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WHEN YOU'VE GOT NOTHING, YOU'VE GOT NOTHING TO LOSE by Whispering Jack

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The Demons are making it very hard for anyone to tip them to win with any confidence these days. Key players are falling over injured, getting themselves reported and horror of horrors being photographed at music festivals puffing away at cigarettes. On the field, they continually miss easy shots at goal while their opponents never miss their targets.

Meanwhile, Fremantle, their opponent this week in the big game at the G, just shrugged off the easy beat tag by giving last year's premiers a right royal touch up in Perth. Before the game against the Bulldogs, Ross Lyon re-assessed his position and decided that as a coach he was basically in the position that when you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose. So he ditched half a dozen passengers from his team and brought in players who were determined to have a dip. The rest is history and the Dockers are on the road to revival.

Who would have thought only a week ago, that Melbourne would be going into this week's game as the underdog? Well, not actually THE underdog but possibly, the hunter rather than the hunted? All of a sudden the weather's turned cold for the Red and Blue while the Purple Haze has sprung to life again - returned from the dead in one of the AFL's greatest reincarnations ever witnessed (at least until the Gold Coast performed an even greater one less than 24 hours later on the other side of the country). 

That's the trouble with football these days. One day, you're motoring along with an All Australian ruckman hitting your midfielders on the chest, a tall forward prodigy running everywhere kicking and setting up goals and a hard nosed midfielder with four AFL premierships under his belt. Next thing you know, you've got nothing. 

Worse still, you're coming up against the AFL's tallest ruckman Aaron Sandilands and he's in full flight with a resurgent Nat Fyfe back to his brilliant best picking up 33 disposals and the likes of Lachie Neale, Stephen Hill and Michael Walters awaking from a long slumber causing havoc to opposition defenders. 

Meanwhile, it's Melbourne that's on the horns of a dilemma. Who will shoulder the ruck duties? Does the back half need stiffening up? Is it time to bring some more experience and strength into the forward line set up? Are we at the point where we have nothing to lose?

The more I look at it, the more concerned I become that the unthinkable might happen on the club's own territory. Round 3 has turned the entire AFL competition on its head and one wonders how one can find a way to select Melbourne to win this week.

After team selection on Thursday night, I'll come up with a way.

THE GAME

Melbourne v Fremantle at the MCG Saturday 15 April 2017 at 1.45pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall: Melbourne 14 wins Fremantle 21 wins

At MCG: Melbourne 7 wins Fremantle 6 wins

Last five meetings: Melbourne 1 win Fremantle 4 wins

The Coaches: Goodwin 0 wins Lyon 0 wins 

MEDIA

TV - Fox Footy at 1.30pm live

Radio - 

THE BETTING Melbourne $1.32 to win Fremantle $3.45 to win

LAST TIME THEY MET

Melbourne 12.15.87 defeated Fremantle 8.7.55 at TIO Stadium, Round 16, 2016

The Demons dominated against a dispirited Dockers outfit which only twelve months earlier was threatening to win the flag. These things happen when you lose your ruckman, a champion midfielder and a bevy of other important players.

THE TEAMS 

MELBOURNE 

B: Jake Melksham, Tom McDonald, Jayden Hunt
HB: Neville Jetta, Sam Frost, Nathan Jones
C: Bernie Vince, Clayton Oliver, Billy Stretch
HF: Dean Kent, Sam Weideman, James Harmes
F: Jeff Garlett, Jack Watts, Christian Petracca
FOLL: Jake Spencer, Dom Tyson, Jack Viney
I/C: Tomas Bugg, Mitch Hannan, Alex Neal-Bullen, Christian Salem
EMG: Oscar McDonald, Tim Smith, Jack Trengove

IN: Tomas Bugg, Sam Frost, Jake Spencer

OUT: Max Gawn (hamstring), Oscar McDonald (omitted), Tim Smith

FREMANTLE 

B: Ethan Hughes, Joel Hamling, Lee Spurr 
HB: Garrick Ibbotson,  Michael Johnson, Connor Blakely 
C: Stephen Hill, Lachie Neale, Bradley Hill 
HF: Lachie Weller, Cam McCarthy, Ed Langdon 
F: Michael Walters, Shane Kersten, Brady Grey 
FOLL: Aaron Sandilands, Nat Fyfe, David Mundy 
I/C: Harley Balic, Hayden Crozier, 
Griffin Logue, Tommy Sheridan  
EMG: Jonathon Griffin, 
Danyle Pearce, Matt Taberner

NO CHANGE

THE YEAR OF THE SNAKE

The world's worst kept secret was exposed on Thursday morning when Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin confirmed that ruckman Jake Spencer would play in place of the injured Max Gawn, who will miss at least 12 weeks with a hamstring injury. The loss of Gawn, coupled with the suspensions of Jesse Hogan and Jordan Lewis from the Carlton game have left gaping holes in the Demon line up, already hampered by a number of injuries especially to players like Michael Hibbberd, Josh Wagner and rookie Joel who would otherwise be expected to hold down are at least be in contention for defensive positions in the team.

Cometh the hour ... cometh the men.

The minute that Max hit the Etihad turf and then later as he hobbled off the ground clearly in distress, Melbourne fans knew that a call was about to go out for the man affectionately known as "Jake the Snake"

The man has been around the club for what seems forever. He was 35th selection in the 2008 Rookie Draft and spent his first season playing with the club's then VFL affiliate club Sandringham where he played seven games at reserves level and 10 in the seniors. He made his NAB Cup debut on 21 February 2009 to encouraging reviews and played his first AFL game in Round 1 2009. Jake managed six games for the season and was finally upgraded from the rookie list at the start of 2010.

Never the epitome of the classic modern ruckman, the ungainly Spencer has been a battler throughout his time at the club, spending much of his time as understudy to the All Australian ruckmen of his time at Melbourne - Mark Jamar and more lately Max Gawn. He's also had long stints on the sidelines with injury - missing more than a whole year through a ruptured ACL suffered in 2011 while playing with the Casey Scorpions.

Entering his 10th season at the club, Jake had only 36 games for six goals to his name, his last match being in Round 22, 2015 – ironically against Fremantle at Domain Stadium. The good news is that this is precisely what he's been working diligently for in the interim - an opportunity to take the main stage and shoulder the club's ruck burden in the event of Gawn’s absence and what better first up assignment than Aaron Sandilands? 

Not only has he been waiting for this - Jake's fully prepared, having played well in all three JLT Community Series matches and continued in dominating form playing for Casey in VFL practice matches.

Now, the Snake is about to turn into the Viper - Gawn himself is telling all and sundry that, when he's ready to return from that injury, he will find it hard to regain his place and he's not kidding!

The inclusion of a deadly reptile is not all the selectors have done to change the mix following the final quarter breakdown against Geelong. 

They've introduced pure speed into the backline with the return of Sam Frost into defence in the place of Oscar McDonald and hardness in the guise of in-your-face pest Tom Bugg.

Meanwhile, the rejuvenated Dockers have gone into the game with an unchanged line up to the one that beat the reigning premiers on their home turf last week. 

They are however, still a young side that has had difficulty in traveling over the Nullarbor in recent times and will struggle to contend with the Demons who, despite the missing faces, still have the structures in place to give them the winning edge at their own snake pit in this game.

Melbourne by 35 points.

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