IF MELBOURNE rebounds from the horror show of a season that was 2019, it will be star ruckman Max Gawn who leads the way.
Demons coach Simon Goodwin heaped praise on his talismanic big man after Gawn tallied 26 disposals, 41 hitouts and three goals against Todd Goldstein in the last-gasp loss to North Melbourne in Hobart on Saturday.
And with veteran co-captain Nathan Jones no certainty to lead the club again in 2020, Gawn looms as his obvious successor if the Demons make a change.
Max Gawn shows the pain of Saturday's loss. Picture: AFL Photos
"He's had an unbelievable season again, Max. He's been a constant for us for a number of years now," Goodwin said.
"Max has seen a lot at this footy club and he's been through a lot and he worked his way through the last four years to a club that played in a prelim final.
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"He's someone who has worked his way through to a space where he wants to be great. That's a great thing for our footy club to have someone who can pick up the boys that are coming through, lead them in the right way and demand the behaviours that we need to take this club forward again."
Having seen his side fall five agonising points short against the Kangaroos in Hobart and record a 17th loss in a disastrous season, Goodwin was at pains to point out his satisfaction with the effort and application his players showed at Blundstone Arena – even though the result didn't fall their way.
"The guys bought into the right things today," he said.
"The performance was a performance that was in the right direction."
Given 2018 ended with a preliminary final loss to West Coast in Perth and a much-publicised and problematic off-season littered with player surgeries, Goodwin said the silver lining to missing finals this year was found in having a longer break to reflect and reset ahead of the 2020 season.
"We've got a whole summer now to work really hard as a club to get better in a whole range of different areas and to reset and come back ready to go," he said.
"We have to get fit, healthy, make sure we're prepared for what the game's going to demand both physically and mentally and re-establish our game style.
"In some ways we did a little bit of that today but we've got a full summer to work on that."
Goodwin was very clear about his desire for the Dees to re-establish a brand of football his club's supporters would rally behind.
"We want our supporters when they come to the game to know what we're going to stand for and to be really identifiable.
"Ultimately the best teams are really predictable, they stand for something, they're identifiable in the way they play.
"We had that (but) we haven't had it for a large part of the year."