Kane Cornes calls out Melbourne after 'staggering' semi-final call backfires

Serious questions are being asked of Melbourne after their second consecutive exit from the AFL finals in straight sets.

Kane Cornes has questioned the approach of the Demons after their AFL semi-final defeat to Carlton. Pic: Nine/Getty
Kane Cornes has questioned the approach of the Demons after their AFL semi-final defeat to Carlton. Pic: Nine/Getty

Kane Cornes says Melbourne have been left to rue the decision to leave out Brodie Grundy from their squad after crashing out of the AFL finals in straight sets, for the second consecutive year. Friday night's gut-wrenching defeat to Carlton saw the Demons become the first side to suffer the embarrassing fate since the current finals system was brought in.

The AFL world has dissected the performance from the Demons, with the consensus from many analysts that Melbourne failed to show the necessary composure and own the little moments in the dying stages of the match. The Demons were also wasteful in front of goal after enjoying considerably more scoring opportunities than the Blues.

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Cornes says the decision to leave out Grundy - who has been heavily linked with a trade to Sydney for 2024 - ultimately came back to bite the Demons on Friday night. It's understood Grundy is attracted by the Sydney lifestyle and opportunities outside of footy and that the Demons won't stand in his way if he does ask to leave for a third club in three seasons, having joined Melbourne from Collingwood in the off-season.

Speaking on Monday's SEN Breakfast about Melbourne's demise, Port Adelaide great Cornes accused the Demons of being "stubborn" by not playing Grundy. He argued that even using the experienced ruckman off the bench would have been beneficial for Melbourne and suggested there was no way Grundy wasn't part of the Demons' best-23-man squad.

Pictured here, Brodie Grundy at Melbourne Demons training.
Brodie Grundy was left out of Melbourne's semi-final defeat to Carlton amid reports linking him with a trade to Sydney in 2024. Pic: Getty

Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin was praised for dropping Grundy to the VFL earlier in the season to prompt a spark from the talented ruckman. However, Cornes was adamant Grundy should have been recalled to the 23-man squad, particularly after the injuries to Harrison Petty and Jake Melksham.

Kane Cornes baffled over Brodie Grundy omission

“Why do you have to be so stubborn? Yeah, it worked for that period of time, but then things change throughout the season and you get some challenges and some injuries,” Cornes said on SEN Breakfast. “If Brodie Grundy is not in your best 23 in the lead up to a final, I’d be staggered.

“To not have the ability to be able to push (Max) Gawn forward — he, at times, looked like the only threat. At times, they had (Tom) McDonald and (Christian) Petracca in the ruck. I thought that was too stubborn of them not to move when they needed to move and play Brodie Grundy in a final.

“It’s not a hindsight one, I was adamant with that during the week. At worst, as the sub.” Cornes said even if Grundy was used off the bench, his "energy" could have given the Demons an added dimension in attack and allowed Gawn to be more effective as well.

“Remember Mason Cox came on as the sub against Brisbane and he was ravenous, jumping and pounding in at centre bounce and almost changed the course of that game,” he added. “Imagine if Grundy had come on late in the quarter and then you push Gawn forward, the energy (Grundy) would’ve provided around the ball.

“Instead you’ve got Josh Schache — what’s he going to provide for you? Nothing.”

Former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley agreed that the decision to leave Grundy out of his squad for the Carlton defeat could be one that haunts Goodwin for some time. “The most difficult thing as a coach is when you’ve failed or fallen short by the margins they have ... all the ‘what ifs’ that could’ve happened, might’ve happened and should’ve happened,” Buckley said on SEN.

“We don’t actually know what would’ve happened if Brodie Grundy was in the side (for) better or worse. What we do know is the decisions that were made led to a two-point loss, where the inches were everything.

“Now you haven’t made the right call or the right decision. I reckon the players will feel that as well and all the supporters are feeling it. I suppose that’s the cut and thrust and theatre of finals footy, because you’ve got to get enough right to give yourself a chance.”

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