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ON A PLATTER by The Oracle

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Demonland    5,226

At this time of the year, when the battle for the finals heats up, every game involving one or two of the contenders can be dramatic. By the time, Melbourne's turn comes to defend its current top eight placing, all five matches played either on Friday night or at some time on Saturday will have had an influence on the prospects of the teams playing for a finals finish or a top four spot (although admittedly, the Hawks' late bid may well be over before their game starts).

The fact that we will have better knowledge of how the club is placed in its quest for its first finals appearance since 2006 will not however, have an effect on what it has to do against the the 18th-placed Lions. Success is never served on a platter given away by others.

The challenge for Melbourne is to win this game and then the next. If it does that, it won't have to depend on others to make the finals which is what it's all about - the capacity to be responsible for one's own future.

The challenge of winning this particular game also requires the team to step up in a crunch game where it starts as the favourite against a much lower ranked side. On four occasions (against Fremantle, Hawthorn and North Melbourne twice), the Demons have turned up expecting the four points to be served up on that platter only to stumble and fall by narrow margins. 

There is not much use in crying over spilt milk but a simple glance at the ladder will tell you that had they won half of those close games, they would have been in top four contention instead of fighting with three or four others for a place in the eight. 

The Brisbane Lions have hit some form recently so they can't be taken lightly. Melbourne has much more at stake and simply cannot afford to lapse in this game. If it does so this time, then a large number of its fans, including yours truly, will be cheesed off.

And on that note, I hope that the players are not distracted by the fare of cheese, avocado, prosciutto which one Melbourne supporter feasted on last week at the Saints game.

cheese.jpg

THE GAME

Melbourne v Brisbane at MCG Sunday 19 August, 2017 at 1.10pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall: Melbourne 23 wins, Brisbane 20 wins

At MCG: Melbourne 13 wins, Brisbane 3 wins

Last Five Meetings: Melbourne 2 wins, Brisbane 3 wins

The Coaches: Goodwin 0 wins, Fagan 0 wins

MEDIA

TV - Fox Footy Channel live at 1.00pm
Radio - SEN ABC ABC Grandstand

THE BETTING

Melbourne $1.17 to win, Brisbane $5.25 to win

LAST TIME THEY MET 

Melbourne 19.17.131 defeated Brisbane 9.14.68 at the MCG, Round 9, 2016 

The Demons don't often win games by more than 10 goals but they did just that the last time the two teams met 15 months ago. Jesse Hogan booted five goals, James Harmes four and Tomas Bugg finished with 31 touches.

THE TEAMS

MELBOURNE

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

IN: Jesse Hogan, Billy Stretch

OUT: Jack Viney (foot) Sam Weideman (omitted)  

BRISBANE LIONS

B: Daniel McStay, Harris Andrews, Daniel Rich 
HB: Darcy Gardiner, Josh Walker, Sam Mayes 
C: Hugh McCluggage, Dayne Zorko, Ryan Bastinac 
HF: Lewis Taylor, Michael Close, Claye Beams 
F: Ryan Lester, Eric Hipwood, Jake Barrett 
FOLL: Stefan Martin, Tom Rockliff, Dayne Beams 
I/C: Jacob Allison, Rhys Mathieson, Nick Robertson, Alex Witherden
EMG: Tom Cutler, Ben Keays, Sam Skinner

IN: Alex Witherden

OUT: Cedric Cox (omitted)

Brisbane has a poor record against Melbourne at the MCG having won there only three times (although that figure might have looked better had the Demons not sold home games to play at the Gabba in the Lions' halcyon days). Their last win at the G was by 41 points in Round 1, 2012 which was Mark Neeld's first game as coach. Things are far different for both sides these days but a loss to the Demons on Sunday would be far more devastating than the one from 5½ years ago that marked the beginning of the former coach and his team's long ride on the "reality bus".

A loss at home to the last placed team in the competition would signal that Melbourne simply does not merit a berth in the finals. Fortunately, the team does have the experienced heads who can lead it through the pressure of a must win game starting with co-skipper Nathan Jones who has dedicated his football lifetime to be in reach of the September action he last saw when his career was in its infancy. With him is Jordan Lewis who has seen it all in his time as a four-time premiership player and is now on the brink of yet another finals campaign. The Demons have won most of their games when these two have been in the team together and the leadership of the club's wise old heads will be critical over the weeks to come.

And with them is a young team with a lot of talent that plays a high possession game, wins the contested ball and has an All Australian ruckman who is smart enough to learn and adapt his technique after the issues he had with the umpires in the game against the Saints.

The Lions have improved greatly in the second half of the season and had a great win last week against a club in crisis after the sacking of their coach. This week they face a club with a mission and the boot will be on the other foot.

Melbourne by 45 points.

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