Demons reaping rewards of long AFL rebuild

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Melbourne defender Christian Salem says a total buy-in combined with a focus on fun have helped lift the club to the verge of AFL premiership glory.

The Demons will be aiming to end their 57-year flag drought when they take on the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on September 25.

Melbourne missed the finals for 11 straight seasons from 2007 through to 2017.

Their run to the preliminary final in 2018 - which ended in a brutal 66-point loss to West Coast - was followed by an unexpected crash to 17th in 2019 and a ninth-placed finish last year.

Salem, who was snared with pick No. 9 in the 2013 national draft, arrived at Melbourne at the same time as master coach Paul Roos, who answered an SOS to rescue the club from years of mediocrity.

Roos helped set the foundations, and current coach Simon Goodwin has turned the group into a premiership contender.

"I came in the first year of Roosy. It was pretty much the start of the rebuild," Salem said.

"There were some dark times, I won't lie. But we always had full faith in the direction that we were going, and we knew it would take some time.

"It's just a credit to the whole club. We've really bought in, especially the last few years, and we were able to translate it into on-field performances."

Salem said that total club buy-in had been crucial.

A series of meetings over the pre-season took that buy-in to a new level, and the Demons have reaped the rewards this year with the minor premiership and a grand final berth.

"We were pretty disappointed with how the season finished last year," Salem said of a campaign in which the Demons fell one win short of making the finals.

"For us, we had enough of floating around here and there.

"We went away over summer and worked on our game hard, and to be honest it was just a total buy-in.

"It was a little shift for us, and to have everyone buy in on the journey we are on now is pretty incredible."

Salem isn't surprised at Melbourne's rapid rise from ninth spot to grand finalists this year.

The mood at the Demons has been noticeably more buoyant this year, and Salem said that was another crucial factor to the team's success.

"At the end of the day you've got to have a good time, you've got to enjoy yourself" he said.

"It's a hard industry we're in. When you're losing there's a lot of pressure on you, but at the same time you've got to put it into perspective and try to find some enjoyment and positives out of that and have a good time."

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