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SLEEPERS by The Oracle

You could easily be forgiven for thinking that it was the entire Melbourne Football Club and not Dan Connors and Dustin Martin who had a big night out, decided to take some sleeping pills and turned up late for their assignation. That's how it appeared in the opening quarter of their game against the Tigers as the Demons put on a convincing portrayal of a team in a stupor desperately imitating the mannerisms of the Keystone Cops on its way to a football belting.

They made the mistakes of a tired side lacking in skills, unable to make the correct decisions and appearing decidedly out of position and out of place. You just knew from the moment Lynden Dunn gave that nudge in the back for Richmond's first goal early in the game that things weren't going to go well and it was only for the fact that the Tigers had the kicking yips in front of goal that prevented them from setting up a huge percentage booster as they push towards the finals.

The problem for Melbourne was that it had the yips all over the ground and not just in front of goal so we were treated to the now routine abysmal start involving errant handpasses (usually the one in the chain too many), kicks to teammates that float over their heads and end safely in the hands of an opponent or out of bounds on the full and the gift of stupid free kicks that inevitably result in cheap opposition scores.

The spectre of a shameful scoreless first quarter was definitely on the cards when Stef Martin missed one from an angle but Sam Blease stepped in with one of his now typical ripping left foot goals. When they woke up and the dust had settled, the Demons found themselved trailing by 1.0.6 to 4.6.30. Sure, it could have (and perhaps should have) been worse but it could also have been so much better had the team come into the game more organised and wide awake.

From that point, the result was never in doubt but at least Melbourne fought its way through the game and even narrowly outscored Richmond in the final three quarters, helped by the Tigers poor kicking for goal, some abysmal and inconsistent field umpiring, and a great solo performance from Nathan Jones who has been a shining light at the club this season.

The main thrust of any Demon fightback was effectively stilled by the comedy of errors that ended with a video review that disallowed what appeared to be a flaky goal off the boot of James Magner. It started when Magner intercepted a mark that appeared headed for the safe hands of Jared Rivers. The shot was taken from only 35 metres out but it disappeared into a crowd of players with legs and arms apparently flailing around an untouched ball. The goal umpire looked ready to pay the goal but then every official on the ground had a say and it went to the video review which was said to have proved inconclusive. A goal to Melbourne would have meant it was game on but it was not to be.

Melbourne had a few other triers but there simply weren't enough of them. Colin Sylvia is regaining some form, James Frawley did his best in curtailing Jack Riewoldt and Jack Watts showed his undoubted class.

Regrettably, the team is still hopelessly undermanned, under strength and simply doesn't have the experienced cool heads at this stage to lead the way in times of crisis. There are too many of the best 22 out of the side and the slack is not being taken up by young blood as it should when you're sitting forlornly near the basement at 2 and 12.

Chris Connolly once said that if you made five or more changes to the side then you had little chance of winning.  But that is exactly what Richmond did after a horror week when it lost players to suspension and injury. The Tigers changed their team because of circumstance and still won - even if it was a case of winning ugly.

It's time for Melbourne to ring in the changes this week. There were enough passengers who slept on the job against Richmond to warrant changes to the team. Hopefully, Mark Jamar will be back in the side from injury but he should be joined by a combination of youth and experience to replace the sleepers. It would also assist if the team if Mark Neeld reconsidered his decision to play so many of his charges out of their normal positions. That sort of experimentation often proves successful on a one out basis but in the long run, simply doesn't work.

The team is floundering and the forward line is a shambles in the absence of Mitch Clark and Liam Jurrah. Colin Garland, Jared Rivers and Magner never looked like kicking multiple numbers of goals up there while Lynden Dunn and Watts need a change back to the forward line.

Melbourne has a former under 18 All Australian key position player running around at Casey. Another young key defender has been on the cusp of selection and named emergency a few times this year. A few others have been battling on their way back from injury. It's time to see what they're made of and put them on the big stage for next week's game against the Dockers, failing which many supporters might well take the easy option and simply sleep in on Saturday.

Melbourne 1.06 4.4.28 5.6.36 11.12.78

Richmond 4.6.30 6.1248 9.20.74 13.23.101

Goals

Melbourne Martin 2 Bail Bennell Blease Garland Jones McKenzie Rivers Sylvia Tapscott

Richmond  Nahas 4 Deledio McGuane 2 Edwards Grigg Riewoldt Tuck White

Best

Melbourne Jones Martin Frawley Sylvia Bail Watts

Richmond Tuck Grigg Deledio Houli Cotchin Nahas

Injuries

Melbourne Frawley (concussion)

Richmond Griffiths (calf tightness)

Changes

Melbourne Nil

Richmond Nil

Reports

Melbourne Nil

Richmond Nil

Umpires Wenn Armstrong Foot

Official Crowd 46,773 at MCG

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