As was reported in the Age, the Melbourne team that will take to the field at the beginning of the AFL season will look radically different to the one that experienced so much on-field heartache last year.
With anywhere from six to nine new players entering the side this year, including young guns Jack Viney and Jimmy Toumpas as well as mature-aged players Matt Jones, Dean Terlich, Chris Dawes, Shannon Byrnes and David Rodan, the Demons will be looking for improved results in season 2013.
Although the Demons have made a huge overhaul, this influx of new players may not have the desired effect for Melbourne. Viney and Toumpas have clearly been recruited as the focal points of the Melbourne midfield for the next 10 years. Viney is a bollocking inside player who, barring injury, will see a lot of senior action this year and Toumpas will inject run, carry and flair into the team.
Mature-aged recruits Terlich and Jones were recruited from the VFL and will add some toughness to the fledgling Demons midfield whilst Rodan, Byrnes and Dawes, all experienced AFL players, will bring their skills and nous of the game to the team.
The recruitment of these new players has been astute, as it satisfies two principles: talent and known quantity. More often than not, the best players in the under-18 competitions are high draft picks and go on to become great AFL players and teams need players like this around which to build a side for the future, which Melbourne has uncovered in Toumpas and Viney.
That being said, it has never been more important for teams to recruit players who have proven themselves to be capable of playing at AFL level. Coaches need to know what they are going to get from players, which makes players with previous AFL experience worth their weight in gold. Byrnes, Dawes and Rodan provide just that.
In addition, whilst Jones and Terlich have never played AFL, they have proven themselves in the lower forms of the game.
However, it remains to be seen whether this recruiting will produce immediate results for the Demons. Whilst the added experience of the mature recruits will be a benefit, Rodan is not the player he once was and may find it difficult to have as much of an impact on games as he once did. Dawes struggled in his final season at Collingwood whilst playing in a dual forward/ruck role and it remains to be seen whether being played as a permanent forward will have a positive effect
Viney and Toumpas, whilst talented, are young and inexperienced and it will be several years before Melbourne can rely on them to carry its midfield. Add to this that Terlich and Jones may struggle to translate their excellent VFL form into AFL results and it seems unlikely that the Demons will jump up the ladder this year.
Nevertheless, with its recruiting last year, Melbourne has the makings of a good team. It will take time, perhaps several years, to see on-field results but with an influx of young guns and solid older heads, the Demons are on the right track to success.