The bad habits of an unsuccessful recent history had returned to haunt Melbourne in its 11-goal loss to Geelong at the MCG, according to Demons coach Paul Roos.
Roos said his side went into survival mode when Geelong stole a decisive advantage with an eight-goal second quarter, and it was up to the players to find a way to change that habit.
"It's hard to tell whether there are still some [players] that hang onto the past, that [feeling of] 'poor me' and 'here we go again'. That sort of stuff … tends to creep in," Roos said.
"What does it come down to? Work rate and running: just a simple thing in footy, just the ability to two-way run. [There were] too many guys who weren't all that interested in competing today. Playing a good team [that is] not a good mindset to bring."
Roos said Melbourne had fallen below the level required to mix it with a side of Geelong's standing.
While the Demons have remained largely competitive until last week's 63-point loss to Fremantle in Darwin and Saturday's loss to the Cats, they have nevertheless now lost six of their past seven games and have still won only four for the season.
“We probably talked about it a bit, minimum standards. I reckon we got back to that level of performance over the past 10 or 12 weeks, but I think today we dropped back to below those standards,’’ Roos said.
Melbourne's run home doesn't get any easier, the Demons facing another top-four side in Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval next Sunday. And Roos said it was his responsibility to make sure the effort against the Power and for the remainder of the season was better than against the Cats.
“It’s not a case of, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve done pretty well this year and let’s get through the next six weeks and have a big pre-season and hopefully have another big rise next year’," Roos said. “It’s really six weeks to play some good footy, and learn those things that we’re not doing really well, and they really are six pretty important games for our pre-season, which is going to be a big pre-season.’’
Geelong, meanwhile, missed a golden opportunity to close the big percentage gap on its rivals for a top-four berth, improving a 59-point half-time lead by only a further seven points by full-time. The Cats' percentage rose from 107.5 to 112.4. But they are still more than 20 percentage points adrift of the teams ahead of them on the ladder, at this stage of the season as good as another game.
Geelong coach Chris Scott was pleased with his side's early efforts, when its pressure proved too much for Melbourne, but was still conscious of an opportunity lost after the game.
"[We were] very good in the first half and no better than average in the second half," Scott said. "We're a long way behind in terms of percentage and when you get an opportunity you'd like more of it. In the scheme of things, I think we'll be more positive about the first half rather than negative about the second half."