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ON THE ROAD AGAIN ... AGAIN by The Oracle

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Melbourne fans living in Brisbane and environs have been treated well in the first half of the 2018 season with the AFL draw throwing up two games there in the space about six weeks. However, if Saturday’s fixture against the Gold Coast Suns is anything like the Round 2 matchup with the Brisbane Lions then it might be a good time for these supporters to visit their heart specialists and take snap courses in anger management.

Back in April, the Demons squandered away a seven goal lead in the heat and humidity of the Gabba in the space of little more than half an hour and almost lost the unloseable, turning us ashen-faced, then angry at such a weak effort. The conversation about Melbourne was trained on its inconsistency of performance and it’s taken a good few games and some fundamental changes to the team’s personnel, tactics and strategies to start earning back the trust supporters had during the pre season period.

The club is also relishing being away from its heartland at the MCG and, after two winning games at its former nemesis Etihad Stadium, its on the road again in the balmy warmth of South East Queensland where fine weather is predicted for Saturday evening. This will be quite a contrast to Melbourne where heavy rain and strong winds are expected. 

The Demons are also expecting the return from injury of their co-captain in Jack Viney and possibly also in-form midfielder Christian Salem, an eventuality that will even further strengthen an on ball division that leads the competition in getting the ball out of contested stoppages. With its defence starting to gel together well and the height and gut running endurance of its key talls, Melbourne goes into the game against the globetrotting Suns as firm favourite to win.

The usual caveat applies about not taking a young opponent lightly - Gold Coast has taken a few scalps in its travels around the country and gave the Bulldogs a hard time at Mars Stadium in the wilds of central Victoria only last week, even without both of its co-captains.  

However, the absence of leaders points to a major problem for the Suns. At one stage in the final quarter last week, the Bulldogs led the inside-50 count 14-0 for the term in a closely fought game. Against a Melbourne team which has led this count in most of its games this year and is starting to capitalise on that advantage by greater efficiency and is straightening up its forward game, this could be fatal.

THE GAME

Gold Coast Suns v Melbourne at The Gabba Saturday 12 May, 2018 at 4.35pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall - Gold Coast Suns 3 wins Melbourne 7 wins 

At The Gabba - Gold Coast Suns 0 wins Melbourne 1 win

Past five matches - Gold Coast Suns 1 wins Melbourne 4 wins 

The Coaches -  Dew 0 wins Goodwin 0 wins

MEDIA

TV - Fox Sports 3 - Live at 4.30pm

RADIO - Triple M ABC ABC Grandstand 

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Melbourne 18.14.132 defeated Gold Coast Suns 13.9.87 at TIO Treager Park Round 10, 2017

After trailing by four goals at half time, Melbourne took control with a dominant second half to win by 35 points - its first ever victory in Alice Springs. Jeff Garlett with five goals was the Demons’ best.

THE TEAMS  
 
GOLD COAST SUNS

B: Jarrod Harbrow, Rory Thompson, Steven May 
HB: Aaron Hall, Jack Leslie, Callum Ah Chee 
? Jack Bowes, Jarryd Lyons, Lachie Weller 
HF: Nick Holman, Brayden Crossley, Charlie Ballard 
F: Jack Martin, Sam Day, Aaron Young 
Foll: Jarrod Witts, Touk Miller, David Swallow 
I/C: Ben Ainsworth, Michael Rischitelli, Brad Scheer, Alex Sexton 
Emg: Will Brodie, Jacob Heron, Connor Nutting, 
Max Spencer  
 
In: Aaron Hall, Jack Leslie, Steven May
 
Out: Jesse Joyce (injured), Matt Rosa (injured) Max Spencer (omitted)

MELBOURNE

B: Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald, Neville Jetta
HB: Angus Brayshaw, Jake Lever, Bernie Vince
? Jordan Lewis, Nathan Jones, Christian Salem
HF: James Harmes, Jesse Hogan, Jake Melksham
F: Sam Weideman, Tom McDonald, Christian Petracca
Foll: Max Gawn, Dom Tyson, Clayton Oliver
I/C: Charlie Spargo, Mitch Hannan, Alex Neal-Bullen, Bayley Fritsch
Emg: Jayden Hunt, Jeff Garlett, Tim Smith, Josh Wagner

In: Christian Salem

Out: Jayden Hunt (omitted)

RETURN TO THE GABBA

These two clubs return to the Gabba where they played against each other in the Suns' inaugural season and the Demons, under the late Dean Bailey, crushed a team comprised mainly of young light bodied footballing aspirants who over time, failed to achieve any great heights. It would be fair to say that after nearly a decade, the Suns still stand for very little and coach Stuart Dew, who tasted premiership success with both Port Adelaide and Hawthorn, faces a long uphill battle with his charges.

 In the interim, Melbourne languished through a difficult and trying period and is only now returning to a respectable place in the competition. Its quest for respectability and success was hampered early on with some up and down form and two weeks of percentage-deflating thumpings at home on the MCG. The Demons have responded with two wins against more lowly sides in Essendon and St Kilda at Etihad Stadium and now, the two sides return to the Gabba where they both emerged victorious against Brisbane earlier in the season.

Melbourne fans won't forget their team's heart thumping second half decline when half an hour of mediocrity caused them to almost concede a seven goal lead while Gold Coast supporters know their team was lucky to survive a late Brisbane comeback when the last kick of the game from a first year player decided its fate.

Given that the Suns have been forced into a globe-trotting life this season, their performances under a new coach have been fairly impressive and they won't be a pushover. Stephen May returns to the side but they will sorely miss Tom Lynch and Pearce Hanley. And while the Suns are missing their brilliant key forward, it is no coincidence that the Demons' improvement has come with the return of Tom McDonald who, like Jesse Hogan, has a big engine for a tall forward and can run all over the ground causing havoc to opponents. I expect this pair together with the rucking power of Max Gawn, now capably assisted by Sam Weideman to give their team the edge.

This will not be the slaughter of their one and only previous meeting at this ground but I'm tipping Melbourne to win handsomely by around six goals.

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