“If you go down, get straight back up. The only time you stay down is if you’re knocked out or dead…. Defeat acts as a spur to do better.” – Norm Smith

Nigel Dawe

With close to a month to go before our Melbourne Demons (the oldest football team in the country) embark upon their 166th season of competitive endeavour, and the 128th time as an integral member of the current VFL/AFL fixture.

I got reflecting, as I often do at this time of the year, that a mere 1,370 guys have had the honour – in the post 1897 era – of sliding a red and blue guernsey over their head and down across their chest before running out onto the field as a first-grade player of the Melbourne Football Club.

To put the rarity and prestige of this accomplishment into perspective, an almost ballpark amount of people have won a Nobel Prize (in each of the six categories) since its inception in 1901. To date, our team has played 2,512 games in the VFL/AFL competition, winning 1,151 of them, and claiming a draw with our opponents on 22 other occasions.
29,185 times our players have caused goal umpires to give their extended double-armed salute between the sticks; and soothingly enough, the most goals we’ve kicked against any side is exactly 2,554 against Collingwood (which is strangely identical to the amount we’ve put on the board against the Saints).

Contrary to how ‘numerically’ this segment has kicked off, numbers have never really been my thing; rather, tales of ticker and tenacity more stir my loins when it comes to the love and loyalty I have for this club. A love and loyalty that’s been forged, and permanently fixed into the bedrock of my soul through both the pangs of trial and defeat, and the pleasure of triumph and rewarded travail.

One easily missed insight into the year we’re about to have, I think, was the encouraging recent image of our ‘Son of Todd’ – that being Jack Viney, staying out on the training track long after everyone else had called it a day, practicing his craft. If anyone embodies the thunderous (and currently wounded) beating heart of the red and blue, it is this man, and I can’t wait to see what he does with each of the 120-minutes of game time he gets in season 2024.

Another determining subplot to the outcome of our year is the manner in which our record 4-time winner of the club’s best and fairest award – Clayton Oliver, will return to the fray exactly where he left off: as a player that must already be having his dimensions measured for an eventual statue outside the ‘G as a great of the game.

In every pursuit the human being becomes aware of, albeit fascinated by, nothing captivates or binds us more than the redemption tale of a champion, and Clary, mark my words – will be no exception; just watch out for him to win the centenary Brownlow medal of 2024. Or better still, watch out for the first ever tied winners of the award from the same club, thus a Petracca and Oliver double would be beyond sublime.

Relatedly, and I’ve banged this drum before, keep an eye out for the long overdue induction of Garry Lyon into the AFL Hall of Fame. 25-years after his retirement, the greatest player I’ve seen in the 40-years of following this caper (with the possible, and previously stated exception of Robbie Flower) the #3 wearing maestro from Kyabram with the cat-like skills and the killer instincts, is due his gong.

For those that might harp otherwise, take another look at his 10-goal hit-out against the Bulldogs in that Semi Final of 1994, and then explain to me how he’s not already ‘officially’ entrenched as one of the greats of the game.

And finally, on the general topic of predictions and prophecies, I got hold of a long sought after piece of Melbourne memorabilia recently. It was a 1970s mirror that the VFL commissioned for each team that featured an embossed group photo of their first premiership side.

Ours being of course the come-from-the-clouds Fuchsias of 1900; but the reason I mention it, is the actual circular photo reminds me distinctly of a crystal ball, and one fringed with a kind of decorative ornamentation that wouldn’t look out of place above a bar in the old Wild West.

Thus, in that same spirit, may our modern-day gunslingers of Gawn, Viney & Co. enjoy and fearlessly make the most of their turn and season in the sun – wearing the most time-honoured colours of all.