When I was asked to preview this game, I wasn’t sure whether it was going to be played in Darwin, on the Gold Coast or the MCG. I had no idea as to the identity of Melbourne’s opponent. This would have made for one hell of an interesting match preview so I’m glad that the AFL managed to reorganize its fixture to enable a game … any game at all … to proceed in Round 19.
We’ll worry about the Gold Coast Suns or whoever they put us up against when the weekend’s done and dusted and if and when the Delta strain decides to move to a state or territory where there are no football teams left.
Actually, I was scared suitcaseless about the prospect of taking on the 14th placed Gold Coast at the weekend. The way the Dees are going against such lowly sides at the moment, it would have been an absolute disaster facing up to the Suns so it seems that we’ve dodged a bullet for the moment at least. As coach Simon Goodwin said it all this week, “these are the type of games we look forward to as a football club”. Goodwin is satisfied that the players are doing the right things when they haven’t got the footy while most observers are worried about some of the things they’re doing when they have it. Still, a match up against the competition’s second placed club is the perfect recipe to soothe our jangled nerves along with our collective anxiety about surviving the ordeal of facing up to bottom six teams with hopeless records against all other comers.
Compared to the above, the Western Bulldogs should be easy pickings for the Demons. They succumbed to Melbourne’s high pressure game a matter of only seven weeks ago in front of an empty Marvel Stadium and the only thing different this week will be that the empty ground will be the Demons’ own home, the G.
The other familiar thing will be the team Melbourne assembles for Saturday night’s game assuming that none of the boys have recently wandered into a Tier One site. The club has been truly blessed on the injury front this year and I only hope that in saying so, I’m not jinxing the team.
This should be an enthralling match up between clubs with premiership aspirations that would be further bolstered enormously by victory here. Both have powerful midfields with Melbourne’s rucks giving them a very slight edge. The Doggies’ strength is also up forward while the Dees’ backmen has been an absolute treat this year.
If there is a criticism of that defence, it’s the fact that when that wall is penetrated, opposition forward lines score goals regularly and rarely miss. At the 10 minute mark of last week’s opening term, the Hawks sat on a score of 1.2.8. They kicked eight goals in a row from that point until time on in the third quarter when it stood at 9.2.56, a major factor in their comeback to eventually tie up the game in the end. Barring the fiasco on the small SCG against Collingwood, the team has dropped premiership points in games when they’ve had the greater number of scoring shots at goal. It’s a trend that bodes no good unless it can be dealt with sooner rather than later.
On that score, I’m relying on the law of averages to start working in Melbourne’s favour this week. The Bulldogs will miss the easy shots at goal while the Demons will snag enough that just sneak through. All of this for the simple reason that the opposition is a fellow member of the top eight. The worm will turn again and Melbourne will win by 15 points.
Western Bulldogs v Melbourne at the MCG, Saturday, 24 July, 2021 at 7.25pm
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall Melbourne 89 wins 1 draw Western Bulldogs 77 wins
At the MCG Melbourne 46 wins Western Bulldogs 28
Last Five Meetings Melbourne 3 wins Western Bulldogs 2 wins
The Coaches Goodwin 4 wins Beveridge 2 wins
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THE LAST TIME THEY MET
Melbourne 13.9.87 defeated Western Bulldogs 8.11.59 at Marvel Stadium in Round 13, 2021
It was the club’s best performance for the year. From the first bounce, it was clear that the Demons were on and they dominated the Bulldogs despite the fact that their stars in Bontempelli and Macrae managed to rack up at least 30 possessions. Max Gawn and Luke Jackson won in the ruck contests and around the ground.
B: C. Salem 3 S. May 1 H. Petty 35
HB: M. Hibberd 14 J. Lever 8 T. Rivers 24
C: J. Jordon 23 C. Petracca 5 E. Langdon 15
HF: B. Fritsch 31 T. McDonald 25 A. Neal-Bullen 30
F: C. Spargo 9 B. Brown 50 K. Pickett 36
Foll: M. Gawn 11 C. Oliver 13 J. Viney 7
I/C: A. Brayshaw 10 J. Harmes 4 J. Hunt 29 L. Jackson 6
Emerg: T. Bedford 12 J. Smith 44 T. Sparrow 32 S. Weideman 26
In: J. Harmes
Out: A. vandenBerg
B: E. Richards 20 A. Keath 42 B. Williams 34
HB: T. Duryea 15 Z. Cordy 12 B. Dale 31
C: J. Macrae 11 B. Smith 6 C. Daniel 35
HF: R. Garcia 38 A. Naughton 33 C. Weightman 19
F: J. Ugle-Hagan J. Bruce 17 L. Hunter 7
Foll: T. English 44 T. Liberatore 21. M. Bontempelli 4
I/C: M. Hannan 29 J. Johannisen 39 J. Schache 13 R. Smith 37
Emerg: H. Crozier 9 L. McNeil 30 A. Scott 28 L. Young 2
In: M.Hannan T.Liberatore J.Schache
Out: H.Crozier (omitted) J. Dunkley (isolating) L.McNeil (omitted)
Injury List: Round 19
Nathan Jones (calf) — Test
Mitch Brown (heel) — 2 to 3 Weeks
Bailey Laurie (shoulder) — 2 to 3 Weeks
Marty Hore (knee) — 6 to 7 Weeks
Aaron Nietschke (knee) — Season
Adam Tomlinson (knee) — Season