To say that Paul Roos has a tough task rebuilding the oldest club in the land would be a serious understatement. The Demons have recently been through one the darkest periods in the clubs history, both on and off the field, and are still far from being out of the woods.
They have finished between 12th and 17th on the ladder for seven consecutive seasons and have been belted into submission week in, week out. The besieged boards have sacked three senior coaches in that time, and in 2009 the club was embroiled in the first major example of tanking in the AFL, costing them $500,000.
Last September though, a month when Melbourne supporters have long been taking their Spring holidays, a huge step in the right direction was taken with the appointment of Roos. He has an impeccable record and will always be known in football folklore as the man who broke the 72-year premiership drought for Sydney/South Melbourne supporters.
Not only did he bring the Swans a flag, he also had a big influence on their next premiership with John Longmire his understudy. The brand of football Sydney have made their own is one that Roos will no doubt hope to instil sooner rather than later. High pressure, contested ball and team defence have been hallmarks of the Swans, the 2010 Magpies and more recently Ross Lyon’s Fremantle. Unsurprisingly, we have already seen glimpses of this in Melbourne’s pre-season matches.
Aside from the Hawthorn game, they had two very competitive hit-outs where their percentage averaged out at over 100%. For a team whose percentage has been around the 50s and 60s for years, this would give hope to even the most disgruntled Demon fan. The injection of experience and grunt at the coalface with Daniel Cross and Bernie Vince will provide much needed support to skipper Nathan Jones.
Dom Tyson and Viv Michie are both ball magnets who will provide polish and take the pressure off players like Jack Trengove and Jack Watts. Both players have prodigious talent but have been chewed up and spat out at times by unrelenting media and supporter pressure in their young careers. Nobody is expecting the Demons to make the finals this year or even be up to challenging the best sides in the competition, but they have the right architect building their foundations.
Despite a disappointing loss to St Kilda in round one, where they entered the game without their three best tall forwards and the important Colin Garland at centre half back, the future still looks promising. Melbourne has stated they plan to have a successor in play at some point this year after Roos signed a two-year deal with the option of a third. Who that successor will be is still unknown, but with Roos already assembling his coaching team – including poaching former Swans ally Brett Allison from North Melbourne – you can be sure he won’t let the club make a bad move in following his footsteps.