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JESSE WHO? by The Oracle

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The news that Jesse Hogan is out of contention to play with the Demons until 2019 after suffering a foot injury during their nine-point loss to the Swans at the MCG last Sunday might have sent feelings of shock and aware through the community of Demon supporters but I’m not overly concerned about the fact that the club’s key forward will be sidelined for the rest of the season.

The reason why is that Melbourne seems to produce its best wins without Hogan in the team. There were the big breakthrough wins over Geelong and Hawthorn in 2015 and 2016 respectively and last year, it overcame top eight clubs Adelaide and the West Coast Eagles, both times away from home. 

That is not to say that the team won’t feel the loss of its leading goal kicker of the season but the impact of his absence does not necessarily portend the doom and gloom that some of the pundits are predicting.

Last week against the Sydney Swans, Hogan played with his injury for at least three quarters. As early as in the second quarter, he was visibly limping and in hindsight, the team performance might have benefited from him being declared injured and not to return to the playing field. Given that he was clearly unable to perform at his best, this might well have made the difference in a game where the Demons’ inability to find the goals played a significant role in their failure to bring home the four points. 

The fundamental fact remains that the club leads the competition in contested possessions and centre clearances which have contributed to it also leading the way in inside 50s, marks inside 50 and scoring. Melbourne has also performed better away from the MCG this year than it has done at home and, whilst it has its injury woes, so does West Coast which barely managed the win last week against a tiring Port Adelaide that finished the game off with barely a whimper.

This game is evenly poised and the absence of a key forward on either side is not going to make the difference.

THE GAME

West Coast v Melbourne at Optus Stadium Saturday 19 August 2018 at 3.20pm.

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall West Coast 33 wins Melbourne 16 wins

At Domain Stadium West Coast 15 wins Melbourne 6 wins

Past five meetings West Coast 4 wins Melbourne 1 win

The Coaches Simpson 0 wins Goodwin 1 win

MEDIA

TV - Channel 7, Fox Sports 3, Live at 3.00pm

RADIO - Triple M 3AW ABC ABC Grandstand

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Melbourne 15.9.99 defeated West Coast 14.12.96 in Round 14, 2017 at Domain Stadium

In a tense, close game Melbourne looked gone midway through the last quarter but it launched a successful come back and capped it off with an unlikely victory thanks to Tom McDonald’s goal square gymnastics. His  five-goals for the night helped  break a nine-game losing streak against the Eagles.

THE TEAMS

WEST COAST EAGLES

B: Shannon Hurn, Tom Barrass, Brad Sheppard 
HB: Thomas Cole, Jeremy McGovern, Lewis Jetta 
C:Chris Masten, Elliot Yeo, Jamie Cripps 
HF: Mark Hutchings, Jack Darling, Mark LeCras 
F: Willie Rioli, Nathan Vardy, Brendon Ah Chee 
Foll: Scott Lycett, Jack Redden, Luke Shuey 
I/C: Liam Duggan, Liam Ryan, Dom Sheed, Daniel Venables
Emg: Matthew Allen, Jackson Nelson, Francis Watson, Jake Waterman

No change

MELBOURNE 

B: Neville Jetta, Oscar McDonald, Jordan Lewis
HB: Christian Salem, Sam Frost, James Harmes
😄 Alex Neal-Bullen, Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw
HF: Charlie Spargo, Sam Weideman, Aaron vandenBerg
F: Michael Hibberd, Tom McDonald, Dom Tyson
Foll: Max Gawn, Nathan Jones, Christian Petracca
I/C: Bayley Fritsch, Mitch Hannan, Dean Kent, Jake Melksham
Emg: Jeff Garlett, Jay Kennedy Harris, Cameron Pedersen, Josh Wagner

In: Mitch Hannan, Michael Hibberd, Dean Kent, Jake Melksham, Sam Weideman

Out: Jeff Garlett (omitted), Jesse Hogan (foot), Jayden Hunt (ankle), Jay Kennedy Harris (omitted), Cameron Pedersen (omitted) 

The moment of truth is about to arrive for the Melbourne Football Club. 

There has been a cloud hanging over the heads of its players and coaching group for almost twelve months since its last gasp elimination from last year’s AFL finals series after it capitulated meekly to Collingwood in the first quarter of the last round of the season.

Ironically, it was the West Coast Eagles that “stole” Melbourne’s place in the finals with their 29-point win over Adelaide in Perth delivering them a narrow lead on percentage over the Demons. This week’s game will be played on a different arena in the same city but for fans of the club it looks as yet another installment in their recurring nightmare. 

The Eagles would appear to have the upper hand given that they have home ground advantage and the statistical abnormality of the “noise of affirmation” from the umpires which demonstrates that they have what amounts to a one player advantage whenever they play in their state. 

Against that is the fact that they are missing some of their top line stars in Nic Naitanui, Josh Kennedy and Andrew Gaff. Some say that those players make up three of their best five players - I maintain they’re actually three of their best three (their best four if you count the noise of affirmation as a player). 

Many commentators say that the fact that they are still second on the AFL ladder proves that the Eagles have the resilience and the ability to defy the odds. The argument goes on to describe as a case in point,  the way the Eagles produced a monumental win at their last start against the Power when Jeremy McGovern scored after the final siren to put his side ahead for the first time. 

My take on that game is that it was always there to be won against a hobbled opposition that ran out of steam because of injury and an inability to rest and rotate players in the final term. 

It could be said that the Demons messed up a similar opportunity against the Swans last week but for their wastefulness, but they also had their problems with injury - Jesse Hogan was limping around as early as the second quarter, Jayden Hunt went off with an ankle and Angus Brayshaw and Neville Jetta missed valuable time getting treatment for ailments during the game, the latter who was dominant in the first quarter with 10 possessions, was off in that patch when the Swans booted about four goals and retook the momentum of the game in the second quarter. The Demons also have three of their top five players out this week as well with the the absence of Jack Viney, Jake Lever and Hogan.

So who really does have the upper hand?

I think it’s Melbourne which still has the best ruckman, the stronger midfield as proven by its record over the year at clearances, and the recast side particularly with the return of Michael Hibberd and Jake Melksham to add to the team’s solidity, puts it ahead of the Eagles who will sorely miss their trio of outs far more than the Demons will miss theirs. 

Their good record in the absence of Hogan is what swings the ultimate result for me.

Melbourne by 7 points.

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