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  1. After 167 games including the drought breaking Premiership Angus Brayshaw has made the heart breaking decision to medically retire from football as a result of a series of serious head knocks over his nearly decade of footy. We wish Gus all the best and he'll always be a hero at Demonland. 😢
  2. If the week when preseason training melds into scratch matches with other clubs, is the first marker for the beginning of a new season, then this has certainly been a torrid opener for the Melbourne Football Club in its campaign to remain a leading AFL premiership contender in 2024. The Demons were already under enormous scrutiny from the media and football’s fan base (including their own) after consecutive straight-sets finals exits, with Clayton Oliver’s well documented woes, the Joel Smith ban for a positive drug test, a mounting injury list that is heavily skewed against its forwards as well as the spectre of the off field scuttlebutt surrounding the long running battle in court with a former club chairman. It would be fair to say that very little improvement was seen in the situation during the week although, I do maintain that some small rays of light still presented themselves on the horizon. More of that later. Sunday’s match simulation was a bit like Melbourne’s recent weather. The game against Richmond opened brightly with 20 minutes of magical sunshine and five goals, followed by an hour of drenching rain and ten consecutive goals against, during which time the team’s style and cohesion was neither recognisable nor existent. There were moments of sunshine in the next stanza, the lead regained and lost again, then the heavy weather returned in the final term when the Tigers were more fierce in general play against a team lacking the rhythm of life required to win four points that weren’t even on offer. Jack Viney and Christian Petracca were the standouts and Kozzy Pickett was at times special a la Bruce McAvaney among many others who played out small cameo roles. Like Jacob van Rooyen who was clunking the ball well in the early proceedings. Newcomers Jack Billings, Caleb Windsor and young pup, Kynan Brown all showed something, youthful Will Verrall had nice half leaping around in the ruck (but perhaps not yet ready for senior action) when he replaced skipper Max Gawn who called it a day after two quarters (of seven) but not before booting a late goal at the end of the deluge. He then joined the 14 absentees, the ill, the injured and suspended, sitting on the sidelines as the team limped to a 23-point defeat after four quarters. But all was not lost … yet. Clayton Oliver and Christian Salem returned to the football fray in the fifth quarter, several classes above what was a VFL level after-game in three stanzas. Clarry warmed the cockles of our hearts, picking up hardball gets at will and booting the goal of the year deep on the boundary. Let’s hope he gets himself fully right for the all clear to play ASAP because he has too much talent for it to be wasted. First round draft pick Koltyn Tholstrup impressed in his outing as Melbourne slowly edged closer to Richmond and finished two points in arrears at the final bell. Some people still believed the end of the world had come. The team was given three days off but if you thought the rest period would be uneventful, you were wrong. By Monday morning, the critical reaction to the first up February scratch match loss ranged from indifference to apocalyptic. Some felt for the club’s safety in the wake of its various woes and things got worse on Tuesday with the news that Joel Smith was facing four new anti-doping rule violations from Sport Integrity Australia — three for trafficking cocaine and one for possession after his phone records revealed text messages to other players allegedly offering the drug. A news item appeared in the Murdoch press which quoted an unnamed source suggesting the 28-year-old was being "scapegoated" by the club which prompted the response from the club that "Joel has made it very clear that he has no issues or concerns with anyone at the Melbourne Football Club." Some not unexpected editorialising followed from the usual suspects in the media who appear to have been carrying on a vendetta about the club’s culture for a number of years. Read between the lines and the verdict was that the club’s dynasty was over with only one premiership to show for it. I want to comment about some of the editorialising in the media on the Joel Smith situation and allegations of poor culture at the club. Perhaps the more prominent critics need to take look in the mirror and reflect on their own behaviours in response to other such controversies of the past and, in particular, the way a certain club reacted in not dissimilar circumstances. I expect when the outcome of the current investigation is revealed, that our club faces up to what occurred with the proper responsibility that the situation warrants. No denial, no obfuscation nor blame-shifting as we saw elsewhere a decade ago. The acceptance of responsibility if and when the circumstances so deserve will be one of the measures of our culture. More turbulence on Wednesday with rumours swirling that the career of Angus Brayshaw who played such a pivotal role in the achievements of that dynasty was about to end due to ongoing issues with concussion that have stalked him throughout his career. The hammer blow came on the following day when it was confirmed that the Demon champion was retiring from the sport at the age of 28 after recent scans revealed microscopic changes in his brain after he was knocked out in last year's qualifying final by a mistimed smother from Collingwood defender Brayden Maynard, for which the Pies player somehow avoided suspension. A premiership player highly regarded for his football prowess and strong leadership, Brayshaw, who has been at the Club for nine years is much loved by the players, coaches, staff and supporters. Brayshaw walks away with five more seasons still to run on his multimillion-dollar contract, which expires at the end of the 2028 season, having played 167 games for the club. He finished third in the 2018 Brownlow Medal count and had two top five finishes in the Bluey Truscott Trophy for club champion. He will always be remembered for his courage and resilience epitomised in the goal that put the Demons in front in the third quarter of the 2021 Grand Final, after which the team was never headed. Some quotes from a shattered hero of the club:- “I am devastated that I can no longer play the game that I love, but I respect the verdict of the medical professionals, and the importance of putting my health before my career. “I am really proud of what I have achieved over the past decade. I have been able to live out my childhood dream and while it’s been cut short, I am forever grateful to everyone who has been involved. “Concussion is a massive issue facing our game. I hope from this, a terrible result for me personally, can come some positive outcomes for the future of player safety.” Brayshaw is certain to maintain some role with the club in 2024, his loss as a player will be difficult to cover. The manner of his leaving, his wonderful words in the hour of disappointment at the premature retirement and his positive demeanour together affirmed the solid culture of resilience that his legacy at the club will hold forever. The weekend couldn’t arrive too soon after all that but I did promise some rays of hope on the horizon. There was no apparent sign of any organized training during the week so no new injuries that we know about so far plus … There was a well attended season opener at the MCG which marked a welcome return to football after the venue was used for three concerts by an NFL groupie which decimated the surface of the ground which is now under repair. The Coterie sponsored function, on the other hand, saw a lift in spirits. Firstly, there seemed to be much optimism about the return to training of a number of the injured brigade. I won’t go into any detail because nothing was “official” and therefore best to wait until we see visual evidence of their return. Secondly, the speeches from coach, captain and the club chair were all positive, inspiring and reflective of a fair degree of confidence for the coming season. Similarly, the interviews with players from every line including the newbies. There was a wonderful tribute to Gus who understandably wasn’t in attendance only hours after his retirement announcement. I sense that the composition of next week’s Community Series Practice Match against Carlton at IKON Park will be as close as possible to the expected Round Zero lineup in Sydney, give or take Kozzy Pickett who isn’t available for the latter match up. I think that after all these years, I’m pretty good at reading a room. There seemed to be an undercurrent from players and officials that they are quietly seething at the poor rap, some of it insulting, they’ve received from sections of the media of late and that they are ready to show their resilience emphatically on the field of play which is, of course, the only sane way to respond.
  3. When the dust settled on 2023, the Melbourne Football Club coach Simon Goodwin lamented that the club knew it needed to score more to land a second premiership in the current era. He opined that an average of one more goal per game would have had his charges in football’s stratosphere. Goodwin was right and, based on his team’s scoring opportunities, that extra goal (and more) was well within its grasp if only they had better converted their shots at goal. Take the side’s last six defeats (mainly in the second half of the season) for season 2023:- Rd 11 - Fremantle 12.7.79 defeated Melbourne 10.12.72 Rd 15 - Geelong 11.12.78 defeated Melbourne 8.15.63 Rd 16 - GWS 7.5.47 defeated Melbourne 5.15.45 Rd 22 - Carlton 9.6.60 defeated Melbourne 8.8.56 Qualifying Final - Collingwood 9.6.60 defeated Melbourne 7.11.53 Semi Final Carlton 11.7.73 defeated Melbourne 9.17.71 Incredibly, the Demons amassed 125 scoring shots to 102 in those six losses to net a total score of 47.78.360 against 59.43.397. The figures don’t lie - given a touch more accuracy in front of goal and you’re looking at a premiership but instead, for the second year in a row, it was out of the finals in straight sets. In 2023, the team was by far fitter in body than the one that limped out of 2022. It’s biggest loss was an outlier by 27 points in the Gather Round vs Essendon in Adelaide and the rest were all close losses, many by less than a goal. As a measure of how close Melbourne was to a possible flag in terms of the team’s strength was that in its two matches against the premiers it scored a total of to 15.29.119 to 18.14.122. Let that sink in! Things were different for much of the first half of the season. The Demons were in scintillating form during their two practice/simulation matches with the combination of Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy looking a treat as they dominated in the ruck as well as scoring goals when rested. The club appeared to be in good shape all over the ground as the season approached. The midfield led by Jack Viney, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver was in electrifying form! The optimism seemed vindicated in Round 1 with a massive 50-point thumping of the Western Bulldogs at the MCG. Ben Brown and Kysaiah Pickett booted four goals apiece but the celebrations were marred by the latter’s two week suspension over his high bump on Bailey Smith. Pickett went on to score 37 goals for the season but was rarely in that electric form displayed in the opening round. Brown scored another four in the team’s loss to Brisbane in the following round but injuries cut him down to a total of only seven games and three more goals for the season. Things went awry in Brisbane when skipper Gawn went down early with what at first appeared to be a season threatening knee injury. His stunned teammates looked dazed in the moments after their leader left the field and it was only after a long delay later in the game, occasioned by the failure of the Gabba lights, that they were stung into action; a flurry of goals left them 11 points away from what would have been a remarkable victory. Gawn’s injury was not as severe as first thought and was well covered by Grundy over most of the following rounds of his absence with one glaring exception in that Gather Round game in the wet at Adelaide against the Bombers when defender Steven May was also sorely missed. Aside from that defeat, the team coasted through most of the first half of the season, putting away some of the competition’s lesser lights until it returned to Adelaide in Round 10 to play in the wet again, this time as Naarm in the Indigenous Round against Port Adelaide. Disaster struck. The home team controlled the first half but the midfield trio of Oliver, Petracca and Viney restored life and clearance dominance to the team which surged with seven goals from a game-high deficit of 25 points to a 17 point lead late in the third quarter. Lachie Hunter was involved in a controversial report which resulted in an after the siren goal to Port which overcame the Demons by four points in the driving rain. It was later revealed that Oliver had badly damaged his hamstring in the final term, possibly a factor in this loss and certainly, a major blow for the team’s 2023 campaign as his absence lingered over the following months interspersed with hospital visits for foot blisters and other ailments as he struggled to regain fitness. The cloud of darkness hovered over him for the remainder of the year and while he did well on his comeback late in the season to be among Melbourne’s best in the finals, it wasn’t the same old Clarry. Suddenly, coach Goodwin was confronted with a series of dilemmas which were spread through the middle and into the run towards the finals. In the first instance, he did well to cover the absence of his champion midfielder. He was fortunate to have Christian Petracca, already in starring form and Jack Viney stepped up to the plate in stunning fashion. The defence was well led by key position stars Steven May and Jake Lever and buttressed by Angus Brayshaw and novice Judd McVee who comfortably took over and remained in the role of a medium defender in the temporary absence of Christian Salem. The forward line however, was just managing although it had found a player of the future in young key forward Jacob van Rooyen. Kade Chandler finally began to make an impact and was kicking goals and Alex Neal-Bullen was quietly and continuously adding energy and grunt to the prime endeavour of keeping the ball in the forward line through the application of pressure. Despite the looming problems with scoring goals, Melbourne brought down the rampant eventual premiers Collingwood in the Kings Birthday match, ending their long run of victories stretching back to Round 4. The result was close but it was comprehensive. After Bayley Fritsch went down with a foot injury in the game against GWS in Alice Springs, Goodwin gave Jake Melksham the opportunity to not just revive his career but also, to turn himself into an important fixture in the forward line. Petracca spent more minutes up forward and Brayshaw moved into the middle for cover. Tom Sparrow was given more responsibility in the midfield and Trent Rivers and Kysaiah Pickett went there at times as well. Some important victories were to follow against potential finals opponents in St Kilda and Brisbane. The Gawn/Grundy connection was sagging and the coach took the difficult decision to omit the dual All-Australian ruckman recruited from Collingwood and leave the ruckwork mainly to his skipper who was starting to put in some Herculean solo efforts. Goodwin also cemented the move of Harry Petty from defence to attack. With the finals a little over a month away, the dream was seemingly about to come true for Demon fans as the team found its forward connection and demolished the Tigers on a Sunday at the MCG in late July. The strong marking Petty kicked six goals from his six shots at goal, while Melksham and van Rooyen booted four goals each without a miss. That’s 14 goals straight from a team that had a reputation of failing to hit the proverbial barn door. It appeared that things were looking up. But … (why is there always a “but”) A week later, Goodwin’s forward line plans were thrown into disarray when his team overcame cellar dwellers North Melbourne after an insipid first half in which they lost Harrison Petty for the remainder of the season with a foot injury. Fortunately, Joel Smith succeeded in partially covering the situation when moved up forward to add two goals in a display that secured him the spot vacated by Petty (and before him, other injured forwards in Tom McDonald and Ben Brown). However, the die was being cast as far as the forward line was concerned. When the team played out its last game in the finals, that entire trio of dead eye forwards who had kicked 14 goals straight against the Tigers was missing and the results were there for all to see. Melbourne stumbled early in its game against Carlton but regrouped to dominate the last half and was arguably robbed of victory when a long bomb from Petracca was controversially called touched by the goal umpire. The subsequent goal review was inconclusive and the umpire’s decision stood. Ironically, the Blues were also the beneficiaries of victory in the semi final after an Alex Neal-Bullen snap was adjudged a goal by the goal umpire was overturned on replay. Such is life. After overcoming an arm wrestle against Hawthorn, Melbourne put on the afterburners in Sydney to smash the Swans but lost Jake Melksham to a torn ACL on a day when Bayley Fritsch marked his return with five goals despite coming off the field in distress during the game. The club’s accuracy woes in the final series referred to above and well documented elsewhere came back to haunt it in September. Things weren’t helped by the hammer blow delivered to Angus Brayshaw by Collingwood’s Brayden Maynard who controversially avoided suspension at the AFL tribunal. Nevertheless, the AFL subsequently sought to make Maynard’s “legal” action “illegal” by amending the rules concerning what is meant by a reasonable attempt to smother, a change that may well make no difference in practice. Nor is this any consolation to either Brayshaw or the club which could easily claim that the hit cost it victory in this game and, along with the defeat, a chance to win the premiership. The club made an unfortunate second consecutive straight sets exit from the finals when it kicked its way out of the semi final against Carlton, a situation compounded by some poorly uncharacteristic defensive play at the death knock. It was season over on a Friday night but the news of the passing of club icon and arguably its greatest ever, Ronald Dale Barassi placed all of us under a dark cloud. The man who was hero to a whole generation of young Demon fans and whose name is synonymous with courage, resilience and integrity and above all, success, had left us forever. Tearfully, we mourned the loss of a true legend. As mentioned above, one of the highlights of the season was the seamless introduction of the talented Judd McVee into the Demons’ defence. He was there throughout the season and blossomed with every passing week. Much the same can be said of fellow Sandgroper Jacob van Rooyen who kicked 28 goals for the year in his 20 games after calls for his debut were answered in Round 3. The youngster fitted in comfortably as a key forward with an occasional run in the ruck with just the right amount of aggression at the ball. It sometimes got him into trouble and he overcame a trying week when exonerated after a marathon hearing of an appeal against a striking suspension incurred as he was attempting to spoil Gold Coast’s Charlie Ballard in Round 8. Van Rooyen was sorely missed due to suspension when the Demons lost their semi final to the Blues. Others to gain AFL experience and show promise were Bailey Laurie and father/son prospect Taj Woewodin while 2021 midseason draftee Daniel Turner looked a key defender prospect for the future at Casey and in his limited appearances with Melbourne. After making a solid start to their VFL premiership defence with wins in their first four matches, the Casey Demons stumbled slightly but remained contenders for a top four finish until the last month of home and away matches. A few close defeats and the same yips in front of goal that were encountered by their senior counterparts left them in the position where they had to beat North Melbourne in a wild card game in order to compete in the finals proper. That was achieved easily but the elimination final against Footscray turned into an embarrassing 79-point loss after the non-selection of several otherwise eligible players just in case they were needed for the AFL finals. The AFLW team also failed in their premiership defence after a solid first half of the season. They were led brilliantly by new skipper Kate Hore but faltered late when the going got rough and injuries and illness hit the group. The Demons still finished second with eight wins and a percentage of 222.9, the ‘points for’ of 653 being the highest in AFLW competition history. Forward stars Hore and Eden Zanker jointly shared the AFLW Goalkicking Award with a record 20 goals for the home and away seasons. Zanker kicked three goals in the final against Geelong to finish with 23 for the season, another league record (equal with Brisbane’s Dakota Davidson). The team’s luck ran out in the finals with losses to North Melbourne and Geelong (narrowly in the end) ending the season in disappointing fashion. Tyla Hanks and Kate Hore tied for the best and fairest with Lauren Pearce in third place ahead of another tie for fourth between Sinead Goldrick and Olivia Purcell. Hore was named as the All Australian captain in her first year as leader taking over from Daisy Pearce. Zanker was named All Australian for the first time. The disappointment of straight sets exits by both the men and women was somewhat offset by a $1 million dollar windfall in becoming the One Club - McLelland Trophy Winners which earned praise from MFC Chair Kate Roffey who noted that the real value of the prize was the “extraordinary commitment it takes across the entire Club to field and support two extremely high performing teams each weekend”. After the disappointing finish to the men’s AFL competition, attention turned to the trade and draft period. Brodie Grundy was traded to the Sydney Swans after the failure of the Gawn/Grundy experiment left him on the outer with one AFL appearance in the run into the business end of the season. That he missed out on playing in a final against his old club Collingwood and again in the semi against Carlton when the club was down in talent, was baffling given that the tactical substitute, Josh Schache was kept off the field completely in the latter game. Many observers felt that the handling of the situation provided poor optics for the club and devalued his trade worth. The Swans took him as cheap bargain for a dual All-Australian and they cashed in on another money ball deal picking up free agent James Jordon for nothing. Michael Hibberd retired with a premiership and several years of solid service under his belt. Luke Dunstan who tore his ACL at Casey late in the season, also retired. Jake Melksham was delisted but redrafted as a rookie while loyal servant James Harmes was traded to the Western Bulldogs. Former NGA recruit Deaykin Smith, who was Casey’s 2023 best and fairest but delisted, found his way to North Melbourne. The Demons traded for needs and picked up former high draft pick Jack Billings from St Kilda, high flying excitement machine Shane McAdam from Adelaide and Brisbane Lions’ ruckman/forward Tom Fullarton (who is now on the injured list). They later redrafted former player Marty Hore, back from Williamstown. In the draft, the club used two first round picks to secure Caleb Windsor (Eastern Ranges) and Koltyn Tholstrup (Subiaco WA) and took father/son prospect Kynan Brown (Oakleigh Chargers) as a rookie. Christian Petracca capped off his finest individual season with a second 'Bluey' Truscott Memorial Trophy as Melbourne's club champion, polling 602 votes to finish 75 votes clear of runner-up Jack Viney, with key defender Jake Lever third on 456 votes. Angus Brayshaw (453) and Steven May (451) rounded out a closely fought top five. Conspicuously missing from that list was four-time 'Bluey' winner Oliver who missed a significant part of the season with a torn hamstring and foot blisters and had post season knee surgery amid some controversy about his recovery from those issues. Soon after the grand final, it was even claimed that the club had put him on the trade table and not long after, he was hospitalised following a seizure that resulted in a head injury. There were also issues with a case of driving while unlicensed. All of this was grist for the media mill. It was becoming clear that Oliver was struggling with mental issues and in late December, he headed home from the Demons’ training camp in Lorne as he continued to deal with ongoing health challenges. He was left to heal and maintain his fitness away from the playing group and rejoined them a month later looking in reasonably good nick and hopeful of a full return to the fold in the last month of the 2024 preseason. Oliver retained the unwavering support of the playing group and the supporters throughout his ordeal and it’s worth reflecting how the club still performed strongly in his absence for most of the last half of 2023. Though he showed some good form on return, it was not reflective of the devastating 40 plus possession performances that he is capable of peeling off with regularity. However, in his absence, others stepped up and those extra midfield minutes of experience not only contributed to Melbourne comfortably finishing in the top four, but the benefits should carry through and hold the club in good stead in the AFL competition in 2024 and beyond. More so, with Clarry’s full return to health in mind and body. We can’t wait! Another controversy erupted in the early post season when forward Joel Smith tested positive for cocaine. Smith was suspended from the Demons' football program while Sport Integrity Australia investigated the circumstances of a positive test after the Demons' win over Hawthorn in Round 23. The matter is still ongoing. There was no shortage of off-field controversy with litigation ongoing in the courts between former president Glen Bartlett and Melbourne Football Club Board members. It was recently reported that mediation talks aimed at ending the long-running dispute had broken down while a separate dispute over the fairness and transparency of the Board’s election process also appears headed for court. Watch these spaces*. On a more positive note, another off-field development that occurred after season’s end was the long-awaited announcement of a feasibility study to identify a location for the Club’s long term home base at a redeveloped Caulfield Racecourse. The $570 million redevelopment would see its in-field, which is Crown land and about 10 times the size of the MCG, opened up as a community precinct, to be known as the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve. It is expected that the Demons would be a key tenant along with local sporting and community organisations and groups. The Melbourne Football Club sits in the premiership window with great playing depth, a healthy culture and excellent leadership both on and off the field. It remains a strong contender as 2023 ends and we look forward to a resurgence in 2024 with a team that has a reputation as one of the hardest to beat in the competition and simply awaits the return of its straight shooters. Bring it on! * in keeping with current Demonland policy, we will not accept discussion on matters being litigated in the courts or on sensitive matters relating to the mental health of our club’s playing group or derogatory comments and language about players and coaching staff. We ask that you please understand that this is partly a result of both medical and legal advice received and that you respect our decision. We are here to support our great club and its players. THANK YOU We take this opportunity to thank the many people who continue to keep Demonland running starting with all of you who contribute to our forums. A special mention to Nasher who is our IT guru and physically looks after the running of the site and to contributors Whispering Jack, George on the Outer, The Oracle, KC from Casey and Meggs as well as Binman who joins George and me on our Demonland podcast. Thanks to anyone I’ve forgotten (please forgive me) and to our great team of footballers and the club and its staff who make it all happen. Go Dees in 2024 - Andy
  4. There are certain games that are part of the history of the Melbourne Football Club that fans would prefer to forget. One of them was the 1988 VFL Grand Final which the Demons lost by a then record margin for a season decider — 96 points. I won’t dwell on this too much other than to mention that Jamie Duursma was named at centre half back in the game, that his brother Dean was also on the club’s list at the time and that the family connection will be revived today when Dean’s son and Jamie’s nephew Zane debuts in Demon colours out at Wonthaggi when Casey takes on the Box Hill Hawks. Back in the 1980s, the Duursma boys certainly moved around in their search for a VFL home. Jamie Duursma was recruited by the Sydney Swans in 1986 from Sandringham after a stint in the Hawthorn Under 19s and Reserves but was shipped off to the Brisbane Bears in 1987 after the Swans ran into salary cap problems. At the time he was also approached by Essendon. His season in Queensland was curtailed by knee surgery and he managed just one game for the Bears. Melbourne coach John Northey had faith in Jamie Duursma and encouraged him to play with the Demons when he returned to Victoria at the beginning of 1988. In his first season, he was instrumental in helping the club to that first grand final in 24 years by blanketing the dangerous Stephen Kernahan in the Preliminary Final against Carlton. The grand final a week later was a tougher challenge. Jamie Duursma wore guernsey number 28 and played 39 games for Melbourne in 1988-9 but required a knee reconstruction after an injury in the 1990 Fosters Cup Semi Final and despite, a swift five month recovery period, Duursma never played VFL again. His brother Dean Duursma was an Under 19s player in 1986 and remained on the list until 1988 wearing the number 48 in the Reserves but he didn't play seniors. He also had stints at other clubs including Sandringham and he played in a premiership at North Hobart in 1989. Today, he’s the proud dad of an emerging football dynasty as his children, named alphabetically from X to Z are all making their mark on the game. Xavier Duursma has been with Port Adelaide since 2019 (he made his debut on the MCG against the Demons in Round 1) and has played 64 games. He was subbed out at quarter time on Friday night against the Saints after limping from the field with a knee injury and is expected to be out for several weeks with suspected damage to his PCL. Sister Yasmin has already played 4 games for Port Adelaide’s AFLW team after being drafted through the Casey Demons and Gippsland Power. Zane is an Australian Academy player and in his third season with the Gippsland Team. An athletic 189cm, he’s a clever player capable of finding the goals, versatile and predicted to go in the top five in November’s AFL Draft. AFL draft guru recently rated him as high as a potential number one pick - Kicking and reaching goals no issue for potential No.1 pick — although Harley Reid from Bendigo appears to have that spot well and truly stitched up according to many good judges. Zane did work experience of a pre season stint at Melbourne with the Stingrays’ Cooper Simpson as part of the AFL Academy programme. Both impressed observers at these sessions. Simpson played for Casey last week and this week Duursma gets his chance with a bye in the Coates Talent League. The connection doesn’t tie him to the Melbourne Demons but there are many draft watchers who would be delighted if that were to happen at November’s AFL National Draft.
  5. It would be fair to say that the departure of Tom Scully in September 2011 from the Melbourne Football Club to seek fame, glory and a million dollars a year in the northern suburbs of Sin City was not received well by the Demon faithful. After all, the club had taken him as first selection (a priority pick) in the 2009 AFL National Draft and bestowed on him the prized 31 guernsey formerly worn by the all time club champion and six time premiership player Ron Barassi Junior. How dare he leave us? Scully went on to have moderate success with expansion club, the GWS Giants over seven seasons, adding 121 games to the 31 played for the Demons. He even had a fleeting taste of finals football before the relationship soured amid concerns as to the Giants' handling of an ankle injury he incurred early in 2018. His career ended after 35 games at Hawthorn under the coaching of Al Clarkson who was trying vainly to sustain his club’s crumbling dynasty. Several months after Scully’s retirement in February 2021 at the height of the Covid19 epidemic, his first club broke a 57 year premiership drought. The team was led by skipper Max Gawn (today a 6 time All-Australian) who was selected with the thirty-fourth selection in the same draft as Scully. On Grand Final night, the famous number 31 guernsey was worn by Bayley Fritsch who booted six goals in the magical victory. He was picked at number 31 in the 2017 draft. Today, a little over two years after Scully’s retirement, the Giants are well back in the pack while the Hawks are in a deep hole. And the fascination with high draft picks continues. There’s a highly fancied youngster who the pundits have pegged as a certain number one, much like Scully in his day. There’s also speculation that the club where Scully’s career came to a sudden and silent end, might be tanking to snare that prized number one pick come November. There’s also a somewhat unsavory pastime among some Melbourne fans who are “death riding” rival club Fremantle; wishing failure on them so that the Demons can derive maximum benefit from the fact that they hold the Dockers’ first and second round picks in this year’s draft thanks to their trading of selections when Luke Jackson crossed to Fremantle. Demon fans should know better. The pursuit of Scully all those years ago failed to achieve the holy grail. Instead, it heaped more years of desperation and humiliation upon them as they searched vainly for that special someone. The messiah who, in the words of the disparaging parody song that emerged on social media after his departure, was the “someone like you.” History tells us that Melbourne eventually found much better than that someone who could singlehandedly and magically bring about success. Rather, it methodically and slowly built a whole team with many component parts that, with a lot of hard work and a modicum of good luck, enabled them to reach the pinnacle. Harley Reid alone will not help achieve this. Greater Western Sydney and Melbourne Demons in tug of war over young superstar Tom Scully
  6. The season after Melbourne triumphantly broke its premiership drought ended with a thud as the Demons came to the ground with a disappointing straight sets exit from the 2022 finals series. There could have been no more soul destroying an end to a year after a glorious 17-game winning streak at the back end of the 2021 season which included the winning of the grand final in Perth and the first 10 games in 2022 than to miss not only the grand final but a preliminary as well. The winning ride ended abruptly with three consecutive losses in mid-season and wins in only six of the last 14 games of the year. What was truly traumatic for Demon fans was to watch in dismay as their team was bundled out of premiership contention in straight sets at home to two interstate teams after finishing second on the ladder at the end of the home and away season. When the dust settled, the premiership defence had ended dismally as the Dees failed to back up their premiership season and missed the opportunity to achieve the promise of rewarding their fans with an opportunity to witness glory in person on the MCG. The Demons haven’t brooded over lost opportunities — after all, they have plenty of motivation from their recent experience as they go into the 2023 season. And they have left no stone unturned as they build on their strengths for the challenge that lies ahead. One of those strengths is undoubtedly the Demon midfield, which is arguably one of the finest in the competition. Led by captain Max Gawn, who is widely regarded as the premier ruckman in the game, the Demon midfield is deep and talented, with the likes of Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and Jack Viney all capable of dominating games. Oliver, in particular, has established himself as one of the league’s preeminent midfielders, with his contested ball-winning ability and clearance work among the best in the competition. He has outstanding vision and decision making skills and always seems to know where his teammates are and gets the ball to them in the blink of an eye. Norm Smith medallist Christian Petracca is one of the most exciting and dynamic players in the AFL and a key part of the Demons’ success in recent years. Petracca’s combination of speed, strength and skill causes headaches for oppositions midfields. He has an incredible ability to break tackles, burst through packs and find his way to goal and is equally comfortable setting up his teammates. Highly skilled Vice Captain Jack Viney brings tenancity, grunt, work ethic and leadership to the table. He is a ferocious tackler and has a reputation for being one of the toughest players in the AFL. Yet, despite the physicality he brings to the game, he is an intelligent footballer with exceptional ball-handling and kicking skills. Promising young midfielder Tom Sparrow has built his upper body over the summer and looks like the next player to break into this star studded midfield on a more regular basis. He will most definitely attend a greater number of centre bounces this season. Over the preseason trackwatchers have noted that Kozzy Pickett has been training for a dual role as a forward and a midfielder. His greatest strength is his speed and agility which make him an ideal candidate for more midfield minutes with his excellent ability to evade opposition and use his skill to break through defences and create scoring opportunities. If taking him into the middle can up his output by say, an extra half dozen disposals a game, it will be a bonus for the team and give opposition clubs a sizable headache in trying to contain him. The Demons also have a plethora of second tier midfielders that can capably pinch hit in the centre throughout a game with James Harmes‘ ability to tag an opponent when needed or Angus Brayshaw leaving his defensive post as required to come back to the position in which he cut his teeth and once earned him third place in the Brownlow medal count. James Jordon can also be used in many games as a versatile sub under the new sub rule as he is capable of playing multiple roles across the field. During the preseason defender Trent Rivers was trialled through the middle much to the delight of many Demon fans. Alex Neal-Bullen also attended a number of centre bounces and stoppages as the Demons attempted to add some depth, adaptability and flexibility to the midfield. The midfield is complemented by the club’s outstanding ruck lineup. Premiership Captain and multiple All Australian, Max Gawn is a towering presence who has been the competition’s premier ruckman for more than half a decade. Dominating games in the air, Max has a versatility that allows him to play up forward or down back making him an essential component of the team’s game plan. With the departure of Luke Jackson, Max is joined by his one-time rival Brodie Grundy who also has a couple of All Australian honours under his belt and the pair look set to form a formidable ruck combination which will stretch most teams. It is expected that they will likely share rucking duties 50/50, whilst one “rests” as an extra tall up forward allowing the ruckman to play a kick behind the ball in order to pick off any quick turnovers out of the forward line. Once an early draft pick, Josh Schache can also play ruck as well as fill in as a tall key position player if and when needed. On the wings the Demon’s also have added another exciting piece to their midfield with the acquisition of Lachie Hunter from the Bulldogs. He joins winger Ed Langdon and they are expected to form a dynamic combination giving the Dees added speed, skill and endurance on both sides of the field. The former Bulldog is talented and versatile player with excellent disposal, decision making skills and vision under pressure, while Langdon, on the other hand, is a speedy and athletic player with incredible endurance. He has become one of the Demons’ most valuable players and can break lines and create scoring opportunities as well as his excellent defensive work and his limitless output. Down back we can expect the Demons to have another strong defensive lineup for the upcoming season. In 2022, Melbourne had one of the best defences in the league, allowing only 71.7 points per game and conceding the fewest points overall in the competition for the second year in a row. The backline is anchored by All-Australian fullback Steven May who is a key component to their stellar defence. May’s physicality, athleticism and tenacity contributes to his imposing presence where he can deftly use his size and strength to his advantage. He is an excellent one-on-one defender who can match up against some of the best forwards in the league limiting their impact on the game. May’s partner in crime, Jake Lever, is widely regarded as one of the best intercept markers and rebounding defenders in the league. He is a leader on and off the field who has a keen football IQ and can position himself well to intercept an create turnovers in order to initiate counter attacks. The last component of the three headed dragon in the Demon’s defence is Harry Petty. Petty is a versatile defender with a strong overhead mark and excellent foot skills who plays with composure under pressure. He too is an outstanding intercept marker generating scores from turnovers for his team. These generals in defence are ably supported by the medium and small defenders. Christian Salem, whilst currently sidelined with a thyroid issue, exudes class with expert decision making and accurate kicking. His protégé, Jake Bowey, is also an excellent user of the footy and rookie Judd McVee has put his hand up for an early season berth playing with a maturity that belies his young age. You also cannot write off Michael Hibberd as he too can still provide service on some of the competition’s best small forwards. Angus Brayshaw will continue to rack up marks in defence providing a lot of rebound and Trent Rivers too will be an outlet out of defence with his run and booming kick. The Demon’s forward line looks set to be rejuvenated from its beaten and battered form of 2022. It boasts a mix of experience, skill and youthful enthusiasm that if working in synergy with the midfield to make it a formidable force in the competition. Many pundits have earmarked the Demon's forward line as our biggest weakness highlighting the fact that the Demons were only able to score more than 100 points on 5 occasions in 2022 whereas eventual premiers Geelong were able to achieve that feat on 11 occasions. Melbourne’s efficiency when going inside 50 has been problematic in the past. Last year the Demons ranked 3rd in the league for insides 50 but only ranked 6th in points scored. The conversion of inside 50s to scoring goals is an area that needs to improve in 2023. The two towers of Ben Brown and Tom McDonald form the heart of the forward line and when fit are extremely valuable to the team’s successes. In an injury interrupted season last year the pair still managed 45 goals between them. In their premiership year the pair booted 58 goals. An injury free year is critical for the both of them. McDonald provides strength and a foil for Brown in packs and they both are very strong leads up the ground. They will be aided in the air up forward by the resting ruckmen in Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy. Versatile mid-sized forward Bayley Fritsch has been the Demon’s top goal scorer for the past three seasons. He can play as a lead up forward, using his speed and agility to create space and take marks or as a small forward, using his ground-level skills to create scoring opportunities. The fact that he’s getting close to the competition’s leading goalkickers is testament to his value to the club. Livewire Kozzy Pickett is one of the most dynamic small forwards in the competition who can be very damaging to oppositions using his speed, skill & agility to sometimes create something out of nothing. Joined by Charlie Spargo with his ability to accurately hit up targets in the forward 50 and Kade Chandler who has impressed in the preseason the Demon’s small forwards need to hit the scoreboard more often to make the side truly formidable to their opponents. Demon fans are also anticipating the emergence of talented high draft pick Jacob Van Rooyen who is coming off a great first season in the VFL and by all reports a fantastic preseason on the training track but he may have to wait for his opportunity to arise as he continues to develop at Casey. Whilst coach Simon Goodwin maintains that a strong defence will still be the thing that underpins the team’s game style, it would appear as if the Demons will be more aggressive in their ball movement with more kicks into the corridor and to the top of the goal square rather than going straight down the line along the boundaries. This more aggressive style of play has been showcased in the preseason matches and will hopefully have a big impact on scoring. Season 2023 is shaping up to be an exciting season for the Demons and their fans. Most pundits are predicting that the Demons will be a Top 4 team this season and go deep into September. Based on their form in the practice matches it looks as if the Demon’s game plan won’t be as predictable as many critics claimed it became last season. Part of that predictability was related to an inability to run out and win games after holding reasonable leads early in many of their games in the latter part of the season. Several explanations have been put forward as to how the problem came about and how it could be resolved. The likely answer is that it was related to the club’s fitness regime and to player injuries. Luck with injuries plays a huge part in any teams success. Last season the Demon’s were banged up and tired as they virtually limped into finals. Injuries to star players, Petracca's hairline fracture of the tibia, Oliver’s thumb never truly recovered from the Cats game, Max Gawn had a painful hip injury and almost missed the Semi Final and Bayley Fritsch had a knee injury that required surgery in the off season. Whilst injuries should not be used as an excuse it can explain performances. It is evident that the Demons could have managed the loads of players better throughout the long season so hopefully there have been lessons learned from last year. The early indications from the preseason and limited practice match evidence are that Melbourne will start 2023 both highly trained and full of fitness and energy for the season ahead. It is also abundantly clear that its best 23 is as good as any other team in the competition and they have the depth to go all the way. The Demons have a tough start to the season with games against the Bulldogs, Lions and Swans (all of who beat them at their last start). The test will therefore come early for them. Even if they get through that baptism of fire, they need to remember that, the season is long and circumstances can turn things around very quickly. However, having been to the mountain top so very recently and then experienced a swift fall from grace at the bitter end of last season, they have the weapons and the experience to return to lofty heights again in 2023.
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