MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 18: Simon Goodwin the assistant coach of the Demons talks to Christian Petracca during a Melbourne Demons AFL pre-season training session at Gosch's Paddock on December 18, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Premiership Odds: $101

Prediction: 14th

Melbourne are a side with plenty of young promise but recently, this has counted for nothing and it’s been many years of disappointment for the Demons.

The longest-suffering supporters in the AFL will look at this season’s list and hope that this is finally the year that things start to mould together.

It is reasonable to expect a premiership-winning coach to be able to produce something other than another poor finish in his third and final year at the helm.

As mentioned in Brisbane’s preview, Melbourne, the Lions and St Kilda could finish anywhere between 15th and 13th. Melbourne are significantly better than the bottom three, but I can’t see them going any higher than 13th given the sides that will potentially drop out of the eight this year.

Considering they finished 13th last year and at a 7-15 record, it’s difficult to have them moving down a spot even though they could be the big improvers in 2016.

Key Ins:

Tomas Bugg, Ben Kennedy, Clayton Oliver, Sam Weideman, Mitch King, Liam Hulett

Key Outs:

Jack Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Howe, Jimmy Toumpas, Daniel Cross, Mark Jamar

Key Player: Bernie Vince

Vince was a pretty handy pickup from Adelaide and has been a consistent force in both the Crow’s and now Melbourne’s midfield throughout his career.

Last year, he took his game to another level, taking out the Demons’ best and fairest award.

Vince was a colossus in midfield during 2015 averaging 24 disposals, 14 kicks, 10 handballs, 4 tackles and 2 marks per game, the best numbers of his career.

He had three games last season where he had 38 disposals, in rounds 11, 12 and 23, as he established himself as one of the most consistent players in the AFL.

Vince is the most senior player on Melbourne’s list and his experience has and will be invaluable to rest of the side. At 30 years old, the man from Yorke Peninsula in South Australia has a good year or two left in him at the top.

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Rising Star: Christian Petracca

This could easily go to Jesse Hogan, but based on his 2015 form, he is now an established player within the Melbourne team.

The No.2 draft pick in 2014, didn’t play a single game last year after rupturing his ACL in pre-season.

Petracca was expected to be the star player of his crop after a brilliant TAC Cup season before injury cut him down. While the 19-year old missed the entire season, he has reportedly been training the house down and should make his long awaited debut in round 1.

Despite suffering a broken toe during the Christmas break, Petracca is expected to be playing at some level when the club opens its 2016 campaign against the Giants.

At 186cm, he is expected to play in a forward role when his AFL chance comes, where he will provide a unique option alongside star goalkicker Jesse Hogan.

Under the Pump: Heritier Lumumba

After a fairly controversial move to the Demons from the Pies in the 2014 off-season, Lumumba was a mixed bag in 2015.

There were some games where he showed how good he can be off the half-back line, such as his 25-disposal, seven-tackle, four-mark effort in round 3 against the Crows, however those performances were few and far between.

Lumumba averaged just 14 disposals per game, his lowest output since the 2008 season but a positive was his 76.7 per cent disposal efficiency rating.

With new-recruit Jake Melksham suspended for the year, Lumumba won’t have much competition for his place, so he needs to take this unique chance and hold down his spot and try and rediscover the form that made him the premier half-back in the AFL a few years ago.

Weakness: Backline

Tom McDonald, Colin Garland and Lynden Dunn have developed into valuable and very serviceable players and seem the types around which a solid, functional defence can be established, but none will be a star and this defence will struggle against the top sides.

Not having Melksham for the whole year will hurt the Demons dearly, with his speed and dash from the half-back line being a huge miss for Melbourne.

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That means the pressure falls on the aforementioned Lumumba and the defence could be exposed should their foot skills not improve.

Squad depth is lacking as far as backmen go, with Tomas Bugg and Jack Grimes waiting in the wings should they be needed.

The top players should be able to implement the negativity of Roos’ gameplan, but the attacking aspect of the backline that is such a strength for sides like Hawthorn and West coast is simply not there.

Strength: Coaching

Melbourne will be an interesting side to watch this season, given that Simon Goodwin is set to take over in 2017.

It’s been reported that Goodwin is already taking a majority of training sessions with a focus on fast ball movement and improved skills to compliment the negative, defensive teachings of Roos.

Fans of the red and blue will be eagerly watching the coaches’ box throughout the season and hope Roos hands control to Goodwin with a degree of positivity in regards to gameplan and player development.

What is the fixture like: Good

There are no excuses for a slow start with four of their first five games at the MCG, with just two of those against finalists from last season.

They play just one top 8 side (Hawthorn) from 2015 twice and while they have 6 six-day breaks, they have none of those back-to-back.

Playing at the home of football is an advantage for Melbourne and they have a chance to benefit from a very favourable draw in 2016 in the quest to improve on their seven wins from 2015.

Best 22

B: Colin Garland, Tom McDonald, Neville Jetta

HB: Heritier Lumumba, Lynden Dunn, Jack Grimes

C: Angus Brayshaw, Jack Viney, Dom Tyson

HF: Cameron Pedersen, Jesse Hogan, Ben Newton

F: Jack Watts, Chris Dawes, Jeff Garlett

R: Max Gawn, Nathan Jones, Bernie Vince

I: Tomas Bugg, Christian Salem, Aaron Vandenberg, Christian Petracca


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