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RISING TO PHOENIX by William from West Perth



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On Sunday, when the Melbourne Football Club returns to the scene of the club’s most famous victory of the 21st Century, the feeling out there on the ground will most certainly be different. The dying moments of the night of 25 September, 2021 at Optus Stadium marked a team rising to the level of a Phoenix, bathing in the cheers and adulation from an adoring crowd in the wake of their premiership victory after so many years of hardship and desolation.

This time around they can expect a mainly hostile crowd indignant with their own team as it wallows in mediocrity at the very depths of the AFL table. What else can you expect from the reigning premiers who have gone more than a third of the way into the season undefeated taking on the competition’s biggest loser? Adding to the home crowd’s discontent at the shambolic nature of their own club as the pandemic runs riot across the State will be the fact that their cross-town rival, Fremantle, is among the most likely challenger to the Demons in their quest for back-to-back flags.

When the teams last met at Optus Stadium in August last year, the State was free of Covid and had a booming economy. Folk from the other side of the border weren’t particularly welcome and the Eagles were still contenders for the finals. They managed to turn on a night time light show that interrupted an almost certain runaway Demon victory into a near upset defeat but today they’re in disarray with pandemic protocols, injuries, loss of form, discipline issues and heavy defeats turning coach Adam Simpson’s life into one long nightmare.

The Eagles are already in such dire straits that they’ve been forced into resting key players as they look towards the last half of the season with an eye to rebuilding for the future and contemplating the end of season drafting and trading.

By way of contrast, the Demons have a healthy list that just overcame a batch of Covid19 cases and are buoyed by the fact that captain Max Gawn and key defender Jake Lever were cleared of injury concerns and available to make the trip to Perth to tackle the Eagles. For Melbourne, it has the luxury of considering resting such players because of the depth of its playing list rather than the fear of a bleak future that West Coast faces when it sits at the selection table.

Nothing stated here guarantees the Demons of victory in their away game against an opponent seemingly on its knees. Complacency and overconfidence can easily turn victory in defeat as we saw in the last round with a few form reversals and upset results but it’s hard to imagine a greater upset result than the bottom team rising Phoenix-like from the ashes to end Melbourne’s 15 game winning streak that was already in train when it beat a much healthier West Coast on the same ground so many months ago.  

Melbourne to win by a lot.

THE GAME

West Coast v Melbourne at Optus Stadium Sunday 15 May, 2022 at 5.20pm.

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall West Coast 37 wins Melbourne 18 wins

At Optus Stadium West Coast 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins

Past five meetings West Coast 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins

The Coaches Simpson 4 wins Goodwin 2 wins

MEDIA

TV - live and on demand on Kayo and live on Foxtel & Ch7. Check your local guides for details.

Radio - check your local guides

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Melbourne 10.12.72 defeated West Coast 9.9.63 Eagles at Optus Stadium in Round 21, 2021

The scene at Optus Stadium six or seven minutes into the final term of this contest resembled the opening of Shakespeare’s Macbeth — lots of thunder, lightning and rain. The game was stopped for half an hour and when it resumed, the Demons who were previously heading for a big victory, almost lost it. Since then, they enjoyed a couple more emphatic victories at the right time of the season.

THE TEAMS

WEST COAST EAGLES 

B: J.Rotham 35 T.Barrass 37 J.Nelson 30
HB: J.Jones 31 J.McGovern 20 A.Witherden 23
C: G.Clark 39 T.Kelly 11 L.Duggan 14
HF: J.Cripps 15 J.Darling 27 S.Petrevski-Seton 10
F: C.Jamieson 40 H.Dixon 41 L.Ryan 1
Foll: B.Williams 32 C.West 11 J.Redden 8
I/C: H.Edwards 42 L.Foley 29 J.Waterman 2 I.Winder 22
Sub: P.Naish 28 Emerg: T.Blechynden 58 S.Fisher  29

In: G.Clark H.Dixon J.Nelson B.Williams A.Witherden

Out: J.Florenca (omitted) A.Gaff (calf) S.Hurn (quad) J.Kennedy (knee soreness) D.Mountford (omitted) 

MELBOURNE

B: J.Bowey 17 H.Petty 35 J. Hunt 29
HB: J.Lever 8 S.May 1 T.Rivers 24
C: A.Brayshaw 10 C.Petracca 5  E.Langdon 15
HF: C.Spargo 9 T.McDonald 25 J.Viney 7
F: B.Fritsch 31 B.Brown 50 T.Sparrow 32 
Foll: M.Gawn 11 C.Oliver 13 A.Neal-Bullen 30 
I/C: J.Harmes 4 J.Jordon 23 L.Jackson 6 K.Pickett 36     
Sub: K.Chandler 37 Emerg: M.Brown 38 J.Melksham 18 A.Tomlinson 20

In: K.Chandler

Out: T. Bedford (omitted)

Injury List: Round 9

Max Gawn - Knee | Available
Jake Lever - Quad | Available
Taj Woewodin - Concussion | Available
Andy Moniz-Wakefield - Concussion | 1-2 Weeks
Michael Hibberd - Calf | TBC
Christian Salem - Knee | 1-2 Weeks
Joel Smith - Ankle | 8-9 Weeks
Blake Howes - Foot | 10-11 weeks

ANALYSE THIS by SAM THE STATS MAN

Its eight weeks into the season and the Demons’ list is looking as fit and strong as it was twelve months ago. There are a number of players who have taken part in all eight games and it would have been a far greater number but for the Covid19 scare of a few weeks ago. That’s a sign of stability and strength that doesn’t require any genius in the field of statistics, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

1. Steven May MFC games 8, goals 0
3. Christian Salem MFC game 1, goals 0
4. James Harmes MFC games 8, goals 8
5. Christian Petracca MFC games 8, goals 7
6. Luke Jackson MFC games 7, goals 5
7. Jack Viney MFC games 7, goals 5
8. Jake Lever MFC games 4 goals 0
9. Charlie Spargo MFC games 8, goals 4
10. Angus Brayshaw MFC games 8, goals 1
11. Max Gawn MFC games 8, goals 7
12. Toby Bedford MFC games 8, goals 2, CD games 4, goals 6
13. Clayton Oliver MFC games 8, goals 1
14. Michael Hibberd
15. Ed Langdon MFC games 8, goals 4
16. Bailey Laurie CD games 6, goals 6
17. Jake Bowey MFC games 8, goals 2
18. Jake Melksham MFC games 1, goals 0, CD games 5, goals 2
19. Fraser Rosman CD games 7 goals 0
20. Adam Tomlinson MFC games 4, goals 0, CD games 4, goals 0
21. Jacob Van Rooyen CD games 6, goals 9
22. Blake Howes CD games 3, goals 2
23. James Jordan MFC games 8, goals 1
24. Trent Rivers games 7, goals 1
25. Tom McDonald MFC games 7, goals 8, CD games 1, goals 3
26. Sam Weideman MFC games 5, goals 9, CD games 2, goals 2
27. Luke Dunstan MFC games 2, goals 0, CD games 5, goals 4
28. Majak Daw ® CD games 6, goals 3
29. Jayden Hunt MFC games 8, goals 0
30. Alex Neal-Bullen MFC games 7, goals 1
31. Bayley Fritsch MFC games 8, goals 16
32. Tom Sparrow MFC games 7, goals 1
33. Oskar Baker CD games 7, goals 0
34. Deakyn Smith ® CD games 7, goals 0
35. Harrison Petty MFC games 3, goals 0, CD games 1, goals 0 
36. Kysaiah Pickett MFC games 7, goals 9
37. Kade Chandler ® MFC games 1, goals 0, CD games 7, goals 10
38. Mitch Brown ® CD games 6, goals 17
40. Taj Woewodin CD games 5, goals 2
41. Judd McVee ® CD games 7, goals 0
42. Daniel Turner ® CD games 1, goals 0
44. Joel Smith MFC games 5, goals 0, CD games 1, goals 0
45. Andy Moniz-Wakefield ® CD games 7, goals 5
50. Ben Brown MFC games 5, goals 13, CD games 1, goals 2

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