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FINDING A WAY ... AGAIN by George on the Outer

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In his losing press conference last week Simon Goodwin said that good teams manage to find a way to win, and Melbourne needed to do that.

Despite the further loss of players to injury and absence of Jesse Hogan following the death of his father, the Demons DID indeed find a way to put Essendon away with an emphatic 38 point win at their once hoodoo ground of Etihad Stadium.

The first half of the game was as scrappy and as un-skilled encounter as one could witness at an AFL match.  Spectators could be forgiven thinking that there was a howling wind and wet sloppy conditions given the unforced errors from both sides. 

By half time in the perfect environment inside an enclosed stadium, both sides could only manage 4 goals each. Essendon's woes were compounded by Joe “the goose” Daniher unable to kick straight recording a solitary goal for the match despite 8 shots.  

This was in sharp contrast to when the two teams met a couple of years ago when he seemed unable to miss the big sticks. That game they won, and this one they didn’t.  

It was the second half of the game where it all turned around. Suddenly the Demons found that way that the coach had spoken about the week before, and piled on eight goals in the third quarter and a further five in the last.  

Despite this being only his sixth AFL game as coach, we are starting to see that Goodwin is able to nut out what is going wrong and make the changes necessary to get the job done.  In this game one of the big moves was getting Bernie Vince out of the backline, where he was nothing short of a liability with his poor decision-making and lack of nous when playing as a spare man in defence.  Into the middle he goes, and a different player emerges with 25 touches, 4 clearances and 8 contested possessions.  

Christian Salem moves back to replace him and suddenly the kick-ins are no longer a heart in mouth situation.  This then enabled Frost to towel up Daniher, and Tom McDonald to move further up the ground as a more attacking player, picking up 26 touches including 6 contested.  Michael Hibberd continued to impress and provide drive and strength with 24 touches of his own. Suddenly, the backline was as solid as it could possibly be and the mids kept getting their hands on the ball. 

The return of Cam Pedersen to the side as a replacement ruck worked really well, for while he may have lost the hit-out stats to Tom Bellchambers, it was he who racked up 19 possessions to Bellchambers' miserable 9.  Best of all was that he relieved the necessity for Jack Watts to ruck, which resulted in Watts kicking 4 goals when up forward.  How we could have used that scenario in the final quarter last week!

The other thing that became obvious in the second half was the change in disposal ratios.  An overuse of handball in close was costing the Demons dearly with turnovers. They were getting the hands on the ball courtesy of Jones, Viney and Oliver, but it simply wasn’t being used efficiently. In the second half, we saw Tyson and Oliver using their feet to push the ball forward and opportunities started to happen in the forward line.  

Mitch Hannan and Jeff Garlett chimed in for three goals each and the Dons simply had no answer to the forward pressure of the Demons - particularly Christian Petracca who dobbed four of his own, while playing predominantly in front of goal, and simply bullocking his way to contested possession and marking. 

Finally it was comforting to see Jordan Lewis back again with his calming influence.  In his absence, Melbourne seemed to manage to cough up goals in the last minutes of quarters but today he stood as a final guard against that happening and provided that surety with foot when playing behind the ball.  

If there were 44K at Etihad Stadium today, I will eat my hat. With a capacity of barely 50K the number of vacant seats was obvious to all and sundry, both at the ground and on television. This compares to when the Demons played the Saints in the first round when an attendance of 36K was quoted and barely a seat available in the house. One would be forgiven for thinking that this smacks of manipulation of attendance figures for a club that is being looked after well by the AFL. Are they trying to make Essendon look good and garner more TV games for them?

Melbourne 2.4.16  4.6.30 12.9.81 17.10.112

Essendon 2.2.14 4.8.32 6.12.48 10.14.74           

Goals

Melbourne Petracca Watts 4 Garlett Hannan 3 Lewis T McDonald Pedersen 

Essendon Fantasia Hooker 2 Bellchambers Colyer Daniher, McDonald-Tipungwuti  McGrath Parish

Best

Melbourne T McDonald Petracca Lewis Oliver Hibberd Pedersen Frost

Essendon Goddard Hurley Merrett McGrath Gleeson

Changes

Melbourne Nil

Essendon Nil

Injuries 

Melbourne Nil

Essendon Brown (ankle)

Reports

Melbourne Nil

Essendon Nil

Umpires Haussen, Nicholls, Hay

Official crowd 44,040 at Etihad Stadium
 
 

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