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THE JOKERS by The Oracle

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It’s difficult to imagine that the Melbourne side which defeated the Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium by almost 50 points a month ago (and is due to play them again next week - go figure?) hasn’t won a game since that day.
 
The team which so completely demolished Adelaide in the nation’s red centre and then made it 6 in a row against the Bullies seems to have fallen apart before our very eyes going from a top four contender to a side fighting for its existence in the top eight and the team most likely to bow out of the battle.
 
The loss of in-form defender Jake Lever obviously has had something to do with the fall from grace as the selectors struggle to put together the defensive unit that was so good at keeping opposing forwards at bay but, it’s clear that the cracks have really returned to the forward line, now brittle and despite their 100 points plus last week, unable to make the most of the opportunities provided by a dominant ruckman of the calibre of Max Gawn.

If the team is going to overcome its current slump then it’s opposition this week is a perfect candidate. Although Melbourne has lost 8 out of its last 9 games against Fremantle, the solitary win came at TIO Stadium. If the Demons can’t win against a  flakey and inexperienced Docket outfit without the two of its main aces Nat Fyfe (hamstring) and Aaron Sandilands (calf) leaving them no jokers in their pack, then they never will.
 
*** scroll for prediction ***
 
THE GAME
 
Melbourne v Fremantle at TIO Stadium Saturday 7 July 2018 at 7.40pm
 
HEAD TO HEAD
 
Overall: Melbourne 14 wins Fremantle 22 wins
 
At TIO Stadium: Melbourne 1 win Fremantle 0 wins
 
Last five meetings: Melbourne 1 win Fremantle 4 wins
 
The Coaches: Goodwin 0 wins Lyon 1 win
 
MEDIA
 
TV - Fox Sports 3 Live at 7.30pm
 
Radio - SEN
 
LAST TIME THEY MET
 
Fremantle 16.10.106 defeated Melbourne 15.14.104 at the MCG, Round 4, 2017
 
In what was a major disappointment for the Demons coming off their loss to Geelong, they once again demonstrated their penchant for losing games they should win at the MCG. This time they surrendered a 21 point half time lead with a poor third quarter, then failed to close off a victory in a close finish.
 
THE TEAMS  
 
MELBOURNE 

B: Joel Smith, Oscar McDonald, Neville Jetta
HB: Angus Brayshaw, Michael Hibberd, Jordan Lewis
C : James Harmes, Clayton Oliver, Nathan Jones
HF: Bayley Fritsch, Jesse Hogan, Jake Melksham
F: Charlie Spargo, Sam Frost, Tom McDonald
Foll: Max Gawn, Jack Viney, Christian Salem
I/C: Jeff Garlett, Alex Neal-Bullen,  Christian Petracca, Billy Stretch, 
Emg: Mitch Hannan, Declan Keilty, Bernie Vince, Sam Weideman

In: Sam Frost, Jeff Garlett, Charlie Spargo, Billy Stretch

Out: Mitch Hannan (omitted), Harry Petty (omitted), Dom Tyson (omitted), Sam Weideman (omitted)

FREMANTLE 

B: Adam Cerra, Joel Hamling, Nathan Wilson
HB: Stephen Hill, Alex Pearce, Ethan Hughes 
C : Tommy Sheridan, Lachie Neale, Stefan Giro
HF: Andrew Brayshaw, Shane Kersten, Michael Walters 
F: Ed Langdon, Michael Apeness, Brandon Matera 
Foll: Sean Darcy, David Mundy, Bradley Hill 
I/C: Bailey Banfield, Brennan Cox,  Luke Ryan, Darcy Tucker
Emg: Taylin Duman, Scott Jones, Ryan Nyhuis, Cameron Sutcliffe 

In:  Sean Darcy, Bradley Hill, Ethan Hughes

Out:  Hayden Ballantyne (injured), Nat Fyfe (Injured), Ryan Nyhuis (omitted)

This week's team selection at Melbourne is instructive. It's not just that there have been changes wrung in after the teams surprise loss to lowly St Kilda, it’s a case of admitting that the strategies undertaken in the wake of Jake Lever’s injury in Round 11 have been a dismal failure. 

Among the inclusions are key defender Sam Frost and Billy Stretch who were showing solid form at Casey before the Lever injury and have continued to be among the best in recent weeks. Charlie Spargo, who was unlucky to be dropped in the first place is back, as is Jeff Garlett who, whilst not at his best, adds an element of danger in front of goal that was missing against Collingwood and Port Adelaide and also to an extent against the Saints. Together, the add a combination of some leg speed and fast movement of the football. Their presence will be invaluable up in the Top End against a young, inexperienced opposition.

Needless to say, it would be dangerous for the Demons to take any opposition lightly as they did last week after they took an early 19 point lead and promptly fell asleep for most of the remainder of the opening term. If they do that on Saturday night, their season will virtually be over.

However, given the circumstances and the importance of the game, I’m tipping them to fight back and win and win well.

Melbourne by 48 points.

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