Mid-Season Previews continue with Melbourne next up on the agenda.
Pre-Season Prediction: 14th
Current Position: 10th
Top 8 Odds: $26 (via TopSport)
Many were expecting slight improvement from Melbourne in 2016, but I’m sure none of us were predicting they would be two games out of the eight halfway through the season.
With Paul Roos confirming he will depart the club at the end of the season, it was always going to be intriguing how they transition from Roos to incoming coach Simon Goodwin. Perhaps we’ve seen a more attacking Melbourne side, now that Goodwin has started to exert his influence on the young side.
At 6-7, should Melbourne possibly be further up the ladder? Inconsistent form has cost them this season with losses to Essendon, St Kilda and Port Adelaide – games the Demons should be winning. It seems we’re seeing an awesome Melbourne one week and then quite an ordinary one the following week.
They need to turn that form around in order to have any chance of playing finals this year.
What’s Gone Right
We’ll start off with Stats and Melbourne are the highest ranking side for Goal Accuracy, going at 56 per cent. Last year, the Demons were the second most inaccurate team kicking for goal with just 46 per cent, so a massive ten per cent increase on those figures is something the forward line should be proud of.
Their midfield numbers are also up this year. Melbourne are ranked seventh in the competition for contested possessions, averaging 151.7 a game and they’re statistically the fifth best clearance side in the league with 40 per game. In 2015, Melbourne were ranked 12th and 13th in these categories. Jack Viney and Nathan Jones are big contributors to these healthy numbers. Viney averages six clearances and 13 contested possessions per game, while Jones averages five clearances and ten contested possessions per game.
The brand of football under Roos and Goodwin is also been a success for the Demons this year. A more attacking game style has led to the club averaging four more goals per game than in 2015. The balance still needs to be perfected but more attacking football will take Melbourne to the next step which is playing finals footy by 2017.
While Richmond’s list management can be questioned, Melbourne’s is as good as ever. Jesse Hogan, Jack Viney, Angus Brayshaw, Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and Dom Tyson are all starting to influence the game. These players are future of the Melbourne Football Club and keeping them all will be crucial to building a potential flag winning team.
What’s Gone Wrong
Melbourne are lacking players that take intercept marks and the use the ball efficiently. They’re the fourth worst ranked team in terms of intercept possessions, only averaging 65.2 a game. Tom McDonald is their number one intercept marker, averaging 7.4 per game, but Melbourne need to target another Tom McDonald during the off-season in order to improve these numbers.
Being an inexperienced group, Melbourne do turn the ball over quite a lot. So far this year, they’ve turned it over 907 times with an average of 69.8 per game – the fifth worst in the league. Along with this, Melbourne are the second worst clangers side in the competition, averaging 53.8 a game. Despite the inexperience, these numbers should be better and other young sides have much better numbers than these, which says inexperience can’t be used as an excuse.
In terms of players, Melbourne still has some gaps to fill in order to achieve the goal of becoming a finals contender. Star defender Tom McDonald remains unsigned beyond this season. Melbourne already have an quite a youthful defence, with Jayden Hunt, Josh Wagner, Oscar McDonald and Sam Frost. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve all progressed well, but the young Demons can be exposed back there. Cale Hooker, Michael Hurley or Michael Hibberd could be the answer to their backline problems.
I could have gone with Jack Viney or Jesse Hogan, both are in terrific form for Melbourne, but I’ve gone with ruckman Max Gawn who has been in ominous form, seriously contending North Melbourne’s Todd Goldstein as the best ruckman in the game.
Statistically, Gawn is the best ruckman in the league at the moment, averaging 42 hitouts a game. Gawn’s massive 63-hitouts in round 3 against North Melbourne would have equalled the record for the most hitouts from an individual player, had Goldstein not broken it the year before with 80 against GWS.
Nearly equalling the record against an All-Australian ruckman is a pretty dam good effort and its why along with his 2016 form I have him as the 2016 All-Australian ruckman, ahead of Goldstein.
Clayton Oliver has been brilliant in the midfield, playing ten games in 2016, averaging 18 disposals a game. The 18-year old has settled in quite well and is already one of the club’s best stoppage players.
Josh Wagner has played 11 games across half-back and performed well, whilst Tom Bugg has been outstanding in the midfield.
Second Half Expectations
Get to 10 wins. It’s not going to be easy. They have a tough draw that includes trips to West Coast, Port Adelaide and Geelong as well as some big games in Melbourne. In terms of certainties, I give them wins against Fremantle, Gold Coast and Carlton which will take them to nine wins for the season.
I’m going to back them and say they’ll win four more games for the year, perhaps stealing four points from a top eight side. Their record will finish at 10-12 which will probably leave them where they currently are.