What a year for the Melbourne Football Club and their fans.
Talk about an emotional rollercoaster!
It was the year that started out with so much promise and despite it’s heart-breaking ending, it ended with so much more.
That missing 0.5% on the ladder will fuel them come the start of pre-season as Simon Goodwin looks to turn their young core group of players into a powerhouse.
Just one of three sides to beat the Crows at home this season, the Demons walked in to Adelaide and took it up to the ladder-leaders from the outset. An eight-goal-to-one third term sealed the deal as the Dees secured a famous win without Max Gawn or Jesse Hogan.
It was the loss that ended their season.
With their destiny in their hands, they failed to get the job done in Round 23 against Collingwood in a result that will stick in the minds of many for years to come. A six-goal-to-one opening quarter took the sting out of the contest and while they did claw their way back, it was not enough in a demoralising day for the club.
Most Improved: Alex Neal-Bullen
The Dees had their fair share of improvers this season but none more so than Neal-Bullen.
After playing 15 games in his first two seasons in the league, Neal-Bullen broke into the senior side in 2017 and kept his spot, playing 19 games out of the 22. He averaged 19 touches, three marks and over four tackles a game for the season along with 3.5 clearances.
After finishing fifth in the JJ Liston Trophy in 2016, his emergence into the senior side was a welcome addition, adding depth into Melbourne’s up and coming midfield while also managing just under one goal per game.
Best and Fairest: Clayton Oliver
Oliver burst onto the AFL season in 2016 and took his game to another level in 2017, taking on the mantle as the Demons’ midfield leader by averaging 30 touches, seven tackles and seven clearances per game this year.
He played all 22 games this season which saw him rank second in total contested possessions in the league, seventh in total disposals and sixth in total clearances.
He was widely considered one of the unluckiest players to miss out on the All-Australian team let alone the squad, however, that will not be the case for long should the 20-year-old keep improving.
What the off-season could look like:
Melbourne’s list is one of the most exciting in the competition. They have key men all over the field and are readying themselves for a sustained run at finals football.
Jake Lever is one man who they have made no secret about targeting and are favourites to secure his signature. To do so means they will have to facilitate a trade with the Crows and given Lever’s high value, a three-team deal could be the best way to go. Bryce Gibbs, anyone?
Other than that, we don’t expect the Demons to be major players this off-season and will simply look to build strength into an already tight knit group.
2018 crystal ball:
Goodwin will enter 2018 with higher expectations than anyone.
Their poor finish to 2018 will mean they get a somewhat slightly easier draw next season, potentially playing the likes of Essendon, Collingwood and St Kilda twice.
Should their big guns (Hogan, Gawn, Viney) manage to stay on the park next season, the sky is the limit for this list. Goodwin has already proven himself as a top-end thinker in his debut season as head coach and is the right man to lift this long-suffering side to September glory.