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ARTICLE REVIEW : Recruiting guru Gary Buckenara analyses Melbourne Demons’ list after the 2020 AFL season (Updated)

Gary Buckenara – October 27, 2020 – Herald Sun


To be fair and to his credit, Garry Buckenara has written the 2021 list review and admitted he got it wrong (as did a lot of others)

The Review

As a life-long Melbourne supporter, Garry Buckenara broke my heart when he kicked that goal after the siren to end Melbourne’s run at a flag in 1987.

I’m not exactly sure where Garry has been and what he has achieved since, however he writes a regular column for the Herald Sun where he analyses AFL team lists – they call him the list guru.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing however when Garry reviewed the Melbourne list at the end of the 2020 AFL season, he couldn’t have been more wrong (as we all know by now – Melbourne are the Premiers in 2021).

I remember reading the article when it was initially published in the Herald Sun (back in the days when we were allowed to go to the office and I could pick up a printed copy of the Herald Sun in the tearoom.)

The contents of this article stuck in my mind all year and prompted me to review the article now that the Demons have won the flag.

The article is full of claims that were ridiculous at the time let alone with the help of hindsight, including:

“Melbourne’s current list isn’t capable of winning a premiership and until four key aspects missing from the playing list are addressed, the club won’t be in a position to challenge.”

Garry Buckenara October 27, 2020 – Herald Sun

“Competitiveness is the one that is seriously lacking at Melbourne.”

“Who at Melbourne brings that fierce competitiveness? Maybe Jack Viney. Anyone else? It’s a hard question to answer and this is my point.”

“As for the skills and footy smarts, Melbourne’s top-end talent is too thin.”

“I see only 12 A and B-ranked players and just three players aged 21 or under – Luke Jackson, Kysaiah Pickett and Trent Rivers – with the potential to develop into A or B-graders.”

“Melbourne is suffering from ‘Rose-coloured Glasses Syndrome’ – the list has been severely overrated by those within the club.”

Garry Buckenara October 27, 2020 – Herald Sun

In fairness, Garry did write the following about recruiting Ben Brown

“Ben Brown would be a good fit for the Demons as they have tried hit and miss options like Tom McDonald and a combination of either Braydon Pruess and Gawn as tall targets. “

But then again Garry also wrote this:

“I wouldn’t have any Melbourne player as untouchable if the right offer was on the table. “

“Melbourne has to decide whether this group can win a premiership in the next five years. I say no, but the club probably believes it can, so are unlikely to do anything bold like seeing what offers would come in by putting Clayton Oliver on the trade table. That would shock some people, but clubs need to think outside the box – you never know what possibilities and opportunities will present to improve your list and get the types of players you need to take the next step. “

“Oliver is a great player but there are a few knocks on his game. He handballs too often and puts his teammates under pressure. So, he doesn’t really hurt the opposition like the great midfielders do. I think he can be replaced.”

Garry Buckenara October 27, 2020 – Herald Sun
  • McDonald is definitely a player who’d create some interest from rival clubs looking for a key position swingman and is on the outer.
  • Max Gawn is Melbourne’s only A-grader.


I’m not sure how much Melbourne Football Garry was able to watch in 2020 however this is how he rated the team

A-grade: Gawn”

B: Brayshaw, Fritsch, Lever, May, T. McDonald, Melksham, Oliver, Petracca, Salem, Viney, Weideman”

C: Baker, Brown, Hannan, Harmes, Hibberd, Hore, Hunt, Jetta, Jones, Kolodjashnij, Langdon, Lockhart, O. McDonald, Neal-Bullen, Preuss, Smith, Tomlinson, Vandenberg”

Developing (with A-B grade potential): Jackson, Pickett, Rivers”

Developing: Bedford, Bradtke, Chandler, Jordan, Nietschke, Petty, Spargo, Sparrow”

“I was wrong about Melbourne. Since 2018 I’ve been waiting to see them kick on since making the preliminary final, I thought they were ready to challenge for a premiership in 2019 and 2020. But I now believe this group can’t win a premiership and a major change in direction is needed in their list management and recruiting strategies, and a big list cull and rebuild to find players that bring those four non-negotiable traits – skills, footy smarts, competitiveness and character.”

Garry Buckenara October 27, 2020 – Herald Sun


A-grade: Elite player on any AFL list

B: Top 10-18 player on most lists

C: An 18-30 player on a list

Developing: Aged 21 or under


There is a whole lot more content in the full article which you can access using the link near the top of the page