It was an eerie feeling, like floating on air high above the events taking place on the ground below. This was the New Draft, a two day festival of little importance to Melbourne supporters on the first night and seemingly, of little consequence on the following day. It was as if we were the bystanders of the 2018 AFL National Draft.
From the time the Demons traded away their first round selection in this year’s event as part of the deal to secure Jake Lever more than 12 months ago, it was always likely to turn out this way. A little over a month ago, the club held picks 36, 46, 54, 62 and 65 which, once transposed into a world of potential priority picks and father-son and academy bidders, meant that its first choice would be pushing close to a pick near number fifty. It was akin to leaving you standing three city blocks away from Marvel Stadium and well outside the Jack Lukosious zone in draft night calculations. Even when the trades improved things somewhat marginally to a starting point of 23 and 28 (eventually 27 and 33), it meant you had just moved from William Street to King Street but the entrance to the venue was still on the distant horizon.
It was probably just as well that we were that far away because opening night was excruciatingly painful, producing a clumsy and almost unwatchable production compared with the American counterparts in the NFL and NBA which it shamelessly sought to emulate. Gillon McLachlan produced a fitting highlight when he pounced onto centre stage only to discover he had nothing to announce despite the sounding of all the bells and whistles but for us - nothing. Not even the prospect of a live trade managed to keep us in the game.
When the show was over, Sam Walsh, the precocious Croweaters, the King brothers (we drafted the wrong big Max King a few years ago) and a bevy of others were gone. The Swans pulled a swifty trade to get a great deal for their next academy sensation and the Blues did nicely to steal the 2018 Morrish Medallist from the Tigers. Those who were previously uninformed of the new format were left baffled and confused that the Demons weren’t selecting on the night.
By the rising of the sun on day two, we were virtually on the promenade at Marvel Stadium, hoping for a little action now that we were a matter of a few picks away from pole position. The AFL had sneakily changed the starting time from 10.00am to noon but even then we were hardly bashing down the doors to get in despite the dreary conditions outside. But when the draft restarted, we somehow remained the bystanders.
The months (and for some, the years) of following potential draftees, the national championships, junior competitions, TAC Cup finals, draft combines, phantom drafts, power rankings, teams of the year and the late speculation all flashed past our eyes to produce ... on the face of it ... not a great deal. On top of that, there were no bolters, no All-Australian sliders who somehow mysteriously drifted into our laps, nor even any players finding their way to us from a list of so-called hidden gems” that was floating about.
In the end, Melbourne took an inside midfielder in South Australian Tom Sparrow with pick 27 after making an unsuccessful bid for the Bulldog’s father-son prospect Rhylee West. Then came a real bolter in Oakleigh Charger James Jordon at 33, another South Australian, Aaron Nitschke, at 53 and a mature aged defender in Collingwood VFL’s Marty Hore with 56. If there was any icing on the cake, it came when the club was not required to bid for Next Generation Academy dasher Toby Bedford who was taken late at pick 75. The return to type came with the selection of Kade Chandler in the rookie draft.
I should make it clear that this is not a criticism of the selection decisions but rather I’m pointing to the low profiles of those picked. As with any draft decision made, the proof of their value is never determined on the night but well down the track, often years into the future.
The apparent left-of-centre approach to the draft may well pay dividends in the future for a club with a young team on the ascent - the players selected are not shrinking violets. They are all aggressive ball-winners known for their relentless attack on the football. In that respect, none of them are bystanders.
There are some truly endearing memories that I have of the Kid, one or two of them off the ground and others on the field of play.
It seemed to me that at every club function I attended, one of the constants was the sight of the much-loved Colin Sylvia, face smiling and friendly, surrounded by admirers, young and old, male and female. There was the promotional clip (Foxtel, I think) with Colin in the locker room beside skipper David Neitz draped in towels and joking. It was as if, from the very beginning, the new boy on the block was being typecast as a larrikin, albeit a lovable one who, in our hopes, would one day become a hero.
And that was the problem for the recruit from Merbein which, during my childhood produced another star Demon in Hassa Mann, a shy country lad who went on to captain the club, played in a few premierships and was a solid citizen off the field. The new kid from Merbein simply kept getting into trouble.
There were problems with a girlfriend, he broke team curfews, missed the odd recovery session, left the scene of a car accident (it’s unclear if he was the driver). He was often in the wrong place and the wrong condition at the wrong time but we all still loved him. After all, he was going to be our hero.
On the field, he was something else. The first time I saw him was in a practice match for Melbourne’s then affiliate Sandringham, at the Beach Road Oval, ironically named after another blond larrikan Trevor Barker who also passed at far too young and age but from cancer. There was one brief moment that defined Sylvia’s potential as a contender when he gathered the ball near the centre, swiveled past an opponent and barreled the ball from 70 metres out. Years later when I recalled that piece of play with him at a club best and fairest night, he laughed and said he remembered it but thought the kick was “from closer to 80 metres out”.
It took a year or so to get his career going and it built slowly but surely within a few years during which time he grew in stature to the point that it wasn’t necessary to call him by his surname. He was Colin and we loved him.
The tough break for Colin was that Melbourne went into decline just as he was approaching his prime. Most supporters would agree that his best game came on Sunday, 24 May, 2009 on the MCG in front of almost 40,000 fans against Hawthorn when he amassed 24 kicks, 13 handballs, 9 marks and 4 goals that were just not enough to get the Demons across the line.
He continued to play good football for the year despite the fact that the club was regularly accused of tanking its matches and again into 2010 but at around that time, the injuries in the form of groin and shoulder problems came, the team was performing miserably as the veterans left while other young saviours who were replacing them struggled.
The contender was also struggling to live up to his potential status as a hero; he was failing and the fun had gone. After 157 games and 129 goals, the Kid departed for Fremantle at the end of 2013.
Things didn’t work out in the West and, amid ongoing controversy about his attitude and behaviour under Ross Lyon, Colin managed six more games that were mostly unremarkable. Career over before his 29th birthday with life after football bringing further challenges for a young man who found retirement from the game at its top level a tough gig.
Colin was working to get his life on track when his car collided with another vehicle last Sunday afternoon at the intersection of Nineteenth Street and Benetook Avenue in the Mildura suburb of Irymple. He died on the scene and will be buried today.
We loved him to death - our deepest sympathies go to his family.
“I'm the kid who has this habit of dreaming
Sometimes gets me in trouble too
But the truth is I could no more stop dreaming
Than I could make them all come true”
- Buddy Mondlock
PART TWO - NO CHOICE
There was a time before he even played a single game at AFL level that Jesse Hogan was regarded as the player who would lift Melbourne from the bottom of the ladder. He’s been at the club since he was selected in the 2012 mini-draft but circumstances caused him to wait two seasons before making his AFL debut. He achieved Rising Star status in 2015, kicked more than 40 goals in three of his four seasons, had his disappointments with injuries, illness and personal issues with the loss of his father and yet, Hogan the Saviour seemed forever absent for the club’s most triumphant moments.
Hogan is now a Docker after the Demons traded him for national draft picks 6 and 23 on the final day of the AFL's trade period. This is despite the fact that he was contracted to Melbourne for 2019 and would have earned good money. There’s no doubting his quality as a footballer but he wanted to go home and the likelihood remained high that he might be gone after another season filled with unwelcome distractions of an uncertain future at the club. And not for the first time.
When expectations are high for the future after making it to a Preliminary Final, full commitment to the cause beyond the now is paramount. In the end, there was no choice.
Moving on to the future, the three players introduced to the Melbourne Football Club have the attributes of commitment, willingness to work hard and the ability to fill needs. Former Gold Coast co-captain Steven May, a hard-at-it defender has a five year contract. The skillful Kade Kolodjashnij who brings run and carry to the table and mature ruckman Braydon Preuss both join the club with three year deals.
There is no certainty in the business of sport but Melbourne appears to have done well in a trade period that also saw it upgrade its draft position to a point where it now has two picks in the 20s. There is still a lot to do at the draft table, some rookie upgrades and possible acquisition of delisted free agents to fill the eight vacant places on the club’s lists.
Where does this all leave the Melbourne Football Club?
Age journalist Peter Ryan summed up the Demons’ trade period in At a glance: Assessing each club's 2018 AFL trade period when he wrote
“At a glance: Going for the flag”.
Of course, it’s too early to make a reasoned analysis of the trade period because the outcome is never determined in the moment. Time will tell for all clubs and in 2018 there were so many different agendas and strategies. There were clubs that used it to dump the burden of high salaries, some wanted better draft position while others aimed to fulfill certain needs. In the end 42 players changed clubs by way of trades but by draft time at the end of November, there will be many more new faces at every club.
The completed trades - Trade Tracker
PART ONE - BETWEEN RUCKS AND HARD PLACES
Melbourne has been rather pragmatic in its approach to the off season Free Agency and Trade period. After methodically releasing a larger than usual number of players through delistings, it has also traded away a couple of others who it clearly regards as being surplus to the requirements of team focused on a top four finish in 2019 and to this date, acquired a big ruckman to accompany its All Australian Max Gawn in that campaign.
The Demons’ lists have undergone a major refit since the final siren sounded on Preliminary Final day. At that point, we knew of the retirements of Harley Balic and Bernie Vince and soon after the announcements came of Tom Bugg, Dion Johnstone, Mitch King, Pat McKenna and Cam Pedersen and rookie Lachie Filipovic. On Friday, the trades of Dean Kent (to St Kilda) and Dom Tyson (North Melbourne) were signed off, bringing the number of departures to double figures.
The Kangaroos traded Brayden Preuss to the Demons to give Melbourne the competition’s most potent ruck combination.
If things were going well for Melbourne’s football manager Josh Mahoney, they certainly went sour with the news late on Friday that Fremantle had withdrawn its interest in securing forward Jesse Hogan by way of a trade. The decision threw the Demons’ plans of securing Gold Coast defender Steven May along with a raft of other potential trades depending on the outcome of those deals.
The Dockers have been chasing WA native Hogan for some four years and last week they paraded him through their headquarters. After it was announced that Hogan had passed his medical, it was thought to be a formality that a trade would be arranged after the obligatory bargaining period.
Fremantle General Manager of Football, Peter Bell, just two weeks into the job, announced -
“We have been undertaking a due diligence process as part of a possible trade to secure Jesse Hogan.
“As part of that process, we have had discussions with Jesse, the player’s management and Melbourne.
“While discussions were proceeding it became clear that what Melbourne would be seeking for a trade would not be possible for our club to meet.
“As such, we have informed Melbourne and Jesse’s management that we will not be continuing further with the due diligence process.”
This was Bell’s reaction to Melbourne’s refusal to accept his club’s offer of National Draft Pick 11 and a future second-round pick with the Demons expecting two early selections including # 5 that the Dockers would be expecting in a deal with Brisbane for Lachie Neale (Bell is reportedly expecting two first round picks).
The reaction might have come as a surprise but it needs to be looked at in the context of what is happening at the very top at the Fremantle Football Club. In August, its list manager Brad Lloyd departed for Carlton and the task of dealing with the free agency and trading was taken over by CEO Steve Rosich in concert with Bell after his appointment. They are certainly doing things differently in a trade period during which all of the other clubs have been businesslike in their approach — the Freo pair’s dealings over Hogan, Rory Lobb, Neale and a clumsy approach to Geelong’s Tim Kelly who wants to go to the Eagles have raised scorn and disdain throughout the football fraternity and their own fans aren’t happy either!
This has left Hogan back with the Demons for the time being as he plays out the final year of his contract in 2019 (unless the Dockers have a change of heart in the next few days). Mahoney has made it clear that the club is not in a position to follow up a trade for May without completing a deal for Hogan.
The bonus for the club however, is that it can go into the pre season with a quality key position forward approaching the prime of his career while the team is in the premiership window. Meanwhile, at the other end of the continent, the Dockers are likely to languish, living with a dysfunctional recruiting structure and scorned by the rest of the football community. Good luck with that!
Docker shocker as Freo pull pin on Hogan pursuit
This is the full list of trades after five days:
• Reece Conca joined Fremantle as a free agent. The Tigers don't get any compensation.
• Richmond signed Tom Lynch as a restricted free agent. Gold Coast opted not to match the offer. The Suns got pick No.3 as compensation.
• Luke Dahlhaus joined Geelong as an unrestricted free agent. The Western Bulldogs got a round two pick as compensation (No.27).
• Scott Lycett joined Port Adelaide as a restricted free agent after the Eagles decided not to match Port's offer. Port got pick 20 as compensation.
• The Cats traded Lincoln McCarthy, pick 55 and pick 58 to the Lions. In return, the Lions sent over picks 43 and 61.
• Richmond sent Corey Ellis, Anthony Miles and a future third round pick to the Suns for a future third round pick.
• The Blues used one of their special assistant pre-draft picks to send Nathan Kreuger to Geelong in exchange for pick 43.
• The Lions and the Suns did a pick swap. Brisbane ended up with 32, 41, 44 and 77. Gold Coast got 24, 58 and 79.
• Mitch McGovern and a future third round pick made their way from Adelaide to Carlton. Carlton sent back Shane McAdam (their second pre-draft special assistance pick) and a future fifth round pick.
• Sydney sent pick 13 to the Crows. In return, they got pick 40. They also got picks 26 and 28 from Carlton.
• Jared Polec and Jasper Pittard moved to North Melbourne from Port Adelaide. Also sent over: pick 48. In return, Power received pick 11 and a future fourth round pick.
• Sydney's Gary Rohan was traded to Geelong for pick 61.
• The Swans sent pick 61 to North Melbourne in exchange for Ryan Clarke.
• St Kilda traded Tom Hickey, pick 60 and a future fourth rounder to the Eagles. In return, the Saints got pick 39 and a future fourth round pick.
• Alex Fasolo joined Carlton as an unrestricted free agent. Collingwood got pick 57 as compensation.
• Gold Coast signed Josh Corbett (Werribee) and Chris Burgess ( West Adelaide) as two of their special assistance picks.
• Port Adelaide and Fremantle swapped picks: Power got pick six and a future third round selection, and sent picks 11, 23, 30 and 49 to the Dockers.
• Sydney Swans have traded Dan Hannebery and its Rd 2 selection, currently number 28 (on traded from Carlton) to St Kilda for its Rd 2 selection, currently selection number 39 (on traded from West Coast), and its Future Round Two Selection.
• Melbourne have traded Dean Kent to St Kilda for its Rd 4 selection, currently selection number 65.
• Melbourne have traded Dom Tyson to North Melbourne for Brayden Preuss and its Rd 4 selection, currently selection number 62 (on traded from the Sydney Swans).
• GWS Giants have traded Will Setterfield and its Rd 4 (71), to Carlton for its Rd 3 (43), and Future Round Two Selection.
PART 1 - UPHEAVAL AND CHANGE
Every year, as soon as the grand final siren sounds, the 18 AFL clubs enter into a new season that lasts for two months and ends in the drafts. This is the time of transition and sometimes upheaval for the clubs as their lists change in the hope for each of them that they can regenerate their lists to the point where they can challenge for a premiership flag. The official proceedings start today with the opening of the restricted free agency offer and unrestricted free agency period starts and on Monday, the NAB AFL Trade Period kicks off.
The coming off season of change is looming large at the Melbourne Football Club in comparison with last year when the club farewelled only six senior list players (including one, Heritier Lumumba, who had retired before that season even began) and one rookie. Their replacements came via trades and the draft, leaving the 2018 Melbourne Football Club player list (with new players in italics) as follows -
Oskar Baker Harley Balic Angus Brayshaw Tomas Bugg Bayley Fritsch Sam Frost Jeff Garlett Max Gawn Mitch Hannan James Harmes Michael Hibberd Jesse Hogan Jayden Hunt Neville Jetta Dion Johnstone Nathan Jones Jay Kennedy Harris Dean Kent Mitch King Jake Lever Jordan Lewis Oscar McDonald Tom McDonald Pat McKenna Jake Melksham Alex Neal-Bullen Clayton Oliver Cameron Pedersen Christian Petracca Harrison Petty Christian Salem Charlie Spargo Joel Smith Billy Stretch Dom Tyson Aaron vandenBerg Bernie Vince Jack Viney Josh Wagner Sam Weideman
ROOKIE LIST: CATEGORY A
Lachlan Filipovic Declan Keilty Corey Maynard Tim Smith
As in the past, the process has been going on for months and even longer in the case of the assessment of younger talent. The 18 clubs have all been working feverishly looking for potential trades and for which some players on their lists are moved on.
The Demons have already added two Category B rookies who will shortly commence their apprenticeships at the club.
The changes were being foreshadowed even before season’s end when two Demons - Harley Balic and Bernie Vince - had also announced their retirements.
The floodgates were opened almost as soon as the final siren sounded at Optus Stadium on Preliminary Final day. The first delistings included Tom Bugg, Mitch King, Pat McKenna and Cam Pedersen, who announced his retirement, and rookie Lachie Filipovic. Yesterday, Dion Johnstone was added to that group.
Then there are those being mentioned in despatches as being on the trade table from Dean Kent who almost has his foot in the door at St Kilda, to Jesse Hogan, seemingly bound for Fremantle delisted) and others such as Dom Tyson and Aaron vandenBerg said to be exploring options for various reasons. This means a potential of a dozen new faces including names such as May, Kolodjashnij, Preuss and many more in the club’s new period of upheaval and change ...
The Casey Demons led the 2018 Grand Final from the beginning until the 13 minute mark of the final quarter of the VFL Grand Final at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon but were overrun in the finish by the Box Hill Hawks. The defeat was the team’s second in a season-decider in three seasons and marked yet another heartbreaking climax to a year of many highlights for the club.
The Demons had opened the game in promising fashion moving the ball with great speed and converted four times to take a 25 point lead in the early going. They were ferocious with their tackling with 20 in the first term alone and by half time had shown up the effort of their senior counterparts by exceeding their total tally of tackles from the day before.
Casey dominated proceedings in most facets of the game for almost all of the opening half but some crucial shots at goal from easy range. One of the few statistics where they were bested was the free kick count - one of the factors that seemed to keep the Hawks in the game. When the siren sounded to signal the start of the long break the Demons led by 23 points but an after-the-siren goal to Box Hill reduced the lead and gave the Hawks great hope leading into the final half.
The rejuvenated Hawks lifted their game after the break and they gradually clawed back at Casey’s lead, assisted by their complete dominance in the ruck where they smashed the undersized Casey ruck division through the agency of Pittonet who amassed an enormous 57 hit outs and took 7 big marks. This division has been problematic for the Demons all season and was exacerbated of late by the poor form of Mitch King who was not selected for the finals and the injury to young Lachie Filipovic. In their stead, Cam Pedersen, Tim Smith and Mykelti Lefau who were gallant in the preliminary final, simply struggled this week.
And so, when it came to the final term of the biggest match of the season, Casey faltered and was unable to produce one of those stirring finishes that got it through a number of the 12 consecutive victories of earlier in the season. Some of its name players were unable to produce: there were far too many passengers and a number will no doubt be forced to look elsewhere in 2019.
Bayley Fritsch was an exception. He provided plenty of run off the back line and showed great application and heart to prove the judgement of the senior Demon selection panel off key when they omitted him from the team that went to Perth.
The defensive work of Declan Keilty and Harry Petty was excellent in the first half and both have potential as key position defenders. Bernie Vince was solid and creative in his swan song game and Tom Bugg worked hard for four quarters.
The Casey listed crew were mainly underwhelming. Corey Wagner worked hard as did Jay Lockhart while Jimmy Munro tackled strongly as usual. Unfortunately, they weren’t as effective or consistent as they have been for most of the season.
The scoreboard when the final siren sounded heralded yet another disappointment in the Demons’ Heartbreak Weekend.
There’s always next year.
Peter Jackson VFL 2018
Casey Demons 4.4.28 5.9.39 8.11.59 8.14.62
Box Hill Hawks 1.1.7 3.4.22 7.8.50 10.12.72
Casey Demons Bugg Kennedy-Harris Lefau Lockhart Machaya Pedersen Scott T Smith
Box Hill Hawks Moore 3 Jones Hanrahan Lovell Moore O'Brien O'Rourke Ross
Casey Demons Fritsch C Wagner Petty Keilty Vince Bugg
Box Hill Hawks Mirra Moore Pittonet Hanrahan Cousins O'Brien
Tomas Bugg 1 goal 15 kicks 9 handballs 24 disposals 5 marks 7 tackles 114 dream team points
Tom Freeman 10 kicks 4 handballs 14 disposals 4 marks 4 tackles 67 dream team points
Bayley Fritsch 1 behind 13 kicks 7 handballs 20 disposals 8 marks 1 tackle 83 dream team points
Jeffrey Garlett 1 behind 3 kicks 2 handballs 5 disposals 2 marks 3 tackles 27 dream team points
Mitch Gent 4 kicks 4 handballs 8 disposals 1 mark 3 tackles 36 dream team points
Jayden Hunt 7 kicks 5 handballs 12 disposals 4 marks 3 tackles 33 dream team points
Jack Hutchins 2 kicks 3 handballs 5 disposals 2 marks 1 tackle 22 dream team points
Declan Keilty 7 kicks 6 handballs 13 disposals 3 marks 5 tackles 53 dream team points
Jay Kennedy Harris 1 goals 1 behind 13 kicks 5 handballs 18 disposals 3 marks 6 tackles 89 dream team points
Mykelti Lefau 1 goal 4 kicks 2 handballs 6 disposals 4 marks 1 tackles 6 hit outs 32 dream team points
Jay Lockhart 1 goals 1 behind 10 kicks 3 handballs 13 disposals 4 marks 3 tackles 61 dream team points
Pat McKenna 1 behind 2 kicks 1 handball 3 disposals 1 mark 1 tackle 17 dream team points
Cory Machaya 1 goal 1 behind 5 kicks 5 handballs 10 disposals 5 marks 3 tackles 53 dream team points
James Munro 1 behind 5 kicks 6 handballs 11 disposals 2 marks 12 tackles 78 dream team points
Cameron Pedersen 1 goal 7 kicks 3 handballs 10 disposals 4 marks 5 tackles 12 hit outs 72 dream team points
Harry Petty 5 kicks 7 handballs 12 disposals 5 marks 42 dream team points
Angus Scott 1 goal 6 kicks 3 handballs 9 disposals 5 marks 4 tackles 62 dream team points
Tim Smith 1 goals 1 behind 11 kicks 5 handballs 16 disposals 4 marks 7 tackles 6 hit outs 95 dream team points
Cory Stockdale 2 kicks 1 handballs 3 disposals 2 tackles 10 dream team points
Bernie Vince 3 behinds 18 kicks 1 handballs 19 disposals 4 marks 7 tackles 99 dream team points
Corey Wagner 1 behind 15 kicks 6 handballs 21 disposals 2 marks 7 tackles 87 dream team points
Josh Wagner 8 kicks 6 handballs 14 disposals 4 marks 3 tackles 61 dream team points
Mitch White 9 kicks 5 handballs 14 disposals 4 marks 3 tackles 59 dream team points
This was the first finals series the Melbourne Football Club has participated in a dozen years and its first Preliminary Final for 18. The club got here in 2018 because it built its reputation on contest, but in the end the game against West Coast was no contest as the Eagles ran out winners by over ten goals.
The match itself was really over by quarter time, as the young Demons were simply swamped by a side that was bigger, stronger and ultimately had more intent on achieving its goal.
The game, while disappointing from an outcome perspective, should motivate the Demons in the same way that the Round 22 match against Collingwood did last year. It was what finals football was all about and while they had performed admirably in winning their past 2 matches to progress to the Preliminary, this was when things got serious.
Melbourne was exposed in the same way that Richmond was exposed on Friday night because, to get into the Big Dance, you cannot afford to come into any game half-hearted, injured or with stop gap players.
Right from the start the Demons were in trouble, with errant handballs and players slipping constantly at critical moments. While West Coast scored four goals to zip in the first quarter, three of those came directly from Melbourne turnovers. Coupled with some undisciplined acts from Jordan Lewis, the momentum that a young team relied upon to forge forward was completely and utterly deflated.
It didn’t get any better in the second quarter and by half time the Eagles held a ten goal lead, which was to be the final margin. The coach would have been fuming as he watched Melbourne revert to the old style of play of standing back and expecting others to do the work. I heard it mentioned that the Demons had only three tackles to ¼ time and a paltry 30 odd for the whole game - a poor result from a side that prides itself on contest.
Statistics lovers would think Angus Brayshaw played a good game. But stumbles, fumbles and miskicks don’t get recorded. The stat which did get recorded was the eight clangers. The fact that he wasn’t on the ground for a majority of the third term indicates that something was wrong with him, and his grunt and surety was missed, despite the numbers.
All around the ground, we were seeing structures which were not what had been seen in past weeks or months. Tom McDonald was playing back, Aaron vndenBerg almost full time in the middle, Joel Smith supposedly selected as a backman spent most of the game forward. When players are being thrown around like this, it can only mean that an attempt is being made to fill gaps.
The result is the was little in the way of forward structure, but then the ball didn’t get down there until the second half of the game, and even then there was no genuine marking target. How we would have relished Jesse Hogan in front of goal - perhaps next year?
The mids were simply destroyed, not from the clearances, but by the outside run which enabled them to deliver cleanly to their forwards in Darling, Kennedy, Cripps and LeCras. As mentioned last week, when we have Jones and Tyson on the wing, there is no run for us, but importantly, they cannot keep up with the opposition. Then with Alex Neal-Bullen able to just hit 50% disposal efficiency, it showed that even when we had the ball, we simply butchered it.
The forwards had a shocker of a day as well. Without T McDonald there to provide a target for good parts of the game, the likes of Melksham, Hannan and Spargo rarely had a viable touch, with all of them barely into double figure disposals. Sam Weideman reverted to being unable to hold a mark this week, and Christian Petracca kept trying to give the ball off to others when inside 30m himself. His set shots were nothing to behold again. Plenty of work needs to be done for him in this area over summer.
The backs were overwhelmed by the amount of ball coming in, but the lack of composure was telling, especially compared with their work-rate last week. Sadly, Oscar McDonald and Michael Hibberd failed to effect a single tackle, Sam Frost, Lewis and Christian Salem one each. Neville Jetta at least had three.
The mids weren’t much better and their numbers were mostly twos and threes. Overall there were seven players who didn’t lay a single tackle in the game. Simply not good enough in any game, let alone a Preliminary Final.
Can the Demons learn from this game? The coach has already indicated that contest is king and that is particularly the case in Finals, especially when you get to the pointy end. The fans can be proud and happy with the performance during the season, and have seen the results following years of promises and nothing to show but there has to be more.
And there is much more improvement to come, simply because the majority of this group is still young. They came up against a side on its home turf which played in a Grand Final just three years ago, finished the home and away season in second spot and were handed (and took) the initiative in the first ten minutes of the game. They deserve to be Grand Finalists again this year, but we must learn to perform to the standard required to get to the final stage, that they displayed in this game ... an in particular, to always provide a contest.
I just can’t wait for the cricket and tennis to be over ...
Melbourne 0.3.3 0.6.6 5.9.39 7.13.55
West Coast Eagles 4.8.32 10.9.69 15.10.100 18.13.121
Melbourne Melksham 2 Hannan Harmes Oliver J Smith Weideman
West Coast Eagles Kennedy 4 Cripps Darling LeCras 3, Hutchings Redden Rioli Ryan Venables
Melbourne Harmes Oliver vandenBerg Petracca J Smith Viney
West Coast Eagles Kennedy Redden Cripps Hurn McGovern Sheed LeCras
West Coast Eagles Nil
West Coast Eagles Nil
Umpires Nicholls, Meredith, Chamberlain
Official crowd 59,608 at Optus Stadium
For well over a decade, Melbourne fans have been sitting back at various times during the football season (more often than not in the early parts), contemplating the AFL ladder and pondering on the mathematical possibilities available to their team of making the finals or winning the premiership. Rarely have they been equally or better placed than the others except when this particular event was taking place at the very beginning of the year or possibly after a the opening round of the season.
This week, at long last, things are different.
When Preliminary Finals week comes around, there are four teams left in the contest for the premiership flag. All four of them face a task which only one of them can successfully achieve and that is to win both remaining games. The mathematics are simple - each club has a 25% chance of making it to the Holy Grail. Nothing could be more simple than that, could it?
Except that in Melbourne’s case, it has to win its first contest outside of its home territory. That being the case, while Richmond, Collingwood and West Coast players will be waking up in their own beds on the morning of their game (well, hopefully), the Melbourne team will be waking in some hotel room after having flown a distance of approximately 2,722.36 kilometres from their home town to play in front of a crowd made up of mainly rabidly hostile natives.
The prospect would be a daunting one but for another interesting mathematical equation. In past years, an out-of-town trip to anywhere else in the country spelled doom and gloom for Melbourne and the loyal fans who traveled with the side. Interstate wins were as rare as hen’s teeth. In real terms, the mathematical possibility was as close to zero as you could possibly get.
But not this team and not this year.
The Demons have played seven home and away games - almost a third of the season - outside of their home State and won all but one of those contests (and you could mount a strong argument to say that even the Port Adelaide game was a victory of sorts in every aspect except on the Adelaide Oval scoreboard) which gives you a very healthy 85.7% win/loss ratio. In those games, it was Melbourne that dominated most of the statistical data such as clearances, contested football, inside 50 entries and shots at goal*.
To emphasize the point, you only have to look back a little over a month to Round 22 when the Eagles and Demons clashed at Optus Stadium in which the visitors prevailed by 17 points to understand that the idea of traveling across the continent holds little fear for the Melbourne of 2018 which has an away record that is the envy of all others in the competition.
Not even the Tigers who are everybody’s favourite at very strong mathematical odds to win this year’s flag, can boast a victory against this team at this venue this year. Indeed, they had to wait until Round 21 against the ailing Suns at Metricon Stadium to record their only interstate win of the season.
The fight for the flag is an even money proposition and Melbourne’s mathematical odds are as good as those of anybody else left in the race.
West Coast v Melbourne at Optus Stadium Saturday 22 September 2018 at 3.20pm.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall West Coast 33 wins Melbourne 17 wins
At Optus Stadium West Coast 0 wins Melbourne 1 win
Past five meetings West Coast 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins
The Coaches Simpson 0 wins Goodwin 2 wins
TV - Channel 7, Fox Footy Channel, Live at 2.30pm
RADIO - Triple M SEN 3AW ABC ABC Grandstand
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
Melbourne 16.12.108 defeated West Coast 14.7.91 in Round 22, 2018 at Optus Stadium
The Eagles were reeling at the time, having recently lost Nick Naitanui and the Andrew Gaff incident was still very fresh in the mind. They were also without Josh Kennedy and their other tall marking forward, Jack Darling, was out off the game with concussion after only ten minutes. As a consequence of the Demons taking full advantage of the situation, they were four goals in front in the blink of an eye. With the home crowd behind it but not as much noise of affirmation as usual, West Coast gradually fought its way back into the contest and momentarily took the lead by a point in the final term before Melbourne showed its mettle and kicked the game’s last three goals.
WEST COAST EAGLES
B: Shannon Hurn, Tom Barrass, Will Schofield
HB: Thomas Cole, Jeremy McGovern, Lewis Jetta
😄 Dom Sheed, Luke Shuey, Chris Masten
HF: Mark LeCras, Jack Darling, Mark Hutchings
F: Willie Rioli, Josh J. Kennedy, Jamie Cripps
Foll: Scott Lycett, Elliot Yeo, Jack Redden
I/C: Liam Duggan, Liam Ryan, Nathan Vardy, Daniel Venables
Emg: Brayden Ainsworth, Brendon Ah Chee, Oscar Allen, Jackson Nelson
In: Will Schofield
Out: Brad Sheppard (hamstring)
B: Neville Jetta, Oscar McDonald, Jordan Lewis
HB: Christian Salem, Sam Frost, Michael Hibberd
😄 Mitch Hannan, Nathan Jones, Angus Brayshaw
HF: Jake Melksham, Tom McDonald, James Harmes
F: Aaron vandenBerg, Sam Weideman, Alex Neal-Bullen
Foll: Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney
I/C: Christian Petracca, Joel Smith, Charlie Spargo, Dom Tyson
Emg: Bayley Fritsch, Jay Kennedy Harris, Jayden Hunt, Tim Smith
In: Joel Smith
Out: Bayley Fritsch (omitted)
Melbourne dropped a bombshell at selection when it omitted first year player Bayley Fritsch who has surprised all and sundry with an excellent debut season in which he filled a number of roles for the team. One has to feel sorry for the kid but he will have lots of opportunities in the future and, of course, can’t be ruled out of a place if the Demons make it to this year’s Grand Final.
However, the fact that the selectors have taken the ballsy option of making a decision that is considered controversial and risky is the very thing that sets the Melbourne of 2018 apart from the Melbourne of past days.
These days, the Demons stand tall; they are prepared to take the game and any opponent on with their high risk, boisterous, crisis style of play. It’s a feature that was evident earlier in the season and has only solidified in later days. When they last traveled across the Nullarbor, they did so knowing that their place in the finals was not yet booked and that in order to make it, they needed to achieve something they hadn’t done all season - beat a top eight side.
In the case of the Eagles that meant winning in unfamiliar territory in a noisy cauldron with 50,000 hostile fans willing them on to their doom. That they came out of the game with a stirring victory achieved after fighting back when the Eagles took the lead for the first time in the last ten minutes of the game and then have backed that effort up against top eight sides another three times speaks volumes.
In physical and mental terms the achievements that have led them here is already far in excess of the mathematical distance of approximately 2,722.36 kilometres that the players have traveled to get to Saturday night’s game. In terms of development of the team over the past five years, its more akin to traveling in space at the speed of light and a foreign ground, the noise of affirmation, the return to the opposition of their twin towers are all powerless to stop this team’s forward surge.
Melbourne by 27 points.
* the Adelaide game was an exception by one inside 50 and a few shots at goal due to a late flurry in the wet but the Demons were the stronger side on the night.
The Casey Demons braved a tough afternoon in front of a hostile crowd and in mainly inclement weather to win a hard fought battle by 8 points against Essendon VFL at Stannards Stadium, Port Melbourne on Saturday to advance to their second grand final in three years.
Over the course of the afternoon, players and spectators alike experienced sunshine, gloomy overcast skies, gusty winds and pouring rain; conditions that suited the Demons as their hard-bodied experienced relished the intensity of finals pressure.
Casey went into the game with two changes that added to the team’s depth - experienced campaigners Bernie Vince (back from an AC joint issue) and Jay Kennedy Harris gave them a list of 12 current AFL players. They again left out Mitch King and went with an undersized ruck combination that served them well given the conditions despite being well beaten on the day in tap out numbers.
The Demons opened strongly with Jeff Garlett’s mark and goal against the wind but the Bombers fought back as the lead seesawed for much of the opening term and Casey held the narrowest of leads at quarter time.
The Bombers nudged in front immediately after the break but the Dees gained the ascendency to lead by 11 points after Mitch Gent’s goal at the 20 minute mark of the second term. The margin would have been greater but for poor kicking for goal.
It was at that point that Essendon fought its way back into the game with two goals against the wind to allow them to go into the sheds at the half time break with the teams locked together at 39 points each. On the other side of the main break, with the rain pouring, it was the Bombers who took advantage of the wet weather conditions. They were quicker to the fall of the ball and manufactured two goals, one off the ground in the first minute and dominated the first 20 minutes of the term until Cam Pedersen stepped to turn the tide in as he has often done this season.
With his team trailing by 13 points, having been led to the ball and outplayed on both sides of half time, Pedersen hauled in a huge mark in front and converted. Moments later, Garlett screwed one through over his shoulder and suddenly, it was game on again. A lapse at a boundary throw in gave the unattended Bomber ruckman a free shot a goal but that was cancelled out when Pedersen was freed in front of goal after an Essendon defender’s brain fade in running through a deliberate point. The margin was a solitary point in favour of the Bombers at the final break.
With the wind at their backs, it was the experienced Demons who led the team home with their persistence and strong tackling.
First it was Jimmy Munro who kicked truly just 37 seconds into the final term to restore the lead which Casey held onto for the remainder of the game. They pushed forward time after time, inspired by veteran Bernie Vince who finished with 22 possessions, 13 of them contested. Pedersen was indefatigable In the ruck against taller opponents and Munro, with 21 tackles to match his disposal count, was simply magnificent in the hard slog. Tom Bugg and Jay Kennedy Harris were strong while Joel Smith defended stoutly and his goal saving smother when the Bombers threatened was a highlight. The Wagner brothers, Corey and Josh belied their northern state origins and were important players and handled the ball well in the greasy conditions.
Garlett booted his third as time on ticked by to give his team a game high lead of 14 points before a late Bomber goal saw the siren sound moments later with Casey home by a margin of eight points.
Peter Jackson VFL Coach of the Year, Jade Rawlings worked hard to vindicate the decision of the selection committee and lead his charges into the VFL grand final next Sunday at Etihad Stadium. In his time as a player and coach, he has never experienced premiership success but if things go according to plan, that will all change in seven day’s time.
Peter Jackson VFL 2018
Casey Demons 3.4 5.9 8.10.58 10.13.73
Essendon VFL 3.3 6.3.39 9.5.59 10.5.65
Casey Demons Garlett 3 Pedersen 2 Gent Lefau Munro Vince C Wagner
Essendon VFL Lazzaro 2 Clarke Draper Heppell Hind Hocking Merrett Stewart Younan
Casey Demons C Wagner Munro Kennedy Harris Vince Bugg Garlett
Essendon VFL Clarke Ridley Lazzaro Mutch Long Heppell
Tomas Bugg 14 kicks 8 handballs 22 disposals 2 marks 9 tackles 98 dream team points
William Collis 3 kicks 1 handball 4 disposals 1 mark 5 tackles 28 dream team points
Tom Freeman 5 kicks 1 handball 6 disposals 2 marks 5 tackles 25 dream team points
Jeffrey Garlett 3 goals 8 kicks 3 handballs 11 disposals 3 marks 1 tackles 62 dream team points
Mitch Gent 1 goal 1 behind 10 kicks 3 handballs 13 disposals 3 marks 1 tackle 50 dream team points
Jayden Hunt 12 kicks 2 handballs 14 disposals 2 marks 10 tackles 83 dream team points
Jack Hutchins 2 tackles 9 dream team points
Dion Johnstone 4 kick s 2 handballs 6 disposals 5 tackles 33 dream team points
Declan Keilty 3 kicks 1 handball 4 disposals 2 tackles 19 dream team points
Jay Kennedy Harris 1 behind 10 kicks 10 handballs 20 disposals 1 mark 11 tackles 94 dream team points
Mykelti Lefau 1 goal 3 kicks 2 handballs 5 disposals 2 marks 6 tackles 9 hit outs 58 dream team points
Jay Lockhart 2 behinds 9 kicks 7 handballs 16 disposals 1 mark 6 tackles 64 dream team points
Cory Machaya 1 behind 4 kicks 7 handballs 11 disposals 1 mark 4 tackles 48 dream team points
James Munro 1 goal 3 behinds 15 kicks 6 handballs 21 disposals 21 tackles 151 dream team points
Cameron Pedersen 2 goals 6 kicks 5 handballs 11 disposals 5 marks 10 tackles 31 hit outs 121 dream team points
Harry Petty 7 kicks 7 disposals 4 marks 3 tackles 33 dream team points
Joel Smith 6 kicks 6 disposals 4 marks 8 tackles 62 dream team points
Tim Smith 2 behinds 8 kicks 8 handballs 16 disposals 3 marks 4 tackles 8 hit outs 72 dream team points
Cory Stockdale 4 kicks 1 handball 5 disposals 2 marks 1 tackle 21 dream team points
Bernie Vince 1 goals 15 kicks 7 handballs 22 disposals 2 marks 2 tackles 76 dream team points
Corey Wagner 1 goals 14 kicks 6 handballs 20 disposals 12 tackles 105 dream team points
Josh Wagner 18 kicks 5 handballs 23 disposals 4 marks 5 tackles 92 dream team points
Mitch White 10 kicks 2 handballs 12 disposals 2 marks 4 tackles 54 dream team points