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  1. The Demons return to the MCG on Saturday night (albeit for an away game) for the first time since mid-May when they beat the Blues. At the time, they were riding high, undefeated and celebrated by the football world. In the interim, they lost to two teams that occupy the bottom six, beaten two top four teams in front of empty or near empty stadiums and somehow fallen out of sight in the AFL bubble despite retaining top of the table status. And in a strange twist, the mantle of the league’s glamour team has been snatched away from them by this week’s opponent, the 10th placed Essendon which this week was dubbed “the most watchable team in the competition”. However, it says something about the way the football news cycle operates that it achieved this title after narrowly escaping defeat at the hands of an inaccurate Hawthorn that occupies a position second from last on the table and has recorded only one victory since Anzac Day. The Bombers’ other recent claim to fame was a victory out west to an emaciated Eagles outfit, bereft of many of its stars. Still, they’re riding high on the charts, Darcy Parish is in Brownlow consideration, Jake Stringer is enjoying superstar status winning clearance numbers and kicking goals, they’ve re-signed Zach Merrett to a long term deal, skipper Dyson Heppell has returned to life and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti is as dangerous as ever in front of goals. They have a bevy of youngsters snapping up rising star nominations and importantly, a ruckman in Sam Draper back, fit and capable of winning his fair share of hit outs and clearances. We last saw the Melbourne team lamenting and looking tired on the SCG, beaten up by a Collingwood team that has been nothing short of disgraceful this year. In their game a fortnight earlier, they were so bad that they were held goalless at half time by Geelong. Against the Pies, Max Gawn struggled in the ruck against a relative newcomer in Max Lynch, the defence was beaten comprehensively in the air by Darcy Cameron and Brody Mihocek and smashed by Jordon De Goey and the resurgent veterans in Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom anxious to give their long serving coach a decent send off. Uncharacteristically for the Demons, they were often caught spectating and their forwards, as a group, contributed almost nothing. Zero goals for the second week in a row from Sam Weideman and a disappointing effort from then father-in-waiting Tom McDonald. So it’s back to the G and barring an increase in Covid19 case numbers or the discovery of an unknown strain of the virus in the sewerage system of a distant country town or a suburban dry cleaners, we should have 25,000 spectators cheering on the teams on Saturday night. Problem is that because it’s an Essendon game, we can expect the preponderance of the crowd to be Bomber fans. This is clearly a danger game for Melbourne which has shown a tendency for producing tepid performances against teams that it should put away easily based on ladder position. It will only happen if the team comes our refreshed and reset for the game ahead and the coaches and selectors have sorted out the key position malaise that has confronted the team since Weideman and Ben Brown became available after the Richmond game. For the first time since then, both are out and Jack Viney’s back so the team’s structure is back close to where it was at it’s best. That’s why I’m tipping the Demons to win. I expect them to just get over the line - by 4 points in a heart stopper. THE GAME Essendon v Melbourne at the MCG Saturday, 26 June, 2021 at 7.25pm. HEAD TO HEAD Overall Essendon 130 wins Melbourne 84 wins 2 draws At the MCG Essendon 0 wins Melbourne wins The last five meetings Essendon 2 wins Melbourne 3 wins The Coaches Rutten 0 wins Goodwin 0 wins MEDIA TV live and on demand on Kayo and live on Foxtel. Check your local guides. Radio - check your local guides. THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 10.8.68 defeated Essendon 7.7.49 at Metricon Stadium, Round 18, 2020 The Bombers were down and out and bid farewell to their coach with substantially less enthusiasm than Collingwood did Nathan Buckley. The Demons were still a chance to make the finals and a big win could have been helpful but they simply coasted along in the last having set up their win in the first three quarters. THE TEAMS ESSENDON B: J. Laverde 15 J. Stewart 17 J. Ridley 14 HB: N. Hind 19 M. Redman 27 D. Heppell 21 C: K. Langford 4 Z. Merrett 7 M. Guelfi 35 HF: A. Perkins 16 H. Jones 23 D. Smith 5 F: J. Stringer 25 C. Hooker 26 A. McDonald-Tipungwuti 43 Foll: S. Draper 2 D. Parish 3 B. Ham 33 I/C: N. Cox 13 A. Waterman 45 P. Wright 20 B. Zerk-Thatcher 30 Sub: D. Zaharakis 11 Emerg: T. Cutler 12 S. Durham 42 A. Phillips 34 In: A. Waterman D. Zaharakis Out: T. Cutler (omitted) N. Cahill (omitted) MELBOURNE B: J. Hunt 29 S. May 1 J. Lever 8 HB: M. Hibberd 14 H. Petty 35 C. Salem 3 C: J. Jordon 23 J. Viney 7 E. Langdon 15 HF: K. Pickett 36 B. Fritsch 31 T. Sparrow 32 F: A. Neal-Bullen 30 T. McDonald 25 C. Spargo 9 Foll: M. Gawn 11 C. Oliver 13 C. Petracca 5 I/C: A. Brayshaw 10 J. Harmes 4 L. Jackson 6 T. Rivers 24 Sub: N. Jones 2 Emerg: B. Brown 50 K. Chandler 37 N. Jetta 39 In: N. Jones J. Viney Out: K. Chandler S. Weideman (omitted) Round 15: Injury List Jack Viney (toe) — Available Bailey Laurie (eye socket) — Available Deakyn Smith (ankle) — Available Joel Smith (knee) — Available Marty Hore (knee) — 8 to 10 Weeks Aaron Nietschke (knee) — Season Adam Tomlinson (knee) — Season EVERYTHING THAT COUNTS - PART 2 by SAM THE STATS MAN I can’t believe that it was less than two months ago that I was celebrating what I thought was the end of curve lowering, rolling 14 day averages, curfews, masks, isolation and loneliness, 5km travel restrictions and lockdowns. Little did I know that just around the corner lurked a 7 day “circuit breaker” that would bring a seemingly never ending series of restrictions that made little logic or sense but which, I was assured would save our bacon. I’m still waiting for the statistical proof of that opinion to substantiate the lockdown and closure of the economy. So far, nobody has died since the new measures came into vogue (apart from the poor soul who succumbed to blood clots from an Astra Zeneca shot) although a few are in hospital for precautionary reasons. The effect of all of this on the football has been staggering. The Demons have lost millions, their season disrupted by the need to travel and play at different interstate venues - they certainly didn’t look comfortable on the small SCG ground. And pity the blokes playing down at Casey and trying to stake a claim to a team destined for the finals. By the time they hit the ground at Casey Fields on Sunday, it will be five weeks since their last game which was a game delayed because of earlier Covid19 issues involving the Sydney area. It was Ben Brown’s last game and he had a mere four touches and no goals that day. Meanwhile, I continue to compile my statistical appendix and after running the data through my computer, I still have no idea as to what will happen next. 1. Steven May MFC games 12, goals 0 2. Nathan Jones MFC games 7, goals 2, CD game 1, goal 1 3. Christian Salem MFC games 12, goals 1 4. James Harmes MFC games 7, goals 4, CD games 1, goals 2 5. Christian Petracca MFC games 13, goals 14 6. Luke Jackson MFC games 12, goals 6 7. Jack Viney MFC games 5, goals 2 8. Jake Lever MFC games 13, goals 0 9. Charlie Spargo MFC games 13, goals 6 10. Angus Brayshaw MFC games 13, goals 1 11. Max Gawn MFC games 13, goals 8 12. Toby Bedford CD games 5, goals 6 13. Clayton Oliver MFC games 13, goals 5 14. Michael Hibberd MFC games 9, goals 0 15. Ed Langdon MFC games 12, goals 10 16. Bailey Laurie 17. Jake Bowey CD games 5, goals 0 18. Jake Melksham MFC games 10, goals 5 19. Fraser Rosman CD games 5, goals 3 20. Adam Tomlinson MFC games 7, goals 0 21. Marty Hore 22. Aaron Vandenberg CD games 1, goal 1 23. James Jordan ® MFC games 8, goals 2 24. Trent Rivers MFC games 13, goal 1 25. Tom McDonald MFC games 13, goals 23 26. Sam Weideman MFC games 5, goals 3, CD games 3, goals 14 27. Aaron Nietschke ® 28. Majak Daw ® CD games 5, goal 1 29. Jayden Hunt MFC games 13, goal 1 30. Alex Neal-Bullen MFC games 13, goals 9 31. Bayley Fritsch MFC games 12, goals 28 32. Tom Sparrow MFC games 9, goals 2, CD games 4, goals 0 33. Oskar Baker MFC games 3, goals 0, CD games 3, goal 1 34. Deakyn Smith ® CD games 4, goals 0 35. Harrison Petty MFC games 7, goals 0, CD games 1, goals 0 36. Kysaiah Pickett MFC games 13, goals 20 37. Kade Chandler ® MFC games 5, goals 0, CD games 3, goals 5 38. Mitch Brown MFC games 1, goals 2, CD games 2, goals 6 39. Neville Jetta MFC games 5, goals 0, CD games 4, goals 0 40. Kye Declase 41. Jay Lockhart CD games 3, goals 0 42. Daniel Turner 44. Joel Smith CD games 1, goals 0 46. Austin Bradtke ® CD games 5, goal 1 50. Ben Brown MFC games 3, goals 5, CD games 3, goals 7
  2. Your votes for today’s game please - 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
  3. Although the Demons got over the line in their must win final round game against the hapless Bombers, they ensured it was Groundhog Day for their supporters who well remember what happened three years ago (although, this time they at least enjoyed the success of victory). Melbourne had its customary start dominating play and having plenty of chances in front of goal, only to find itself down on the scoreboard at the first change. Inaccurate kicking, particularly from set shots would have put the game beyond doubt even at that point, but a miserable one goal four behinds was a poor outcome for its troubles. Easy set shots from inside 40 metres from Bayley Fritsch (2) and Charlie Spargo should have been the game breakers their kicks went astray. And again, in what was to be a rinse and repeat, the Demons conceded a goal to the opposition in the dying minute of the quarter. It was to be the same at the end of the third term as concentration seemed to lapse after players thought the job was done. Fortunately, the Demons were able to blow the game away in the second quarter with five unanswered goals that came of the back of open running and attack through the corridor. Steven May in particular was the starting impetus from the backline on two occasions for moves that resulted in Melbourne goals. Ed Langdon on the wing was always the outlet man and he kept on thrusting the ball into the forward 50. Finally, Fritsch and Jayden Hunt were able to find the big sticks and by game end they scored seven of the team’s 10 goals. Taking a 28 point lead into the final change, it could be expected that the Demons had this one in the bag. But no, not Melbourne which reverted to trying to save the game instead of winning it. This had begun in the third quarter and was simply the wrong tactic in a game where Melbourne had been so adventurous earlier in the piece. Previously Essendon had no answer, but with the change in tactic, they were provided with a solution. In that final quarter the Dons managed to whittle the deficit down to 13 points with over five inutes to play. Even when Hunt restored the lead back to 19 points, Essendon came back instantly to reduce the margin again. They continued to attack but the final turning point came when Trent Rivers tackled an Essendon player to win the ball back at a critical juncture in the game. Another snap goal from Fritsch, against four Essendon defenders who failed to clear the goal square, and the game was sewn up. Despite the win, it was hardly convincing as once again, multiple players showed little output on the field. Jake Melksham had to be moved to the midfield to get him involved and was tagging Shiel at the first bounce. At the end of the game he had amassed the grand total of eight touches and once again, zero tackles! Much the same as for the previous 16 games! Down back Joel Smith fails to inspire, simply because he doesn’t read the play and the ball in flight. No surprise his opponent kicked three of Essendons goals and singlehandedly almost put them back in the game — yet another experiment gone wrong. Sam Weideman was disappointing with seven touches and once again zero score. This is our full forward, who doesn’t score, and without second efforts! It’s sharp contrast to Mitch Brown alongside him. Brown is a 30 year old on a one year contract but he managed 20 touches including 13 marks, as well playing as a back-up ruck and finding himself in defence at times! So the team put itself in contention for a finals spot, but now must hope that Fremantle can defeat the Western Bulldogs to achieve that. What a waste those games against Sydney and Fremantle have been? A win in either would have guaranteed that elusive finals spot. If the Dockers are unable to do the job for us, then season 2020 will be simply a wash, rinse and repeat ... again. Same as 2017 and that would not be surprising, since the team is still playing the same way, with the same approach within games. The coach spoke of being ruthless just a week ago. Ruthless is taking a 28 point half-time lead and turning it into a 10 goal win. Ruthless will be doing the clean out of those non-performers, because the Demons supporters are tired of the spin and repeats. MELBOURNE 1.4.10 6.6.42 7.7.49 10.8.68 ESSENDON 2.0.12 2.2.14 3.3.21 7.7.49 GOALS Melbourne Hunt 4 Fritsch 3 Neal-Bullen 2 Petracca Essendon Stewart 3 Laverde Shiel Smith Stringer BEST Melbourne Petracca Gawn Oliver Viney Fritsch May Essendon Parish Merrett Shiel Langford Stewart Saad INJURED Melbourne Nil Essendon Nil REPORTED Melbourne Nil Essendon Nil UMPIRES Hayden Gavine, Ray Chamberlain, Nathan Williamson VENUE Metricon Stadium
  4. You can’t depend on others but at least do what has to be done that’s under your control.
  5. The long awaited clash between Melbourne and Essendon is almost upon us. Thirty-seven rounds of AFL football have passed by since the two clubs met on a balmy early April night last year in a game that produced a high scoring shootout at the MCG with the Bombers prevailing by 18 points. It was their only meeting for 2019 and happened at a time when the pandemic was something on the far distant horizon. Several months later when the 2019 season ended, the AFL issued the first of its fixtures for the next year. We were still a way off Christmas and the bushfire season. The virus was still unknown and unnamed in this country. At that time, the Demons and the Bombers were drawn to play on 3rd May in Round 7 but well before that date came around, Covid19 put an end to the original draw after just one round, leaving the entire season in limbo. When the competition returned in mid June, the redrawn fixture had Melbourne and Essendon facing off in Round 3 as an “away” game for the Demons at the MCG. But it never eventuated thanks to a “positive” test from now retired Bomber, Connor McKenna. The abandoned game, later declared a “bye”, was eventually rescheduled to Round 18 and, as a consequence, the Demons and Bombers were the only clubs in the competition to miss out on the benefit of a brief respite during the latter part of the season when the draw was compacted in two “frenzy” periods with four and five day breaks between games, the new norm. The anecdotal evidence is that the lack of a real break during that period from Rounds 9 to 17 had an effect on the performance of both sides. Now, only one of them has an outside chance of making the finals while the other limped out of contention with only one win in the last half of the season. Melbourne should win and it should win well but we do need to factor in its recent performances. The last three wins have been against teams above it on the ladder and in the top eight while the last three defeats were against teams placed below it at the time they met. They are flaky and regarded as unreliable which makes this a danger game even against an Essendon that has many players injured or out of form and confidence. The Demons will come into the game knowing where they stand vis a vis the Saints who play on Friday night but still have a second chance if overtaking them is out of the question. For the second option, they will have to wait until Sunday night. In the end, the permutations and combinations are meaningless if they don’t win and in that respect, they still hold most of the ace cards. Melbourne’s position would be even stronger if its midfield could take advantage of the ruck advantage it holds thanks to the skipper. Against the Giants, it was 45 to 20 in hit outs but that only translated into a slightly superior 36 to 32 clearances. From there, the Giants managed to get the ball inside their forward 50 arc an overwhelming 52 times against the Demons’ 39. One day the midfield will learn to win the ball consistently from the ruck duels and move it quickly and accurately to the forwards. If that happens, they will cause havoc as they did in 2018 when they stormed into the finals. In the meantime, they will continue to rely heavily on the backlines led by Steven May who is in All Australian form and well supported by a tight defence. On Saturday, that should be enough. Melbourne by 29 points. THE GAME Essendon v Melbourne at the Gabba Saturday, 19 September, 2020 at 2.10pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Essendon 130 wins Melbourne 83 wins 2 draws At the Gabba Essendon 0 wins Melbourne wins The last five meetings Essendon 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins The Coaches Worsfold 1 win Goodwin 2 wins MEDIA TV – Fox Footy Channel Live at 2.00pm RADIO - TBA THE LAST TIME THEY MET Essendon 20.10.130 defeated Melbourne 18.4.112 at the MCG, Round 3, 2019 The Bombers came out with all guns blazing but the accurate (for a change) Demons fired back in the second term to lead by seven points at the break. The high scoring shoot out continued but it was Essendon that took the initiative and ran out 18 point winners. The Demons’ best were Brayshaw, Gawn and Harmes (three goals). Hunt also booted three while Lockhart, Melksham and Weideman kicked two each. THE TEAMS ESSENDON FB Jordan Ridley Brandon Zerk-Thatcher Martin Gleeson HB Devon Smith Michael Hurley Adam Saad C Tom Cutler Zach Merrett Brayden Ham HF Will Snelling James Stewart Matt Guelfi FF Jake Stringer Joe Daniher Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti FOL Sam Draper Dylan Shiel Darcy Parish I/C Dylan Clarke Kyle Langford Jayden Laverde Mason Redman, EMG Josh Begley Cale Hooker Kobe Mutch Andrew Phillips IN Michael Hurley Jayden Laverde Mason Redman OUT Mitchell Hibberd (omitted) Andrew Phillips (omitted) Jacob Townsend (omitted) MELBOURNE FB Joel Smith Steven May Michael Hibberd HB Trent Rivers Jake Lever Christian Salem C Ed Langdon Christian Petracca Aaron vandenBerg HF Jayden Hunt Sam Weideman Alex Neal-Bullen FF Kysaiah Pickett Mitch Brown Charlie Spargo FOL Max Gawn Jack Viney Clayton Oliver I/C Oskar Baker Bayley Fritsch Jake Melksham Adam Tomlinson EMG Mitch Hannan Luke Jackson Neville Jetta Tom Sparrow IN Michael Hibberd OUT Neville Jetta (omitted) Round 18: Injury List James Harmes (hamstring) — test Michael Hibberd (ankle) — test Luke Jackson (hamstring) — test Nathan Jones (quad) — 1 week Angus Brayshaw (foot) — season James Jordon (finger) — season Aaron Nietschke (knee) — season Harry Petty (groin) — season Kade Kolodjashnij (head) — indefinite
  6. Long, long time ago ... MELBOURNE B Jay Lockhart Oscar McDonald Neville Jetta HB Josh Wagner Sam Frost Christian Salem C Jayden Hunt Clayton Oliver Nathan Jones HF James Harmes Sam Weideman Kade Kolodjashnij F Angus Brayshaw Tom McDonald Jake Melksham FOLL Max Gawn Christian Petracca Jack Viney I/C Bayley Fritsch Michael Hibberd Alex Neal-Bullen Corey Wagner EMG Harrison Petty Braydon Preuss Tom Sparrow Billy Stretch IN Corey Wagner Josh Wagner OUT Steven May (injured) Tom Sparrow (omitted) ESSENDON B Aaron Francis Patrick Ambrose Conor McKenna HB Kobe Mutch Michael Hurley Adam Saad C Orazio Fantasia Zach Merrett Andrew McGrath HF Jake Stringer Zac Clarke Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti F Devon Smith Shaun McKernan Mark Baguley FOL Tom Bellchambers David Zaharakis Dylan Shiel I/C Matt Guelfi Dyson Heppell David Myers Darcy Parish EMG Mitch Brown Sam Draper Kyle Langford Jordan Ridley IN Zac Clarke Kobe Mutch OUT Mitch Brown (omitted) Kyle Langford (omitted)
  7. When the Melbourne team sang “The Grand Old Flag” last Saturday at Marvel Stadium in the absence of skipper Max Gawn, Ed Langford and Adam Tomlinson who were first time winners at their new club and Jayden Hunt, the leading goal kicker of the day it was passed off as an honest mistake. Taken in isolation, it most probably was accidental but the problem is that little accidents have been happening far too often in the club’s recent history and, in this case, it was symptomatic not only of a day that almost turned very sour for the Melbourne Football Club but of the general malaise that has affected it since it was unceremoniously bundled out of the finals of September 2018. That might sound harsh but the disjointed end of the day after the team squandered a seven goal lead from midway through the second term when the pressure valve from an outstanding start released was embarrassing. This simply cannot be repeated if the club is to be a contender in 2020 and forward into the future. The signs are there in this Covid 19 era that no opponent can be taken for granted and every team has to be switched on for the entire journey at a time of unusual preparation, mental battles to get on the park, no crowds and little atmosphere with shortened quarters and game time. The Demons meet the Bombers in their first foray onto the MCG turf this Sunday as the notional visitor playing against one of only three teams in the competition that have an unblemished record after only two rounds. Essendon’s wins have come against two unfancied clubs in Fremantle and Sydney. Each of them was by a single goal so they are certainly not unbeatable against a Melbourne team that will be stung by the negative feedback from its two performances to date. One of the byproducts of the criticism the team copped after being let off the hook was the amount of debate about who had their heads on the chopping block and who was going to replace them. And with a shorter injury list than it had last year, that’s a healthy sign because it gives the coach and selectors an opportunity to rectify some of the issues from last week and to also send some messages to the squad. The ability to apply pressure in the midfield and to set up scoring opportunities throughout the game is paramount and defensive match ups will also be important. The supporters would like to see players hitting forward targets or setting up scoring opportunities rather than poor choices and disposal leading to the constant sight of opposing back men taking intercept marks which become disheartening to witness. We don’t want Hurley or Hooker to become this weekend’s McGovern and Weitering from rounds 1 and 2. The inclusion of some pace and marking strength on the forward line would be helpful and I would have liked to have seen Max Gawn resting up forward more to put pressure on those intercept defenders. Indeed, the problem from my perspective last week was that the coaches simply didn’t do enough to wrest back the ascendancy in the latter part of the game. One thing that impresses is the emphasis on the new faces at the club and hopefully the Demons will persevere with young legs - Kysaiah Pickett will be a welcome acquisition to the team and Harley Bennell should be better in his second game after a long time out of the game. The enthusiasm they generate should get the team up by a point for the second week in a row. Melbourne by 1 point THE GAME Essendon v Melbourne at the MCG Sunday, 21 June, 2020 at 3.35pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 83 wins Essendon 130 wins 2 draws At MCG Melbourne 45 wins Essendon 67 wins 1 draw The last five meetings Melbourne 3 wins Essendon 2 wins The Coaches Goodwin 2 wins Worsfold 1 win MEDIA TV – Fox Footy Channel Channel 7 Live at 3.30pm THE LAST TIME THEY MET Essendon 20.10.130 defeated Melbourne 18.4.112 at the MCG, Round 3, 2019 The Bombers had a strong start but the Demons reeled them in to lead by 7 points at half time. The Dons kicked 7 straight in the third term and another 5 in the last to win a high scoring shootout by 3 goals. Melbourne’s accurate kicking for goal was deceptive because it had 63 inside 50s (10 more than Essendon) at only 35% inside 50 efficiency. THE TEAMS 
 
 ESSENDON FB Aaron Francis, Cale Hooker, Michael Hurley HB Adam Saad, Mason Redman, Jordan Ridley C Tom Cutler, Andrew McGrath, David Zaharakis HF Devon Smith, Zach Merrett, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti FF Will Snelling, Shaun McKernan, Jacob Townsend FOL Tom Bellchambers, Dylan Shiel, Darcy Parish I/C Brayden Ham, Kyle Langford, Conor McKenna, Jake Stringer EM Patrick Ambrose, Matt Guelfi, Jayden Laverde, Andrew Phillips IN Brayden Ham, Conor McKenna OUT Matt Guelfi (omitted) Dyson Heppell (ankle) MELBOURNE FB Christian Salem, Steven May, Neville Jetta HB James Harmes, Jake Lever, Trent Rivers C Ed Langdon, Clayton Oliver, Adam Tomlinson HF Angus Brayshaw, Tom McDonald, Jayden Hunt FF Harley Bennell, Bayley Fritsch, Jake Melksham FOL Max Gawn, Christian Petracca, Jack Viney I/C Mitch Hannan, Kysaiah Pickett, Joel Smith, Aaron vandenBerg EM Michael Hibberd, Luke Jackson, Nathan Jones, Alex Neal-Bullen IN Mitch Hannan, Kysaiah Pickett, Aaron vandenBerg OUT Luke Jackson (omitted), Nathan Jones (omitted), Alex Neal-Bullen (omitted) Umpires Leigh Haussen, Robert Findlay, Craig Fleer Injury List: Round 3 Braydon Preuss (Achilles) – 3-4 weeks Marty Hore (toe) – 5-7 weeks Harry Petty (groin) – indefinite Kade Kolodjashnij (head) – indefinite Aaron Nietschke (knee) – season
  8. We welcome your input into the discussion on today’s game.
  9. INJECTORS by George on the Outer Probably not a word that sits well around the Essendon Football Club, but it was the injection of youth, skill and old fashioned toughness that saw Melbourne eventually run out easy winners at the old nemesis stadium at the Docklands. The addition of Charlie Spargo was a breath of fresh air as his first half efforts saw him with a pair of goals in his first game of AFL, but it was also his natural football abilities which will see him have a promising future. Eighteen touches, including nine contested, in his first game at 88% disposal efficiency was exactly what Melbourne has been missing in the past couple of weeks. While he needs to build his body to endure, he has the football smarts and skills so lacking in others currently getting a run. The return of Tom McDonald also injected that much needed strength and surety both in the backline, ruck and up forward that has also been missing. And similarly, ten contested possessions from a big man was telling. Jordan Lewis returned and the two week recovery period suited him well, and he was able to compete at a much better level than earlier in the season. Bayley Fritsch and Mitch Hannan were the icing on the cake for the Demons, each scoring three goals, but it was their work around the packs in the forward line, with Fritsch particularly injecting both marking and disposal efficiency, that also had been so lacking in his absence up forward. Their return will make it nearly impossible for the likes of Tom Bugg and Jeff Garlett to press for a senior spot, at least in the short term, barring any injuries. It is absolutely telling just to look at the goal-scorers this week with those 4 (Fritsch, Hannan, Tom McDonald and Spargo) being responsible for ten of the 16 goals scored. What a difference that made to the team and the result! But it wasn’t all going one way. At least not in the first half. The Demons trailed at both breaks and had amassed a paltry four goals to half time, but fortunately only trailed by a goal at that stage. This was in part due to the backline, which also showed signs of return to the form of 2017. Nev Jetta blanketed McDonald-Tipungwuti, while Oscar McDonald completely destroyed Daniher, who could only managed three behinds for the whole game. Michael Hibberd resumed his sweeping role, and his penetrating kicks downfield broke the Essendon lines time and time again. Then in the third quarter Nathan Jones decided that enough was enough and he simply ploughed his way through the opposition with 9 touches. Helped by Angus Brayshaw and Clayton Oliver, suddenly the ball was being kicked out of the centre and around the packs, putting pressure on the Essendon defence. With T McDonald, Hogan and Weidemann as targets, and Melksham, Fritsch, and Hannan crumbing successfully, suddenly Melbourne piled on seven goals to a solitary Essendon major. Even big Max got in on the act and put through a couple of ripper boundary banana’s that upset the Bomber fans no end. Pity he has been unable to kick straight when in front, or he would have had four for the game instead of the two he finished with. Still, for a ruckman who had 42 hitouts, this was fair output for the afternoon. And while the Demons lapsed in the final minutes to gift Essendon a couple of goals after being eight up, the end result was still a six goal win. The injection of talent had a dramatic effect, and will have a huge effect with confidence going in to next weeks game against St.Kilda. However, there were still too many non-contributors, particularly Alex Neal-Bullen, James Hames and Dom Tyson who all still do not spread or get involved with the play when in their vicinity. Harmes keeps getting caught, when he tries to barge through instead of kicking the ball forward. Tyson remains glacially slow and continues to turn the ball over and kick to contests instead of to the teams advantage. ANB just trots up and down the field, and a meagre eight disposals for the game will guarantee Christian Petracca, recovering from his dog bite, a spot for next week. The team returns to Etihad for next week’s encounter with St Kilda, and while it might sound trite, this is yet another must win game for the Demons who are sitting in the middle of the pack on 12 points, with only one top eight team in the on the same number. To put it another way, the team is already a game behind the majority of the teams in the top eight and its percentage is not all that flash. This cost them a finals appearance last year, a lesson that does not yet seem to have been learned. If Melbourne is to progress it must must win its next two games in order to put space between it and the teams in the bottom half of the ladder. After the past couple of weeks, the club finally took a small step in the direction of that much talked about injection of confidence and faith necessary to build a winning culture. A small step, but nevertheless, a positive one ... Melbourne 1.3.9 4.7.31 11.10.76 16.12.108 Essendon 2.3.15 5.7.37 6.9.45 10.12.72 Goals Melbourne Fritsch Hannan 3 Gawn Hogan T McDonald Melksham Spargo 2 Essendon Stringer 3, McDonald-Tipungwuti Smith 2, Laverde, Stewart, Zaharakis Best Melbourne Gawn Salem Hannan Hibberd Fritsch O McDonald T McDonald Essendon Merrett Zaharakis Ambrose Hurley McGrath Smith Injuries Melbourne Hogan (right ankle) Essendon Nil Reports Nil Umpires Foot, Rosebury, Williamson Official crowd 35,964 at Etihad Stadium
  10. Probably not a word that sits well around the Essendon Football Club, but it was the injection of youth, skill and old fashioned toughness that saw Melbourne eventually run out easy winners at the old nemesis stadium at the Docklands. The addition of Charlie Spargo was a breath of fresh air as his first half efforts saw him with a pair of goals in his first game of AFL, but it was also his natural football abilities which will see him have a promising future. Eighteen touches, including nine contested, in his first game at 88% disposal efficiency was exactly what Melbourne has been missing in the past couple of weeks. While he needs to build his body to endure, he has the football smarts and skills so lacking in others currently getting a run. The return of Tom McDonald also injected that much needed strength and surety both in the backline, ruck and up forward that has also been missing. And similarly, ten contested possessions from a big man was telling. Jordan Lewis returned and the two week recovery period suited him well, and he was able to compete at a much better level than earlier in the season. Bayley Fritsch and Mitch Hannan were the icing on the cake for the Demons, each scoring three goals, but it was their work around the packs in the forward line, with Fritsch particularly injecting both marking and disposal efficiency, that also had been so lacking in his absence up forward. Their return will make it nearly impossible for the likes of Tom Bugg and Jeff Garlett to press for a senior spot, at least in the short term, barring any injuries. It is absolutely telling just to look at the goal-scorers this week with those 4 (Fritsch, Hannan, Tom McDonald and Spargo) being responsible for ten of the 16 goals scored. What a difference that made to the team and the result! But it wasn’t all going one way. At least not in the first half. The Demons trailed at both breaks and had amassed a paltry four goals to half time, but fortunately only trailed by a goal at that stage. This was in part due to the backline, which also showed signs of return to the form of 2017. Nev Jetta blanketed McDonald-Tipungwuti, while Oscar McDonald completely destroyed Daniher, who could only managed three behinds for the whole game. Michael Hibberd resumed his sweeping role, and his penetrating kicks downfield broke the Essendon lines time and time again. Then in the third quarter Nathan Jones decided that enough was enough and he simply ploughed his way through the opposition with 9 touches. Helped by Angus Brayshaw and Clayton Oliver, suddenly the ball was being kicked out of the centre and around the packs, putting pressure on the Essendon defence. With T McDonald, Hogan and Weidemann as targets, and Melksham, Fritsch, and Hannan crumbing successfully, suddenly Melbourne piled on seven goals to a solitary Essendon major. Even big Max got in on the act and put through a couple of ripper boundary banana’s that upset the Bomber fans no end. Pity he has been unable to kick straight when in front, or he would have had four for the game instead of the two he finished with. Still, for a ruckman who had 42 hitouts, this was fair output for the afternoon. And while the Demons lapsed in the final minutes to gift Essendon a couple of goals after being eight up, the end result was still a six goal win. The injection of talent had a dramatic effect, and will have a huge effect with confidence going in to next weeks game against St.Kilda. However, there were still too many non-contributors, particularly Alex Neal-Bullen, James Hames and Dom Tyson who all still do not spread or get involved with the play when in their vicinity. Harmes keeps getting caught, when he tries to barge through instead of kicking the ball forward. Tyson remains glacially slow and continues to turn the ball over and kick to contests instead of to the teams advantage. ANB just trots up and down the field, and a meagre eight disposals for the game will guarantee Christian Petracca, recovering from his dog bite, a spot for next week. The team returns to Etihad for next week’s encounter with St Kilda, and while it might sound trite, this is yet another must win game for the Demons who are sitting in the middle of the pack on 12 points, with only one top eight team in the on the same number. To put it another way, the team is already a game behind the majority of the teams in the top eight and its percentage is not all that flash. This cost them a finals appearance last year, a lesson that does not yet seem to have been learned. If Melbourne is to progress it must must win its next two games in order to put space between it and the teams in the bottom half of the ladder. After the past couple of weeks, the club finally took a small step in the direction of that much talked about injection of confidence and faith necessary to build a winning culture. A small step, but nevertheless, a positive one ... Melbourne 1.3.9 4.7.31 11.10.76 16.12.108 Essendon 2.3.15 5.7.37 6.9.45 10.12.72 Goals Melbourne Fritsch Hannan 3 Gawn Hogan T McDonald Melksham Spargo 2 Essendon Stringer 3, McDonald-Tipungwuti Smith 2, Laverde, Stewart, Zaharakis Best Melbourne Gawn Salem Hannan Hibberd Fritsch O McDonald T McDonald Essendon Merrett Zaharakis Ambrose Hurley McGrath Smith Injuries Melbourne Hogan (right ankle) Essendon Nil Reports Nil Umpires Foot, Rosebury, Williamson Official crowd 35,964 at Etihad Stadium
  11. THE LONG WAY HOME by Whispering Jack Recently, I was at Carrara for the Commonwealth Games and while watching the women’s 10,000 metre final, it was clear that the runners on the outside of the front bunch were going to be the first to tire and when that happened, they fell by the wayside. It’s been the same of late with the Demons. On the big stage against Richmond on Tuesday night, they were plodding along that Members wing taking the long way home, often finding themselves cornered, under pressure and resorting to chains of risky handballs that would inevitably come unstuck allowing them to be picked off by waiting Tigers who would move the ball into the corridor and set up their attacks. There has to be something wrong as well when, despite the overwhelming dominance of Max Gawn in the ruck, and some solid quality in its onball division, Melbourne fails to achieve winning figures in terms of clearances from the midfield and from the stoppages. This feature is also compounded by the drying up of scoring opportunities through a lack of goal kicking power, despite the team having demonstrated earlier in the year, in both the pre season and the first few games, multiple goal scorers and a power key forward in Jesse Hogan. With Hogan often doing a lot of his work up to 100 metres from the goal face, he’s going to be productive in the middle but this leaves very little, if any, marking power up forward. Even when Sam Weideman was up there, it was so easy for the premiership winning defence to pick off the ball and repulse the Demon attacks. This was no better demonstrated by one of the most stunning statistics of Tuesday night. In the opening quarter, Melbourne had 19 entries into the forward fifty metre arc and managed a solitary goal - the snap from Jake Melksham at the two minute mark of the game. They should have set themselves for a good win with that number of forward opportunities - it turned out an epic fail that would bite hard by the end of the game. The Demons are fortunate in that on Sunday, they come up against an equally shambolic and disappointing side in Essendon which was poor when it lowered its colours to Collingwood on Anzac Day. One would hope that Simon Goodwin comes up with something different this week because if he allows his players to box themselves out of the inside running and take the same old ineffective options, the result will be the same as it has been for the last two weeks. THE GAME Essendon v Melbourne at Etihad Stadium Sunday, 29 April, 2018 at 1.10pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Essendon 129 wins Melbourne 82 wins 2 draws At Etihad Stadium Essendon 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins The last five meetings 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins The Coaches Worsfold 0 wins Goodwin 1 win MEDIA TV – Fox Footy Channel - Live at 1.00pm RADIO - SEN ABC ABC Grandstand THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 17.10.112 defeated Essendon 10.14.74 at Etihad Stadium, Round 6, 2017 Melbourne got itself back on the winner’s list after three losses in a row with a solid effort at Etihad Stadium. The Demons were helped by Joe Daniher’s yips in front of goal and Jack Watts’ accuracy - the much maligned forward booted four goals. THE TEAMS ESSENDON B: Brendon Goddard, Michael Hurley, Adam Saad HB: Patrick Ambrose, Cale Hooker, Dyson Heppell ? Matt Guelfi, Jayden Laverde, Kobe Mutch HF: Ben McNiece, Jake Stringer, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti F: David Zaharakis, Joe Daniher, Mark Baguley Foll: Matthew Leuenberger, Devon Smith, Jackson Merrett I/C: Darcy Parish, Andrew McGrath, Zach Merrett, James Stewart, Emg: Dylan Clarke, Kyle Langford, Shaun McKernan, Jordan Ridley In: Patrick Ambrose, Jayden Laverde, Matthew Leuenberger, Ben McNiece, Kobe Mutch Out: Josh Begley (injured), Tom Bellchambers (rested), Josh Green (injured), Michael Hartley (rested), David Myers (rested) MELBOURNE B: Jake Lever, Oscar McDonald, Neville Jetta HB: Bernie Vince, Michael Hibberd, Jayden Hunt ? Jordan Lewis, Nathan Jones, Christian Salem HF: Angus Brayshaw, Jesse Hogan, Jake Melksham F: Alex Neal-Bullen, Sam Weideman, James Harmes Foll: Max Gawn, Dom Tyson, Clayton Oliver I/C: Bayley Fritsch, Mitch Hannan, Tom McDonald, Charlie Spargo Emg: Jeff Garlett, Joel Smith, Timothy Smith, Josh Wagner In: Bayley Fritsch, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis, Tom McDonald, Charlie Spargo Out: Jeff Garlett (omitted), Dean Kent (hamstring), Christian Petracca (finger), Billy Stretch (omitted), Josh Wagner (omitted) New: Charlie Spargo GETTING EVEN Some years ago, I attended a Melbourne Football Club luncheon where the keynote speaker was Chris Connolly, the former Demon player and Fremantle coach who more lately, was the back at the club as its football manager. As has been customary at this organisation, the place was in crisis at the time (both on and off the field) and Connolly was taking questions from the floor after his rather optimistic spiel about the club’s long term future (and it seems to me that the definition of “long term” in that context insofar as the Demons are concerned is ever expanding beyond expectations). One questioner took aim at the team make up after the previous week’s loss and suggested that it was time for heads to roll and for massive changes to be made. Connolly’s response was that in his estimation, a large shake up was unnecessary and further, that when a club makes five changes or more, the chances of a win were virtually zero. So this week, as two of the competition’s more disappointing teams face off against each other, Connolly’s words will be tested. Both sides have made five changes and, on that basis, there can only be one result - a draw. And that is my prediction for this week. That result is justified not only on the basis of the Connolly theory but on a factual basis. These two teams are evenly matched. At this stage of the season, the Bombers are 13th in the AFL ladder with 8 points and a percentage of 89.2, just 0.4% ahead of Melbourne in 14th place with the same number of premiership points. The Demons of course, are becoming used to lagging others in percentage by such a small margin to an extent that is very much to their detriment. Both sides are having trouble winning matches, their forward lines are more than somewhat dysfunctional and the only thing they seem to be good at of late, is total capitulation in the final quarter. After the Demons’ frustrating finish to 2017, one would have expected much better than what they’ve served up late in their games this year - at the very least a bit of fight at the end to save face. But it hasn’t happened. The Bombers are similarly, in total disarray. I would be heavily tempted normally to tip Melbourne on the basis that the team selection appears to help cover some of the gaping holes revealed in its structure over the past two weeks but the words of Chris Connolly keep ringing in my ears. So for this game, I can see Joe Daniher booting 8 goals (four on each of the McDonald brothers) but the Demons somehow snatching a draw from the jaws of victory. My tip - for the second week in a row, the AFL will see a drawn game.
  12. Recently, I was at Carrara for the Commonwealth Games and while watching the women’s 10,000 metre final, it was clear that the runners on the outside of the front bunch were going to be the first to tire and when that happened, they fell by the wayside. It’s been the same of late with the Demons. On the big stage against Richmond on Tuesday night, they were plodding along that Members wing taking the long way home, often finding themselves cornered, under pressure and resorting to chains of risky handballs that would inevitably come unstuck allowing them to be picked off by waiting Tigers who would move the ball into the corridor and set up their attacks. There has to be something wrong as well when, despite the overwhelming dominance of Max Gawn in the ruck, and some solid quality in its onball division, Melbourne fails to achieve winning figures in terms of clearances from the midfield and from the stoppages. This feature is also compounded by the drying up of scoring opportunities through a lack of goal kicking power, despite the team having demonstrated earlier in the year, in both the pre season and the first few games, multiple goal scorers and a power key forward in Jesse Hogan. With Hogan often doing a lot of his work up to 100 metres from the goal face, he’s going to be productive in the middle but this leaves very little, if any, marking power up forward. Even when Sam Weideman was up there, it was so easy for the premiership winning defence to pick off the ball and repulse the Demon attacks. This was no better demonstrated by one of the most stunning statistics of Tuesday night. In the opening quarter, Melbourne had 19 entries into the forward fifty metre arc and managed a solitary goal - the snap from Jake Melksham at the two minute mark of the game. They should have set themselves for a good win with that number of forward opportunities - it turned out an epic fail that would bite hard by the end of the game. The Demons are fortunate in that on Sunday, they come up against an equally shambolic and disappointing side in Essendon which was poor when it lowered its colours to Collingwood on Anzac Day. One would hope that Simon Goodwin comes up with something different this week because if he allows his players to box themselves out of the inside running and take the same old ineffective options, the result will be the same as it has been for the last two weeks. THE GAME Essendon v Melbourne at Etihad Stadium Sunday, 29 April, 2018 at 1.10pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Essendon 129 wins Melbourne 82 wins 2 draws At Etihad Stadium Essendon 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins The last five meetings 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins The Coaches Worsfold 0 wins Goodwin 1 win MEDIA TV – Fox Footy Channel - Live at 1.00pm RADIO - SEN ABC ABC Grandstand THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 17.10.112 defeated Essendon 10.14.74 at Etihad Stadium, Round 6, 2017 Melbourne got itself back on the winner’s list after three losses in a row with a solid effort at Etihad Stadium. The Demons were helped by Joe Daniher’s yips in front of goal and Jack Watts’ accuracy - the much maligned forward booted four goals. THE TEAMS ESSENDON B: Brendon Goddard, Michael Hurley, Adam Saad HB: Patrick Ambrose, Cale Hooker, Dyson Heppell ? Matt Guelfi, Jayden Laverde, Kobe Mutch HF: Ben McNiece, Jake Stringer, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti F: David Zaharakis, Joe Daniher, Mark Baguley Foll: Matthew Leuenberger, Devon Smith, Jackson Merrett I/C: Darcy Parish, Andrew McGrath, Zach Merrett, James Stewart, Emg: Dylan Clarke, Kyle Langford, Shaun McKernan, Jordan Ridley In: Patrick Ambrose, Jayden Laverde, Matthew Leuenberger, Ben McNiece, Kobe Mutch Out: Josh Begley (injured), Tom Bellchambers (rested), Josh Green (injured), Michael Hartley (rested), David Myers (rested) MELBOURNE B: Jake Lever, Oscar McDonald, Neville Jetta HB: Bernie Vince, Michael Hibberd, Jayden Hunt ? Jordan Lewis, Nathan Jones, Christian Salem HF: Angus Brayshaw, Jesse Hogan, Jake Melksham F: Alex Neal-Bullen, Sam Weideman, James Harmes Foll: Max Gawn, Dom Tyson, Clayton Oliver I/C: Bayley Fritsch, Mitch Hannan, Tom McDonald, Charlie Spargo Emg: Jeff Garlett, Joel Smith, Timothy Smith, Josh Wagner In: Bayley Fritsch, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis, Tom McDonald, Charlie Spargo Out: Jeff Garlett (omitted), Dean Kent (hamstring), Christian Petracca (finger), Billy Stretch (omitted), Josh Wagner (omitted) New: Charlie Spargo GETTING EVEN Some years ago, I attended a Melbourne Football Club luncheon where the keynote speaker was Chris Connolly, the former Demon player and Fremantle coach who more lately, was the back at the club as its football manager. As has been customary at this organisation, the place was in crisis at the time (both on and off the field) and Connolly was taking questions from the floor after his rather optimistic spiel about the club’s long term future (and it seems to me that the definition of “long term” in that context insofar as the Demons are concerned is ever expanding beyond expectations). One questioner took aim at the team make up after the previous week’s loss and suggested that it was time for heads to roll and for massive changes to be made. Connolly’s response was that in his estimation, a large shake up was unnecessary and further, that when a club makes five changes or more, the chances of a win were virtually zero. So this week, as two of the competition’s more disappointing teams face off against each other, Connolly’s words will be tested. Both sides have made five changes and, on that basis, there can only be one result - a draw. And that is my prediction for this week. That result is justified not only on the basis of the Connolly theory but on a factual basis. These two teams are evenly matched. At this stage of the season, the Bombers are 13th in the AFL ladder with 8 points and a percentage of 89.2, just 0.4% ahead of Melbourne in 14th place with the same number of premiership points. The Demons of course, are becoming used to lagging others in percentage by such a small margin to an extent that is very much to their detriment. Both sides are having trouble winning matches, their forward lines are more than somewhat dysfunctional and the only thing they seem to be good at of late, is total capitulation in the final quarter. After the Demons’ frustrating finish to 2017, one would have expected much better than what they’ve served up late in their games this year - at the very least a bit of fight at the end to save face. But it hasn’t happened. The Bombers are similarly, in total disarray. I would be heavily tempted normally to tip Melbourne on the basis that the team selection appears to help cover some of the gaping holes revealed in its structure over the past two weeks but the words of Chris Connolly keep ringing in my ears. So for this game, I can see Joe Daniher booting 8 goals (four on each of the McDonald brothers) but the Demons somehow snatching a draw from the jaws of victory. My tip - for the second week in a row, the AFL will see a drawn game.
  13. No use dwelling on the Richmond game. We have another one to worry about in 5 day’s time... Last time we beat them at our new home away from home - a place where conditions are not usually greasy so the fumbling might be reduced somewhat. ESSENDON B: Patrick Ambrose, Michael Hurley, Martin Gleeson HB: Mark Baguley, Mitch Brown, Ben McNiece C: Travis Colyer, Zach Merrett, Andrew McGrath HF: Orazio Fantasia, Cale Hooker, David Zaharakis F: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Joe Daniher, Brendon Goddard FOLL: Tom Bellchambers, Ben Howlett, Dyson Heppell I/C: Josh Green, Conor McKenna, Darcy Parish, Jobe Watson EMG: Kyle Langford,Brent Stanton, James Stewart IN: Tom Bellchambers, Martin Gleeson, Ben Howlett, Kyle Langford, Conor McKenna, James Stewart OUT: Aaron Francis (rested), James Kelly (rested), Matt Leuenberger (rested),Brent Stanton (omitted) MELBOURNE B: Michael Hibberd, Tom McDonald, Neville Jetta HB: Jordan Lewis, Sam Frost, Bernie Vince C: Jayden Hunt, Nathan Jones, Jake Melksham HF: Christian Petracca, Jack Watts, Alex Neal-Bullen F: Jay Kennedy-Harris, Mitch Hannan, Jeff Garlett FOLL: Cameron Pedersen, Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney I/C: Tomas Bugg, Oscar McDonald, Christian Salem, Dom Tyson EMG: James Harmes, Billy Stretch, Sam Weideman IN: Tomas Bugg, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis, Oscar McDonald, Cameron Pedersen OUT: James Harmes (omitted), Jesse Hogan (family bereavement), Jake Spencer (shoulder), Timothy Smith (lung), Billy Stretch (omitted)
  14. My dislike for Ess knows no bounds. So of all games this year this is the one I desperately wanted us to win. And we did - without 2 of our best players. A real four quarter effort. So proud we rose above all the setbacks. A win that will be a huge confidence boost for the team. Demons take a bow.
  15. FINDING A WAY ... AGAIN by George on the Outer In his losing press conference last week Simon Goodwin said that good teams manage to find a way to win, and Melbourne needed to do that. Despite the further loss of players to injury and absence of Jesse Hogan following the death of his father, the Demons DID indeed find a way to put Essendon away with an emphatic 38 point win at their once hoodoo ground of Etihad Stadium. The first half of the game was as scrappy and as un-skilled encounter as one could witness at an AFL match. Spectators could be forgiven thinking that there was a howling wind and wet sloppy conditions given the unforced errors from both sides. By half time in the perfect environment inside an enclosed stadium, both sides could only manage 4 goals each. Essendon's woes were compounded by Joe “the goose” Daniher unable to kick straight recording a solitary goal for the match despite 8 shots. This was in sharp contrast to when the two teams met a couple of years ago when he seemed unable to miss the big sticks. That game they won, and this one they didn’t. It was the second half of the game where it all turned around. Suddenly the Demons found that way that the coach had spoken about the week before, and piled on eight goals in the third quarter and a further five in the last. Despite this being only his sixth AFL game as coach, we are starting to see that Goodwin is able to nut out what is going wrong and make the changes necessary to get the job done. In this game one of the big moves was getting Bernie Vince out of the backline, where he was nothing short of a liability with his poor decision-making and lack of nous when playing as a spare man in defence. Into the middle he goes, and a different player emerges with 25 touches, 4 clearances and 8 contested possessions. Christian Salem moves back to replace him and suddenly the kick-ins are no longer a heart in mouth situation. This then enabled Frost to towel up Daniher, and Tom McDonald to move further up the ground as a more attacking player, picking up 26 touches including 6 contested. Michael Hibberd continued to impress and provide drive and strength with 24 touches of his own. Suddenly, the backline was as solid as it could possibly be and the mids kept getting their hands on the ball. The return of Cam Pedersen to the side as a replacement ruck worked really well, for while he may have lost the hit-out stats to Tom Bellchambers, it was he who racked up 19 possessions to Bellchambers' miserable 9. Best of all was that he relieved the necessity for Jack Watts to ruck, which resulted in Watts kicking 4 goals when up forward. How we could have used that scenario in the final quarter last week! The other thing that became obvious in the second half was the change in disposal ratios. An overuse of handball in close was costing the Demons dearly with turnovers. They were getting the hands on the ball courtesy of Jones, Viney and Oliver, but it simply wasn’t being used efficiently. In the second half, we saw Tyson and Oliver using their feet to push the ball forward and opportunities started to happen in the forward line. Mitch Hannan and Jeff Garlett chimed in for three goals each and the Dons simply had no answer to the forward pressure of the Demons - particularly Christian Petracca who dobbed four of his own, while playing predominantly in front of goal, and simply bullocking his way to contested possession and marking. Finally it was comforting to see Jordan Lewis back again with his calming influence. In his absence, Melbourne seemed to manage to cough up goals in the last minutes of quarters but today he stood as a final guard against that happening and provided that surety with foot when playing behind the ball. If there were 44K at Etihad Stadium today, I will eat my hat. With a capacity of barely 50K the number of vacant seats was obvious to all and sundry, both at the ground and on television. This compares to when the Demons played the Saints in the first round when an attendance of 36K was quoted and barely a seat available in the house. One would be forgiven for thinking that this smacks of manipulation of attendance figures for a club that is being looked after well by the AFL. Are they trying to make Essendon look good and garner more TV games for them? Melbourne 2.4.16 4.6.30 12.9.81 17.10.112 Essendon 2.2.14 4.8.32 6.12.48 10.14.74 Goals Melbourne Petracca Watts 4 Garlett Hannan 3 Lewis T McDonald Pedersen Essendon Fantasia Hooker 2 Bellchambers Colyer Daniher, McDonald-Tipungwuti McGrath Parish Best Melbourne T McDonald Petracca Lewis Oliver Hibberd Pedersen Frost Essendon Goddard Hurley Merrett McGrath Gleeson Changes Melbourne Nil Essendon Nil Injuries Melbourne Nil Essendon Brown (ankle) Reports Melbourne Nil Essendon Nil Umpires Haussen, Nicholls, Hay Official crowd 44,040 at Etihad Stadium
  16. One of the great memories of 2016 ... MELBOURNE B: Sam Frost, Tom McDonald, Neville Jetta HB: Jayden Hunt, Oscar McDonald, Billy Stretch C: Christian Petracca, Bernie Vince, Dom Tyson HF: Jeff Garlett, Jack Watts, Clayton Oliver F: Sam Weideman, Cameron Pedersen, Dean Kent FOLL: Max Gawn, Nathan Jones, Jack Viney I/C: Angus Brayshaw, Tomas Bugg, James Harmes, Aaron Vandenberg EMG: Colin Garland, Matt Jones IN: Tomas Bugg, Clayton Oliver, Cameron Pedersen, Sam Weideman OUT: Chris Dawes (omitted), Jesse Hogan (knee), Matt Jones (omitted), Josh Wagner (omitted) NEW: Sam Weideman HAWTHORN B: Taylor Duryea, Ben Stratton, Brendan Whitecross HB: Shaun Burgoyne, Josh Gibson, Grant Birchall C: Isaac Smith, Sam Mitchell, Bradley Hill HF: Luke Breust, Jack Gunston, Will Langford F: Tim O'Brien, Ben McEvoy, Cyril Rioli FOLL: Jonathon Ceglar, Jordan Lewis, Luke Hodge I/C: Kaiden Brand, Kurt Heatherley, Jonathan O'Rourke, James Sicily EMG: Blake Hardwick, Dallas Willsmore IN: Kurt Heatherley, Cyril Rioli OUT: James Frawley (shoulder), Blake Hardwick (omitted)
  17. In his losing press conference last week Simon Goodwin said that good teams manage to find a way to win, and Melbourne needed to do that. Despite the further loss of players to injury and absence of Jesse Hogan following the death of his father, the Demons DID indeed find a way to put Essendon away with an emphatic 38 point win at their once hoodoo ground of Etihad Stadium. The first half of the game was as scrappy and as un-skilled encounter as one could witness at an AFL match. Spectators could be forgiven thinking that there was a howling wind and wet sloppy conditions given the unforced errors from both sides. By half time in the perfect environment inside an enclosed stadium, both sides could only manage 4 goals each. Essendon's woes were compounded by Joe “the goose” Daniher unable to kick straight recording a solitary goal for the match despite 8 shots. This was in sharp contrast to when the two teams met a couple of years ago when he seemed unable to miss the big sticks. That game they won, and this one they didn’t. It was the second half of the game where it all turned around. Suddenly the Demons found that way that the coach had spoken about the week before, and piled on eight goals in the third quarter and a further five in the last. Despite this being only his sixth AFL game as coach, we are starting to see that Goodwin is able to nut out what is going wrong and make the changes necessary to get the job done. In this game one of the big moves was getting Bernie Vince out of the backline, where he was nothing short of a liability with his poor decision-making and lack of nous when playing as a spare man in defence. Into the middle he goes, and a different player emerges with 25 touches, 4 clearances and 8 contested possessions. Christian Salem moves back to replace him and suddenly the kick-ins are no longer a heart in mouth situation. This then enabled Frost to towel up Daniher, and Tom McDonald to move further up the ground as a more attacking player, picking up 26 touches including 6 contested. Michael Hibberd continued to impress and provide drive and strength with 24 touches of his own. Suddenly, the backline was as solid as it could possibly be and the mids kept getting their hands on the ball. The return of Cam Pedersen to the side as a replacement ruck worked really well, for while he may have lost the hit-out stats to Tom Bellchambers, it was he who racked up 19 possessions to Bellchambers' miserable 9. Best of all was that he relieved the necessity for Jack Watts to ruck, which resulted in Watts kicking 4 goals when up forward. How we could have used that scenario in the final quarter last week! The other thing that became obvious in the second half was the change in disposal ratios. An overuse of handball in close was costing the Demons dearly with turnovers. They were getting the hands on the ball courtesy of Jones, Viney and Oliver, but it simply wasn’t being used efficiently. In the second half, we saw Tyson and Oliver using their feet to push the ball forward and opportunities started to happen in the forward line. Mitch Hannan and Jeff Garlett chimed in for three goals each and the Dons simply had no answer to the forward pressure of the Demons - particularly Christian Petracca who dobbed four of his own, while playing predominantly in front of goal, and simply bullocking his way to contested possession and marking. Finally it was comforting to see Jordan Lewis back again with his calming influence. In his absence, Melbourne seemed to manage to cough up goals in the last minutes of quarters but today he stood as a final guard against that happening and provided that surety with foot when playing behind the ball. If there were 44K at Etihad Stadium today, I will eat my hat. With a capacity of barely 50K the number of vacant seats was obvious to all and sundry, both at the ground and on television. This compares to when the Demons played the Saints in the first round when an attendance of 36K was quoted and barely a seat available in the house. One would be forgiven for thinking that this smacks of manipulation of attendance figures for a club that is being looked after well by the AFL. Are they trying to make Essendon look good and garner more TV games for them? Melbourne 2.4.16 4.6.30 12.9.81 17.10.112 Essendon 2.2.14 4.8.32 6.12.48 10.14.74 Goals Melbourne Petracca Watts 4 Garlett Hannan 3 Lewis T McDonald Pedersen Essendon Fantasia Hooker 2 Bellchambers Colyer Daniher, McDonald-Tipungwuti McGrath Parish Best Melbourne T McDonald Petracca Lewis Oliver Hibberd Pedersen Frost Essendon Goddard Hurley Merrett McGrath Gleeson Changes Melbourne Nil Essendon Nil Injuries Melbourne Nil Essendon Brown (ankle) Reports Melbourne Nil Essendon Nil Umpires Haussen, Nicholls, Hay Official crowd 44,040 at Etihad Stadium
  18. ADVENTUROUS by Whispering Jack No sooner had the battle-wearied Demons stopped to rest and lick their wounds from the Anzac Day eve clash with the Tigers, than it was time to select the team to take on Essendon which grabbed their spot in the top eight with their triumphant win over Collingwood on Tuesday. Melbourne has certainly been through the wringer in the past month, particularly so after the events of the Carlton game in round 2. At that time, the headlines were about the loss to suspension of Jesse Hogan and Jordan Lewis but in the interim injuries in mid-game in rounds 3 and 5 to tall ruckmen Max Gawn and Jake Spencer interspersed with other injuries and calamities such as poor kicking for goal and poor decision-making at crucial times in matches have all taken their toll. So much so that what looked like being a bright start to a new era of success and likely finals appearances is unravelling before our very eyes. While Hogan and Lewis are now both free of their suspensions, the Demons have a crisis on their hands - they need to dramatically recast their side after three consecutive losses. This challenge is something that doesn't necessarily have to be looked at from a position of despair or loathing. Melbourne remains strong in the midfield and continues to be build up its stocks in this area with the return of a Lewis determined to atone for the sin of his three week suspension. Everyone agrees that Simon Goodwin needs to be adventurous to come up with a plan to overcome the current crisis, and if he succeeds, then it will strengthen his team in the long run and make it more formidable when his big men eventually do return. The main task at hand is to reshape the ruck lineup while ensuring that the forward line structure can also operate efficiently. In recent weeks, when the team's ruckmen have gone down in mid game or had to be rested, their replacements have come almost exclusively from tall forwards resulting in a depletion of their ranks causing scoring to dry up. With the shortage of tall ruckmen likely to be an ongoing issue for two months, the way that coach Simon Goodwin and his team respond to this crisis and the tactics and strategies they come up with to solve the problem could well determine the course of the club throughout the season and beyond. THE GAME Essendon v Melbourne at Etihad Stadium Sunday, 30 April, 2017 at 1.10pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Essendon 129 wins Melbourne 81 wins 2 draws At Etihad Stadium Essendon 3 wins Melbourne 1 win The last five meetings Essendon 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins The Coaches Worsfold 0 wins Goodwin 0 wins MEDIA TV – Fox Footy Channel - Live at 1;00pm RADIO - THE BETTING Essendon $1.92 to win Melbourne $1.92 to win THE LAST TIME THEY MET Essendon 11.14.80 defeated Melbourne 10.7.67 at the MCG, Round 2, 2016 One of Melbourne's low points during the Paul Roos years was its loss at the hands of the depleted but determined Bombers at the MCG a week after they beat the highly fancied Giants. The Demons had been notable for producing massive form swings when expected to perform well but this one took the cake. THE TEAMS ESSENDON B: Patrick Ambrose, Michael Hurley, Martin Gleeson HB: Mark Baguley, Mitch Brown, Ben McNiece C: Travis Colyer, Zach Merrett, Andrew McGrath HF: Orazio Fantasia, Cale Hooker, David Zaharakis F: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Joe Daniher, Brendon Goddard FOLL: Tom Bellchambers, Ben Howlett, Dyson Heppell I/C: Josh Green, Conor McKenna, Darcy Parish, Jobe Watson EMG: Kyle Langford,Brent Stanton, James Stewart IN: Tom Bellchambers, Martin Gleeson, Ben Howlett, Kyle Langford, Conor McKenna, James Stewart OUT: Aaron Francis (rested), James Kelly (rested), Matt Leuenberger (rested),Brent Stanton (omitted) MELBOURNE B: Michael Hibberd, Tom McDonald, Neville Jetta HB: Jordan Lewis, Sam Frost, Bernie Vince C: Jayden Hunt, Nathan Jones, Jake Melksham HF: Christian Petracca, Jack Watts, Alex Neal-Bullen F: Jay Kennedy-Harris, Mitch Hannan, Jeff Garlett FOLL: Cameron Pedersen, Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney I/C: Tomas Bugg, Oscar McDonald, Christian Salem, Dom Tyson EMG: James Harmes, Billy Stretch, Sam Weideman IN: Tomas Bugg, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis, Oscar McDonald, Cameron Pedersen OUT: James Harmes (omitted), Jesse Hogan (family bereavement), Jake Spencer (shoulder), Timothy Smith (lung), Billy Stretch (omitted) GIVE US A REST PLEASE My how the worm has turned. This time last year, the Bombers were so light on in their playing stocks that they had to turn to the AFL for the right to supplement their list with additional top ups coming mostly from suburban competitions and retirees. Notwithstanding that they had half a dozen hacks in their line up, they were too good for the Demons in their round 2 match at the MCG. The Dees were just too arrogant - they thought all they had to do to win was to just turn up. Fast forward a little over 12 months and we see an Essendon brimming full of confidence following their famous ANZAC Day victory over Collingwood resting Aaron Francis, Josh Kelly and Matt Leuenberger for their match up against an injury-depleted Melbourne at their nemesis ground Etihad Stadium. The sheer arrogance of it? Knowing that the Demons are heading into Sunday's match up without their two leading ruckmen in Max Gawn and Jake Spencer, the Bombers have decided that the 201 cm, 108 kg Tom Bellchambers who hasn't seen duty in the AFL for almost two years will be good enough to do the job against a 193 cm Cam Pedersen who is now apparently several kgs lighter than his "official" weight of 99 kg recorded prior to his off season shoulder surgery. The Bombers can talk about resting players because of the short break but their supporters are thinking this time around that all their team has to do to win is just turn up. All the Demons will be hoping for is that Pedersen can stand up for more than the half a game of football their ruck personnel are currently lasting for these days in order that the team can get an even break at the stoppages. Whilst it's true that Melbourne has struggled to put together four quarters of consistency with key players going down in mid-game in recent weeks, I have a feeling that things might not be as bad as they look. After all, they managed to stay in the game against the Tigers until time on in the last quarter despite having virtually no rotations available. And they have Jordan Lewis back with the mission of atoning for his sins and actually giving the team something back for those barren three weeks of his absence. The Demons need to improve their efficiency inside fifty metres, particularly early in games. They had the opportunity in each of their last three matches to put away the opposition in the opening half and but for their failure to do so, could well have been sitting on 5 - 0 instead of a 2 - 3 win/loss ratio. There's a lot of coulda, shoulda and woulda in there but Simon Goodwin has promised to be adventurous and sooner or later, fortune will favour the brave. Melbourne has the midfield talent to overcome the apparent ruck disadvantage and besides, I think it's time for a turn of good fortune. If nothing else, the supporters deserve a rest after a month of things going horribly wrong. They're bound to go right very soon. Melbourne by 12 points
  19. It's just another day but you wonder what else it's going to bring?
  20. We couldn't beat them when they had half a side and we had an All Australian ruckman ESSENDON B: Matt Dea, Mitch Brown, Mark Baguley HB: James Gwilt, Michael Hartley, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti C: Brendon Goddard, David Zaharakis, Jackson Merrett HF: Zach Merrett, Patrick Ambrose, Kyle Langford F: Mathew Stokes, Joe Daniher, Nick Kommer R: Matthew Leuenberger, Ryan Crowley, Darcy Parish I: Martin Gleeson, Orazio Fantasia, Adam Cooney, James Kelly IN: Nick Kommer, Michael Hartley (debut), Orazio Fantasia OUT: Craig Bird (omit.), Jonathan Simpkin (omit.), Shaun McKernan (omit.) MELBOURNE B: Neville Jetta, Tom McDonald, Heritier Lumumba HB: Matt Jones, Colin Garland, Christian Salem C: Bernie Vince, Jack Viney, Aaron vandenBerg HF: Jack Watts, Cam Pedersen, James Harmes F: Dean Kent, Jesse Hogan, Jeff Garlett Foll: Max Gawn, Nathan Jones, Dom Tyson I/C: Angus Brayshaw, Clayton Oliver, Tom Bugg, Ben Kennedy Emg: Lynden Dunn, Billy Stretch, Sam Frost In: Lumumba, Brayshaw Out: Oscar McDonald (ankle), Sam Frost
  21. No sooner had the battle-wearied Demons stopped to rest and lick their wounds from the Anzac Day eve clash with the Tigers, than it was time to select the team to take on Essendon which grabbed their spot in the top eight with their triumphant win over Collingwood on Tuesday. Melbourne has certainly been through the wringer in the past month, particularly so after the events of the Carlton game in round 2. At that time, the headlines were about the loss to suspension of Jesse Hogan and Jordan Lewis but in the interim injuries in mid-game in rounds 3 and 5 to tall ruckmen Max Gawn and Jake Spencer interspersed with other injuries and calamities such as poor kicking for goal and poor decision-making at crucial times in matches have all taken their toll. So much so that what looked like being a bright start to a new era of success and likely finals appearances is unravelling before our very eyes. While Hogan and Lewis are now both free of their suspensions, the Demons have a crisis on their hands - they need to dramatically recast their side after three consecutive losses. This challenge is something that doesn't necessarily have to be looked at from a position of despair or loathing. Melbourne remains strong in the midfield and continues to be build up its stocks in this area with the return of a Lewis determined to atone for the sin of his three week suspension. Everyone agrees that Simon Goodwin needs to be adventurous to come up with a plan to overcome the current crisis, and if he succeeds, then it will strengthen his team in the long run and make it more formidable when his big men eventually do return. The main task at hand is to reshape the ruck lineup while ensuring that the forward line structure can also operate efficiently. In recent weeks, when the team's ruckmen have gone down in mid game or had to be rested, their replacements have come almost exclusively from tall forwards resulting in a depletion of their ranks causing scoring to dry up. With the shortage of tall ruckmen likely to be an ongoing issue for two months, the way that coach Simon Goodwin and his team respond to this crisis and the tactics and strategies they come up with to solve the problem could well determine the course of the club throughout the season and beyond. THE GAME Essendon v Melbourne at Etihad Stadium Sunday, 30 April, 2017 at 1.10pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Essendon 129 wins Melbourne 81 wins 2 draws At Etihad Stadium Essendon 3 wins Melbourne 1 win The last five meetings Essendon 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins The Coaches Worsfold 0 wins Goodwin 0 wins MEDIA TV – Fox Footy Channel - Live at 1;00pm RADIO - THE BETTING Essendon $1.92 to win Melbourne $1.92 to win THE LAST TIME THEY MET Essendon 11.14.80 defeated Melbourne 10.7.67 at the MCG, Round 2, 2016 One of Melbourne's low points during the Paul Roos years was its loss at the hands of the depleted but determined Bombers at the MCG a week after they beat the highly fancied Giants. The Demons had been notable for producing massive form swings when expected to perform well but this one took the cake. THE TEAMS ESSENDON B: Patrick Ambrose, Michael Hurley, Martin Gleeson HB: Mark Baguley, Mitch Brown, Ben McNiece C: Travis Colyer, Zach Merrett, Andrew McGrath HF: Orazio Fantasia, Cale Hooker, David Zaharakis F: Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Joe Daniher, Brendon Goddard FOLL: Tom Bellchambers, Ben Howlett, Dyson Heppell I/C: Josh Green, Conor McKenna, Darcy Parish, Jobe Watson EMG: Kyle Langford,Brent Stanton, James Stewart IN: Tom Bellchambers, Martin Gleeson, Ben Howlett, Kyle Langford, Conor McKenna, James Stewart OUT: Aaron Francis (rested), James Kelly (rested), Matt Leuenberger (rested),Brent Stanton (omitted) MELBOURNE B: Michael Hibberd, Tom McDonald, Neville Jetta HB: Jordan Lewis, Sam Frost, Bernie Vince C: Jayden Hunt, Nathan Jones, Jake Melksham HF: Christian Petracca, Jack Watts, Alex Neal-Bullen F: Jay Kennedy-Harris, Mitch Hannan, Jeff Garlett FOLL: Cameron Pedersen, Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney I/C: Tomas Bugg, Oscar McDonald, Christian Salem, Dom Tyson EMG: James Harmes, Billy Stretch, Sam Weideman IN: Tomas Bugg, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis, Oscar McDonald, Cameron Pedersen OUT: James Harmes (omitted), Jesse Hogan (family bereavement), Jake Spencer (shoulder), Timothy Smith (lung), Billy Stretch (omitted) GIVE US A REST PLEASE My how the worm has turned. This time last year, the Bombers were so light on in their playing stocks that they had to turn to the AFL for the right to supplement their list with additional top ups coming mostly from suburban competitions and retirees. Notwithstanding that they had half a dozen hacks in their line up, they were too good for the Demons in their round 2 match at the MCG. The Dees were just too arrogant - they thought all they had to do to win was to just turn up. Fast forward a little over 12 months and we see an Essendon brimming full of confidence following their famous ANZAC Day victory over Collingwood resting Aaron Francis, Josh Kelly and Matt Leuenberger for their match up against an injury-depleted Melbourne at their nemesis ground Etihad Stadium. The sheer arrogance of it? Knowing that the Demons are heading into Sunday's match up without their two leading ruckmen in Max Gawn and Jake Spencer, the Bombers have decided that the 201 cm, 108 kg Tom Bellchambers who hasn't seen duty in the AFL for almost two years will be good enough to do the job against a 193 cm Cam Pedersen who is now apparently several kgs lighter than his "official" weight of 99 kg recorded prior to his off season shoulder surgery. The Bombers can talk about resting players because of the short break but their supporters are thinking this time around that all their team has to do to win is just turn up. All the Demons will be hoping for is that Pedersen can stand up for more than the half a game of football their ruck personnel are currently lasting for these days in order that the team can get an even break at the stoppages. Whilst it's true that Melbourne has struggled to put together four quarters of consistency with key players going down in mid-game in recent weeks, I have a feeling that things might not be as bad as they look. After all, they managed to stay in the game against the Tigers until time on in the last quarter despite having virtually no rotations available. And they have Jordan Lewis back with the mission of atoning for his sins and actually giving the team something back for those barren three weeks of his absence. The Demons need to improve their efficiency inside fifty metres, particularly early in games. They had the opportunity in each of their last three matches to put away the opposition in the opening half and but for their failure to do so, could well have been sitting on 5 - 0 instead of a 2 - 3 win/loss ratio. There's a lot of coulda, shoulda and woulda in there but Simon Goodwin has promised to be adventurous and sooner or later, fortune will favour the brave. Melbourne has the midfield talent to overcome the apparent ruck disadvantage and besides, I think it's time for a turn of good fortune. If nothing else, the supporters deserve a rest after a month of things going horribly wrong. They're bound to go right very soon. Melbourne by 12 points
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