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HEART OF THE NATION by Whispering Jack

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It feels as if I’m some form of rarefied atmosphere when previewing the AFL Match of the Round between third-placed Melbourne and fourth-placed Adelaide because it’s been a long time since the Demons have been involved in a game involving two teams in the top four this deep into a season.

And ever since Adelaide skipper Taylor “Tex” Walker busted a gasket over Jake Lever’s decision to leave town and go back home to family, friends and the Melbourne Football Club, this game in the heart of the nation has been one of the made in heaven match ups of the season. It’s a pity that Tex won’t be taking the field at TIO Traeger Park but, as they say in the classics, the ground and the town like Alice isn’t big enough for both of them. 

Adelaide has a sizable injury list which includes a number of pesky characters who have caused Melbourne some grief in the past - Rory Sloane, Mitch McGovern, Brad Crouch and Brad Smith head the list - but our club’s history is studded with stories of opposition teams rising to the occasion and unearthing new stars in circumstances like this. 

In any event, the long injury list did not deter the Crows from demolishing the Bullies and keeping them down to just two goals last Friday night and they have the advantage over the Demons of an extra two days  to recover from the tough rain-soaked match up. 

So when the Demons face off against the  Crows it will be a huge clash for both sides but for Melbourne, it will be the time for it to claim a big scalp after winning four games in a row against some of the competition’s lesser lights.

A victory over one of last year's Grand Finalists would give added credibility to the Demons as the mid point of the season approaches.

Melbourne v Adelaide at TIO Treager Park, Alice Springs Sunday 27 May, 2018 at 3.20 pm
Overall - Melbourne 13 wins Adelaide 24 wins
At TIO Treager Park - Melbourne 0 wins Adelaide 0 wins
Past five meetings - Melbourne 2 wins Adelaide 3 wins
The Coaches - Simon Goodwin 1 win Don Pyke 1 win
TV -   Channel 7, Fox Sports 3, Live at 3.00pm
Adelaide 17.14.116 defeated Melbourne 10.10.70 Round 17, 2017 at TIO Stadium, Darwin
The Demons fielded a depleted side and were never really in the hunt although they did mount a couple of spirited attempts to come back on either side of the three quarter time siren, a highlight of which was Jayden Hunt’s superb 65 metre torpedo that split the middle. Adelaide however, was too strong on the night and cruised away to a significant 46-point victory which was significant in harming Melbourne’s finals aspirations.
B: Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald, Neville Jetta
HB: Bernie Vince, Jake Lever, Jordan Lewis
😄 Nathan Jones, Jack Viney, Angus Brayshaw
HF: Alex Neal-Bullen, Jesse Hogan, Jake Melksham
F: Tom McDonald, Tim Smith, Christian Petracca
Foll: Max Gawn, Christian Salem, Clayton Oliver
I/C: James Harmes, Charlie Spargo, Mitch Hannan, Bayley Fritsch
Emg: Dom Tyson, Cameron Pedersen, Jayden Hunt, Jeff Garlett
No change


B: Jake Kelly , Daniel Talia, Luke Brown
HB: Rory Laird, Tom Doedee, Paul Seedsman
😄 Rory Atkins, Hugh Greenwood, David Mackay
HF: Richard Douglas, Tom Lynch, Cameron Ellis-Yolmen
F: Darcy Fogarty, Josh Jenkins, Eddie Betts
Foll: Sam Jacobs, Bryce Gibbs, Matt Crouch
I/C: Jordan Gallucci, Kyle Hartigan, Sam Gibson, Wayne Milera, 
Emg: Lachlan Murphy , Reilly O'Brien, Andy Otten, Myles Poholke

In: Luke Brown, Matt Crouch, W ayne Milera

Out: Lachlan Murphy, Andy Otten, Myles Poholke

The moment has finally arrived for Melbourne to assert itself, not as simply one of a pack of finals contenders, not just as a flat track bully that monsters the lowly and the weak and not as a pretender but as the real deal. 

The Demons have been bathing in glory over the past month but they have been doing so by mauling teams that occupy places among the competition's bottom six. They have won 14 quarters in a row in their past four games, during which time they scored 78.51 to 37.44 at a percentage of close to 200. They have thrown off the bogey of inaccuracy that marred their earlier games, have become the masters of the all-important third quarter (the famous premiership quarter) and have been getting better every week. 

On Sunday they come up against different opposition. Adelaide was for the better part of the 2017 season, the benchmark of the competition. The Crows were the premiership favourite right up until late in the second quarter of last year's grand final when the Tigers got hold of them and took a vice-like grip on the most important game of the season. And to add to the humiliation of their defeat, they were angered by the fact that one of their star young defenders was snatched away from them by those upstart Demons. 

How dare they?

That was all a bit rich from a club that was in the process of luring Bryce Gibbs home from Carlton but skipper "Tex" Walker did nothing to hide the anger and angst of this young upstart walking out on them. It's a pity that Tex will be sitting in the stands when his teammates run onto the turf TIO Traeger Park where they have never played before, in a game that kicks off the celebrations for Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round in the following week.

Despite the missing Adelaide stars, we shouldn't get carried away by the fact that an opponent has been hard hit by injury - we've been there before and had our noses severely bloodied. The Crows are not in the top four without reason and, despite their injury woes, they have won four of their past five games and were in front with less than a minute to go in the only defeat in that stretch of matches which included a win over the Swans at the SCG. This suggests that there's a big "beware Melbourne" written all over this game.

And given its location and importance, there is one contest that stands out - the match up between Eddie Betts and Neville Jetta. You can forget the Crows' vendetta against Jake Lever or the doubt about whether Tom McDonald will play, this is the battle that will shape the contest. Eddie Betts has been back in town these past few weeks after a slow start to the season and likewise, Neville is also returning to his best form. This clash could well decide which team wins the battle for the heart of the nation.

Call me biased if you wish, tell me I'm in the dreamtime, but I'm in the Jetta camp and I therefore tip Melbourne to make it five in a row for the first time in almost living memory.

Melbourne by 28 points.

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