Melbourne coach Paul Roos knows a bad side does not become a good side overnight, or in the space of half an AFL season.
But the self-confessed impatient man was nonetheless stunned by just how “diabolical” his Demons were early on in Sunday’s six-point loss to Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.
Marcus Bontempelli booted the final two goals of the topsy-turvy thriller to lift the Bulldogs to a 14.7 (91) to 13.7 (85) victory.
But it was the Demons’ lack of pressure, inability to man up and knack of turning the ball over in the opening half which led to the Dogs kicking seven consecutive goals.
Roos did not hold back in his assessment when asked to explain such a shambolic start, and the lapse into old, bad habits.
“Have you watched the team play for the last two years? I can’t explain it, but that’s what we’re trying to fix,” Roos said.
“That’s my job and I’m just not getting the job done at the moment. Because it’s just unacceptable.
“It was diabolical. That first 40 minutes we were just horrible. Horrible.”
Bernie Vince was among his side’s best players, but also the unlikely source of a terrible turnover in the first quarter when he gifted possession to Jake Stringer.
The clanger led to the first of Stringer’s career-best four goals.
“Three of the blokes who turned the footy over in the first half were our three best kicks,” Roos said.
“What’s a one-step kick? That’s a lack of care.
“Which is a lack of focus, which is a lack of effort.”
The Demons kicked seven goals in the third quarter to set up a thrilling final stanza, when there was never more than seven points in it.
“There was just no margin for error,” Roos said.
“No question we’re improving, but if you accept that you don’t get to the next level.”
Robert Murphy and Dale Morris were excellent in defence for the Bulldogs, while stand-in skipper Will Minson rucked himself to exhaustion while being double-teamed by Mark Jamar and Max Gawn.
Former Dogs captain Matthew Boyd tallied a game-high 32 disposals in the absence of fellow midfielders Ryan Griffen and Adam Cooney.
Mitch Wallis, tagging in-form Nathan Jones, Stringer and Bontempelli were among the club’s young guns to stand up with the game in the balance.
“Belief is a big thing. It’s incredible with developing teams how belief can drive effort,” Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney said.
Melbourne’s Dean Terlich suffered a shoulder injury late in the third term and played no further part in the game, but Roos was hopeful it wasn’t too serious.