Melbourne went from the Preliminary Finals in 2018 to 17th a year later in one of the most dramatic falls from grace in recent memory.
Jordan Lewis saw it all firsthand and relates it to what happened at Hawthorn coming off their first premiership in 2008.
“It may sound like a lot of excuses, but this is what I firmly believe happened (to Melbourne in 2019),” Lewis told SEN Drive.
“I liken it to Hawthorn in 2009. They win the flag in 2008, albeit Melbourne didn’t win the flag, no one at that club had been to finals or a Prelim Final.
“So you have a relatively successful season. At the end of that season you go into an off-season and you have 17 guys go in for post-season surgery – which happened to Hawthorn in 2008.
“You’re dealing with that. You’re dealing with a semi-successful season. I’ve got no doubt that the mindset isn’t as sharp when you come back.
“You might say why? For whatever reason, you just may think it is going to roll on because you’ve never had that experience before so you don’t know how to deal with it.”
Lewis, who won four premierships with Hawthorn before joining Melbourne, said the early-season injuries led to players being thrown around positionally.
“Through injury and through main players being out, Steven May and Jake Lever barely played all year, Tom McDonald hardly played through a foot issue, Jake Melksham hardly played through a foot issue,” he said.
“So they’re your key players around the ground. Then what happens is you have got players playing in positions where they might not necessarily play.
“Bayley Fritsch, who I believe is going to be a very good player, he plays defence, plays forward, plays wing, gets swapped around. He gets impacted in that way.
“So the side becomes a little more unpredictable. The connection and the continuity between the forward and the midfielders just was not (there).
“I think the game plan probably didn’t evolve as much because we were hampered by injuries and so you couldn’t experiment in that fact.”
Injuries and mindset aside, Lewis does not believe the playing group got ahead of themselves.
“Those are a few of the reasons and I only likened it to the 2009 Hawks because that was the experience that I had,” he said.
“I was looking out for it (players getting ahead of themselves after a good season) and not one so it wasn’t necessarily that, it was probably the players came back with the same attitude they had the year before.
“Which after success, is not necessarily the right attitude to come back with.”
The question turns to whether the Demons can return to their 2018 form.
Lewis has now joined Melbourne as a part-time coach for the 2020 season and believes they are back on track.
“I firmly believe that because last year was such a disappointing season the players, and I’ve seen it because I’m down there a couple of times per week, I’ve seen a dramatic shift in mindset and the way that players are approaching their training,” he said.