Misfiring Demons reach MCG crossroads against Magpies

Roger Vaughan |

The Demons’ shock loss to the Eagles started alarm bells ringing for Melbourne.
The Demons’ shock loss to the Eagles started alarm bells ringing for Melbourne.

Melbourne have reached their crossroads.

Allan Jeans, the revered four-time AFL premiership coach at St Kilda and Hawthorn, famously explained the concept to his players.

“In every game there’s going to be a crossroads, and when you get to that crossroads you either step up or you step down,” he once bellowed.

With Collingwood lying in wait on Monday to ambush them at their MCG King’s Birthday crossroads, the Demons must deliver.

They have been wounded by successive straight-sets finals exits, beset by off-field problems real and rumoured, and now they’re coming off a 92-point belting from Fremantle.

Their Alice Springs road trip debacle last Sunday was confirmation that their season is spluttering.

Tactical changes that were demanded by their last two barren finals campaigns are not gelling for the 2021 premiers.

Melbourne’s 7-5 record is not shabby, but most pundits expected them to beat Fremantle, just as the Demons were expected to take care of Brisbane at the MCG in round six and West Coast away in round 11.

The footage of Eagles young gun Harley Reid bursting away from Demons star Christian Petracca at a stoppage is destined for the AFL season highlights reel. It might come to symbolise Melbourne’s 2024.

Harley Reid of the Eagles under pressure from Christian Petracca.
Harley Reid’s evasion of Christian Petracca could be seen as symbolic of the Demons’ season. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

The Brisbane and West Coast losses rang alarm bells. The Fremantle capitulation confirms something is rotten at the Demons.

“There are inconsistencies in our game, and that trend has been there for a little while now,” coach Simon Goodwin said immediately after the Fremantle game.

“We understand there are elements within our method that aren’t right..

“This game had nothing to do with personnel – we really need to dig into the ‘why’, the inconsistencies in our group, and that’s coaches, that’s everyone.”

How the Demons would love what happened to Geelong after round five in 2007.

After coach Mark Thompson went close to losing his job a few months earlier, the Cats had made a shaky start to the season and North Melbourne then upset them at home.

It was a bad loss that prompted Matthew Scarlett to famously front the media post-game and make some pointed comments.

The Cats lost one game for the rest of the season on the way to breaking their accursed premiership drought.

Or there’s Richmond, who had managed one goal to St Kilda’s 14 at halftime in round 16 of the 2017 season.

Again, that prompted all sorts of calamity crying. Tigers coach Damien Hardwick is said to have written off the disaster to his players, noting it was a night when nothing could have gone better for St Kilda and nothing went right for Richmond.

Richmond also lost one more game that season on the way to breaking their premiership drought.

The knock on the Demons is that for all their undoubted top-end talent, they’re not enough of a team.

The injury-ravaged Magpies, meanwhile, are acknowledged as being much greater than whatever the sum of their parts.

Collingwood know that all they have to do is stick with Melbourne to three-quarter-time. Craig McRae’s men famously have made a habit of winning tight last quarters.

Step up, or step down? On Monday, Melbourne will reveal much about their 2024 destiny.