Demons players train on Tuesday. Photo: Penny StephensMelbourne forward Chris Dawes sees his team’s clash with Collingwood on Monday as a “winnable game”, and is looking forward to introducing himself to some of the newer members of his former team.
“There’s a lot of new faces in their team . . . [Jack] Frost will probably be playing on me,” said Dawes, who returns after a one-match ban. “I haven’t even met that bloke.”
Dawes is irked by suggestions the game is “like a final”, but admits the Demons need big-game experience. “As a team that has aspirations – possibly not this year but in coming years – to be playing in the finals, we need experience in front of big crowds,” he said.
“It’s a winnable game,” he added about a clash in which 80,000 are expected at the MCG.
Coach Paul Roos is also refusing to play the underdog card.
“There’s no point turning up to games to be competitive, at some point you’ve got to turn up to games to win,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to continue to test ourselves and continue to get better.”
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley is also refusing to take the match for granted, saying he’s impressed with how Roos is rebuilding a club that has become accustomed to finishing near the bottom of the ladder.
“They have our respect,” he said. “We’ll be going [into] Monday’s game with our eyes wide open, understanding fully what the football they’ve been able to play [and] the discipline they’ve displayed.”
While Melbourne has only managed three wins from 11 rounds, Roos said he was happy with how player attitudes were changing and becoming more competitive. While those changes haven’t resulted in many wins, he has kept his promise to increase the club’s percentage. At the end of the 2013 season, the Demons ended on a miserable 54.1 per cent. Halfway through the 2014 season, they’re on 78.7.
The team’s gutsy effort against top of the ladder Port Adelaide last Saturday – the Demons led by 10 points midway through the third quarter – was something to be proud of, Roos said, although it proved they still had a long way to go to be competitive against the best sides.
“We thought we played really well for about 100 minutes against a top side, but we have to play well for 120 minutes every time.”
The Collingwood clash was a good opportunity for his team to prove it can play “consistent football on a weekly basis”.
Collingwood will be without midfielder Steele Sidebottom after he accepted a three-match ban for rough conduct, but Luke Ball, Dane Swan and Brodie Grundy all trained on Tuesday and could be up for selection.
Jesse White could also be a contender despite suffering a dislocation to a finger last weekend.