Why Ben Brown To Melbourne Is A Devilishly Good Match
Well, that was another dog’s breakfast of a year where the Demons were concerned wasn’t it?
It’s one that started dismally, sprang spectacularly to life, but which ultimately capitulated late, finishing 9th for the second time in four seasons.
And while the Demons grapple with their all-too-familiar heartache- they’ve now missed Finals in 13 of the last 14 years- there is a sliver lining as it appears they’ll land Ben Brown this off-season.
While Brown’s arrival at the Demons won’t generate the same media hullabaloo as Jeremy Cameron’s probable move to Geelong, his addition might be just as significant.
In recent years Melbourne have worked like beavers to cultivate a playing list which can start playing Finals football and compete for premierships.
Apologies for dropping the ‘P’ word into the middle of an article about Melbourne, but it’s hard not to be enthused by the arrival of the extremely consistent, wonderfully hirsute Tasmanian.
He’ll be joining a club with no shortage of top-tier talent and whom have at least been good enough to turn in three winning seasons over their last four campaigns.
In Max Gawn they have one of the game’s few premier ruckmen. Clayton Oliver has put together as impressive first five seasons as you’re ever likely to find, while Christian Petracca just enjoyed an almighty break-out year finishing third in the Brownlow medal.
Outside of that elite trio, the Demons are still peppered with fringe All-Australian talent with the likes of Jake Lever and Steven May anchoring their defence, and with Jack Viney, and at just 26-years old, already with no less than five top-3 Best and Fairest finishes to his name.
Top-drawer talent hasn’t been the question with Melbourne but rather a thoroughly malfunctioning forward line which will receive a major boost through Brown’s arrival.
While there have been concerns about both the speed and efficiency of supply into the forward line, the fact remains the Demons have routinely failed to convert their inside-50 incursions into scores, while making a complete mess of the decent opportunities they have created for themselves.
According to Stats Insider’s Shot-Charting Explorer, Melbourne’s 50% conversion from set-shots in 2020 was a number only four clubs performed worse in, and which plunged to a deplorable 39% over the last four rounds, and as their Finals hopes slipped away.
In adding a 27 year old, 4-time club leading goal kicker in Brown, they’re not only capturing one of the league’s most prolific goalscorers, but a laser-like marksmen at that, and one who’s converted 61% of his set-shots over the last three seasons.
While Brown’s 2020 season mirrored the Kangaroos’ insofar as its profound disappointment, it is worth remembering we’re just over 12 months removed from him narrowly missing out on a Coleman medal, and whose 62 marks inside-50 that season was the fifth best figure in footy.
Brown’s work-rate and consistency could even trigger a modified game-plan at the Demons and provoke them into being a little more expansive with their ball movement.
While Melbourne finished 4th and 6th in contested possession and clearance differential in 2020, the absence of a reliable key forward resulted in hesitant, and often sloppy ball movement. Their kick-to-handball ratio of 1.41 ranked 10th, while their overall disposal efficiency wallowed at 13th.
With Brown as a target up forward, along with an improving Sam Weideman, the Demons could be inspired to employ a more direct brand of football. Having Kysaiah Pickett at the their feet might be even more of an incentive. The exciting first-round rookie led the club with 15 tackles inside-50 and placed 6th in tackles overall. He's a player with an enormously bright future and could benefit greatly from swifter entires into forward-50, where he could potentially wreak havoc upon unsettled defences.
You’re of course entitled to be sceptical about the prospect of Melbourne breaking its 56-year premiership drought anytime soon, however hold back on criticism of its diligent list management which has turned a basket-case into real-life football team.
Yes they’ve been mistakes along the way such as Project Braydon Preuss combusting upon take-off, yet this is a club who worked its backside off to improve on draft night, and even harder in recent years during the trade period. It’s an approach which has them knocking on the door of Finals and perhaps making a deep run therein.
Like the Power prior to this season, Melbourne have been working away on the fringes of the eight, quietly building a strong list and a with a coach under immense pressure. Despite playing Finals just once in five years, Port electrified in 2020, leading the competition for the entirety of the year and finishing just six points shy of the all-conquering Tigers in the Preliminary Final.
No, sudden success of course doesn’t happen overnight, but it certainly can for clubs who’ve put in the hard yards and pieced together a reasonable body of work prior to their break-out.
And this is precisely the case with Melbourne. The Brown acquisition won’t vault them into certain premiership contention, but it does build upon the genuine progress this club has been making.
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