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The Demons return to the MCG on Saturday night (albeit for an away game) for the first time since mid-May when they beat the Blues. At the time, they were riding high, undefeated and celebrated by the football world. In the interim, they lost to two teams that occupy the bottom six, beaten two top four teams in front of empty or near empty stadiums and somehow fallen out of sight in the AFL bubble despite retaining top of the table status.

And in a strange twist, the mantle of the league’s glamour team has been snatched away from them by this week’s opponent, the 10th placed Essendon which this week was dubbed “the most watchable team in the competition”. However, it says something about the way the football news cycle operates that it achieved this title after narrowly escaping defeat at the hands of an inaccurate Hawthorn that occupies a position second from last on the table and has recorded only one victory since Anzac Day. The Bombers’ other recent claim to fame was a victory out west to an emaciated Eagles outfit, bereft of many of its stars.

Still, they’re riding high on the charts, Darcy Parish is in Brownlow consideration, Jake Stringer is enjoying superstar status winning clearance numbers and kicking goals, they’ve re-signed Zach Merrett to a long term deal, skipper Dyson Heppell has returned to life and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti is as dangerous as ever in front of goals. They have a bevy of youngsters snapping up rising star nominations and importantly, a ruckman in Sam Draper back, fit and capable of winning his fair share of hit outs and clearances.

We last saw the Melbourne team lamenting and looking tired on the SCG, beaten up by a Collingwood team that has been nothing short of disgraceful this year. In their game a fortnight earlier, they were so bad that they were held goalless at half time by Geelong.

Against the Pies, Max Gawn struggled in the ruck against a relative newcomer in Max Lynch, the defence was beaten comprehensively in the air by Darcy Cameron and Brody Mihocek and smashed by Jordon De Goey and the resurgent veterans in Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom anxious to give their long serving coach a decent send off. Uncharacteristically for the Demons, they were often caught spectating and their forwards, as a group, contributed almost nothing. Zero goals for the second week in a row from Sam Weideman and a disappointing effort from then father-in-waiting Tom McDonald.

So it’s back to the G and barring an increase in Covid19 case numbers or the discovery of an unknown strain of the virus in the sewerage system of a distant country town or a suburban dry cleaners, we should have 25,000 spectators cheering on the teams on Saturday night. Problem is that because it’s an Essendon game, we can expect the preponderance of the crowd to be Bomber fans.

This is clearly a danger game for Melbourne which has shown a tendency for producing tepid performances against teams that it should put away easily based on ladder position. It will only happen if the team comes our refreshed and reset for the game ahead and the coaches and selectors have sorted out the key position malaise that has confronted the team since Weideman and Ben Brown became available after the Richmond game.

For the first time since then, both are out and Jack Viney’s back so the team’s structure is back close to where it was at it’s best. That’s why I’m tipping the Demons to win. I expect them to just get over the line - by 4 points in a heart stopper.

THE GAME

Essendon v Melbourne at the MCG Saturday, 26 June, 2021 at 7.25pm.

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Essendon 130 wins Melbourne 84 wins 2 draws

At the MCG Essendon 0 wins Melbourne wins

The last five meetings Essendon 2 wins Melbourne 3 wins

The Coaches Rutten 0 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

Melbourne 10.8.68 defeated Essendon 7.7.49 at Metricon Stadium, Round 18, 2020

The Bombers were down and out and bid farewell to their coach with substantially less enthusiasm than Collingwood did Nathan Buckley. The Demons were still a chance to make the finals and a big win could have been helpful but they simply coasted along in the last having set up their win in the first three quarters.

THE TEAMS

ESSENDON

B: J. Laverde 15 J. Stewart 17 J. Ridley 14

HB: N. Hind 19 M. Redman 27 D. Heppell 21

C: K. Langford 4 Z. Merrett 7 M. Guelfi 35

HF: A. Perkins 16 H. Jones 23 D. Smith 5

F: J. Stringer 25 C. Hooker 26 A. McDonald-Tipungwuti 43

Foll: S. Draper 2 D. Parish 3 B. Ham 33

I/C: N. Cox 13 A. Waterman 45 P. Wright 20 B. Zerk-Thatcher 30

Sub: D. Zaharakis 11 Emerg: T. Cutler 12 S. Durham 42 A. Phillips 34 

In: A. Waterman D. Zaharakis

Out: T. Cutler (omitted) N. Cahill (omitted)

MELBOURNE

B: J. Hunt 29 S. May 1 J. Lever 8

HB: M. Hibberd 14 H. Petty 35 C. Salem 3

C: J. Jordon 23 J. Viney 7 E. Langdon 15

HF: K. Pickett 36 B. Fritsch 31 T. Sparrow 32

F: A. Neal-Bullen 30 T. McDonald 25 C. Spargo 9

Foll: M. Gawn 11 C. Oliver 13 C. Petracca 5

I/C: A. Brayshaw 10 J. Harmes 4 L. Jackson 6 T. Rivers 24

Sub: N. Jones 2 Emerg: B. Brown 50 K. Chandler 37 N. Jetta 39 

In: N. Jones J. Viney

Out: K. Chandler S. Weideman (omitted)

Round 15: Injury List

Jack Viney (toe) —  Available

Bailey Laurie (eye socket) — Available

Deakyn Smith (ankle) — Available

Joel Smith (knee) — Available

Marty Hore (knee) — 8 to 10 Weeks

Aaron Nietschke (knee) — Season

Adam Tomlinson (knee) — Season

EVERYTHING THAT COUNTS - PART 2 by SAM THE STATS MAN

I can’t believe that it was less than two months ago that I was celebrating what I thought was the end of curve lowering, rolling 14 day averages, curfews, masks, isolation and loneliness, 5km travel restrictions and lockdowns. Little did I know that just around the corner lurked a 7 day “circuit breaker” that would bring a seemingly never ending series of restrictions that made little logic or sense but which, I was assured would save our bacon.

I’m still waiting for the statistical proof of that opinion to substantiate the lockdown and closure of the economy. So far, nobody has died since the new measures came into vogue (apart from the poor soul who succumbed to blood clots from an Astra Zeneca shot) although a few are in hospital for precautionary reasons.

The effect of all of this on the football has been staggering. The Demons have lost millions, their season disrupted by the need to travel and play at different interstate venues - they certainly didn’t look comfortable on the small SCG ground.

And pity the blokes playing down at Casey and trying to stake a claim to a team destined for the finals. By the time they hit the ground at Casey Fields on Sunday, it will be five weeks since their last game which was a game delayed because of earlier Covid19 issues involving the Sydney area. It was Ben Brown’s last game and he had a mere four touches and no goals that day.

Meanwhile, I continue to compile my statistical appendix and after running the data through my computer, I still have no idea as to what will happen next.

1. Steven May MFC games 12, goals 0

2. Nathan Jones MFC games 7, goals 2, CD game 1, goal 1

3. Christian Salem MFC games 12, goals 1

4. James Harmes MFC games 7, goals 4, CD games 1, goals 2

5. Christian Petracca MFC games 13, goals 14

6. Luke Jackson MFC games 12, goals 6

7. Jack Viney MFC games 5, goals 2

8. Jake Lever MFC games 13, goals 0

9. Charlie Spargo MFC games 13, goals 6

10. Angus Brayshaw MFC games 13, goals 1

11. Max Gawn MFC games 13,  goals 8

12. Toby Bedford CD games 5, goals 6

13. Clayton Oliver MFC games 13, goals 5

14. Michael Hibberd MFC games 9, goals 0

15. Ed Langdon MFC games 12, goals 10

16. Bailey Laurie

17. Jake Bowey CD games 5, goals 0

18. Jake Melksham MFC games 10, goals 5

19. Fraser Rosman CD games 5, goals 3

20. Adam Tomlinson MFC games 7, goals 0

21. Marty Hore

22. Aaron Vandenberg CD games 1, goal 1

23. James Jordan ® MFC games 8, goals 2

24. Trent Rivers MFC games 13, goal 1

25. Tom McDonald MFC games 13, goals 23

26. Sam Weideman MFC games 5, goals 3, CD games 3, goals 14

27. Aaron Nietschke ®

28. Majak Daw ® CD games 5, goal 1

29. Jayden Hunt MFC games 13, goal 1

30. Alex Neal-Bullen MFC games 13, goals 9

31. Bayley Fritsch MFC games 12, goals 28

32. Tom Sparrow MFC games 9, goals 2, CD games 4, goals 0

33. Oskar Baker MFC games 3, goals 0, CD games 3, goal 1

34. Deakyn Smith ® CD games 4, goals 0

35. Harrison Petty MFC games 7, goals 0, CD games 1, goals 0

36. Kysaiah Pickett MFC games 13, goals 20

37. Kade Chandler ® MFC games 5, goals 0, CD games 3, goals 5

38. Mitch Brown MFC games 1, goals 2, CD games 2, goals 6

39. Neville Jetta MFC games 5, goals 0, CD games 4, goals 0

40. Kye Declase

41. Jay Lockhart CD games 3, goals 0

42. Daniel Turner

44. Joel Smith CD games 1, goals 0

46. Austin Bradtke ® CD games 5, goal 1

50. Ben Brown MFC games 3, goals 5, CD games 3, goals 7

PreviewRd152021.png

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