|Matches||Ladder||Playing List||Best and Fairest||Seconds||Under 19s|
Ian Ridley was appointed coach after the resignation of John Beckwith. He had guided the reserves to two successive premierships and when the out-of-contract Ron Barassi announced that he was staying with the Blues after their grand final victory he was the natural successor to the senior role.
One of the new coach's innovations was to thrown open the doors of the change room and allow fans to listen to his pre-match address. Before the Home and Away season commenced the team went on a pre-season trip to Adelaide where they put through gruelling physical training to build up their fitness for the season ahead.
In an attempt to improve the side's performance the committee made all players undergo vision testing before the start of the year. Committeeman Col McLean said a number of players had been diagnosed with previously unknown sight issues. There were also new standards for grooming, with the first training session of the new season carrying an ban on beards, moustaches, sideboards and long hair. Assistant coach Bernie Massey lost his moustache for a second time, five years after Norm Smith had given the same instruction during his playing days.
Outlining his philosophy for the role the new coach said: “Melbourne has lost its pride over the past five or six years, and I am determined to see the club go up. If I can get everyone thinking as desperately as I am, the sky’s the limit.”
“Our brand of football may be a little different from what which supporters are used to,” he said, “but the club is well aware that it will take desperate measures to lift us back to a position of power.”
Whether it was the vision testing or the new coach Ridley looked like the perfect fit when the side won its first five games. He had replaced the long kicking, high marking style which dated back to the 1950's and 1960's with a more modern skill and pace gameplan. Even a Round 6 loss against Collingwood looked like a hiccup when they won the next three in a row. The finals drought was only stretching into its sixth year but it seemed like that '71 would be the year it broke.
It wasn't to be - a poor end to the season due in part to a lack of talls and the wet weather which didn't suit their style saw the Demons finish three games outside of a strong final four.
In a brutally honest interview at the end of the season Ridley admitted he'd made mistakes and said he wasn't sure that he'd reapply for the job in 1972. He said he wasn't sure that even if he did apply he'd be reappointed. His self-criticisms included not picking the right players for wet conditions, not being harsher in dropping out of form players and that despite the fitness advantages of his team they didn't have the right tactics.
While the Reserves slipped out of the top four in the last round, the Under 19s and Fourths won their premiership, and the seniors won the Night Series at the conclusion of the season. Bruce Brown won the Gardiner Medal for best player in the VFL Reserves competition.
The club made a $7493.80 loss across the year.
Sir Henry Bolte, Premier of Victoria, was Club Patron. Arthur King was Melbourne's VFL delegate.
|Round 19||Ray Biffin||Striking||4 matches|
|1971 Night Series Final||Robert McKenzie||Striking||?|
Fitzroy were stripped of four wins for fielding an unregistered player.
Captain - John Cunningham
Vice-Captain - Warren Tassell
Best and Fairest - Peter Dilnot
Second Best and Fairest - Peter Conley
Best Clubman - Bill Rodriquez
Best in Finals - John Cunningham
Outstanding service - Colin Aubrey, Ian McGuinness