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The tough Aussie Blundstone boot is made for true blue collar workers, and so it was at this aptly named stadium in Hobart, that the Demons were made to work their hardest for their seventh consecutive win of the season.

From the outset, North Melbourne put scoreboard pressure on Melbourne with two majors at an early stage in the first quarter. The Demons fought back and temporarily had the lead but the Kangaroos responded to lead by five points at quarter time. This was not what the public was expecting from a potential top-of-the-ladder side pitted against an opponent on the very bottom rung without a win in 2021 and in the midst of a 13 game losing streak. And things were only going to get worse in the second quarter.

The Demon woes began before the game. Jack Viney (toe) was replaced prior to the start by Oscar Baker with Nathan Jones brought in as medical sub.  He wasn’t to spend too much time on the bench when his services were required after Adam Tomlinson went down with a suspected ACL injury barely five minutes into the game. This completely upset the structure not only of the defence but the entire side. Baker is primarily a winger, and Brayshaw was moved into the middle. When Tomlinson went down, Tom McDonald had to be swung into defence, thereby depriving the forward line. Jones became the interchange in the middle.

The  Demons just couldn’t get their act together without the structure that had served the side so well in previous games. They weren’t helped by the fact that North were playing the old “rope a dope” style of game, chipping the ball around, and amassing huge numbers of uncontested possessions. At one stage before half time, they had 90 more than Melbourne.  North also took advantage with turnover goals as the pressure that Melbourne had brought to the game previously, simply went missing.

In the ruck Goldstein was beating Max Gawn, not just with hit-outs, but clearances as well.  He was ably backed up by the umpires who made numerous incomprehensible calls in the ruck contests, which favoured the Kangaroos.

Melbourne went into half time with a three goal deficit, and things were looking ominous as far as maintaining its unbeaten record for 2021. Indeed, when interviewed at half-time, Simon Goodwin confessed that his team was being beaten in “all phases of the game”.

The coach made a few telling changes made at the break. 

Firstly, Luke Jackson was moved into the ruck for much longer than usual. With  Goldstein following Gawn on and off the field, suddenly Melbourne had superiority in the ruck contests to which North had no answer. Jackson finished with 22 possessions, seven hitouts and two clearances.  But it was his mobility and contribution to team second efforts which helped to bring the other mids more into the game. 

The defenders suddenly got their act together, with the usual May, Lever and now McDonald intercepts that meant the ball was now regularly finding the hands of Christian Salem and Ed Langdon and consequently finishing in the forward 50 more and the scores started to come.

Clayton Oliver lifted his work-rate to finish with 25 touches, including seven clearances but still, the Demons looked flat.  In stepped Kosiaiah Pickett, with a couple of breathtaking efforts and goals that simply shouldn’t have happened.  Bayley Fritsch couldn’t miss and had 5 majors to his name by the time the ¾ time siren sounded.  The Demons had hit the front, having kicked six goals to one for the quarter.

The final term saw a workmanlike effort again. By now, North had spent all their petrol tickets, and were simply unable to make any scoreboard efforts work.  Still, early on they managed to be only a single kick behind, and once again, up stepped the youngsters for the side. 

James Jordon nailed a difficult crumbing goal to open up the margin, and Fritsch brought up goal number six.  Further goals came with the final margin finally blowing out to five goals and a 49 point turnaround from half time.

While the Demons have now cemented themselves at the top of the ladder the injuries suffered will cause a dramatic reshuffle for next week’s game against Sydney. 

Viney is out for at least a couple of weeks, Tomlinson now looks like missing the rest of the season. Angus Brayshaw suffered a shoulder injury, but played on. Ben Brown suffered a heavy head knock but hopefully won’t be a candidate for a concussion spell. 

Fortunately, Melbourne have plenty of available soldiers to replace them. Harry Petty will surely come in if fit and available, and Tom Sparrow will be putting up his hand for selection, after a 32 possession effort with Casey. 

But the Demons cannot afford to play the same way as they did in the first half of this game against the Swans.  Multitudes of players were well below their best.  Christian Petracca got 23 touches, but wasn’t his usual damaging self.  Gawn was probably beaten on the day.  Oliver was our best in the middle, but North certainly won the clearance battle on the day. 

Neither of Alex Neal-Bullen and Jake Melksham did anything for their respective causes and would only stay in the side because of other replacements needed.

What Melbourne need to do is come out with the workmanlike efforts of the second half of this game. The Blundstone boots are tough, and the Demons need to be likewise to keep on kicking winning scores.

MELBOURNE 3.2.20 6.4.40 12.7.79 16.7.103

NORTH MELBOURNE 4.1.25 9.5.59 10.6.66 11.7.73

GOALS

Melbourne Fritsch 6 Pickett 3 Brown 2 Jackson Jordan Langdon Oliver Spargo

North Melbourne Campbell Cunnington Larkey 2 Atley Mahony Powell Simpkin Zurhaar

BEST

Melbourne Fritsch Jackson Salem May Pickett Petracca

North Melbourne Cunnington Hall Powell McKay Turner Simpkin 

INJURIES

Melbourne Tomlinson (knee)

North Melbourne Bonar (corked thigh)

REPORTS

Melbourne Nil

North Melbourne Nil

SUBSTITUTES

Melbourne Jones (replaced Tomlinson)

North Melbourne Menadue (replaced Bonar)

Umpires Chris Donlon Justin Power Simon Meredith

Crowd TBA at Blundstone Arena

ReportRd072021.png

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