AFL 1 year ago

When a loss becomes a lesson

  • When a loss becomes a lesson

    PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JULY 23: Nathan Jones of the Demons looks to pass the ball during the round 18 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Melbourne Demons at Domain Stadium on July 23, 2016 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Nothing gets the blood boiling quite like a loss when the team should have taken the four points instead.

The Demons are one such example, after their game against West Coast. By no means are they the first team to have lost a game when they displayed such numbers of dominance (I'll touch on that later), but it does highlight quite a few concerns that the club still has going forward.

The Dees, yesterday, were victims of a hit and run from the Eagles, having lost despite having 29 more inside-50s (the third greatest differential in a loss in history), while also having 101 more disposals inside their forward half. Put simply, it was a shellacking on the stats sheet, but not on the one thing that matters in football - the scoreboard.

Previously, only two teams were able to enjoy a greater inside-50 differential, yet managed to lose a game that, they, perhaps had had in their keeping. Last season, Hawthorn set a new record in their loss to Port Adelaide in Round Five, having had a staggering 36 more inside-50s than the Power, yet fell by eight points.

Ironically, the Demons were on the positive side of the ledger of the second highest inside-50 differential, which saw the Bombers have 33 more inside-50s when the two sides met in Round 13, 2014. Of course, all Demon fans know what happened, Christian Salem kicking the winning goal with just 19 seconds left to give the Demons a one point victory.

So, this result then. What does it highlight for the Demons?

There's still a lot of work to be done.
And this is the biggest point that has to be made. The Demons are on a positive slant which has been highlighted en masse by the footy media this year. However, there are still some frustrating results thrown in to the good moments in 2016. The loss to Essendon goes without much saying - perhaps the Dees, then, on numbers, were a bit lucky not to lose by more than 13 points.

There's also tight losses to the Roos, Crows and now the Eagles - all three games going right down to the wire at different stages of the last quarter. Win all four of those games and the Dees are right in the finals equation. However, in saying that, the Dees are also the youngest side on paper this season, and will very much learn from these experiences.

The kicking inside 50 needs working on
Perhaps the most obvious point of the lot, the kicking inside 50 was simply atrocious from the Demons, and it's an indictment on the midfield they are building - one that (when it reaches its eventual nadir) includes Nathan Jones, Bernie Vince, Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver and Jack Viney (perhaps Dion Prestia could be added to the mix next season?)

In saying that, reinforcements are set to be added - coming from outside the midfield itself. There's a reason why Michael Hibberd is very much in demand at Demonland - his ball use coming out from the back half is quality and he seems to be the ideal replacement for Heritier Lumumba, who's time at the club is rather clouded at the moment.

With the potential addition of Hibberd, plus Jake Melksham returning next season, the Demons have two ball users who were able to produce their best football under Simon Goodwin, as well as development coach Brendon McCartney, which is worth looking forward to for Demon fans.

On the other side of the field, the Dees are also building a solid forward line to allow the midfielders to hit targets more often.

While Jesse Hogan is the obvious man up front whom the Dees are building around, the form of Sam Weideman and Liam Hulett in the VFL is well ahead of schedule, and with another pre-season in their legs, may eventually force the Dees' hand to replace someone like Chris Dawes.

Add to that, the much improved form of Jack Watts and the pace of Dean Kent and perhaps in the future, Melbourne will be able to put a score on the board from repeat inside 50 entries.

The defense is too easy to score against
This is the other part of the equation. When a team concedes precious few inside 50s as the Dees did against the Eagles, it would be imperative for them to not concede so often. While the Dees were dominant through the midfield, once the ball went inside West Coast's forward 50, their dangerous forward line of Kennedy, LeCras, Darling and Hill went to work, and managed to make the most of their opportunities.

The Demons still have to build a defense which can last for another 10 years, and are building a solid foundation with Tom McDonald, brother Oscar and Sam Frost. However, with Sydney maintaining interest in both McDonald brothers, it is also imperative that the Demons re-sign both brothers to ensure that they can build their defensive structure as planned.

With more experience, the defense will hold it's own in coming years.

Most importantly, these results turn into wins with more experience.
At the end of the day, the Demons will take these results and will transform their game accordingly to ensure that they do not drop games they dominate.

It was even a factor in their game against Fremantle just a few short weeks ago - the Demons truly dominant on the stats sheet, but were unable to translate that into a big percentage boosting win.

However, with every passing game, the Demons will be able to learn a lot more about their prowess as footballers.

Perhaps next year, when the Dees meet the Eagles again, could the result be very different.
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