HIGHER-SCORING footy is on the agenda for Melbourne in 2021, with the team looking to make the jump from a "good" to "great" team.
The Dees have always been thereabouts in the AFLW, having started with an envy-inducing midfield containing the likes of Karen Paxman, Daisy Pearce and Elise O'Dea, but only qualified for their first finals series in 2020.
"We feel like we have a strong group down back, and now we want to improve our whole-team defence and not concede too many goals, and then score from turnover, taking our opportunities and be a bit bolder with the way we move the ball," coach Mick Stinear told womens.afl.
"I think last year, North and Freo set the benchmark for goals kicked, and we want to be considered in that top bracket.
"We don't want to be winning games with four or five goals, we want to be able to kick six or more goals a game, conditions permitting (Melbourne play its home games at the windy Casey Fields)."
It was an impressive effort to even qualify for the expanded, COVID-affected finals, given the series of unfortunate events which struck the Dees in 2020.
With five players sidelined with ACL injuries and Irish players Sinead Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy sent home to Ireland ahead of potential COVID-19 border closures, a Jacqui Parry concussion at training led to ex-Dee and development coach Brooke Patterson named as an emergency for the semi-final against GWS.
"It was a bizarre season, really. We just felt like we were continually faced with new challenges, and a lot of the time it was injury or illness, and then the pandemic, there wasn't a bigger challenge than that," Stinear said.
"What we were most pleased about was the resilience of our group and their ability to put themselves in a position to play finals and then given the circumstances at that time, to be able to come back and pull off a victory.
"Sending [McEvoy and Goldrick] home was the right decision, we're pleased with that, but it certainly did change the team and particularly Sinead in our backline, she'd become a real feature of the way we like to defend and attack.
"Krstel (Petrevski) played in her first game, and there were a lot of changes heading into that first final. They did well to find a way to win, and it was good to see Lily Mithen (two goals) start to hit some form after missing most of the season with an ankle."
The Dees had a significant list turnover during the Trade Period, losing six players to other clubs as they tried to hit the draft for a mini-rebuild, while Ainslie Kemp was also delisted.
The most significant loss was powerful and experienced midfielder O'Dea, who had somewhat fallen out of love with the game and was keen for a fresh start at Carlton.
"I think 'Junior' (O'Dea) had been a really key part of our midfield, but we'd already been shuffling players like Maddi Gay, Tyla Hanks, Lily Mithen through," Stinear said.
"Those three are set to get more opportunity, and we think the time is right for them to take a step up.
"In the forward line, (draftee) Alyssa Bannan has enormous speed and she's hard to match up in the air and on the ground, she might potentially slot into the vacant spot that Aliesha (Newman) leaves behind."
Fitness of the list
"Shae (Sloane) and Sarah (Lampard) are recovering from their ACLs. Sarah's no contact up until Christmas, but she's joining in most sessions and she's had a tremendous off-season, so we're really pleased with the way she's tracking. Shae is just a little bit behind Sarah, she's had to juggle school teaching and the challenges that's brought throughout the year, but she's done a great job to be able to put herself in a position to play next season. This time last year Lauren Pearce couldn't catch a break, just constant little niggles in her knee, and that slowed her into the season. She's back in training now and she's really confident with the season ahead and so are we, so we feel like we're going to get a player back."
Irish trio Niamh McEvoy, Sinead Goldrick and Lauren Magee
"They just won their semi-final with Dublin, so they're into their fourth All-Ireland final in a row in a couple of weeks' time. We won't see them till the new year, but we're keeping in contact. They'll probably need a bit of a break from their season, but they'll be fit and match ready."