MONDAY night signalled the end of the AFLW movement period, with the main event being the AFLW draft at Marvel Stadium.
This season saw some significant changes throughout the trade period, with the club bidding farewell to eight players through delisting, trade or exploration of other opportunities, and receiving Lily Johnson from Port Adelaide.
Twenty three existing Dees also signed new contracts with Melbourne, indicating their confidence in the program.
At Monday night’s draft, Melbourne welcomed five new Demons who are set to bring fresh energy and dynamism to the club.
Reflecting on the draft, the club’s AFLW List Manager Todd Patterson said that the club accomplished what it set out to achieve.
“Overall, our strategy was to attack this draft really hard. We thought there was some good talent available through it, and the talent’s only going to get better in the years to come,” Patterson told Melbourne Media.
“We were able to get some needs ticked off, get some different players who change the way we play…we’re really happy with it all. It’s been a rare opportunity for us to get access to those well-credentialed kids in the past, so to be able to achieve that is a big tick for us.”
Patterson explained that the Demons’ ability to get access to the best players in the draft was through strategic trading during the week-long trade period that ended last Thursday.
“First and foremost, it’s always hard to see players leave. We’re really grateful for the service they all gave the club, whether through trade, delisted, or stepping away from the game but that’s part of the process in this game,” Patterson said.
“We were really clear internally about what we need to do to evolve the team…there were some hard decisions and collaborative discussion that had to take place, but that enabled us to do what we needed to do with our draft hand.
“It’s sad to farewell those players, which includes Premiership players, but they’ll always be welcome here and they’ll go on to different journeys and careers.”
Patterson also explained to Melbourne Media the details behind the down-to-the-wire eleven- club trade which took place in the dying minutes of the trade period.
“It was becoming clear that there were potentially some issues getting players to their homes, and that we all needed to come together to find a solution.
“So, a few clubs drove that discussion and ultimately, we were hoping not to be part of that process as we feel we have a good track record at getting our own deals done. However, that was what it was going to take for the broader competition and was in the best interest for everyone at that stage.”
With the new CBA, Patterson was thrilled to sign longer-term contracts with some star Demons.
“The players were really clear in what we wanted to achieve, and they’re aligned with where we’re heading. To see players signing two, three, four-year contracts is fantastic reinforcement that they know where we’re going and for them that we trust the future of the club in their hands,” Patterson said.
“We think we’ve got the right balance of long and short-term extensions, and it puts us in a really good position to continue to look at the playing list, to reward people, and attract people in future.”
Patterson concluded by looking ahead to season 2024, and the exciting challenges ahead.
“We’re really excited by 2024. We’ve made a number of program changes and personnel changes. It’s quite unique that the timing of the draft has changed, so we’ve been able to get that elite talent and get a good lead-in before the season to work with those players and make sure they’re comfortable in the environment straight away,” Patterson said.
“We think we’re in a great position to compete next season, and that’s everything that drives us. Whether we get there or not, we’re really comfortable that we’re putting the right things in place to get there.”