A fellow Demon defender has explained how hard conversations between once-unfit full-back Steven May and senior coach Simon Goodwin have produced a critical turnaround in the career of the 2021 All-Australian defender.
Michael Hibberd, a fellow defender and friend of May’s, said that some of the tough discussions between Goodwin and May – the defender having had issues with his fitness when he arrived at Melbourne after the 2018 season – had “turned around” May’s career.
Hibberd, who came back into the team for the preliminary final, said Goodwin loved May as a player “and sometimes you’ve got to be hard on the ones you love”.
Another teammate, Tom McDonald, observed that the Demons had succeeded by having “embraced” May’s strengths, rather than trying to turn him into a player that he was not.
Hibberd called May “an incredible leader and an incredible player” but who had been somewhat unfit when he came to Melbourne from Gold Coast.
Within the Demons, it was well known that May had not been as professional with his habits as the club expected for a highly paid player who had been a club captain at Gold Coast, leading Goodwin to have candid talks with May.
“I’m very close with Steve, he’s one of my best mates,” Hibberd told The Age.
“To see early on, he’ll openly admit he was probably just a touch out of shape when he got to the club and I think Goody realised. What we’re seeing now is what we could have been getting earlier. And he had some injury setbacks.
“But he’s just so important to our team. Sometimes you’ve got to be hard on the ones that you love, I guess, and Goody obviously loves him as a player and loves him as a leader.