Melbourne co-captain Nathan Jones has blamed their agonising AFL finals near-miss on a season of inconsistency.
While he blasted their woeful first quarter in Saturday’s upset loss to Collingwood, Jones said they had let other opportunities slip during the year and only have themselves to blame.
Jones hopes the tumultuous end to Melbourne’s season burns in their guts through the summer to fire them next season and he expressed sympathy for the anger of long-suffering Demons fans.
Melbourne were aiming for their first finals appearance in 11 years this season and they were seventh going into round 23.
After their disastrous loss to the Magpies, it came down to the last five minutes of the home and away season.
Two last-ditch West Coast goals meant the Eagles took eighth spot from Melbourne by just 0.5 of a percentage point.
“It’s obviously a pretty bitter pill to swallow,” Jones said.
“The players are hurting as much as our supporters would be livid when the opportunity was there and we let it slip.
“It’s a culmination of results … rather than just the first-quarter performance against Collingwood (that) has led us to this position.
“Hopefully it burns in the players’ gut over the pre-season.”
Sidelined by a leg injury, Jones was by himself on Sunday as he watched their finals spot snatched from them.
“I locked myself down and sat on the couch,” he said.
“It’s one of the more nerve-racking situations I’ve been in … frustration and anger.”
Despite the agonising near-miss, Jones is bullish about their future.
“We’re well aware of where we sit in our journey, there are going to be ups and downs,” he said.
“That can be quite frustrating at times, particularly to our supporters who have been through such a range of emotions and such a downward spiral over the past decade.
“To see us on the improve … with hope and the opportunity that was there for this season, to see it slip like it has, is a bitter pill to swallow.
“But hopefully it leaves us in a better position as a footy club and as a playing group for the experience.”
Fellow captain Jack Viney missed the end of the season after he returned early from foot injury and was sidelined again.
Jones was asked if the Demons had erred by letting Viney return quicker than expected from the operation.
“Speaking with him, I don’t think think the two things (injuries) are directly related, but maybe they could have taken a little bit more time,” Jones said.
“At the same time, guys are trying to push the limits … it was a credit to him, really, for how well he did come back.”
Jones added that second-year midfielder Clayton Oliver was “pretty stiff” to miss the All-Australian squad.