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LONG TIME COMING by The Oracle

It's been a long time since Melbourne played a game against Port Adelaide at the MCG but it was one that fans of both teams should remember well. 

The game was the opening match of 2013 and it was Ken Hinkley's first as coach of a club that had been pushed from pillar to post and had suffered some massive defeats in the previous season. They had recruited well picking up the likes of Angus Monfries from Essendon and a strong youngster in Ollie Wines from the Murray Bushrangers and their team was fit, healthy and ready for the fray.

The Demons, not so. They had sent a very inexperienced side to play a near full strength Port in a NAB Cup game in Renmark a month earlier and surprisingly beat them by 2 points but we know full well the folly of relying on the results of these practice matches. Mark Neeld, the coach, was buoyed by the result but it was accepted that it was meaningless as a guide to what might happen during the season.

By the time of the opening round, the Demons produced a better line up but there were plenty of cracks in their make up, much of them due to internal issues relating to attitude and division in the ranks concerning their coach who would in any event, fail to last out the season.

The result was decisive. Port Adelaide 19.19.133 defeated Melbourne 8.6.54. Hinkley's team did not look back from there. They made the finals and finished a couple of kicks away from playing in a grand final. Neeld's team never recovered and it's been a long hard grind to the present time for the club, first under Paul Roos and now Simon Goodwin, to reach the point where it is today - at the crossroads and needing to beat Port Adelaide in its next game at the MCG to keep its foothold in the race for the top eight. The opposition also needs to win in order to hold its place in the top four, making for an intriguing tussle between two teams with finals aspirations.

The make up of the Melbourne side has changed dramatically since the season opener of 2013. Ironically, the only member of that team to represent it last Saturday night in Darwin was Cam Pedersen who had crossed from North Melbourne at the end of the previous season but had a debut to forget with the Demons. Other current day players who played that day - co-captains Nathan Jones and Jack Viney (another debutant in 2013) and Jack Watts and Col Garland are all injured but the first three are chances to return this week.

In light of the fact that some key players are slated for a return to the side, I will wait upon team selection before I reach any conclusion as to the result.

THE GAME Melbourne v Port Adelaide on Saturday 22 July, 2017 at 2.10pm at the MCG

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Melbourne 12 wins, Port Adelaide 19 wins

At the MCG Melbourne 7 wins, Port Adelaide 2 wins 

Past five meetings Melbourne 1 win, Port Adelaide 4 wins 

The Coaches Goodwin 0 wins Hinkley 0 wins

MEDIA

TV - Fox Sports 3

RADIO - 

THE BETTING Melbourne to win - $2.25, Port Adelaide to win - $1.65

THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 13.16.94 defeated Port Adelaide 8.6.54 Round 21, 2016 at Adelaide Oval

The Demons were on a high having beaten the Hawks a week earlier and they continued on with another exciting and groundbreaking victory - their first over the Power at Adelaide Oval. Max Gawn dominated the ruck duels and Dom Tyson and Bernie Vince starred. It was to be Melbourne's last win for the season as the young team was fast running out of steam as the season was coming to a close.

THE TEAMS

MELBOURNE

B: Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald, Neville Jetta 
HB: Jordan Lewis, Sam Frost, Jayden Hunt 
C: Alex Neal-Bullen, Dom Tyson, Clayton Oliver 
HF: Christian Petracca, Jesse Hogan, James Harmes 
F: Jeff Garlett, Jack Watts, Tom McDonald 
FOLL: Max Gawn, Jack Viney, Jake Melksham 
I/C: Mitch Hannan, Jay Kennedy-Harris, 
Christian Salem, Jack Trengove  
EMG: Cameron Pedersen  Joel Smith, 
Billy Stretch 
 
IN: Christian Salem, Jack Trengove, Dom Tyson,  Jack Viney, Jack Watts
 
OUT: Kent (shoulder), Pedersen (omitted), Joel Smith (omitted), Bernie Vince (suspended), Josh Wagner (omitted)
 
PORT ADELAIDE 
 
B: Matthew Broadbent, Tom Clurey, Logan Austin 
HB: Darcy Byrne-Jones, Tom Jonas, Hamish Hartlett 
C: Brad Ebert, Ollie Wines, Jared Polec 
HF: Sam Gray, Jackson Trengove, Sam Powell-Pepper 
F: Chad Wingard, Charlie Dixon, Justin Westhoff 
FOLL: Paddy Ryder, Robbie Gray, Travis Boak 
I/C: Joe Atley, Dan Houston, Jarman Impey, Matthew White
EMG: Karl Amon  Jasper Pittard, Aaron Young   
 
IN: Matthew Broadbent
 
OUT: Jasper Pittard

The return of co-skippers Jack Viney and a number of others gives Melbourne an "A team" look after it lost two of the past three matches with a patched up side that was also limited by the fact that it was carrying players like Max Gawn, Jesse Hogan and Joel Smith who had come back to football after extra long stints on the sidelines.

Viney's return to lead the Demons less than three weeks after undergoing foot surgery to release his plantar fascia is the stuff of Superman and should be an inspiration to the rest of the team.

Viney is of course, the icing on the cake with Christian Salem, Dom Tyson and Jack Watts all coming back as well as Jack Trengove finally getting his reward for so much perseverance in coming back from his horrible foot injury and then having to languish in the VFL for a year. 

The renewed opportunity for the former skipper, the return of those players to bolster the midfield and Watts to attack convergence with the day on which the club acknowledges the Wurundjeri people and honours their heritage and lands by wearing its Indigenous jumper on the MCG for the first time. They don't really need the extra boost but Neville Jetta, Jeff Garlett and Jay Kennedy-Harris should be inspired.

The pressure will also be off young guns Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver with the return of so much midfield class.

Port Adelaide are winning games and find themselves in the top four. Last week they beat North Melbourne by 70 points but there's something about them that's not quite right. They can't beat top eight teams so if the Demons want to prove their credentials, this is the time.

Melbourne by 37 points.

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