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Stats Files: Who's become the poster boy for Dees' woes?

Highlights: Melbourne v St Kilda The Demons and Saints clash in round five

HORRIBLY out-of-sorts forward Tom McDonald has fairly or not become the face of Melbourne's struggles as season 2019 teeters on the edge of no return.

His celebrated switch from wonky-kicking, at-times vulnerable defender to smooth-moving, strong-marking deadeye dick was pivotal to the Demons' charge to a preliminary final last year.

So striking was McDonald's rise to stardom that, along with Sam Weideman's late-season emergence last year, Melbourne's list management team felt comfortable enough to trade Jesse Hogan.

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The annual spectre of Hogan wanting to return to Perth was another obvious factor in the decision.

Five rounds in, McDonald (two) and Weideman (five) have combined for a meagre seven goals, as well as being involved in only four and eight one-on-one offensive marking contests respectively.

Weideman has marked or won none of those, lost three of them and the other five were neutral, while McDonald's woes come despite him being targeted more than any other Demon.

"We put him on the wing for a while. We're trying to get him going," coach Simon Goodwin said of McDonald after Saturday's loss to St Kilda saw his much-hyped team slump to 1-4.

He's just not marking the ball like he was, so that's his great challenge – to mark the ball and be a real presence for us. - Simon Goodwin on Tom McDonald

The League-leading offensive juggernaut that was the Dees of 2018 is averaging a paltry 74.8 points this season, down from 104.5, despite still ranking third for inside-50 differential.

On the same day as Melbourne's latest defeat, Hogan hauled in 14 marks (three contested, five inside 50), gathered 22 disposals and booted three goals for his new club, Fremantle.

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The man who was top 10 in the AFL for average score involvements last season had eight more on Saturday in the Dockers' upset win over Greater Western Sydney.

Meanwhile, the two former Suns the Demons effectively received in return for Hogan, Steven May and Kade Kolodjashnij, are injured and were hugely underwhelming when they did play.

Goodwin, who rarely makes negative statements about his players, has already publicly criticised May for the condition in which he turned up to pre-season.

Small sample size or not, this season might be as good as over by the time May is ready to return – and he will be 28 years old at the start of 2020, compared to Hogan's 25.

Steven May's career at Melbourne has got off to a rocky start. Picture: AFL Photos

McDonald and Weideman aren't alone

A big part of Melbourne's troubles is the number of its players who have gone backwards this season or are just out of form.

Usual best-22 staples Alex Neal-Bullen and Oscar McDonald are miles off their best and trying to regain touch in the VFL.

First- and second-year players Corey Wagner, Marty Hore and Charlie Spargo were dropped after round one but have since made their way back in.

Billy Stretch was omitted ahead of Saturday's game but was one of the footballers coach Simon Goodwin mentioned as a potential inclusion for this week's Anzac Day Eve clash with Richmond.

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The options are limited because of a lengthy injury list, plus double-digit post-season surgeries that hampered the Demons' preparation.

Mitch Hannan (knee), Jake Lever (knee), May (groin), Joel Smith (groin) and Aaron vandenBerg (ankle) would all be in the senior side if they were fit.

Kolodjashnij (concussion) and Jay Kennedy Harris (knee) would be around the mark, too.

Goalsneak Jeff Garlett fell out of favour last year but is on the way back from a shoulder injury, and his offensive talents could be just the tonic for Melbourne.

The return of the goal-savvy Jeff Garlett could be just what the Demons ordered. Picture: AFL Photos

Dean Kent (St Kilda) and Dom Tyson (North Melbourne) also swapped clubs in last year's NAB AFL Trade Period in search of greater opportunities and security.

That pair would be handy now, particularly Kent, who kicked three goals among 20 disposals against his old side on Saturday.

Tumbling Demons

PLAYER

END-OF-2018 AFL PLAYER RATINGS RANKING

CURRENT AFL PLAYER RATINGS RANKING

Tom McDonald

36th

65th

Nathan Jones

68th

85th

Jack Viney

134th

142nd

Alex Neal-Bullen

138th

153rd

Michael Hibberd

143rd

160th

Neville Jetta

171st

181st

Jayden Hunt

231st

254th

Oscar McDonald

239th

276th

Kade Kolodjashnij

446th

462nd

Playing too soon?

Co-captains Jack Viney and Nathan Jones were among the underdone Demons entering the season-opener against Port Adelaide.

Viney, in particular, struggled on that afternoon, compiling only 10 disposals as the Power ran rampant and put the first stake in Melbourne's season.

Jones – now a wingman – battled as well, especially in the second half, with a pair of crucial dropped uncontested marks, on top of some fumbles and four turnovers.

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A week later, the Dees rushed Kade Kolodjashnij into the senior side, even though a pre-season adductor injury prevented him from being on full duties and being available for round one.

The 23-year-old wingman/defender scraped together five possessions against Geelong, then 12 in the loss to Essendon before another bout of concussion sidelined him.

 

Those experiences didn't sway Melbourne from bringing veteran Jordan Lewis straight in for round five at the weekend off a hamstring injury that kept him out for the first month.

Lewis won 13 disposals and played only 75 per cent of game time.

The ex-Hawk's most-recent appearance in red and blue before that, excluding one pre-season hit-out, was that error-strewn preliminary final performance against West Coast last year.

Jordan Lewis managed just 13 touches in his first outing for ths season. Picture: AFL Photos

Where else is it going wrong for Melbourne?

The Demons' nose dive in attack is matched only by the huge increase in points conceded.

They gave up just 79.5 points a game during the 2018 home and away season, a figure that has blown out to a competition-worst 103.2.

"There's a lot of little things going wrong in our game at the moment and that's making it really challenging to play the way we want to play," Goodwin said.

The Demons' 2019 form has become a head-scratcher for Simon Goodwin. Picture: AFL Photos

"We're breaking down in a few too many areas. That means we're easy to play against and the scoreboard pressure builds."

So, what are some of those "little things"?

The statistics tell a sorry tale in a series of key categories Melbourne thrived in last year but that suddenly are a major issue this season.

What's changed for the Dees?

STATISTIC

2018

2019

Disposals differential

+23 (ranked second)

-42 (ranked 16th)

Contested possession differential

+17.7 (first)

-1.6 (ninth)

Uncontested possession differential

+9.5 (ninth)

-38 (16th)

Points from intercepts differential

+19.2 (second)

-9.8 (16th)

Points from stoppages differential

+6.7 (third)

-14.6 (17th)

Points from centre bounces differential

+6.7 (first)

-2.2 (14th)

Points from forward-half turnovers

35.1 (first)

27.2 (eighth)

Points from clearance differential

+6.7 (third)

-14.6 (17th)

Score per inside 50%

46.4% (fourth)

33.7% (18th)

  • There is one game to play in round five

Goodwin and his under-siege Demons still have time to salvage the situation, starting on Wednesday night against Richmond, but the clock is ticking.

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