Nathan Jones' career has been anything but smooth sailing.
Through 302 games for the Demons, Jones has endured a lack of team success for much of his career, with multiple head coach changes, consecutive wooden spoons in 2008 and 2009, and was a part of the side that lost to Geelong in 2011 by 186 points.
Despite enduring this shared humiliation throughout the majority of his career with the Demons, Jones' leadership since being appointed captain from 2013 until 2019 has been second to none.
The battling veteran is a big reason for the culture shift that saw the Demons rise up the ladder in 2018 to a preliminary final and then deliver a grand final berth in 2021.
Jones was drafted by Melbourne with pick 12 in the 2005 Draft, and would go on to debut in Round 17 in 2006 and play every game for the rest of the season - including their elimination final win against Fremantle.
In his second year in 2007, the hard-nosed midfielder would play 21 games for the Dees, highlighted by a third-place finish in the Rising Star award behind Joel Selwood and Scott Pendlebury and a second-place finish in the Melbourne best and fairest behind James McDonald, capping off an impressive individual year for the young 19-year old.
The Dees endured disappointing seasons in 2008 and 2009 - finishing rock bottom - but Jones was always a consistent performer in the side and never stopped trying to will his side to better results.
The Dandenong Stingrays product would then go on to play in every game in 2010 and 2011, and would endure a breakout year in 2012, winning Melbourne's best and fairest and polling 14 Brownlow votes.
The Demons great would add two more best and fairest awards in 2013 and 2014, putting him in the same territory as Demons legend Jim Stynes for the only other Melbourne player to win three consecutive best and fairest awards.
Jones had every right to leave the club, especially during its darkest times during the late 2000s, but he stuck it out, signing a four-year deal with the club in 2014 and making him a one-club player for his entire career.
The 302-gamer would captain the side to a preliminary final berth in 2018, although a 66- point loss to eventual premiers West Coast would bring the Demons back to earth.
Jones relinquished the captaincy to ruckman Max Gawn in 2019 and endured an injury-riddled end to his career in 2020 and 2021, with soft tissues injuries to his hamstring, calf and quadricep causing him to miss out on the majority of those campaigns.
The Demons champion decided to fly home to Melbourne to be there for the birth of his twins, after accepting the likely fact he wouldn't be in the best 22 for the Demons' first grand final appearance since 2000.
Welcome to the world, Odie Reign Jones + Dove Margot Jones. ✨
Congratulations to Nathan, Jerri, Bobbi + Remy on their beautiful little additions to the family. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/YRweMI0jzm
— Melbourne Demons (@melbournefc) September 14, 2021
The star midfielder made it home just in time for the birth and to give support to his wife Jerri, and announced shortly afterwards that he would be hanging up the boots at season's end.
Jones announced to the playing group via zoom on his decision and spoke to the club website on how proud he is to see the club in the position that they're in and his journey over the years.
"Personally I’ve had a lot of emotions go through my mind from how it's all unfolded. From an individual perspective, it’s been disappointing, to say the least, knowing the work I’ve put in. But what I want to stress is that regardless of that I am still filled with the utmost amount of joy, happiness and pride for the position the club is now in," Jones told Melbourne Media.
"Over the years, the two things that have driven me to stay committed to this footy club have been firstly, the chance to play in a premiership one day and secondly, to ensure that no young player coming into Melbourne would have the experience I did for many years, I wanted to leave Melbourne Football Club a better place."
"Looking at where the club is now, I am proud of where we are and I'm so excited for the opportunity that my teammates have ahead of them, to write a new chapter in the club’s history."
Jones has personified loyalty and dedication to the Demons throughout his entire 302-game career and will be remembered for his hard-nosed attitude on the field, and his dedication to not only make himself a better player, but make the teammates around him better players.
If the Demons triumph in the big dance on September 25 in Perth, the Melbourne faithful will not only acknowledge the 57-year drought-breaking win from the playing group but also celebrate the past players that have been a part of the Melbourne journey, with no player being more deserving than Nathan Jones to receive acknowledgement for his selfless and courageous career for the Demons.
A universally loved player by Demons supporters and the heart and soul of the club, Jones will go down as one of the best players to ever put on the Melbourne jumper.