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ADVENTUROUS by Whispering Jack



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No sooner had the battle-wearied Demons stopped to rest and lick their wounds from the Anzac Day eve clash with the Tigers, than it was time to select the team to take on Essendon which grabbed their spot in the top eight with their triumphant win over Collingwood on Tuesday. 

Melbourne has certainly been through the wringer in the past month, particularly so after the events of the Carlton game in round 2. At that time, the headlines were about the loss to suspension of Jesse Hogan and Jordan Lewis but in the interim injuries in mid-game in rounds 3 and 5 to tall ruckmen Max Gawn and Jake Spencer interspersed with other injuries and calamities such as poor kicking for goal and poor decision-making at crucial times in matches have all taken their toll.

So much so that what looked like being a bright start to a new era of success and likely finals appearances is unravelling before our very eyes. While Hogan and Lewis are now both free of their suspensions, the Demons have a crisis on their hands - they need to dramatically recast their side after three consecutive losses. 

This challenge is something that doesn't necessarily have to be looked at from a position of despair or loathing. Melbourne remains strong in the midfield and continues to be build up its stocks in this area with the return of a Lewis determined to atone for the sin of his three week suspension. Everyone agrees that Simon Goodwin needs to be adventurous to come up with a plan to overcome the current crisis, and if he succeeds, then it will strengthen his team in the long run and make it more formidable when his big men eventually do return.

The main task at hand is to reshape the ruck lineup while ensuring that the forward line structure can also operate efficiently. In recent weeks, when the team's ruckmen have gone down in mid game or had to be rested, their replacements have come almost exclusively from tall forwards resulting in a depletion of their ranks causing scoring to dry up.

With the shortage of tall ruckmen likely to be an ongoing issue for two months, the way that coach Simon Goodwin and his team respond to this crisis and the tactics and strategies they come up with to solve the problem could well determine the course of the club throughout the season and beyond.

THE GAME 

Essendon v Melbourne at Etihad Stadium Sunday, 30 April, 2017 at 1.10pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Essendon 129 wins Melbourne 81 wins 2 draws

At Etihad Stadium Essendon 3 wins Melbourne 1 win

The last five meetings Essendon 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins

The Coaches Worsfold 0 wins Goodwin 0 wins

MEDIA

TV – Fox Footy Channel - Live at 1;00pm

RADIO - 

THE BETTING

Essendon $1.92 to win Melbourne $1.92  to win

THE LAST TIME THEY MET 

Essendon 11.14.80 defeated Melbourne 10.7.67 at the MCG, Round 2, 2016

One of Melbourne's low points during the Paul Roos years was its loss at the hands of the depleted but determined Bombers at the MCG a week after they beat the highly fancied Giants. The Demons had been notable for producing massive form swings when expected to perform well but this one took the cake.

THE TEAMS 

ESSENDON

B: Patrick Ambrose, Michael Hurley, Martin Gleeson 
HB: Mark Baguley, Mitch Brown, Ben McNiece 
C: Travis Colyer, Zach Merrett, Andrew McGrath 
HF: Orazio Fantasia, Cale Hooker, David Zaharakis 
F: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Joe Daniher, Brendon Goddard 
FOLL: Tom Bellchambers, Ben Howlett, Dyson Heppell 
I/C: Josh Green, Conor McKenna, Darcy Parish, Jobe Watson 
EMG: Kyle Langford,Brent Stanton, James Stewart

IN: Tom Bellchambers, Martin Gleeson, Ben Howlett, Kyle Langford, Conor McKenna, James Stewart

OUT: Aaron Francis (rested), James Kelly (rested), Matt Leuenberger (rested),Brent Stanton (omitted)

MELBOURNE 

B: Michael Hibberd, Tom McDonald, Neville Jetta 
HB: Jordan Lewis, Sam Frost, Bernie Vince 
C: Jayden Hunt, Nathan Jones,  Jake Melksham 
HF: Christian Petracca, Jack Watts, Alex Neal-Bullen 
F: Jay Kennedy-Harris, Mitch Hannan, Jeff Garlett 
FOLL: Cameron Pedersen, Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney 
I/C: Tomas Bugg, Oscar McDonald, Christian Salem, Dom Tyson
EMG: James Harmes, Billy Stretch, Sam Weideman

IN: Tomas Bugg, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis, Oscar McDonald, Cameron Pedersen

OUT: James Harmes (omitted), Jesse Hogan (family bereavement), Jake Spencer (shoulder), Timothy Smith (lung), Billy Stretch (omitted)

GIVE US A REST PLEASE

My how the worm has turned. This time last year, the Bombers were so light on in their playing stocks that they had to turn to the AFL for the right to supplement their list with additional top ups coming mostly from suburban competitions and retirees. Notwithstanding that they had half a dozen hacks in their line up, they were too good for the Demons in their round 2 match at the MCG. The Dees were just too arrogant - they thought all they had to do to win was to just turn up.

Fast forward a little over 12 months and we see an Essendon brimming full of confidence following their famous ANZAC Day victory over Collingwood resting Aaron Francis, Josh Kelly and Matt Leuenberger for their match up against an injury-depleted Melbourne at their nemesis ground Etihad Stadium. 

The sheer arrogance of it?

Knowing that the Demons are heading into Sunday's match up without their two leading ruckmen in Max Gawn and Jake Spencer, the Bombers have decided that the 201 cm, 108 kg Tom Bellchambers who hasn't seen duty in the AFL for almost two years will be good enough to do the job against a 193 cm Cam Pedersen who is now apparently several kgs lighter than his "official" weight of 99 kg recorded prior to his off season shoulder surgery.

The Bombers can talk about resting players because of the short break but their supporters are thinking this time around that all their team has to do to win is just turn up.

All the Demons will be hoping for is that Pedersen can stand up for more than the half a game of football their ruck personnel are currently lasting for these days in order that the team can get an even break at the stoppages.

Whilst it's true that Melbourne has struggled to put together four quarters of consistency with key players going down in mid-game in recent weeks, I have a feeling that things might not be as bad as they look. After all, they managed to stay in the game against the Tigers until time on in the last quarter despite having virtually no rotations available. And they have Jordan Lewis back with the mission of atoning for his sins and actually giving the team something back for those barren three weeks of his absence.

The Demons need to improve their efficiency inside fifty metres, particularly early in games. They had the opportunity in each of their last three matches to put away the opposition in the opening half and but for their failure to do so, could well have been sitting on 5 - 0 instead of a 2 - 3 win/loss ratio. There's a lot of coulda, shoulda and woulda in there but Simon Goodwin has promised to be adventurous and sooner or later, fortune will favour the brave. 

Melbourne has the midfield talent to overcome the apparent ruck disadvantage and besides, I think it's time for a turn of good fortune. If nothing else, the supporters deserve a rest after a month of things going horribly wrong. They're bound to go right very soon.

Melbourne by 12 points

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