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Demonland

THE WHIRLWIND by Whispering Jack

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Demonland    5,231

This experience of supporting Melbourne is a bit like walking your way through an emotional whirlwind. You get very little time to savour the rare experience of a seven goal win over what is acknowledged as the leading team in the competition on their home patch before one of your finest young players suffers a concussion for the fourth time in twelve months and all of a sudden his career is in question. That's what happened to Angus Brayshaw less than 24 hours after the team triumphantly strode off the Adelaide Oval last Saturday evening. 

The highs and the lows of competition sport are well known and they happen to everyone - it's a given. But the whirlwind for Demon fans is an ill wind from hell that blows strong, and hot: in fact its white hot and you get to feel the heat a matter of two days down the track when another young man who it was said would one day the best key forward in the land, is diagnosed as having testicular cancer. 

The pundits can talk about the Demons' win in Adelaide as the most outstanding victory of any team for the season to date, but what does it mean when one of your own is suffering from such a shattering diagnosis coming less than two weeks after the passing of his father? 

They say that the cancer can be overcome, that this type of surgery carries a high rate of success, that "... this was an extremely early detection and Jesse is expected to make a full recovery and will return to football this year." The comfort comes from the knowledge that there are people like Sam Rowe, the Carlton defender who ironically was struck in the face by Hogan, incurring him a two week suspension as a result in Round 2, who survived the ordeal of treatment for the ailment and recovered to play football again. And Rowe reached out to offer him counseling and assistance in his darkest hours.

But from the club's perspective, it all continues. There's a game to be won against the Kangaroos with their giant ruckman standing in the way while the Demons' own talls look on from the sidelines, leaving an undersized ruck department to fight against the odds. They haven't beaten North Melbourne for a while - not since Nathan Jones' career was in its infancy back in 2006. John Howard was the Prime Minister back then, Sexyback by Justin Timberlake was the number one song in the country and a Japanese horse named Delta Blues was being prepared to win the Melbourne Cup. A little freckle-faced kid called Clayton Oliver was in grade two.

One of the constants throughout Melbourne's last decade of pain has been North Melbourne's dominance over the club. That winning streak currently stands at 15 games in a row including the last seven games between them at the MCG. The streak will be broken at some stage and if the Demons can bring last week's form into Sunday's game then it will happen sooner rather than later.

It wasn't all that long ago that Melbourne's midfield depth was derided by some so-called experts including those who used statistics to demonstrate its weakness in the engine room. But that is a case that can no longer be argued with a straight face.

Today's Demon on ball brigade is absolutely ferocious. They are ranked in the top four in the competition for centre clearances (despite their current ruck woes), contested possessions tackles. Perhaps this is what prompted Kevin Bartlett to claim that the Dees are one of only three Victorian sides that can win the premiership this year. The problem is that the team's depth has been hit hard by those injuries to key players.

I would like to think that Melbourne can overcome the injury plague and win again this week even without Gus, Jesse and the big blokes. Good clubs manage to do such things consistently. Ask the Western Bulldogs who did it last year when they walked through the whirlwind to overcome similar adversity. For the Demons, it would be a real triumph of the soul. 

THE GAME Melbourne v North Melbourne on Sunday 21 May, 2017 at the MCG at 3.20pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Melbourne 83 wins North Melbourne 79 wins 1 draw

At MCG Melbourne 54 wins North Melbourne 36 wins

Last five times Melbourne 0 wins North Melbourne 5 wins 

The Coaches Goodwin 0 wins Scott 0 wins 

MEDIA

TV - Channel 7, Fox Sports 3 at 3.00pm (live)

RADIO - TBA

THE BETTING  

Melbourne to win $1.50 North Melbourne to win $2.60

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

North Melbourne 21.10.136 defeated Melbourne 20.11.131 at Blundstone Oval in Round 3 2016.

The Kangaroos were quick out of the blocks with a roaring gale at their backs and had seven straight goals on the board before the Demons troubled the scorers but after trailing by 36 points at the first break they played a nine-goal second term to be seven points ahead at halftime. North then regained the lead halfway through the third and led by 3 goals at the final break with Melbourne pushing forward to level the scores 8 minutes into the final term. The Kangaroos regrouped and the Melbourne fightback left it 5 points adrift when Billy Stretch gathered the ball near goal as the siren sounded. 

MELBOURNE

B: Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald, Neville Jetta 
HB: Jayden Hunt, Sam Frost, Bernie Vince 
C: Nathan Jones, Clayton Oliver, Tomas Bugg 
HF: Christian Petracca, Jack Watts, Mitch Hannan 
F: Jeff Garlett, Cameron Pedersen, Dom Tyson 
FOLL: Tom McDonald, Jordan Lewis, Jack Viney 
I/C: Dean Kent, Christian Salem, Josh Wagner, Sam Weideman
EMG: Jake Melksham, Alex Neal-Bullen Billy Stretch

NO CHANGE

NORTH MELBOURNE

B: Marley Williams, Robbie Tarrant, Ed Vickers-Willis 
HB: Aaron Mullett, Scott D Thompson, Jamie Macmillan 
C: Sam Gibson, Ben Cunnington,  Mason Wood
HF: Kayne Turner, Jarrad Waite, Luke McDonald
F: Nathan Hrovat, Ben Brown, Shaun Higgins 
FOLL: Todd Goldstein, Jack Ziebell, Jed Anderson, Ryan Clarke
I/C: Shaun Atley, Taylor Garner, Lachlan Hansen, Andrew Swallow,    
EMG: Sam Durdin, Declan Mountford, Braydon Preuss

IN: Taylor Garner, Aaron Mullett, Andrew Swallow, Jarrad Waite

OUT: Jed Anderson (foot) Trent Dumont (concussion), Sam Durdin (omitted), Jy Simpkin (AC Joint)

IT ALL FIGURES by Stan the Stats Man

More than a third of the season has passed by so it's time to look at how the Melbourne list has been traveling. The club has often been compared with another AFL up-and-comer in St. Kilda but I can assure you that the Saints have few injury worries to date by comparison with Melbourne and one or two other clubs in the competition. That's just one thing that stands out from the simple analysis below.

1. Jesse Hogan MFC games 4, goals 9 An eventful season so far but not for good reasons. He was suspended in Round 2, missed a week mourning the loss of his father and now the cancer diagnosis.  

2. Nathan Jones MFC games 8, goals 6 The hard nosed skipper has led from the front throughout the season so far.

3. Christian Salem MFC games 8, goals 3 Has raised his game a level whether playing in midfield or defence.

4. Jack Watts MFC games 8, goals 13 After a less than encouraging pre season period, Watts has hardly put a foot wrong as a forward or back up ruckman. 

5. Christian Petracca MFC games 8, goals 12 Has made good progress and is starting to live up to his high draft selection.     

6. Jordan Lewis MFC games 5, goals 3 A magnificent acquisition for the club who has provided inspiration and leadership but with one major blemish being his suspension for 3 matches  after a brain fade in Round 2.               

7. Jack Viney MFC games 8, goals 3 Made a slow start to the season and has started to come good in the last few weeks.       

8. Heritier Lumumba Retired without even making a start to his pre season.

9. Jack Trengove CD games 5, goals 1 Still biding his time playing consistent football in the VFL but will he get another opportunity to play at the highest level?     

10. Angus Brayshaw MFC games 2, goals 1, CD games 3, goals 1 Troubled by concussion issues and his short term future remains in doubt.             

11. Max Gawn MFC games 3, goals 1 Injured in Round 3 and underwent hamstring surgery after the game, the All Australian ruckman's presence in the ruck is being sorely missed.

12. Dom Tyson MFC games 7, goals 1 Form has been a little inconsistent but he's been really important when up and running.                

13. Clayton Oliver MFC games 8, goals 1 The young midfielder is having an outstanding second season. Probably leading in the club's best and fairest and even spoken of as a possible All Australian.

14. Michael Hibberd MFC games 4, goals 1, CD games 2, goals 0 A prolific ball winner with great delivery skills and a good stopper in defence. Already an important player with the Demons after missing the early games with injury.                                

15. Billy Stretch MFC games 5, goals 2, CD games 2, goals 0 After a good start, his form dropped off ever so slightly and he found himself out of the side.

16. Dean Kent MFC games 3, goals 5, CD games 3, goals 3 Form has been indifferent but he has his chance now. 

17. Sam Frost MFC games 5, goals 0 Came back from some pre season injury worries as a much improved player in defence. 

18. Jake Melksham MFC games 6, goals 0, CD games 1, goals 1 Had some good moments but found himself down at Casey where he earned a suspension after playing a blinder.

19. Mitch Hannan MFC games 7, goals 7 Has been good in his debut year at the club.                 

20. Colin Garland Suffered an ACL injury before the start of the season. Sidelined for 2017.

21. Cameron Pedersen MFC games 3, goals 5, CD games 2, goals 3 Working hard against tough odds and taller opposition as a fill in ruckman/forward.

22. Aaron Vandenberg Yet to take the field during the regular season due to a heel injury.

23. Bernie Vince MFC games 7, goals 1 Played a great tagging role in recent weeks and was terrific on Rory Sloane.

24. Jay Kennedy-Harris MFC games 3, goals 0, CD games 2, goals 1 Didn't do enough to impress in his three match stint after a long period out through injuries.

25. Tom McDonald MFC games 8, goals 4 Strong leader in defence who has also gone forward and played on the ball during the club's ruck crisis. 

26. Sam Weideman MFC games 5, goals 3, CD games 1, goals 0 Was strong in the tackling department against Adelaide but needs to impose himself more as a tall forward.

27. Liam Hulett CD games 2, goals 0, CD DL games 1, goals 0 Struggling at the moment at Casey after missing part of the pre season.

28. Oscar McDonald MFC games 6, goals 0, CD games 2, goals 0 His form was patchy early but has come back strongly after a stint with the Casey Demons.

29. Jayden Hunt MFC games 8, goals 4 Having a wonderful season highlighted by his blistering pace, adventurous running and athleticism.

30. Alex Neal-Bullen MFC games 6, goals 3, CD games 1, goals 1 Had is moments this year and is on the fringe at the moment.

32. Tomas Bugg MFC games 4, goals 2, CD games 1, goals 5 Working his way into a regular spot in the Demon line up.

33. Jake Spencer MFC games 2, goals 0 Waited a long time to get an opportunity at AFL level but suffered a shoulder injury in just his second game back. 

34. Mitch King CD games 4, goals 0 King is a developing player coming back from an ACL and is being given time at Casey.                              

35. Ben Kennedy CD games 5, goals 2 Struggling to gain a spot at Melbourne, Kennedy has been working on his game down at Casey.

36. Jeff Garlett MFC games 8, goals 20 Dangerous forward having a terrific season and finally gaining recognition for the value of his role to the team.

37. Dion Johnstone CD games 5, goals 2 Speedy forward who can lay a tackle is learning the trade in the VFL.

38. Tim Smith ® MFC games 2, goals 1, CD games 1 goals 0 Unlucky to suffer a broken rib in his second game.

39. Neville Jetta MFC games  8, goals 2 Steady as a rock playing the small defender's role.

40. Patrick McKenna A hamstring tear has prevented him from playing at either AFL or VFL level. Had another setback at training this week.

41. Mitchell White ® CD games 4, goals 1 Working hard as a defender at Casey but missed last week.

42. Josh Wagner MFC games 2, goals 0, CD games 1, goals 0 Had some injury woes in the pre season but has come back into the team and slotted in well in defence. 

43. James Harmes MFC games 4, goals 3, CD games 3, goals 0 Lost his place in the Melbourne team but bounced back with a strong performance at Casey last week.

44. Joel Smith ® MFC games 1, goals 0 Was going along nicely in defence on debut when he suffered an injured shoulder and will miss at least the rest of the first half of the season.

45. Declan Keilty ® CD games 5, goals 3 Rookie spare parts man getting experience as a back up ruckman with key position roles in the VFL.

47. Lachlan Filipovic ® CD DL games 4, goals 0 Project ruckman getting game time in the Development League with the Casey Demons.

48. Corey Maynard ® CD games 4, goals 1 Was coming along nicely performing better than expected and getting plenty of the ball as a midfielder at Casey when he suffered a big hit and will miss his second game this week as a result.  

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