AFTER six years and 129 games as the skipper of the club, Nathan Jones has decided to step away from the captaincy, informing his teammates of the news on Monday afternoon.
The 31-year-old first took on the leadership role in 2014, joining Jack Grimes as co-captain for one season, before captaining the Demons outright in 2015 and 2016.
For the past three years, Jones has shared the title with Jack Viney, but says now is the right time to hand the responsibility over to his younger teammates.
“I’ve had a lot of time to reflect since the season ended and always my number one priority has been my teammates and the club. This decision was no different,” Jones told Melbourne Media.
“After a couple of weeks away and just having time to reflect with my family, I came to the conclusion the right time is now for me to step aside in this capacity.”
But although he won’t officially be the skipper, this won’t change the way he leads on and off the field.
“That was one of the things at the forefront of my mind, that we create opportunity for other guys to step up and lead,” Jones said.
“Title or not, I’m going to continue to go about my business the same way I always have, with a view to strive to improve both as a leader and player for as long as I can.
“Opening up that avenue for other guys to take responsibility and drive this club forward is important for the club’s future, so my decision was definitely influenced by the opportunity to help develop that.
“If I can help foster that and grow that, I think that’s the best thing I can do for the club.”
The Melbourne stalwart has played 286 career games since debuting in 2006 and signed a one-year contract extension with the red and blue earlier in the month.
“I’ve got some exciting challenges ahead personally, to rediscover some of my best form and get some continuity with my training and body to allow me to do so,” Jones said.
“My priority though is to continue to invest in the group and be a positive influence on my teammates as we build towards 2020.
“This year took its toll on me emotionally and physically. There is an element of relieving the pressure that will help, but I still have high expectations of myself.
“Really for me it’s about just getting back to just loving the game and loving the journey I’m on - experiencing the joy in footy again with my mates.
“I look forward to taking a refreshing view of the game and leadership from a different perspective and hopefully I can impart the skills I’ve learnt over the last six to eight years on the emerging leaders that we have at the footy club.”
Jones has been through the toughest of times with the Demons over the course of his career and remains as hungry as ever for success in 2020.
“I can assure you, everyone would have reflected very strongly over the past month,” he said.
“Honestly, I think it creates a great opportunity for everyone involved - we aren’t looking back, we’re looking forward.
“Our biggest challenge is to learn from our mistakes and grow as a club and playing group.
“Our responsibility is to harness those learnings, own our mistakes, and grab hold of it. I’m confident this group will do that.
“I think if we do that we’ll rediscover a connection that will lead the club and team out of the hell we found ourselves in.
“I can’t wait to take that challenge on.”