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Day from hell spurs Goodwin to greater heights

Simon Goodwin says he's learned from 2017's near miss with the finals - AFL,Simon Goodwin,Melbourne Demons
Simon Goodwin says he's learned from 2017's near miss with the finals
The bottom line was we weren't good enough and we didn't win enough games to make it
Simon Goodwin

SIMON Goodwin woke up feeling flat. It was the final day of the home and away season last year, and the previous afternoon his Melbourne side had been beaten by Collingwood at the MCG. A win would have sealed a return to the finals for the first time since 2006. 

Instead, the defeat left the Demons' finals fate in the hands of others. Goodwin's day didn't get much better. The Dees needed Fremantle to beat Essendon at Etihad Stadium, or Adelaide to beat West Coast in Perth. Neither result went the Demons' way, as the coach watched his side's season slip away from his couch at home. They missed the finals by an agonising 0.49 per cent. 

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"I had Todd Viney (Demons list manager), Josh Mahoney (football manager) and Brendan McCartney (assistant coach) come over for a barbeque. The kids were on the couch and they were pretty pumped," Goodwin told AFL.com.au.

"Obviously they invest as much as you do into a season and they sacrifice a lot. We watched both games on the couch with a barbeque and a couple of beers and sat around. By the end of the game it was difficult. It was quiet. The kids got emotional, so you get emotional because your kids are emotional. 

"We were shattered for our supporters because as a club it's been such a long time. And we were really disappointed for our players, who had invested a lot. It meant a lot to them, but adversity finds you in footy and it gives you a chance to grow."

Goodwin describes the brutal end to the season as this group of Demons' first footy heartache, but saw it as one they needed to address thoroughly. Their deep review highlighted what they already knew: that their last six weeks of the season had seen a clear drop-off. 

"In the end the bottom line was we weren't good enough and we didn't win enough games to make it," Goodwin said.

Goodwin is determined to see Melbourne get there this year, and then go on with it.

 

The Demons' promising JLT Community Series, their wealth of young stars, plus the off-season acquisition of ex-Crow Jake Lever, has plenty bullish about the Dees' hopes. Goodwin welcomes that.

"I think expectation is a great thing for us. I've been in both scenarios and I still hear it now where 'Melbourne will be never any good' and then on the other hand people say we're going to be very good," he said. 

"You hear all this information coming in. What we want to be is a club that has expectation. That's where you want to be as a club and a sporting team and we want to embrace that, but we clearly understand that it doesn’t really matter what anybody says. 

"It's what you actually do. As a playing group, and as a coach, that's what we want to go and do. We don't want to talk too much." 

Just as Goodwin learned about his players in his first season in the coach's hot seat, he also got to the end of the year and took stock of his own schedule. He's spent his second pre-season delegating more tasks to fellow staff, and tweaking his lifestyle to ensure he has a strong balance.

But as prepared as a club can be, you can't plan for everything. And so when the Demons' commando-style training camp was cancelled in December following concerns raised by players after injuries at the same camp a year earlier, Melbourne was thrust into the spotlight.

Goodwin remains surprised at the attention the canned two-day stay received, but acknowledges the Demons "would have loved" to hear about the players' worries earlier. 

"We made some modifications to the camp and we thought we got some enormous benefits out of the camp. When you plan something, you want to plan it with your group," he said.

"We're really clear with the type of people we want to create – hard working, competitive, resilient, humble people. Every single program is linked to that. The camp was a really small piece of that puzzle. 

"When we got information people were still concerned, after the modifications that had been put in place around the camp, we just called it off. It's two days in a program that is running for four months." 

The move to scrap the camp attracted some criticism, including questions over the Demons' resilience. It's a "perception" that frustrated Goodwin.

"We had a really big chunk of players who did [want to go], and the work that they'd done within their training, they've worked incredibly hard. I'm proud of how they've gone about their summer," he said.

The reasons to get excited about the Demons are obvious. There's Clayton Oliver's brilliance at the stoppages, Christian Petracca's explosiveness, Christian Salem's class, and a fit and healthy Max Gawn and Jesse Hogan.

 

Petracca will spend his time evenly split between the midfield and forward line, while Hogan will continue to be trialed in the middle as well.

Lever is only 22 and was a key member of the Crows' Grand Final side, while Jack Viney, Jayden Hunt and Dom Tyson are other important Dees yet to reach the 100-game milestones. Goodwin has the keys to one of the competition's most exciting lists, but doesn't have to look too far back to know nothing is assured. 

"Internally the club has got enormous belief in what we're building. First things first, you have to win enough games to make it. It's a cliché but people just don't hand you a ticket to the finals," he said.

"We've seen that first hand. They don't just give them out. You've actually got to earn it, and it's a long season and you have to continue to get better as the year goes on. If we do that we'll give ourselves a chance to do the things we want to do."