Demons’ old hands steering AFLW flag bid

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Call them the devoted half-dozen Demons.

They are the experienced core of Melbourne players who have been there since the AFLW’s inaugural season, led by captain Daisy Pearce and longtime assistant Karen Paxman.

Plus manager Mick Stinear, who is one of only two senior managers still in charge of their clubs since the first 2017 campaign.

Lauren Pearce, Sarah Lampard and Lily Mithen have also been mainstays in red and blue.

Together, the tight-knit group will aim to make history as they guide Australia’s oldest football club to their first AFLW premiership in Sunday’s grand final against the Brisbane Lions.

“What that would mean is that much bigger that we really care about each other,” Mithen said.

“I’m sure a lot of other bands have it, but when you feel it yourself, you’re so grateful and proud of the environment you’re in.

“Being here from day one, it’s been built by Daise, Paxy, Loz, Lamp, Mick… there’s been so many key drivers from the start.”

Mithen, who was fresh out of school in 2017, remembers the AFLW’s first season as “a shambles”.

It featured just seven legs and a single Grand Final, which Melbourne narrowly missed due to a lower percentage than eventual Adelaide Premiers.

Kate Hore and Eden Zanker joined the Demons for season two and are now part of a group of seven who have amassed over 50 AFLW games for Melbourne.

Under Stinear’s leadership, the Demons have always lived on the upper rungs of the ladder and reached their first Grand Finals last season, but have yet to break through the flag.

“One of the biggest reasons we’ve always been successful in terms of wins and losses is that we’ve had this really stable group,” Mithen said.

“It’s a group that challenges while harnessing that element of team, bond and connection.

“We’ve built something really special and obviously we don’t have that premiership to determine that success.

“Whether we have that or not this weekend, it won’t really change those connections.

“But if we have a Premiership Cup, that’s another really good excuse to catch up in the future, which is something we’re all striving to do.”

Melbourne’s only defeat this season was a fourth-round defeat against Brisbane, who then finished top of the ladder by the narrowest of margins.

He secured the Lions’ home advantage for the Grand Final, which will be the first competitive game played at their new base Brighton Homes Arena.

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