Bernie Vince handballs during Melbourne's win against Richmond
PAUL Roos warned Melbourne supporters earlier this month there was a "bumpy road" ahead but he also said the club was on the right track.
He also promised his club was "up for the fight" as it worked to regain credibility after winning six games across the past two seasons.
On Friday night against Richmond in a NAB Challenge clash at Etihad Stadium, the signs were there that Roos had already made an impact.
The Demons won by 14 points, 1.13.11 (98) to 1.10.15 (84), in a thrilling finish with a seesawing final-quarter.
More significantly than the result, the Demons just looked better. They ran hard, they fought at the contest, they stuck to a defensive structure when they needed to and they moved the ball with patience.
They also had 445 disposals to the Tigers' 262.
Of course, it was still a pre-season game. Jake Spencer kicked the ball into Tyrone Vickery at full-back, resulting in a goal. Alex Rance had an infamous "Alex Rance Moment" when he gave away a free kick to Jack Trengove, punted the ball down the boundary, and handed off a 50m penalty that also assured a goal.
David Astbury dramatically cramped in the thigh as he was kicking in the dying stages, which delivered the ball to Melbourne revelation Jay Kennedy-Harris, who ran into goal to kick the sealer.
That's right, the sealer.
The result came despite the absence of many of Melbourne's key position players. Mitch Clark, Max Gawn, Chris Dawes, Jesse Hogan, Mark Jamar and Jack Fitzpatrick were unavailable, and Jack Watts was a late omission.
Jeremy Howe kicked four goals and provided spark. Nathan Jones set a strong example when he dragged down Ben Griffiths in the second quarter; a player 20cm taller than him.
Kennedy-Harris shone. The dynamic first-year had a belter of a first half and then kicked three final-quarter goals.
The Tigers, albeit without the likes of Jack Riewoldt (quad), Ivan Maric (ankle), Dylan Grimes (hamstring), Daniel Jackson (groin), Jake King (toe) and Ricky Petterd (calf), tried some things.
Dustin Martin started at half-back and drove the ball through the middle, ran hard and snuck forward to create attacking options at times.
Bachar Houli played on the wing, Brandon Ellis started in at the centre bounce and pushed forward and Steven Morris ran pretty much everywhere with his usual bull-at-a-gate attitude on show.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Richmond: The Tigers missed a few players who should be available for next Saturday's clash with Collingwood in Wangaratta, and put in a typical pre-season game that had scrappy elements, an interchange infringement at the start of the fourth quarter and some missed opportunities. Still, they made a late charge and were within two points late in the fourth. Liam McBean finally got to see some senior action and Anthony Miles has done his chances of earning a nominated rookie spot no harm with an inspired performance.
Melbourne: There's reason to believe Roos when he says things are heading the way they're meant to. Despite an abundance of key position players out, the Demons brought a new attitude to the game – one that demonstrated they were sick of being the competition's easy beats. While they'll no doubt encounter hurdles this season, at least there's evident cohesion within the group. Nathan Jones and Jack Grimes, who burst through the middle at one point to drive the ball inside 50, set strong examples as co-captains and Jack Trengove looks fitter than he has in a while. It will be interesting to see how they shape up with their key posts in the side but this – and their 115-to-91 contested ball victory – is a positive start.
Richmond: Pitted against lightweights, Shaun Hampson did it pretty easy in the ruck and gave the midfielders first use in the half he played. Their first pick in last year's draft Ben Lennon started forward before he moved to half-back, and had some wonky early disposals before settling and collecting eight for the game. Former Greater Western Sydney midfielder Anthony Miles worked hard on the inside and led the Tigers for clearances and kicked an important final quarter goal while Sam Lloyd had a solid second half - a moment in the third when he spoiled strongly and a set shot that grazed the post with two minutes left.
Melbourne: The brightest spark of the newbies was undoubtedly Jay Kennedy-Harris, who demanded attention every time he went near the ball with his speed, courage and creativity. He gave Steven Morris a run for his money. Daniel Cross did what he does – collect the ball and run all day, providing the Dees with a reliable ball winner, while Viv Michie had 19 touches and showed bravery at times. Bernie Vince went into the centre bounce and gave them some class with 32 disposals and a massive third quarter, and Dom Tyson was subbed out in the third quarter after 16 touches. Beanpole ruckman Max King looked raw but had a go, sneaking a goal from a stoppage in the third, and Alexis Georgiou showed composure and courage in the backline, taking nine marks.
RICHMOND 1.2.2 1.6.7 1.7.10 1.10.84 (84)
MELBOURNE 0.1.7 1.5.8 1.8.9 1.13.11 (98)
Richmond: Vickery 3, Deledio 2, Newman 2, Miles 2, Batchelor
Melbourne: Howe 4, Kennedy-Harris 3, Bail 2, Trengove, Blease, King, Spencer
Richmond: Martin, Morris, Miles, Deledio, Foley, Vlastuin
Melbourne: Vince, Jones, Trengove, Terlich, Kennedy-Harris, Frawley, Bail
Richmond: Newman (knee)
Umpires: Orr, McPhee, Mollison, Wenn
Official crowd: 12,024 at Etihad Stadium