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BACK AND FORWARD by Whispering Jack It's a pity in many ways that the NAB Challenge game against the Western Bulldogs couldn't be played backwards because that might satisfy many of the Melbourne supporters who were disgruntled by the outcome of a game which their team actually won and give them some perspective. If you really could play the game backwards then the deficit at half time would have been 38 points making Melbourne's fightback to pull the game out of the fire look heroic. Given that such things are such a valuable commodity but have been rare in recent times, I would prefer the heroics to be kept for events that have a little more meaning than this little romp in the goldfield town of Ballarat. The reality was that this was a practice match and the result was as irrelevant as it will be next Friday evening when the Demons face up to a truncated Bomber line up at Etihad Stadium in front of however many fans bother to front up to the ground or watch on Foxtel (strange how that mob still get all of their games televised even if half the side are unlisted ring ins). The reality is that Melbourne disposed of an undermanned opposition in the first half of the game so comprehensively that the second half was used for its proper purpose - experimentation. In the event, the Bulldogs came out with some added purpose and managed to outscore the Demons in the third quarter with the aid of the wind and continued to surge against a much different midfield set up and an altered defensive mindset in changed conditions with a swirly wind gusting all over the place. This did not alter the fact that the focus should be on the style of play that we saw in the first half which is going to be more the hallmark of the Melbourne Football Club's on field efforts in 2015. As Paul Roos put it after the game, "omething we've been working really hard on is getting the ball moving with a bit more speed." This was highlighted by the showings of the club's four 2015 recruits from other clubs in Heritier Lumumba (running defender and midfield), Jeff Garlett (goal sneak), Sam Frost (a big man with pace who can play forward or back) and Ben Newton (midfield). There was also a lot to like in the games of Christian Salem, Jay Kennedy-Harris and Jimmy Toumpas and the little we were allowed to see of Jesse Hogan whose season was crippled by the injury he suffered in the corresponding game last year. There is also evidence of other players playing different roles as the club's rejuvenation continues, albeit not at the same revolutionary pace that many would prefer. Nathan Jones and Dom Tyson dominated the first half stoppages but were used sparingly in the engine room in the second half and these were among many of the changes rung in by the coaching group, the consequences of which were stunningly obvious but lost on some of the fans who turned on their team expecting it to go for the jugular when there was another game even more meaningless in terms of result only six days away. When that day comes, the match conditions will be changed further to the traditional 22 man team format and two weeks beyond that, the real stuff starts. You can rest assured that by then, the team's focus and its line up will be different again and it will be some time after, that we will really be able to discern whether or not the team has moved forward. MELBOURNE 0.2.2 0.8.4 0.9.6 0.10.9 (69) WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.0.1 0.1.1 0.4.4 0.9.8 (62) GOALS Melbourne: Garlett Kennedy-Harris 2 Cross Dawes Frost Hogan N Jones Watts Western Bulldogs: A Cordy 2 Bontempelli Boyd Goodes Grant Jong Minson Stringer SUPERGOALS Melbourne: Nil Western Bulldogs: Nil BEST Melbourne: Salem T McDonald Tyson Dunn N Jones Jetta Kennedy-Harris Western Bulldogs: Honeychurch M Boyd Grant Jong Daniel A Cordy INJURIES Melbourne: vandenBerg (cut head) Western Bulldogs: Nil SUBSTITUTES Melbourne: Western Bulldogs: Reports: Nil Umpires: Chris Donlon Scott Jeffery Brendan Hosking, Curtis Deboy Official crowd: 5000 approx. at Eureka Stadium, Ballarat.
Two weeks after the euphoria of the win over Richmond at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne catapulted back to earth and landed in the country's red centre. It wasn't a crash landing and there was a lot to like about the Demons who lost their second NAB Challenge match to a more skillful and composed Cats outfit at Traeger Park, Alice Springs by a mere 13 points. I have this feeling that the final margin might be a little flattering in view of the fact that the Demons achieved the result with the benefit of substantially less scoring shots, half the number of forward entries inside fifty metres and with the benefit of three nine-point supergoals which won't be available in the regular season but there were lots of positives among all of this including the comeback in the second quarter after a slow start and keeping Geelong goalless in the last. While we should never be happy with a defeat, the way the team performed produced an interesting conundrum for the club's coaching panel which opens the door for a positive future. Melbourne exceeded 400 disposals for the second time in a row but had far less inside 50's (31 to 62). which means that if Paul Roos can work out how his team can translate 444 touches into a lot more than 31 inside 50's there will be plenty to look forward to as the season unfolds. We are in the very early days of the Roos era and one would expect that he's been working on the answer for some time because it's not exactly a new phenomenon at the club. Part of the answer is to do away with a few of the less skilled players and therefore reduce the abysmal disposal and bad decision-making that results in bad turnovers and another part is to inject a few key talls - Frawley and Garland into the defence and Dawes and Clark into the forward line. The Roos style will get better and with the right personnel, I expect it will give his charges a good chance against all but the top sides this season. Certainly, the addition of Vince, Tyson, Cross and Michie to the midfield and the promise of young Hogan were all major plusses and I couldn't help but wonder what might have been had Kennedy-Harris been given another run instead of sending him off to the backblocks of Gippsland. We could be onto some good things in the near future and perhaps looking at up to 10 wins. Melbourne 0.3.0.18 220.127.116.11 18.104.22.168 22.214.171.124 Geelong 0.6.5.41 0.8.6.54 0.14.9.93 0.14.13.97 Supergoals Melbourne N Jones Michie Vince Geelong Nil Goals Melbourne Howe 2 Bail Cross Hogan N Jones Michie Toumpas Trengove Geelong Brown 3 Bartel Duncan Taylor 2 Caddy Hawkins Horlin-Smith Varcoe, Walker Best Melbourne Vince Tyson Cross N Jones Michie Dunn Geelong Duncan Caddy Johnson Bartel Horlin-Smith Rivers Injuries Melbourne Toumpas (head) Geelong Selwood (hamstring) Reports Melbourne Nil Geelong Billie Smedts for striking Jimmy Toumpas in the third quarter Umpires Fleer Wenn Deboy Attendance 5,378 at TIO Traeger Park in Alice Springs