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FRESH AS DAISIES by Whispering Jack


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Melbourne’s playing list is set to kick off the 2023 season with their minds and bodies in a much different space to where they were at the end of last season. There might not be much in terms of exposed form in these times of abbreviated preseason match play but there is compelling evidence to suggest the Demons are as fresh as daisies and in pumping form as the curtain rises on the new season.

The reports from the training track going all the way back to the players’ return in November through to the match sim vs St Kilda and the practice match vs Richmond indicate a keen and relatively healthy list with some fresh players of quality recruited to add greater depth to a team that was already strong in every facet of the game.

Collectively they appear to be over the condition that saw them start strongly and then fade badly as games worn on. Symptomatic of that condition was the fact that the club plummeted from number 3 in pressure rating in the competition to number 16. The way they’re looking at the moment, this trend has swung again. The players are refreshed, full of run and have restored the element of resilience to their playbook.

The addition of quality personnel since their last encounter produced a 10 point Bulldogs victory at Marvel Stadium in late July is significant. The Demons went into that game missing both regular key forwards in Ben Brown and Tom McDonald, key intercept defender Jake Lever was a late withdrawal and Clayton Oliver was back but still nursing his injured thumb (he magnificent with one hand but how good would he have been with two).

That quartet should all be back fighting fit on Saturday night, joined by dual All-Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy and former Bulldog star Lachie Hunter on the wing. This represents a massive infusion of talent across all parts of the ground.

If you subscribe to the view that Melbourne’s Achilles Heel in the second half of last season was it’s forward line and in particular, the team’s inability to connect with the players deep in attack, then it would be abundantly clear that the inclusion of the two fit key forwards in Brown and McDonald is a game changer.

Even when he was playing last year, Brown struggled to have an impact and his productivity levels were low. By all accounts, the formerly shaggy haired but now baldish Demon giant Brown has been one of the outstanding competitors on the training track and while he was overshadowed by the Gawn/Grundy goal kicking combo last week he looks poised to return to his late 2021 status on the forward line.

McDonald’s return will help even more because of the crucial role he plays in creating pressure on opposing backmen. His influence can be seen by these graphics which compare Melbourne’s productivity in second halves with and without him in 2022:-


The inclusion of the two recruits in Grundy and Hunter, from Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs respectively, will simply serve to further improve the effectiveness of Melbourne’s forward set up — ruckman Grundy in terms of getting the ball to the team’s magical midfield and wingman Hunter with his superb ball use in servicing the Demon forwards. The practice matches have already proved that the new ruck set up will also ensure more goals with the two tall resting targets.

The Western Bulldogs are no slouches — they won last week’s practice match by an impressive margin, albeit against a young side expected to struggle again in 2023. They have an impressive midfield led by Bontempelli, McCrae, Treloar and Liberatore, lots of tall forwards and a seemingly improved defence with Liam Jones back after a stint with the Blues.

The fact remains however, that Melbourne’s midfield is irresistible even without Jack Viney, the defence is far stronger than that of the Doggies who also have a lot of tall timber up forward. The loss of Steven May is a blow but the list is deep and while he will be missed, the Bulldogs’ concentration on height might be offset by the ground level run of the fitter, faster and fresher Demons. Compounding this is the fact that the Bulldogs are going into the game a touch underdone as they missed out on the opportunity to play another club in match sim week and, with respect to the Kangaroos, their practice match did little to prepare them for a high pressure game against a premiership contender. 

Melbourne to win by 19 points.


Melbourne v Western Bulldogs at The MCG Saturday 18 March 2023 at 7.25 pm 


Overall Melbourne 90 wins Western Bulldogs 79 wins 1 draw
At The MCG Melbourne 47 wins Western Bulldogs 29 wins
Last Five Meetings Melbourne 3 wins Western Bulldogs 2 wins
The Coaches Goodwin 6 wins Beveridge 4wins


Western Bulldogs 17.8.110 defeated Melbourne 15.10.100 at Marvel Stadium in Round 19, 2022

This was another one of those games where the Demons ran out of steam in the end after a good start. The Bulldogs were aided by their greater accuracy, a rampant Marcus Bontempelli and a breakout game from Jamara Ugle-Hagan who booted five goals.



B H. Petty J. Lever J. McVee 
HB J. Harmes A. Tomlinson J. Bowey 
C L. Hunter C. Oliver E. Langdon
HF K. Chandler B. Brown C. Spargo
F K. Pickett B. Grundy A. Neal-Bullen 
FOLL M. Gawn T. Sparrow C. Petracca
I/C A. Brayshaw B. Laurie T. McDonald T. Rivers SUB J. Melksham EMG M. Hibberd J. Jordon J. Van Rooyen

New faces Brodie Grundy (Collingwood) Lachie Hunter (Western Bulldogs) Bailey Laurie (Oakleigh Chargers) Judd McVee (East Fremantle)


B T. Duryea L. Jones C. Daniel 
HB B. Dale A. Keath E. Richards
C B. Williams M. Bontempelli J. Macrae 
HF B. Smith A. Naughton J. Ugle-Hagan 
F A. Scott S. Darcy R. Lobb
FOLL T. English T. Liberatore A. Treloar
I/C O. Baker J. Bruce M. Hannan J. Johannisen SUB T. McLean EMG H. Crozier B. Khamis J. Sweet 

New faces Oskar Baker (Melbourne) Liam Jones (Carlton) Rory Lobb (Fremantle)

Injury List: Round 1

Steven May - Calf | Test
Bayley Fritsch - Foot | 1 - 2 Weeks
Christian Salem - Thyroid | 1 - 2 Weeks
Jack Viney - Knee  | 1 - 2 Weeks 


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Probably I will not sleep Friday night, the past 2 1/2 years, win loss is in our favour, we should win going away, I want to see that.   Go Dees

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