Finals experience an edge: Merrick

Two years on since Melbourne embarked on its inaugural finals series, Ernie Merrick believes that the lessons learned by his senior players in that successful campaign will serve them well when Melbourne takes on Adelaide at Hindmarsh Stadium on Saturday.

Two years on since Melbourne embarked on its inaugural finals series, Ernie Merrick believes that the lessons learned by his senior players in that successful campaign will serve them well when Melbourne takes on Adelaide at Hindmarsh Stadium on Saturday.

Seven Melbourne players who featured in the 6-0 win over Adelaide in that memorable Grand Final have been named in the 19-man extended squad for Saturday's match, with five of them appearing certain starters. In comparison, Adelaide has just three players who represented it in that Grand Final and a new coach.

Merrick is aware that finals football is as much about players' ability to cope under pressure as anything else. And he knows from the experience of 2006/07 that the core of his side can perform in high-pressure situations.

"I hope there is always pressure. Pressure brings out the best in everyone, whether its players or coaches. I think you have to thrive in it and I think the players must enjoy it. Archie Thompson, Kevin Muscat, Rody Vargas, these boys are all enjoying the pressure. I think that's why they are such good players," he said.

"You can't have a full squad of players with that type of experience. The squad has to change, but the core hasn't changed. I think it's good that we are going into the game with that sort of finals experience behind us."

While the pressure in the Grand Final was relieved by half-time when Archie Thompson had netted a hat-trick to all but seal the result, Merrick said the two semi-final legs that year told him a lot about his players.

"It was 0-0 away from home, we never changed any of the eleven players and I was told I should have brought fresh legs on, but the boys did a job, and we played an attacking formation in the home leg, and we struggled to score," he said.

But Merrick is wary of using those successes over Adelaide, or the three wins Melbourne has had over the Reds this season, as too much of a motivator.

"History (helps) from the point of view that we have a lot of players who played in the finals two years ago," he said.

"It's a confidence thing to know that the team you are up against in the Major Semi-Final is a team that you've done well against this year. We also know that in finals games, it's all-square. We start again and it's very important that we play at our very best and that the boys enjoy the pressure and that pressure brings out the best in the players."

"It's about boys really switching on, doing their job under all sorts of pressure and fatigue."