Melbourne finals record, straight sets exit, Simon Goodwin, semi final, premiership list, toughness

You don’t need to look too far to realise what’s on the line for Melbourne on Friday night.

“Oh, 100 per cent (it’s motivating). Going out in straight sets is quite embarrassing,” Dees defender Steven May told in July.

“We thought we were playing unbelievable football coming off a flag … I think we have the list, the culture and the coaching staff, I think we feel like we have everything in place to challenge for a flag.

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“Going out last year kind of felt like a bit of an empty season.”

There is a feeling within the club, then, that a second consecutive straight sets exit would be far from desired.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

No top-four team under the current finals system has gone winless in the finals in consecutive seasons.

That Melbourne is at risk of becoming the first is staggering given the expectations internally and externally given the supreme talent Simon Goodwin has at his disposal.

Hawthorn suffered straight sets exits in both 2016 and 2018 and missed the finals altogether in 2017.

It marked the end of their premiership dynasty and the beginning of the decline that now sees them beginning to build back up again.

The risk of Melbourne grossly underachieving is a view held not just perhaps by fans, but also a number of former premiership players.

Geelong and North Melbourne premiership forward Cameron Mooney has said on multiple occasions the Dees’ list should be challenging for at least one more premiership at a bare minimum.

Mooney has warned this current Melbourne side risks becoming the Essendon of the late 1990s to early 2000s, coming away with one flag when it could’ve easily been two or three.

Five-time premiership Hawk, Dermott Brereton, summed it up recently.

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“They’re way too good, this Melbourne list needs to win another premiership,” he said on SEN Afternoons.

“The talent on this Melbourne list needs to win another premiership for how good they are.

“It’ll be underachieving if they don’t.”

If anything, the Dees’ struggles emphasise even more just how great of an Achilles’ heel their forward woes are proving to be.

The Dees had a staggering 32 more inside 50s than Collingwood in last week’s Qualifying Final, yet lost by seven points.

The ‘holy trinity’ of Max Gawn, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver is led by Gawn with aplomb.

So good has Gawn been this season that he has inadvertently scrapped any possibility of the more forward-heavy role he had at the start of the season flagged alongside Brodie Grundy.

Max Gawn had few come with him early in last week’s final (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Again last week, the captain was enormous, acting as a lone hand in the middle with seven contested possessions in the opening term while Petracca, Oliver and Jack Viney had a combined total of four that quarter.

“They made this Melbourne team look something they haven’t for a long time – that was timid,” former Dees captain Garry Lyon said told On The Couch this week.

“I thought the first 40 minutes from Collingwood, they out-toughed Melbourne.

“This is not an issue for them, they’re not a weak side, they’re not a poor side.

“They’re a contested animal bunch of footballers but by this stage they were down nine (contested possessions) before you blinked your eyes and the superstars were the ones your eyes went to.”

While Lyon believes the Dees are at their core a tough outfit, others are less convinced.

“We saw 12 weeks ago Port Adelaide beat Melbourne and they had a second gamer Ollie Lord dished it up to Max Gawn and physically got into him. Then Zak Butters got into them,” Brereton told AFL 360on Thursday night.

“There is a belief that Melbourne have a bit of a soft underbelly.

“Last week, Collingwood came out and attacked them, and apart for that 20-minute period, Melbourne probably had the better of the night, they just couldn’t peg it on the board.”

Brereton posed the question: “Who’s Melbourne’s nasty piece of work?”

Viney of course springs to mind, but the Dees can’t afford to fall short of a preliminary final two years running given the top-four finishes in both of those seasons.

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