Here’s some fact to support the emotion: Melbourne is statistically, veritably, the worst kicking team in the AFL.
Champion Data’s best overall stat to measure kicking is the kicking efficiency differential in games. Without getting too pointy headed about it, Melbourne is ranked 18th and last year they were 15th so this is not a new problem.
Partly it is an issue of their own making for they recruited heavily for contested ball players and these types of inside players are typically always less efficient kicks because their best work is done under pressure and in a phone box.
Melbourne’s problem is they have not found players outside the phone box who can both run hard and kick well.
Last year they recognised they needed more outside run and they recruited Ed Langdon and Adam Tomlinson. Both are elite runners but their feet are good for running not kicking.
Or as Garry Lyon put it on his radio program on Monday, Langdon is a “horrible” kick, which is bad, but not as bad as Jayden Hunt. He is, according to Lyon, a “horrible, horrible kick”. A double horrible, that’s serious.
The second part of the problem is the speed that they want to move the ball is not matched by the speed they have the skill to move it. It is like their minds and bodies are working at different paces and on different ideas.
We defer to Lyon on this because he is not only a former captain and club great but he remains emotionally invested in the team and has an keen understanding of their game.
“They play at a tempo that is unsustainable for their skill level,” Lyon said.
The consequence of this is they cannot score. Melbourne has had more losses in games when they have won the inside 50s than any other team in the last three years – and by a big margin. Fifteen times since 2018 they have had more inside 50s than the opposition and lost the game. The next most is nine. Most teams are about six.
The Demons are consequently the most labour intensive scoring team in the AFL. They need 42 disposals for every goal, which is the worst in the AFL. Last year too they were bad, ranked 16th.
As Max Gawn and Simon Goodwin said after the game on Sunday, the endeavour and the effort is there it is just the execution that is letting them down. That is precisely the problem for you can improve effort and endeavour, but can you turn a lot of average kicks into good ones?
They lack skill to move the ball but then they lack recognised stars in the forward line to kick (badly) to. Bayley Fritsch and Jake Melksham are their most threatening looking forwards but they are medium sized and not true targets.
Tom McDonald is asked to hold down full forward when he and they know he is best at stopping goals, not kicking them. He is honest and aggressive and doing what he can with the sort of delivery he is given.
Behind the ball their recruit Steven May has been good after an injury-affected first year but Jake Lever has not found the level he had at Adelaide. Lever had a knee reconstruction of course but he has been back 12 months now and he is labouring. His great asset was his intercept marking and rebound play but currently he is at career low numbers on those measures.
Which brings us to the look-away-now moment for Melbourne fans: the Demons don’t have a first round draft pick this year. They traded it last year so now if they can’t turn their form around and they again finish down the ladder there is no consolation prize for them.
Oh, and Freo have their second round pick as well. At least they have got Hawthorn’s second round pick in this year’s draft from the Sam Frost trade. Presently that will be their first draft pick but that is subject to trade period, which if their form-line continues you might assume will be a pretty busy time for them.
As Lyon rightly said: “This is not a quick fix … they lack skill.”
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.