Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin says regardless of whether they play finals this season the team has made enough progress in 2020 to be confident they can be in the hunt again next season.
The Demons now need Fremantle to beat the Western Bulldogs on Sunday to make the finals otherwise they will miss out for the second season in a row after making the preliminary final in 2018.
Goodwin admitted they probably over-achieved in 2018 and under-achieved in 2019 when they finished 17th but he said they had strengthened parts of their game over this season, which will put them in good stead.
“If we are good enough to make it then so be it, we progress, but if not we have given it our best shot,” Goodwin said.
“There is never a lost year. We have moved forward as a footy club. We have moved forward as a team, seen huge growth in a number of individuals and we’ve changed a lot in how we play and some really pleasing signs are starting to come through.”
Christian Petracca was the most influential player on the ground again and the combination of Jake Lever and Steven May is beginning to deliver in defence.
Goodwin said the improved defence meant they were able to win games even if they were below par around the contest or not getting as many inside 50s as their opposition, which made them a more reliable team.
He said they need to improve forward of centre with the coach appearing to have lost confidence in Tom McDonald as a forward but looking to blood Luke Jackson and Kysaiah Pickett, who were drafted last season. Sam Weideman and Bailey Fritsch continue to improve inside their forward 50 too.
Goodwin said their finishing position would leave them under no illusions as to where they sat in the competition’s pecking order as they would enter the finals, if they make it, as the least fancied to win a final.
“We still need to go better as a team. We know that we are not sitting here saying everything is going well,” Goodwin said.
They are likely to face West Coast if they make the finals, unless Geelong lost to Sydney on Sunday. Goodwin said the venue and the opposition held no fears despite their crushing defeat in the preliminary final two seasons ago, describing that loss as irrelevant.
Of the other finalists, the Demons have beaten Collingwood and St Kilda in 2020 but Goodwin is confident their game could stand up.
“That is what you prepare your team for, to play in a certain way where they can compete and that is what we are going to do as a footy team.”
If the Demons do have to travel to Perth they will have to quarantine in their hotel for seven days before playing, with the team only allowed out to train.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.
Melbourne Football Club, Western Bulldogs, Fremantle Football Club
World news – AU – Melbourne claim progress regardless of whether they make finals