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THE CURTAIN FALLS by JVM

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My head is literally spinning at the prospect of Melbourne taking on the GWS Giants in our home city and while the pretenders from Western Sydney are without such key players as Shane Mumford, Phil Davis, Ryan Griffen, Dylan Shiel, Will Hoskin-Elliott and dare I say it, Tom Scully.

No, I'm not saying this because I want to emulate the positivity about the club and this game that the powers that be would like displayed by supporters (as if that would have much bearing on team performance anyway) but rather as an indication that the Giants have not used the absence of some of their better players as an excuse for a lapse in effort leading to weak efforts and bad defeats. They are a young side, they have lost key playmakers including some of their most valuable and experienced team members - Mumford alone would make a substantial difference for then - and yet they were able to beat Carlton by 81 points last week.

That's the same Carlton that Melbourne embarrassed itself only a week earlier when, at one stage just before half time, it trailed by one goal to ten. This is Melbourne which, a week earlier produced a goalless first quarter against the Bulldogs and were twelve goals down at the main break. The Melbourne which, after the club's negative culture as seen among its long-suffering supporters was emphasised ad nauseum in the media as being the problem.

The fact is that the negative vibes at the club are merely a symptom of the fact that there are not enough players at the club who have sufficient ability to perform at the highest level, who can get their 25 to 30 possessions per game at the lower level but when it comes to the crunch, you look at their stats in the Fremantle game and the numbers beside their names are abysmally low and that's just numbers without representing the quality of their product. As a consequence, at this time of year, it's all left to the too few and to the inexperienced young kids and when the form of the team leaders in the categories of disposal count such as Nathan Jones and Bernie fall away from high 20s/30s per game to half that amount, it spells trouble with a capital T.

So the curtain falls on a season of unfulfilled promise. There might have been improvement under Paul Roos but it really has been barely enough to register on the Richter Scale when you consider the fact that the club has recruited well and the list of players available is on paper far superior to that which he inherited. There is still much deadwood to be culled before we can stop making excuses.

Against that backdrop, it is ironic that the first official end of year departure from the club is Daniel Cross who has been a fantastic heart and soul player in his two seasons with the Demons and whose example and effort will be sorely missed. Not a single one of those who follow him out of the door - and there will be many - will be able to put hand on heart and say he contributed more to the Melbourne Football Club in the last two years.

THE GAME

Melbourne v GWS Giants at Etihad Stadium, Sunday 6 September, 2015 at 1.10pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Melbourne 3 wins GWS Giants 4 wins

At Etihad Stadium Melbourne 0 wins GWS Giants 0 wins

Past five meetings Melbourne 1 win GWS Giants 4 wins

The Coaches Roos 0 wins Cameron 3 wins

MEDIA

TV - Fox Footy Channel at 1.00pm (live)

RADIO - SEN ABC ABC Grandstand

THE BETTING

Melbourne to win - $2.95 GWS Giants to win - $1.41

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

GWS Giants 15.11.101 defeated Melbourne 8.8.56 at Startrack Stadium Round 2, 2015

The opposite Melbourne to the one we've seen in the past month played that day. The Demons were on fire early kicking four goals to nil in the opening stanza and late in the first half were leading by seven goals to one. They then put up the shutters and scored only one more goal to travel home totally humiliated, at one stage conceding fourteen unanswered goals.

THE TEAMS

MELBOURNE

B: Colin Garland, Lynden Dunn, Jeremy Howe

HB: Daniel Cross, Tom McDonald, Christian Salem

C: Jack Grimes, Bernie Vince, Mitch White

HF: James Harmes, Oscar McDonald, Angus Brayshaw

F: Jeff Garlett, Jesse Hogan, Jay Kennedy-Harris

Foll: Max Gawn, Nathan Jones, Jack Viney

I/C: Viv Michie, Alex Neal-Bullen, Ben Newton, Billy Stretch

EMG: Mark Jamar, Matt Jones, Jack Watts

IN: Angus Brayshaw, James Harmes, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Mitch White

OUT: Neville Jetta (calf), Matt Jones (omitted), Jake Spencer (concussion), Jack Watts (omitted)

NEW: Mitch White (19, Dandenong Stingrays)

GWS GIANTS

B: Adam Kennedy, Caleb Marchbank, Zac Williams

HB: Lachie Plowman, Aidan Corr, James Stewart

C: Lachie Whitfield, Adam Treloar, Heath Shaw

HF: Devon Smith, Cam McCarthy, Rhys Palmer

F: Josh Kelly, Jeremy Cameron, Adam Tomlinson

FOLL: Tom Downie, Callan Ward, Tommy Bugg

I/C : Jake Barrett, Toby Greene, Jacob Townsend, Nathan Wilson

EMG: Paul Ahern, Rory Lobb, Jack Steele

IN: Jake Barrett, Jacob Townsend

OUT: Stephen Coniglio (hamstring), Ryan Griffen (knee),

NEW: Jake Barrett (19, NSW/ACT Rams)

GWS already boasts its best record against the Dees with four wins to three in its brief history and it has a good chance of improving that on the hard and fast Etihad Stadium surface which is conducive to strong running teams such as the Giants on ballers.

But are they really that good?

The Giants are certainly not all that great at clearing the ball from the centre since they average only 10.5 centre clearances per game which puts them in 17th place in the competition. The problem however, is that the Demons are 18th in this category with an average of 10.4. I believe therefore that the best way for Melbourne to beat the odds and finish the season with a win - important in my book - is to assert ruck dominance through 208cm Max Gawn who will be relied upon to get the ball down to his on ball division and create enough take aways to make a difference.

Gawn's opponent is little known third string ruckman Tom Downie who has been at the club for years but has played only seven games. He stands at 203cm and is in the team only by virtue of injuries to Shane Mumford and Andrew Phillips. The big danger for the Demons is their propensity to turn unknowns into champions overnight with outstanding match-winning performances against them (following which they disappear never to be seen again). However, I have faith in Max getting the pill down to his players and on to Jesse Hogan in quick enough time to make a difference this week.

Melbourne desperately needs a quality midfielder so this game affords it the opportunity to impress Adam Treloar and prove to him that the club is a worthy destination. It probably won't happen but who knows?

It really is time for the club to beat its Etihad Stadium hoodoo and to that end, it would be really exciting if the Dees could kick a goal in the first fifty minutes of elapsed play time even if there's nobody around to witness the achievement.

My tip: a draw.

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