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THE BELL TOLLED by Mean Gene

Melbourne had its chances against Fremantle and probably didn’t deserve to lose by as much as 34 points but that’s football. The outcome of every game played is dependent upon a number of factors and in most cases everything (or at least most things) has to gel if a team is to win. The Demons got a good start which gave them the early momentum. They withstood everything the Dockers could throw at them for the next two quarters and fought back on two occasions to alter the momentum of the game back in their favour when Freo came at them. But in the end, it was the weight of adversity that has dogged them throughout the season.

In this case, it was the injuries and the lack of total fitness that took their toll and a tired team had nothing left without the ability to commit the necessary rotations that might have kept the legs fresh enough to withstand the final onslaught from Fremantle. Alas, the bell tolled and there was nothing left.

It’s said that it’s not good form to linger too long on injuries or to use them as an excuse when looking at the outcome of any game but I really think some mention should be made of the Demons’ current afflictions. It’s been happening all year (in fact, for a number of them) and most clubs suffer injuries during a long, harsh season but it started getting much worse than that which is standard just after the club pulled off its surprise victory against Essendon. Clint Bartram, Mitch Clark, Aaron Davey and Jamie Bennell have since joined Max Gawn and young draft pick Rory Taggert on the list of players whose seasons were ended. Mark Jamar’s season now also hangs in the balance although he is expected to play again this year if he heals well from his torn calf.

The group that was available to represent the Melbourne Football Club and to play for it before, during and after the game diminished in number rapidly from Thursday morning. Jack Watts was rules out with an ankle while James Sellar failed to pass his fitness test. On the morning of the game, Luke Tapscott (groin) was ruled out and replaced by James Strauss. Josh Tynan was similarly ruled out at Casey adding to the club’s woes. Ten minutes into the game, Mark Jamar, who already had seven hit outs, was subbed off with a recurrence of his calf injury. Later, Jack Grimes was inconvenienced with what appeared to be an ankle injury and went to the rooms but was soon back in action and finally, Jamie Bennell left the field. He will undergo ACL surgery.

As coach Mark Neeld pointed out, the club remained in the contest and probably “had equal chance probably at three-quarter time”. But that wasn’t really true because you could see the effects of the imbalance caused by the loss of players. Stef Martin kicked a couple of goals early but he was called upon to fill the breach in the ruck when Jamar went down. Rucking virtually alone, he looked stuffed by three quarter time. There were others who had to carry a greater load than normal.

Melbourne which looked great early with Brad Green turning the clock back and kicking goals, Rohan Bail and Dan Nicholson showing some pace and run and James Frawley keeping Matthew Pavlich in check chalked up six goals in the first term. In some games this year, the Demons have struggled to get six in a whole game. But Ross Lyon put on the pressure and closed the game down to one which Fremantle appreciated and when the Dockers made their third and final assault, the Demons wilted, made errors and fell away.

The return of Tom McDonald who suffered a punctured lung just two weeks earlier was welcome as was the fact that he was able to throw himself into the fray as if the collision with Jonathan Brown that left him with bleeding lungs had never happened. Another Tom – Tom Couch – did well in his long awaited debut. His tackling, along with that of Jordie McKenzie was a feature. Sam Blease might not get much of the ball but he’s deadly around the goals.

Nathan Jones keeps working hard and I note that he’s now being paid the compliment of having a tagger. Despite the hard tag, he was still an effective player and one hopes that in the years to come, opposition coaches will need to worry about more than him in the Demons midfield. On the day, the Dockers finally overwhelmed a tiring opposition and this is where the game was ultimately lost, as it is most of the time.

Sad to say, but the bell has tolled for Melbourne for this season. Any battles it will fight for the remainder of the year will, in many ways, be meaningless as the team has effectively had the heart ripped out of it by injury but the coming seven weeks will act as good preparation for next year. Although, it’s been “next year” for a long time, the experience of West Coast and Adelaide respectively over the past two seasons suggests that, if all goes well for a team and there’s a lot of hard work and sweat applied, a team can regenerate more quickly than anyone would normally expect.

Melbourne 6.4.40 8.6.54 12.7.79 12.11.83

Fremantle 3.2.20 6.5.41 11.6.72 18.9.117

Goals

Melbourne Green 3 Bail 2 Blease 2 Martin 2 Sylvia Bennell Bate.

Fremantle Pavlich 4 Walters 3 Pearce 2 Ballantyne 2 Barlow 2 Hill 2 Mayne Bradley Mzungu.

Best

Melbourne Martin Sylvia Nicholson McDonald Macdonald McKenzie Jones Grimes

Fremantle Mundy Hill Pavlich Barlow Walters McPharlin Ballantyne Spurr

Injuries

Melbourne Mark Jamar (calf) Jamie Bennell (ACL) Jack Grimes (ankle)

Fremantle Nil

Changes

Melbourne Luke Tapscott (groin) replaced by James Strauss

Fremantle Antoni Grover (buttock) replaced by Lee Spurr

Reports

Melbourne Nil

Fremantle Nil

Umpires S Wenn J Dalgleish J Bannister

Crowd 13,284 at Etihad Stadium

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