Considering the heartache Demons fans have endured for so long, they would have been reasonably happy with last season and the promise of an even better 2019.
Some pundits tipped Melbourne to even go all the way this season (I had them as likely top four and definitely top eight).
At last year’s trade period, the Demons were happy to secure Gold Coast defenders Steven May and Kade Kolodjashnij and North Melbourne ruckman Braydon Preuss.
The acquisition of May was particularly welcomed by the Melbourne football department as there was a general view they needed another tall defender with hardness.
However, things have not commenced well for May, after he was suspended for round one after a charge of rough contact in a pre-season game against Brisbane. He has also suffered two separate soft tissues injuries that drew criticism from Melbourne great Garry Lyon, who said May has «a little bit of explaining to do» to the Demons supporters about his fitness level.
May, who has played only one regular AFL season game so far this year, responded by saying that when he arrived at Melbourne he was surprised by the high fitness standards of the players and the club. What is most surprising about May’s response is that very fact, that he was surprised about the fitness standards expected at his new club.
Regardless of the fitness levels of the Demons, they are in need of more outside run and class. But just as critical has been the disappearance so far this season of their trademark toughness around the ball that made them so difficult to beat around the contest last year.
So normality looks like returning to AFL land with Melbourne now likely to miss finals action in 2019.
And September normality is likely to return to the alpine resorts Melbourne supporters arrive at in their Range Rovers and Volvos.
Since 2012 when the AFL became an 18-team competition, the minimum number of wins needed to qualify for the finals has been 12 (2014, 2016, 2017) with 13 required in 2015 and 2018. Season 2013 was an anomaly when Carlton snuck in with 11 wins at the expense of Essendon, who had won 14 but were disqualified due to the doping scandal engulfing the club at the time.
Even if we work on the assumption of a minimum of 12 wins to qualify for finals action this season, Melbourne, Carlton, North Melbourne and Sydney will need to win at least 11 of their remaining 17 games. With only one win each from six games so far, this is highly unlikely.
So the Melbourne supporters may need to battle rival Blues supporters on the ski . There might also be a sprinkling of Kangaroo devotees, although skiing may not sit comfortably with the Shinboners – unofficial name for the North Melbourne Football Club stemming from its 19th-century abattoir-worker origins.
Swans supporters can have Thredbo to themselves in September as Greater Western Sydney are more likely than not to be engaged playing finals this season.
Although a note of caution with writing the Swans off too soon.
Two seasons ago they recovered from an even worse start, becoming the first team to play finals after a 0-6 start. But somehow I don’t think this season will see a similar recovery as the club’s playing list is not as solid as in 2017 and their form has been on the decline since last year’s mid-season bye (winning only five of their last 16).
So skiing looks an attractive option for Sydney fans come September.
As for old South Melbourne supporters who have remained loyal to the team that relocated to Sin City, they are more likely of an age where lawn bowls may be the preferred pastime.
Tony Buti is the state member for Armadale, an author and a keen football follower