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THE MERRY, MERRY MONTH OF MAY by The Oracle



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The month of May was a little more than halfway into its second day when the news came. Melbourne was on top of the AFL table for the first time since Round 3, 2005.

As usual with the Demons, there was no time for celebration. They had just lost tough nut Jack Viney with yet another soft spot in his foot, Adam Tomlinson’s year was in ruins with what was subsequently confirmed as an ACL and Bayley Fritsch’s careless but unintentional fend off on North’s Tom Powell was about to see him charged by the MRP. “It was a dangerous action,” piped Matthew Lloyd on TV, completely ignoring the fact that Tom Hawkins’ action that landed Steven May in hospital with a fractured eye socket last month resulted in his complete exoneration. Well, we were April Fools back then, now it’s May and the Tribunal gave Fritta his liberty back and cancelled his initial week’s suspension.

Still, the early setbacks of the month had the pundits sounding out doom and gloom for the 2021 Demons. They said the first cracks were obvious when they were surprised early by the AFL easybeats in Hobart; that all of the features that have been the cornerstone of their rise to the top are about to fall apart. They said the next step would come this week with defeat at the hands of the Sydney Swans on Saturday night, to which I say, “nonsense, bring it on.”

Yes, the injuries, suspension and a poor first half of football are all setbacks but the fact that they happened in May is not at all bad. That’s because, the season doesn’t end one third of the way through and there will always be challenges to face and overcome along the road to the real end game in September. In Melbourne’s case, things were traveling along nicely and people were already getting ahead of themselves with thoughts like — “will they beat the Crows in Adelaide to make it ten in a row?”

The shockwaves experienced at the weekend mean that the club can now take a deep breath, take stock and go back to what is done by strong AFL clubs who always take it one week at a time.This week, it’s Sydney at the G, a place where the visitors have dominated for a long time. They’re on a high, coming off a pulsating win over Geelong and preparing for the return of Buddy and Rampe. But I reckon that we still have them covered.

Firstly, on team selection, the circumstances are such that, unlike in the past when injuries have struck, the selectors have good options available with plenty of depth to come in to fill the gaps that have opened up in the past week. The club can reset by selecting from in-form players like Sam Weideman, Tom Sparrow, James Harmes and Kade Chandler waiting in the wings and the unlucky Harry Petty ready to be unleashed into the defensive hole left by Tomlinson’s injury if the selectors decide not to move Tom McDonald back there.

There’s the Demons’ rock solid defence that seems to smother opposition forward lines whenever they’re put to the test. The Melbourne backline has been consistently good from the outset this season. Against the Swans, even with an underdone Buddy this week, they will continue to suffocate the opposition with their relentless pressure. The Swans somehow managed a winning score at home against the Cats on Saturday night but only by dint of accuracy in front of goal and some incredible efficiency when going inside 50. They would be pushing uphill to kick a score like 14.6 from so few entries for two weeks in a row, let alone against the stingiest of defences.

Elsewhere, the Swans will be looking to emulate the midfield dominance that Ben Cunnington imparted in the first half last week and will be looking to veterans Kennedy and Parker to achieve that. The problem with that is the fact that you need to maintain sufficient energy for four quarters to cut off supply to Melbourne’s  forward line.

And with Bayley Fritsch remaining in the mix, the Demons’ forward line has the potency to overcome the Swans who will run out of luck when they cross the border to confront Melbourne for Saturday’s game.

The news today about Christian Petracca’s new contract signing on top of a number of other leading lights including Clayton Oliver and Christian Salem is indicative of the stability of the team list and the confidence and trust the playing group have in each other. It’s a very merry, merry month of May for Melbourne, there’s a very good May in the team and the force is with them.

Melbourne to win by 27 points.

THE GAME

Melbourne vs Sydney Swans at The MCG Saturday 8 May, 2021 at 7.25

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Melbourne 93 wins Sydney Swans 115 wins 2 drawn 

At The MCG Melbourne 49 wins Sydney Swans 45 wins 2 drawn

Last 5 meetings Melbourne 1 win Sydney Swans 4 wins 

The Coaches Goodwin 1 win Longmire 5 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

Sydney Swans 10.7.67 defeated Melbourne 6.10.46 in Round 15, 2020 at Cazaly’s Stadium, Cairns

The Demons spent a long day traveling from their Sunshine Coast hub to Cairns and were just plain lethargic and slow in the steamy sub tropics for an important game, the result of which spelled “disaster” for their finals hopes. Whoever signed off on this trip to FNQ involving two matches in four days when the team had no rest during the AFL’s frenzy period was just plain clueless. Full stop. 

Melbourne won the first and third quarters and halved the last but it was simply horrible in the second quarter and the Swans’ accuracy in front of goal in the first half (7.2) was too much for the weary Dees.

THE TEAMS

MELBOURNE

B: M. Hibberd 14 S. May 1 J. Lever 8

HB: C. Salem 3 H. Petty 35 J. Hunt 29 

C: A. Brayshaw 10 C. Petracca 5 E. Langdon 15

HF: Kysaiah Pickett 36 T. McDonald 25 J. Melksham 18

F: A. Neal-Bullen 30 B. Brown 50 B.Fritsch 31 

Foll: M. Gawn 11 C. Oliver 13 J. Jordan 23

I/C: J. Harmes 4 L. Jackson 6 Trent Rivers 24 C. Spargo 9

Sub: K. Chandler 37 Emerg: N. Jones 2 T. Sparrow 32 S. Weideman 26

In: K. Chandler J. Harmes  H. Petty

Out: O. Baker (omitted) N. Jones A. Tomlinson (knee)

SYDNEY

B: D. Rampe 24 T. McCartin 30 J. Dawson 34

HB: J. Lloyd 44 R. Fox 42 J. McInerney 27

C:  Parker 26 O. Florent 13 H. Cunningham 7

HF: T. Papley 11 H. McLean 41 C. Sinclair 18 

F: S. Wicks 45  L. Franklin 23 W. Hayward 9

Foll: T. Hickey 31 J. Rowbottom 8. C. Mills 14

I/C: E. Gulden 21 J. P. Kennedy 12 C. O'Riordan 38 C. Warner 1 

Sub: N. Blakey 22 Emerg: K. Brand 2 G. Hewett 29 D. Stephens 3

In: N. Blakey R. Fox L. Franklin D. Rampe

Out: R. Clarke (omitted) I. Heeney (ankle)  L. Melican (hamstring) D. Stephens (omitted)

Injury List: Round 8

Jay Lockhart (calf) — 1 Week 

Jack Viney (toe) — 2 Weeks

Aaron vandenBerg (quad) — 3 Weeks

Joel Smith (knee) — 5 to 6 Weeks

Bailey Laurie (eye socket) — 6 Weeks

Marty Hore (knee) — Season

Aaron Nietschke (knee) — Season

Adam Tomlinson (knee) — Season

EVERYTHING THAT COUNTS by SAM THE STATS MAN

The past 15 months have been a statistical anomaly for me. After the announcement by WHO of a pandemic in mid-March, 2020, I locked myself away in my room for 229 days, 12 hours and 33 minutes. In that time, I ventured out only 14 times, never further than 3.54 kilometres from home and watched 46 series of Netflix while devouring 154 meals of two minute noodles (which more accurately should be one minute 56¾ seconds).

Then a miracle happened that changed my life forever. Premier Dan Andrews ditched his usual grim-faced expression and the Northface jacket and announced at his 126th Covid19 news briefing that, after a fall in the 14-day rolling average of new cases to well below five, the lockdown was over.

I was free at last to immerse myself in a backlog of 3,427 studies on statistical subject matters missed over those dreary months of loneliness and isolation. It took me another 178 days to put together my thesis on the recovery of the Melbourne Football Club. Here is the first appendix with all of the statistics that matter. I ran the data through my computer and the analysis suggests that there is an 84.7% chance that the Demons’ streak of improvement will continue for some time so ignore the doubting Thomases who get things wrong 97% of the time.

1. Steven May MFC games 6, goals 0

2. Nathan Jones MFC games 7, goals 2

3. Christian Salem MFC games 7, goals 1

4. James Harmes MFC games 1, goals 1, CD games 1, goals 2

5. Christian Petracca MFC games 7, goals 8

6. Luke Jackson MFC games 7, goals 3

7. Jack Viney MFC games 5, goals 2

8. Jake Lever MFC games 7 goals 0

9. Charlie Spargo MFC games 7, goals 3

10. Angus Brayshaw MFC games 7, goals 1

11. Max Gawn MFC games 7,  goals 4

12. Toby Bedford CD games 3, goals 3

13. Clayton Oliver MFC games 7, goals 0

14. Michael Hibberd MFC games 3, goals 0

15. Ed Langdon MFC games 7, goals 6

16. Bailey Laurie 

17. Jake Bowey CD games 3, goals 0

18. Jake Melksham MFC games 5, goals 4

19. Fraser Rosman CD games 3, goals 3

20. Adam Tomlinson MFC games 7, goals 0

21. Marty Hore 

22. Aaron Vandenberg CD games 1, goals 1

23. James Jordan ® MFC games 7, goals 2

24. Trent Rivers games 7 goals 0

25. Tom McDonald MFC games 7, goals 9

26. Sam Weideman CD games 3, goals 14

27. Aaron Nietschke ®

28. Majak Daw ® CD games 3, goals 0

29. Jayden Hunt MFC games 7, goals 0

30. Alex Neal-Bullen MFC games 7, goals 5

31. Bayley Fritsch MFC games 6, goals 18

32. Tom Sparrow MFC games 5, goals 1, CD games 2, goals 0

33. Oskar Baker MFC games 2, goals 0, CD games 2, goals 0

34. Deakyn Smith ® CD games 3, goals 0

35. Harrison Petty MFC games 1, goals 0, CD games 1, goals 0 

36. Kysaiah Pickett MFC games 7, goals 14

37. Kade Chandler ® MFC games 2, goals 0 CD games 2, goals 3

38. Mitch Brown MFC games 1, goals 2

39. Neville Jetta MFC 4 games, 0 goals, CD 3 games, 0 goals

41. Jay Lockhart CD 1 game, 0 goals

44. Joel Smith CD games 1, goals 0

46. Austin Bradtke ® CD games 3, goals 1

50. Ben Brown MFC games 1, goals 2, CD games 2, goals 7

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