The Melbourne plan, which the club knows will prompt some derision, contains echoes of Richmond’s ambitious 2010 plan – widely ridiculed then – of three premierships by the end of 2020, following three finals appearances and zero debt, with 75,000 members, by the conclusion of 2014. Melbourne’s plan was to be outlined at the club’s annual general meeting on Monday night.
The finals objective for the AFL team – which the club acknowledges would influence whether certain off-field goals are reached – was made in consultation with the football department and is an indication that the Demons believe their disastrous, 17th-placed 2019 was an aberration after reaching the preliminary final in 2018.
“That’s going to be the most difficult challenge [finals and a flag] but at the same time we believe the time is now to fulfil that, and then everything else potentially falls from that platform,” Melbourne chief executive Gary Pert told The Age.
“We’ve been building this list and adding players, and growing players in certain positions, that we believe now that if all players are fit and out on the ground, that they’ve got the ability to be playing in the finals for the next four years.”
Pert said the football department had a clear understanding of what went wrong in 2019, having made changes (including changing coaching roles) with 10 weeks left in 2019 and then further change after an end of season review. “We were all very open and transparent of the fact that there were so many contributing factors,” he said.
Pert said senior coach Simon Goodwin had been a party to the on-field objectives. “Goody’s involved in all these conversations, agrees with it, supports it and is excited about where things are at.”
The club set a mission statement, or purpose, for the plan: “To be a club where our people feel proud to belong”, with four key values including trust, respect, unity and excellence.
The release of the strategic plan – the first of that scope in Melbourne’s storied 161-year history – is timed alongside the release of the club’s “To Hell and Back” project, which involved seeking feedback from supporters, industry people, sponsors and other interested parties, and then releasing a six-part documentary during pre-season.
The Demons say that the slogan – “To Hell and Back” – criticised in some quarters – was promoting a long-term plan to be “back” as a powerhouse and that they were not suggesting, in any way, that they would be back on the basis of reaching finals in 2020 or short-term results.
“To Hell and Back”, which has been shown on the club website, was also meant to acknowledge to supporters that the club was mindful of their suffering and the disappointment they had endured.
Supporters gave frank feedback for the project, expressing their historic suffering, and also their wish that Melbourne would become a club defined by qualities such as consistency and effort rather than elitism and their private school image.
Pert said the club was working with the state government and the AFL on the potential sites for a new home base, which would house administration and football.
“We’ve been exploring several sites, exploring pretty well every possible site,” he said.
Pert described the Demons as a big club that, due to poor results, had been the small version of itself.
“I see Melbourne as a small version of a big club. And any club that hasn’t had a premiership over the last 55 years … has gone through some of the difficulties, doesn’t even have a home base, would look like a small version of themselves,” he said.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.