Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin says an “emptiness” has washed over his players in the wake of a second straight-sets finals exit in two years, but is adamant the Demons can continue to improve with their current list.
The heartbreaking two-point defeat to Carlton on Friday night means Melbourne has become the first top four team to bow out in the semi-finals in consecutive years under the modern finals system, although Goodwin says the back-to-back top four finishes are reason for optimism regardless of the outcome.
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“When you set yourself up (with) an opportunity to perform strongly in finals and you lose twice in straight sets, there’s going to be criticism out there,” he said.
“But as a footy club, we know we’ve got a list that’s building, and we’re going to continue to add to that … but it just doesn’t happen, it’s hard to do, and a lot has to go right.
“We certainly won’t be looking backwards. Once we step into next year we’ll be looking forward to the future about what’s possible.”
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Goodwin said the season-ending injuries to Harrison Petty and Jake Melksham along with Jacob van Rooyen’s suspension had severely affected the Demons’ ability to score in the two defeats.
“Clearly our personnel was a struggle late in the year, a lot happened late in the year for us in terms of Petty, Melksham and van Rooyen going out this week,” he said.
“We’ve had some challenges in front of the ball and we didn’t have a lot to select from in that space, so that was a challenge. But we had opportunities with the ball … and we didn’t take them.”
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The decision to include Josh Schache as the sub after only two senior games this season appeared to backfire when the former Bulldog was not used, with Carlton sub Ollie Hollands making a significant impact with his outside run when he entered the game in the final quarter.
Fox Footy’s Garry Lyon described the call as “curious” while Jordan Lewis suggested Schache had potentially been included as injury cover for Max Gawn.
Goodwin confirmed as much post-game, telling reporters his inclusion had been necessary to cover for Gawn, who he confirmed had broken his big toe in the qualifying final.
“(Gawn) was never in doubt, he trained fully, but when you take one ruckman in … he had a broken big toe, but it was something he trained with all week and played with tonight,” he said.
“We just needed some coverage with our talls to make sure we could get through the game.”
The coach said he would meet with Brodie Grundy next week for a “really good conversation” about his impending departure from the club, while he said the Demons would again look at attracting players from other clubs to improve their list.
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“I’m feeling like probably every other Melbourne supporter, and all the players who are sitting next door – they are pretty shattered, obviously,” Goodwin said.
“When you lose finals and your season finishes, there’s certainly an emptiness about the group, and there’s adversity that we’ll have to work through.
“What I can guarantee our supporters is we will continue to find ways to get better. That can be through our method, that can be through our personnel … trade, draft, free agency, whatever that might look like – we’ll be a club that pursues getting better.”