Mark Robinson: Boring Demons are deep in a hole but how can they reset after the bye?

Jordan Lewis questioned Melbourne’s “boring” game style in Mark Robinson’s weekend column. On Monday, Demons coach Simon Goodwin had his say.

In Robbo’s Saturday column Jordan Lewis questioned Melbourne’s game style, labelling the Demons boring.

Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin responded on Monday morning.

Read Robbo’s full column and Goodwin’s reaction below.

Melbourne premiership coach Simon Goodwin says his team’s method “stacks up” following criticism of the Demons’ “boring” playing style.

The Demons have lost their past three games, and now skipper Max Gawn (ankle) is out for at least the next month.

Their premiership defence now appears shaky, and former Demon Jordan Lewis last week labelled the reigning premier as “predictable.”

“Absolutely …. stop being boring,’’ Lewis said.

“When I’ve watched Melbourne the past three weeks, I’m nearly falling asleep. It’s so predictable. They’re not challenging the opposition to defend in a different way.

“Every side which has played against them in the past three weeks, they’ve defended the same way.’’

The stagnant Demons are ranked No.1 for kicking down the line and ranked last for switching the ball across the ground.

Watch every blockbuster AFL match this weekend Live & Ad-Break Free In-Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >

Simon Goodwin faces a big challenge getting the Demons back on track. Picture: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Simon Goodwin faces a big challenge getting the Demons back on track. Picture: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Goodwin hit back at the ”boring” label when quizzed on Monday.

“We’re pretty clear on the way we want to play,” he said.

“We’ve lost three games in a row but we do know our method stacks and it has stacked up for a period of time.

“There are things we can do within our game to change the way that looks and make sure we’re a little bit more efficient in the way we play.

“But we need to get back to being really strong in our foundations of our game and building some cohesion within our playing group again and getting the players back into their key positions will be really important for us.

“But I don’t believe we’re a boring side, and I think we have certainly got growth in a lot of areas to get better at, but we play a certain way and we’ll back that in.”

Why ‘boring’ Demons are in a deep hole

– Mark Robinson

There’s the technical, the mechanical, the attitude, the opinions and the stats — everybody has a theory about why Melbourne’s season has fallen in a hole.

Jordan Lewis prefers to wrap it all up with one word – boring.

“Absolutely …. stop being boring,’’ Lewis said.

“When I’ve watched Melbourne the past three weeks, I’m nearly falling asleep. It’s so predictable. They’re not challenging the opposition to defend in a different way.

Every side which has played against them in the past three weeks, they’ve defended the same way.’’

Damning stat (i): Melbourne is ranked No.1 for kicking down the line and ranked No.18 for switching the ball across the ground.

“How easy is that to defend?’’ Lewis said.

“It’s so easy. That’s why I think if they can get their ball movement going it, one, makes it harder to defend and, two, it actually energises you as a player.

“So much stems from moving the ball and being less predictable or less programmed.’’

The Demons are ranked No.1 for kicking down the line - and need to stop being boring. Picture: Getty Images
The Demons are ranked No.1 for kicking down the line - and need to stop being boring. Picture: Getty Images

Still, the four-time Hawthorn premiership player — and former Melbourne player — believes the Demons remain strong flag contenders.

They’ve lost the past three matches to Fremantle, Sydney and Collingwood, after winning their previous 17 matches, and their run home is devilish.

On the field, spot fires alight a month ago have become a bushfire. Injuries, boozy fights and boozy bull----, and now the skipper, Max Gawn, sitting out for five weeks at least, has raised the stakes.

Players are out of form and the group lacks zest and energy.

Off the field, the remnants of a civil war between former club president Glenn Bartlett and the current hierarchy is poisonous.

The football department, led by coach Simon Goodwin, who was central to Bartlett’s explosive misgivings the previous summer, can try to distance itself from the goings-on, but that’s impossible.

Distractions can slowly kill footy teams, like a python on a wild boar.

And if Bartlett’s fight gets to the Supreme Court and witnesses inside the club and from the AFL are called to testify, the emotional build up to that showdown won’t be a distraction, it will be a bomb.

Lewis knows the challenge of climbing hurdle after hurdle, because the Demons of 2022 have been presented with a series of hurdles which is not dissimilar to what Hawthorn endured in 2014.

Lewis was the best-and-fairest winner in what was the middle premiership of the famed Hawks three-peat.

But at stages throughout that season, there were a series of setbacks which had the football world questioning if the Hawks had the capacity to go back-to-back, much like what’s happening with the current Demons.

“Reflecting on our time, and bearing in mind at the end of 2013 we lost Franklin before everything else happened in ’14, there were two things we concentrated on,’’ Lewis said.

“One, we needed make top four, so it wasn’t necessarily who was in the side or how we were playing, top four was the goal, so don’t lose sight of that.

“Then once all these issues played out during the season _ and it was probably Brendon Bolton who had the best slogan. It was: We needed everybody to be reliable, not remarkable.

“When things go wrong, everybody naturally thinks they’ve got to do more, when it’s quite the opposite.

“So, when Goody speaks about the system, as he did on AFL360 on Monday night, it’s exactly that. That is the most predictable thing you can do for your teammates.’’

Damning stat (ii): Melbourne is ranked 18th for pressure.

How can that be? The ferocious pressure on the opposition was a trademark in 2021, that and explosive ball movement after the Demons wore down their opponents and then obliterated in the final 45 minutes.

Lewis is confident the Demons can turn it around.

“I watch them and I think Goody is exactly right, it’s the system they’re playing and not the personnel,’’ Lewis said.

Former Hawks captain Luke Hodge said virtually the same about the Hawks in 2014. ‘’Clarko has had that mindset — it doesn’t matter who goes out there, whether it’s a senior player or not, whoever goes out there in the 22 plays their role,’’ Hodge told the Herald Sun on the eve of the preliminary final.

Theories abound about Goodwin’s team.

One theory is opposition speed ahead of the ball has exposed them in the past three weeks.

Another theory is there’s a connection breakdown between the mids and forwards, and that midfield guns like Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver have become long bombers which is predictable and easy to defend.

Clayton Oliver has become a long bomber which is predictable and easy to defend Picture: Getty Images
Clayton Oliver has become a long bomber which is predictable and easy to defend Picture: Getty Images

Another theory is opposition defenders aren’t getting sucked up the ground, which a) keeps defensive numbers in the F50 and b) doesn’t allow Melbourne to play a speed game from half-back.

Another theory is the Demons have been worked out – and that’s what happens to the best teams under opposition microscope.

Lewis believes an adjustment rather than an overhaul was needed, and that the foot injury to Gawn could be a positive.

“If Gawn is down the line, then they think I will kick it down the line, because he will provide a mark or contest,” Lewis said

“Now, they don’t have that get-out kick. Jackson is not a great pack mark, Ben Brown is not a great pack mark, so that option is pretty much off the table.

“That promotes moving the ball in a different manner.

“The sides who are doing well right now are the sides who are offensively good. Good teams change the angles, use the whole ground.

“And as I said, when I’ve watched Melbourne the past three weeks, I’ve nearly fallen asleep.’’

Lewis can’t discount motivation at this time of the season, either.

He says they can win the flag – “yeah, definitely,’’ he said – but this bye break is crucial.

“It’s time for players to reflect and then focus,’’ he said.

“The character of the group will focus on the opportunity in front of them.’’

Lewis was the first to put on the agenda the issue of players who played in a flag compared to those who haven’t, which was the backdrop to Steven May’s punch-up with teammate Jake Melksham.

That Jake Melksham used violence and escaped punishment is another story. Picture: Getty Images
That Jake Melksham used violence and escaped punishment is another story. Picture: Getty Images

That Melksham used violence to defend himself and escaped real punishment, as opposed Richmond’s Shai Bolton in 2021 using violence to defend his teammate who was defending his girlfriend – and being fined $20,000 for doing it – is another story.

That May verbally niggled as he did – which Leigh Matthews called “appalling’’was against squad ethos.

“When I got to Hawthorn, everything was a hierarchy around games played,’’ Lewis said.

“So, if you played more games you got better massage time, you got better this, you got better that.

“What you try to do is level things out.

“If you played 300 games, or played in the premiership, it didn’t matter. It was all based on other things that gave an even playing field.

“But there is an underlying current that people know _ you played in the flag or you didn’t. It is what it is.’’

That said, he suspects the May incident won’t derail the season.

“Anyone who has come across him, it’s not out of character, but it was a bizarre comment to make,’’ Lewis said.

“I wouldn’t expect it to take too long to get over. I think he’s a quality person, I really like him as a person.’’

Originally published as Mark Robinson: Boring Demons are deep in a hole but how can they reset after the bye?