MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 22: Clayton Oliver of the Demons and David Mundy of the Dockers compete for the ball during the 2019 AFL round 14 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Fremantle Dockers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 22, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

2020 was somewhat a let down for the Demons, with finals football set as their passing mark despite finishing 17th last year.

While the boys in the navy blue and red fell agonisingly close to the top eight, there were plenty of positives in both their leadership and development.

Melbourne ended their campaign with a wining record of 9-8, finishing just two premiership points shy of the eighth-placed Magpies and a return to finals football.

Injuries perhaps held the Demons back a touch this season, however Simon Goodwin’s men tended to shoot themselves in the foot from time to time.

Fortunately for the Dees, they had a strong exchange period and have seen exponential growth in a number of young stars.

BEST WIN

Round 14 vs St KildaThe Demons prevailed in the sweltering Alice Springs conditions against the Saints, holding onto their advantage to end the match three points the better.

Christian Petracca had a day out in the nation’s heartland, booting four goals and snatching the winning major to lift his team over the line.

While the bullish onballer was best afield, it was a solid team effort as Steven May, Ed Langdon and Trent Rivers stood up to the stage and matched the performances of their A-grade teammates.

The win shot the Demons back into the top-eight and with the scalp of a finals contender the horizon was certainly much brighter.

WORST LOSS

Round 15 vs SydneyFollowing on from their emphatic victory over the Saints the week prior, the Demons coughed up a disappointing four quarters to tarnish their finals chances.

After a slow start in Cairns, the Demons clawed back to lead the game at quarter time, only to kick one major across the next two terms and fall behind the cellar dwelling Swans.

Sydney were undermanned across all three lines and were the Demons for the taking, with the Victorians failing to spark any momentum until the match had already been won.

MVP

Christian Petracca: The Demons hard-hitter had managed to take his game into the upper-echelon of the league, finishing the year equal third in the Brownlow Medal count, boasting a stat line of 23.53 possessions, 3.24 tackles, 4.06 inside 50’s, 3.82 tackles and almost a goal per game.

While Petracca had a sensational season as a premier midfielder, his ability to cause havoc forward and impact the scoreboard remained a vital asset to his game.

AFL Rd 5 - Melbourne v Richmond
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JULY 05: Christian Petracca of the Demons in action during the round 5 AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 05, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

MOST IMPROVED

Steven May: May was at the face of the Demons woes in 2019, with Melbourne’s back-third performing below par and unable to string together impressive outings.

Fast forward 12 months and the Demons were consistent in their defense, ranking in the top eight for points against, mostly due to May’s rise in 2020.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 30: Steven May of the Demons celebrates kicking a goal during the round 15 AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Melbourne Demons at The Gabba on June 30, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

In his second season with the club, May was able to consistently match it with some of the competition’s best key forwards and was deemed one of the most unlucky players to miss out on an All-Australian selection, let alone a nomination.

NEEDS TO LIFT

Angus BrayshawWhen lining up at the centre circle Brayshaw is a strong accumulator and user of the ball. When he’s pushed out of the middle he looks lost and fails to have much impact on the game.

If the 24-year-old is hoping to return to his best football, he will need to earn his place as a starting midfielder ahead of the likes of Oliver, Petracca and Viney.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 02: Angus Brayshaw of the Demons runs with the ball during the round 11 AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons at Etihad Stadium on June 2, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

With shorter quarters taken into consideration, Brayshaw still saw a decline in his match averages for disposals, tackles, clearances and polled just the one Brownlow vote for the season.

INS AND OUTS

IN

Ben Brown (from North Melbourne)
2nd-round pick (28), future 4th-round as part of Ben Brown deal
Future 3rd-round pick for Mitch Hannan
Two 1st-round picks (currently 18 & 19) and a future 2nd-round selection (pick swap with Brisbane)

OUT

Mitch Hannan (to Western Bulldogs)
Braydon Preuss (to GWS)
Two 2nd-round picks (26 & 33) and future 4th-round pick (tied to Brisbane) as part of Ben Brown deal
2nd-round pick (25), two 4th-round picks (68 & 69) and a future 1st-round selection (pick swap with Brisbane)

2021 CRYSTAL BALL

The Demons could only be on the up after a strong rise in the league and an impressive trade period.

The acquisition of Ben Brown fills an overwhelming void in Melbourne’s forward structure and will be complemented nicely by Sam Weideman and Luke Jackson.

If Oliver, Petracca, Viney and Brayshaw can remain fit and on their current trajectory, it’s hard to see them losing too many battles in the middle.

Their defense had plenty of positives in 2020 and can be a focal point for their successes in the years to come.