Nathan Jones says Melbourne's off-season focus on recruiting exclusively midfielders was an essential step towards matching the midfield depth of its lofty rivals.
In 2013 the Demons ranked last for average contested possessions and clearances and second last for uncontested possessions.
Since the end of the season, in keeping with new coach Paul Roos' penchant for established players, they acquired five midfielders from other clubs: Dom Tyson from GWS, Daniel Cross from the Western Bulldogs, Viv Michie from Fremantle and Bernie Vince and Aidan Riley from Adelaide. Their three selections in last week's national draft – Christian Salem, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Jayden Hunt – were also all midfielders.
As Melbourne has floundered over the past two years Jones has conspicuously thrived as its chief midfielder, winning the best-and-fairest award in each season. He said he would relish the additional support.
"There won't be as much pressure on individuals, and on a smaller group. Really good teams have 10 or 11 players that can rotate through the midfield at any one time ... and that's one area 'Roosy' [identified] and, based on statistics, we need to improve on," he said on Monday.
Jones predicted the midfield influx would have a positive impact on the Demons players who have filled midfield roles over the past two seasons, despite the likelihood some will play less regularly because of it.
"That happens at every footy club. You want competition, and the more you can generate competition in training it drives players to a new level. I'm obviously hoping that if we've got 15 or 20 guys that can push through the midfield there's only 10 or 11 spots [for them], which generates some competitiveness," he said.
Roos rejected the suggestion that the midfield recruiting focus was solely a challenge to incumbent midfielders to lift their game, echoing Jones' comments about the importance of depth in that area.
"I think it's also a numbers game. You've got to have a lot of numbers going through the midfield. If you look at the best teams that's what they do. But it's also quality as well. We've got to train all the existing midfielders, and get the new midfielders into the team," he said.
Roos also expressed satisfaction in the spread of midfielders acquired by the Demons said the end of last season.
"I think after the draft the other day we've got a good balance, big bodies through the trade [period] and drafting some really quick young players," he said.
One of the biggest changes implemented by Roos in his first season at the helm of Melbourne has been to tweak its pre-season training strategy, believing the players were sufficiently fit to "do a bit more skills prior to Christmas than perhaps what they did in the past".
"They did a big pre-season last year with running and I think they were ready to take the next step, to skill-based training and gameplans," the coach said.
Jones said he and his teammate were buoyed to be joined for pre-season training by Mitch Clark, who has missed much of the past two seasons due to serious foot injuries.
Roos and his players were at Federation Square on Monday to mark White Ribbon Day, the campaign decrying violence against women.
"A lot of us that grew up in safe families don't have an idea or understanding about how significant the problem is ... we're really just here as a footy club to make a stand against it," Roos said.
Jones said he and his fellow players were "pretty shocked" to learn of the prevalence of violent attacks against women.
"The more we can raise awareness ... the quicker we can lower those statistics and stop these tragedies happening," Jones said.
Victorian footballing stalwart Phil Cleary has been a fervent anti-violence rights campaigner since his sister was murdered by her former partner in 1987. He said he was proud an entire AFL club had joined the campaign to condemn domestic violence.