MELBOURE straight-shooter Steven May pinpointed the Demons' biggest problem off the back of two failed seasons on the eve of 2021. 

"As everyone would've joked about last year, we get the ball inside 50 but don't lock it in and score enough from it," May told

"That's where we think most of our growth is going to come from, we feel. 

"That's such a key stat and if you don't make teams pay, they'll get away with one, get away with two, and all of a sudden they've taken the lead or got the momentum."

And that growth has been instant. 

The Demons are now the best team in the competition for creating turnovers and stoppages and applying pressure in their front half and laying forward 50 tackles, according to Champion Data

Last year they ranked ninth for forward 50 tackles without a single Demon inside the top 30 for players in the stat in the competition.  

This year there's three in the top 10 with Tom McDonald (2.5 forward 50 tackles per game), Kozzy Pickett (2) and Charlie Spargo (1.8) leading the charge for a team average of 15.5 per game. 

Melbourne Forwards Improvement

2021 Avg.


2020* Avg.


Fwd Half Turnovers





Scores from Fwd Half Turnovers





Time in Fwd Half Diff.





Fwd 50 tackles





Fwd Half Stoppages





Rebound to Inside 50 %





Fwd Half Pressure Factor





 *2020 games were 25 per cent shorter. Pressure factor based off a combination of corralling, chasing, closing and physical pressure. 

"Kozzy gets a few headlines but Spargs, Kozzy, Alex Neal-Bullen, their pressure inside forward 50 has been outstanding," coach Simon Goodwin said this week. 

"It's something that's been coming for the last 18 months. We were too easy to score against at times through '19 and we wanted to shore up how we defended. 

"The continuity of having a back six and the cohesion between May and (Jake) Lever allows us to be more aggressive in our forward half. Our ability to turn the ball over there and become a forward half team is what we've really wanted to become and so far, this season we've been able to do that. 

"And it's just not about doing that, it's about maximising that and that's what we're really looking at going forward."

Goodwin also contributes the increased level of buy-in to the natural growth of his players and will to become more selfless. 

Last year the Demons sat 11th in the competition for games experience and ninth in average age. This year they're eighth and sixth in both categories. 

"It just comes down to a maturity level about what you're prepared to do for the team," Goodwin said. 

"Do I look at last year and say they were selfish? No. Have they increased their ability to be selfless? Yes. 

"That's what the good teams do, it's not that they're selfish, they become more selfless and they understand what it takes to be successful."

00:46 Mins
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Kozzy pulls every trick he's got in this stunning goal

Demons young gun Kysaiah Pickett intercepts, gathers and snaps brilliantly

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Christian Petracca, who has established himself as a bona fide midfield gun of the competition, agrees. 

"We're a lot more mature with the way we speak to each other, we can handle feedback a bit better and we're probably accepting the feedback a bit better as well," Petracca told Fox Footy on Tuesday. 

"Last year or the year before you'd probably tell each other to go and get stuffed but we're accepting the feedback and it's coming from a place of care."

Ruck coach Greg Stafford has moved to take control of the forward line full-time with club great Adem Yze landed from Hawthorn to take control of the midfield. 

Speaking to ABC ahead of Sunday's date against his former club, Yze heralded the midfield group led by Max Gawn, Jack Viney, Clayton Oliver and Petracca to spread the load. 

"We've got more variety through our midfield, we're getting some of our little forwards to come and give us a different look through the midfield," Yze said.  

"And the ability of our midfielders to go and play a different role down in the front end as well (has been important).

"You would've seen over the last couple of weeks Clayton Oliver getting tagged and his ability to go and help a few of his teammates win possession and sacrifice his own role for the betterment of the team. 

"Those sorts of things are what make really strong teams be successful."