Melbourne’s quest to become the first AFLW side to win back-to-back premierships is off to a flying start.
Sitting atop the ladder after four rounds, claiming victory by a minimum 42 points each week and on a record 13-game winning streak, the Demons look unstoppable.
Winning back-to-back flags is difficult. Victors become the hunted as other teams go to work on what made last season’s premiers so good, which means already great teams need to get better once again.
And get better is something Melbourne has done this year, becoming the most prolific attacking side in AFLW history to really put opponents to the sword.
For years, Melbourne has focused on crafting a stingy defensive line, culminating in a record average of just 18.6 points against last season.
Now, with a settled, strong defence in place, the Demons have achieved more balance between stopping the opposition from scoring and scoring big themselves.
Melbourne’s top goal-kicker for 2023, Kate Hore, has taken 12 marks inside 50 as a lead-up forward.(Getty Images: Mark Metcalfe)
The pure spread of goal-kicking options Melbourne boasts is unparalleled, enjoying goals from 16 different players already this season, while 11 of those have kicked multiple goals across the opening four rounds.
Captain Kate Hore leads Melbourne’s goal-kicking with 10, while Eden Zanker (eight goals) and Alyssa Bannan (seven goals) have each had a big impact on the scoreboard.
In this trio alone, the different kinds of forwards the side has brought together is evident.
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Finding a balance between contested marking key forwards (Tayla Harris, Zanker), lead-up marking targets (Hore) and running options (Casey Sherriff, Bannan) has been beneficial for the Demons.
By bringing together a talented, but also varied forward contingent, Melbourne has become increasingly difficult to contain, and more adept at adjusting in-game to the situation at hand.
As a result, the side is averaging a record 16.3 marks inside 50 per game, 4.3 ahead of its nearest rival Adelaide, who averages 12 this year.
The delivery inside 50 has been one reason why Melbourne is marking the ball in its attacking arc at a record pace, with Tyla Hanks (19 inside 50s) and Olivia Purcell (17) leading the way.
But another key reason for such forward dominance is the team’s willingness to work for each other.
Always on the hunt for a teammate in a better position, the Demons are also averaging a record 9.8 goal assists this season. Goal assists, where a player directly gets the ball to the goal kicker, are the ultimate indicator of unselfish, team-first play.
In the past, inaccuracy has plagued Melbourne, resulting in eight of its 16 losses coming despite registering more scoring shots than its opponent.
So, by always looking for teammates in better positions, the Demons have found their most accurate return in front of goal since joining the competition.
With a conversion rate of 48.5 per cent, the side is kicking a goal from 30.7 per cent of its inside-50 entries.
Melbourne’s record-breaking attack has been built not simply on one factor, but the combination of many.
They’re getting the ball inside 50 more often, offering better aerial options inside the arc, setting up teammates for better opportunities on goal, and converting their opportunities better than ever before.
While some of the Demons’ biggest challenges are still on the horizon, including Thursday night’s maiden match against Geelong and next week’s head-to-head with second-placed Adelaide, the side is very well placed to create another bit of history later in the year — consecutive AFLW flags.
Source: AFL NEWS ABC