When the combatants that are due to face off on Monday night at Optus Stadium last met, it was 11 days after the World Health Organization had declared the Covid19 outbreak a global pandemic. In Australia, the first cases had just come to light, including visiting US actors Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson, the toilet paper panic was in full flight and the world was starting to reel in anticipation of impending disaster.
Half an hour before this last game of the opening round was due to commence, the AFL season was postponed, effective from the final siren. Not for the only time during the plague, was Melbourne to be shunted across the country under difficult circumstances. Despite a solid fight back after a slow start, they capitulated. When the season resumed after a break of one and a half months, the Demons went through their share of ups and downs and in the end they just missed out on making the finals.
Things have been turned around on their head since that day almost 1½ years ago. Millions have died, world leaders have come and gone and the delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics will have come to an end before the opening bounce of this match. The Eagles are no longer a force to be feared, even on their home turf. In the Bizarro World of today, the Demons are still accumulating frequent flyer points but their arrival and stay in Perth is expected to be more comfortable than last time when a late evening hotel switch was said to be one of many disruptions they faced in their match preparation.
The Demons are on the home stretch of their most successful season in decades after a fantastic start, a few hiccups along the way but fresh from a strong showing in their last outing against the hapless Suns. They face an out of form Eagles who are struggling for consistency and are low on confidence but Melbourne knows only full too well that such a situation must not be taken lightly. This however, is a different West Coast, one so very long ago and far away from the powerful combination that strangled Melbourne at this ground in the preliminary final of 2018, in May 2019 and again in March 2020.
The Demons overcame a listless month or so with a return of their early season high pressure game against the Gold Coast Suns last week. Admittedly, the opposition were in disarray from the start and appeared to be a young, tiring team nearing the end of a tough season but the Demons were relentless in their attack on the ball throughout the game. There’s no reason why they can’t repeat the dose on the Eagles and return in kind the treatment that West Coast meted out to them in the faraway past before the world took its dramatic turn in mid Autumn of last year.
The Demons solid defence and dominant midfield were in their element as they cut a swathe through the Suns’ resistance. As a consequence, the forwards looked irresistible as they took advantage of the constant supply and kicked their highest score for the season. We can expect more of the same this week against the Eagles who are looking old, frail and well past their use by date.
Melbourne to win by 29 points.
West Coast v Melbourne at Optus Stadium Monday 9 August, 2021 at 8.10 pm.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall West Coast 37 wins Melbourne 17 wins
At Optus Stadium West Coast 3 wins Melbourne 1 win
Past five meetings West Coast 4 wins Melbourne 1 win
The Coaches Simpson 4 wins Goodwin 1 win
TV - live and on demand on Kayo and live on Foxtel. Check your local guides
Radio - check your local guides
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
West Coast Eagles 12.6.78 defeated Melbourne 7.9.51 at Optus Stadium in Round 1, 2020
Melbourne went into the game with five new faces - Mitch Brown, Ed Langdon and Adam Tomlinson along with youngsters Toby Bedford and Kysaiah Pickett but the team failed to overcome five unanswered goals in the opening term and went down by 27 points.
WEST COAST EAGLES
Out: J. Viney (suspended)
Injury and Suspension List: Round 21
Tom McDonald (back spasms) — Test
Mitch Brown (heel) — Test
Deakyn Smith (concussion) — 1 Week
Jack Viney (suspension) — 2 Weeks
Marty Hore (knee) — 4 to 6 Weeks
Aaron Nietschke (knee) — Season
Adam Tomlinson (knee) — Season