After racing to a 4-0 start for the first time in 27 years, are Melbourne the latest club to officially announce itself as a 2021 AFL Premiership contender?

After the nightmare of 2019 and the mediocrity of 2020, it really is Dee-light for the red and blue in 2021. Not only is the club 4-0 for the first time since 1994, but they could and *should* be even better placed in three weeks’ time. Simon Goodwin’s side face both Hawthorn and North Melbourne within the next three rounds — AFL clubs currently placed 17th and 18th. Should they claim victory in those, who knows what their ceiling is for this season?

Finals at a minimum

Melbourne started the year as $2.50 finals hopes with Palmerbet and have quickly slashed that price into $1.22. They also kicked off the 2021 AFL season as $6.50 Top 4 hopes but, similarly, have come into $2.40 with wins over Fremantle, St Kilda, GWS and Geelong.

Given those odds, it would appear that finals footy would be the Dees goal now for 2021, at a bare minimum. They have the cattle to be there in September, and fans should accept nothing less after their fast start.

“More experienced than 2018”

The Dees have also more than halved their AFL Premiership price since the start of the season. Starting as $21 hopes, Goodwin’s side are now into $10 with Palmerbet. And midfielder Jack Viney says the nature of their wins show they’re a different group to the 2018 one that went all the way to the preliminary finals. “I think we’ve had a couple of pretty mature wins,” he told Wide World of Sports. “It’s not like we’ve dominated for four quarters, we’ve been behind at times. In years gone by we might’ve let the lead get too far in front, or we let that phase us…It’s a more experienced group than the 2018 season.”

“Top two trainers”

If the Dees are to go all the way in 2021, it undoubtedly needs star Christian Petracca firing. Just as Richmond wouldn’t have won last year’s flag without Dustin Martin, Melbourne can’t without their main midfield man. Coach Simon Goodwin has said Petracca is in the top two trainers at the club. And that’s clearly translating to game days, too. He started the season as a $13 AFL Brownlow Medal hope and has already slashed that into $8 after strong early performances.

This week

Melbourne face a Hawthorn outfit they comfortably disposed of last season, and are strong $1.27 favourites to repeat the dose.