|Matches||Ladder||Playing List||Night Series||Best and Fairest||Reserves||Under 19s|
Newly appointed coach Carl Ditterich returned to Melbourne for a second time to replace Denis Jones and started his reign by putting the players through a torturous first training session. He immediately declared that the Demons would make the finals, and was ruthless in cutting what he considered to be dead wood with 18 players axed from the senior list before the season started.
It was a bold claim for a side that had finished last with five wins the year before, but one backed by six wealthy businessmen who pledged $10,000 each to the club if they could finish in the five. The club had outlayed $600,000 on players alone, bigger than the entire budget of 1978, and the hope was that the bonus money offered by the businessmen would help offset those costs. Other fundraising efforts included a weekly disco at an Armadale hotel, ‘selling’ lots of MCG turf to fans, and a $50 club tie. Phil Carman was the first of the big names to sign up.
It didn't take long for the new campaign to hit trouble. A pre-season trip to New Zealand was thrown into disarray when five players who were also employed as teachers were refused leave by the Department of Education. Chris Woodman, Peter O'Keefe, Greg Hutchison, Mark McKeon and Ditterich himself were the affected players. Ditterich eventually made the trip. Pre-season training was further affected by not being able to use the MCG until the Thursday before Round 1 due to the ground being occupied by cricket and a military tattoo event.
Ray Biffin was a playing assistant coach but retired after Round 3 to take charge of the Reserves. By Round 14 he had been lured back to an injury hit Demon backline which was leaking huge scores on a weekly basis. Frank Davis was the non-playing assistant coach.
The biggest score of all was Round 17, an afternoon where the Demons made history for all the wrong reasons. Fitzroy registered the highest score and biggest winning margin in VFL history against them at Waverley.
Fitzroy's highest score record would fall 13 years later when Geelong demolished Brisbane at Carrara, but the biggest win was never seriously challenged until Round 19, 2011 when Melbourne lost to the Cats by 186 points at Kardinia Park. In the spirit of all things that were topsy-turvy about the Demons in the 70's they won the next week against Essendon.
The club was so desperate for a competitive advantage that they had a consultant who practised a process called 'eyeballing', where players were encouraged to sit with knees touching and stare into each other's eyes, then be frank about their feelings towards their teammates contribution.
They still won six games for the season and finished three games in front of last placed St Kilda with 10% better percentage. A total of 46 players were used for the season - the equal most of any Melbourne season - and the 70s ended with the Demons as the only VFL team not to make the finals at some point during the decade.
At the end of the season, as multiple committee members resigned from the board, it was revealed that the club was more than $150,000 in debt and for the first time serious questions were asked about the club's survival.
Despite constant talk about Ron Barassi returning to coach, Carl Ditterich retained his job going into 1980. Carman departed after a rocky season, and Greg Wells tried to leave. He first asked for a clearance to North Melbourne, then went through a protracted process that finally landed him at Carlton in mid-1980.
The Reserves competition was known as the Commodore Cup for sponsorship reasons.
|Round 1 Reserves||Robert Walters||Spitting in face of umpire||Unknown|
|Round 4||Peter Hamilton||Striking||2 matches|
|Round 7||Carl Ditterich||Striking||2 matches|
|Round 15 Reserves||John Dellamarta||Striking||Unknown|
|Round 11||Graham Gaunt||Striking||2 matches|
|Round 21||Garry Baker||Striking||Not guilty|
Some sources say the club's debt was $197,000. This may be distinct from the single years' financial loss.
A new holding the man rule may have been adopted.