Melbourne can and should take a great leap towards proving their AFL transformation is no fluke against Brisbane.
But as Demons fans well know, it’s the ones that they should win that have proved all too elusive in recent years.
Melbourne will start healthy favourites on Sunday, a position they’ve sat uncomfortably in during coach Paul Roos’ time at the club.
Eight times they’ve been the bookmakers’ fancy and they’ve won only once.
So while Melbourne fans will head to the MCG with a lump in their throat, defender Tom McDonald says players aren’t buying into that record.
“It’s a freak stat,” McDonald said.
“No team will ever say, ‘alright boys let’s cruise through this one’.
“I don’t think anything changes in our psyche (when we’re favourites). There are just days when you play badly and you don’t bring the right mindset.”
Only four seasons ago the Demons started the season with an 0-9 record, so it’s easy to see why McDonald believes this is the brightest spot the club has been in since he joined.
“Even though we haven’t had as many wins or much good news stories coming out of the place we know we’ve been on the right path. Now we’re seeing some fruits of that come out.”
McDonald believes the turnaround has come from added depth.
“We’ve struggled in the past to have 22 guys who have really earned their spot in the side,” he said.
“In the past it has been 10, 15, 18 players who have been really deserving of their spot and we were sort of picking a few guys just to fill a position.
“Now we’ve got up to 30 blokes ready to play.”
Alex Neal-Bullen will play his first match for the season at Christian Salem’s expense, while Dean Kent and Oscar McDonald come in for Cam Pedersen (illness) and Neville Jetta (suspension).
The Lions have made seven changes.
Dayne Beams (knee), Darcy Gardiner (finger), Rohan Bewick and Claye Beams (both groin) will miss the game, along with axed trio Josh Green, Marco Paparone and Josh Walker.
Rhys Matheson will debut for the Lions, joining Jackson Paine, Daniel McStay, Nick Robertson, Trent West, Jonathan Freeman and Billy Evans as inclusions.
It will be Paine’s first AFL match in three injury-plagued seasons at the Lions.