WINNING streaks were on the line when Adem Yze arrived at the MCG on Saturday afternoon. Most importantly, the Demons were looking to make it 14 in a row. And Yze was looking to make it six from six for the stand-in coaches during another season affected by COVID-19.
By the time the Demons assistant coach drove out of the bowels of the MCG, the 44-year-old ensured both records remained intact by Saturday night, leading the side he played 271 games for to a 10-point victory over Hawthorn.
With senior coach Simon Goodwin and five premiership players – Luke Jackson, Alex Neal-Bullen, Kysaiah Pickett, Tom Sparrow and Harrison Petty watching on from home, plus Jake Lever and Jack Viney returning from a week in isolation, the Demons were forced to overcome a challenge of a different kind this week.
DEMONS v HAWKS Full match coverage and stats
Goodwin sat in his living room, rather than his customary game day position on the bench, but was wired into the box via head of football Alan Richardson, who relayed messages across the game when they were needed.
Yze passed the biggest test of his blossoming coaching career, enhancing his chances of becoming a senior coach in future.
"I'm not sure if you ever feel ready (to become a senior coach), but I feel like I'm growing each year and I'm improving. It's not to say that I've ticked every box, but if those sort of opportunities come up I'll obviously take a look at them," Yze said post-match.
"I'm really enjoying my role right now, at a really nice footy club – my old footy club – and the variety of my role right now is something that I love doing. Those sort of things will take care of themselves later on.
"My appetite to coach is exactly the same, irrelevant of having the opportunity to coach senior footy. My role is to coach the midfield and look after the offence. Opportunities that arise after that is not in my hand. I'm looking forward to Goody getting back next week and taking the reins again."
When Neal-Bullen was ruled out on Saturday there were fears a widespread outbreak could wreak havoc on the Demons, but the situation has been contained to the five players and the senior coach, who are all set to be available next Sunday against St Kilda.
"We thought we got through it all when we went to our Captain's run and then finding out that Alex Neal-Bullen was a late out as well. Then that just magnifies the risk of the whole 24 hours as well. We think we've got through that," Yze said.
"Through that disruption has given us opportunity. We had players come back in; players who had been in really food form at VFL level but have been waiting and biding their time for an opportunity. We looked at it both ways: The obvious disruption, but then the opportunity that come from it. I thought our boys dealt with it quite well."
Mobile defender Joel Smith could be set for a stint on the sidelines after injuring his ankle in the third quarter, which forced key forward Tom McDonald to return to a past life in defence for the final 30 minutes.
"He has obviously rolled his ankle, so there will be scans and things like that. The initial feel is you're just shattered for the kid; he's been in really good form," he said.
"Hopefully the scans aren’t too bad and he doesn’t miss too much footy. We'll wait for the scans, hopefully it isn’t too long out of the game."
Hawthorn was beaten for the second time this week and the fourth in five outings – amid that impressive win on Easter Monday – but the progress under new coach Sam Mitchell is clear for all to see.
The Hawks made a strong start and registered the highest score against Melbourne during the Demons' 14-game winning streak, but couldn’t quite get within a margin that made the reigning premiers too uncomfortable in the second half.
"It is a bit of a missed opportunity. You come up against a team that hasn’t lost for a long time. It would have been a great win for our boys," Mitchell said post-game.
"I think we still take some belief out of that performance, but they are the benchmark for a reason and we just weren’t able to sustain it. There is a level of pride in the performance and the effort, particularly after a fade out last week.
"To finish really strongly there is a level of pride around it, five-day break, playing against a really good team, to run the game out I think that showed a lot of heart.
"But by the same token, I'm extremely disappointed for the boys because they left it all out there. At the end of the day, we didn’t get anything out of it and we stay on three wins."