Mercury (Hobart)


Club to make up for lost time: Pert


GARY Pert was standing misty-eyed in the Demons’ change rooms and being forthright.

“This is the new Melbourne,” the club’s chief executive said as celebratio­ns for a first flag in 57 years flowed around him at Perth Stadium.

“The new Melbourne that believes it deserves to be in the finals, deserves to – if they’re playing at their best – to play in a grand final, deserves to win a premiershi­p and it’s not something that happens to other clubs.”

Pert is in his third year at the Demons, having joined from Collingwoo­d, where he was also a premiershi­p winner as a chief executive.

Early in his time in red and blue there were a lot of people who wanted to talk to him about the past.

“They sort of wanted to let you know how tough it had been and what scar tissue they had, and tell you all the stories,” he said.

Not any more.

“Now what I’ve seen is everyone wants to talk about the future,” Pert said. “They want to talk about the young list, they want to talk about how good Luke Jackson, Kozzy (Kysaiah) Pickett and Trent Rivers could be, how many finals series Jake Bowey is going to play in.

“When you get a club focused on the future and excited about it, there’s a culture shift.

“If we want to grow into a big, powerful club that we were for the first 100 years of the competitio­n, get to 65, 70,000 members and big crowds at the MCG, we’ve got to be focused on this great player group and great coaches that we’ve got leading the program.”

Pert said the club’s history had at times created doubt but now it was all about optimism.

“I cannot tell you how many people around the club have said ‘I’m scared to think about the future or believe’,” he said “I think that’s gone now. “The new Melbourne is about what are the possibilit­ies, we’ve shown what we’re capable of, why wouldn’t we win another one and another one when you’ve got eight players 21 and under, and a big part of the team had never played a final. “It’s all very exciting.” Few, if anyone, could have seen this coming.

Melbourne reached a preliminar­y final under coach Simon Goodwin in 2018 but slumped to second-bottom the next season.

Last year the club finished ninth.

Pert said there had been encouragin­g signs over summer.

“I can honestly say I saw a shift day one of pre-season,” he said. “The early games were different, led by the coaches and player group, and Darren Burgess and his (fitness) team have provided pretty much a fit list all season.”

What Melbourne had achieved hit Pert midway through the one-sided last quarter on Saturday night when the club was storming to its 74-point victory.

His thoughts went to the Demons’ faithful in Victoria.

“It was very emotional,” he said. “I can just think of the past players, the supporters in their lounge rooms, the celebratio­ns, people who have supported us for 30, 40, 50 years, and what that would mean to them.”

Former Demons were also in Perth Stadium’s change rooms. In one corner was 2000 Brownlow medallist Shane

Woewodin in a club guernsey, talking to ex-teammate turned assistant coach Adem Yze.

Best-and-fairest winner Bernie Vince was nearby in a Melbourne jumper and onetime co-captain Jack Trengove wandered through, smiling.

Club great Garry Lyon was in the middle of the room, looking giddy and looking everywhere, taking it all in.

“Just seeing the faces around and the past players, it would’ve been this times a hundred if it was in the MCG,” said Yze, who was having his first season back at the club.

“We had an opportunit­y to try to break the hoodoo in 2000 and we couldn’t get it done.

“I’ve been away for a little while (at Hawthorn as an assistant) but understand how hard this club works and knowing the people behind the scenes, and the coterie groups that have always been there – through thick and thin.

“Walking in the door this year and seeing those familiar faces, I can just imagine how they’d be feeling.”

Yze has stayed in touch with lots of Melbourne people, including via WhatsApp groups.

He is not part of the one started by Rod Grinter that features more than 130 ex-De

players, but is in another with guys he goes running with each week, such as David Neitz and Clint Bizzell.

An hour after the game, the group chat had about 180 unread messages.

“It was really funny in the prelim final my phone started lighting up at 5.30am Perth time with guys so nervous, knowing it’s a night game,” Yze said.

“Then feeling really confident, then 10 minutes later they’re saying ‘we’re going to lose’ and I’m reading all this informatio­n just having a bit of a chuckle.

“I’ll end up scrolling

through and it’s actually quite funny reading back.

“During the second quarter (on Saturday) I reckon a few of them would’ve been a little bit worried.

“I can’t wait to see those guys.”

Yze said he believes the bonds formed with his exteammate­s have been strengthen­ed by the tragic deaths around the club over the past 20 years.

From Jim Stynes to Sean Wight, Troy Broadbridg­e to Colin Sylvia, Dean Bailey, Steven Clark and Robbie Flower, too many Demons have died young.

“I read an article today and you start to think back to how many different things happened to the footy club,” Yze said. “I was really close to Colin Sylvia when he first started and Troy Broadbridg­e, travelling over to Thailand a year after.

“It’s nice to repay their support and the families that have been through those tragedies.

“Hopefully they get a bit of love from today.”

Yze said he had been teary since the final siren.

For many reasons.

“I’ve got red and blue running through my veins so there was a bit of emotion and nosmons talgia being my old footy club,” he said. “I lost my mum during the year, so you think back to things like that.

“I feel emotional just looking at the players’ excitement and rememberin­g how hard they worked in pre-season, and the things they’ve gone through all year.

“Then you look at guys who’ve missed out: Adam Tomlinson, Jayden Hunt, Jake Melksham – and Nathan Jones is sitting at home.

“So it’s understand­ing there’s lots of different reasons why the emotions are coming out, but they’re good reasons.”

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