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  • Podcast: 2021 Season Review  

Saturday Morning on Demonland (3)



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I’ve always believed 2020 was a bit of an outside opportunity lost in a season dominated by Covid19.

After a couple of wins in the pre-season, the Demons looked fit and primed for a good year but along came the pandemic to temporarily scupper the season only hours before our opening game in Perth. 

Several weeks later, when hostilities resumed and, playing 20% less game time, the Dees staved off a late rush from Carlton before their third round match was postponed due to a positive case in the opposition Bomber ranks. Some “honourable“ defeats followed at the hands of the ultimate grand finalists before we moved into our first northern hub and started seeing some signs of the forward pressure that was to become synonymous with Melbourne 2021 against the Suns and the Hawks at Giants Stadium. 

Then it was up to the Maroochydore hub for the rest of the season and a difficult stint against leading teams Brisbane at Metricon and Port Adelaide at the Gabba. The first of these games was a narrow defeat but there was no energy in the side after a four day break and the inevitable thumping led to an intemperate blast from the club chairman.

From then on, the team won six of their last nine games to miss out on the finals by half a game. Close results in several games, some not involving the club could have made the difference but it wasn’t helped by a heavy schedule brought about by the need to navigate the “frenzy” without respite due to having to make up the lost game from Round 3. Without the bye which all other clubs (bar Essendon) had, Melbourne was forced to travel in short time from Alice Springs to Maroochydore for an early wake up, hours of travel to Cairns and a same day game in high humidity vs Sydney and then four days later vs a rested Fremantle. 

The decision by the AFL to send us to Cairns and to play such a schedule proved disastrous with the Demons’ pressure gauge running on almost empty in both games. We now know that it was pressure, pressure and more pressure that was synonymous with the premiership team twelve months later. 

It’s all water under the bridge - we have our first AFL flag and there’s no need for excuse-making. However, it’s an interesting exercise to consider the sliding doors moment had we played the Swans game at the Gabba instead of in Cairns. A different outcome could have seen us in the finals and we know that when the home and away season ends, a whole new season begins to decide the premiership team.

Last year, teams in the finals had a week’s bye to refresh after a heavily packed in schedule of matches. Both grand finalists had to play through all four weeks of the finals due to them losing their qualifying final matches. 

How well were the Demons equipped to take on the other teams had they played in a final series in October 2020?

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After many years we finally had a bit of luck this year . Our best 22 played most of the year  due to lack of injury and drop in form . Some players just bloomed (Fritch  jacko,  kossie , anb ,)and others just clicked with there team mates ( petty stepping up in the defence after losing Tommo)   While others sacrificed  their supercoach numbers for the team like Gus .

Maxxys kick after siren not only gave us top spot , we got the advantage  of choosing venues  playing in adelaide vs lions . Doggies losing last 3 games forced them to do the Leyland brothers in finals.By finishing top we also had choice of Perth hotel and did not have to move out. All good for team stability . Also some sides we were expecting to play in finals never got there . Tigers losing martin was pivotal . He is a game changer  .  

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2019 was definitely a blip, in retrospect one that setup the 2021 GF. We have discussed it at length in other threads but the massive number of preseason surgeries combined with the 666 rule change led to a team that was completely under prepared. The poor start  killed our confidence and we never got back on track.

i don’t think we were ever going to get the cup in 2020 but we laid the foundations. We probably should have played a final or two. Burgo had set the fitness base that we needed but the shortened quarters didn’t let us capitalise on that. And as stated in the OP the many 4 day brakes sapped the team.

 Even though the game style was starting to become recognisable, we didn’t have the consistency and composure we developed in 2021. Dogga needed that preseason with his personal trainer to get ripped and deal with the physicality of the game. Kossie needed to improve his fitness base. Fritsch needed to get his confidence back and get rid of the yips. TMac needed to change his body shape and in the process put Australian cattle at risk of extinction.

 Maybe it just needed to be that way. If we had played a final Goody would not have been under so much pressure and so would not have done the soul searching that led to his improvement as a coach. We may not have brought in choco or Yze. The team might not have been pushed to that realisation that nothing was going to happen for them if they didn’t let go of their need to be individual stars rather than team first.

With the benefit of hindsight it all looks preordained. I’m hoping we’ll be reflecting in 2030 about how all of the above fed into the decade of absolute dominance that turned the Dees back into the powerhouse of the competition that it was in the 50s and 60s 

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2020 was an underachievement but it was something required to drive the players to do more this year I feel. I also concur with the OP that we got a rough deal throughout the season, had we got the run the the Saints had we would’ve played finals. Instead the Essendon game getting postponed meant we were forever chasing our tails, then the Cairns trip really messed us up. 

Missing finals definitely made the fire burn harder for this year I reckon. 

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27 minutes ago, Pates said:

2020 was an underachievement but it was something required to drive the players to do more this year I feel. I also concur with the OP that we got a rough deal throughout the season, had we got the run the the Saints had we would’ve played finals. Instead the Essendon game getting postponed meant we were forever chasing our tails, then the Cairns trip really messed us up. 

Missing finals definitely made the fire burn harder for this year I reckon. 

This^^
Certainly drove the TEAM to all push harder 

i heard about the meeting that was had by the players preseason and was very proud and impressed that they all stuck to it 100%
Taking all players to Perth said it all to me. 
they had made a commitment. 
i hope the same standard is exhibited in ‘22

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My romantic view is that it was in the humidity of Cairns that the curse was actually lifted. Something happened in this environment, as far removed spiritually from footy at the G as you could be, that broke the curse. From those two games in four days we won the next twelve straight, and ultimately went 23-4-1. Something happened in Cairns, in my view. 

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8 hours ago, Whispering_Jack said:

Both grand finalists had to play through all four weeks of the finals due to them losing their qualifying final matches. 

What the highlighted part means is that even if we made it into the finals in 2020 and even if we beat the Saints in the elimination final, our semi final opponents would have been either Richmond or Geelong and they were both far too hot for us at that stage of the proceedings. We’ll never know for sure but I don’t feel we were quite ready. 

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1 hour ago, Allus Monk said:

My romantic view is that it was in the humidity of Cairns that the curse was actually lifted. Something happened in this environment, as far removed spiritually from footy at the G as you could be, that broke the curse. From those two games in four days we won the next twelve straight, and ultimately went 23-4-1. Something happened in Cairns, in my view. 

Agree. I think it was the nadir. The listless efforts in an environment that smothers you when you're down maybe taught some blokes that AFL is so f*!#$n hard that if you aren't giving everything you've got all the time through prep and performance, you're going nowhere. After that, it was get serious or get lost.....

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The Burgess interview is worth a listen in this context ... he speaks of the benefit of the team being locked in together, first in Sydney then in Qld. as something which brought them together both personally and professionally.

We weren't ready to do much better in 2020, and agree with the posters above who point out the necessity of getting another year into the younger players (especially), but the whole team. I know we tend to look at Kozzie and Jackson, but everyone from ANB to Brayshaw to Spargo to Sparrow all took it up a notch this year, even players like Salem found another level.

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I honestly think the shorter quarters in 2020 did us a disservice against teams like Richmond, Geelong and possibly others as well.  We smashed it out in preseason 2019-20 and were primed, but didn't really get the full oppertunity to make use of that fitness.  We didn't loose to either Richmond, Geelong, Freo, Brisbane (let's not forget their dream advantage) and possibly others I'm forgetting by that much in 2020 and would have only needed one of those games to make finals. 

Had we made finals who knows what could hace happened.

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