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THE NIGHT OF THE TORTOISES by The Oracle

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Friday night sees two clubs of which a great deal was expected in 2019, facing off in the battle of the slow starting tortoises. Both have had calamitous starts to the season and are sitting at 0-2. One of them will, by the end of the evening, be seeing their season slipping away from their grasp.  

Both clubs are playing without confidence and without purpose. The Demons, who had the best-performed attack of all clubs last year, managed to convert 73 entries inside their forward 50 metre arc into just six goals at the Cattery on Saturday night. Their opponents who managed 25 less inside 50s scored six goals or more in the first, third and last quarters. That is as damning a statement of the team’s ineptitude as you can get.

Leaving aside the first 11 minutes of the season when it scored three goals to zip against Port Adelaide, Melbourne’s scoring has completely dried up and is a definite cause for concern for coach Simon Goodwin along with the decline of many team members who were in sparkling form last year.

But the Bombers have been in a similar place in their two games, barely giving a whimper against Greater Western Sydney and lowering their colours to an injury-hit St Kilda in their two matches.

With so little form to go by, it’s almost impossible to predict a result in this game so the only thing I can go on is history.

Melbourne is playing at home on a Friday night. Its last two encounters on that day and at that time were electrifying finals victories in front of large enthusiastic crowds that marvelled over the team's hardness and endeavour. The Demons haven’t had an MCG home game against the Bombers since 2010 so they should relish the reminder of how they played just four or five games ago in AFL terms.

Although neither side has many aces up their sleeves, the Demons can take heart from the fact Max Gawn returned to form last week in the ruck and Clayton Oliver was sensational in a losing team and in a midfield that came close to matching a very strong Geelong engine room. Their presence will, in my view, tip the scales in favour of the home side and hopefully, end a slump as the team has done in the past two years when facing Essendon. Last year's win started a six game winning streak that ultimately led the team into the finals and a top four berth.

There's not much to go on but if one of these sides is going to play the hare to the other’s tortoise this week then it had better be us.

Melbourne by 4 points.

THE GAME
 
Essendon v Melbourne at the MCG Friday, 5 April, 2019 at 7.50pm
 
HEAD TO HEAD

 
Overall Melbourne 83 wins Essendon 129 wins 2 draws
 
At MCG Melbourne 45 wins Essendon 66 wins 1 draw

The last five meetings Melbourne 3 wins Essendon 2 wins
 
The Coaches  Goodwin 2 wins Worsfold 0 wins
 
MEDIA
 
TV – Fox Footy Channel Channel 7 Live at 7.30pm
 
RADIO -
 
THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 16.12.108 defeated Essendon 10.12.72 at Etihad Stadium, Round 6, 2018
 
Melbourne started slowly but gradually took control and dominated the second half. Gawn dominated the rucks while Salem, Hibberd and Jones got plenty of the football.
 
THE TEAMS  
 
MELBOURNE

B Jay Lockhart  Oscar McDonald  Neville Jetta 
HB Josh Wagner  Sam Frost  Christian Salem 
C Jayden Hunt  Clayton Oliver  Nathan Jones 
HF James Harmes  Sam Weideman  Kade Kolodjashnij 
F Angus Brayshaw  Tom McDonald  Jake Melksham 
FOLL Max Gawn  Christian Petracca  Jack Viney 
I/C Bayley Fritsch Michael Hibberd  Alex Neal-Bullen   Corey Wagner 
EMG Harrison Petty Braydon Preuss  Tom Sparrow  Billy Stretch  

IN Corey Wagner Josh Wagner

OUT Steven May (injured) Tom Sparrow (omitted)

ESSENDON

B  Aaron Francis  Patrick Ambrose  Conor McKenna 
HB Kobe Mutch  Michael Hurley  Adam Saad 
C Orazio Fantasia  Zach Merrett  Andrew McGrath 
HF Jake Stringer  Zac Clarke  Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti 
F Devon Smith  Shaun McKernan  Mark Baguley 
FOL Tom Bellchambers  David Zaharakis  Dylan Shiel 
I/C Matt Guelfi  Dyson Heppell  David Myers  Darcy Parish 
EMG Mitch Brown  Sam Draper Kyle Langford  Jordan Ridley   

IN Zac Clarke Kobe Mutch 

OUT Mitch Brown (omitted) Kyle Langford (omitted) 

Round 3 injury list:

Jeff Garlett (shoulder) – available
Charlie Spargo (jaw) – 1 week
Steven May (groin) – TBC
Jordan Lewis (hamstring) – 1-2 weeks
Aaron vandenBerg (foot) – 3-5 weeks  
Joel Smith (groin) – TBA
Mitch Hannan (knee) – 6-8 weeks
Jake Lever (knee) – 6-8 weeks
Jay Kennedy Harris (knee) – 10-12 weeks
Guy Walker (shoulder) – indefinite
Aaron Nietschke (knee) – season

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