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HOW FAR SOUTH? by George on the Outer



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It was appropriate that Melbourne was playing its last game of season 2019 in Hobart.  After all, how much further south could the team go?

And much as it has done in many of the previous 22 games, the side managed to extract a loss from a winning position by simply giving the ball back to the opposition time and time again. In fact, they gave it back to the opposition to the tune of 53 points from turnovers while, by way of contrast North Melbourne contributed  only 17 points to their opposition in this manner.

We can argue about the cattle the Demons has left after the squad was ravaged by injury but the fact remains that when the team includes the likes of Jay Kennedy Harris, Alex Neal-Bulleen, Charlie Spargo, Billy Stretch and Corey Wagner then it’s not really destined to win against any opposition, not even one that managed a total score of 14 points just a fortnight ago.

The start of the game was the real form setter for the remainder, with Kennedy Harris giving away consecutive possessions to the opposition.  It didn’t hurt at that point of the game, but the pattern continued with Melbourne unable to develop any true momentum as each time it managed to get its nose in front, someone would simply give it back, particularly late in the quarter.

Max Gawn showed the way in the ruck, and gave Toss Goldstein a bath both in the ruck and around the ground, even topping the Melbourne score chart with three goals for the match. To amass 41 hitouts against probably the third best ruckman in the competition is a fantastic effort.

Around him, there was plenty of help. Clayton Oliver was really boring in at every opportunity with 33 touches and eight tackles. Angus Brayshaw, Christian Petracca and Jack Viney with 8, 7 and 5 tackles respectively all showed their signs of intent, but then it dropped off in spectacular fashion with one each to Jayden Hunt, Jake Melksham, Neal-Bullen and Wagner. When players who are meant to be applying pressure and none is forthcoming, we see the ball ricochet from one end of the ground to the other to little or no positive effect for the team.

Fortunately, Jake Lever and Sam Frost were at the other end to repel multiple North attacks, particularly Frost who did a demolition job on Ben Brown, after he kicked 10 last week, and will just miss out on winning the Coleman Medal.

Up forward, Bayley Fritsch again showed plenty, with three goals and three contested marks, so providing the Demons with their only real target in front of goal.  

The final quarter epitomised the Demons year as the kicked 1 goal 7 behinds to 3.1 in a tight encounter. They led by up to nine points, yet simple shots for goal were missed, there were stupid turnovers and some silly decision making that conceded yet another game. People speak about the need for leadership in these situations, but it is not the leaders doing the damage when they don’t have the ball in their hands.  

This was a game that saw the final chapter in the career of Jordan Lewis. He has provided that desperately needed leadership and more importantly example of how an AFL player should play. Tough, hard and relentless with the ability to deliver under pressure when needed.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see him in his prime at the Demons.  

After finishing in 17th spot with a miserable five wins, can the Demons head further south?  Fortunately, the Suns are in a worse situation even though their list is full of early draft pick talent.  

We all know about the injuries, which is why the side has more than its share of sub-standard players but if we continue to gift the opposition nearly 10 goals in a game in the coming year, then further south is not only possible, it is virtually assured!  

If we cannot replace the composure of Jordan Lewis, then we will see opportunities thrown away again and again in the future.  

The club, coach and players now sit on a knife edge.  We have seen 5 coaches sacked in 2019 in this brutal competition, none from the bottom  two sides. Any semblance of a southerly direction on-field early next year, will see the same at Melbourne.
 
 Melbourne 4.2.26 5.4.34 11.4.70 12.11.83

North Melbourne 3.4.22 5.4.34 10.9.69 13.10.88

Goals

Melbourne Fritsch Gawn 3 Melksham 2 Hunt Jones Neal-Bullen C Wagner

North Melbourne Brown Garner Higgins Polec Ziebell 2 Larkey Williams Wood

Best 

Melbourne Gawn Oliver Harmes Lewis Viney Frost

North Melbourne Higgins Polec Ziebell Pittard Williams Dumont

Injuries

Melbourne Nil

North Melbourne Macmillan (head)

Reports

Melbourne Nil

North Melbourne Nil

Umpires Deboy, Gavine, Mollison

Official crowd 8,202 at Blundstone Arena

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