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BACK AND FORWARD by Whispering Jack

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It's a pity in many ways that the NAB Challenge game against the Western Bulldogs couldn't be played backwards because that might satisfy many of the Melbourne supporters who were disgruntled by the outcome of a game which their team actually won and give them some perspective.

If you really could play the game backwards then the deficit at half time would have been 38 points making Melbourne's fightback to pull the game out of the fire look heroic. Given that such things are such a valuable commodity but have been rare in recent times, I would prefer the heroics to be kept for events that have a little more meaning than this little romp in the goldfield town of Ballarat.

The reality was that this was a practice match and the result was as irrelevant as it will be next Friday evening when the Demons face up to a truncated Bomber line up at Etihad Stadium in front of however many fans bother to front up to the ground or watch on Foxtel (strange how that mob still get all of their games televised even if half the side are unlisted ring ins).

The reality is that Melbourne disposed of an undermanned opposition in the first half of the game so comprehensively that the second half was used for its proper purpose - experimentation.

In the event, the Bulldogs came out with some added purpose and managed to outscore the Demons in the third quarter with the aid of the wind and continued to surge against a much different midfield set up and an altered defensive mindset in changed conditions with a swirly wind gusting all over the place.

This did not alter the fact that the focus should be on the style of play that we saw in the first half which is going to be more the hallmark of the Melbourne Football Club's on field efforts in 2015. As Paul Roos put it after the game, "omething we've been working really hard on is getting the ball moving with a bit more speed."

This was highlighted by the showings of the club's four 2015 recruits from other clubs in Heritier Lumumba (running defender and midfield), Jeff Garlett (goal sneak), Sam Frost (a big man with pace who can play forward or back) and Ben Newton (midfield).

There was also a lot to like in the games of Christian Salem, Jay Kennedy-Harris and Jimmy Toumpas and the little we were allowed to see of Jesse Hogan whose season was crippled by the injury he suffered in the corresponding game last year. There is also evidence of other players playing different roles as the club's rejuvenation continues, albeit not at the same revolutionary pace that many would prefer.

Nathan Jones and Dom Tyson dominated the first half stoppages but were used sparingly in the engine room in the second half and these were among many of the changes rung in by the coaching group, the consequences of which were stunningly obvious but lost on some of the fans who turned on their team expecting it to go for the jugular when there was another game even more meaningless in terms of result only six days away.

When that day comes, the match conditions will be changed further to the traditional 22 man team format and two weeks beyond that, the real stuff starts. You can rest assured that by then, the team's focus and its line up will be different again and it will be some time after, that we will really be able to discern whether or not the team has moved forward.

MELBOURNE 0.2.2 0.8.4 0.9.6 0.10.9 (69)

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.0.1 0.1.1 0.4.4 0.9.8 (62)

GOALS

Melbourne: Garlett Kennedy-Harris 2 Cross Dawes Frost Hogan N Jones Watts

Western Bulldogs: A Cordy 2 Bontempelli Boyd Goodes Grant Jong Minson Stringer

SUPERGOALS

Melbourne: Nil

Western Bulldogs: Nil

BEST

Melbourne: Salem T McDonald Tyson Dunn N Jones Jetta Kennedy-Harris

Western Bulldogs: Honeychurch M Boyd Grant Jong Daniel A Cordy

INJURIES

Melbourne: vandenBerg (cut head)

Western Bulldogs: Nil

SUBSTITUTES

Melbourne:

Western Bulldogs:

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Chris Donlon Scott Jeffery Brendan Hosking Curtis Deboy

Official crowd: 5000 approx. at Eureka Stadium, Ballarat.

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