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STARTRACK: THE FINAL FRONTIER by Whispering Jack

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This week, Melbourne goes on the road to the AFL's final frontier, the national capital Canberra, where it takes on another of the AFL's new franchise clubs in the Greater Western Sydney Giants. Both clubs won their opening rounds but they are considered to be a long way behind the AFL's elite teams and in a different stratosphere completely to the reigning premier, Hawthorn.

A win at StarTrak Oval, Manuka will mean a lot to the victor - it will provide confidence, credibility and an excellent starting point for the long year ahead. To the vanquished it will make the long year ahead feel even a little bit longer.

Needless to say, a win is important for both clubs. Melbourne has been down for a long time and one wonders how long it can keep treading water. And even though they have been gifted so many drafting concessions in their formative years, the Giants are not without problems of their own - Difficult times for Greater Western Sydney

For Melbourne, last week's win, albeit against an undermanned opposition with its main man severely restricted due to not having fully recovered from his shoulder injury, was therapeutic to its players, management and staff and most of all, its supporters to who the adjective "long-suffering" has well and truly outworn its welcome. After all these years there was a light at the end of the tunnel and it was neither a mirage nor an express train rumbling down the tracks on its way to cause wreckage and further untold damage to our collective pride.

It was a supreme team effort. Every one of the twenty-two players including the seven debutants played his part and for the first time in a long while, the talk of the town around Melbourne is how do you fit two players - one returning from injury, the other from suspension - into the team and who would be the unlucky player or players omitted in order to make way for them.

There's something else about this game that also needs to be said. At the last meeting between these teams, Melbourne wasn't just beaten badly, it was smashed and left badly bleeding after a shameful, shambolic display of ineptitude. Up to about two thirds of that team is likely to be playing at Manuka this Saturday and if they have any pride in their ability as footballers they will be out to atone for that performance.

There are some obvious reasons why I am confident that they can reverse that horrific outcome. For one, the team has some marking targets and clever smalls up forward and for another, they are more focussed, aggressive and hitting the scoreboard. Although they were well beaten by the Giants last year, the Demons had only four scoring shots less than the winners. They have straightened up and are playing more direct football and though the home side will be no pushover, there's no reason why they shouldn't avenge their two 2014 losses to the AFL's newest franchise team to give themselves and their fans yet another much needed boost.

THE GAME

GWS Giants at StarTrack Oval, Saturday 11 April, 2015 at 2.10pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall GWS Giants 3 wins Melbourne 3 wins

At StarTrak Oval GWS Giants 0 wins Melbourne 1 win

Past five meetings GWS Giants 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins

The Coaches Cameron 2 wins Roos 0 wins

MEDIA

TV - Fox Sports 3 at 2.00pm (live)

RADIO - SEN

THE BETTING

GWS Giants to win - $1.46

Melbourne to win - $2.70

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

GWS Giants 15.8.98 defeated Melbourne 3.16.34 at the MCG Round 21, 2014

This game saw Melbourne sink to its lowest ebb in a disappointing season. It was bad enough to lose on the MCG to the newest franchise team by 64 points but to score only three goals for the day and only one (against thirteen) in the final three quarters after starting the game as firm favourites was nothing short of humiliating.

And it all happened on Members Appreciation Day.

THE TEAMS

GWS GIANTS


B: Heath Shaw, Phil Davis, Joel Patfull
HB: Nick Haynes, Aidan Corr, Rhys Palmer
C: Tommy Bugg, Callan Ward, Tom Scully
HF: Lachie Whitfield, Jeremy Cameron, Cam McCarthy
F: Adam Treloar, Adam Tomlinson, Josh Kelly
FOLL: Shane Mumford, Stephen Coniglio, Dylan Shiel
I/C: Toby Greene, Ryan Griffen, Devon Smith, Nathan Wilson
EMG: Matt Buntine, Andrew Phillips, Zac Williams

IN: Nathan Wilson

OUT: Curtly Hampton (omitted)

MELBOURNE

B: Colin Garland, Lynden Dunn, Jeremy Howe
HB: Neville Jetta, Tom McDonald, Christian Salem
C: Daniel Cross, Heritier Lumumba, Ben Newton
HF: Dean Kent, Jesse Hogan, Jack Viney
F: Jeff Garlett, Chris Dawes, Jack Watts
FOLL: Mark Jamar, Dom Tyson, Nathan Jones
I/C: Angus Brayshaw, Sam Frost, Bernie Vince, Aaron vandenBerg
EMG: Jay Kennedy-Harris, Viv Michie, Jake Spencer

IN: Chris Dawes, Bernie Vince

OUT: Jay Kennedy-Harris, Jimmy Toumpas (both omitted)

Melbourne impressed last week with an uncharacteristic style of ball movement that we've rarely witnessed in recent seasons. The defence held tight, particularly in the first half when it conceded only three goals to the Suns. The midfield was neat and impressive and shared the ball around so that it was not left to the few to carry the load and there was plenty of run and contested marking power up forward.

The Giants will certainly test them out with their pace and movement in the middle of the ground thanks to the likes of Adam Treloar, Lachie Whitfield, Dylan Shields and Toby Greene while Jeremy Cameron, Cam McCarthy and Adam Tomlinson will test the Melbourne defence. Shane Mumford gave the Demons a workout in the ruck last year and his duel with a rejuvenated Mark Jamar will be crucial to the outcome of this game.

The Giants are playing their first home game at their home away from home, StarTrack Oval, Canberra. Their problem however, is that they don't really play well at this venue having just one win from nine games there. They played at Manuka three times last year without victory. Melbourne won there at their only meeting in round 21, 2012 when they emerged 25-point victors. The Dees have played five times in the ACT for two wins.

Melbourne is in good form and has been further bolstered by the return from suspension of Chris Dawes and of Bernie Vince from a hamstring injury. These players should give the team the edge in experience which, combined with the fact that the Demons are buoyed with confidence, comfortable with this venue and are capable of using their new found aggression and size to advantage, should see them win their second successive game for a perfect start to the 2015 season.

Melbourne by 17 points.

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I think JKH's omission will actually be good for him. He wasn't perfect against the Suns, but he also did a couple of great things. The way he drew the Suns player in the last to then give off to Newton who goaled was subtle, but very, very impressive. Not to mention his involvement in Tyson's end-to-end goal. This will make Jay realise he needs to work harder and get more of the ball if he's going to be a fixture in the MFC side. If JKH can get more of the ball he will be an incredibly damaging player. He's a great decision maker with ball in hand and his disposal is usually spot on.

For the record, I'm very happy with the inclusions and glad to see Gus get another game.

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