Opening Dawes at Demons

CHRIS Dawes ended up being the whipping boy for Collingwood fans in his final season with the Magpies in 2012.

But now the much-maligned key forward has got the whip in hand at Melbourne and cracking it.

Midfield pair Nathan Jones and Jack Grimes are the official co-captains, but in the 25-year-old power forward, the Demons have a leader capable of actually lifting them to wins.

Taking contested marks and laying bone-jarring tackles inside the forward-50m to go with his 20 disposals and three goals, Dawes was the key to Melbourne recording a monumental victory over the Crows on Saturday night - its first in Adelaide since 2001, breaking a run of 16 defeats.

At 193cm and 105kg, Dawes clearly has the size to be a strong presence going forward, but also looks to be man with the passion to light a fire under his teammates' backsides - something they have lacked.

It was never more evident when the big fella sprinted up to Jack Watts, who probably hasn't had enough people yelling at him over the years, to scream some words of encouragement.

In front of 44,000 Crows fans, Dawes ensured Melbourne was up for the fight - and made the most of its chances in front of goal, despite losing the inside-50 count 41-64.

Dawes had been an integral member of Collingwood's 2010 premiership team, forming an imposing one-two punch in attack with fellow man-mountain Travis Cloke.

But when asked to fill the dual role of forward and back-up ruckman two years later, he lost his way and eventually the club lost faith in him.

When the Magpies went after West Coast tall Quentin Lynch, Dawes wanted out, and while the Bulldogs looked to be his preferred destination during the 2012 trade period.

That was until Melbourne, which had secured Mitch Clark from Brisbane a year earlier, came in with a $2 million, four-year deal.

After an injury-plagued first season with the Demons, interrupted firstly by a hamstring and then a calf, Dawes was forced to undergo surgery on his knee last October and then missed the first three games of 2014.

He had not played a game with his fellow high-priced recruit Clark - and unfortunately now never will with the former Lion calling it quits last month as he battles depression stemming from a foot injury he has been unable to recover from.

But while many were questioning his hefty price tag, Dawes is slowly but surely earning his cash, and the respect of not only Melbourne supporters, but probably even the most ardent Collingwood fan as well.

Dawes appeared on The Footy Show last June, not long after he had debuted for the Demons and impressed as he appeared to speak from the heart - and not his wallet - about his determination to help turn the club's fortunes around.

Studying to be a lawyer, it could have been spin he was delivering, but he is backing it up with what he is delivering on the field for the red and blue.