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MOJO LOST by Whispering Jack

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Demonland    5,056

Has Melbourne peaked too early again this year?

Last year, after displaying their best football for years with wins against Hawthorn by 29 points at the MCG in Round 20 and Port Adelaide by 40 points at the Adelaide Oval in Round 21, the Demons' form dropped away dramatically. With ten wins under their belt, they needed to win the remaining two matches of the season to have a chance of making the finals. The first of those games was against lowly Carlton which was on a long losing streak and they lost that and their finals aspirations, doing so without raising a whimper. That effort was followed up with a capitulation to Geelong at Simonds Stadium, the venue of one of the team's other more famous victories merely a season and a half earlier.

The conventional wisdom that came from post-season reviews was that by the time of the game against Port Adelaide, the young side was starting to show signs of exhaustion after a long, hard, challenging season. They had a lead of 39 points at half time in the Adelaide Oval game but those who were close to the team said they could see by the way the opposition surged with little response in the third quarter that the Demons were about to hit the wall. 

Although I am not an insider and indeed have only watched the past two games on the screen, I sense deja vu when looking back at the past month. 

The Demons were sensational in the first half against Port Adelaide building a 44 point lead early in time on of the second quarter before holding on to win by a small margin. We were still congratulatory, confident, looking forward to the finals and eyeing the prospect of a top four placing.

But while we never looked back to what had taken place some twelve months earlier when disaster struck after the team's previous win over Port Adelaide, the danger of a repeat of history was staring us right in the face. 

The young Melbourne team was unchanged from the week before as it traveled to Tasmania to take on North Melbourne which (like Carlton last year) was on a long losing streak and it proceeded to lose by four points after a listless final quarter performance. A week later, it proceeded to leak goals at the rate of knots in the opening quarter at Canberra against the Giants. The final losing margin of 35 points flattered the Demons.

The signs are all there. The team is no longer winning at the stoppages and in the contests and this is happening despite the fact that it has Max Gawn back winning the ruck hit outs. The inside grunt is no longer as constant and opposition pressure is forcing that one handball too many, leading to errors. The outside run and spread that was evident earlier in the season is almost non-existent. The youngsters are tiring and the important players who suffered injuries six to eight weeks ago have returned without the same impact and explosive power that they displayed earlier in the year.

The Demons badly need an injection of outside pace. Jayden Hunt who is one of the young guns whose form has dropped in recent weeks can't do it all by himself even if he regains his mojo. I'm looking for some inspiration from the selectors this week because the trend of the past month has to be reversed if the club's dream of a return to finals action is to be achieved in 2017.

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THE GAME

Melbourne v St Kilda Sunday 13 August 2017 at the MCG at 1.10pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall  Melbourne 119 wins, St Kilda 91 wins, 1 drawn

At MCG Melbourne 58 wins St. Kilda 35 wins

Past five meetings Melbourne 1 win, St Kilda 4 wins

The Coaches Goodwin 1 win, Richardson 0 wins 

MEDIA

TV - Fox Footy Channel, live at 1.00pm

RADIO - SEN

THE BETTING

Melbourne to win - $1.65, St. Kilda to win - $2.25 to win 

THE LAST TIME THEY MET 

Melbourne 18.12.120 defeated St. Kilda 13.12.90 in Round 1, 2017 at Etihad Stadium

The Demons set the season for their season with a slow start before they got going in a second quarter goal spree that blew the Saints away. Clayton Oliver, Nathan Jones and Jordan Lewis all finished with 30+ possession games in a promising start to 2017

THE TEAMS

MELBOURNE

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

IN: Angus Brayshaw, Mitch Hannan, Josh Wagner, Sam Weideman

OUT: Sam Frost (omitted), Corey Maynard (omitted), Christian Salem (omitted), Jack Watts (omitted)

ST KILDA

B: Jarryn Geary, Nathan J. Brown, Dylan Roberton
HB: Jack Newnes, Jake Carlisle, Jimmy Webster
C: Shane Savage, Luke Dunstan, Jack Billings
HF: Jack Steele, Josh Bruce, Maverick Weller
F: Jade Gresham, Tim Membrey, Jack Sinclair
FOLL: Billy Longer, Sebastian Ross, Jack Steven
I/C (from): Blake Acres, Sam Gilbert, Koby Stevens, Brandon White 
EMG: Tom Hickey, Jack Lonie, Daniel McKenzie

IN: Sam Gilbert

OUT: Nick Riewoldt (concussion)

The L's mount for the Demons as the W's begin to dry up. They were final four contenders in mid season, cocky and arrogant until those injuries took hold and then, against the Swans, the cracks began to appear. It's been a downhill slide ever since and, after four losses in the past six games, Melbourne finds itself on the brink of elimination from the finals race - defeat against the Saints will surely see it slide out of contention. The same applies to its opponent.

Ironically, the last time Melbourne defeated St Kilda on the MCG, the teams were locked in a fight for their season's survival in the 2006 Elimination Final. However, that win heralded the end of an era and the club spiraled downward into the abyss. It's taken more than a decade and 2017 has been a year of hope and promise but the events of the last month or so has seen all that begin to unravel.

The Demons are on their last chance to lift themselves back into the race. They have beaten all of the teams around them on the ladder including the Saints. They have a draw they sees them playing out the home and away series at the MCG against teams that are out of the top eight. The selectors have sent a strong message about what they require from the side by dropping out of form players.

There are no excuses.

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