Melbourne forward Alex Neal-Bullen feels the team’s growing finals experience and wide breadth of goalkickers will hold them in good stead for the AFL grand final against the Western Bulldogs.
The Demons booked their spot in the premiership decider with a thumping 83-point win over Geelong in Friday night’s preliminary final in Perth.
The result was a stark difference to Melbourne’s most recent preliminary final – when they copped a 66-point loss to West Coast at Optus Stadium in 2018.
The Demons were outscored 10 goals to nil in the opening half of that match.
But against the Cats it was Melbourne who were the aggressors, with the Demons boasting 10 different goalkickers in the 19.11 (125) to 6.6 (42) mauling.
Ruckman Max Gawn booted a career-high five goals, while Kysaiah Pickett (three), Ben Brown (two), Bayley Fritsch (two), and Charlie Spargo (two) also kicked multiple goals.
James Harmes, Tom McDonald, Christian Petracca, Neal-Bullen, and Tom Sparrow also scored goals in what became an even-spread domination.
Neal-Bullen said the team’s multiple goalkicking options in attack and through the midfield made them difficult to handle.
“That’s the dynamic that we try to build,” Neal-Bullen said.
“We want to be a dangerous group of midfielders and forward line players who hit the scoreboard.
“But it’s also important that you don’t rely on the Ben Browns or the Bayley Fritsches to kick all our goals. We can share that across the board, and ultimately that makes us a hard team to defend.”
Melbourne haven’t won the flag since 1964, and Demons players are embracing the opportunity to end the drought, rather than treating it like unwanted extra pressure.
“It’s one of our main drivers, because we want to make this football club a club that’s well respected within the AFL industry,” Neal-Bullen said.
“We want people to enjoy it and be proud to wear our colours.
“Seeing through social media and hearing from friends back home in Melbourne, there are people who are putting scarves on the fence, or walking around in their jerseys.
“That as a player makes you feel proud.”
Neal-Bullen said the club’s flop in the 2018 preliminary final had served as a big motivating factor and learning curve.
The Bulldogs also enter the 2021 grand final in hot form after destroying Port Adelaide to the tune of 71 points in Saturday night’s preliminary final.
They are set to be boosted by the return of defender Alex Keath (hamstring) and impressive youngster Cody Weightman (concussion) for the September 25 grand final.
But forward Laitham Vandermeer could miss with the hamstring injury he sustained against the Power.
Star Demons defender Steven May has declared himself a certain starter for the grand final despite being subbed out against Geelong with a hamstring issue.