MELBOURNE has been challenged in a number of ways throughout the opening six rounds of the AFLW season.
It has come up against some quality outfits, none more so than Carlton on Saturday night, and has faced some nasty blows on the injury front.
But throughout the tough times, plenty of Demons have stood up.
As expected, the likes of Karen Paxman, Daisy Pearce and Libby Birch have led the way, but there have also been some girls performing without receiving the credit they deserve.
Eden Zanker is one of the most talented young players on Melbourne’s list.
Recruited with pick No.6 in the 2017 AFLW Draft, Zanker was always destined to become a star of the league, but maybe not this soon.
The 20-year-old, who was recruited to play predominantly as a key forward, proved she could chop out in the ruck last year, but in the absence of Lauren Pearce, has shouldered a heavier workload this season.
Alongside Harriet Cordner who has been equally as impressive, Zanker has become a major factor for the Demons in the centre, not only averaging 12 hit outs per game, but 10 disposals as well.
At 183cm, Zanker’s size around the contest is valuable for the Dees, and her agility allows her to get involved at ground level.
Zanker has also chipped in with four goals through the opening six games of 2020, including the match winner against North Melbourne in Round 1.
While she’s still just scratching the surface of her talent, the hard-working utility is performing at a high level already and will only get better with experience.
Sometimes debutants are given a bit of time to settle in at the top level, but Casey Sherriff hasn’t needed it.
In her first six games of AFLW, the 21-year-old has looked right at home.
And while the numbers won’t suggest Sherriff is having the same impact as some of the Dees’ biggest names, she’s playing a valuable role on the wing.
Recruited from the Casey Demons ahead of the 2019 season, Sherriff took some time to find her feet at Melbourne, failing to play a game in her first year on the list.
But on the back of a big pre-season, Sherriff attacked 2020 full of confidence, and that has shown on the field.
Sherriff had a career-high 13 disposals against Carlton last Saturday night, but it’s her ability to read the play and run to space which makes her such an exciting prospect for the club.
After co-captaining the Demons last year, Shelley Scott’s role has changed in 2020.
The quiet character leads through her actions, and she has done just that this season.
Despite standing at just 170cm, Scott is playing as a lead-up forward, providing a target inside 50 for the Dees.
She is strong at the contest and is known to be the toughest Demon on the list, always bringing the ball to ground to help her smaller teammates get involved.
Scott has been a reliable contributor for Melbourne across the four-year competition, playing 26 of the club’s 27 games in AFLW history, but she has taken her form to another level this season.
Averaging 11 disposals out of the forward 50, Scott has looked dangerous on the attack and has booted a goal in each of her side’s last four outings.
The 32-year-old is rarely spoken about, but she will continue to stand up for her side and make those around her walk taller.
Melbourne recruiter Todd Patterson searched far and wide for some fresh talent over the off-season and added two Irish girls to the list.
Niamh McEvoy and Sinead Goldrick put their Gaelic Football careers on hold to test themselves at AFLW – an untried sport – in a move that has paid dividends.
While Goldrick has caught fans’ eyes with her speed off half-back, McEvoy has slid under the radar as she continues to get better each week.
The 29-year-old missed the opening round of the season with illness, but has played all five games since, and has quickly adapted to the code.
Despite starting slowly on debut against the Dogs, she is learning how to play on the fly, and has done a terrific job at that.
Playing out of the forward line, McEvoy is beginning to have a serious impact, finding herself in the right position to contest for marks and help keep the ball moving in the right direction.
She has racked up double-figure possession tallies over the past two weeks, proving she’s not just an experiment but a valuable player for the Demons.