For Melbourne players, coaches and fans, Sunday’s 109-point thumping of Carlton was significant – and not just for several statistical reasons. It was also a sign that the wheel may, finally, be about to turn.
Without a finals appearance since 2006, the Demons have been beset by crisis after crisis in a particularly challenging period.
With 12 VFL-AFL premierships to its name, Melbourne is one of the most successful clubs in Australia. Not that you would know that from its record between 2007 and 2015 – a period in which the Demons were thumped by 10 goals or more a staggering 43 times and had seven different coaches, including caretakers.
“The club was on its knees,” former Demon Brent Moloney told The New Daily.
“Not only on the field, but off it as well. It did get really difficult because of the off-field stuff and if things aren’t going right off the field, it’s very difficult to get things right on the field.”
Moloney played 122 matches for Melbourne from 2005 to 2012 and, as a childhood Demons fan, he took the club’s woes particularly hard.
“They were pretty dark days in the end,” he said, referring to the 2012 season in which the club won just four games.
Things would improve, though, as premiership-winning coach Paul Roos arrived on a big-money offer in late 2013 with one thing in mind: fixing the club’s leaky defence.
Moloney is insistent that the club’s culture needed significant improvement, too, and believes Roos helped significantly in that regard.
“They got ‘Roosy’ in to change the culture and change everything, and he’s put in a great stepping stone for Goody [Simon Goodwin] and look what’s happening,” he said.
Roos left Melbourne at the end of 2016, confident he had given Goodwin, one of his assistant coaches, every chance of achieving success in the top job.
And while the Demons missed the finals on percentage last year, the club’s chances of featuring in September 2018 look strong after six wins in the first nine matches of the season.
Melbourne legend David Schwarz, who played 173 games for the club between 1991 and 2002, feels Roos and Goodwin have complemented each other well.
“They’re two very different coaches, one attacking and one defensive,” he told The New Daily.
“I know the players towards the end of Paul Roos’ time at the club were champing at the bit to actually start attacking, so Simon Goodwin has done that, and sometimes I’ve thought Simon was too attacking and let go of a lot of Paul’s defensive mindset.”
Schwarz is happy with the mix this season, though, something the Demons have highlighted in spades over the past month.
In victories over Essendon, St Kilda, Gold Coast and Carlton, Melbourne have kicked 78 goals, conceding just 37 in the process.
The free-flowing nature of football has Demons fans, like Schwarz, excited, and the club sits third on the ladder ahead of a much-anticipated clash against Adelaide in Alice Springs on Sunday.
“They’re starting to understand that you attack at the right time and you defend at the right time, so they’ve got a good blend and they’re playing good footy,” he said.
“You’ve got good kids coming through that are highly gifted and then mixing that in with a number of experienced players from other clubs, with the likes of [Michael] Hibberd, [Jake] Melksham and [Jake] Lever and so forth really helps.”
“It gives you confidence, when the ball goes down back and you’ve got Jordan Lewis, Michael Hibberd and Jake Lever there, [and] it gives the likes of Oscar McDonald and Neville Jetta confidence to start going for their marks or play a little bit off their man.”
While Demons supporters crave another finals appearance, the one thing they are desperate for is the ultimate success.
The club’s premiership drought of 54 years is the longest in the competition, but when asked if Melbourne can follow in the footsteps of the Western Bulldogs and Richmond and win a historic flag, Schwarz remains wary.
“They’ve got the ammunition to win it,” he said. “But they’ll need everything to go their way.”