Melbourne midfielder Tom Sparrow has declared his side are over their premiership hangover and ready to prove doubters wrong in 2024.
Speaking to The Age, Sparrow detailed how the club has struggled since breaking their 57-year premiership drought in 2021, bundling out of the 2022 and 2023 finals series in straight sets.
Apart from failing to compete in September since the grand final’s return to Melbourne post-Covid, the Demons have been thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
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From Steven May and teammate Jake Melksham’s brawl at a Melbourne restaurant last year, followed by May’s stunning jab at Collingwood after the latter’s grand final win, to Joel Smith testing positive to an illicit substance during a 2023 match, the club has faced it’s fair share of controversies.
But Sparrow has shut down speculation Melbourne are lacking a professional edge, saying the club has already “addressed” the plethora of off-field issues.
“We addressed it. We wanted to make sure that we are united as a club,” Melbourne midfielder he said.
“Then it was, how do we focus on ourselves now to make sure that, you know, it doesn’t happen again.”
“It’s not just saying it,” Sparrow said.
“(It’s) how we act on and off the field as people, how we respect the game, the opposition and the discipline stuff. That’s how we act … that will give us a true measure of how we’re going based on being accountable to what we say we’re going to do.”
Sparrow, who is just 23-years-old, admitted the side’s game plan fell apart in the latter half of 2023, and they lacked on-field discipline when games – like their two-point semi final loss to Carlton – came down to the wire.
“That’s probably not how we want to be as a club in terms of our character,” he said.
“We want to be disciplined and play the right way, so there’s definitely elements in that game where we could have been better.
“We’ve already started working on that this pre-season. It’s about controlling the controllables, making sure you stay disciplined under pressure, under fatigue, when you can’t hear anything out of the ground.”
In an AFL first, the Swans and Demons will kick off the season at the SCG on Thursday, March 7 as part of the inaugural Opening Round.
Four matches will be played for premiership points across Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sydney a week earlier than usual.
The traditional Carlton and Richmond Thursday night MCG blockbuster will begin a full nine-game round one the following week.
It’s the first time the AFL season has started outside Victoria.