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The AFL served up an interesting fixture for the Melbourne Football Club this year with a tough opening trio of games against teams that won their last up meetings. True, we’re supposed to take things one week at a time, but it’s useful to look at this three match bloc of matches as a launching pad for the season ahead.

 

Thanks to a masterful display in Round 1 against the Western Bulldogs, it’s one down and two to go in terms of the three game opening sequence. In the words of one media scribe, “the Demons can now seek revenge for their September defeats to Brisbane and Sydney in the next fortnight.” However, it’s not really about seeking revenge at this stage of the season — the call to emotions can wait until much later, if at all. For the moment, it’s about being switched on and about building and moving forward to set up the season.

 

Melbourne did exactly that in both 2021 and 2022 when it won the first nine and ten matches respectively but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The task this week is to beat the Brisbane Lions on their home turf which is something that very few teams other than Melbourne have been able to accomplish in recent seasons.

 

This time, Brisbane is coming off a humiliating loss against Port Adelaide and facing a potentially disastrous 0-2 start for the year. They were atrocious against the Power in Adelaide after coming into the season as one of the flag favourites having recruited strongly gaining Dunkley, Gunston and highly rated leading draft selection Will Ashcroft. But the Demons must be wary because it wasn’t all that long ago that the Lions turned the tables on them in a semi final soon after putting in a pitiful display against them in last year’s final home and away round.

 

And there’s no reason to be complacent because Melbourne goes into this match without Kozzie Pickett who starred in his new role that allowed him to play extended time in the midfield while also causing havoc when resting forward. Pickett was rightly described as the momentum swinger last week. That attack on Bailey Smith which put him on his backside offended the bounds of legal tackling and earned him a two week holiday but it paved the way for five unanswered goals, restored the lead and left the Bulldogs shell shocked for the remainder of the game. I’m not condoning the action, nor am I detracting from the efforts of Max Gawn, Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver and Jake Lever in the eventual 50-point smashing of the Dogs. Just saying that Kozzie was the catalyst and the game changer.

 

Someone else will have to come in and fill the hole left by Kozzie over the coming fortnight - possibly one or more of the four premiership players who were still on the injured list at the weekend but have now been declared as “available” for selection.

 

Jack Viney would be a handy replacement to ensure the Lions players are on their toes. He is just the man to emulate Kozzie’s seven tackles inside 50 and eight altogether. And Bayley Fritsch would be handy in covering the yawning great hole of four missing goals due to Kozzie’s absence.

 

Melbourne’s defence held up well last week with Adam Tomlinson playing a steady role reminiscent of two years ago before he suffered his ACL injury. The question is how to fit one of the competition’s top key defenders in Steven May into the mix.

 

While the mantra at the club has always been an emphasis on strong team defence, a feature of the preseason and the opening round has been defending territory up near goals. They held sway by 21 to nine inside 50 tackles and took 17 to seven inside 50 marks last week. That means a determined effort to cover one of last year’s weaknesses and to improve the team’s performance in front of the goals.

 

Which brings us back to the home side. Surely, they will be determined to serve up better than last week’s insipid performance in front of their home crowd? Are they capable of rising up to perform at their best against one of the hottest outfits in the competition? The evidence suggests that it won’t be easy for them because the irrepressible Demons are too switched on for the Lions at this early stage of the journey.

 

Melbourne to win by 35 points.

 

THE GAME

 

Brisbane Lions v Melbourne at Gabba, Friday 24 March, 2023 at 7.50pm

 

HEAD TO HEAD *

 

Overall: Brisbane Lions 23 wins Melbourne 29 wins 

At The Gabba Brisbane 14 wins, Melbourne 9 wins    

Last Five Meetings: Brisbane Lions 1 win Melbourne 4 wins 

The Coaches: Fagan 3 wins Goodwin 7 wins

 

* does not include Brisbane Bears or Fitzroy games

 

LAST TIME THEY MET

 

Brisbane Lions 14.8.92 defeated Melbourne 11.13.79 at The MCG, First Semi Final, 2022

 

Melbourne played out many of their games in the latter half of season 2022. They took an early lead in the first semi final and looked far the better of the two sides when they led by 21 points at the main break. But after that, the banged up followed an all too familiar pattern. The Lions reeled the tiring Demons in to level things up by three quarter time and continued their dominance to run out 13 point winners. Season over.

 

THE TEAMS 

 

BRISBANE LIONS 

 

B B. Starcevich J. Payne D. Rich 

HB C. McKenna H. Andrews D. Zorko 

C W. Ashcroft Z. Bailey J. Berry 

HF C. Cameron J. Gunston H. McCluggage

F C. Rayner J. Daniher E. Hipwood 

FOLL O. McInerney J. Dunkley L. Neale 

I/C D. Fort D. Joyce L. McCarthy D. Wilmot SUB D. Robertson

EMG T. Fullarton J. Prior J. Tunstill

 

IN D. Fort D. Joyce D. Zorko

 

OUT  K. Coleman (hamstring) J. Prior (omitted) J. Tunstill (omitted)

 

MELBOURNE

 

B T. Rivers A. Tomlinson J. Bowey

HB J. Lever H. Petty J. Harmes

C A. Brayshaw C.Oliver E. Langdon

HF A. Neal-Bullen T. McDonald J. Viney

F B. Fritsch M. Gawn C. Spargo

FOLL B. Grundy L. Hunter C. Petracca

I/C B. Brown K. Chandler T. Sparrow J. McVee SUB J. Melksham EMG J. Jordon J. Smith

IN Fritsch Viney

OUT B. Laurie (omitted) K. Pickett (suspended)

Injury List: Round 2

 

Bailey Fritsch - Foot |Available 

Steven May Calf | Available 

Christian Salem - Thyroid | Available 
Jack Viney - Knee | Available 
Kysaiah Pickett - Suspended | 2 Weeks

Taj Woewodin - Finger  | 6 Weeks 

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      PLAYER INJURY LENGTH
    Shane McAdam Hamstring 1-2 Weeks
    Marty Hore Thumb 1-2 Weeks
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