Similarly to Carlton, Melbourne have endured some tough times since the turn of the century. No matter how hard they’ve tried, how hard they’ve tanked, Melbourne have just never been able to get themselves to a level of sustained competition. Through this tough period, they did have their own talismanic key forward in David Neitz, who has become a legend for the club in his own right. Since his retirement in 2008, unfortunately, Melbourne haven’t been able to capitalise on grabbing another star forward. Here, we rank the players since Neitz who have tried to fill that enormous void.
6. Brad Miller
A bit of a strange choice, Miller spent a majority of his 10-year career in the AFL at the Demons, spending a good portion of it alongside Neitz. Often used as a utility, he did spend a good chunk of time as a full forward, particularly after Neitz’s retirement and injury troubles to Russell Robertson. Miller was their leading goalkicker in 2008, but never quite reached the heights desired of him to lead the Demons forward. For this, he ranks in the lower tier of post-Neitz forwards.
5. Tom McDonald
One of the more confusing players to rank, Tom McDonald has been a reliable and serviceable player for the Demons since he as drafted in 2011. A big body capable of playing on either end of the field, McDonald plied his trade as a key defender for the first few years of his career, proving himself as one of the league’s best. Injuries forced his switch to play up forward for a stretch of games in 2017, where he proved a potent kick of the footy and contested marker.
A full-time switch in 2018 saw a career-best haul of 53 goals in the season, where he looked like the player Melbourne had been searching for the last decade. He didn’t quite reach the same heights in 2019 – though neither did anyone at Melbourne – but if he can reclaim his 2018 form then we’ll no doubt see him climb these ranks.
4. Liam Jurrah
This is one of those ‘what-if’ stories, being that a question surrounding Jurrah is always “what if he utilised the talent he possessed?” A freakishly athletic player, Jurrah combined a knack for goals and an ability to take speckies with the best of them. Taken in the 2009 preseason draft, Jurrah impressed on debut before nabbing a Rising Star nomination in that same year for his 4-goal effort against the Power. Continuing from where he left off, Jurrah won himself Mark of the Year in 2010 for that mark against Port Adelaide, signalling his rapid rise in the AFL.
2011 saw his best year to date, leading Melbourne’s goal kicking with 40 goals in the year as things looked up for the club. Sadly, a string of legal issues starting in 2012 and continuing for the next few years forced his early retirement from the AFL, and we were robbed of the chance to see Jurrah blossom into the forward for Melbourne that the club hoped he could be. Still, his career was an enjoyable four seasons.
3. Brad Green
Perhaps Melbourne’s most consistent forward in this era, Green proved a reliable presence among the goals through his 12-year career at the Demons. Proving a great partner to Neitz, Green was always expected to be one of Melbourne’s best goal kickers alongside its star, good for a couple of goals each game. Like many others, Green was hoped to take the mantle after Neitz’s departure, not disappointing with a high of 55 goals in 2010, finishing as their best goal kicker.
Injuries did ravage the big man towards the end of his career and he couldn’t quite recapture his best form. Still, Melbourne fans can look on Green’s career with admiration due to his long service with the club and consistent reliability.
2. Russell Robertson
One of the most exciting players in recent memory to don the Demons’ jersey, Robertson was the undersized sidekick to Neitz throughout his decorated career. Though short for a key forward, Robertson ignored the doubters with his aerial ability and penchant for kicking bags of goals. The star forward finished as Melbourne’s leading goalkicker 4 times, but like many others injuries took their toll on him in the post-Neitz era.
Robertson retired shortly after in 2009, still managing an average of 2 goals a game, but he was sadly past his best. Still, he is remembered fondly by Demons fans for being a bright spot in an otherwise dark and torrid time. Who can also forget his ability with a guitar and microphone.
1. Jesse Hogan
Hogan’s placed at the top may be the only ranking that isn’t up for debate, as he electrified the AFL with his prodigious talent since his debut in 2015. Finishing as Melbourne’s leading goal kicker with 44 goals on debut, Hogan picked up the Rising Star award for 2015, as Melbourne looked to have found their man. Hogan backed it up with 41 goals the following year, proving that he wasn’t just a one-season wonder.
Tragically, Hogan suffered from testicular cancer in 2017, limiting him to just 10 games where he still bagged 20 goals while dealing with a horrible illness. He returned to form in 2018 as he banged a career best 47 goals and helped lead Melbourne to their first finals berth in 12 years, but a fracture in his foot preventing him from participating. Hogan did move back to Fremantle the following year, looking for a return to his home state, where a string of personal issues have halted him from getting back to his best. Still, he was easily Melbourne’s best and most dynamic forward since Neitz, and Melbourne have evidently suffered since his departure.