Melbourne great Garry Lyon has identified exactly where it went wrong for the Demons in the AFL finals after dismissing suggestions that the Angus Brayshaw concussion derailed their campaign. Brayshaw was knocked out by Collingwood's Brayden Maynard in controversial circumstances in week one of the finals and was unable to return as Melbourne crashed out in week two against Carlton.
It saw the Demons become the first team ever to suffer back-to-back straight-sets exits under the current finals system. Alarmingly for Melbourne, they have now lost four finals matches in a row after their breakthrough premiership in 2021, with critics slamming the Demons' lack of composure in the latter stages of a semi-final most thought they should have won against Carlton.
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Herald Sun AFL reporter Jon Ralph claimed on Monday that senior figures at the Melbourne club felt the emotionally charged reality of the Brayshaw incident was a huge factor behind their finals exit. Brayshaw has a history of concussions and there were initial fears around his future in the sport after the sickening incident.
Ralph said it had a flow-on effect that club figures think ultimately put paid to the Demons' finals hopes. “A strong belief from senior figures still a week on is that the Angus Brayshaw furore derailed their finals pitch,” he told Fox Footy's On the Couch.
“That the players were shell shocked to witness Brayshaw concussed and laid out cold. So Jacob van Rooyen suspended because he was trying to basically physically intimidate the opposition, the Kossie Pickett first half brain fades this week. Him trying to impose himself. Some would say it’s a cop out, but it is something senior figures have expressed. There are people that feel like they just were discombobulated by it.”
Former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley says he wasn't buying those "excuses" from Melbourne and insisted they lost against Carlton because they "didn’t finish or execute well enough". Lyon - who played 226 games for the Demons in a decorated career with the club - echoed Buckley's sentiments and challenged Melbourne to address their shortcomings in 2024.
Garry Lyon challenges Demons to address issues in 2024
“You can make excuses everywhere... it’s hard to back up again after a premiership. They’ve backed up twice in a row. Top four twice. I want you to back up again and put yourself in a position again.
“I want them to identify the issue and blind Freddy can identity it (in their front half) and I want it coached. Coached better, the system coached better.
“The thing I want most is you suck it up, cop all of this coming at ya... and you don’t feel sorry for yourself and you reload. That’s what (coach) Simon Goodwin needs to do with this group.”
Melbourne's kicking proved fatal to their AFL finals campaign, with the Demons ending their two games with 51 shots on goal – compared to a combined 36 for their opponents. Statistics show that in Max Gawn, Jack Viney and Clayton Oliver, the Demons had three of the worst-rated kicks in the competition - based on players to have more than 200 kicks to their name this season.
“They’ve got three of the seven worst kicks in the comp!” Jonathan Brown said. “Your best players are your worst kicks in the team." Buckley added: “To have three of the top worst seven.... explains a bit."
Lyon feared that unless Melbourne fixed the glaring issue, they will continue to fall short at finals time. “For some Melbourne supporters, this will be nice to hear ‘oh they should have won, they had all these looks’, but the bottom line is for the second year coming they’ve failed to capitalise on an area of the game where they’ve got complete dominance in and it continues to let them down.”
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