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THE HUNGER GAME by Whispering Jack


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The game may well have taken place a day short of ten weeks ago but the atmospherics surrounding Friday night’s match between Melbourne (then Narrm) and Fremantle are light years apart from those that prevailed when the teams last faced off the MCG in late autumn. On one hand, the Demons were in the midst of a 17 game winning spree that included a drought breaking premiership victory. On the other, the Dockers were coming off a six goal thrashing at Optus Stadium in teeming rain against a then struggling Collingwood (the winning margin wasn’t even close!). Narrm was considered a shoo in especially when the team was coasting with a lead of five goals in the shadows of half time.
 
Something must have occurred that upset the gods because they capitulated in the second half in a way not seen from the club for well over a year. Of course, it didn’t help to lose Steven May early and for Harry Petty to be off the ground injured for a significant period of time or that Christian Petracca wasn’t himself but the loss of key position strength both immediately before and during games and climactic late fade outs have been a pattern that has persisted ever since, leaving the Demons floundering and facing a possible fall from the top four as the final series approaches.
 
The outcome of this week’s game will depend very much on which Melbourne turns up for the game.
 
Will it be the team that dominated the first half at the MCG ten weeks ago or the one that’s faded in so many of its games ever since?
 
I’m mindful of the fact that this is Round 20 which is the very same round that proved to be the start of the club’s 17 game winning streak and I’m also mindful of the fact that a repeat of the in-game injury disasters of the horror stretch between Rounds 11 and 13 are unlikely, but I have some doubts.
 
Have the others worked the Demons out?
 
Can the tagging tactics employed against their midfield prevail?
 
Will they run out off puff at the end of the game?
 
Will the forward pressure that was such a force in blanketing opposition sides during the streak magically return?
 
Will the football gods give us a break?
 
What makes me a skeptic is the club’s conservative mindset that hasn’t seen any innovations to arrest the slide or change the pattern that we’re seeing. No new blood introduced to add a keen edge to a team that once defended every inch of ground with a pressure game that caused teams like the Bulldogs and the Cats to fold like a bad card hand. And the fact that we didn’t see a single tackle in the forward fifty suggests that the hunger that sustained the club for so long has been lost on the current team. That’s what makes this one the “hunger” game for the club.
 
I haven’t seen much evidence of hunger from the team for at least a month since they played the Brisbane Lions. I’m tipping Melbourne but only because I didn’t see much hunger from the Dockers last week either as they did just about everything they could to lose to Richmond.
 
The Dees are on their last chance to rediscover the taste for victory and I think that the bashing they received from media and fans after the fade out against the Bulldogs and the positive side of Angus Brayshaw’s re-signing for 6 years might be just the thing they need to get them through.
 
Melbourne by 1 point.
 
THE GAME
 
Fremantle v Melbourne on Friday 29 July 2022 at 8.10pm.
 
HEAD TO HEAD
 
Overall Fremantle 24 wins Melbourne 17 wins
At Optus Stadium Fremantle 0 wins Melbourne 0 wins
Last five meetings Fremantle 2 wins Melbourne 3 wins
The Coaches Longmuir 2 wins Goodwin 1 win
 
MEDIA
TV live and on demand on Kayo and live on Foxtel
Radio - check your local guides
 
LAST TIME THEY MET
 
Fremantle 14.10.94 defeated Narrm 7.14.56 at The MCG, Round 11, 2022
 
The Demons were bashed up badly in the second half when their defensive structure fell apart. Players were injured and sick and too much was left to too few.
 
THE TEAMS
 
MELBOURNE

B: J.Lever 8 H.Petty 35 T.Sparrow 32
HB: A.Neal-Bullen 30 S.May 1 M.Hibberd 14
C: A.Brayshaw 10 C.Oliver 13 E.Langdon 15
HF: C.Salem 3 K.Pickett 36 B.Fritsch 31
F: C.Spargo 9 S.Weideman 26 L.Jackson 6
Foll: M.Gawn 11 C.Petracca J.Viney 7
I/C: J.Hunt 29 J. Jordon 23 J. Melksham 18 T. Rivers 24
Sub: K.Chandler 37 Emerg: L.Dunstan 27 A. Tomlinson 20 J.Van Rooyen 21

In: K.Chandler J.Hunt J.Lever 

Out: T.Bedford (managed) J.Harmes (concussion) A.Tomlinson (omitted)

FREMANTLE 

B: Heath Chapman 27 B.Cox 36 J.Aish 11
HB: H.Young 26 A.Pearce 25 L.Ryan 13
C: J.Clark 6 A.Brayshaw 8 B.Acres 9
HF: L.Schultz 5 R.Lobb 37 L.Henry 23
F: M.Frederick 32 M.Taberner 20 M.Walters 10
Foll: S.Darcy 4 W.Brodie 17 C.Serong 3
I/C: G.Logue 2 T.Colyer 33 D.Mundy 16 B.Walker 31
Sub: B.Banfield 41 Emerg: M.Crowden 12 L.Meek 22 N.Wilson 14

In: R.Lobb

Out: N.Fyfe (hamstring)

Injury List: Round 20
 
Jake Lever - Shoulder | Available 
Joel Smith - Ankle | Available
Ben Brown - Knee | 1 Week
Deakyn Smith - Jaw | 1 Week
Fraser Rosman - Hamstring | 4-6 Weeks
Tom McDonald - Foot | 6-7 Weeks
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