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Shayne Hope

Demons' old hands steering AFLW flag bid

Call them the Demons' dedicated half-dozen.

They are the experienced core of Melbourne's playing group who have been there since the AFLW's inaugural season, led by captain Daisy Pearce and long-time deputy Karen Paxman.

Lauren Pearce, Sarah Lampard and Lily Mithen have also been mainstays in red and blue, with the five players guided by Mick Stinear, one of only two senior coaches in charge of the same club since the 2017 debut campaign.

Together, the tight-knit group will aim to create sporting history by steering Australian football's oldest club to its first AFLW premiership in Sunday's grand final against the Brisbane Lions.

"What that would mean is so much greater because we do have so much genuine care for one another," Mithen told AAP.

"I'm sure plenty of other groups have it but when you get to feel it yourself you're so grateful and proud of the environment you're in.

"Being here from day one, it's been built by Daise, Paxy, Loz, Lamp, Mick ... there have been so many key drivers there from the start."

Mithen, who was fresh out of school in 2017, remembers the first AFLW season as "a shambles".

It featured just seven rounds and a one-off grand final, which Melbourne narrowly missed because of an inferior percentage to eventual premiers Adelaide.

Kate Hore and Eden Zanker joined the Demons for season two and are now among a group of seven players who have amassed more than 50 AFLW games for Melbourne.

Hore was elevated to vice-captain this season, with Paxman stepping down from leadership duties.

Under Stinear's guidance the Demons have consistently lived in the upper echelons of the ladder and reached their first grand final last season, but have not yet managed a breakthrough flag.

"A massive reason as to why we've been consistently successful in terms of wins and losses is because we've had that really steady group," Mithen said.

"It's a group that challenges yet harnesses that element of team and bond and connection.

"We've built something really special and haven't got that premiership to determine that success.

"If we have that or not this weekend, it isn't really going to change those connections.

"But if we do have a premiership cup it's another really good excuse to catch up in future, which we're all striving to do."

Melbourne's only loss this season was a round-four thumping from Brisbane, who then finished top of the ladder by the barest of margins.

It secured the Lions home ground advantage for the grand final, which will be the first competitive match played at their new Brighton Homes Arena base.

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