For the first time since 1965, the Melbourne Football Club will head into the season defending a premiership. The Dees were comfortably the best side throughout the regular season in 2021 and, on form, were clearly the team to beat on the eve of the finals.
Things will be very different for the club in 2022, as the hunter becomes the hunted and there is now a genuine expectation surrounding the on-field performance. But having defied so much history already in 2021, the Dees could be set to do so again in season 2022.
In: Luke Dunstan, Jacob van Rooyen, Blake Howes, Taj Woewodin, Judd McVee, Andy Moniz-Wakefield
Out: Nathan Jones, Aaron vandenBerg, Jay Lockhart, Austin Bradtke, Aaron Nietschke, Kye Declase, Marty Hore, Neville Jetta
Tackles Inside 50 - 1st
Contested Possessions - 1st
Tackles - 1st
Disposal Efficiency - 17th
Clangers - 16th
Uncontested Possessions - 15th
Star player: Max Gawn
The 208cm larrikin is one of the most-loved players in the AFL, with his off-field personality as likeable as his on-field competitiveness. The premiership skipper is the best ruckman in the game, with his tap-work feeding the Dees’ star-studded midfield while his ability to take contested marks cannot be underestimated.
‘Big Max’ also has the ability to hit the scoreboard - he kicked 16.17 in 2021, including his five-goal haul in the preliminary final, as his partnership with the emerging Luke Jackson seeing him spend more time forward.
One to watch: Luke Dunstan
The ex-Saint could be a shrewd pick-up for a side who took all before them in 2021. Dunstan’s ability to find the ball has never been in question - even in a reduced role, he averaged more than 25 disposals per game in 12 matches in 2021 - but the query has been how much he hurts the opposition.
However, Dunstan will be coming into a side that includes the likes of Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver and Jack Viney, and rather than carrying the load he’ll be given a specific role. With so much help around him, Dunstan might just flourish with a fresh start in 2022.
Under pressure: Sam Weideman
The former first-round draft pick signed a two-year contract leading into last season’s grand final, so he’s not under pressure in the sense this could be his last year on the list. He is however yet to establish himself in the club’s best 22, having never played more than 13 games in any of his six seasons in the AFL.
The key position forward has shown glimpses of his undoubted ability, which has excited fans about the player he could become. But now at 24 years of age and coming into his seventh season, it’s time for Weideman to consistently deliver and stamp himself in the team.
Having broken a 57-year premiership drought, there’s no reason the Dees can’t do it again in 2022. There’s no reason to think the club’s five All-Australians from 2021 - Steven May, Jake Lever, Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca - will take a step backward, while they retain every player from their grand final-winning team.
While the retirements of Nathan Jones and Neville Jetta will hurt depth-wise - not to mention spiritually and from a leadership perspective - they had both lost their spot in the best 22. In fact, with Adam Tomlinson - who was having an excellent year before injuring his ACL - returning, you could argue the Dees could improve this season..
As the reigning premiers, Melbourne will now be the scalp every team wants and they will have a tougher draw than they did in 2021. But they look like one of the teams to beat in 2022.
Five matches to watch
Round 1 vs. Western Bulldogs, MCG, Wednesday March 16
Round 6 vs. Richmond, MCG, Sunday April 24
Round 17 vs. Geelong, GMHBA Stadium, TBC
Round 18 vs. Port Adelaide, Traeger Park, TBC
Round 23 vs. Brisbane, Gabba, TBC
All time games
- David Neitz - 306
- Nathan Jones - 302
- Robert Flower - 272
- Adem Yze - 271
- Jim Stynes - 264
All time goals
- David Neitz - 631
- Norm Smith - 546
- Russell Robertson - 428
- Garry Lyon - 426
- Fred Fanning - 426
MOST DISPOSALS: Clayton Oliver - 789
MOST TACKLES: Clayton Oliver - 136
MOST CLEARANCES: Clayton Oliver - 187
MOST MARKS: Christian Salem - 145
MOST GOALS: Bayley Fritsch - 59