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Still hurting but still on track: Goodwin

Matt Burgan  September 5, 2017 4:48 PM

Missed Opportunity: Simon Goodwin Matt Burgan sits down with Simon Goodwin to review the 2017 AFL season
We wanted to put ourselves into a position where we had the opportunity to play finals. Unfortunately, we weren’t capable of stepping up at the right time and being able to do that

COACH Simon Goodwin says the club is “still hurting and disappointed” more than a week after missing out on this year’s finals series.    

Melbourne was on the cusp of playing finals for the first time since 2006 – and up until the 21-minute mark of the last quarter, of the final home and away match of the season between West Coast Eagles and Adelaide Crows at Domain Stadium, the red and blue was in eighth spot.

But when the Eagles kicked the last two goals of the game, they not only claimed victory over the Crows, they edged ahead of Melbourne in percentage to claim eighth spot, which resulted in the Demons finishing ninth.

West Coast secured eighth with 12 wins, 10 losses and a percentage of 105.7 to Melbourne’s 12 wins, 10 losses and a percentage of 105.2. Seventh-placed Essendon also finished with 12 wins and 10 losses and a percentage of 106.5.

Although Goodwin didn’t attribute West Coast’s win as the reason why Melbourne missed the final eight, he said “the ladder indicated that we’re not good enough yet”.

“We wanted to put ourselves into a position where we had the opportunity to play finals. Unfortunately, we weren’t capable of stepping up at the right time and being able to do that,” he told melbournefc.com.au.

“Over the last week, as time has gone on, it’s given me a chance to really reflect on where we’re at and how we’re tracking. We’ve gone flat out into reviews now into how we’re getting better.

“[We] were very hurt and disappointed by how it all finished, but at the same time, we’ve got great optimism for a pathway forward.”

The round 23 loss

Goodwin said there was “an incredible amount of frustration” after losing to Collingwood in Melbourne’s final home and away match.

A win against the Magpies would’ve secured Melbourne a place in the eight – rather than relying on top-of-the-ladder Adelaide to defeat West Coast, which didn’t eventuate.

Goodwin said there was no other way to describe Melbourne’s first term against the Pies – when Collingwood kicked 6.5 to 1.3 – as it being “a poor quarter”.

“To be in a position, where your destiny is in your own hands … clearly we were way off the mark early in the game,” he said.

“At quarter-time, we were five or six goals down, which was really disappointing, and I can imagine the frustration the supporters had. We, as a footy club, had a similar frustration and that’s really where we’ve got to improve as a footy club.

“The frustration at quarter-time was evident from everyone – players, supporters, coaches and the like. That’s what we’ve got to keep working on and that really impacted on our ability to win the game.

“We left Saturday night very frustrated and then Sunday was just pure agony, really. To sit back and watch what transpired and know that you had control of it on Saturday was something that was really disappointing.”

How did Melbourne miss the eight?

Goodwin said there were “a host of reasons” why Melbourne didn’t make the finals this year.  

“They’re the things that we’re reviewing now. We have to get better and [work out] how we’re going to go about getting ourselves into a position to play finals. That’s ultimately the challenge of our football club now,” he said.  

“We’ve come from a safe bubble, where there are no expectations of the footy club – and now we have the expectation of winning, which I think is a great position for this footy club to be in.

“Now the challenge for us is to be in a winning culture – and about winning more often than we don’t, and winning when we’re expected to win, and not having the inconsistencies in the way we play. That’s really about developing a winning culture and that can take some time, but it’s something that we’re all up for the challenge for.”

In terms of how the players reacted to missing out on the finals, Goodwin said “they were a shattered group.”

“There’s no doubt about that. They invested a lot of energy into having a really strong season,” he said.

“Ultimately, they wanted to try and create their own little bit of history and play some finals for the footy club. So, they were awfully disappointed with how it ended.

“I sit here really honestly and talk about that, but they also want to use it to really push themselves further in the years ahead. Sometimes to build the resilience required … this group will learn a hell of a lot from that experience.”   

Frustration from supporters

Goodwin said he absolutely understood why Melbourne fans were annoyed with how 2017 ended.

“I understand the frustration of our supporters. It’s been a long time since this club’s had some success and it’s been a long time since they’ve had the ability to play finals,” he said.

“I can understand their impatience towards that. I’m an impatient person naturally and I want to get there as quick as I can.

“I’ve also got great perspective of what we’re trying to actually build as a club, and we’ve still got some work to do in building those habits and behaviours around creating success that this club wants, and that can take some time.

“I’m also really optimistic in the fact that we’re one of only two clubs – GWS Giants being the other – that have had lineal improvement in the last four years. Every club has gone backwards [or remained in the same position] at some point, so we are tracking in the right direction.

“I understand there is a little bit of impatience around that, but I’m really optimistic. I think where we sit right here today, we’re going to dig even deeper … and build an environment that’s going to make this club even stronger in the long-term.”  

Summing up 2017

In assessing Melbourne’s 2017 campaign, Goodwin said it was still absolutely “a glass half full season”.

“I know that may annoy some of our supporters and fans, but we have had lineal improvement and we are improving as a footy club,” he said.

“We’ve faced challenges this year with our personnel that we hadn’t faced in a number of years with injuries to key players within our team. We faced suspensions that we haven’t seen as a club before, which made the continuity of our playing list inconsistent.

“But in the long-term, I thought we saw some growth and opportunity within that, so I’m really a glass half full approach with this year. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of positives … that have come out of the year.”

What happened next?

After it was confirmed that Melbourne had missed out on September, Goodwin said the attention quickly turned to reviews.  

“When we first found out on Sunday, it was about ‘how does our next week look?’” he said.

“We certainly weren’t planning for it to finish the way we wanted it to finish, but part of the [AFL] Players’ Association agreement is you’ve got to get the players out within two days, so that’s medical checks and exit interviews with all of those players.

“So, the first two days, Monday and Tuesday, was really all hands-on deck and getting through all of those really important things that help set-up your off-season and set-up your return to play.

“Those first two days were pretty intense and then really from Wednesday to Friday we went into review mode – around every area or our department and game style.

“From now, until the next three to four weeks, we’ll start to go into some real strategy about our improvements to our program and where we’re going to take it moving forward.”