It’s now or never for the underachieving Melbourne Demons.
Melbourne’s line-up appears extremely impressive on paper – an elite midfield supported by a strong backline and a serviceable forward line.
Despite a lack of past success, the Demons host one of the most consistent lists, which should speak volumes with their overall cohesion.
Unlike other sides, Melbourne have avoided a player decimation with the new expansion sides, bolstering their stocks to create a reliable brand of football.
“The fact that we didn’t have to start from scratch and we’ve been able to retain a whole chunk of our list over the four years I think should be a real advantage,” Mithen says.
“I think we’ve been able to continuously develop together and we obviously know a lot of our teammates strengths and how they play their best footy.
“Things aren’t going to just click instantly but we definitely do have a lot of chemistry amongst the group which should help us.”
The finesse of Aleisha Newman, Karen Paxman and Elise O’Dea (just to name a few) makes Melbourne’s midfield elite – a strength they should look to capitalise on in this season.
Pair this with impressive running power scattered throughout all areas of the ground, and the Demons have the potential to thrive with powerful, attacking play.
Former Bulldog Libby Birch will be a welcomed addition to the Demon’s backline. Her intercept marking and versatility will be vital in making up for the loss of Bianca Jacobson and Katherine Smith, to work commitments and injury respectively.
An impressive arsenal of young talent could reap rewards for the Demons this year. With the likes of Maddi Gay and Shelley Heath coming into their prime, competition for spots will be fierce.
Melbourne’s draw also seems to present ample opportunities for confidence building wins – with a game against the rebuilding bulldogs and another three against expansion sides, the Demons are in an excellent position to reach the next level.
The most imperative hurdle for Melbourne to overcome will be their inconsistency.
Epic and rather sporadic losses in have derailed the Demons’ previous seasons, ending all finals hopes. Think their 60-point loss to Adelaide in Round 7 last year, and their 34-point loss to Collingwood the year before.
Melbourne will need to fight their mental demons; ones which have evidently cost them in the past. Otherwise, it could be another season of so close, yet so far…
However, if the Demons are to reach finals, they’ll have to get over the injuries which have plagued their preseason.
Top draftee Jackie Parry suffered a hamstring injury on the eve of Round 1, sidelining the all-rounder for an expected four weeks. Midfielder Lily Mithen and ruck Lauren Pearce are expected to miss three weeks each, while key duo Shae Sloan and Katherine Smith will be out for season with torn ACLs – a significant loss for Melbourne.
Mithen says, no more excuses
“We just want to play a brand of footy people want to come and watch,” Mithen says with pride.
“We want to play with freedom, we want to play with flair and show the outer world what the women’s footy game is capable of.
"We are sick of falling short and probably playing it a little safe at times, so if we can play and put everything out on the line, week in week out, that would be a successful season for us.”
“The more we can play to our strengths and consistently perform, we’ll definitely put ourselves in a really good position and hopefully get the Dees into finals.
“We’ve just missed opportunities to play consistently and that’s definitely where we’ll probably find most of our improvement is, to be able to play consistently, at a high level.
“Whether it be just not showing up, or concentration lapses within quarters, it’s our ability to bounce back as quick as we can and get back to what we do best, they have probably been a few of the key learning.”
What Stinear said
“Our competitiveness has gone to another level,” Stinear told the club website.
“We’re genuinely excited for what next season holds and we’re looking to do good things as a team.
“They’ve been working pretty hard and are committed to getting the best out of themselves.
“We’ve got great depth, it’s going to be tough for spots. (Selection) will certainly have its challenges, which is where good teams want to be.”