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The Melbourne Football Club has certainly made an impression on the Top End of the nation in recent times. The club conducted an intensive preseason lasting a week or so late last year. Players lived and trained in an army barracks, walked through crocodile infested Kakadu in intensely hot and humid conditions and were feted by the local community. More recently some of its players felt even more intense heat in the cockpit of a light plane sweating it out through an emergency landing in circumstances that might easily have been a matter of life and death.

Regrettably, none of the bravado displayed in the heat up there has helped avoid embarrassment at the hands of opposition clubs when it comes to playing a game of football. The Demons have been diabolical this season whether home or away but since the departure of Mark Neeld as coach, the players have been given more freedom and were coming out of their shells until they ran into the rampant Cats on their home turf right in the middle of a deluge which left their lighter bodied frames vulnerable to a hiding. The conditions probably saved them from a much larger defeat.

This week, in a vastly different climate and on almost the opposite side of the continent, the team comes up against a vastly different opponent but one which was Geelong's last conqueror. Brisbane was languishing a little until recently after brushing all comers aside in the preseason NAB Cup. They trailed Geelong by 52 points close to three quarter time at the Gabba before their resurgence got them home after the siren. They lost to the Hawks the following week but have won two on end including that come from behind win last week against the Roos. In their past four final quarters, the Lions have posted 166 points to their opposition's 79. Given Melbourne's recent final term lapses (remember the Bulldogs game), I don't think I would back the Demons even if they were 10 goals ahead at the final break.

As this is the first time for the season that Melbourne comes up against a repeat opponent, it gives us an opportunity to compare performances from the Neeld regime to the one under Neil Craig but I can't see the Demons improving on the 28 point shortfall from Round 5, particularly if Brent Moloney comes up fit. Beamer seems to be on a mission to torment his former fans as if his abysmal output when playing for the club in 2012 wasn't torment enough.

You see, if Melbourne has gone backwards in one area in the past month, its been in the midfield which last week was almost invisible at centre square contests leading to the most lopsided inside 50 counts since they started counting them. And that's exactly what's driving us all Troppo!

THE GAME Melbourne v Brisbane Lions at TIO Stadium, Darwin, Saturday 20 July, 2013 at 7.10pm.


Overall Melbourne 21 wins Brisbane Lions 18 wins

TIO Melbourne 0 wins Brisbane Lions 0 wins

Since 2000 Melbourne 8 wins Brisbane Lions 10 Wins

The Coaches Craig 0 wins Voss 0 wins


TV Fox Footy Channel 3 live at 7.30pm


THE BETTING Melbourne $4.30 Brisbane Lions $1.21


Brisbane Lions 17.20.122 defeated Melbourne 14.10.94 in Round 5, 2013 at the Gabba

After an even first quarter, the home side established a narrow lead at half time before Jonathan Brown did in the third quarter what good, strong power forwards tend to do against the Demons. He blew them away.



Backs Lynden Dunn Colin Garland Dean Terlich
Half backs Tom McDonald James Frawley Mitch Clisby
Centreline Jimmy Toumpas Jack Trengove Jack Grimes
Half forwards Colin Sylvia Jack Watts Shannon Byrnes
Forwards Aaron Davey Chris Dawes Jeremy Howe
Followers Max Gawn Jack Viney Nathan Jones
Interchange Sam Blease Jack Fitzpatrick Matt Jones Dean Kent
Emergencies Jordie McKenzie Cameron Pedersen Jake Spencer

In Jack Viney

Out Daniel Nicholson


Backs Jed Adcock Matt Maguire Joel Patfull
Half backs Ryan Harwood Justin Clarke Brent Staker
Centreline Pearce Hanley Tom Rockliff Sam Mayes
Half forwards Dayne Zorko Jordan Lisle Rohan Bewick
Forwards Josh Green Daniel Merrett Ashley McGrath
Followers Matthew Leuenberger Jack Redden Daniel Rich
Interchange Sam Docherty Ryan Lester Andrew Raines Elliot Yeo
Emergencies James Polkinghorne

In Sam Docherty Jordan Lisle Elliot Yeo

Out Jonathan Brown Mitch Golby James Polkinghorne


My late mail delivered by Bill Lawry's carrier pigeon returning after fleeing Lords is that Jonathan Brown and Mitch Golby are out of the Brisbane Lions side for the game in Darwin. They join veteran midfielders Simon Black and Brent Moloney on the sidelines for the Lions which probably offsets the fact that former Brisbanite Mitch Clark continues to be missing from the Melbourne line up.

Now, if only Mark Neeld was still around, he would no doubt explain the significance of the absence of the Brisbane quartet in terms of raw numbers of experience as expressed in games played. Leaving aside young Golby who has added some grunt to its defence, Brisbane is missing more than 700 games of AFL experience and almost the same number of goals scored. In economic terms they together comprise the equivalent of the gross national product of some South American banana republics and enough to raise even Alan Stockdale's eyebrows.

What this means is that the game takes on an entirely different complexion. I don't have the precise figures (actually I don't have any figures at all) but I'm guessing that the differential between age, experience and body strength has narrowed markedly while Melbourne's main advantage over Brisbane (average IQ) would have gone through the roof with the absence of Brown and Moloney. This leaves only two considerations - the weather and the superiority of the opposition midfield. These were the two factors that in my view, led to that embarrassing record inside 50 differential against the Cats last week.

I checked the weather report and they're predicting warm, sunny conditions during the day (max 32, min 19) and little or no rain although humidity will be high up to 95%. That means it won't be bucketing down as it did at Simonds Stadium so the Dees will have some respite on the weather front. Unfortunately, the Lions still have the advantage in the midfield even with Black and Moloney missing. Leuenberger should have the edge in terms of experience over Gawn and Fitzpatrick and Rich, Redden and Rockliff are likely to dominate the clearances with Raines sitting on Nathan Jones.

Elsewhere, Melbourne needs to capitalise on the absence of Jonathan Brown who always manages to do a number against the unlucky backman who draws the short straw and has to play on him while the forward line should relish the additional opportunities and score more than four goals.

Notwithstanding, the Lions late surge to come from over 50 points down at the Gabba last month still resonates and the fact that they fancy themselves as finals contenders is enough to convince me that they have the added incentive to get themselves over the line.

Brisbane by 15 points.

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