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TEN MINUTES LATE by Whispering Jack



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The late Norm Smith, who played in four Melbourne premierships and coached another six, was a strong disciplinarian. Known as the Red Fox for his auburn hair and his cunning, Smith was a man of a different age to the here and now. Born during the Great War, he survived the Spanish Flu Pandemic, grew up in depression times, played mostly through the Second World War and its aftermath and coached in a period of rebuilding and recovery to a time of prosperity.

Smith’s success was built on team discipline from which he developed closely knit teams that cut no corners to be the fastest, fittest and most confident side on the park. He would make debutants sit out their entire first game on the bench and once ordered a player who turned up to training with a mustache to shave it off.

The days of the hard nosed disciplinarian football coaches are long gone but this does not mean that discipline is unimportant in developing a team ethic. We saw this at the weekend when Demons’ coach Simon Goodwin bit the bullet and omitted then leading goal kicker Bayley Fritsch for turning up late to the team’s final training session at its Sunshine Coast hub. Tom McDonald and James Harmes also sat the game out against the Saints after a series of below par games.

It was a strong statement from the coach. Few Demon fans would have imagined earlier in the year that McDonald, Harmes and Fritsch would all be dropped on the eve of an all important season defining match but this was a logical consequence of having so many players turning up late after the main break in their game against the Bulldogs. Against the Saints who dominated statistically in most key performance indicators bar accuracy in front of goal, they willed themselves over the line to pull off an unexpected but gritty victory that lifted them into the top eight. We are about to discover in the coming weeks whether it was luck or something deeper and more significant.

On the face of it, the immediate road ahead against two lowly sides in Sydney and Fremantle in short sequence in Far North Queensland appears straightforward. But not so fast. The game against the Swans at Cazaly’s Stadium is scheduled to start at 4.40pm in steamy conditions with temperatures in their high 20s and with the next game taking place four days later. The challenge for the coaching panel is to add resilience to the hard effort that saw them make the most of their chances in Alice Springs.

The Demons can’t rest on their laurels against the flakey Swans who only recently put on a blinder to beat their more talented crosstown rivals. Melbourne must take care therefore, to work hard at improving on takeaways from stoppages. Despite the presence of an All Australian ruckman and a much vaunted contested ball winning midfield, they were well beaten in the clearances last week.

And as much as improvement is needed in getting more of the ball into attack, the forwards have to lift their game when it gets there. Last week’s tally of twelve scores for the game is hardly enough to win most games — it’s up to the small and medium forwards to apply more pressure on the opposition defence and to set up scoring more opportunities.

Melbourne’s strength last week was in its defence which, apart from a couple of lapses late in the second term, strangled the opposition of scoreboard oxygen. For most of this season, Sydney has struggled to hit the scoreboard particularly when the dynamic Tom Papley has been kept quiet. If the Demon defenders stick to their game, they will go a long way to helping their side to the four points against the injury depleted Swans.

A good win could see them overtake St Kilda on the ladder and put even greater pressure on the teams below that are lining up for a place in the finals. For the Melbourne Football Club which languished in so much disappointment in 2019, it could mean that Goodwin’s strong statement at the selection table last week is about to bring about lasting consequences that would have made the Red Fox proud.

Melbourne by 37 points.

THE GAME

Sydney Swans v Melbourne at Cazaly’s Stadium Thursday 3 September 2020 at 4.40pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Sydney Swans 114 wins Melbourne 93 wins 2 drawn At Cazaly’s Stadium Sydney Swans 0 wins Melbourne 0 wins Last 5 meetings Sydney Swans 4 wins Melbourne 1 win The Coaches Longmire 3 wins Goodwin 1 win

MEDIA

TV - Footy Channel Live at 4.30pm

RADIO - TBA

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Sydney Swans 15.5.95 defeated Melbourne 5.12.42 in Round 22 2019 at the MCG

The injury hit Demons were competitive in the opening term but were outclassed by the Swans for the remainder of a very dull late season game that was fairly meaningless for both sides in the general scheme of things.

THE TEAMS

SYDNEY SWANS

FB Aliir Aliir Lewis Melican Robbie Fox
HB Jake Lloyd Callum Mills Ryan Clarke
C Jackson Thurlow Luke Parker Nick Blakey
HF Will Hayward Sam Reid Lewis Taylor
FF Tom Papley Tom McCartin Jordan Dawson
FOL Callum Sinclair Josh P. Kennedy Oliver Florent
I/C Harry Cunningham Justin McInerney James Rowbottom Sam Wicks
EMG James Bell Will Gould Hayden McLean Dylan Stephens

IN Lewis Taylor

OUT James Bell (omitted)

MELBOURNE

FB Jake Lever Steven May Adam Tomlinson
HB Christian Salem Oscar McDonald Trent Rivers
C Ed Langdon Jack Viney Nathan Jones
HF James Harmes Sam Weideman Christian Petracca
FF Bayley Fritsch Mitch Brown Jake Melksham
FOL Max Gawn Angus Brayshaw Clayton Oliver
IC Alex Neal-Bullen Joel Smith Charlie Spargo Josh Wagner
EMG Neville Jetta Braydon Preuss Aaron vandenBerg Corey Wagner

IN Bayley Fritsch James Harmes Alex Neal-Bullen Joel Smith

OUT Mitch Hannan  (omitted) Michael Hibberd (ankle) Kysaiah Pickett (managed) Aaron vandenBerg  (omitted)

Injury List: Round 15

Michael Hibberd (ankle) –  1 week
Luke Jackson (hamstring) –  3 weeks
Tom Sparrow (collarbone) –  3 weeks
James Jordon (finger) –  3 - 5 weeks
Marty Hore (quad) – indefinite
Harry Petty (groin) – indefinite
Kade Kolodjashnij (head) – indefinite
Aaron Nietschke (knee) – season

PreviewRd152020.png

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