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THE LAST FOUR MINUTES by Whispering Jack

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I watched the replay of Melbourne’s game against Essendon and, with the countdown clock ticking past four minutes, the Demons were coasting home with a lead of 49 points. A big percentage boosting win beckoned against a team that only had four clear days to recover from their Anzac Day blockbuster against Collingwood. However, in those last four minutes, they relaxed their grip on the Bombers and conceded three goals before Bayley Fritsch's late goal gave them a still comprehensive winning margin of 36 points.

Across town and two and a half hours later, Richmond led Collingwood by 20 points with with four minutes left on the clock at the MCG. As they had done a few nights earlier on Anzac Day eve against the Demons, the Tigers turned on the turbo chargers and wasted the Magpies with a four goal burst to storm home to a 43 point victory.

The difference between Richmond's final burst full of fist pumping energy and Melbourne's late game slowdown to a comfortable win is a reflection of why the Tigers are the reigning premiers and why they are currently favourites to repeat the dose in September and why the Demons are languishing in the bottom half of the table.

The question for Simon Goodwin as his charges near the mark where a third of the season has elapsed is whether he can build them into a team capable of playing a ruthless, unrelenting brand of football for four quarters and still finish off their games showing no mercy to a beaten opponent. This is precisely what one would expect from a top four contender which is how many of the pundits viewed Melbourne six weeks ago.

At first brush, Sunday's game against St Kilda presents an opportunity against a team that appears to be vulnerable but it would be a mistake to take the Saints lightly. After all, it was only two weeks ago that they held the highly rated GWS Giants to a pulsating draw at this venue after looking beaten midway through the final term. They dominated possession in those final four minutes and missed the chance to win the game when an attempt by Jake Carlisle (who had been sent forward late in the game) to mark close to goal with seconds to go was spoiled by Phil Davis. 

I'm not suggesting that the result of this match will necessarily be determined in the final 5% of game time, but if the attitude of the team is positive at the start and the effort is maintained to the very finish, then its hopes for the remainder of the season will be restored.

THE GAME

St Kilda v Melbourne at Etihad Stadium Sunday 6 May 2018 at 3.20pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall St Kilda 91 wins Melbourne 120 wins 1 drawn

At Etihad Stadium St Kilda 8 wins Melbourne 4 wins 

Past five meetings St Kilda 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins

The Coaches Richardson 0 wins Goodwin 2 wins 

MEDIA

TV - Channel 7 Fox Sports3 live at 3.00pm

RADIO -  Triple M 3AW ABC ABC Grandstand

THE LAST TIME THEY MET 

Melbourne 14.12.96 defeated St Kilda 10.12.72 at the MCG, Round 21, 2017

Melbourne dominated St Kilda for most of the match but has as happened so often with the team in recent times it led by as much as 40 points at one stage and almost allowed the lead slip out of its hands before a late rally saw it home. 

One of the highlights of the game was the return of Angus Brayshaw after a long absence with concussion issues and the dramatic moment when he clashed heads with an opponent and stood up undeterred by the incident.

THE TEAMS  

ST KILDA

B: Jarryn Geary, Nathan Brown, Shane Savage
HB: Sam Gilbert, Jake Carlisle, Jimmy Webster
? Jack Newnes, Jack Steele, Maverick Weller
HF: Luke Dunsta n, Paddy McCartin, Jack Billings
F: Jade Gresham, Tim Membrey, Ben Long
Foll: Tom Hickey, Sebastian Ross, Jack Steven
I/C: David Armitage, Hunter Clark, Nick Coffield, Rowan Marshall
Emg: Josh Battle, Ben Paton, Jack Sinclair, Brandon White
In: David Armitage, H unter Clark, Rowan Marshall

Out: Blake Acres (managed), Jack Sinclair (omitted), Brandon White (omitted)

MELBOURNE 

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

In: Christian Petracca

Out: Christian Salem (thumb)

MARCHING IN

The two sides doing battle this week at Etihad Stadium are the lost souls of our game. They last tasted premiership glory more than half a century ago and in St Kilda’s case, it was the only taste. In recent years, they have been tracking each other in what have until now, been vain attempts to make the finals in order to enable an attack on their long and painful premiership droughts. This year looks as another disappointment for both of them as inconsistency and poor form have marred their starts to the season.

In assessing the two sides, Melbourne appears to be stronger on paper. I say it every week but the presence of Max Gawn in the ruck should, by itself, give its emerging and varied midfield an edge. Jesse Hogan once kicked seven goals in a losing team against St Kilda. Two years later, there is no reason not to expect another bag except for the fact that he isn’t always played near the goal front and also ... he, along with Christian Petracca, are still under injury clouds at the end of the week.

I was going to give St Kilda some brownie points over that recent drawn game with the GWS Giants at Etihad Stadium because I have hitherto rated highly the AFL’s artificial creation but later events have caused a change in my thinking. The Giants aren’t as good as I thought and th e Saints certainly aren’t much good. If they beat the Demons in Round 7 then it would be a fatal blow for the aspirations of Simon Goodwin and his team.

They should be guided by the years of punishment they suffered at the hands of St Kilda over recent years with a couple of reversals at this very ground coming to mind. Like Round 11, 2015 when Leigh Montagna ran into an open goal in the dying seconds to rob them of victory. 

It won’t happen this time. I’m tipping Melbourne to come marching in by 37 points at the end.

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