Like anyone wanting to make their home better, Melbourne have had the good sense to look at how the impressive place next door is decorated.
The Demons have done their homework on what should come next after ending 57 years of AFL futility.
They’ve examined a couple of consistently successful organisations – everyone studies the All Blacks – as they aim to build on last year’s premiership.
Alan Richardson believes the Demons can still improve after winning the Premiership
Then there are clues much closer to home.
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin played in back-to-back premierships at Adelaide.
Even football department boss Alan Richardson guided Melbourne suburban powerhouse East Burwood to successive Eastern Football League flags in 1999-2000, his first coaching assignment.
Richardson had previously lived how not to run a premiership defence, as a player under ‘coach for life’ Leigh Matthews at Collingwood after their 1990 triumph.
The Melbourne Demons ended a 57-year wait for a flag in last season’s Grand Final
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin played in back-to-back premierships at Adelaide
But Melbourne also have the great fortune of being able to walk out of their AAMI Stadium offices and head down the corridor to the Melbourne Storm – and paying attention to what lines the walls along the way.
‘We have so much admiration for our co-tenants. We are so bloody lucky to have them next door to us, to bounce things off them,’ Richardson said.
‘We can learn anywhere, but we’re lucky to have them as neighbours.’
While the Storm haven’t gone back-to-back in the last decade, they’ve won three premierships from five grand finals.
The Melbourne Storm have won three premierships from five Grand Finals in a decade
Under Craig Bellamy’s guidance the Storm have developed into an NRL superpower
No other NRL club in that time has more than two flags or three grand finals.
One of the lessons Richardson has taken from the Storm is the need for the Demons to remind themselves of their success.
Those AAMI Stadium corridors are lined with imagery of why Storm players work so hard.
Richardson admits that before speaking to his Storm counterpart Frank Ponissi, he might not have been so willing to put the Demons’ success on show.
Richardson said he often speaks to Storm counterpart Frank Ponissi (above)
‘If we walk from our footy offices at AAMI Stadium just down to the gym, you see the celebration on the wall,’ Richardson said.
‘I probably knew the answer before talking to Frank, because it was quite obvious.
‘Just the conservative back pocket […] perhaps it’s just the way I look at footy […] I personally would have been ‘let’s make it a bit more subtle, well done, but we have to move on again’.
‘The imagery may have reflected that.’
The Demons have worked hard during the offseason and are ready to defend their title
Richardson remembers that once Collingwood returned to pre-season training in late 1990, little was made of their drought-breaking premiership.
‘We just came back to training and away we went. And it didn’t go well for us,” he said.
‘How much weight is in that? I don’t know. [But] if there’s a bit more celebration on the wall, don’t be scared of that and don’t underestimate the influence that can have on wanting to do that again.
‘It can be a reminder, when you’re working your arse off. There’s a lot of power in that – in fact, there’s a lot of research in that.’
But Richardson and Goodwin are aware of the challenges awaiting the Demons this season
And Melbourne have been working their backsides off. Richardson says their key physical indicators, such as time trial results, show the players are showing no signs of a premiership hangover.
This year’s motivation is powerful – to win a flag at their MCG spiritual home.
There are no long-term injuries, they still have a young list and their round-one team will be nearly identical to the grand final lineup that staged an astonishing second-half comeback against the Western Bulldogs at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
Ruckman Luke Jackson, who won the Rising Star and was so pivotal in the third quarter of the grand final, is 19.
Ruckman Luke Jackson, who won the Rising Star award last season and is only 19
But the need for that comeback, and the deficit they also had to overcome in the crucial round-23 win over Geelong, show the Demons are far from infallible.
‘We’ve identified with the group that we have a lot of improvement. You only have to look at the grand final,’ Richardson said.
‘There are parts of our game that are far from perfect.’
Then there’s Goodwin. It’s been an uncomfortable off-season at times for him, with a succession of allegations in the media about what was happening 12 months ago at Melbourne.
Max Gawn led the Demons to a first Premiership since 1964 last season in Perth
Back then, no AFL coach was under more pressure.
But in a video released last week, Demons captain Max Gawn said when he met with Goodwin before last season, all the coach spoke about was how to improve the team.
Gawn said Goodwin never referenced his own plight.
‘That’s Simon. His focus is always the team and he’s going about his job as he always does,’ Richardson said.