Demons coach, CEO face the music over star duo, finals failures and building a new base: ‘We’re not living under a rock’

Melbourne fans have been promised their AFL team is not “living under a rock” as the Demons reel from a second successive failed September.

As coach Simon Goodwin detailed how the coaches and players plan to improve on another straight-sets finals exit, club chief executive Gary Pert again strongly defended Melbourne’s culture.

Pert said the club was supporting star onballer Clayton Oliver, whose off-field behaviour caused growing concerns over the last few months, and defender Joel Smith, who remains under investigation after testing positive to cocaine.

Goodwin and Pert spoke at Tuesday night’s forum for Demons members, an annual briefing that has taken on added meaning given their on and off-field issues.

AFLW coach Mick Stinear was another speaker after the Demons also dropped out of the women’s finals in straight sets, having won the premiership last year. 

There was some good news with Melbourne announcing a feasibility study to build a training and administrative base at Caulfield Racecourse by as early as 2028. The Demons have lacked a proper home base for about three decades.

After winning the 2021 AFL premiership, Melbourne have lost four successive finals. This year, they bowed out after going down to eventual premiers Collingwood and Carlton by a combined total of nine points, despite having more scoring shots in the two finals. 

Goodwin said his team continues to do a lot right, but must do better when it counts.

“We just didn’t win the moments that mattered in the finals – they are the facts,” he said.

“We weren’t able to execute in front of goal, we didn’t maximise our entry and that’s the first thing we looked at when we came back in (for pre-season.

“One goal a game takes us from sixth to first (among) the best offensive teams.”

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

He added their finals failure left them clues for future success.

“We’re not going to live under a rock. We’re going to look for the opportunities, we’re going to look for the growth,” Goodwin said.

“We’re going to drive winning behaviours and ultimately, hopefully, by the end of (next season) … you’ll be pretty happy.”

The Melbourne Football Club is excited to commence a feasibility study to identify a location for the Club’s long term homebase ????

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— Melbourne Demons (@melbournefc) December 12, 2023

Pert said Oliver was committed to the club after speculation in the trade period about his future, but did not go into details about Smith.

“Clayton’s doing really well, he’s in a great head (space),” he said. “He’s made a real commitment … he’s 100 per cent in, he wants to be part of something really special.

“We understand that Joel Smith is still part of an active investigation.”

Pert repeated his strong defence from a few weeks ago about Melbourne’s culture.

Joel Smith has been provisionally suspended after testing positive to cocaine use before an AFL match. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

“When I get asked do we have cultural problems, I think quite the opposite – I think it is a competitive edge and it’s been driven by the best group of leaders that I’ve seen within a football organisation,” he said.

“I can’t promise … that we won’t have issues around behaviour or people not being aligned with the culture. That’s not what a strong culture is about … that is about calling out when individuals aren’t in alignment with the culture, with our values.”

Media tuned into the forum via online video, which ended as questions were being taken from members.

Meanwhile, club president Kate Roffey has hailed the potential Caulfield move as a “huge step forward” that could set up the Demons for the next 50 years.

As part of the proposed move Melbourne will have two training ovals at Caulfield.

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