MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 20: Christian Petracca of the Demons high fives fans after winning the round 22 AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and the Brisbane Lions at Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 20, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Last Season

Well, that didn’t go to plan did it? After making a preliminary final in 2018 the Demons were widely tipped as a premiership contender last year, but fell extraordinarily short of that mark. The Demons plummeted to 17th on the ladder with five wins.

It was an outright nightmare – they were riddled by injuries throughout the whole pre-season and never seemed to find their feet. Melbourne were a shell of the team that had ripped through Geelong in the 2018 elimination final and more like the Melbourne we had come to know over the past decade.

Off-season

In: Ed Langdon (Fremantle), Adam Tomlinson (GWS), Luke Jackson (Pick 3, East Fremantle), Kysaiah Picket (Pick 12, Woodville West-Torrens), Trent Rivers (Pick 32, East Fremantle), Mitch Brown (Essendon).

Out: Sam Frost (traded), Jordan Lewis (retired), Corey Maynard (retired), Tim Smith (retired), Guy Walker (retired), Jeff Garlett (delisted), Declan Keilty (delisted), Jay Kennedy-Harris (delisted), Billy Stretch (delisted).

Off-season grade: C+

Melbourne has stocked up well this off-season – Ed Langdon brings elite pace which is of desperate need for the Dees and the signing of Adam Tomlinson provides great versatility to the team.

Luke Jackson will learn his ruck craft from arguably the best in the game, Max Gawn.  A great pick up with pick 3 and he will get a great apprenticeship for the career ahead.  They removed some dead wood but the allowance of Jack Frost to leave was a curious decision. He can make mistakes but was one of Melbourne’s better performers in 2019.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 15: Adam Tomlinson is pictured during training at the WestConnex Centre on August 15, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

Defining Period

The start of the year is important for every club but none more so than Melbourne. If last year really was just a blip and if they are truly ready to pick up where they left off from in 2018 then they will find out in the first fortnight of the season.

Games against West Coast in Perth and GWS at the MCG will prove a brilliant first-up test for the Demons and will quickly provide some guidance as to where their season is headed.

Best 22

B: Neville Jetta, Steven May, Michael Hibberd

HB: Marty Hore, Jake Lever, Christian Salem

C: Ed Langdon, Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw

HF:  Christian Petracca, Tom McDonald, Bayley Fritsch

F: Jake Melksham, Sam Weideman, Jayden Hunt

FOLL: Max Gawn, James Harmes, Jack Viney

I/C: Oscar McDonald, Adam Tomlinson, Alex Neal-Bullen, Nathan Jones

Champion Data says

“Last season, Melbourne had 15 players whose output dropped by more than 10% from the previous season. No team can paper over those types of cracks. Not surprisingly, it was an even distribution across the ground.”

Strengths and weaknesses

Melbourne’s strength comes in the form of their ball winners – Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw, Jack Viney and now seemingly Christian Petracca. They all know how to win the ball and Max Gawn gives them first use more often than not. If they can harness that into scores they will improve rapidly.

But that’s where the issues lie. Their forward line lacks any potency since the departure of Jesse Hogan and they haven’t solved that problem in the off-season. It’s hard to see their forward line kicking enough goals to seriously threaten the eight.

Prediction: 13th

The Dees will improve, there’s no doubting that. They will win more games and get back to the footy that saw them in a preliminary final in 2018, however, they still haven’t quite fixed all of the holes in their list and that list strategy will cost them games of football. They have a distinct lack of depth and any injuries to key stars will be particularly crippling for Melbourne.