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THE STYLE GUIDE by Whispering Jack

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The graphic shown this week during a segment of “On the Couch” laid out some extraordinary statistics about the Melbourne Football Club’s season to date. The numbers read as follows:-  

 

• Contested possessions differential  #2 

• Pressure – #2 

• Points for  #1 

• Points against – #9 

• Points from turnovers differential  #2 

• Points from clearances differential – #2 

• Inside 50 differential – #1 

• Time in forward half – #1 

• Forward half intercepts  #1 

• Points from forward half chains – #1  

 

This was a selection of the numbers available and is by no means all inclusive about the story of the team’s style this year. They tell the story of a team that’s willing to take games on and that plays an exciting, attacking brand of football but, while the both the style of game and the actual figures are impressive, until last Sunday, they raised a question mark about why this team was desperately fighting for its life as a 2018 finalist, rather than sitting comfortably in the upper echelons of the competition preparing for qualifying finals in the coming weeks.  

 

The question was answered partially by Age writer Michael Gleeson before that game in The questions the Demons need to answer where he wrote about the alternate AFL ladder:

 

“It is the ladder that says what would happen if the team that lost the close games won them instead. So what would happen this year if the teams that lost games by 10 points or less won them?  

 

“The answer? Melbourne would be two games clear on top of the ladder.”  

 

Gleeson also alluded to the positive statistics such as the Demons’ #1 ranking in the competition for contested possessions but raised the spectre of its then inability to beat a top eight side and pointed to a wide gulf between its performances against top and bottom half teams.  

 

The answer according to Gleeson was that the team’s inability to stop the ball going the way of the opposition when it attacks. “Actually, the point is that Melbourne don’t defend.”  

 

That was part of the answer but it needed empirical proof and that came by means of the way that Melbourne finished off the game against the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium on Sunday. 

 

In those final ten minutes, after their game-long lead had evaporated before their eyes and their season was on the line, they defended stoutly and showed they had learned the lesson of their soul-destroying loss on enemy territory a month earlier against Geelong.  

 

And they did it with the style that should hold them in good stead in the weeks to come. 

 

THE GAME 

 

Melbourne v GWS Giants at the MCG, Sunday 26 August, 2018 at 3.20pm 

 

HEAD TO HEAD 

 

Overall – GWS Giants 5 wins, Melbourne 5 wins 

At The MCG – Melbourne 3 wins, GWS Giants 1 win 

Past five meetings – Melbourne 2 wins, GWS Giants 3 wins 

The Coaches – Cameron 1 win Goodwin 0 wins

 

THE MEDIA 

 

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

RADIO - Triple M 3AW ABC ABC Grandstand   

 

THE LAST TIME THEY MET 

GWS Giants 14.13.97 defeated Melbourne 10.2.62 at UNSW Canberra Oval, Round #, 2017  

 

The Demons suffered their second consecutive loss and dropped out of the top eight after they were thumped by the Giants in Canberra. Things started well enough with the opening three goals against the wind but GWS rolled into gear with the next eight goals and by the first break it was all but over.   

 

THE TEAMS    

 

MELBOURNE  

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

No change

GWS GIANTS 

B: Jeremy Finlayson, Phil Davis, Adam Tomlinson
B: Adam Kennedy, Nick Haynes, Harry Perryman
😄 Lachie Whitfield, Callan Ward, Jacob Hopper
F: Sam Reid, Jeremy Cameron, Aiden Bonar
F: Zac Langdon, Harry Himmelberg, Josh Kelly
Foll: Rory Lobb, Stephen Coniglio, Dylan Shiel
I/C: Matt Buntine, Lachlan Keeffe, Daniel Lloyd, Tim Taranto
Emg: Dylan Buckley, Isaac Cumming, Brent Daniels, Zac Williams

In: Josh Kelly, Sam Reid

Out: Brent Daniels (omitted), Ryan Griffen (hamstring)

It was the Jake Lever injury that sent Melbourne’s 2018 season into a month-long tailspin and three consecutive defeats in mid-season and which ultimately set the scene for the team’s revival that led to the securing of a berth in the finals.

The Lever departure required some tinkering with the defensive line up with which the selectors grappled, struggled and finally got right. There were other elements that required attention, small kinks here and there but despite the pain of the last gasp defeat by Geelong and the confused mess of the Swans game, the 17-point victory over West Coast last weekend, proved they were worthy of participating in the finals after an absence of twelve long years.

The irony is that Melbourne’s tough run leading into the finals with three matches on end against three fellow finalists is going to hold it in good stead in September. 

As far as I’m concerned, coming up against Sydney, West Coast and the GWS Giants represents a perfect preparation, immeasurably better than say, the Cats, who were given the task of playing against witches’ hats on their own home turf in the finals lead up.

For the Demons, the game against GWS presents a perfect opportunity to tune up against quality opposition without in any way releasing the pressure valve. Aside from the remote chance of making it back into the top four should the Pies stagger against the Dockers, there’s a home final at stake (although Melbourne seems to play just as well away from home these days). 

Thankfully, the failure of Port Adelaide and North Melbourne to stitch up opposition teams in recent games, has allowed the Demon faithful some temporary respite for their fraying nerves knowing their team will definitely be featuring in next month’s action.

They will no doubt recall the humiliation of their team’s encounter with the Giants in the national capital last year when, after kicking the first three goals against the wind, it conceded an unanswered 8 goals 6 behinds before quarter time to be well and truly blown off the park. The carnage in Canberra this week pales into insignificance against that dark day. 

The star for GWS was Josh Kelly who returns for them this week to make for a fascinating battle of the midfields. We know how strong the Demons are in this area with their young guns and iron man Nathan Jones. They will have the support of All Australian big man Max Gawn who should match up very favourably against Rory Lobb in the ruck contests but the Giants are the highest-ranked clearance team in the AFL.

Ultimately, I believe the Demons will triumph because of their forward line strength (they are the highest-ranked team for scoring, inside 50s and marks inside 50), the defence has at long last settled with Oscar McDonald and Sam Frost solid, and the visitors have the deeper injury list.

That’s enough for me to tip Melbourne to win an epic encounter at the MCG by 5 points.

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