Melbourne are 10-1 and on top of the AFL ladder nearing the half-way point of 2021.

While many may have had the Demons in their top eight, very few if any had them in the top four - let alone a game clear atop the AFL ladder.

The Demons have beaten fellow contenders Richmond and the Western Bulldogs in very impressive fashion to prove their credentials. Their only blemish came by a point against the Crows.

In that one defeat, they should have been awarded a free kick to win the game with under a minute to go.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 11: Demons head coach Simon Goodwin enters the huddle at at three quarter time during the round 12 AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and the Collingwood Magpies at Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 11, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Their improvement has been rapid it seems. 17th in 2019 and then 9th last season. However, they did make a preliminary final in 2018 which saw some predicting a 2019 drought-breaking premiership for the red and the blue.

But after two seasons of no finals, many Melbourne fans had had enough of Simon Goodwin and believed the time for change was now. The Melbourne hierarchy stood by their man though and are now being rewarded.

In an industry where sacking a coach is the go-to of many boards, Goodwin is another example of how patience and persistence can be what an under-pressure coach needs. Look no further than Damien Hardwick and Mark Thompson, and to a further extent, Nathan Buckley.

Hardwick was on the verge of the axe after Richmond missed the 2016 finals off the back of three failed finals campaigns that saw them collect no wins. The next year the Tigers won the first of their three flags in four years.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Damien Hardwick, Senior Coach of the Tigers and Trent Cotchin of the Tigers hold up the premiership cup during the 2017 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Adelaide Crows and the Richmond Tigers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 30, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Geelong missed the finals in 2006 after losing a semi-final by under a kick the year before. The club undertook a full review of the football department with it seeming imminent that Thompson would lose his job at the end of the process.

Instead, he was retained and a season later Geelong won the first of two premierships under Thompson and first of three flags in five years.

Collingwood, while not achieving the ultimate success, stood by Buckley at the end of 2017 and came within one Dom Sheed goal of a 2018 premiership.

So the proof is in the pudding, that if you believe you have the right man in the hot seat, it may pay to persist if you believe.

Melbourne's path is eerily similar to the Tigers and Geelong. And while it's too early to say they are in line for the next dynasty, they have reason to believe their plan is working.

But Melbourne's build and rise need not only give their fans hope, but fans of teams who believe their team isn't rising as fast as they'd hope.

Carlton and St Kilda fans would both be sitting thinking their teams should be further ahead. Both had serious finals aspirations in 2021 and both look destined to miss out.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Sam Walsh of the Blues looks dejected after a loss during the 2021 AFL Round 02 match between the Carlton Blues and the Collingwood Magpies at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 25, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Both clubs have reaffirmed their commitment to coaches David Teague and Brett Ratten. But fans are still demanding better.

Fans of those two teams need only to look at Melbourne for proof that development is rarely linear, especially for those destined for the top.

When was the last time a team went from the bottom, to just outside the eight, to in the eight, won one final and then won a premiership?

It's a path that is seldom taken on the road to success. Melbourne's dip in form in 2019 was one of the all-time great collapses.

They were flag favourites and they finished the season second-last. But they didn't give up on the build. They kept the faith in their drafting and went again.

Goodwin and his team made tweaks that now have them as the game's best defensive side. An area they struggled with over previous year. Their ball movement is first-class which is another part of their game that took time to implement.

FOOTY TALKING POINTS: Melbourne's defensive structure and the +1

Another sign that if things don't click overnight, it doesn't mean the build hasn't or won't work. Fair play to Melbourne, Christian Petracca has become one of the game's leading midfielders over the last 18 months but that possibly doesn't happen if the Demons sack Goodwin and reset.

Too often a club will panic to a bad year and remove a coach in the search for the impetus a new coach can bring. But too often that rise in performance is false and short-lived.

Most good sides we see today were built by the coach at the helm. The coach has been at that club for some time and had time to put into place the culture he wants both on and off-field.

Melbourne did that. They stuck by their man and he is paying them back ten-fold at the moment. Even if the Dees don't go on to win a premiership or don't create a dynasty, you best believe their fans are happier now than they have been for quite some time.

The Demons aren't 10-1 without Goodwin and they aren't 10-1 without their board's patience and belief in him.

Patience is a virtue and one that is rewarded at AFL level.