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THE WRITING ON THE WALL

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THE WRITING ON THE WALL by Grapeviney

At some point between Melbourne's unexpected victory over the Bombers on a wintry Saturday night last month, and quarter time against expansion team GWS a few weeks later, Demons supporters could have been forgiven for thinking that their team might purge their miserable 2012 season opening loss to the Lions with a victory in the return match in Brisbane on Sunday.

Sure, the Demons' 2-10 win-loss ratio heading in to the Brisbane game was nothing to write home about, but there were increasing signs that Mark Neeld's charges were starting to adapt to the new coach's game-plan and vision.

Some of that optimism had dissipated in the wake of Melbourne's 78-point thumping of the Giants, when the club learned of the season-ending foot injury to gun recruit Mitch Clark, who before yesterday's game had bagged an admirable 25 per cent of the Demons' goals in season 2012.

But with the movement of Colin Garland and Jared Rivers to the forward line paying dividends, there seemed to be cause for hope even with Clark sidelined.

Hope turned to dismay, however, before the Lions game, with news that Mark Jamar and Nathan Jones were late withdrawals, and any chance that the Demons had of causing an upset disappeared in the opening minutes of the match, when improving defender Tom McDonald copped a knee to the abdomen and had to be hospitalised with a suspected punctured lung.

In isolation, Melbourne might have been able to handle these setbacks, but taken together, the side was seriously undermined whichever way Neeld chose to position his troops.

To his credit, the coach didn't panic when McDonald went down, and while it left an undersized Watts matched up against the Lions' man-mountain in Brown for a short time, Neeld's faith in the starting line-up seemed to pay dividends when the Demons drew within a point of the home side late in the first quarter.

But the writing was on the wall, even in that first term. While Melbourne could only manage to score goals best described as opportunistic, Brisbane had little trouble finding avenues forward, and two late goals to Brown saw the home side slip away to a handy lead that would only increase as the day wore on.

From there, it was only a matter of filling in the details. Melbourne contested the hard ball well, and there was little to separate the two sides in the clearances, inside-50's, and contested possessions, but the Demons failed to register a major in the second term and could only manage a solitary goal in the third as Brisbane moved the ball with ease from half back to set up scoring chances in their forward 50.

In contrast, the Demons struggled – as they have for much of the year - to run and spread and move the ball with speed, and they regularly broke down at half forward. Stef Martin made a triumphant return to senior football, displaying the form which saw him fill in so successfully for an injured Jamar last year, and Joel Macdonald answered his many critics by complementing his usual hardness at the ball with an 88-per cent disposal efficiency.

Jeremy Howe continued to show why he is one of the more promising names on the club's list, and Jordie McKenzie played the rugged, no-nonsense type of game MFC supporters have come to expect from him.

With Melbourne facing the Tigers – a team with much to play for and an impressive midfield – this week, it's going to take an effort of Herculean proportions if the Demons are to return to the winner's circle

Melbourne 3.6.24 3.8.26 4.11.35 8.13.61

Brisbane Lions 6.1.37 9.60 13.11.89  18.14.122

Goals

Melbourne Blease 2 Bail Bate Garland  Howe McKenzie Sylvia

Brisbane Lions Brown 4 Hanley McGrath 3 Green 2 Bewick Black  Merrett Polec Redden Zorko

Best 

Melbourne Howe Macdonald Sylvia Blease Martin Watts

Brisbane Lions Rich Brown Black Rockliff Harwood Hanley

Injuries

Melbourne Tom McDonald (lung)

Brisbane Lions McGrath (hamstring)

Changes

Melbourne Mark Jamar and Nathan Jones replaced in the selected side by Jake Spencer and Sam Blease

Brisbane Lions Nil

Reports

Melbourne Nil

Brisbane Lions Nil

Umpires Kamolins Jennings Mollison

Crowd 22,114, at Gabba

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