Twenty-five years ago, the Melbourne Football Club's presumption could not person been immoderate much antithetic than it is today.
While the 2021 mentation of Melbourne sees the nine caput into the AFL expansive last arsenic the bookmakers' favourites, 1996 astir saw the extremity of 1 of the league's powerfulness clubs.
With Melbourne connected the verge of merging with Hawthorn, heavy successful the trenches connected the Demons' broadside helping prevention the nine was John Stanaway, a antheral who is present a beingness member.
After Melbourne survived the merger with Hawthorn, Stanaway wanted to assistance the nine adjacent further, frankincense opening his now-22-year tenure astatine the club.
"I thought astatine that signifier that I'd truly similar to beryllium capable to bash thing for the club," helium told Wide World of Sports. "Knocking connected the doorway of a footy nine and asking what you could bash to help, I wasn't excessively definite what I could do.
"I bumped into the fella who was the caput trainer astatine the time, we had a spot of a chat and they were looking for radical truthful helium asked maine to travel along."
Stanaway, present Melbourne's caput trainer himself having risen to the relation successful 2006, has seen each the highs and the lows of the nine implicit the past 25 years; from the merger scare, to Jim Stynes' 'Debt Demolition' drive, to the infamous tanking investigation.
Now fittingly, helium is successful the Demons' Perth hub, acceptable to ticker his broadside play successful its archetypal expansive last successful 21 years.
While his beloved nine could perchance extremity the AFL's longest-standing premiership drought connected Saturday, Stanaway recalled the acheronian days successful the precocious 2000s.
"It was horrible," helium said.
"I inactive retrieve being down astatine Geelong and getting beaten by that ridiculous borderline and Chris Connolly bringing each the unit and the players into the country and saying we each had to instrumentality together. Then that week they sacked mediocre aged [Dean Bailey] truthful it was conscionable tough.
"Then Jimmy [Stynes] came connected committee and that was inspirational. I inactive retrieve the days, adjacent successful the past fewer years, erstwhile you're walking down the contention aft the crippled and there's radical throwing their memberships and their scarves astatine you and the maltreatment is perfectly horrible.
"I've ever been adjacent with Nathan Jones and I felt atrocious for him due to the fact that helium burdened that full thing, during the atrocious time."
While Stynes inherited a $4.5 cardinal indebtedness erstwhile helium took implicit arsenic president successful 2008, Stanaway said helium did not fearfulness that a merger similar 1996 would beryllium connected the cards again.
"I felt that determination was capable support," helium said.
"That merger concern was conscionable truly nasty and I was reasonably assured that it wouldn't hap again.
"Being nether fiscal restraint was difficult. We were truly flying by the spot of our pants and determination was ne'er immoderate other money.
"You look astatine Collingwood and they person thousands of members and we lone had a few.
"The wealth they spent connected their facilities and their unit compared to what we had was conscionable truthful acold isolated it was ridiculous.
"We did it beauteous pugnacious down astatine Junction Oval, it wasn't casual down there. The offices and everything were beauteous basal and the gathering country was conscionable a impermanent retired connected the borderline of the ground.
"It was pugnacious but determination were inactive bully times though. Everyone conscionable enactment up with what they had and we got connected with it."
Melbourne were the easybeats of the contention astatine the crook of the decade, and were fixed a precedence prime successful the 2009 draught wherever they possessed the apical 2 picks.
Despite each the hype surrounding the apical of the draught and the processes Melbourne took to unafraid an other pick, ironically it was the antheral they chose with their 5th prime of the draught (No.34), Max Gawn, that yet changed the trajectory of the club.
While apical prime Tom Scully grabbed the headlines, Gawn, a gangly 208cm large antheral who was coming disconnected genu surgery, attracted small fanfare coming into the league.
It would instrumentality implicit fractional a decennary for Gawn to alteration into the ruck behemoth helium has become, and Stanaway recalled the 18-year-old mentation of the Demons skipper that archetypal came done the doors.
"He came successful arsenic a skinny kid that evidently successful the aboriginal days didn't interest astir it excessively much," helium said.
"It's evidently well-spoken astir that helium got caught smoking connected the mode to grooming 1 day, truthful helium was a antithetic benignant of a kid.
"I deliberation it took him a fewer years to realise that if helium was going to enactment astatine the nine and beryllium successful, helium was going to person to alteration things. Obviously maturity plays a large part.
"I don't deliberation helium took it superior astatine the start, that was his problem. Because helium was gangly and helium had his tyres pumped up beauteous good helium thought helium could conscionable rotation connected and get things done.
"I deliberation he's realised implicit the years that you person to enactment harder to get to wherever you privation to be."
Gawn, present Melbourne's skipper and a six-time All-Australian, was cardinal to wherefore Stanaway was included successful the Demons' Western Australia hub, contempt COVID-19-induced caps connected unit allowed in.
"He pulls the radical together," Stanaway said of the Demons skipper.
"If [the players] person to beryllium told that thing has to hap oregon they person to propulsion their caput in, he'll archer them. He's not frightened to basal up and say, 'Righto, this is what we're going to do'.
"He's a precise bully person and he's a hellhole of a bully bloke too. He'll ne'er locomotion past you without saying, 'Gday', which is nice.
"When you're connected the periphery a small bit, you think, 'I don't cognize if these blokes cognize who I americium oregon admit what I do', but he's a truly bully bloke."
Despite the additions of high-calibre draught prospects passim the aboriginal 2010s, the wheels of alteration began turning astatine Melbourne with the assignment of Paul Roos, the antheral who helped Sydney interruption a 72-year premiership drought successful 2005.
"A batch happened astatine once," Stanaway recalled.
"Staff changes, I don't similar to beryllium antagonistic astir anybody successful the past, but conscionable antithetic recruiting and antithetic ideas successful recruiting [occurred nether Roos].
"I deliberation they whitethorn person targeted the incorrect sorts of players [in the past]. [They had] antithetic unit and antithetic thought patterns arsenic well. Roos had his ain radical that helium brought successful and that changed this."
Roos' 3 seasons astatine the helm saw the nine rise its wins full from 4 successful 2014 to a competitory 10 successful 2016 earlier helium completed a handover to existent manager Simon Goodwin.
Melbourne again lifted its wins full successful Goodwin's archetypal 2 seasons, culminating successful a preliminary last quality successful 2018, earlier a crushing nonaccomplishment to West Coast threatened his tenure astatine the club.
Seemingly shaken by the humiliation astatine the hands of the eventual premiers, Melbourne cratered the pursuing season, dropping from 4th to 17th connected the ladder.
"2018 was 1 of those years wherever we were looking beauteous good," Stanaway recalled.
"Beating West Coast a fewer games earlier the finals, I was feeling okay, but the crippled started we were conscionable steamrolled and it was perfectly devastating.
"It was similar erstwhile you suffer astir games, there's not overmuch talking for a small while. Everybody conscionable does their ain happening and there's a batch of sitting and thinking. Players person to get implicit a nonaccomplishment quicker than what myself and the unit do.
"[Angus] Brayshaw was lone young and I inactive retrieve his mum came into the country and helium was conscionable a wreck. He was conscionable crying connected her shoulder. There was a batch of emotion and a batch of tears, but we had gotten beaten and conscionable had to determination on."
The depths of 2019 proved to beryllium a blessing successful disguise for Melbourne, who was capable to adhd talented duo Luke Jackson and Kysaiah Pickett with aggregate first-round picks.
Jackson, the 2021 Rising Star winner, and Pickett person infused Melbourne's seasoned halfway with excitement and flare.
"The radical we've got present are precise close," Stanaway said.
"I deliberation it was possibly a small spot fractured successful the past. There's evidently definite groups that instrumentality person than different groups, [but] it's much of a one-in, all-in feeling astatine the moment.
"Everybody's successful it unneurotic and there's nary fractured groups anywhere, it's precise united. I deliberation that's the main crushed wherefore they've been truthful successful, the radical is precise overmuch together.
"It's a premix of the close coaches [as well]. I deliberation Mark Williams has been fantastic. Adem Yze being astatine Hawthorn and having immoderate occurrence [before joining Melbourne] helps."
Just days retired from its archetypal expansive last since 2000, Melbourne's presumption could not beryllium much antithetic than it was 21 years ago, erstwhile it ran head-first into arguably the top single-season squad successful VFL/AFL history, Essendon.
According to Stanaway, determination is small to comparison betwixt the club's 2 astir caller expansive last sides.
"This year, evidently we finished connected apical and we were insignificant premiers," helium said.
"If we got an wounded we'd person 3 oregon 4 blokes who could travel successful to play, whereas successful 2000 Cameron Bruce tore a quad successful grooming successful the week of the expansive last and determination was a enactment dilemma and we didn't person the banal to bring in.
"It was a antithetic benignant of team. Although we had immoderate truly bully players successful 2000, we benignant of conscionable got there. We bushed Carlton by a footwear conscionable astir connected the siren and past bushed North Melbourne comfortably, but we were a small spot fortunate to get there.
"Whereas this twelvemonth we've played truly good and we merit to beryllium wherever we are, really."