JACK Watts says Melbourne is finally ready to take it up to Collingwood on the Queen's Birthday stage after emerging from the "pretty helpless place" the club was in 12 months ago.
The Demons haven't beaten the Magpies since round 11, 2007, when seven goals from Russell Robertson sparked a 13-point win. The closest Watts, who famously made his debut in the 2009 Queen's Birthday clash, has been to victory against Collingwood was the draw in 2010.
After two wins in the past month and a fighting loss to top team Port Adelaide last weekend, Watts said the team's confidence had increased after coach Paul Roos simplified their on-field tasks.
"I think we are [ready]. We've been crying out for this for years but we haven't been ready, obviously," Watts told Fox Footy's On the Couch on Monday night.
"For me, [the biggest change has been] the team-first concept and that's driven by the coaches, which filters through.
"For all the boys now, it's play your role, do the simple things – you don't have to go over and above.
"In the past, we've definitely fallen into the trap of guys thinking they have to win the game themselves whereas today's game is do your role when it's your turn to go.
"I think with the revamp of the club this year, we're starting to understand what it's like to play real AFL footy, I guess, for the first time since I've been there.
"I can't wait for next Monday. It should be great."
It was before this round in 2009 that Watts was gearing up to make his debut after being selected as the No.1 draft pick in the 2008 NAB AFL Draft.
He had eight disposals in his first game and played just another two for the season, which raised questions over whether he should have been taken with the top pick.
Watts said the persistent talk about his potential and on-field achievements had been hard to contend with at times but his realisation life was bigger than the game had helped.
He credited Essendon captain Jobe Watson with helping him gain some perspective in a meeting set up by former Bombers administrator and current Melbourne CEO Peter Jackson.
"He thought we were at a similar sort of stage that Jobe had been at in the past," Watts said.
"It was awesome, he's a great guy … he was struggling to get a game at one stage and the coach didn't like him and he was too slow and the media were on him.
"He was saying he had his mates and family and that kind of thing and [it didn't matter] as long as you feel like you're doing everything you can."
While Watts admitted the No.1 tag did "probably affect him to an extent", he wouldn't have changed much about the way he went about his early career.
He also said Roos and midfield coach George Stone had worked on rectifying his moments of reduced intensity on the field with more frequent rotations.
"When I have those moments out on the ground, they're so obvious that's where I get myself into trouble," he said.
"I think a lot of that happens when I'm stuffed because in an AFL game you get pretty tired at times.
"The last couple of weeks, I've been working on coming to the bench a bit more.
"Initially I was coming to the bench once or twice per game.
"In the last four weeks, the average has been seven or eight rotations, which has really helped me because I am a bit more of a burst player in terms of endurance wise.
"As long as I get those really obvious poor moments out of my game, then you don't put yourself up for that criticism so that's the main thing we're working on."
Watts said he felt like the perception he didn't work hard enough on the field was magnified in a frequently unsuccessful team.
However, he said he believed he was getting better at working harder for longer.
"I don't think too many know how hard you have to work to become a good AFL player, let alone a very good player," he said.
"My teammates, my coaches, as long as they're happy with what I'm doing around the club, away from the club, on the field … I'm pretty happy."