The NAB Challenge may be derided by some, but none of them are at Melbourne after the Demons used the pre-season competition to springboard into a round one AFL victory.
Twice in the pre-season Melbourne reeled in highly ranked opponents, and on Saturday the Demons repeated the act for premiership points against GWS Giants.
It gave Jack Watts a birthday to remember.
The Melbourne forward turned 25 on Saturday when his club celebrated a two-point comeback win.
The Demons were 21 points down at the final change but Watts said the team sensed opportunity in the Giants’ wastefulness.
“They allowed us to be in the game and that was
the talk at three-quarter time, to make the most of it,” he said.
Watts credits the pre-season for the victory, with a 3-0 record giving the struggling club a much-needed confidence boost.
“We were battling away, struggling,” Watts said of a painful second and third term when the Demons kicked just one goal.
“But we always had the belief.
“All pre-season we’ve been working on belief and getting around each other.
“We showed we could fight back in games.
“The win means a lot. The boys reaped the rewards and will enjoy it.”
Melbourne coach Paul Roos credited the “terrifically pleasing” Watts for continuing his pre-season form and sparking the fire on Saturday.
“That’s four games in a row with significant moments,” he said.
“He was our most dangerous forward all day and looked like he was going to impact on the scoreboard or create something for us.”
As he reached the quarter-century, Watts was rewarded.
After 95 matches without winning two in a row, Melbourne saluted the faithful – albeit with a six-month break in between their round 23 win over the same opponent.
The Demons could go 2-0 for the first time in 11 years when they face Essendon next week and Watts said every little step they took showed progress.
“Back-to-back wins, I haven’t had them my whole career,” he said.
“Every little milestone that we tick over is moving towards what we want to do.”