Ladder-leader ‘don’t have a mental issue’

Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin could only laugh as he defended the toughness of one player, the form of another and reminded everyone the Demons had to be mentally strong to sit on top of the AFL ladder.

A midweek chip at leading goalkicker Bailey Fritsch, from Hawthorn champion Dermott Brereton, for being a fake tough guy was just “something to talk about”, according to Goodwin.

Finding statistical ways to suggest star defender Christian Salem was underperforming didn’t tell the proper story about his recent efforts either.

And questioning the mental strength of the Demons, who have only lost games to teams outside the eight, and after last week’s draw with Hawthorn, was swatted away by the coach who said his team’s belief has not been rocked “one bit” as they prepare for a top-of-the table clash with the Western Bulldogs.

“Belief has not taken a knock one bit. We have enormous belief in how we play,” Goodwin said on Wednesday.

“We know it has stacked up against some really good teams, and that’s what we want to prove again.

“You don’t sit on the top of the ladder having a mental problem. I look at how we play from week to week and what we are continuing to build.

“I am not too fussed about who we play, I am focused on how we play. We are building our game to play finals footy.”

Goodwin rubbished suggestions Fritsch was become a dirty player after a bump in a marking contest last Saturday left Hawthorn defender Denver Grainger-Barras nursing a sore shoulder and drew the ire of Brereton.

“Bailey is one of the cleanest and fairest players in the league. He’s doing everything right,” Goodwin said.

“People look for things to talk about. Clearly this is a thing people wanted to talk about, but it’s not an issue from my perspective.”

Dermott Brereton believes @melbournefc forward Bayley Fritsch is currently walking a fine line

People have also wanted to talk about the form of Salem, with suggestions his form drop-off has brought the Demons back to the chasing pack.

Goodwin conceded an injury “six or seven weeks ago” had forced a training reshape for the key distributor but wouldn’t entertain any talk of poor form.

“There’s been some pretty harsh chat on Christian. His form is still pretty strong, Goodwin said.

“Some of the champion data ratings and the systems and the stats people come up with probably aren’t to the level it was.

“Christian missed a game of footy six or seven weeks ago, he was quite sore, he’s had some modified training.

“We had to manage him through some situations, but he’s a quality player and his form is still stacking up pretty strong for us.”

Melbourne defeated the Bulldogs by 28-points in round 11, a game that was also played in front of no fans, with this Saturday’s MCG clash also being played behind closed doors.

Coming off the shock draw with the 17th placed Hawks, Goodwin said taking on the Dogs was a challenge his men would relish.

“These are the types of games you look forward to. We can’t wait to get back to our best,” he said.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to be at our best, to welcome that expectation, to welcome that challenge and a challenge when a lot of people think we are not playing our best.

“I know it’s a game our players are really looking forward to.”

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