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THE HEAT IS OFF by the Oracle A little over three months ago, it all started with the Brisbane Lions at the end of a long, hot summer. It was a time full of hope and a measure of confidence. There was so much about the club that was new and the pre season, while not inspirational, had produced some flashes that gave rise to some inspiration. To be sure, a handful of key personnel were missing the opening game of the season but this was Brisbane and it was our home soil. The Demons had their moments in the first half before they capitulated in the second. To the surprise of many, it was the visiting Lions who dominated the midfield and ran Melbourne off its feet in the hot conditions. Mark Neeld's Demons were already experiencing a horror run off the field but now the heat was was well and truly on where the game is really played - on the ground. That run stretched and extended itself in many directions over the ensuing two months with defeat after defeat, some of them crushings that left officials, players and supporters totally numbed and with no respite in sight. Relief came finally with a totally unexpected victory on drizzly Saturday night against Essendon, then one of the premiership favourites, and more lately, when Melbourne thrashed the fledgling GWS Giants last Sunday at the MCG. With the cold of winter finally setting in, the heat was finally off for the Demons of 2012. Their season is shot and there will be no finals glory (though the dreamers might speak of "mathematical possibility") the coming ten weeks provide very little for supporters of the club to which they can look forward with much excitement. There's the possibility of some face saving by winning a few of the remaining games - a number of them are definitely winnable. There's the possible introduction of new faces from the ranks of those going around at Casey and there will be farewells to old warriors. Those with keen eyes for the game will watch closely to observe the development of Mark Neeld's game plan and whether it's sinking in on the playing group. Others will be hoping the players stay healthy so that they can start the 2013 campaign on a good footing while others still, will be keeping a watchful eye on the youngsters coming through junior ranks in the hope that their club can snaffle a future star later in the year. It's clear that the focus will not be entirely where we all hoped it would be at this stage of the season when the Demons ran onto the field against the Brisbane Lions in March. We couldn't have known then that by the time the teams were due to meet again this Sunday in Brisbane, that the team's leading goalkicker for this season would be out of action for the year, that his counterpart from last year would not yet have played a full game or kicked even one goal and the one from the year before would also spend most of the season on the sidelines with a combination of injury and form worries. That is the state of the club's season to date. My preview of the opening game was entitled "The Heat Is On" but that is definitely not the case as we move into the cold month of July. THE GAME Brisbane v Melbourne at The Gabba - Sunday, 1 July 2012 at 3.15 pm. HEAD TO HEAD Overall Brisbane 11 wins Melbourne 19 wins Gabba Brisbane 8 wins Melbourne 4 wins Since 2000 Brisbane 8 wins Melbourne 8 wins The Coaches Voss 1 win Neeld 0 wins MEDIA Channel 7 TV Fox Footy (live at 3:00pm AEST) RADIO SEN ABC774 THE BETTING Brisbane $1.25 Melbourne $4.00 THE LAST TIME THEY MET Brisbane Lions 17.17.119 defeated Melbourne 11.12.78 in round 1, 2012 at the MCG Melbourne opened as the firm favourite for the opening round clash but it was ultimately exposed in the midfield where Brisbane veteran and his on ball cohorts put on a masterclass winning at will at the stoppages, running and spreading at will against the sluggish Demons. Newcomer James Magner was a revelation and Melbourne's best player in a disappointing effort that set the scene for many weeks to come. THE TEAMS BRISBANE LIONS Backs Josh Drummond Joel Patfull Ryan Harwood Half backs Mitch Golby Niall McKeever Jed Adcock Centreline Ryan Lester Daniel Rich Pearce Hanley Half forwards Simon Black Jonathan Brown Dayne Zorko Forwards James Polkinghorne Daniel Merrett Ashley McGrath Followers Ben Hudson Tom Rockliff Andrew Raines Interchange Rohan Bewick Josh Green Jared Polec Jack Redden Emergencies Jack Crisp Patrick Karnezis Elliot Yeo In Jared Polec Out Matt Maguire (elbow) MELBOURNE Backs Tom McDonald James Frawley Jared Rivers Half backs Daniel Nicholson Jack Watts Jack Grimes Centreline James Magner Jordie McKenzie Joel Macdonald Half forwards Jack Trengove James Sellar Nathan Jones Forwards Jeremy Howe Colin Garland Luke Tapscott Followers Mark Jamar Brent Moloney Colin Sylvia Interchange Rohan Bail Matthew Bate Lynden Dunn Stef Martin Emergencies Jamie Bennell Sam Blease Jake Spencer In Rohan Bail Jamie Stef Martin Luke Tapscott Out Sam Blease (omitted) Mitch Clark (foot) Aaron Davey (hamstring) THE GIFT OF THE GABBA A fine and sunny day awaits the Melbourne Football Club for its visit to Brisbane. Blue skies and 21 degrees Celsius sounds mighty inviting. If only I had the moolah to part with in my bank account instead of a close to maxed out Visacard, I would be up there in a flash on some heavily discounted Tiger Airway flight staying at that el cheapo motel that accommodated half of the Demons' football department when they went headhunting Mitch Clark last October. That would have been the best $39.00 spend in the club's history until Wednesday of this week when the surgeon presented it with a $23,000.00 bill for his Lisfranc (midfoot) operation. Which brings me back to my preview of Sunday's game at the Gabba because Mitch Clark's injury has revolutionised my thinking about the result. That and the fact that the Lions have discovered a rich vein of form and my relatives up there are even mentioning the "F" word (meaning "finals" in case you're wondering). Yes, a win to the Lions would put them on six wins and level with Carlton whose supporters still talk in hushed terms of not only making the finals but of winning the flag. In this game, both teams on the up and up and both have recently beaten genuine premiership contenders rather than sham ones like Carlton. Brisbane’s form against West Coast certainly shocked the football world but it’s follow up victory against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad certainly made them sit up. They have few injuries and their midfield of Black, Rich, Redden and Rockliff was good enough to destroy Melbourne back in March and continues to be its dominant line, so that is the department where the Demons need to improve if they are to win. Melbourne’s midfield stocks have also improved. Not so much in the terms of its personnel but more in its intensity and its work rate, which was virtually nonexistent after half time when the teams last met. I recall on that occasion, even without Jonathan Brown in the line up, the Lions were able to capitalise on their midfield dominance to score with regularity throughout the game. This time, with Brown and with at least one of the defenders having to drop forward to fill in for the loss of Clark and the continuing absence of Liam Jurrah, I expect Brisbane to just get home. Brisbane by 3 points. And for those who are going to the game, this special treat - 3 Things You Should Know For Your Great Gabba Getaway – Press Release