RESULTS didn't always show it, but Melbourne's dramatic AFL resurgence started during its stint in hubs last year.
The Demons have shot out of the blocks this season to be atop the ladder at 10-1, after missing finals in the previous two years.
After proving themselves by accounting for the Western Bulldogs in a top-of-the-table clash last Friday, belief is growing among supporters that Melbourne's 57-year premiership drought could finally end.
Star Demons defender Steven May has not allowed himself to dream about playing finals for the first time in his 11-season career but admits the club's extended time away in 2020 significantly helped the group.
"You've heard a lot about teams becoming closer in the hub and we're no different," May said.
"It has brought the group closer in such a short period of time.
"I guess for me because I'd only just joined the club before then (in 2019), it fast-tracked a lot of those relationships.
It also helped solidify his on-field partnership with fellow backman Jake Lever.
The pair have spearheaded Melbourne into a defensive machine, with the Demons conceding the least amount of points (715) this season.
"Off-field was already pretty good, it was the on-field, jumping into each other, spoiling each other and trying to do too much and not trusting each other to do the job," May said.
"Having both of us being able to do a pre-season together along with the rest of the backline made our lives a whole lot easier and that certainly helped Jake and myself.
"Last year we built a lot of trust in the hubs and a lot of trust in the game plan."
Melbourne will step out for another Friday night blockbuster in round 12 when its faces the red-hot Brisbane Lions, who have won their last seven games.