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MATCH REPORT - Round 21

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SOMETHING IN THE AIR by George on the Outer

Walking away from the MCG after a good win against a challenging St Kilda, there was a smell that Melbourne supporters have not experienced for over ten years.  It is the smell of September; that smell of spring in the air as the days get longer and the promise of something better to come. 

But in recognition of the evenness of the competition there were so many times that the Demons needed to dig deep, and none more so than in the final quarter when the Saints had whittled away at an over seven goal lead, to get within four points.

In the past, a Melbourne side would have folded.  In the past a Melbourne side would not have won a game like this. In the past the Melbourne sides haven’t experienced that smell of September.

And in that critical last quarter when it was all on the line, a few standout performances were in evidence.  Jordan Lewis and a St. Kilda player had the free bouncing ball to go for in the St. Kilda forward line. No quarter asked and none given as Lewis never flinched and he caused the opportunity for the Saints to be killed. 

Mitch Hannan, outnumbered by the Saints defenders took two telling marks and then converted truly to put a dagger through the St. Kilda fans hearts and their finals hopes.

Jake Melksham never looked for the easy option or any option as he saw the chance to put the game away beyond any doubt and nailed yet another long distance goal to see the Demons run out winners by 24 points.

It was all so close, and could have just as easily gone the other way, but the older wiser heads prevailed, which justified the recruitment of Melksham, Lewis and Hannan to add that very valuable experience when it was all on the line.

The Demons came right out of the blocks and in the first quarter played exactly as the coach wanted them to.  Hard, aggressive and relentless they overwhelmed the Saints to lead by five goals at the first change, with James Harmes picking up three majors alone.  

It was helped by the Saints playing some appalling football and turning the ball over consistently, and by Jack Steven suffering a hit to the head early which saw him only touching the ball eight times in the first half, including a solitary kick. His return to form after the main break was one of the reasons for the Saints revival, along with a series of inexplicable decisions from the umpires especially Stephens who needs to work out how far 15 metres is and how a player's head sits on his shoulders. 

It was good to see the return of Angus Brayshaw, who after a long period of recovery from concussion injuries and an equally long time to get his confidence back to play AFL level football, and that he could rack up 26 disposals including 11 contested possessions in his first game back. It will be nice in the coming weeks to have a player of his quality in the side.

Unfortunately, Max Gawn had a shocker of a day and was soundly beaten by Billy Longer both in the ruck and around the ground.  Cam Pedersen in contrast was superb as fill in ruck, and in that last quarter when Max was forced from the ground with blood rule, Pedersen ensured the next two clearances went Melbourne’s way.  Then he chipped in with two goals when he ventured forward.  Leading into the finals he should have cemented that role in the side, because we have seen how no-one else seems to be able to do the job so well, as his 26 touches today showed. 

And with Pedersen holding down that role, it released Tom McDonald back to the defence, and he stood up strongly with brother Oscar just getting better and better as the season has worn on. The fact that the Saints two main forward targets in Bruce and Membrey could only score three goals between them was a good outcome for the day. In the past this pair have ripped us apart, so hopefully the injury to Oscar’s ribs that happened late in the game will not see him out of action for too long.

The smell of September beckons with this win, but it cannot be squandered now by thinking Brisbane and Collingwood in coming weeks are certainties.  Brisbane demolished Gold Coast in the second half of their game, after an even contest to half time.  Collingwood would only relish the opportunity to deny the Demons a finals appearance if given the chance.

The coach has sought to instil that winning character into the young side.  The opportunities for finals action don’t come all that often.  It is now that we need to flare the nostrils and drink in the sweet smell of what is on offer.

P.S What a great initiative by the club to develop the Welcome Game.  A crowd of 53K may not have improved the financial position all that much, as loads of free tickets were given away, but it gave the club the opportunity to showcase themselves, and with the extra numbers be able to impress sponsors and the AFL alike. How many times can we marvel at what Peter Jackson has done to turn the fortunes of this club around?

Melbourne 6.3.39 9.6.60 10.9.69 14.12 96 

St Kilda 1.1.7 4.4.28 8.11.59 10.12.72 

Goals

Melbourne Harmes 3 Hannan Melksham Pedersen 2 Garlett Gawn Neal-Bullen Tyson Viney

St Kilda Dunstan Membrey Sinclair 2 Billings Bruce Webster Weller

Best

Melbourne Jones Pedersen Oliver Harmes Brayshaw Lewis

St Kilda Steven Dunstan Billings Ross Steele Longer Carlisle Geary

Changes

Melbourne Nil

St Kilda Nil

Injuries

Melbourne O McDonald (ribs) 

St Kilda Stevens (concussion/ear) Billings (left eye)

Reports

Melbourne Nil

St Kilda Nil

Umpires Stephen Chamberlain Ryan

Official crowd 53,115 at the MCG

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