Melbourne’s season ended in disappointment, with the club failing to replicate 2021’s successful finals campaign, ultimately going out in straight sets.
Brisbane managed to down the reigning premiers, despite trailing by game-high 28 points in the second term, as the Demons gave up yet another lead, a trend that has troubled the side consistently in the second half of the season.
Coach Simon Goodwin was bullish about his club’s chances of going back-to-back, which was fuelled by their success early in the year, resulting in 10 wins to open the year.
Extending their winning streak to 17 (seven in 2021), the Demons sat two games clear after round 10 and looked unstoppable, sitting with a 161.7 percentage.
Rarely challenged throughout that streak, punters had Melbourne winning successive premierships and were well ahead of the next best team.
However, something happened from the outside looking in that altered the season and unfortunately derailed the club’s year.
Following back-to-back disappointing losses at the MCG to Fremantle in round 11 by 38 points and Sydney (round 12) by 13 points, the Demons were involved in off-field drama that seemed to spark tension within.
Steven May and Jake Melksham were reported to have engaged in physical conflict at a restaurant in Prahran.
May, who missed the Swans clash with a concussion injury, was banned for the Queen’s Birthday Clash with Collingwood.
As a result of the ‘scuffle’, Melksham had to undergo hand surgery due to an infection in his hand, adding to the turmoil building at Melbourne.
Breaking – Steven May has been suspended by Melbourne for one-match for getting into an altercation with teammate Jake Melksham on Sunday night while drinking. Both had been drinking. May was still in concussion procotols and shouldn’t have been drinking @7NewsMelbourne @7AFL
— Mitch Cleary (@cleary_mitch) June 7, 2022
The side had lost two games in a row and faced a raging Magpie outfit on one of the biggest stages in the home-and-away season, celebrating the Big Freeze for its eighth edition at the MCG.
In what was a turning point for Collingwood in 2022, it was met with more pain for the Demons, who were replaced by Brisbane in top spot and went into the bye with three consecutive losses.
Skipper Max Gawn was injured and missed a month of football as things went from bad to worse.
A week off seemed to work wonders for the reigning premiers, who returned from the mid-season break in telling fashion, smashing the Lions by 64 points and Adelaide by 29 points to reclaim first position.
Heading down the highway to face Geelong for a top of the table clash, Melbourne were almost at full strength and welcomed back Gawn and Luke Jackson to the senior side.
Aside from leading early in the first term, the Demons weren’t up to the task and once again gave up the title ladder leaders.
What ensued from there showcased Melbourne’s best but also their worst.
They took down Port Adelaide but then fell to the Western Bulldogs, despite leading by 27 points in the second quarter.
The club then travelled to Perth to face the Dockers and displayed why they were still favourite to win the flag, getting revenge on the Purple Haze in a dominating performance away from home.
With three rounds remaining, Melbourne had dates with Collingwood, Carlton and Brisbane to complete the season.
While top two was still up for grabs, the Pies were able to recreate their round 13 triumph in one of the best home-and-away games of the season.
Sitting third with the potential to fall to sixth, the Demons were able to steal four points against Carlton and put a four-quarter performance against the Lions in round 23.
By a matter of percentage, Melbourne held onto a home qualifying final at the MCG, with Sydney awaiting the task.
What started as hopeful for fans, Goodwin’s men jumped out to a 16 points in the second quarter but quickly gave up that lead.
In a see-sawing affair, the Swans put six goals to five in the premiership quarter, extending their margin to 12 points into the final change.
Melbourne’s fault in 2022 has been their second halves and their inability to put scores on the board.
The Demons kicked four behinds to two goals in the final term, only to lose by 22 points against a superior Sydney outfit.
An opportunity goes begging, but a second chance is given to those who finish in the top four.
Facing Brisbane at the MCG, all signs pointed to Melbourne in the preliminary final with Geelong, given the Lions’ hoodoo of the Demons and the ground.
In spectacular fashion, Chris Fagan’s men were able to overcome a 28-point deficit to win by 13 points, all thanks to an 11-major second half to five.
A straight sets exit was now official and the opportunity to go back-to-back was gone.
A season that started so brightly ultimately ended in disarray.
Melbourne’s future looks prosperous, with the club having locked away some of their stars for the remainder of their careers.
Christian Petracca signed until 2029, Clayton Oliver (2030), Angus Brayshaw (2028), Bayley Fristch (2026), Max Gawn (2025), Harrison Petty (2025), Charlie Spargo (2025), Jack Viney (2025), Christian Salem (2026) has Demon fans excited.
Despite their semi final loss, Melbourne still has plenty to work with for years 2023 and beyond.
Their core group of players have committed to the club for long-term and will help serve the Demons for seasons to come.
A straight set exit has to sting, especially given the club had its chances.
Melbourne led in both games, with the more recent against Brisbane being disappointing to say the least.
Ironically, the Lions was the last team to go out in straight sets back in 2019, while Hawthorn suffered back-to-back defeats in the finals series, with the Demons sending them home early.
Luke Jackson imminent departure
Ruckman Jackson looks highly likely to request a trade to Fremantle, who were also defeated in the semi final over the weekend.
Originally from Western Australia, the 20-year-old appears to be wanting to go home.
Looking like a star in the making, Melbourne will rue the loss of Jackson if the trade is to be bartered between the two clubs.
Winning the 2021 Rising Star and being a key cog in the drought-breaking premiership, Jackson will be sorely missed.
Giving up leads
A damning stat throughout 2022 was Melbourne’s inability to put teams away, with the club losing eight of its last 14 matches of the year.
Known to put sides to the sword last year, including the prelim and grand finals, the Demons often found themselves ahead in games but fell short to their opposition.
On seven occasions, Melbourne led by 16 points or more at one stage throughout the game but failed to complete the deal.
Fremantle in round 11 trailed by 30 points before storming home to steak victory at the MCG.
More recently, the Lions were down by 28 on the eve of half-time.
The Western Bulldogs had fallen behind by 27 points, before Jamarra Ugle-Hagan stepped up, kicking five goals and leading his side to a famous win.
Sydney were also trailing in round 12 (26 points) and the qualifying final (16 points) to be victorious.
While Collingwood also punished Melbourne twice in 2022, overcoming 22 point (round 13) and 23 point (round 20) margins.
What do Melbourne need?
A key forward.
Melbourne’s biggest downfall in 2022 was their key forwards, with Ben Brown, Sam Weideman and Mitch Brown not performing to the standard required.
Aside from Fristch and Kysaiah Pickett – who combined for 96 goals – Brown put 30 majors for the year, while Weideman struggled to cement a spot in the senior side.
The absence of Tom McDonald caused stress up forward, while Gawn and Jackson’s presence inside 50 was next to nothing.
Melbourne ranked sixth for Points For (1936) in 2022, averaging 88 points per game after the bye but failed to put a winning score together in the finals.
Players linked to the club
Brodie Grundy is the only player that has been linked to the reigning premiers Melbourne, with the club looking likely to secure the two-time All-Australian, albeit if Luke Jackson departs.
Grundy, who’s contracted at Collingwood until the end of 2027, is expected to be traded away from the AIA Centre in a bid to free up some salary space.
What now appears on offer is having a pairing of the game’s best ruckman over the past five seasons, with Gawn and Grundy sharing AA jackets.
|Mitch Brown||Unrestricted Free Agent|
|Jayden Hunt||Unrestricted Free Agent|
Retirees and Delistings
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