NATHAN Jones might make the decision for Melbourne.

The people who need to know may already know this will be Jones' 15th and final season as an AFL footballer. The 32-year-old could've told them he is retiring at year's end.

The recurrence of a quadriceps injury is set to sideline the 294-gamer for a month – a period that may extend to forever, given the Demons are up against it to qualify for the finals.

01:00 Mins
Published on

No brotherly love lost between the Joneses

Nathan Jones kicks two superb goals in quick succession and lets brother Zak know about it

Published on

If no call's been made, Melbourne must ensure it learns from past mistakes, even if the end result is the same and there are different people at the helm.

Two other former captains and best-and-fairest winners at this club, James McDonald and Brad Green, were turfed out two years apart, in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

LADDER PREDICTOR Can your team make the eight?

Their exits came during arguably the most tumultuous period in the Demons' history.

The late Dean Bailey oversaw McDonald's departure – after finishing 10th in the club champion award – before short-lived coach Mark Neeld forced Green into retirement.

James McDonald and Dean Bailey at Melbourne's captain unveiling in 2009. Picture: AFL Photos

McDonald was almost 34, but felt he had another season in him and, after a year in the VAFA and working with Greater Western Sydney's youth, he played in the Giants' inaugural 2012 campaign.

Green, then 31, finished his last season back where his career began, in the forward line, and kicked 17 goals in his final seven matches in a poor-performing side.

(Coincidentally, Jones won the first of his three straight Keith 'Bluey' Truscott Medals that year.)

Melbourne wanted to prioritise youth. Looking back, the red and blue could've done with more experience.

Jones' situation doesn't quite line up with that of McDonald or Green.

Brad Green says farewell to fans in 2012, chaired off by then skippers Jack Trengove and Jack Grimes. Picture: Michael Willson

The Demons are still struggling to assert themselves, but they're in a much better position and Jones has played only eight of a possible 15 matches in 2020.

WE NEED TO GROW UP Goodwin pleas for more ruthless Dees

He was dropped after round two, didn't get back in until six games later, was a late withdrawal with quad tightness in round 13, then hurt the same quad in last week's loss to Sydney.

Jones, affectionately known as 'Chunk', is unerringly loyal, selfless and ultra-competitive, and will go down – whenever that is – as one of the club's greats

Jones isn't the footballer he once was and is a couple of years separated from the inside midfield role he excelled in for more than a decade.

Only Simon Goodwin and co. know whether they were trying to nurse him to the 300-game milestone, but that seems unlikely when Melbourne was hunting a finals berth.

David Neitz, another ex-captain, is the only Demon to reach and pass 300 matches, signifying how hard it is to get there. Green made it to 254, McDonald 251.

04:04 Mins
Published on

Big Bags: Neitz lands career-best in Coleman medal season, 2002

Melbourne champion David Neitz kicked 82 goals in 2002 and nine of those against Carlton at Docklands

Published on

That shouldn't be the decisive reason, if there is any wavering, for Jones to play on in 2021, but it shouldn't be ignored, either.

Jones was the face of, and best player at, Melbourne during its darkest days, a man who suffered through almost unprecedented ineptitude – and at no, or little, fault of his own.

Nathan Jones poses in front of a mural in Melbourne's Hosier Lane in 2015. Picture: Michael Willson

He touched on the toll that period had on him in Melbourne's To Hell and Back documentary, which filmed him informing the playing group he was stepping down as captain.

"I've been very honoured and privileged to hold that position for a long time now, but, for me, it was almost like a rebirth, being able to shed some of the weight," Jones said.

"I feel like, in the end, it had become a burden for me and I'd taken on not only the disappointment of 2019, but the disappointment of the decade."

08:56 Mins
Published on

To Hell and Back: 'Last year really broke me down mentally'

Check out the first episode of Melbourne's pre-season documentary series

Published on

Jones, affectionately known as 'Chunk', is unerringly loyal, selfless and ultra-competitive, and will go down – whenever that is – as one of the club's greats.

The Demons still haven't unlocked the secret to success, or at least the sustained variety they crave, but what would a gesture like getting Jones to 300 mean to the players?

Hypothetically, Melbourne could offer him a one-year, minimum-wage deal, with no guarantee of playing senior games, to give him a shot at getting there.

Hovering above everyone's head is the impending cut to list sizes, so that is a factor. Having said that, there are other Demons who should go first.

If this is it, Jones has still enjoyed a mighty career, without the team glory he so badly wanted, but there might be a mutually beneficial way there can be one last lap of the course.