Rarely has a premiership contender found itself with such a recognisable issue, but such an opportunity to solve it.
The forward line was Melbourne’s biggest issue throughout 2023 and ultimately their undoing with another straight finals exit. Simon Goodwin didn’t have one of the game’s elite key forwards to turn to as his side kicked no more than 87 points in the last five games.
Brodie Grundy hasn’t been trusted as a permanent forward, Jacob Van Rooyen is in just his second year, while Tom McDonald and Ben Brown’s bodies have let them down across the year.
But trading Luke Jackson last year sees the Demons with two first round and two second round picks in the 2023 National Draft, while Brodie Grundy’s impending exit will net more draft capital and further salary cap space.
It’s all set up for Melbourne to get creatively aggressive in the 2023 Trade Period, Gerard Whateley believes.
“Go for somebody who is not available and just see what happens. You’ve got the money, you’ve got the draft capital and you’ve got the sell,” he explained of Melbourne on SEN’s Whateley.
“They are in the window to win another flag with another key forward up forward. They should be a predator, 100 per cent they should do it.
“Pick whichever target you want and go hell for leather at them in the next 14 days.”
Whateley added: “It’s only because they’ve got this suite of picks they wouldn’t normally have and they’ve got salary cap space, which is highly unusual for the circumstance they’re in and they’ve got a deficiency.”
The Demons are expected to remain in the premiership window for several years to come. None of Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca, Jake Lever, Bayley Fritsch, Angus Brayshaw, Kysaiah Pickett are over 27 years old, while Jack Viney (29) Steven May (31) and Max Gawn (31) are showing no signs of slowing down.
All of Jamarra Ugle Hagan, Logan McDonald, Aaron Naughton, Ben King, Oscar Allen, Jesse Hogan and Tim Membrey are coming out of contract next year and SEN’s Tom Morris pondered whether the Demons could wait a year before targeting one of those players.
“There is a suite of key forwards (available next year) and Melbourne had the draft capital, if they want, to try and pick one of them out,” he added.
“Could they convince Tom Hawkins to come over for one year? Pay him reasonable money and see if that will solve their problems for one year, and then at the end of 2024 try and get one of those key forwards out of their club.”
No Demon has kicked more than 50 goals in the home and away season since Brad Green in 2010.
Melbourne takes picks 5, 13, 24 and 32 into the 2023 draft and are tipped to allow Grundy to depart to Sydney in exchange for a second round pick.
Listen to the full discussion below