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THE WELCOME GAME by Whispering Jack

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The Melbourne Football Club has moved forward in leaps and bounds since it last met Port Adelaide in a totally forgettable (for Demon fans) season opener on the MCG. 

That game, played on Sunday, 31 March, 2013 before a crowd of 22,924, was supposed to be a close encounter between two of the competition’s lesser lights from the previous season when the Power had finished 14th and the Demons 16th (ahead only of AFL newbies Gold Coast and GWS). It turned into a slaughter with Port taking the lead in the first minute with a behind to Justin Westhoff, followed a minute or so later with a goal to Hamish Hartlett and the deluge continued until the final siren blared as the scoreboard read, “Port Adelaide 19.19.133 Melbourne 8.6.54”.

From there Port Adelaide went on to play off in the finals and went down to Geelong in the Semi Final after beating Collingwood in a Qualifying Final while Melbourne finished in 17th spot with two wins, ahead only of the Giants and with a percentage of 54.07.

Plenty of water has flowed under the Swan Street Bridge after that fateful day with the club moving forward on an upward trajectory on an annual basis ever since. The top four finish after the finals last year left it close to football’s holy grail. 

Close ... but no cigar.

The summer has been an unusual one for the Demons who encountered the unfamiliar territory of a late start to the pre season (due to them having gone deep into the finals) with plenty of players undergoing operations and hence, making late starts to their preseasons - and we all know how vital it is for the playing group to have a clear and uninterrupted run into a new season. 

Notwithstanding, Melbourne’s summer remained full of hype standing as a legitimate premiership contender until the last few weeks when things began to go awry with two relatively unconvincing JLT performances and injuries and a suspension serving to dent the confidence of the supporter group, at least.

The game takes on even greater importance when one looks at what lies ahead beyond week one with games against Geelong, Essendon and Sydney to complete the first month. 

I’m going for Melbourne because it is playing at home which is exactly the right place for it to welcome in a new season. Port Adelaide doesn’t win at the MCG very often and I don’t think they can win what the AFL has dubbed “The Welcome Game 2019”. 

While Port has a shorter injury list, it still has its worries and will be taking a lot of youth into the game. The Demons have greater depth and, despite those injury woes, they should go into the game with all of their A-listers involved again at the stoppages where they were so dominant in 2018. 

The AFL’s leading ruckman Max Gawn looks strong and fit and is a master of the centre clearance game with enough class gathered around him to ensure that the team gets enough of the ball forward to the club’s key forwards to win the game.

Tom McDonald and Sam Weideman have been rather subdued in the JLT series but with Max heading the abovementioned group, the force of numbers will help them and the likes of Jake Melksham and Christian Petracca to hit the scoreboard with regularity. They probably won’t miss Jesse Hogan one iota.

Melbourne by 30 points

THE GAME Melbourne v Port Adelaide on Saturday March 23, 2019 at 1.45pm (AEDT) at the MCG

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Melbourne 13 wins Port Adelaide 20 wins 

At the MCG Melbourne 8 wins Port Adelaide 2 wins

Past five meetings Port Adelaide 3 wins, Melbourne 2 wins

The Coaches Goodwin 1 win Hinkley 1 win

MEDIA

TV - Fox Footy 1.30pm live

RADIO - Triple M 3AW SEN ABC

THE LAST TIME THEY MET Port Adelaide 11.9.75 defeated  Melbourne 9.11.65 Round 14, 2018 at the Adelaide Oval,

Melbourne led for most of the night but was held back by poor disposal in front of goal and some inexplicable umpiring decisions didn’t help the cause.

THE TEAMS  

image.png.07ec385ae6d690d17f6c2be5501782ce.png

INJURY LIST
Round 1 Injury List:

James Harmes (finger) – Test
Braydon Preuss (adductor) – Test
Kade Kolodjashnij (adductor) – Test
Steven May – (suspension) – 1 week
Tim Smith (calf) – 2 weeks
Jeff Garlett (shoulder) – 2-3 weeks
Joel Smith (groin) – TBA *
Aaron vandenBerg (foot) – TBA *
Mitch Hannan (knee) – 6-10 weeks
Jake Lever  (knee) – 6-10 weeks
Jay Kennedy Harris (knee) – 10-12 weeks
Guy Walker (shoulder) – indefinite
Aaron Nietschke (knee) – season

* appears like 4 - 6 weeks

PreviewRd012019.jpg

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