The Melbourne Demons will be hoping to go one better in 2018 after narrowly missing out on the grand final in the inaugural AFLW season. Though they fell short of the final by one place, some handy additions to complement their already talented list should see them be one of the major players once again.
The Coach: Mick Stinear
The Captain: Daisy Pearce
It was a year of ‘so close, yet so far’ for both Melbourne sides in 2017, but disappointment often breeds hunger in this game of ours. This along with the Demons’ astute trading over the off-season has the makings of a massive year for them. Bianca Jakobbson joins the red and blue from Carlton, and will serve as a strong forward target that the Demons lacked at times last season. This stems the bleeding of losing talented youngster Deanna Berry, whose trade compensation (pick 12) was able to be on-traded for Jakobbson. Former basketballer draftee Tegan Cunningham (selected at pick 22) will help in a similar regard and is earmarked for a key forward role at the Dees.
Melbourne also nabbed Ashleigh Guest for Maddy Boyd and Pepa Randall, who should provide rebound from half-back and add depth to the Dees’ elite midfield stocks. Admittedly, she may find it hard to slot into the opening bounce brigade featuring Daisy Pearce, Karen Paxman and Elise O’Dea. These three will have a crucial role to play again this season, as this elite midfield group is the Demons’ greatest asset.
Say hello 👋 to some familiar faces! #6 @daisypearce6 & #18 @melissahickey18 joined the Dees in 2016 as marquee players 💪 Midfielder Daisy captained the inaugural side & won best captain award for 2017 🙌🌟 Mel, a defender, made a splash in 2017 capping the season with All-Australian honours 👏💯 #DreamBigger #AFLW
Where they sat in 2017:
It was a shattering first year for Melbourne, falling agonisingly short of a grand final berth. In fact, it was just 16% on the ladder that separated eventual premiers Adelaide with Melbourne, but they certainly had their chance to face- off against the Lions.
It is perhaps unfair to say one game ‘cost’ the Dees a grand final spot, but when you consider this game was against the wooden spoon winners, it becomes a far more reasonable statement. A grubby, five-point loss against the Giants away from home (3.2.20 to 1.9.15) was their only slip-up in 2017 — their other loss came to Brisbane in Round one, but it was oh, so devastating.
The year certainly shouldn’t be defined by one game, though, as Melbourne fought gallantly throughout. They defeated the Crows in a nail-biter at TIO Stadium, held off competitors Carlton, Western Bulldogs and Collingwood and thumped Fremantle to the tune of 54-points to end the season.
In: Bianca Jakobsson (Carlton); Ashleigh Guest (GWS), Kate Hore (rookie), Eden Zanker (pick 6), Madeleine Guerin (pick 14), Tegan Cunningham (pick 22), Claudia Whitford (pick 30).
Out: Pepa Randall and Maddy Boyd (GWS); Deanna Berry (Western Bulldogs); Jess Anderson, Mia-Rae Clifford, Harriet Cordner, Stephanie De Bortoli, Sarah Jolly and Elise Strachan (delisted).
The preseason so far:
Melbourne got off to an absolute flyer in their recent practice match against the Pies — a sign of what’s likely to come this season. The Dees booted 5.5 to Collingwood’s 2.0 in the first half, with Pearce and Paxman at their dominant best. However, it was at this point that Melbourne struggled.
Once their stars were rested in the second quarter, the Pies were able to come back from a 29-point third quarter deficit to win by three points. While it probably isn’t anything to worry about coming into the season, it is perhaps a concern for Melbourne’s depth.
Who to watch:
Possibly the most interesting draftee to watch this season is rookie Erin Hoare. The 194cm giant comes into the competition as the tallest AFLW player, and is set to assist Lauren Pearce in the ruck — or perhaps leap-frog her into the number one ruck spot. The former Melbourne Vixen is fairly new to the game, but the Herculean Hoare has already impressed for Geelong in the VFLW.
Tegan Cunningham is another who is the frame for a round one debut after her eye-catching three-goal haul in the Demons’ recent practice match.
Bianca Jakobbson could almost be the difference for the Dees in 2018 and should benefit from having the ball being drilled inside-50 frequently from Pearce and co.
Daisy Pearce is one of the best to watch in the competition, so she would have to fall into this category. If her AFL Women’s All Star performance is anything to go by (37 disposals), then she is in for a monster 2018. I would back her to finish in the top five for the league best and fairest, which she failed to do last year.
"I watched so much footy growing up it just absorbed into me. The moment quarter time hit, I'd be out on the grass imagining I was on the MCG. The more I kicked, the more I hand balled, the more I marked, the better I got. AFL just made me happy." ✨💯 @melbournefc Elise O'dea is daring to put in the work to make her footy dreams come true. 💪 Will you join her in 2018? #DareToCreate #AFLW @eliseodea
How the Dees fare in the first half of the season will determine their success to a large degree. Melbourne face three of last year’s bottom-four in this period, with their toughest test being the Crows at home. A win in this round two encounter will be a massive statement and show that the red and the blue mean business in 2018.
On the flip side, losses to the Giants (home) and the Dockers (away) might cost them dearly in the back end of the season, where they play Brisbane (home), Carlton (away) and the Western Bulldogs (away).
— Melbourne FC (@melbournefc) January 25, 2018
Author’s prediction: (1 or 2 pars)
It is difficult not to get bias when doing a write-up, but I’m bullish about what the Dees can do this year. I see them featuring in the grand final and possibly taking it out.
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