Demons tighten up in defence

Notching a win was the most tangible reason for Melbourne coach Paul Roos to look fondly at his weekly review. Not far behind, though, was the continued stiffening of the Demonsdefence.

In the first month of the season, the Demons have made significant improvements in defence. Last year, the Demons were the second-worst team for conceding points and marks inside their defensive 50-metre zone.

After four rounds of the 2014 season, Melbourne has cut its average score against by a third, from 122 to 82, to rise from 17th to ninth.

Its improvement in repelling opposition passes inside-50 has been even more significant. After conceding an average of 15 marks inside the defensive arc last season, that figure has plummeted to 6.5 -  the best of any team.

Significantly, both have been achieved with a reshaped defensive group. Colin Garland has yet to play due to injury, while fellow defensive mainstays Lynden Dunn and James Frawley have spent the past two matches up forward.

Roos, whose premiership-winning team at Sydney was renowned for its miserly defence, said the improvement in Melbourne's defensive results had pleased him.

"You try and look at the positives when you're a club where we've been,'' he said. "To see us middle of the table in points against has been really important.

"If you can keep teams to reasonable scores you at least stay in games for longer. It's only a small window, four weeks, but considering we got belted by West Coast [it is pleasing]. The other three games have defensively been really good."

While Tom McDonald and Jack Grimes have remained in defence, a key change over the past fortnight has been the switch to defence of the spring-heeled Jeremy Howe, which has allowed Dunn and Frawley to move forward.

"Originally it was to change the focus of the team a little bit, and obviously we didn't have many forwards, so [Chris] Dawes coming back helps us," Roos said.

"It'd be hard to move him [Frawley] back after his game on the weekend - I thought he played exceptionally well [in attack]. But ... it's probably going to be hard to keep both Dunn and Frawley week in, week out, because they're both really good defenders. I'd certainly love to keep one of Dunn and Frawley forward, in the medium term anyway."

Roos' move to deploy the Demons' best midfielder, Nathan Jones, in a blanketing role last weekend was pivotal as the co-captain nullified Carlton's Marc Murphy while still gathering 28 possessions.

The coach said he had yet to decide whether to adopt a comparable strategy against champion Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett when the teams clash on Sunday. But he stressed the Suns' midfield threat now went well beyond Ablett, to the likes of Dion Prestia, Jaeger O'Meara and David Swallow.

"The Suns obviously struggled, as a lot of teams have already this year, against Hawthorn, but the biggest thing you notice is they're less reliant on Gary,'' Roos said. "He's maintained his enormous standards, but certainly the development of their other midfielders around him has been really good.''

The story Demons tighten up in defence first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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