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ANZAC EVE - THE SPIRIT by The Oracle

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ANZAC EVE - THE SPIRIT by The Oracle

The nine day break between Melbourne's unexpected loss at the hands of the Fremantle Dockers and this week's ANZAC Eve blockbuster against Richmond couldn't have come at a better time. 

The result of last week's game raised a number of questions about the team's ability to withstand the sort of pressure it can expect from the stronger clubs in the competition and, make no mistake about it, the Tigers have proven so far this year to be considered just that - a strong club. They have taken on and beaten every foe they've faced to date, their stars are playing at the top of their game and they're brimful of confidence. 

One can only hope that the extra day or two between games is used to reflect on this and to learn the lessons of a game in which Melbourne played like millionaires and threw away the four points on offer as if they weren't worth a single cent.

You can hardly say the Demons deserve to be over-confident despite what some might describe as gallant performances with a number of key players missing through suspension and injuries. They have failed this year to produce consistent form throughout games, often inexplicably wavering between brilliance to sheer incompetence seemingly at the drop of a hat. 

The Melbourne that stormed to a 27 point lead late in the second quarter last week could barely be recognised as the same team that conceded goal after goal and barely troubled the scorers in the third. Then, after making a brilliant run to hit the lead late in the game, those final two and a half error-riddled minutes were just awful.

The Demons have had the wood on the Tigers since the ANZAC Eve game became a fixture on the AFL's calendar but this time, they go into the game as the underdogs and rightly so. One hopes that they can summon up some true grit and ANZAC spirit because a loss will send their 2017 hopes spiralling. 

I think they can do it, and once the teams are selected, I will come back and tell you how and why.

THE GAME

Richmond v Melbourne on Monday 24 April 2017 at 7.25pm at the MCG

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Richmond 103 wins Melbourne 75 wins Drawn 2

At MCG Richmond 68 wins Melbourne 63 wins Drawn 1

Past five meetings Richmond 2 wins Melbourne 3 wins

The Coaches Hardwick 0 wins Goodwin 0 wins

MEDIA

TV - Fox Footy Channel Channel 7 live at 7.25pm

Radio - Triple M 3AW SEN ABC ABC Grandstand  

THE BETTING

Richmond to win - $1.71 Melbourne to win - $2.15

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Melbourne 20.9.129 defeated Richmond 14.12.96 in Round 5, 2016 at the MCG

The Demons led from the start and were clearly the superior team on a stellar night for the club. Leaving aside the Hawthorn victory later in the season, many believed this to be the club's finest performance for the year. Max Gawn starred with 47 hit outs and seven marks while Jack Viney was brilliant with 37 touches and some heroics in the last quarter.

THE TEAMS

RICHMOND

B: Alex Rance, David Astbury, Dylan Grimes
HB: Reece Conca, Bachar Houli, Brandon. Ellis
C: Kamdyn McIntosh, Dion Prestia, Trent Cotchin
HF: Dustin Martin, Daniel Rioli, Jason Castagna
F: Jack Riewoldt, Todd Elton, Daniel Butler
FOLL: Toby Nankervis, Shaun Grigg, Josh Caddy
I/C: Kane Lambert, Olen Markov, Conor Menadue, Jayden Short
EMG: Sam Lloyd, Anthony Miles, Jacob Townsend 

IN: Oleg Markov

OUT: Nick Vlastuin (concussion)

MELBOURNE 

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

IN: Michael Hibberd, Jesse Hogan, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Tim Smith

OUT: Tom Bugg, Dean Kent, Mitch Hannan, Sam Weideman

CROSSROADS

The 2017 season is one month old and the Demons are already at the crossroads. 

After the opening round promise shown by their big victory over the Saints at Etihad Stadium, they seem to have moved from one accident to another. It all started in that game when Bernie Vince incurred the wrath of the MRP thus missing the round two match where the team managed to get of gaol with the four points over the lowly Blues but lost two more key players through suspension. Against the Cats, it was poor kicking and another accident that will eventually cause the club the loss of All Australian ruckman Max Gawn. All of these individual accidents conspired to cause an all mighty smash at the hands of Fremantle at home by two points a week ago when a lack of concentration and fumbling under pressure caused their second successive defeat.

Meanwhile, the normally accident prone Tigers have navigated their start to the season without a hitch, beating all and sundry thanks to an outstanding month from Dustin Martin, their team leadership and their star recruits. Everything has gone right for them from the very beginning and they sit comfortably in the top four, undefeated and with a percentage of 141.5%. The cynics would ask, "but who have they played?", to which I would answer that they have beaten teams better than Fremantle who Melbourne were guilty of succumbing to on the back of a single quarter in which the Dockers booted 7.4.46 to 0.3.3.
 
That is the gist of the problem. Without those three key players and a few subordinates, Melbourne simply has demonstrated an inability to string together four quarters of football and worse still, its poor quarters are simply woeful. To turn that around, the Demons need their leaders to stand up and be counted which is something we have yet to see from the club's leadership which has been stung by a drop off of form, injuries and suspension. 
 
Nathan Jones has been a great leader for the club and I will give him credit for trying last week and the fact that he suffered from a bad knock. I'm not sure whether others noticed but in those crucial moments late in the game last week, he came off the ground, a clear sign that all was not well with him. Jack Viney is miles off the player who won last year's club championship.
 
So it's the leadership to who Melbourne will be looking to turn things around in this crossroads game - and to "Smokin" Jesse Hogan - who also owes his club and teammates a major debt after missing those last two matches.
 
We've already seen some major turnarounds in the past few weeks. It's time for the Demons to do it this week and to make a positive move that will lead them away from those dangerous crossroads where accidents happen.
 
Melbourne by 20 points.

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