MELBOURNE chief executive Paul McNamee believes the centrepiece of the AFL club's 150th anniversary celebrations will be the defining moment for the struggling Demons for the next five years.
Melbourne has vowed to turn Saturday night's 150 Heroes dinner, where 1200 people will celebrate the club's history and raise their glasses to the greatest players, as a long-overdue positive in a nightmare season.
Melbourne's embarrassing capitulation to St Kilda on Sunday left them last on the ladder, favourites to land the wooden spoon and without forward Russell Robertson for the rest of the season because of a ruptured achilles tendon.
Robertson's injury, following the injury-enforced retirement of David Neitz, means first-year coach Dean Bailey must assemble a rejigged forward line for Monday's game against Collingwood, who won their past two games by a combined 186 points.
Demons chairman Paul Gardner hoped the gala dinner would stir something inside the players.
McNamee went a step further and predicted this weekend could be a new beginning for Melbourne, who must also address debt and low support numbers on top of on-field woes.
"It's more important setting up the next five years, in my opinion, than Monday's game, absolutely," he said.
"This is the start of the next five years."
McNamee admitted he was "mortified" when he learned six weeks ago that the current players were not invited to the dinner.
Having addressed that oversight, he was hopeful the players could listen and learn from their predecessors' camaraderie and achievements, and forge their own history.
"We need to move on from the past," he said.
"Saturday night gives us the chance to give great recognition to the past and to be able to say ... it's now about the future.
"It will help set up a feeling among those guys that `This is a great club where I want to finish my career at', and that `I want to help this club from what I saw tonight'."
Melbourne's greats will also gather on Monday and walk with supporters from the city to the MCG, before the Demons prepare for the blockbuster against the Magpies.
Melbourne has won the past four Queen's Birthday clashes and Gardner hoped the match would not only inspire the players, but attract a big crowd.
"It's not just another the game to the supporters, we don't get 75,000 to just another game," he said.
"So supporters clearly rate it highly, Collingwood always says Melbourne finds a special effort, and they're flying, the Pies, so we're certainly going to have to be competitive and we weren't competitive yesterday."
Robertson underwent surgery on Monday, but Melbourne are unsure yet whether the 29-year-old will regain his trademark spring once he begins training again, in at least four months.
"It's impossible to say, we've been optimistic and look for a full recovery, which means he'll get everything back," said club doctor Andrew Daff.
"It may be slow coming."
The Demons could at least regain small forward Aaron Davey from a hamstring injury, but half-forward Matthew Bate (hand) might also miss with a hand injury.
Neitz is set to help coach the new forward line, and mentor Michael Newton and Paul Johnson - the two players Bailey nominated as the club's new targets in attack.