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I must confess I've been out of the loop and interstate visiting family over the past few weeks but the big question I had in my mind when I walked into Casey Fields was why on earth was Sam Blease running around in a low key VFL practice match against Box Hill when he should have been preparing for the NAB Cupper against the real Hawks that night?

The last I heard of Blease he was racing around in a Demons intraclub game, kicking goals and destroying backline opponents with his exquisite pace and poise but apparently, he was late for a team meeting and suspended from playing in the NAB Cup opening round on the Gold Coast. A week later he had limited game time in the second half and this week he was back at Casey for an 11am lift off.

Yesterday, he was good. Not the team's best and it wasn't as if he made no mistakes in a scrappy game played in perfect conditions. Early in the game, he kicked on his right foot at times when the non preferred left would have been the better option and then in the second term, he slotted a gem of a left footer from the boundary that revived his team's fortunes when the Hawks should have had a bigger lead. He kicked the first goal of the third quarter (his team's only goal for the term), was always dangerous as a small up forward and was prepared to have a dip. Later in the evening, all of Melbourne's goals were scored by players no shorter than 192cm. There were no Demons at Etihad demonstrating the pace to break lines or vibrancy or energy to do something to break the iron tight grip the Hawks had on them. Blease is a must to come back into the team that plays Port Adelaide next week. 

He should be joined by Tom McDonald who marked strongly from the get go and was probably Casey's best player on the day although that's not saying much, such was the lacklustre standard of the game.

Things started well with Casey doing all of the attacking and scoring the first two goals of the game before the visitors regrouped through their dominant big men. They held a slender one point lead at the first break, dominated most of the second quarter and looked to have taken a strong grip on the game before Blease and McDonald's late goals put the Scorps back in the game restoring the status quo to a 1 point Box Hill lead. 

James Strauss put in a fine effort in his first game back after that devastating break in the Carlton game last year. His strong tackling and accurate disposal stood out but the medical people obviously decreed that one half would be enough for this week and consigned him to the sheds. One would expect him to play a full game next week at Casey and then line up in the first official game against Williamstown. If all goes well, he might be back for the Demons in round 1. They will also relish having both Jack Grimes and he in defence. Another defender who stood out was Neville Jetta who looked in good nick down back after a shoulder operation. Sadly, he turned an ankle later in the game and looks like missing several weeks with more surgery.

Blease restored the Casey lead early in the third quarter but the Scorps went back into their shell allowing the Hawks to dictate the terms and kick the next three goals. 

With his team trailing  by 14 points, new coach Brett Lovett addressed his players calmly at the three quarter time huddle encouraging them to put in that extra effort in the final  quarter.

Lucas Cook had been disappointing for most of the game and was outbodied by the Hawk defenders but he came back well in the last kicking a goal and moving nicely around the ground. Similarly, Kelvin Lawrence had a quiet day but came good late with the goal that put Casey in front late in the game. Moments later, a goal to Will Petropoulos sealed a 7 point win over a flagging Box Hill.

Rookie Jai Sheahan showed some promise with cool play in defence. He will be a work in progress for Lovett because of the depth  of key position defenders at the Demons. 

The most puzzling aspect of the game was the form of Jordan Gysberts. Melbourne is crying out for players with a point of difference with the ability to be creative and different in the midfield. Gysberts is usually a prolific ball winner but yesterday, he simply couldn't get going. Perhaps he needs stronger players to enable himself to get going.

The Scorpions have surprised by winning both practice games to date but one was in the wet against an undermanned Port Melbourne and yesterday's game was of a poor standard. The team's player losses have been well documented and there are no obvious replacements in standard. The team's VFL players were honest toilers but struggled at times with the set up which involved moving forward around the boundary. Evan Panozza played well in defence but Danny Nicholls was well off the pace after a best on ground performance in the wet last week. Long standing skipper Kyle Matthews who made a late comeback last year after suffering head injuries in a hotel assault two years ago, did not play.

Casey Scorpions 2.2.14  4.3.27 5.5.35 9.8.62

Box Hill Hawks 2.3.15 4.4.28 7.7.49 8.7.55

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