Simon Goodwin not the only man under pressure entering new season
Simon Goodwin not the only man under pressure entering new season

Boom or bust: Why Goodwin could go if Dees fail

Melbourne disappointed last year by failing to make finals, heaping pressure onto coach Simon Goodwin.

But with a plan to play more selfless footy in 2021, the Demons believe they have what it takes to contend with the best.

 

Jay Clark reveals the six key people for Melbourne heading into the new season:

 

GLEN BARTLETT

 

The Melbourne chairman delivered an eyebrow-raising spray to the football department last year, saying the team put in an "insipid" and "soft as butter" performance which "trashed" the jumper after a 51-point loss to Port Adelaide left the Dees 3-5.

The big cook was popular with the fan base, but the timing of the stinging whack clearly heightened the pressure on coach Simon Goodwin.

Not that the coach was given a heads-up by the president that it was coming.

Goodwin took the criticism in his stride off a four-day break, even if it wasn't ideal at the time.

Bartlett has a big year ahead, too, as the man who is trying to deliver the club a shiny new training headquarters and, along with the rest of the board, will make the big call on Goodwin's future this year.

 

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Chairman Glen Bartlett turned the heat up on Simon Goodwin last season. Picture: Image/Julian Smith
Chairman Glen Bartlett turned the heat up on Simon Goodwin last season. Picture: Image/Julian Smith

SIMON GOODWIN

 

Has made considerable changes to the way the Demons want to play this year to help extract the most out of its jet midfield machine.

Clearly, their conversion in the forward half has been abysmal over the past two years, not forgetting how young the team has been at times ahead of the ball.

But this year the Demons want to play an aggressive front half game in a bid to try and lock the footy in and score on repeat entries.

Expect more aggressive defending up the ground as Goodwin tries to return his side to the finals, and even win a couple.

If they don't make the top-eight the coach knows he's in trouble.

 

 

MARK WILLIAMS

 

The former Port Adelaide premiership coach was brought back into the AFL coaching fold as development coach.

Several months in, the Demons have raved about his impact.

In particular, on how the players use the ball going inside forward 50.

It is the No. 1 area Melbourne has to improve in, especially on slow plays, but the bubbly Williams is a master on the skills front and his passion and energy means he is always one of the loudest voices on the track.

His supporters remain amazed it took so long for an AFL club to get him back on the books after his departure from Richmond in 2016.

 

Mark Williams (right) has already had an impact since joining Melbourne. Picture: Michael Klein
Mark Williams (right) has already had an impact since joining Melbourne. Picture: Michael Klein

 

BEN BROWN

 

Melbourne's forward line has been a big problem and Ben Brown is a big part of the club's plan to fix things.

Sure, he has a gammy knee and won't return until about Round 5 or 6.

But whether his absolute best footy is behind him or not, Brown should surely help straighten the Demons up and provide a decent marking contest.

Expect the opposition to collapse on him, helping create opportunities for Brown's new Melbourne teammates such as Bayley Fritsch and Jake Melksham.

If he averages two goals a game after an interrupted pre-season he will have had a good year but Goodwin wants the goal kicking load to be spread in 2021.

 

Former Roos Ben Brown and Majak Daw have remained teammates – both joining Melbourne. Picture: Mark Stewart
Former Roos Ben Brown and Majak Daw have remained teammates – both joining Melbourne. Picture: Mark Stewart

CHRISTIAN PETRACCA

 

What a sliding doors moment it was when St Kilda took Paddy McCartin over the explosive midfielder.

Yes, it has taken Petracca time to reach the absolute elite level, but the superstar ballwinner became one of the most dynamic and influential midfielders in the game last season and is deservedly one of the Brownlow Medal favourites in 2021.

He has built a huge fitness base and is deadly in the forward 50 when he wanders into attack.

Like Dustin Martin, he has the ability to win games off his own boot again this season.

Don't expect to see him wander in the back half too often and someone like James Harmes might have to keep an eye on Petracca's man the same way Shane Edwards and Kane Lambert cover for Martin.

 

 

Christian Petracca looks ready to explode in 2021. Picture: Michael Klein
Christian Petracca looks ready to explode in 2021. Picture: Michael Klein

 

TOM MCDONALD

 

The floor is yours.

The backman turned key forward had a poor year in 2020 and was eventually dropped from the side.

But injuries to Ben Brown and Sam Weideman mean McDonald will be the man in attack in the early part of the season.

Luke Jackson, the hybrid-ruckman-wingman, will also be a target, but McDonald has a big point to prove after he was put up for trade.

But he has trimmed down to bolster his running power this season and impressed everyone at the club with his plan and commitment to improve.

Could be the most important player at Melbourne over the first six weeks of the season.

 

Tom McDonald needs a big year. Picture: Michael Klein
Tom McDonald needs a big year. Picture: Michael Klein

 

BEST 22 FOR ROUND 1

 

B: Jetta, May, Hunt

HB: Lever, Tomlinson, Salem

C: Langdon, Brayshaw, Harmes

HF: Vandenberg, Weideman, Viney

F: Fritsch, B. Brown, Pickett

R: Gawn, Petracca, Oliver

I: Rivers, Jackson, Melksham, Hibberd

E: McDonald, Jordon, Jones, Baker

 

FIRST SIX GAMES

 

Prediction: 4 wins, two losses

 

R1 v Fremantle (MCG) W

R2 v St Kilda (Marvel Stadium) W

R3 v GWS Giants (Manuka Oval) W

R4 v Geelong (MCG) L

R5 v Hawthorn (MCG) W

R6 v Richmond (MCG) L

 

BIG START

 

In a way, Melbourne's season will be defined in their first six matches.

Let a couple of winnable ones slip in the first two months and the pressure will quickly skyrocket.

And you know the story will be all about the fate of senior coach Simon Goodwin.

The injuries to the big forwards are significant concerns but Melbourne is good enough in the midfield to conquer its first three opponents.

Wins against Geelong and Richmond could help this club grow in confidence and turn a big corner in 2021.

 

Max Gawn remains key to Melbourne’s finals hopes. Picture: David Crosling
Max Gawn remains key to Melbourne’s finals hopes. Picture: David Crosling

 

SEASON PREDICTION

 

The big question is whether the penny has dropped for the talented Melbourne midfield.

Yes, the individual acclaim is great, but for Melbourne to re-enter the eight, that gun engine room featuring all of those top draft picks has to play for each other rather than their own individual glory.

That may sound harsh, but captain Max Gawn has made clear there is a big focus on Melbourne playing a more selfless brand of footy this year, in the same way Richmond and Geelong rose to the top.

If it clicks, and there are players sacrificing for each other, look out.

Not many pundits have picked Melbourne to finish in the eight this year, but after two campaigns out of the eight, a red and blue surprise could be in store.

If it wasn't for crucial losses against Sydney and Fremantle in Queensland last year they probably would have played finals, so the Dees know they are good enough to contend at the business end like they did in 2018.

If the system is right, and the forwards convert, they will make the eight.

 

Clayton Oliver is an essential cog in the Demons’ star-studded midfield. Picture: Michael Klein
Clayton Oliver is an essential cog in the Demons’ star-studded midfield. Picture: Michael Klein

 

 

ROBBO'S LIKES AND DISLIKES

 

Herald Sun chief footy writer Mark Robinson tackles the Demons.

 

LIKES

 

Turned the corner somewhat last season, but losses to Sydney (Round 15) and Fremantle (Round 16) ended the Demons' plucky run to the finals.

Overall, they won six of the last nine games.

Their forward dilemmas will be fixed or fixated on getting Ben Brown back from injury.

If he can return to being a 60-goal player and Luke Jackson finds his feet, maybe the forward line will be less dysfunctional.

It also depends on teammates up the ground.

Kysaiah Pickett is the one to watch and I liked that Jordan Lewis said he saw Cyril Rioli-like traits in Kossie, and reckon Bayley Fritsch is set to boom.

The Demons have stars, experience and rawness, and probably need some finesse and calm amid the rampage to take the next step.

Assistants Mark Williams and Adem Yze also add craft to the coaching box and development areas. It was a busy off-season.

 

DISLIKES

 

The Demons are hard-nosed, but could they be too hard-nosed?

They love the contested ball but not sure they are as adept on the outside.

They dominate via Max Gawn but there's not overwhelming capitalisation from it.

If that changes, the Demons will play finals.

Was all over them coming home last year before the Swans/Dockers losses. Flaky? You could argue that.

Improved ball movement, improved connection with forwards and improved footy nous with the ball will clearly improve performance.

It would want to happen because Simon Goodwin is in that horrible phase - he needs a successful season or the club will consider a change.

 

VERDICT

 

10th, missing by percentage.

 

Kysaiah Pickett is a talent on the rise. Picture: Michael Klein
Kysaiah Pickett is a talent on the rise. Picture: Michael Klein

 

BURNING QUESTIONS ANSWERED

 

Herald Sun chief football writer Mark Robinson joins Fox Footy experts Nick Riewoldt, David King, Leigh Montagna and Jordan Lewis to give their Melbourne Demons predictions for 2021.

 

ROBBO: Can one player, a key forward in Ben Brown when he returns from his knee injury, fix Melbourne's connection problems in the front half?

 

ROOEY: No, because it's a connection problem. It's not a personnel problem. Ben Brown's not a stand and deliver forward. He's not a player where you kick it in his area and he'll do the work. He's a lead mark forward. He can straighten you up because it gives you a little bit more of a focal point, but he's not going to be the difference between them being a top four side and a middle of the table side.

 

ROBBO: Jordan, how can a midfield of Gawn, Viney, Brayshaw, Petracca and Clayton Oliver be so-so in the clearance battle? And they brag about how good their midfield is.

 

JORDAN: I think the evolution of that midfield group is to learn what happens from five to 10 metres, so off the stoppage. You speak about the way they transition the ball and the way they connect forward of centre. For me, they're too ball watchy as a way to put it.

 

ROOEY: They're great ball winners but they're not great ball distributors. Viney hacks it, Oliver is brilliant with his hands but he's not good by foot. And Petracca, I wouldn't say he's a finesse player. They've got amazing ball winners but that's in and around the stoppage. Once it gets outside, I think they're ability to defend and distribute into space is what needs to improve.

 

 

 

JOEY: I think the only thing Melbourne is lacking is that balance and shape around the contest. They are all ball hunters but if that midfield group matures and plays a bit more selfless in regards to their shape and balance, they will get better looks getting inside 50 and they'll defend better. I think they're very, very close to being a top four team.

 

JORDAN: The acquisition of Adam Yze over the off-season will be the main reason why they improve in that area. He's gone in as the midfield coach, so for him to go in and teach the patterns that he saw over a long period of time at Hawthorn - where he was from 2012 to now - gets a new voice in there. He's been in a winning environment, so to get that credibility walking in the door I think is huge with that midfield group.

 

KINGY: We've talked at length about this gun stoppage team. They've got I think four of the top 15 rated players in the competition yet they're missing finals. They've gone 12 wins, 14 wins, five wins, nine wins. They've bounced around for years and Melbourne supporters have had enough of this stuff. We talk about simple things like Max Gawn going into a forward 50 stoppage and maximising your strength. They don't do that. Christian Salem has been stuck at halfback for five years. With this connection problem, why haven't they had a look at him at half forward? I think all roads lead back to the coaches' box. 2021 says we're either going forward at million miles an hour with Simon Goodwin or we're not. Because every person you speak to in footy has an exposed flaw with Melbourne and the way they play.

 

ROBBO: Verdicts?

 

ROOEY: I think five to eighth for Melbourne. They'll play finals.

 

JORDAN: Fifth to eighth is absolutely achievable.

 

JOEY: I have them top sixth with potential to make top four.

 

KINGY: I don't have as much faith in Melbourne, and I have them on the edge of the eight. If not out of it.

 

Originally published as Boom or bust: Why Goodwin could go if Dees fail


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