Melbourne is the team that’s poised to elevate themselves into September action in 2018, according to 1992 All-Australian Mick McGuane.
The Demons came agonisingly close to breaking their finals drought in 2017, missing the top eight by less than a percent. A 16-point defeat to Collingwood in Round 23, combined with West Coast’s 29-point win over Adelaide on that same weekend, meant Melbourne were September spectators for the 11th straight season.
However, the number of close games the Dees lost gives McGuane confidence Simon Goodwin’s men can reverse the trend next year, if they can make refinements at both ends of the ground.
“The reason why I think they can make that quantum leap is they lost six games this year by under three goals, in which three of them were under a goal,” he told SEN Mornings.
“I thought they were pretty good last year on most occasions.
“The big challenge for them is to improve three goals in attack and concede less than two goals in defence. Then we are talking a top-four team.
“They’ve got a fairly good draw; out of the top eight, they only play the Cats and Crows twice.
“They also play St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs twice, so they’ve got to win both those games because they’re around the mark with them knocking the door down to get into the top eight.”
Melbourne had a busy trade period, acquiring the services of Jake Lever and Harley Balic, while trading 2008 number one draft pick Jack Watts to Port Adelaide for the 31st selection in last month’s draft. The Demons picked Bayley Fritsch with that selection.
Despite the ins and outs, McGuane says the return of an internal Demon could be the most important addition to the 2018 line-up.
“If Jesse Hogan comes back into that team fully fit, and can replicate his form of two-to-three years ago, and increase on his 10 games played this year, he will be a magnificent inclusion,” the 1990 Collingwood premiership player said.
“We know he is a competitive beast that is capable of kicking 40-50 goals.
“He will complement Jeff Garlett, who kicked 42 goals this year.
“You can form a really strong team around a couple of key forwards. What Simon Goodwin will be really strongly assessing this year is Tom McDonald and Hogan as the two key planks in the front half.”
Along with the bolstered forward line, McGuane reckons Melbourne’s quality and depth across the field gives Goodwin all the weapons he needs to get the Demons into the finals
“They will get more improvement from a Michael Hibberd, who had a fantastic season, and will be better served,” he said.
“They got a fantastic recruit down back in Lever who can give them that intercept ability. He will complement Hibberd and Jayden Hunt. Sam Frost can play back, Oscar McDonald can play back, Neville Jetta, Christian Salem, Josh Wagner, and Angus Brayshaw can play off halfback.
“They got a tough midfield group. Max Gawn is a fantastic ruckman and Nathan Jones, Jack Viney and Clayton Oliver are bulls and can win their own footy.
“Christian Petracca can elevate his game if he is fully fit. Mitch Hannan is a very good player.
“You have the leadership and guile of Jordan Lewis, who knows what it takes to get to September.
“Jake Melksham is another name who can play a significant role on or off the ball. Alex Neal-Bullen is one of those players who can add speed and damage across the lines.”
The Dees begin their 2018 campaign on Sunday March 25 against Gary Ablett’s Geelong outfit at the MCG.
Did you miss Mick McGuane’s chat with Michael Christian on SEN Mornings? Take a listen in the player below!