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SPEECHLESS by The Oracle

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There has been very little to say about the Melbourne Football Club since its meek capitulation in those final three quarters against Hawthorn last Sunday.

Perhaps it’s just as well then that there are still a few days to go before the team fronts the Tigers (and its own supporters) on Tuesday night at the MCG to enable us to find our voices again after such a fiasco.

Demon fans have been scratching their heads in wonder seeking answers, trying to understand what happened but I suspect that it’s all fairly simple - they were outplayed and out coached, cornered by a superior strategist who had only to watch the game they played a week earlier against the Kangaroos to work out a way to exploit the team’s limitations.

It isn’t hard to envisage Alastair Clarkson sitting back watching the North Melbourne game and noticing that his team’s next opponent had only one ruck option and a sole key forward who also had a license to roam and was being played further up the ground. Clarkson is adept at taking such a situation and exploiting it to his own advantage so that once overcome, the game can take one direction only.

That’s where the Demons stand with a few games to go before they take on the Tigers on Anzac Eve on one of the few occasions when they are allotted to the big stage - they have an immediate need to produce a team that is adaptable and not so predictable in its set up, otherwise they might well leave their supporters speechless yet another time.

I look forward to team selection to provide some insights.

THE GAME

Richmond v Melbourne on Monday 24 April 2018 at 7.25pm at the MCG

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Melbourne 75 wins Richmond 104 wins Drawn 2

At MCG Melbourne 63 wins Richmond 69 wins Drawn 1

Past five meetings Melbourne 2 wins Richmond 3 wins

The Coaches Hardwick 1 win Goodwin 0 wins

MEDIA

TV - Seven Mate Fox Sports Live at 7.00pm

Radio - Triple M 3AW SEN ABC

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Richmond 12.16.88 defeated Melbourne 11.9.75 in Round 5, 2017 at the MCG

Melbourne controlled the game for much of the evening but fell down late in the game under the weight of injuries which left them with barely a fit player and limited rotations in the final term. In the end, they did well to hang on, only to be overtaken in the time on period.

THE TEAMS

MELBOURNE

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

In: Billy Stretch, Dom Tyson, Jayden Hunt, Sam Weideman

Out: Jordan Lewis (hand), Sam Frost, Bayley Fritsch, Tom Bugg

RICHMOND 

B: Alex Rance, David Astbury, Dylan Grimes 
HB: Bachar Houli, Nathan Broad, Jayden Short 
C: Shaun Grigg, Trent Cotchin, Kamdyn McIntosh 
HF: Jason Castagna, Sam Lloyd, Jacob Townsend 
F: Shane Edwards, Jack Riewoldt, Dan Butler 
Foll: Toby Nankervis, Kane Lambert, Dustin Martin 
I/C: Reece Conca, Brandon Ellis, Jack Higgins, Dion Prestia  
Emg: Corey Ellis, Anthony Miles, Ivan Soldo, Tyson Stengle

In: Nathan Broad, Jack Higgins, Sam Lloyd

Out: Josh Caddy (hamstring), Jack Graham (suspended), Nick Vlastuin (calf)

So much water has passed under the bridge that it seems like half a life time ago that Melbourne played its last game at the G against Hawthorn.  Fourteeen other clubs have already packed up their bags and are looking forward to Round 6. Joel Selwood has been hit with a one-match suspension, Port Adelaide’s Lindsay Thomas and James Sicily are fronting the Tribunal and half the country is setting itself for the public holiday and, until a few minutes ago, the Demons hadn’t even picked their sides for the Anzac Eve blockbuster.

How is a bloke supposed to pick a winner under these circumstances? 

One way might be to look at the tone that’s been set for the round in the games that have already been completed. From what we’ve seen to date, this has been a round for upsets and reversals. Adelaide weren’t expected to get the better of Sydney away from their own home game after such a poor effort a week earlier against Collingwood on their own patch. The Saints weren’t considered to be in the Giants’ ball park on their form, the Dockers thrashed the Doggies and how on earth could North have gotten up against Hawthorn?

There’s only one logical conclusion that one candidate reach - the trend will continue on Anzac Eve and the Tigers are doomed. 

This might sound somewhat ridiculous in view of the almost forgotten most recent games played by the two protagonists. After all, Richmond kept Brisbane goalless for almost three quarters last Saturday week while Melbourne kicked one solitary goal after the first term against Hawthorn. 

However, the Demons have been able to match up well against the Tigers in recent years. They have  won three out of their past five meetings against Richmond and only lost their last encounter by 13 points after leading for most of the game and only succumbed as they struggled with limited rotations after losing three players through injury; their ruck stocks decimated when Max Gawn’s replacement after his hamstring injury, Jake Spencer’s  hurt the AC joint in his right shoulder in the first quarter and his right knee in the second term. 

This time round, Gawn is close to his best form in the ruck and whilst his direct opponent Toby Nankervis has been serviceable for the Tigers, the big, bearded Demon is the key to this game. The Hawks were able to negate his 66 hit out dominance by winning the ball in midfield and outrunning their opponents all over the ground after the first quarter. I’m not expecting this to happen again as the Dees will be keen to respond to last week’s embarrassing loss to the Hawks.

The key to the Demons’ success in this game will be their capacity to make the most of their I nside 50 entries. They lead the competition with an average of 59.8. Last week they managed 53 inside 50s to Hawthorn’s 54 but managed only 6 goals to 18. In their other defeat for the season in the opening round, they lost by 3 points to Geelong despite a 64-41 advantage in inside 50s. 

The Melbourne selectors have swung the axe and added forward line height and pace into the equation. I expect those changes to turn things around dramatically.

Melbourne by 5 points

Screenshot-2018-4-23 AFL Team Line Ups - AFL com au.png

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