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Demons look to middle men for improvement

Peter Ryan  January 29, 2013 11:32 AM

Off-season report: How the Dees are tracking The very latest on how the Demons are preparing for 2013
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Nathan Jones won Melbourne's best and fairest award in 2012

MELBOURNE assistant coach Jade Rawlings thinks the Demons' midfield could be its strength in 2013, confident that the lessons learned in 2012 will pay dividends eventually.

After a disastrous start to 2012 when the team struggled to generate enough inside 50s to be competitive, the midfield began to improve post-bye.

The team has also being buoyed by the prospect of new recruits Jack Viney and Jimmy Toumpas being available and ready to play in round one, while its top two placegetters in last year's best and fairest, Nathan Jones and Jack Grimes, came from its midfield.

"I think the midfielders last year learned a lot about what it takes to be a midfielder and work as a group in an AFL game and season," Rawlings said.

The addition of Toumpas, Viney and mature-aged recruits Matt Jones and David Rodan was necessary after the club traded Brent Moloney, Jordan Gysberts and Cale Morton and delisted Matthew Bate at the end of 2012.

Rawlings said adding the new faces alongside those who improved last season potentially made the midfield mix more imposing.

"[Nathan] Jones is a seriously good player, [Colin] Sylvia showed he can do it, [Jordie] McKenzie has had a full pre-season, Viney and Toumpas come in fresh ready to play, [Jack] Grimes can be an A-grade midfielder in time," Rawlings said.

"I would have thought there is some reasonable depth there. It could end up being our strength."

With competition for spots in the backline sure to be hot and a forward line strengthened with the arrival of Chris Dawes, Shannon Byrnes and Cameron Pedersen, an improved midfield would go a long way to an improved Melbourne in 2012.

However Rawlings said the club was better placed now than it was 12 months ago when massive changes occurred in both the personnel and the approach of the football department.

"Last year there were so many changes that we were looking to implement, not for the sake of it [but] just because of the way Neeldy [coach Mark Neeld] and the strength and conditioning [staff] wanted to do things," Rawlings said.

"After 12 months it starts to become habit and the players understand now we're not suffering fools, we're not waiting for anyone, we're serious about wanting to be good and if you want to jump on board, this is how we do it."