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HONEYMOON OVER? by The Oracle


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Any thoughts that Melbourne's transition from perennial also ran to finals contender in 2017 would be smooth and uneventful were extinguished at the weekend with the game against Carlton. 

Not only did the team make heavy weather of a contest it was expected to win without much trouble (and possibly come out with a significant percentage boost), but it emerged from the second round of the season with a slap in the face from the Match Review Panel with gun recruit Jordan Lewis receiving a three-match suspension and forward Jesse Hogan getting a two week holiday for striking opponents to the head. 

The AFL website even went so far as to suggest that the suspensions had the effect of "crippling the Demons ahead of Saturday's clash against Geelong". The sports betting agencies agreed by installing the Cats as firm favourites to win this week's clash between the sides at Etihad Stadium. According to the pundits, Melbourne's 2017 honeymoon is over and the club has allegedly been crushed into submission as a result of a lack of discipline on the part of two important players.

Despite all of that, I don't understand the panic about the fact that these players will be sitting in the bleachers watching on with ordinary people like you and me. After all, the Demons disposed of the then rampant, top-of-the-ladder Hawks in Round 20 late last year in the absence of Hogan and with Lewis batting for the other side. 

The thing which the pundits are overlooking is that there is so much greater depth at the club in this phase of its development as there was a few years ago. Bernie Vince who picked up 30 touches at his last start, comes back as a direct replacement for Lewis and even though some might say that Hogan is irreplaceable, there are plenty of options available, depending on the style of play coach wants from his forward line and which particular player is going to replace him. 

A couple of weeks ago, we wondering how about a young team that had lost its last real game of football by more than eighteen goals could win its next. History tells us the team responded magnificently so that it now it has a 2 - 0 record. Things are different now and whilst it comes up this week against the team that destroyed it in such a merciless fashion. Can they turn the tables without the two players outed by the MRP?

I've found a way they can do that and will reveal all shortly.

THE GAME

Geelong v Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Saturday 8 April 2017 at 4.35pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Geelong 127 wins Melbourne 84 wins 2 draws

At Etihad Stadium Geelong 0 wins Melbourne 0 wins

The last five meetings Geelong 4 wins Melbourne 1 win

The Coaches Scott 0 wins Goodwin 0 wins

MEDIA

TV - Fox Footy Channel - live at 4.30pm

RADIO - Triple M 3AW SEN ABC ABC Grandstand

THE BETTING

Geelong to win - $1.37 Melbourne to win - $3.10

LAST TIME THEY MET Geelong 24.11.89 defeated Melbourne 6.8.44 at Simonds Stadium in Round 23, 2016

A little over a year earlier, Melbourne had shocked the football world with its win over Geelong but this time a tired, dejected outfit limped its way to season's end with the slightest of resistance.

THE TEAMS

GEELONG

B: Zach Touhy, Tom Lonergan, Andrew Mackie 
HB: Tom Stewart, Lachie Henderson, Jackson Thurlow 
C:  Mark Blicavs, Joel Selwood, Sam Menegola 
HF: James Parsons, Harry Taylor, Brandan Parfitt 
F:  Steven Motlop, Tom Hawkins, Daniel Menzel 
FOLL: Zac Smith, Patrick Dangerfield, Cameron Guthrie 
I/C: Mitch Duncan, Lincoln McCarthy, Jordan Murdoch, Tom Ruggles 
EMG: Jed Bews, Darcy Lang, Rhys Stanley 

IN: Cameron Guthrie, Sam Menegola, James Parsons, Zac Smith

OUT: Josh Cowan (managed), George Horlin-Smith (hand), Darcy Lang (omitted), Rhys Stanley (omitted)

NEW: James Parsons

MELBOURNE 

B: Christian Salem, Tom McDonald, Jayden Hunt 
HB: Neville Jetta, Oscar McDonald, Nathan Jones 
C:  Bernie Vince, Dom Tyson, James Harmes 
HF: Mitch Hannan, Sam Weideman, Alex Neal-Bullen 
F: Jeff Garlett, Christian Petracca, Timothy Smith 
FOLL: Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney 
I/C: Dean Kent, Jake Melksham, Billy Stretch, Jack Watts  
EMG: Tomas Bugg, Cameron Pedersen, Jake Spencer 

IN:  Dean Kent Timothy Smith, Bernie Vince 

OUT: Angus Brayshaw (omitted), Jesse Hogan (suspended), Jordan Lewis (suspended)

NEW: Timothy Smith

It's hard to fathom that it was only three games ago that a listless, rudderless Melbourne was blown out of the water by Geelong in the final round of 2016. Of course, things were different then. The Cats were playing for high stakes - a place in the top four that would provide them with the perfect launching pad for a tilt at the flag. The Demons' season had hit the wall and was ingloriously snuffed out a week earlier when beaten by the Blues. 

This week the teams meet on an even keel with both on a 2 - 0 win/loss ratio. They meet at the neutral Etihad Stadium rather than at the killing field that Simonds Stadium has, with one rare exception, been to Melbourne over the past decade.

The teams had good wins to open the season but stumbled last week when they were expected to do well. Indeed, both of them had to rely on a "get out of gaol card" with strong finishes to score the points.

Geelong has the midfield superstars in the AFL's number one ranked player Pat Dangerfield and a close behind Joel Selwood but not the depth of its Melbourne equivalent even in the absence of Lewis (and the omission of Angus Brayshaw). The reigning Brownlow Medallist is very, very good and a model of consistency but how about 19 year old Clayton Oliver who admittedly is a different beast but whose numbers stack up favourably against those of the Cat's pair? Last week he picked up 35 disposals, seven marks and laid nine tackles to almost match his 36 possession game from round one. For the record, he has racked up ten more disposals than Danger.

Oliver and the rest of the Demon midfield crew have another major advantage over the Cats in the form of ruckman Max Gawn who is in red hot form and in the absence of any third men up, he is a potent weapon in helping the team win the all-important clearance battle. Let's not underestimate the number of quality players Melbourne has to throw into the midfield mix with Nathan Jones, Jack Viney, Dom Tyson and the returning Bernie Vince who was so important in the opening round both in defence and around the ground.

The loss of Hogan is quite significant but Jesse hadn't really hit his straps this year. It might well be a stroke of genius that hard nosed, high flying forward Tim Smith has been asked to step into the breach. 

The Cats got out of gaol last week. This week it will be different.

Melbourne by 10 points

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