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DAWN II by Whispering Jack

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DAWN II by Whispering Jack

The last time Paul Roos presided over a game between the teams whose names bear those of this country's two most populous cities, his team was badly mauled by the late Dean Bailey's Demons.

That was four years ago when Tom Scully was a promising but relatively impoverished young player, Jack Trengove was fit, fast, could run all day and kick goals from outside 50 metres and Jordan Gysberts was not only on an AFL club list but also capable of picking up close to 30 touches of the footy every time he played. Luke Tapscott was the only constant then as now, being a regular name on the injured list.

Well, I take a little poetic licence here and there (after all, Colin Sylvia was best on ground that day) but it's hard to believe that less than four years ago Melbourne opened the equivalent fixture to this week's game with an eight goal opening quarter, led by eight goals at the main break, kicked another eight in the third term and coasted to a 12 goal win.

It was a new dawn for Melbourne and a swansong for Roos: his biggest loss at the helm as coach of Sydney and close to the end of his road as coach of a team he led to a long-awaited premiership in 2005.

Who could have predicted the course of events that would lead to Roos' return as an AFL coach or that the once proud club which he now oversees would have undergone such an abject period of football poverty and total degradation?

This Saturday night sees the two meeting again at the MCG. Both are currently outside the top eight after five rounds with Sydney, once a premiership fancy, seemingly resurrected after a surprise win over Fremantle at the last outing. The Swans go into the game as strong favourite to win but that is exactly what they were four years ago when the Demons stunned the football world with a performance that was so compelling that we marveled at what we believed was our new dawn.

Could it happen again in two day's time?

THE GAME

Melbourne v Sydney Swans at the MCG Saturday 26 April, 2014 at 7.40 pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Melbourne 92 wins Sydney Swans 108 wins Drawn 2

At MCG Melbourne 49 wins Sydney Swans 40 wins Drawn 2

Past five years Melbourne 1 wins Sydney Swans 3 wins Drawn 1

The Coaches Roos 0 wins Longmire 0 wins

MEDIA

TV - Channel 7, Fox Footy Channel @ 7.30pm (live)

RADIO - Triple M 3AW SEN ABC ABC Grandstand

THE BETTING

Melbourne to win - $8.00 Sydney Swans to win - $1.08

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Sydney Swans 16.20.116 defeated Melbourne 13.7.85 Round 15, 2013 at MCG

Melbourne worked hard and were competitive against the reigning premiers who were off target. Dean Terlich put in a great game against his old club.

THE TEAMS

MELBOURNE

B: Alex Georgiou, Lynden Dunn, Dean Terlich

HB: Jeremy Howe, Tom McDonald, Jack Grimes

C: Daniel Cross, Bernie Vince, Jack Watts

HF: Matt Jones, Chris Dawes, Jack Viney

F: Cam Pedersen, James Frawley, Rohan Bail

FOLL: Mark Jamar, Nathan Jones, Dom Tyson

I/C: Shannon Byrnes, Neville Jetta, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Christian Salem

EMG: Mitch Clisby, Daniel Nicholson, Jake Spencer

In: Shannon Byrnes, Mark Jamar, Christian Salem

Out: Jake Spencer, Michael Evans, Jordie McKenzie

New: Christian Salem (18, Sandringham Dragons)

SYDNEY SWANS

B: Nick Smith, Ted Richards, Dane Rampe

HB: Nick Malceski, Heath Grundy, Rhyce Shaw

C: Daniel Hannebery, Josh Kennedy, Jarrad McVeigh

HF: Ben McGlynn, Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Leroy Jetta

F: Luke Parker, Lance Franklin, Adam Goodes

FOLL: Mike Pyke, Kieren Jack, Harry Cunningham

I/C: Craig Bird, Tom Derickx, Jeremy Laidler, Jake Lloyd

EMG: Brandon Jack, Zak Jones, Sam Reid

In: Adam Goodes

Out: Brandon Jack

FROM A LYON TO A CHRISTIAN

For the better part of a decade and a half from 1986 Garry Lyon wore the number three at Melbourne with distinction. It was no co-incidence that his arrival at the club, the last player from its country zone in the Goulburn Valley to be recruited, marked the beginning of the club's rise following more than two decades as the competition's cellar dweller after its golden era of the 1950s and 60s.

Lyon's impact was immediate. He was Best First Year Player and kicked 26 goals in 20 games that year and after another 18 games in 1987, his club was witnessing a new dawn and on its way to its first finals series since 1964. Lyon would not take part in his club's three finals games that saw it desperately close to a grand final berth because he broke a leg in the final home and away game at Footscray. However, his career blossomed and he played in the grand final of the following year and rose to the rank of captain (1991-7).

Along the way he won two club best and fairests (1990, 1994) represented his state on multiple occasions, topped the club goal kicking, gained All Australian honours in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and played 226 games and kicked 426 goals before a back injury ended his career in mid 1999. He reached the pinnacle of his career with a ten goal haul against Footscray in the 1994 Semi Final.

He's now a media megastar and has helped the club out from time to time although his efforts with coaching selection and football department restructuring have not achieved the success we would have all wanted. His last official duty was carried out with reluctance but with the honour of helping out fellow club legend, the dying Jimmy Stynes, at the end of 2011.

Others have worn the number 3 since (Clint Bizzell and Clint Bartram) and see here but on Saturday night the jumper fittingly will be passed on from Lyon to a Christian. It might be my eyesight but I reckon they have a similar look and certainly, despite his brief time at Melbourne, we've seen signs of the same silky skills in Christian Salem that Lyons displayed when he was one of the competition's leading forwards.

Salem could well start as a forward on the MCG on Saturday night but he can play anywhere and is likely to end up in the midfield one day. Hopefully, his impact will be immediate (I'm not putting too much pressure on him, am I?), that we'll also see his time at the club bring another new dawn for the Demons and that he might even go one step further than the last custodian of the number three and also play in a winning grand final. It's been a long time coming - the last time we saw a Demon # 3 playing in a premiership was Peter Marquis in 1957.

So down to the matter at hand and my preview of the game. It's just Melbourne's luck that the Sydney Swans returned to form on the eve of this game. They were struggling until they shocked Fremantle last week. Buddy Franklin was in the wars and looking a shadow of his former self but ever since he booted four goals against the Dockers he's been in smashing form both on and off the field.

The Swans have responded to Melbourne going young with the selection of Salem by bringing old man Adam Goodes (Salem was 2 years old when Goodes was drafted) straight back into the team after a long lay off. Not for him is the need to play three games in the minor leagues to acclimatise like Mark Jamar.

I don't expect Melbourne to be the pushover it once was. Since the advent of Paul Roos, the Demons defensive efforts have improved dramatically. However, despite some clever recruiting to shore up its previously third world midfield the Demons have only managed to go from Burkina Faso to Zimbabwe in terms of the all-important centre clearances, averaging just eight per game (still last) as against the Swans who are ranked sixth in the AFL (13). That situation might improve with Jamar back in the fold because the lion hearted Spencer struggled to get the ball into the hands of his on ballers in the opening five rounds. Melbourne's forward line has also languished this year but the recent revamp and inclusion of Chris Dawes and the move into attack of James Frawley seem to be working.

There's a lot to be liked about the way Roos is working on improving the team but this week they face a tough opponent and as much as I'd like to tip a Demon boilover, I can't bring myself to tip a victory this week. I'm afraid we're still in the dark hour before dawn.

Sydney by 27 points.

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