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THE EYE OF THE STORM by Whispering Jack



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When Melbourne monstered Richmond a few weeks back on the MCG thereby registering their sixth win on the trot, the block of games to follow looked highly appealing. After a stirring victory in difficult conditions over the reigning premier, the games to come were against a quartet of low achievers from 2020. North were winless, the Swans were the early high flyers now falling into a slump, Carlton couldn’t take a trick and the Crows had just lost an unloseable game to the Hawks in Launceston. Even the most pessimistic Melbourne fans (and given the history, that means most of us) were looking forward to the month ahead with relish.

What many didn’t realise was that once you step over a particular threshold and start producing the goods in big time matches, you become the hunted. And that’s how it’s turned out over the past fortnight — the Demons have managed to collect the points over the past two matches but their opponents were ready and waiting for them. They have weathered the initial storm and managed to overcome everything thrown at them but the learning has been that you take nothing for granted and this week against the Blues looms as a real danger game.

This season’s Melbourne brand of high pressure intensity has stunned the football world leaving it with a totally unexpected scenario; the Dees are on top of the ladder, undefeated after eight rounds. The question on everyone’s lips is whether that sort of pressure can be maintained over long periods of time? Are they sitting in the eye of the storm waiting for a fall?

In that respect, Carlton is the perfect opponent to test Melbourne’s resilience at this point. Last week, the Blues showed they are strong enough to get the better of a strong premiership contender when they held a 27 point lead over the second placed Western Bulldogs deep into the third quarter. For a moment, they were on the cusp of replacing the Tigers in the top eight but instead, they fell apart in the face of an onslaught led by Marcus Bontempelli and Caleb Daniel in a finish that has led them to fall into the heat of the media furnace. With their season now on the line, the way they react to this defeat and how they fare against the Demons will be a pivotal indicator of their prospects for the remainder of the season.

It’s worth reflecting on how close Carlton were to dumping Richmond out of the top eight. The Tigers are still hanging onto the first line of favouritism along with Melbourne, Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs so the Blues aren’t far off the mark. Their bookends at either end of the ground, Weitering and McKay are top notch and Sam Walsh is up their with most of the elite midfielders in the competition. If they can get their game going and Melbourne’s pressure valve drops by the smallest measure, then they could cause havoc.

On the subject of releasing the pressure, Melbourne’s last two outings against Carlton have been prime examples of what happens when teams ease off just a fraction. In 2019, they gave away a lead of more than six goals halfway through the third term at the MCG while in 2020, they led by seven goals 12 minutes into the second at Marvel Stadium with the Blues catching up five minutes before the final siren. In both cases, the Demons relaxed when they seemingly had a strong grip on the game and were ultimately lucky to get away with the points.

I’m backing Melbourne’s pressure in the eye of the storm to win the day and to emerge with a lead of 37 points when the final siren sounds.

THE GAME

Melbourne v Carlton at the MCG Sunday 16 May June 2021 at 3.20pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Melbourne 94 wins Carlton 117 wins Drawn 2 m

At the MCG Melbourne 53 Carlton 50 wins

Past five meetings Melbourne 5 Carlton 0 wins

The Coaches Goodwin 2 wins Teague 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

Melbourne 8.6.54 defeated Carlton 7.11.53 at Marvel Stadium Round 2, 2020

In an extraordinary game, Melbourne scored 5.2.32 to nothing in the opening term and by midway through the second, led 7.3.45 to 0.3.3, at which time it stopped dead in its tracks. Carlton actually caught up to level the scores 16 minutes into the final quarter. The issue was decided after Bayley Fritsch marked 25 metres out and missed a relatively easy shot. The point was enough however, to deliver victory.

6590A077-9C17-453C-94EF-14EAFB871BB0.jpeg

THE TEAMS

MELBOURNE 

B: M. Hibberd 14 S. May 1 J. Lever 8

HB: C. Salem 3 H.  Petty 35 T. Rivers 24

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

HF:J. Jordon 23 T. McDonald 25 A. Neal-Bullen 30

F: C. Spargo 9 B. Brown 50 B. Fritsch 31

Foll: M. Gawn 11 C  Oliver 13 K. Pickett 36 

I/C: K. Chandler 37 J. Harmes 4 J. Hunt 29 S. Weideman 26

Sub: J. Melksham 18 Emerg: O. Baker 33 J. Bowey 17 T. Sparrow 32

In: S. Weideman 

Out: L. Jackson (broken finger)

CARLTON 

B: S Docherty 18 L. Jones 14 L. Stocker 13 

HB: A. Saad 42 J. Weitering 23 L. Plowman 20

C: M. Cottrell 46 P. Cripps 9 W. Setterfield 43

HF: D. Cunningham 28 L. Casboult 41 M. Murphy 3

F: E. Betts 19 H. McKay 10 L. Fogarty 8

Foll: M. Pittonet 27 S. Walsh 18 Z. Williams 6

I/C: E. Curnow 35 N. Newman 24 M. Owies 44 L. Parks 26

Sub M. Gibbons 40 Emerg: T. De Koning 12 J. Newnes 32 J. Honey 36

In: M. Murphy N. Newman W. Setterfield

Out: J. Newnes  (omitted) S. Petrevski-Seton (omitted) J. Silvagni (concussion)

Injury List: Round 9

Christian Petracca (corky) — Available

Jay Lockhart (calf) — Test

Luke Jackson (finger) — 1 to 2 Weeks

Aaron vandenBerg (quad) — 2 Weeks

Jack Viney (toe) — 2 Weeks

Bailey Laurie (eye socket) — 5 Weeks

Joel Smith (knee) — 5 Weeks

Marty Hore (knee) — Season

Aaron Nietschke (knee) — Season

Adam Tomlinson (knee) — Season

PreviewRd092021.png

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