MELBOURNE took some decisive steps forward, but some significant steps back as well. The Demons doubled their win tally in Paul Roos' first year in charge but still suffered some hefty losses along the way. The emergence of Dom Tyson, Christian Salem and Jay Kennedy-Harris were key highlights, although the club is under no illusions about how much still needs to be done heading into the future.
This year was never going to be enough for Roos to turn things around – even he acknowledged that is still two to three years down the track. It was more about setting the standards and he certainly started to do that. Roos extended his contract until the end of 2016, meaning he'll have more time to mould this team his way.
Increased percentage: Melbourne identified the gap between its best and worst performances as a major point of concern. So the club had a big focus on boosting its percentage this season, taking the figure from 54.1 per cent in 2013 to 67.9 under Roos.
Trading pick two: The Demons sent picks No. 2 (Josh Kelly), No. 20 and No. 72 to Greater Western Sydney in exchange for Dom Tyson, pick No. 9 (Christian Salem) and selection 53 (Jayden Hunt). The trade was a win for both clubs.
Bolstering its midfield depth: The Demons brought in Tyson, Bernie Vince and Daniel Cross, who all helped improve Melbourne's shallow on-ball stocks. The trio also took some undue pressure off co-captain Nathan Jones.
The forward line: At the start of the season, the Demons thought the tall forward line of Mitch Clark, Jesse Hogan and Chris Dawes would provide plenty of headaches for opposition teams. But circumstances did not permit that, with the trio never playing in the same team. It was a key reason in Melbourne's scoring woes.
Clearance work: Despite the positive influences of Tyson, Vince and Cross, the Demons again found themselves ranked in the bottom two in the competition for clearances (the club was last in 2013). Only Geelong fared poorer in that area in 2014.
Defensive breakdowns: Learning defence-first under Roos was always going to come with its challenges. If one part of the structure was a little bit out, the Demons were found out in transition. A number of defensive breakdowns occurred during the year.
MVP: Nathan Jones
It's entirely conceivable to see Tyson pipping co-captain Nathan Jones for this year's best and fairest award. But Jones had the more consistent season. Averaging career-highs in disposals (27.8), tackles (5.2), clearances (6.1) and contested possessions (11.4), Jones continues to be the Demons' most valuable player.
Surprise packet: Neville Jetta
Went from being delisted and re-rookied at the end of last season to earning a new two-year contract. This season was a huge turnaround for Jetta, who grew in stature as the year went on. Thrived as a small defender, taking on and beating the likes of Chad Wingard, Eddie Betts and Jamie Elliott.
Best rookie/first-year player: Christian Salem
Salem may not have played as many games as fellow debutant Jay Kennedy-Harris, but what he did do was show he is a player for the future. His match-winning goal against Essendon in round 13 was proof of that. Kennedy-Harris also demonstrated his ability to influence games, in particular in the round seven win over Adelaide.
Disappointment: Jack Watts
Watts did not have a bad season statistically, but if Melbourne is going to get to where it wants to go the No. 1 draft pick needs to deliver on a regular basis. That club great David Schwarz is calling for Watts to be traded shows that Demons supporters expect more from the talented, yet inconsistent utility.
Best win: Three-point win over Adelaide, round seven, Adelaide Oval
Melbourne travelled to Adelaide as rank outsiders. But from the outset it was clear the Demons were switched on as they jumped the Crows with four goals to one in the first term. Dawes was sensational with three goals, as were youngsters Tyson (29 disposals) and Kennedy-Harris (25), leading the Demons to their first win in South Australia since 2002.
Melbourne's loss to the Brisbane Lions in round 19 was an eye-opener, but questions were raised about how far the Demons really had come after the team capitulated to Greater Western Sydney in round 21. Those defeats formed a nine-loss losing streak to the end of round 22.
What needs to improve?
Roos has taught the Melbourne players the concept of "two-way running", with a specific focus on transitioning defensively. Now he needs to add some attacking flair. The Demons were far and away the worst scoring side in the competition.
Retirements: Mitch Clark, Shannon Byrnes
Clark never got off the ground as he battled injury and illness to finish his Melbourne career with 15 games in three years. Byrnes' career wound up after 11 seasons at the top level and two premiership medallions with the Cats.
Delistings: Daniel Nicholson, Michael Evans, James Strauss, Sam Blease
There will be a number of sackings at Melbourne as Roos seeks to improve the state of the list. This year was about determining who could and could not make it at AFL level. So expect a big purge at season's end.
Trades/free agents: James Frawley
It looks almost certain Frawley will cash in his chips elsewhere and look for a club with premiership aspirations. As an unrestricted free agent, Frawley’s departure may produce a first-round compensation pick, which would benefit the Dees in the long run.
What they need
In Roos' own words, the Demons need a bunch of "classy midfielders". Unfortunately for him they don't exactly grow on trees. The Demons have also hinted at possibly trading pick No. 2 in the draft for another experienced player. However, another talented key forward wouldn't hurt, given the injury worries surrounding Jesse Hogan and Chris Dawes.