'Bitterly disappointing': AFL club's financial pain after season from hell

Melbourne's horror 2019 AFL season has been reflected in the club's financial result, with the Demons reporting an operating loss of $1,580,419 for the year ending 31 October.

After reaching a preliminary final in 2018, which contributed to a record membership of 52,516, the Demons dropped off sharply in 2019, winning just five games and finishing 17th.

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The AFL club attributed some of the loss to poor home attendances, saying gate receipts were impacted by on-field performance, especially in the back half of the year, while the loss of home gate takings for Anzac Day eve (against Richmond) and Queens Birthday (against Collingwood) had also contributed to the figure.

Melbourne's home crowd average in 2019 was 28,968, compared to 40,695 in 2018.

The Demons also cited the loss of $901,000 income stream from gaming - due to the 2018 sale of the Leighoak venue - as a contributing factor.

The club said the financial loss would be covered by existing cash reserves and therefore would not be added to their current debt, which now sits at $2m after $628,000 was paid off during the year.

A torrid 2019 season has hit the Melbourne Demons in the hip pocket, with reduced crowds estimated to have cost the club up to $1.5 million. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

"There's no doubt that announcing a loss of over $1.5m is a bitterly disappointing financial result, and a reflection of a club which finished 17th on the ladder," chief executive Gary Pert said.

"It's important to reiterate to members our strong balance sheet has allowed us to fully cover the revenue shortfall with our cash reserves and pay down our debt, which now sits at two million dollars.

"A significant amount of changes have been made in the off season to ensure we give ourselves every chance to bounce back both on and off the field, and I hope Melbourne supporters are quietly excited about the possibilities in 2020."

AFL's best captain stands down as West Coast seek change

Norm Smith medallist Luke Shuey is the early favourite to become West Coast's next AFL skipper after Shannon Hurn stepped down from the role after five years in charge.

Hurn has been at the top of his game over the past two seasons, being named All-Australian vice-captain in each of those campaigns.

But the 32-year-old feels the time is right for a new leader to step forward, with the players and key football staff to work together to nominate a new captain.

Vice-captain Shuey is the early frontrunner.

Fellow vice-captain Josh Kennedy, 32, is at the tail-end of his career and unlikely to be given the captaincy reins.

Other members of the leadership group from last year who could vie for the role include Nic Naitanui, Andrew Gaff, and Jeremy McGovern.