AS ANNOUNCED at Tuesday night’s Members Forum, Melbourne has made further changes to its football department ahead of the 2020 season, appointing a goal kicking coach and two data specialists over the off-season.
In an exciting move for the club, ruck coach Greg Stafford will be adding to his role, taking on the responsibility of improving the Demons’ accuracy in front of the sticks.
General Manager of Football Operations Josh Mahoney said after a formal interview process, Stafford was the standout candidate for the added duties.
“A key area we identified as we went through our coaching department was the role of a goalkicking coach,” he told Melbourne Media.
“Whilst that responsibility has sat with several of our coaches in the past, we felt that it needed to have a specific person to own it and to run it.
“After speaking to a number of different people in the off-season about what the best programs are, and interviewing a number of different people, we’ve welcomed Greg into that role.”
Stafford, who played 204 AFL games for Sydney and Richmond, joined Melbourne at the end of 2013.
The 45-year-old has since worked with and developed some of the red and blue’s most influential ruckmen – none more so than Max Gawn.
“People know Greg – he has been our ruck coach for a number of years now and has done a great job in that role,” Mahoney said.
“His presentation on what he would bring as goalkicking coach was really impressive. It covered all the different aspects of what goalkicking is.
“He’s very passionate about that role and we’re really excited about what that program will bring for us.”
Stafford, who kicked 141 goals of his own throughout his career, will be tasked with improving Melbourne’s scoreboard efficiency in 2020.
The Demons kicked just 223 majors in 2019, after finishing with 369 goals the year prior – the most out of any team in the competition.
The club has also decided to take a data-driven approach next season, identifying the area as a key trend within the industry.
The Demons, who have continually reviewed their programs and structures in the past year, have placed a greater focus on the importance of analytics, and how it can be best used.
Mahoney said the philosophy was one of several improvement areas the club has recognised in recent months.
“Decisions have been made on the back of 12 months of gathering information on where our program can get better, but also looking across other clubs and across the world about the trends in sporting departments,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations about data, and like any business or any sport, there is so much data available to everyone.
“The key parts we’re looking at are that we’re capturing the right data, analysing it properly and then utilising it in the right way.”
The specialised approach will see the club streamline its collection methods, before efficiently applying the information to assist with decision making.
With two dedicated staff members joining the sports science team, the Demons will rely heavily on personnel to oversee and manage the success of the concept, across several areas of the club.
“We think there are some real opportunities within this area, and those opportunities have been created by bringing in some different people with different skillsets, who can analyse data in a different way,” Mahoney said.
“We’ve got a new Head of Sports Science in David Regan, who’s been involved with the New York Mets and the Miami Dolphins.
“Previously, he’s also been a teacher, so he brings a good balance of the data knowledge, but also an understanding of the best way to communicate it.
“The other appointment we have made is Robert Younger, in the role of Performance Data Scientist.
“That role is going to sit across the performance team, coaching, list management and recruiting.”
While these opportunities are exciting prospects for the Demons, the grand nature of data can be quite complex.