ED LANGDON is bringing the flair back to Melbourne.
Having been sought out by coach Simon Goodwin on the eve of this season to inject dare and dash back into the Demons side, Langdon has grasped the added responsibility to its full extent.
Melbourne's running man hasn't stopped through the campaign's first three games. Almost literally, he hasn't stopped. His tireless efforts in a classic, old-school wing role have inspired the Demons to three straight victories to open the year.
Indeed, if you were to name an All-Australian side through the season's first month – and if you were to include traditional wingmen in that team, something the selectors have too often overlooked recently – few would be ahead of Langdon.
But the 25-year-old puts his scintillating form down to his off-season briefing with Goodwin, where the Melbourne coach implored him to play to his strengths and gave him the license to attack the game.
"The last few years, the wing role has become a bit down and a bit boring," Langdon told AFL.com.au.
"It was certainly a conscious change and it's going well at the moment.
"It's certainly breaking the game open for us and it's providing us with a lot of opportunities, which is great."
Langdon enjoyed an impressive, underrated first season in Melbourne colours last year having arrived after 68 games for Fremantle. But much of his work was done helping in the defensive half, as the Demons struggled to a 9-8 record and missed the finals.
This season, with Melbourne flying and with Langdon given the freedom to take the game on, the talented wingman is having a greater influence forward of centre and is reaping the benefits.
Langdon is averaging 23.7 disposals through the season's first three games, as well as career-high numbers in marks (8.3 per game), inside-50s (4.3 per game), score involvements (5.3 per game) and metres gained (526.3m per game).
He's hitting the scoreboard more frequently, kicking goals in two of the year's first three matches, while his performance in last Sunday's victory over Greater Western Sydney saw him clock an incredible 903 metres gained from his 27 disposals.
Demons insiders are confident that, at some stage this year, their best territory player will join the small list of just seven players to rack up 1km worth of metres gained in a single match.
And it's all down to Langdon letting his attacking traits show, traits Melbourne recruiters had identified when they targeted the former Sandringham Dragons prospect during the 2019 Trade Period.
"It probably took them a while to understand my game a bit better," Langdon said.
"But I'm happy to play whatever role that is required for the team. Last year, that was probably a bit more with a defensive emphasis. That's fine, because I'm more than happy to do that.
"This year, 'Goody' has put a premium on my run and carry and playing with a bit more flair and being a bit more attacking. Again, I'm more than happy to do that. I certainly play my best footy when I'm trying to break the game open as much as I can."
Langdon's game has also flourished with a return to 20-minute quarters and the stricter cap on rotations, which has meant his natural fitness has allowed him to outrun opponents for longer.
Not only does Langdon have the aerobic capacity to run all day, he also has the speed and explosion to ensure that running is done at a high-level. It's made him a dangerous proposition in space on a wing.
Remarkably, he played 92 per cent game time last Sunday. Even more remarkably, that was the least minutes he's played in a match this season. He stayed on the field for 94 per cent of the season-opener against Fremantle, and incredibly never came off in a round two victory over St Kilda.
"I'm relatively cooked after a full game," Langdon said.
"There's no doubt my form has been helped by a combination of the game length and the reduction in rotations. There's certainly a premium on players who can run out games and with how teams now structure their rotations, it's probably more of a tactical thing than it ever has been.
"But I'm happy to play whatever minutes 'Goody' and 'Burgo' (fitness boss Darren Burgess) want me to play. If they need me to play 100 per cent game time, I have no issues doing that. If they want to bring me off and try somebody else on a wing, then I'd have no issues either way.
"I'm certainly loving the longer game time and the fewer rotations, that's for sure."
The culmination of everything has led to a career-best period for Langdon. But as long as Melbourne remains unbeaten – and continues its winning start to the year against Geelong at the MCG on Sunday – those sorts of reflections can come later.
"It's the best I've felt playing in a team, which is probably more important for me," Langdon said.
"It's something we've really focused on as a group, just enjoying our footy. 'Goody' speaks about dynamics more than anything else. Pretty much, the message before each game has been about doing it with a smile on your face and bringing enjoyment to your life and the lives of your family and the fans.
"That's the focus we've been going into games with and it's paying dividends at the moment for us."