Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin is confident his players can handle the pressure of breaking the club’s 57-year premiership drought, and says their long-suffering fans are a motivating factor.
The Demons booked a spot in the September 25 grand final at Optus Stadium with a crushing 83-point win over Geelong in Friday night’s preliminary final in Perth.
It will be Melbourne’s first grand final since the 60-point loss to Essendon in the 2000 premiership decider.
The Demons’ last flag came back in 1964, when they beat Collingwood by four points.
Goodwin is well aware of the painfully long drought, and what it would mean to Demons supporters if it could be broken this year.
Instead of shying away from the pressure, Goodwin is embracing it, talking openly with his players about the opportunity to make history.
“Every club faces a form of pressure in big games. Our pressure comes from not winning a premiership in 57 years,” Goodwin said.
“It’s something we have spoken about, how we deal with expectation in the past two years.
“We have prepared our players for that. Nothing will change in that space.
“I sit here thinking about all our supporters back home. I think about all the hard times they’ve been through, and we get an opportunity now to do something really special.”
The fact that most of Melbourne’s die-hard supporters won’t be able to witness the grand final in person due to Victoria’s lockdown is another aspect Goodwin is well aware of.
“We would love for them to be here, we’d love to be doing it in front of our home supporters,” Goodwin said.
“But they should be proud of their team. We are doing this for them.
“We want to make them so proud of their footy club that they can sit and enjoy a drink together and understand they have a strong footy club.”
Melbourne will enter the premiership decider with effectively two recent byes under their belt – the bye they earned for winning the qualifying final, and this year’s bye before the grand final.
Goodwin doesn’t see that as a negative.
“It gives us three or four days to take a breath, understand where we sit, and understand the opportunity that’s in front of us, and tune away from footy for three or four days,” he said.
“There’s no question come next Friday or Saturday there will be a good style of match simulation that will take place that will get our players in a great frame of mind for the week ahead.”
The Demons will be sweating on the fitness of star defender Steven May, who injured his right hamstring in the first quarter against Geelong.
May played on until the third quarter before being subbed out once the result was safe.
Goodwin says early indications suggest that it’s a back-related hamstring injury, and adds that he’s quietly confident May will be fit to play in the grand final.