Demons’ lack of fight without top-end stars is concerning

Demons’ lack of fight without top-end stars is concerning

By Lance Jenkinson

What a letdown Melbourne was in its final AAMI Community Series game before the 2021 AFL season.

The undermanned Demons could be excused for losing to the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium, but the manner of the defeat was so disappointing for their fans.

Starting the game without midfield stars Jack Viney, Clayton Oliver and Angus Brayshaw, defensive driving force Christian Salem and key forwards Ben Brown and Sam Weideman undoubtedly had the Dees on the back foot before the ball was bounced.

Nobody was ringing the bookies and plonking big dollars on a Demons victory with that kind of personnel missing.

However, in the past, too much of the work has been left to too few at Melbourne. In particular, Viney, Oliver and Brayshaw have been forced to carry a load of the load for the Demons.

Without the three midfield bulls, this was a big chance for other Demons to step up and they failed miserably.

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Melbourne players trudge off after their heavy loss.

Western Bulldogs battered the unaccountable Demons at the coal face.

Jack Macrae, Marcus Bontempelli, Tom Liberatore and Josh Dunkley did as they pleased.

They are all quality players for the Bulldogs, but there was a serious lack of pressure from the Demons.

You might get beaten for talent, but that is only acceptable if the effort is on an even keel.

Barring a brief period in the second quarter, Melbourne showed a serious lack of fight in this game.

There seemed to be little desire from the Demons players to step up and fill the voids left by the stars on the sidelines.

They were directionless at times – bereft of on-field leadership and it has to be questioned what solutions were being presented at the quarter and half time breaks.

Sure, Melbourne will be a much more competitive unit when the stars come back, but will they merely slip into their old habits of overly relying on those star players?

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Christian Petracca gets a handball away for Melbourne.

Are the Demons destined for another so-so season that saw them finish ninth last year?

It would be sad if that was the case because of the elite talent at the top end of their list.

Players like Viney, Oliver, Salem, Max Gawn, Christian Petracca, Alex Neal-Bullen, Bailey Fritsch and Nathan Jones can only take the Demons so far and should be playing finals football.

That will only happen when the Demons get a lift from their second tier players. Above all, they need consistency in their performances.

In the loss to the Bulldogs on Monday, Ed Langdon provided outstanding work rate in the midfield, Neal-Bullen stood up physically when the chips were down, Fritsch bagged three goals, Gawn fought hard in the ruck and Steven May and Jake Lever were rock solid at the back, but there was little excitement factor from the young Demons.

It’s time for the young Dees – and some not-so-young – to step up and not get left behind.

Lance Jenkinson

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