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OMEN by The Oracle

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Melbourne takes on Hawthorn in a crucial match up on Sunday afternoon at the MCG. Both teams are sitting on a 2/1 record so, even at this early stage of the season, a win is crucial because the victor gets a little separation from the main pack challenging for a berth in the competition’s top echelon.

The Demons, who have in the past year or so, made an art form out of letting opportunity slip from their grasp, badly need the win because it has an appointment with reigning premier Richmond coming up on Anzac Eve. Win both games and they are in a rarefied atmosphere for this football the club and off to their best start since 2005.

And, in a similar vein to last week when Melbourne broke a long-standing losing streak against North Melbourne, the club is aiming to overturn a huge disparity between wins and losses in its recent history against Hawthorn. The Hawks have won 14 out of 15 against the Demons, the only exception being their Round 20, 2016 contest when they were top of the ladder and went down in a surprise loss that sent them hurtling from premiership favouritism for what would have been a fourth consecutive flag.

Hawthorn bottomed out remarkably quickly last year and seem to be on the up and up just as quickly off the back mainly of their master stroke in the recruiting of midfielders Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara but Melbourne’s midfield is more multifaceted and adaptable including a wide range of players with varying degrees of size and experience.

One of those midfielders is in form Christian Petracca to who I look for both inspiration and an omen in this game.

The omen is drawn from Petracca’s former basketballing teammate Philadelphia 76ers rookie Ben Simmons who has been creating a storm in NBA circles. The 76ers were a struggling team until Simmons made his debut late last year. They began their season slowly but suddenly moved into play off contention and now, after their 15th consecutive win yesterday, they are nicely placed in third place on the Eastern Conference ladder. Their latest victim?

The Atlanta Hawks.

THE GAME

Hawthorn v Melbourne at the MCG Sunday 15 April 2018 at 3.20pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Hawthorn 86 wins Melbourne 75 wins 

At MCG Hawthorn 45 wins Melbourne 36 wins 

Last 5 meetings  Hawthorn 4 wins Melbourne 1 win

The Coaches Clarkson 1 win Goodwin 0 win

MEDIA

TV - Fox Sports3, Seven Mate live at 3.00pm

RADIO -  Triple M 3AW

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Hawthorn 14.10.94 defeated Melbourne 14.7.91 in Round 7, 2017 at the MCG

The Hawks skipped away to an early lead  and were never headed although the Demons made a desperate lunge in the latter stages of the game.

After Jeff Garlett’s third goal close to the three quarter time reduced the margin to 1 point, the teams traded goals until Jordan Lewis goaled with less than a minute remaining to reduce the margin to 3 points, but it was all too late.

THE TEAMS  

HAWTHORN 

B: Conor Glass, James Frawley, Blake Hardwick
HB: Taylor Duryea, Ben Stratton, James Sicily
C: Ricky Henderson, Jarman Impey, Isaac Smith
HF: Luke Breust, Jack Gunston, Tim O’Brien
F: Paul Puopolo, Jarryd Roughead, Cyril Rioli
Foll: Ben McEvoy, Tom Mitchell, Liam Shiels
I/C: Daniel Howe, David Mirra, Harry Morrison, Jaeger O’Meara
Emg: Ryan Burton, James Cousins, Mitchell Lewis, Brendan Whitecross

In: Conor Glass, David Mirra, James Sicily

Out: Kaiden Brand (omitted), Ryan Burton (omitted), Will Langford (omitted)

New: David Mirra (Box Hill Hawks)

MELBOURNE 

B: Christian Petracca, Oscar McDonald, Neville Jetta
HB: Michael Hibberd, Jake Lever, Bernie Vince
C: James Harmes, Nathan Jones, Jordan Lewis
HF: Alex Neal-Bullen, Sam Frost, Tom Bugg
F: Jake Melksham, Jesse Hogan, Dean Kent
Foll: Max Gawn, Christian Salem, Clayton Oliver
I/C: Angus Brayshaw, Bayley Fritsch, Jeff Garlett, Josh Wagner, 
Emg: Mitch Hannan, Jayden Hunt, Billy Stretch, Sam Weideman 

In: Angus Brayshaw

Out: Dom Tyson (ill) 

The Hawks caused an upset when these two teams met but, in a way, it was on the cards. 

In the absence of injured big men Max Gawn and Jake Spencer and before Simon Goodwin could work on his ruck plan B, Ben McEvoy dominated the ruck with 53 hit-outs and gave his onballers an armchair ride. 

Even back then, Tom Mitchell was starring as a midfielder and with Jarryd Roughead, on the comeback trail from his illness, able to flush out every ounce of sympathy available from the umpires, the Hawks opened up an early lead that was a smidgeon beyond the Demons’ comeback challenge.

Things are different this time on two major fronts. Firstly, there’s the Max Factor. The Melbourne big man is not only back but he’s showing the same, if not better, standard of mastery of his craft that won him All-Australian honours two years ago. 

Then there’s Jesse Hogan who took place in the equivalent game last year but was in the wrong space, recovery from the recent loss of his father and about to receive a cancer diagnosis. He’s in a much better place this time around and I suspect that he will prove a difficult opponent to overcome for whoever draws the short straw to oppose him. 

And that Hawk midfield might be leading the field in terms of centre clearances at 16.7 (a tremendous achievement given their opposition this year has included the Cats’ triumvirate and the reigning premiers’ on ball combinations) but the Demons are not that far behind at 16.0 with their multifaceforted engine room that includes the experience of Nathan Jones and Dom Tyson and the rapidly coming on Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca who are both in great early-season touch. 

Around the ground, I think the Demons will be too solid for the Hawks who will be missing Shaun Burgoyne (hamstring) as well as a couple of other handy defenders. The result is that Hawks will lower the colours to the Dees for only the second time in a dozen years.

Melbourne by 29 points.

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