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Melbourne was riding high when it beat the Western Bulldogs by 49 points and won its sixth straight game just six weeks ago. At the time, the Demons were spoken of in terms of legitimate premiership contenders and finals certainties. Although, the midfield dominance they held in the previous month and a half was exposed for much of the game against the Dogs, there was very little else to suggest the mini fall from grace that was about to hit them.
 
The Queens Birthday game could be explained away as a letdown after the highs of a six game winning run but the losses to Port Adelaide and St Kilda stung hard, particularly in view of their inability to convert from so many entries inside the fifty metre arc, a failing that continued for much of last week’s game against the injury-depleted Dockers in Darwin.

The Demons face up to Luke Beveridge's team in what has to be considered another danger game.

They have to overcome the complacency they showed two weeks ago against St Kilda when they gave their opponents far too much latitude after their fast start, allowing a team that had been struggling to kick ten goals a game to fight back, take control and score 18 for the day.

They have to overcome the club’s overconfidence when coming to play lower ranked teams that have long injury lists. Historically, they haven’t fared well in these circumstances. They can’t even rely on the fact that they steamrolled the Bullies after half time a short six weeks ago because the game against the Saints showed how the worm can turn very quickly.

And they have to overcome the post-Darwin blues that have affected their performances over the years when they played in the heat and humidity of the Top End and then had to saddle up a week later only to fall flat on their faces and exhausted due to lack of recuperative powers. The question is whether the club’s fitness gurus have learned from past history and can prepare a team with the necessary energy to play out four quarters.

This team has had to live with the embarrassment of missing out on a finals berth at the end of 2017 through an inability to score just two more goals in a season of 22 games. It surely must be burning their insides. Shall we overcome?

I think we can – Melbourne by 24 points.

THE GAME

Melbourne v Western Bulldogs at the MCG, Saturday 14 July, 2018 at 4.35pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall: Melbourne 87 wins Western Bulldogs 76 wins 1 draw

At the MCG: Melbourne 45 wins Western Bulldogs 28 wins

Last Five Meetings: Melbourne 3 wins Western Bulldogs 2 wins

The Coaches:  Goodwin 2 wins Beveridge 0 wins

MEDIA

TV – Fox Footy Channel Live at 4.30pm

Radio - Triple M 3AW SEN ABC ABC Grandstand

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Melbourne 15.10.100 defeated Western Bulldogs 7.9.51 at Etihad Stadium, Round 11, 2018

The Bulldogs jumped Melbourne early but the Demons gradually reined them in and were in a solid position by half time and they coasted to their sixth win on end. The loss of Jake Lever to an ACL injury was however, a major blow to the club’s top four aspirations with last week’s win against the Dockers being its first since that victory over the Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.

THE TEAMS 

MELBOURNE 

B: Michael Hibberd, Sam Frost, Neville Jetta
HB: Bernie Vince, Oscar McDonald, Jordan Lewis
C : Tom McDonald, Clayton Oliver, Nathan Jones
HF: Christian Petracca, Jesse Hogan, Angus Brayshaw
F: Jeff Garlett, Bayley Fritsch, Jay Kennedy Harris
Foll: Max Gawn, Mitch Hannan, James Harmes
I/C: Jake Melksham, Alex Neal-Bullen, Christian Salem, Charlie Spargo
Emg: Cameron Pedersen, Dom Tyson, Sam Weideman

In: Jay Kennedy Harris, Mitch Hannan, Bernie Vince

Out: Joel Smith (hip), Billy Stretch (toe), Jack Viney (toe)

WESTERN BULLDOGS 

B: Marcus Adams, Jackson Trengove, Roarke Smith 
HB: Dale Morris, Zaine Cordy, Jason Johannisen 
C : Patrick Lipinski, Jack Macrae, Lachie Hunter 
HF: Ed Richards, Josh Schache, Josh Dunkley 
F: Luke Dahlhaus, Aaron Naughton, Billy Gowers 
Foll: Jordan Roughead, Toby McLean, Mitch Wallis 
I/C:  Shane Biggs, Caleb Daniel, Mitch Honeychurch, Brad Lynch 
Emg: Tom Campbell, Fergus Greene, Fletcher Roberts, Lewis Young

In: Mitch Honeychurch, Jack Macrae, Jordan Roughead 

Out: Marcus Bontempelli (appendix), Tom Boyd (hamstring), Hayden Crozier (hamstring)

WHAT’S MY NUMBER - PART 2 by Sam the Stats Man

Last year, the club was hit hard by injuries to key and depth players but a study of each player’s numbers continues to confirm this is not the case in 2018. Main losses have been Jake Lever at the halfway mark and Jayden Hunt who also lost form before his ankle injury. Hunt’s pace would be handy but he faces another month on the sidelines.

1. Jesse Hogan MFC games 15, goals 36. Despite a lean patch over the past month, he showed against the Dockers that he’s getting back to his best form of the season.

 2. Nathan Jones MFC games 15, goals 8. The Demon hard man and co-captain has been influential this season as he hands over the team’s main midfield mantle to the younger brigade.

3. Christian Salem MFC games 14, goals 4. His precision kicking remains a great asset whether in defence or in midfield.

 4. James Harmes MFC games 15, goals 8. Continues to be one of the club’s big improvers and is spending more and more time in the midfield.

5. Christian Petracca MFC games 14, goals 10. Has recovered from his dog bite and some flat form and is showing signs that he is about to take the next big step forward.

6. Jordan Lewis MFC games 14, goals 2. Despite the occasional brain fade, he is playing a role in setting up many damaging plays from the defensive half of the ground.

7. Jack Viney MFC games 7, goals 2, CD game 1, goal 0. Returning to his best form after his long layoff with a foot injury and is inspiring with his hardness at the football.

8. Jake Lever MFC games 11, goals 0. After taking a while to settle in, the former Crow was a major factor in the club’s six game winning streak before he was brutally cut down by a second ACL tear.

9. Charlie Spargo MFC games 8, goals 7, CD games 3, goals 4. The pocket-sized dynamo has been a revelation with his maturity and work ethic. Returned refreshed after a short break at Casey.

10. Angus Brayshaw MFC games 12, goals 8, CD game 1, goal 1. Has been one of the club’s best and added some class to the midfield mix since his return earlier in the year.

11. Max Gawn MFC games 15, goals 8. Challenging for All Australian honours again with some brilliant ruck work and strong play around the ground.

12. Dom Tyson MFC games 8, goals 2, CD games 4, goals 2. Has been disappointing in recent times with two demotions to the VFL.

13. Clayton Oliver MFC games 15, goals 8. Last year’s club champion has continued where he left off and is rapidly becoming one of the competition’s best midfielders.

14. Michael Hibberd MFC games 15, goals 1. The 2017 All-Australian defender remains an important cog in the Demons’ defence.

15. Billy Stretch MFC games 2, goals 0, CD games 9, goals 6. Some strong form at Casey saw him back for the Darwin game where he acquitted himself well. Now out with a stress fracture of the toe.

16. Dean Kent MFC games 3, goals 6, CD games 2, goals 0. Just returning to form at Casey after being sidelined for several weeks with another hamstring injury.

17. Sam Frost MFC games 3, goals 0, CD games 8, goals 2. Finally staked a claim after several good performances as a tall defender with the Casey Demons.

18. Jake Melksham MFC games 15, goals 17. Has had a quiet month after a solid start to the season in medium forward role.

19. Mitch Hannan MFC games 10, goals 15, CD games 3, goals 5. A recent drop off in form has seen him dropped to VFL ranks. 

20. Corey Maynard ® MFC games 1, goals 0, CD games 3, goals 2. After making the side in Round 1, he was dropped to the VFL but a hip injury has prematurely ended his season.

21. Cameron Pedersen MFC games 3, goals 2, CD games 10, goals 20. The work horse who has been used in various roles at Casey but his days at AFL level may be numbered.

22. Aaron Vandenberg. CD game 1, goal 0. Finally over his heel and ankle woes and came back strongly last week at Casey in his first game back since the end of 2016. 

23. Bernie Vince MFC games 13, goal 1, CD game 1, goals 0. Fell out of favour after the team’s loss to Port Adelaide and found himself at Casey for the first time.

24. Jay Kennedy Harris CD games 12, goals 11. Working hard at Casey but has a long queue of players ahead of him.

25. Tom McDonald MFC games 10, goals 30. Made an immediate impact on his return from injury with his marking, kicking for goal and his ability to cover the ground but has been a little quiet of late.

26. Sam Weideman MFC games 5, goals 2, CD games 6, goals 15. Starting to get the odd game here and there but is still looking for that confidence boosting break out game.

27. Harley Balic CD games 10, goals 16. Still plugging away at VFL level waiting for an opening into the top echelons.

28. Oscar McDonald MFC games 15, goals 0. Had a great start to the season but found the going tougher after Lever was injured.

29. Jayden Hunt MFC games 5, goals 0, CD games 6, goals 1. His form was way down early in the piece and was unlucky to be injured late in Casey’s Queens Birthday game against the Magpies. Still looking at another month out with that ankle injury.

30. Alex Neal-Bullen MFC games 15, goals 18.  The hard working small man has been quiet of late.

31. Bayley Fritsch MFC games 14, goals 15. Has played all bar one game when rested. The colt from Coldstream has exceeded all expectations as a medium sized forward with some time in the midfield.

32. Tomas Bugg MFC games 3, goals 4, CD games 10, goals 14. Had a few games early but is biding his time waiting for an opening at Casey.

33. Harrison Petty MFC game 1, goals 0, CD games 11, goals 0. The promising young key defender had a tough initiation in his one game on the MCG and, in hindsight, he probably needed more development time in the VFL.

34. Mitch King CD games 9, goals 3. An elbow injury set him back a month earlier in the season but he is not setting the world on fire as a ruckman at Casey.

35. Oskar Baker CD games 12, goals 7. The cheeky red-headed speedster must be getting close to AFL selection.

36. Jeff Garlett MFC games 6, goals 10, 1, CD games 7, goals 7. Been more cold than hot and had a long stint in the VFL this year before returning for the Fremantle game.

37. Dion Johnstone CD games 11, goal 1. Was probably on his way out before finding a niche for himself in defence at Casey. 

38. Tim Smith ® MFC games 3, goals 10, CD games 6, goals 7. Has shown something at AFL level although his last game v St Kilda was below par.

39. Neville Jetta MFC games 15, goals 0. The team’s best small defender, approaching All Australian form.

40. Patrick McKenna. CD games 1, goals 0. Made it to Casey for his first game last week after being plagued by a hamstring injury since he was recruited from the Giants at the end of 2016.

42. Josh Wagner MFC games 5, goals 0, CD games 7, goal 1. After holding his place with Melbourne early in the season, he has been working hard at Casey without doing enough to satisfy the senior selectors.

44. Joel Smith MFC games 4, goals 0, CD games 7, goals 2. The spring-heeled, athletic defender got his chance at Melbourne when Jake Lever went down. Working hard to establish a place.

45. Declan Keilty ® CD games 11, goal 1. A solid contributor down back at Casey and is pushing hard for an AFL berth despite being near the end of a long queue of tall defenders.

47. Lachlan Filipovic ® CD games 10, goal 1 Slowly developing as a project ruckman but needs a big month or two before season’s end.

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