Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin has demanded his players “step up” and handle finals expectations when their season goes on the line against St Kilda in Alice Springs on Saturday night.
Forward Bayley Fritsch missed the coach’s call however and was dropped for the clash after being late for the final training session before the match, an inexplicable failure with the players all together in a hub.
The Demons will get back captain Max Gawn and former skipper Nathan Jones for the match which could see the 10th placed side crash out of contention and possibly miss finals for a second year in a row.
Goodwin said Gawn was “100 per cent and ready to go”.
“It’s an important part of our season, we believe we can go after finals and tomorrow night is that first step,” he said.
“Max wants to lead this footy club, he’s to his body right and he’s ready to go.”
Melbourne is a game outside the top eight, and, with a 6-6- record, would likely need to win four of their final five matches to make the finals.
On Friday, Goodwin made it clear his side needed to embrace the pressure that came in the final month of a compressed home-and-away campaign if they wanted to make their mark on 2020.
“From what I could gather nine or 10 wins could get you in, that’s four from five,” he said.
“We get to control our own destiny. We get to play a team above us on the ladder this week. That‘s all we can really look at.
“It‘s time as a footy club we really stand up and perform well against some of the really strong teams and St Kilda are a strong footy club and we want to put on a really good performance in the Northern Territory on our home ground.
This clash against the Saints looms as a quasi-elimination final ahead of a final four games against Sydney, Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, and Essendon to come.
Only the Bombers are above Melbourne on the ladder, but Goodwin said his side had to show more against teams above them, like St Kilda.
“These are the type of teams we need to start beating,” he said.
”It‘s a similar situation to some that we have been in previous years, in ’17 and ’18 where you put yourself in a position in those seasons … now it’s time to step up and really build some momentum.
“What the teams do heading into finals – they build momentum at the back end of their years and they perform really strongly under the expectation and pressure of what that is going to look like. We are up for that challenge. We believe we can play good footy.
“We believe we can play good footy against the best teams. [Saturday night] gives us an enormous opportunity to do that.”