Coach Simon Goodwin insists there’s still plenty for battling Melbourne to build upon as he prepares to unleash returning ruckman Max Gawn in a tall tandem.
Gawn is a certain starter in Sunday’s AFL clash with the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium, having missed last week’s win over Carlton with a rolled ankle.
The 208cm star will be partnered with 206cm ruck-forward Braydon Preuss for just the third time since Preuss arrived at the Demons during the off-season.
Preuss will play mostly forward in a move designed to alleviate the absence of Tom McDonald, who booted six goals last week before suffering a likely season-ending knee injury.
It’s an opportunity that has Goodwin excited as the 16th-placed Demons looks to salvage whatever they can from the remaining seven rounds of what has been a miserable comedown from last year’s preliminary final berth.
“We’ve been wanting to do it for a little while now, to get both in the same team,” Goodwin said.
“Braydon has been a much-improved player for us at VFL level. This gives us that opportunity.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how they build a good combination together.”
The Dees are also set to reinforce their backline with Jake Lever and Neville Jetta expected to return from their respective knee injuries.
“We’re really comfortable with where those guys are at, and we think they’re going to add to the experience in our team,” Goodwin said.
“We’ve been incredibly young this year, so to get them back is going to be really important.”
The Demons’ drop-off this year has been dramatic but the club has indicated it will not commission the kind of major external review other clubs have turned to in similar circumstances.
Goodwin noted the club had been steadily improving in previous years, insisting their performance this season would prove to be an outlier.
“Not too many clubs have improved continuously for five or six years in a row,” he said.
“We understood this time would come. But what we’ve been able to (do), especially in the last five or six weeks, is re-establish what’s really important to us as a footy club and start building again.
“The last three weeks especially, we’ve seen some progression and we want to keep that going.”