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It wasn’t that long ago when Melbourne held sway in its Anzac Eve matches against Richmond. The early versions of the blockbuster saw the Demons home by 32 points in 2015 and 33 in 2016.

When the turning point came it was dramatic and sudden. The Demons might have been on an upward curve in 2017 under new coach Simon Goodwin but so were the Tigers who had finished a disappointing 13th in 2016. When the teams met in Round 5 under lights in front of a crowd of 85,657 — the highest ever between the two teams — Richmond was unbeaten. Melbourne had comfortable wins against St Kilda and Carlton in the opening two rounds but injury and suspensions to key players cost them winnable games against Geelong and Fremantle.

The Demons went into Anzac Eve without co-captain Max Gawn who had suffered a hamstring tear against the Cats and Jordan Lewis was out suspended. Though Jesse Hogan was back after serving his two weeks, things were not well with his family and with him at the time. Before the half-time break, the Demons had lost their replacement ruckman in Jake Spencer to a shoulder injury, forward Tim Smith to a rib and yet, despite the setbacks, they had outplayed Richmond in all facets of the game to lead by 20 points at ¾ time. But in the final quarter, the wheel turned.

With Christian Petracca and co-skipper Jack Viney sidelined for most of the final stanza with knee complaints, Melbourne was effectively left without rotations. Richmond kicked 5 goals to 2 behinds and hit the front at the start of time on to record a narrow but crucial win, as it turned out, on its way to a premiership. The Dees missed the finals by a narrow margin of percentage after finishing ninth.

This time around, it’s Melbourne that’s undefeated while Richmond has recorded two losses. The Tiges are coming off a massive win with a nine day break compared to six days but the Demons are eager, hungry and healthy. Is this their moment, their turning point?

Richmond has had a touch of the staggers in some of its games but against the Saints, they hit the pressure valve forcing errors all over the ground. They took little time to squeeze the life out of the hapless Saints in a performance that was as good as it gets at this stage of the season. The question is will it be a weaponised Richmond that turns up this week and, if so, can Melbourne muster up the necessary defences to that weaponry? Can it quell the deadly forwards in Martin, Lynch and Riewoldt, the frenetic midfield movement that has seen them to three flags in four years?

To answer these questions in the affirmative it goes without saying that the Demons won’t be able to rely on the efforts of a single quarter as they did last weekend against the Hawks. Max Gawn is always good value in the ruck and he has an up and coming back up in Luke Jackson. The midfield can stand eye to eye with the Richmond mids and their battle will be an intriguing one that could go either way.

There’s also the matter of milestones in this game. Nathan Jones is now well past his best but still has a role to play for the club outside the midfield which he made his own for so long. He’s been a champion bloke for the club, a titan in the team for so long, and the rest of the team should lift for him in his 300th game. For Richmond, Dustin Martin is 50 games behind him and has proven to be a great of the game in the second half of his career and is right at his peak. You can’t blanket him for a whole game but if he’s reasonably covered, it will help the Demon cause.

The expected early return of Steven May gives Melbourne a real chance of holding Richmond’s forward line to a manageable score. Which means the result might well hinge on what happens with the Melbourne forward line. Will Bayley Fritsch manage to get up a little more than a week or so after his hand surgery? Are Sam Wiedeman and Ben Brown ready to come in?

The problem for we tipsters is that the lateness of team selection means that it’s tough to be exact when penning our thoughts but I have a strong feeling that we’ve reached the turning point.

Melbourne by 4 points.

THE GAME

Melbourne v Richmond on Saturday 24 April, 2021 at 7.50pm at the MCG

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Melbourne 75 wins Richmond 107 wins Drawn 2

At MCG Melbourne 63 wins Richmond 72 wins Drawn 1

Past five meetings Melbourne 1 win Richmond 4 wins

The Coaches Hardwick 4 wins Goodwin 0 wins

MEDIA

TV live and on demand on Kayo and live on Foxtel. Check your local guides.

Radio - check your local guides.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Richmond 12.7.79 defeated Melbourne 8.4.52 in Round 5, 2020 at the MCG

The teams were a lot closer matched than it appeared on the scoreboard. The Tigers prevailed in the second term after an even first quarter. Max Gawn dominated the ruck as he usually does with 33 hit outs and 22 disposals. The loss left the Demons languishing somewhat with a 1-3 record but with a game in hand.

THE TEAMS

MELBOURNE

B: A. Tomlinson 20 S. May 1 T. Rivers 24

HB: C. Salem 3 J. Lever 8 J. Hunt 29

C: E: Langdon 15 Christian Petracca 5 Angus Brayshaw 10

HF: K. Pickett 36 T.  McDonald 25 A. Neal-Bullen 30

F: J. Melksham 18 L. Jackson 6 B. Fritsch 31

Foll: M. Gawn 11 C. Oliver 13 J. Viney

I/C: M. Hibberd 14 N. Jones 2 J. Jordon 23 C. Spargo 9

Sub: K. Chandler 37 Emerg: H. Petty 35 T. Sparrow 32 S. Weideman 26

In: K. Chandler B. Fritsch S. May

Out: M. Brown (omitted) H. Petty (omitted) T. Sparrow (omitted)

RICHMOND

B: D. Astbury 12 N. Balta 21 D. Grimes 2

HB: N. Broad 35 B. Houli 14 J. Short 15

C: K. McIntosh 33 T. Cotchin 9 M. Pickett 50

HF: D. Rioli 17 K. Lambert 23 J. Castagna 11

F: T. J. Lynch 19 D. Martin 4 J. Riewoldt 8

Foll: T. Nankervis 25 S. Edwards 10 J. Graham 34

I/C: J. Aarts 16 L. Baker 7 S. Bolton 29 R. Mansell 31

Sub: J. Ross 5 Emerg: C. Coleman-Jones 40 R. Collier-Dawkins 26 M. Rioli 49 

No change 

Injury List: Round 6

Bayley Fritsch (hand fracture) — Test

Steven May (eye socket) — Test 

James Harmes (wrist) — 2 Weeks

Bailey Laurie (eye socket) — 6 Weeks

Joel Smith (knee) — 6 to 8 Weeks

Marty Hore (knee) — Season

Aaron Nietschke (knee) — Season

PreviewRd062021.png

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