Amid criticism about their off-field ‘culture’, the Dees have created an on-field one that could propel them to another flag


After dominating for most of the night and leading by as much as 33 points, Melbourne found themselves against a fast-coming siege from Adelaide who had kicked the last three goals to close the deficit with over five minutes to go.

As the Crows once again looked to go quickly through the middle, their attacking foray was stopped by a strong mark from a Melbourne defender on the edge of the 50. No, it was not any of the usual suspects such as Steven May or Jake Lever, but rather by a man only playing his fifth game of AFL football: 2023 draft pick Blake Howes who stood firm to claim a mark even when faced with a rampaging Josh Rachele from the side.

The Crows keep themselves in it, with some swift movement through the middle ????

???? Watch #AFLCrowsDees on ch. 504 or stream on Kayo:

— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) April 4, 2024

Moments later, as Steven May kicked down the line, the ever-reliable Max Gawn presented and took a typically confident contested mark in a manner which AFL viewers have taken for granted over the years. All of a sudden, the Crows momentum was quelled and the Demons safely ride out the last quarter to record an impressive 15-point win.

These efforts came from two men who are at vastly different stages in their careers: one is just trying to establish himself at the top level after realising his draft dream in 2023. The other is a premiership skipper who has a staggering six All Australian jackets and is yet still determined to fight for his club. The respective moments from Howes and Gawn showcase how this entire team are invested in project 2024, despite what people may say externally about their culture.

Off-field, there have been countless questions slung at the Demons’ supposed flaws such as the issues with Clayton Oliver over the off-season or the recent episode with supposed unethical practices surrounding drug testing.

However, despite what it may look like from the outside, it seems as if these events have only galvanised an already tight-knit group of players who seem beautifully placed to stand victorious on the last Saturday of September, three years after their drought-breaking premiership in Perth.

This resilience is exemplified by their performances over the last two rounds, where over the span of six days, the Demons professionally defeated both Adelaide teams, who both had pre-season aspirations to play in September, on their home deck in front of two raucous, partisan crowds. The fact that the Demons did this without any modicum of fuss in the world despite the daunting task on paper, just displays the resilience of this group who seem prepared to confront any challenge and succeed with flying colours.

Taylor Walker fends off Caleb Windsor. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Three years ago, as Melbourne steamrolled their way to a drought-breaking flag, winning their three finals by an average of 63 points, it seemed inevitable among the footballing world that they would establish the next dynasty. However, for a large variety of reasons, the last two seasons have been underwhelming for Dees fans as they have lost four straight finals at the MCG.

However, in the midst of tremendous adversity and the whole footballing world doubting their environment, Melbourne have arguably gone under the radar in their impressive start to 2024 and should not be ignored when it comes to premiership discussions.

Adelaide mission complete ???? #DemonSpirit | @Hertz

— Melbourne Demons (@melbournefc) April 4, 2024

Whilst the Dees of 2021 were simply in their absolute Globetrotters-style prime and played some of the most scintillating footy ever seen in recent times, the resilience, grit and determination of the 2024 Demons is arguably more impressive. Whether it was their Rolls Royce in Christian Petracca pulling out a heroic defensive spoil in the last quarter against Hawthorn when the game had been truly wrapped up, Clayton Oliver returning from a tumultuous off-season to slowly return to his brilliant All-Australian best over the first five rounds or the two aforementioned pressure marks by Howes and Gawn, this team has a certain will that wasn’t completely there in the seasons prior.

Whilst those from the outside can cast aspersions over the Demons’ culture and their off-field issues, based on what we have seen on the field, every heart at the Demons certainly beats true on their quest to claim that grand old flag.

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