MELBOURNE vice-captain Jack Viney says a greater level of maturity within the playing ranks has been the key to the club's red-hot start to the AFL season but isn't daring to dream of ending a 57-year premiership drought just yet.
The Demons will start warm favourites against Carlton at the MCG on Sunday as they attempt to extend their winning sequence to nine matches.
It has been a sharp rise into flag contention for Simon Goodwin's men, who made a preliminary final in 2018 but missed the top eight in each of the past two seasons.
"It's pretty much the same group, just a bit older and wiser and more mature," Viney told reporters on Monday.
"I haven't thought too far into the season just yet and one of the reasons why we've performed so strongly in the early part of the year is that we are taking it week by week.
"Nothing surprises me and personally I know how hard we work and we've been through a lot of difficult times, but I've always seen the path forward.
"We've known as a group we need to stick to the process and continue to improve each season and every pre-season and our rewards will come."
Viney, originally a father-son recruit, turned down free agency opportunities last October to ink a new five-year contract with Melbourne.
A host of other big names have also re-signed, including captain Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver, Christian Salem and Christian Petracca, who signed a massive seven-year deal last week.
"Everyone knows the journey we're on as a football club and they see the bright future with the coaching group and playing group we have," Viney said.
"That's certainly why I stayed on and I'm sure that's why the other people are making the same decision."
Viney has been sidelined for the past fortnight with another foot injury and is yet to pinpoint a return date, but believes his recovery is "tracking really well".
Speaking at the launch of Big Freeze 7 in support of Neale Daniher's FightMND foundation, Viney said he will be back in action before the annual Queen's Birthday clash with Collingwood.
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"I've been through the same injury on the other foot," he said.
"We released the plantar fascia and it changes a few things biomechanically through the foot and you end up with a couple of stress reactions through your bones.
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"I started the whole process again on my left foot in this pre-season and there's always a risk to have some stress reaction pop up in the foot.
"We thought we'd got away with it but unfortunately it just crept up on us.
"The good thing is we were on it early and we've learned from the other side as well.
"We'll get this right and be back out there for the back half of the season."
The Big Freeze fundraising campaign returns again this year and the famous blue beanies will be available for $20 at your local Coles, Coles Express, www.coles.com.au or Bunnings - or via the FightMND website. Adult size beanies are still just $20, and a limited number of children's beanies are available on online for $17.50.