FREE agent midfielder Jack Viney has sought feedback on his leadership since Melbourne's club-wide vote saw Max Gawn replace him as captain.
The Demons elevated Viney to the co-captaincy alongside Nathan Jones in 2017 and he held the role until February this year, with Jones stepping down at the end of last season.
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Coach Simon Goodwin said at the announcement for Gawn that "you look at what's best for your club right at this moment" and that Viney was naturally disappointed.
Speaking publicly for the first time since, Viney – who will instead serve as vice-captain – acknowledged he and Gawn operate with contrasting leadership styles.
Gawn is an unflappable larrikin with a quirky personality who's become Melbourne's best player, whereas Viney is a highly driven and intense footballer who leads in a similar manner.
"Max and I go about it in quite different ways … and the club decided that Max's leadership style was the way they wanted to go for the 2020 season," Viney told AFL.com.au.
"I understood that quite clearly and was happy to play my role to take the club forward.
"My No.1 goal has always been to play my role. For the last few seasons, that was to be a co-captain alongside Nathan. This year it's to be vice-captain, so that's all I've really ever been focused on.
Viney followed his father and dual club best and fairest Todd in not only playing for the Demons but also in being captain, something he described as "a huge honour".
"I never took that for granted," he said.
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"To get the recognition from your fellow players and also the coaches and the football club as a whole to be the captain of a footy club is a big responsibility – but also extremely humbling."
Viney turned to Todd, his mother Meagan, younger brother Max and wife Charlotte, who is pregnant with the couple's first child, when the latest captaincy news came through.
He also felt it was important to speak to those within the club.
"I did seek feedback and obviously am always looking to better myself as a player and a leader; just to get a bit of a feel for the direction the club wanted to go in," Viney said.
"It obviously happened pretty close to the season, before this (season shutdown) happened, so I'm still in the process of getting that feedback."
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It's already been a big year for Viney, who is eligible for restricted free agency for the first time in his career.
With everything else going on, he understandably fobbed off contract talk, saying he would leave negotiations to his manager Tom Petroro and Melbourne's list boss Tim Lamb.
"That's kind of the last thing on my mind," Viney said.
"I've always been of the belief I'll just focus on my football and all that kind of stuff will take care of itself."
Viney was an outstanding performer in the Demons' season-opening loss to West Coast, winning 34 disposals (20 contested) and seven clearances after completing most of the pre-season.
The 26-year-old is also coming off playing 21 matches last season, after a foot problem restricted him to just 10 in 2018.
He is working hard in isolation, with gym equipment arriving last week that he ordered at the start of the coronavirus shutdown.
"It's definitely harder but I've always been pretty motivated to be able to train, even if it's just by myself," Viney said.
"The more difficult thing is just not having an end goal in mind, (as in) 'Do I have to train this hard for weeks or months or when are we back?'.
"Training in the pre-season, you've got round one in the distance and you know you're training for that, whereas in this period there's no certainty about the future.
"You can see a shift in the language and how the virus is being perceived and tracking, so hopefully the AFL can make a decision that's safe for everyone and we get footy back sooner rather than later."
The football world is waiting to see which Melbourne turns up this season: the 2018 juggernaut or last year's version that barely finished ahead of Gold Coast for the wooden spoon.
Viney is confident there won't be a repeat of the disastrous 2019 campaign.
"We definitely underperformed last year and had a very disappointing season, so there is an element of redemption coming into the 2020 season," he said.
"We think we're on the right path, so we're sticking true to the direction of the footy club and continue to work hard and improve.
"We had a big slip up last year but I feel like we've learned from that and it's driven us to try and have a big 2020 season, which unfortunately has been put on hold."
Viney will be part of the AFL Gamers Network, which kicks off Thursday April 23 at 6pm AEST online.
The AFL Gamers Network is a one-stop destination for footy fanatics and gamers to watch and interact with AFL superstars, and Viney, Collingwood's Jamie Elliott and St Kilda recruit Zak Jones will headline two hours of action on Thursday evening to kick things off.
The entertainment platform will allow fans to stay connected with players over the coming weeks and well into the future.
Follow these social media handles to keep up-to-date on upcoming streams:
- INSTAGRAM: @AFLGamers
- TWITTER: @AFLGamers
- FACEBOOK: @AFLGamersNetwork
- YOUTUBE: youtube.com/aflgamersnetwork