Gawn: Anger driving Dees after finals near miss

Gun ruckman Max Gawn says Melbourne’s pre-season has been fuelled in part by anger after the Demons’ near finals miss last year.

The Dees skipper has also declared he is there to provide support for former teammate Heritier Lumumba should he want it, following the outcry over Collingwood’s Do Better report.

Max Gawn. Credit:Getty Images

Melbourne needed Fremantle to beat the Western Bulldogs on the final weekend of the home and away season for the Dees to return to the finals. The Dogs beat the Dockers however, leaving four-time All-Australian Gawn and his teammates to rue a missed opportunity. The frustration was exacerbated by the fact the Demons had to endure three months on the road to ensure the season was completed.

“Ninth’s the worst spot to finish on the ladder,” Gawn said.

“You leave with a horrible taste in your mouth. Our whole pre-season’s been based on almost anger in a way, from finishing ninth. You don’t want to finish ninth. But we’re in a cool, calm space now.

“The anger feeling, it’s just a word, but that’s how I felt at the end of the year. We’d sacrificed 90 days, away from my wife, to be in a hub and we sort of blew our chance a little bit. It seems to be a common trend with us at times. We lost the same way, it was up and down, which is the same thing.”

Gawn said the Dees’ losses to Sydney and Fremantle in Cairns had proven that they didn’t deserve to make the final eight in 2020. But he was optimistic that tinkering over the summer would be enough to get Melbourne back into the finals for just the second time in 15 years.

“We obviously wanted to play finals. We thought we were good enough at the time. But then a reality check in Cairns showed us that we weren’t, we were a little bit off,” he said.

“And we’ve touched on that as a playing group coming back, what we think we need to improve on. Our defenders were top four rated in the AFL but everywhere else was relatively low. So the mids and forwards have got together and we want to create something that hopefully is as good as our defensive group, and that could take us to the pointy end. This coaching group’s got a game plan that the players think is going to take us, hopefully to the pointy end of September.”

Lumumba has launched legal action against the Magpies over the manner in which he was treated by the club during his time at Collingwood. The defender finished his career with a couple of seasons at Melbourne in 2015 and 2016.

“I’ve fallen out of touch, purely just because of different lives. But I’ve got a great friend in Chris Dawes, who’s a great friend of Heritier,” Gawn said. “It comes up in conversation every now and then. I loved him, he was a terrific player at Melbourne for the two years we had him. Obviously there’s a bit of noise around him at the moment, but I’m there for support if he ever needed it.”

Meanwhile, Gawn said he was happy with the AFL’s new concussion protocols which have left defender Steven May facing a match-day test on Saturday week to determine whether he is available for the side’s season opener against Freo.

May suffered the concussion on Monday and the Dees’ round one game against the Dockers falls right on the league’s new 12-day mandatory concussion rest period.

“I’d love Steve to wake up the morning of and tick every box, but if he hasn’t ticked a box I’d also love Steve not to play from a welfare point of view,” Gawn said.

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