwin to face some uncomfortable realities about the club and the way he led it, mirroring Damien Hardwick’s journey.

The year 2020 was a difficult one, with COVID affecting the entire country for the first time, including football clubs. Then it comes to an end. The beginning. The nodes.

Despite missing the finals, Goodwin appeared unusually confident and enthusiastic throughout the second half of the season.

Last year, Melbourne had won three games after Round 9 and was ranked 15th on the list. More empty promises, another squandered season, and potentially another decade in the doldrums appeared to be on the horizon. However, they finished with a 6-3 record in their final nine games, just missing out on the top eight. It was a foreshadowing of what was to come.

For 2017, Richmond added three experienced important recruits: Dion Prestia, Toby Nankervis, and Josh Caddy. They all played in at least 22 games and were crucial components of the team’s championship run, each contributing a unique piece to the puzzle.

The Demons have followed a similar path, albeit not as dramatically, with focused recruiting from other lists.

Jake Lever was the first piece added in the 2017 off-season to shore up a hole in the tall defenders’ lineup. Steven May arrived a year later, and the critical defense was put on hold. Melbourne would not be in the grand final without these two, and they are crucial to their strategy.

Due to the need for outside run, Ed Langdon was brought in for 2020 to play on the wing. He was effective last season, but this year he took it to another level, and he may have been unlucky not to make the All Australian 40.

A Sense Of Destiny Demons To Finally Deliver A Flag Hellip

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The primary forward position was identified as a vulnerability that needed to be resolved for 2021, with Sam Weideman charming to deceive and Tom McDonald having a terrible year.

Enter Ben Brown, who happens to be a perfect example of serendipitous timing when one person’s garbage becomes another’s treasure. While it took him the majority of the season to firmly secure his place, he has established new competitive standards for himself. You can teach an old kangaroo new tricks, and make no mistake, he has been a huge part of the team’s six-game winning streak leading up to the grand final.

We all know who the stars were in Richmond in 2017: Dustin Martin, Alex Rance, Jack Riewoldt, and Trent Cotchin. Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver, and Max Gawn, as well as the aforementioned Lever and May, are all examples. They don’t require an introduction; their exploits are well-known.

Premiership teams also require a set of players who are improving their game (think Shane Edwards, Dylan Grimes, Nick Vlastuin, Bachar Houli), role players who are perfecting their roles (Toby Nankervis, Shaun Grigg, Kamdyn McIntosh, Nathan Broad, Jacob Townsend), and some new blood (Daniel Rioli, Dan Butler, Jason Castanga).

All of this is taken care of by the Demons.

Bayley Fritsch and Christian Salem, one at either end of the field, have both had career seasons, and we’ve included Ed Langdon in the same category.

They also have a number of role players who are performing well, which has contributed to them having their most valuable seasons – Alex Neal-Bullen has really found his niche as a forward-half linkman, Charlie Spargo has cemented his spot as that forward-line terrier with a touch of class, and Angus Brayshaw has owned the defensive wingman role. Trent Rivers and Harry Petty have been good enough in defense to give the studs more room to do their thing.

We can’t go past Luke Jackson, a Rising Star winner, and the unstoppable Kosi Pickett when it comes to new blood that has added excitement. The Jackson-Gawn combo has truly gelled as the season has progressed, with the latter owning the second half of the year in various parts of the field thanks to the respite Jackson gives.

A Sense Of Destiny Demons To Finally Deliver A Flag Hellip

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

The AFL grand final will be Jake Bowey’s eighth game. Another resemblance to the 2017 Richmond team, which had Jack Graham play his seventh game — the Tiger 19-year-old booted three goals and finished third in the Norm Smith. Bowey has exhibited maturity, poise, and grit well beyond his adolescent years.

What Melbourne actually has going for them is an abundance of confidence and belief, but not arrogance. When we see it, we know it. Everything is in perfect order, culminating in a sequence of powerful performances on the way to the grand final.

The Demons’ most recent defeat was in Round 19 against the Bulldogs. The Dees suffered a lot of costly defensive 50 mistakes, which resulted in many stoppage goals for the Dogs, a situation you’d think would never happen again.

It’s not a negative thing to lose a home-and-away series versus your finals opponent. We’ve already seen a lot of results that have been reversed from earlier meetings in this finals series. The Dogs have done it twice, defeating Essendon and Port Adelaide after losing to both in Rounds 21 and 23. It’s much easier to hone focus on and fix things that aren’t working.

The last time Melbourne won the premiership was in 1964. After their win, they went on a 23-year finals drought, appearing in only two grand finals: the first in 1988, when they were defeated by Hawthorn by a then-record 96 points, and the second in 2000, when they were defeated by Essendon by ten goals.

The Demons have a sense of destiny this year, and everything is coming into place.

It’ll finally be a great old flag after all these decades.

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