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Big test looms for Demons

By Adam Cooper 13/08/2010 04:17:24 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne coach Dean Bailey says Sunday's race for eighth place against Hawthorn at the MCG is the biggest game his AFL side has faced in his time at the Demons.

In a season of resurgence preceded by two wooden spoons, Bailey is eager to see how Melbourne respond in the chance to jump from 10th and replace the Hawks (eighth) in the top half.

"We haven't won too many games, we haven't been in this situation before, so it's a significant performance for us for where we're at and how far we've come," Bailey said on Friday.

"We need to get on the front foot on the weekend.

"We've shown we can perform well, but whether we can perform for four quarters against the best teams ... we'll see on Sunday."

Bailey admitted he considered Melbourne a longshot back in March to reach the finals, after a 56-point thrashing at the hands of the Hawks in round one.

But in the following four months Melbourne have notched more wins (eight, plus a draw) than they managed in 2008-09 (a combined seven) and have posted three straight to give themselves a chance of reaching the finals.

Off-field developments such as the club wiping off its debt, growing its membership and moving to the new AAMI Park, amid the inspiring fight president Jim Stynes has staged against cancer, have also lifted the Demons' spirits.

A finals berth this year would arguably rival the fairytale run the Demons enjoyed in 1987, when they won their last six games to earn club great Robbie Flower a taste of September action for the first time.

But Bailey was quick to remind his young side to focus on the now, refusing to think any bigger than breaking a five-game losing run against Hawthorn.

"Everyone else is excited and we are excited to be in the position we're in," Bailey said.

"But if you become outcome-focused you forget about what you're doing today and tomorrow, this afternoon and the game on Sunday.

"If you spend too much time looking at the horizon you forget about what's in front of you.

"The motivation is to win, you can't get to the finals unless you win.

"You've got to win this week, you've got to win the following week and then the following week.

"If you win three games I reckon it's a fair chance, but unless you're winning you're just not going to get there."

Bailey said Melbourne needed to hold their own at stoppages to break Hawthorn's recent dominance, but was impressed with his side's training in the wind during the week given poor skills have also been costly.

"Turnovers are the things that have really hurt us against the Hawks," he said.

"Last year's game, but certainly the first game this year, our turnovers in the first half were horrendous and they just scored easy goals."

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