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THE LONG WAY HOME by Whispering Jack

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Recently, I was at Carrara for the Commonwealth Games and while watching the women’s 10,000 metre final, it was clear that the runners on the outside of the front bunch were going to be the first to tire and when that happened, they fell by the wayside. 

It’s been the same of late with the Demons. On the big stage against Richmond on Tuesday night, they were plodding along that Members wing taking the long way home, often finding themselves cornered, under pressure and resorting to chains of risky handballs that would inevitably come unstuck allowing them to be picked off by waiting Tigers who would move the ball into the corridor and set up their attacks.
 
There has to be something wrong as well when, despite the overwhelming dominance of Max Gawn in the ruck, and some solid quality in its onball division, Melbourne fails to achieve winning  figures in terms of clearances from the midfield and from the stoppages. 
 
This feature is also compounded by the drying up of scoring opportunities through a lack of goal kicking power, despite the team having demonstrated earlier in the year, in both the pre season and the first few games, multiple goal scorers and a power key forward in Jesse Hogan. 
 
With Hogan often doing a lot of his work up to 100 metres from the goal face, he’s going to be productive in the middle but this leaves very little, if any, marking power up forward. Even when Sam Weideman was up there, it was so easy for the premiership winning defence to pick off the ball and repulse the Demon attacks. 
 
This was no better demonstrated by one of the most stunning statistics of Tuesday night. In the opening quarter, Melbourne had 19 entries into the forward fifty metre arc and managed a solitary goal - the snap from Jake Melksham at the two minute mark of the game. They should have set themselves for a good win with that number of forward opportunities - it turned out an epic fail that would bite hard by the end of the game.
 
The Demons are fortunate in that on Sunday, they come up against an equally shambolic and disappointing side in Essendon which was poor when it lowered its colours to Collingwood on Anzac Day. 
 
One would hope that Simon Goodwin comes up with something different this week because if he allows his players to box themselves out of the inside running and take the same old ineffective options, the result will be the same as it has been for the last two weeks. 
 
THE GAME 
 
Essendon v Melbourne at Etihad Stadium Sunday, 29 April, 2018 at 1.10pm
 
HEAD TO HEAD
 
Overall Essendon 129 wins Melbourne 82 wins 2 draws
 
At Etihad Stadium Essendon 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins
 
The last five meetings 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins
 
The Coaches Worsfold 0 wins Goodwin 1 win
 
MEDIA
 
TV – Fox Footy Channel - Live at 1.00pm
 
RADIO - SEN ABC ABC Grandstand 
 
THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 17.10.112 defeated Essendon 10.14.74 at Etihad Stadium, Round 6, 2017
 
Melbourne got itself back on the winner’s list after three losses in a row with a solid effort at Etihad Stadium. The Demons were helped by Joe Daniher’s yips in front of goal and Jack Watts’ accuracy - the much maligned forward booted four goals.
 
THE TEAMS  
 
ESSENDON

B: Brendon Goddard, Michael Hurley, Adam Saad
HB: Patrick Ambrose, Cale Hooker, Dyson Heppell
? Matt Guelfi, Jayden Laverde, Kobe Mutch
HF: Ben McNiece, Jake Stringer, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti
F: David Zaharakis, Joe Daniher, Mark Baguley
Foll: Matthew Leuenberger, Devon Smith, Jackson Merrett
I/C: Darcy Parish, Andrew McGrath, Zach Merrett, James Stewart,
Emg: Dylan Clarke, Kyle Langford, Shaun McKernan, Jordan Ridley

In: Patrick Ambrose, Jayden Laverde, Matthew Leuenberger, Ben McNiece, Kobe Mutch

Out: Josh Begley (injured), Tom Bellchambers (rested), Josh Green (injured), Michael Hartley (rested), David Myers (rested) 

MELBOURNE
 
B: Jake Lever, Oscar McDonald, Neville Jetta
HB: Bernie Vince, Michael Hibberd, Jayden Hunt
? Jordan Lewis, Nathan Jones, Christian Salem
HF: Angus Brayshaw, Jesse Hogan, Jake Melksham
F: Alex Neal-Bullen, Sam Weideman, James Harmes
Foll: Max Gawn, Dom Tyson, Clayton Oliver
I/C: Bayley Fritsch, Mitch Hannan, Tom McDonald, Charlie Spargo
Emg: Jeff Garlett, Joel Smith, Timothy Smith, Josh Wagner 

In: Bayley Fritsch, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis, Tom McDonald, Charlie Spargo

Out: Jeff Garlett (omitted), Dean Kent (hamstring), Christian Petracca (finger), Billy Stretch (omitted), Josh Wagner (omitted)

New: Charlie Spargo

GETTING EVEN

Some years ago, I attended a Melbourne Football Club luncheon where the keynote speaker was Chris Connolly, the former Demon player and Fremantle coach who more lately, was the back at the club as its football manager.

As has been customary at this organisation, the place was in crisis at the time (both on and off the field) and Connolly was taking questions from the floor after his rather optimistic spiel about the club’s long term future (and it seems to me that the definition of “long term” in that context insofar as the Demons are concerned is ever expanding beyond expectations).

One questioner took aim at the team make up after the previous week’s loss and suggested that it was time for heads to roll and for massive changes to be made. Connolly’s response was that in his estimation, a large shake up was unnecessary and further, that when a club makes five changes or more, the chances of a win were virtually zero.

So this week, as two of the competition’s more disappointing teams face off against each other, Connolly’s words will be tested. Both sides have made five changes and, on that basis, there can only be one result - a draw. And that is my prediction for this week.

That result is justified not only on the basis of the Connolly theory but on a factual basis. These two teams are evenly matched. At this stage of the season, the Bombers are 13th in the AFL ladder with 8 points and a percentage of 89.2, just 0.4% ahead of Melbourne in 14th place with the same number of premiership points. The Demons of course, are becoming used to lagging others in percentage by such a small margin to an extent that is very much to their detriment.

Both sides are having trouble winning matches, their forward lines are more than somewhat dysfunctional and the only thing they seem to be good at of late, is total capitulation in the final quarter. After the Demons’ frustrating finish to 2017, one would have expected much better than what they’ve served up late in their games this year - at the very least a bit of fight at the end to save face. But it hasn’t happened. The Bombers are similarly, in total disarray.

I would be heavily tempted normally to tip Melbourne on the basis that the team selection appears to help cover some of the gaping holes revealed in its structure over the past two weeks but the words of Chris Connolly keep ringing in my ears.

So for this game, I can see Joe Daniher booting 8 goals (four on each of the McDonald brothers) but the Demons somehow snatching a draw from the jaws of victory.

My tip - for the second week in a row, the AFL will see a drawn game.

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