PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: The Demons celebrates after the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Melbourne ended a 57-year premiership drought in a historic Grand Final in Perth, capping off an outstanding season that finally saw Demons fans left ecstatic rather than distraught.

Season Finish: Premiers
Record: 17-1-4

2021 Season snapshot

Sitting at 11-1, Melbourne's red hot start to the season had even their must curmudgeonly fans believing their side was on the verge of success.

By the end of the home and away season, the Dees had finished as minor premiers after their stunning 44-point comeback against Geelong in Round 23.

Having missed the finals in 2020, Melbourne followed a similar trend to recent premiership winning teams, namely Richmond (2017) and the Western Bulldogs (2016), in ending a decades-long premiership drought.

Star player: Christian Petracca

Christian Petracca elevated himself to a new level this season, as evidenced by his Norm Smith Medal outing in the grand final..

The midfield maestro racked up a mammoth 39 disposals (24 contests) - equaling Simon Black in 2003.

That was alongside nine tackles and two goals - one of which was the first of the game.

Petracca proved he was among the elite in the competition with 29.2 disposals per game and 1.2 goals per game. He is a bull in the midfield, winning the hardball on the inside and outside, with five marks per game and 4.1 tackles per game.

He polled in the top 10 for this year's Brownlow, finishing with a solid 23 votes.

Breakout player: Luke Jackson

The young star from Western Australia proved his versatility as a tall for Melbourne this year by winning the Rising Star Award. Jackson was nominated in Round 7 after notching up 22 disposals in a 30-point win against North Melbourne.

LUKE JACKSON
Melbourne
2021 SEASON AVG
10.6
Hitouts
3
Marks
12.8
Disposals

The Western Australian played a big role in Melbourne's fortunes by playing 21-games and scoring 15-goals up forward. On the field, his selfless nature was evident as he embodied the enthusiasm of a young player.

Positives

Simon Goodwin at the helm

Simon Goodwin's job was heavily scrutinsed after the club failed to back-up a preliminary final performance in 2018. His tenure was also debated at the end of last year, having not yet rectified that form. But after this year's flag, he's now since re-signed to the end of 2022.

 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Simon Goodwin, Senior Coach of the Demons celebrates with Dom Tyson of the Demons during the 2018 AFL First Semi Final match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Melbourne Demons at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 14, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

 

The commitment from the club to stick with Goodwin paid off, allowing his time and development with the players to translate into a game style that worked.

Goodwin, alongside other assistant coaches, developed a game style based on a hardened defence and interceptions in the back half with key pillars Jake Lever and Steven May. They then used sharp foot skills and gut running on the rebound.

That was pivotal in ensuring the Dees played a brand that would stack up on every occasion, and not rely on individual brilliance.

Even contribution in the engine room

The Demons midfield is stacked full of stars, led by captain Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and Jack Viney. And they put their power in the midfield to damaging use.

 

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Clayton Oliver of the Demons celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2021 AFL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

 

Petracca and Viney continued their drive out of the middle, while Oliver played as a bull, finishing third in the Brownlow.

But it was their depth in the midfield that allowed these stars to shine. Angus Brayshaw and Trent Rivers often chopped out as defensive wingmen.

James Harmes, who played tough on the inside, along with Christian Salem and Ed Langdon both did their bit by providing important run and carry to advance the ball forward.

Negatives

Sam Weideman's five games

Sam Weideman is too good to be sitting in the VFL, but he fell victim to being at one of the best squads in the competition. Ben Brown and Tom McDonald played tall in the forward line, leaving Weideman without a spot in the side.

He remained out of favour in the forward line, but has re-signed until 2023.

Mid-season hiccups

Melbourne definitely performed when it counted the most - in the finals and against other top eight sides. But there were still a couple of concerning performances this season against sides they should have beaten.

Their one point loss to Adelaide can hardly be criticised, and it will be remembered for the umpiring in the final stages.Β 

But a 17-point loss to Collingwood in the Queen's Birthday clash, and a draw with Hawthorn in Round 18 were the only small blemishes on the record.

Season Grade: A+

There is no greater achievement than winning both the minor premiership and the premiership, with the Demons became the first side to do so since Hawthorn in 2013.

 

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Christian Petracca of the Demons celebrates a goal with James Harmes during the 2021 AFL First Qualifying Final match between the Melbourne Demons and the Brisbane Lions at Adelaide Oval on August 28, 2021 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

 

After winning the Grand Final, coach Simon Goodwin has begun readying his side for another tilt at premiership success.

β€œIt’s not the end of anything. This is the start for our footy club. This is what we want to be,” he said.

Given the flag-winning steward was on the money this September, there won't be too many writing he or his side off again in the short term.