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A TALE OF TWO GAMES

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A TALE OF TWO GAMES by Whispering Jack 

This was a game that, for the Melbourne Football Club, was always going to be twinned with the one that came before it some 280 days ago. You know, the game known simply as "186" played on 30 July, 2011. For the story behind that game, I refer you to this Age article written by Caroline Wilson - Date with disaster

But that date with disaster is well past the club. It has moved on and, despite the fact that the result of the latest game was yet another disappointing result in which the team was overwhelmed by the reigning premier, there was a different feeling about the loss. 

In some respects, the losing margin of 43 points flattered Melbourne as much as last year's 186 flattered Geelong and this year's Geelong is not the same, but it was the knowledge that the effort was there and that the team can get so much better in time that provided cause for hope.

Last year's 186 catastrophe was preceded by a calamity of barely less proportion when the Demons' fourth placed alignment partner, the Casey Scorpions tumbled to a 128 thrashing at the hands of the lower Geelong reserves in the curtain raiser. This time around, it was the turn of the second placed Cats to go down by 46 points in what was a major upset. More importantly, and despite serious injuries to a couple of promising youngsters, there was enough young talent on display to suggest, despite the gloom and doom spelt out by an 0-6 record at this stage, that there was improvement to come - at least in the second half of this season.

So to the main game and I doubt that anyone would have expected the Demons to be within a goal of the hosts at the first change. It wasn't that they played so well with the first use of the breeze (and they were lucky with the Cats' inaccuracy) but there were enough contributors plugging away to keep them in the game. The likes of Mitch Clark and James Frawley, key players at opposite ends of the ground missing from last week's near loss to St. Kilda were making a difference. Mark Jamar was winning the ruck battles (even if his onballers were being outclassed) and co-captain Jack Grimes were all doing well. Nathan Jones was continuing his good form for the season.

Statistically, the bulk of Geelong's winning margin was attained in the second term when it put on a masterclass of how to dominate on this particular ground. You need the team to be well organised and well structured with players having the experience and the instinctiveness to know where to put the ball next. Mix that with the skills that give you a disposal efficiency rating in excess of 80% against your opponent's rating of under 60. Last year, that would have given Geelong a seven or eight goal break in a single quarter (and it did). This year, the dominance was restricted - even in Melbourne's worst quarter for the day - to 23 points. This was mainly due to the fact that the Demons were able to match their opponents for the whole day in one statistic - winning contested possessions. That is the area in which the team has languished so badly in past seasons against the competition's stronger teams. Precisely, what new coach Mark Neeld has stressed would ultimately distinguish the Melbourne of the past (186) era from that of the future. We saw signs of that from the massive efforts of Clark, Nathan Jones and the rapidly improving Jeremy Howe and Tom McDonald.

Call me an optimist, and I know that the Cats were nowhere near last year's near world record pace. The teams had 14 shots at goal apiece in the second half - something that we could only dream about in a Geelong game at Simonds Stadium 280 days ago. I see this as a definite sign of improvement. 

In the final analysis, Geelong had way too much class, particularly in the midfield where the Cats simply had too much talent and too much run for their Demon counterparts. But there are players at Casey who will push for inclusion in the coming weeks and if you add some of those youngsters to Jurrah and Watts (in time) and allow others like Colin Sylvia to regain some touch after his injury, we will definitely see more and more improvement.

My final gauge of inspiring thought resulting by way of contrast with that other game for the past is in the turnaround in the combined win/loss margins from 2011 to 2012 for Melbourne and its alignment partner. It's not a world shattering statistic but last year's - 314 was turned in the space of nine months into + 3 by virtue of Casey's 46 point win. Statistics can and do lie and yesterday wasn't much to write about but the lesson of the tale of two games is that there is a light there at the end of the long tunnel in which we're travelling.

Melbourne 3.0.18 6.1.37  10.5.65 11.10.76

Geelong  3.5.23 9.11.65 15.14.104 17.17.119

Goals

Melbourne Melbourne Clark 4 Bate Jones 2 Davey Dunn Howe

Geelong Chapman Johnson Podsiadly 3 Bartel Mackie 2 Hawkins Kelly Motlop Stringer

Best 

Melbourne Clark Grimes McDonald Howe Jones Moloney

Geelong Johnson Corey Enright Duncan Podsiadly Scarlett 

Injuries

Melbourne Grimes (ankle)

Geelong Bartel (ankle)

Changes

Melbourne Nil

Geelong Lonergan (ankle) replaced in selected side by Gillies, Selwood (concussion) replaced in selected side by Byrnes

 

Reports

Melbourne Nil

Geelong Nil

Umpires Wenn Bannister Fleer

Crowd 18,010 at Simonds Stadium

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