Star Melbourne midfielder Christian Petracca believes Simon Goodwin was unfairly put under the pump earlier this year, describing the fifth-year coach as like a second dad.
Goodwin guided the Demons to the preliminary final in 2018 in just his second year in charge.
But his job was firmly put under the spotlight leading into this season after the Demons had crashed to 17th in 2019 and ninth in 2020.
There was growing talk that Goodwin could be axed if the Demons experienced another failed season.
But the 44-year-old was able to mastermind a huge turnaround that saw the Demons win their first nine games of the season on the way to claiming the minor premiership.
Should the Demons break their 57-year premiership drought by coming up trumps against the Western Bulldogs in Saturday's grand final, Goodwin's name will be etched into Melbourne folklore.
Goodwin's success this year was rewarded on Tuesday night when he was crowned coach of the year.
Petracca spoke glowingly of Goodwin's influence on him and the rest of the club.
"Goody's like a second dad to me, he's pretty special to me," Petracca said.
"Ever since I got to the club he's always backed me in. Those years when I wasn't playing some great footy and was pretty down in confidence, he has always been there to pick me up, always backing me in, never dropped me which is good.
"He's always been an unbelievable leader, and (it's been) quite frustrating in terms of why he copped so much criticism.
"Last year was a frustrating time for all of us, and two years ago as well.
"To see the criticism he copped was quite unfair. To see him now being the AFL coach of the year is pretty special."
Goodwin faces a series of tough selection calls heading into the grand final.
Joel Smith, Jayden Hunt, and Jake Melksham are some of the players desperately trying to break back into the side.
Former Bomber Michael Hibberd, who replaced Smith (hamstring) for the preliminary final win over Geelong, is no certainty to hold his spot, while substitute James Jordon also faces a nervous wait to see if he's selected in the 23.
Australian Associated Press