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  1. Twice in the game against Richmond, Melbourne found itself down by 20 points but it kept on coming. By the ¾ time bell, the Dees had their noses in front in a game that was turning into a cliffhanger. The Toiyges persevered and found themselves again in front early in the final quarter. All of a sudden however, the game changed — in a short space of time, it turned from a cliffhanger into a deep chasm with the Demons eventually running out winners by five goals. For the Tigers, not only has the cliff loomed up following their three premierships in four years, but in the same way as this game panned out, their aging stars have reached the end of their useful life. They simply are unable to do what they had done in the past. Cotchin, with a meagre nine touches, Grimes six, Riewoldt eight, Baker eleven. They were all the movers and shakers from those glory years, yet in this game could not amass more possessions combined than Jack Viney. Viney on his own was better than those four Richmond players, but a collective gasp went through the Melbourne supporters as it looked like he had done some sort of serious injury in the third quarter as he lay motionless on the ground. As doctors and trainers rushed to him, it appeared to all that he was finished for the game but like the legendary Lazarus, he wasn’t down and out for four days before resurrection. He returned to the battle straight away, without even taking a break on the bench. Things got even worse for Richmond in that final quarter, when Max Gawn grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and kept blasting the ball forward from centre bounce and around the ground ruck contests. In no small measure his dominance came when Ivan Soldo fell off the cliff, couldn’t run any more, and Richmond were forced to use Balta and Martin as substitute rucks. Max finished with 28 possessions of which an incredible 22 were contested, and 10 score involvements. Feeding off the Gawn masterclass were Viney with 32 touches, 10 contested while Christian Petracca kept racking up similar numbers with 29 of his own, and 14 of those contested. And then Angus Brayshaw chipped in with a leisurely 22 touches and nine contested. While the lead changes kept coming until that final stanza, the much doubted Melbourne forward line hit a frightening high for other teams in contention, with 130 points scored including six in the final quarter. There is now no other place in the side than forward for Harrison Petty who slotted six goals straight from ten marks, while his partner in Jacob van Rooyen kept putting it straight over the goal umpires cap four times without a miss. The accuracy, which had been missing earlier in the season became infectious and Jake Melksham sent the ball sailing over the same goal umpires hats four times without missing. Of course, Kysaiah Pickett had to have some influence and he put through two majors, but blotted the forwards copy book with a solitary point, unlike the others. But we will forgive that … The backs struggled for a good part of the match, and kept giving up silly goals to keep the Tigers in the match. To change things up, Judd McVee was struggling with Dustin Martin, when he was playing forward, but Simon Goodwin then moved Steven May on to him, and like his other premiership team-mates, he simply went missing in the end. This change could have been damaging to a young player, but not Judd, who was simply sublime in that final challenging quarter, dancing through opposition players, and delivering the ball accurately to those upfield. Jake Lever, of course, was back to his best with nine intercept possessions and eight marks, but the really damaging player in the backline is becoming Trent Rivers with 22 touches, and with his long kicking an extraordinary 427 metres gained. Melbourne now sits comfortably in the top four and nothing is likely to change from that position from here to finals time. Can they slide into the top two spot? It’s possible given that the other top three sides lost this week, so a lot depends upon their results in the coming games. The Demons are looking to climb the mountain again, and are in the perfect condition at the right time in the season. For the Toyges, they simply nosedived, not only out of contention for the eight, but into a very deep hole for the future. There was no cliffhanger in this game, no hanging on by the finger nails; they were booted well and truly over the edge. At the end their players were truly “yellow and black” from the beating they took and the hard landing at the bottom. MELBOURNE 3.5.23 8.5.53 14.6.90 20.10.130 RICHMOND 5.4.34 9.7.61 13.8.86 15.8.98 GOALS MELBOURNE Petty 6 Melksham van Rooyen 4 Pickett 2 Chandler Hunter Neal-Bullen Petracca RICHMOND Martin 3 Baker McIntosh 2 Balta Bolton Coulthard Prestia Riewoldt Rioli Soldo Taranto BEST MELBOURNE Petty Gawn Viney Melksham van Rooyen Rivers
 RICHMOND Martin Bolton Taranto Prestia Baker INJURIES MELBOURNE Nil
 RICHMOND Nil REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil RICHMOND Nil SUBSTITUTIONS MELBOURNE Joel Smith (replaced Adam Tomlinson in the third quarter) RICHMOND Matthew Coulthard (replaced Ben Miller in the third quarter) UMPIRES Daniel Johanson Mathew Nicholls Nathan Toner Andre Gianfagna CROWD 52,294 at the MCG
  2. The search to discover the real Melbourne continues. Most of the search centres on its forward line but there’s more to it than that. The attack worked reasonably well for the first nine rounds despite the disruption of injuries to key position players. The Demons averaged 107 points per game to feature as the competition’s leading scorer, had a 7-2 win/loss record and were heading for a possible top two placing. But as wet weather and goal front inaccuracy bedeviled the team over rounds 10 to 16, that average plummeted dramatically to 64 points as they lost four out of six games by narrow margins — games that were eminently winnable and people were asking, “what is the real Melbourne?” It was then that coach Simon Goodwin undertook a new tack, mixing things around in the midfield and up forward due in part to form and to necessity as a result injuries, notably to star players like Clayton Oliver and Bayley Fritsch. This involved some clever and inspired innovation. Brodie Grundy was sent to Casey to work on his forward craft, some of the team’s smaller forwards were also sent to the VFL, others were given more midfield minutes and Christian Petracca’s spent extra time up forward yielding four goals twice in a row. In the three matches since, the team has started hitting the target more regularly, the average score surged upwards by 30 points, and the wins have come. But despite the improvement in forward connection, Goodwin is still searching. "We are still not finished in what we are doing and we have got to find ways to continue to improve … ," he said after last week’s game. One area where his team needs to improve is in bridling opposition run ons such as those we’ve seen recently from Geelong, GWS Giants, Brisbane and Adelaide. Stop these and the Demons will really be on their way. And that brings us to this week’s game against Richmond which finished last week’s game against Hawthorn with six consecutive goals after they languished in the shadows of defeat shortly before three quarter time. The Tigers rose Phoenix-like from the dead to revive their finals hopes and with the new belief engendered by their last ditch win, they present danger to Melbourne if they can repeat that effort. As it is, they gave the Demons a hard time at their last encounter on Anzac Day Eve when under the coaching of Damien Hardwick who not long after, quit the club having lost the desire to continue in the job. His replacement, Andrew McQualter has them buzzing along nicely with the likes of Taranto, Bolton and Baker starring and Dustin Martin returning to his dangerous form of old. The Demons will have to produce their very best in terms of applying maximum pressure for four quarters. They can’t afford a repeat of their recent final term fadeouts against the Cats and the Crows because the Tigers have come back from the dead in two of their last three games which is the reason why the sit outside the top eight on percentage only. I’m backing Goodwin to succeed in his search for the answer to the puzzle. The Demons are due to perform for the full four quarters and to prove once again that they are the true masters of the MCG. Melbourne by 55 points. THE GAME Richmond v Melbourne on Sunday 30 July 2023 at 3.20pm at the MCG HEAD TO HEAD Overall Richmond 107 wins Melbourne 78 wins Drawn 2 At the MCG Richmond 72 wins Melbourne 66 wins Drawn 1 Past five meetings Richmond 2 wins Melbourne 3 wins The Coaches McQualter 0 wins Goodwin 0 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 15.6.96 defeated Richmond 11.12.78 at the MCG, Round 6, 2023 The Demons looked sluggish on their return from the Gather Round in Adelaide. Richmond opened up a decent lead in the third term but thanks to the midfield brilliance of Jack Viney, Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca, Melbourne was able to take control early in the final term to win by three goals. THE TEAMS RICHMOND B N. Balta, D. Grimes T. Young HB N. Vlastuin N. Broad D. Rioli C K. McIntosh T. Taranto J. Ross HF J. Graham J. Hopper L. Baker F J. Riewoldt D. Martin M. Pickett FOLL I. Soldo D. Prestia S. Bolton I/C S. Banks, T. Cotchin R. Mansell B. Miller SUB M. Coulthard EMG N. Cumberland H. Ralphsmith S. Ryan No Change MELBOURNE B T. Rivers, S. May, J. Lever HB C. Salem A. Tomlinson J. Bowey C L. Hunter J. Viney E. Langdon HF K. Chandler J. Melksham J. Jordon F A. Neal-Bullen J. Van Rooyen K. Pickett FOLL M. Gawn A. Brayshaw C. Petracca I/C J. Harmes J. McVee H. Petty T. Woewodin SUB J. Smith EMG B. Grundy M. Hibberd C. Spargo IN J. Harmes H. Petty OUT B. Brown (omitted) T. Sparrow Injury List: Round 20 Harry Petty - Ribs | Test Clayton Oliver - Hamstring | 2 - 3 Weeks Tom McDonald - Ankle | 2 - 3 Weeks Kye Turner - Groin | 3 - 4 Weeks Bayley Fritsch - Foot | 4 - 5 Weeks Daniel Turner - Hand | 4 - 5 Weeks Blake Howes - Hand | Season
  3. The smell of linament around football change rooms is pervasive. Be it Deep Heat, Goanna Oil or Tiger Balm, the aroma creeps into the very makeup of every football team. And in this ANZAC Eve game, Richmond brought along their Tiger Balm but it was the Demons who eventually applied the Deep Heat to the game that resulted in them being victorious to the tune of 18 points. Make no mistake, this was a tough hard and telling game. The Tiges opened up a 25 point lead in the second quarter, leaving the Demons looking way out of sorts in the same way as they appeared in their previous losses in Brisbane and last week in the Adelaide Gather Round. Fortunately, they had the Deep Heat with them to bring into the contest and courtesy of Brodie Grundy and Jack Viney they applied the heat and started to produce results. Down back Noah Cumberland threatened to blow the game apart after three first quarter goals, but once the heat was applied by Michael Hibberd, he disappeared from the game. Further, Hibberd became a defensive wall on his own with 12 intercept possessions to add to his 23 disposals overall. The other bricks in the wall, namely Steven May and Jake Lever contributed with 11 and 10 equally important intercepts of their own. And lest we forget the contributions of Angus Brayshaw in his defensive roles, popping up at the most critical points in the game preventing the opposition from bringing their heat to the game. By way of a similar comparison at the other end of the field, Jacob Van Rooyen was virtually unsighted for ¾ of the game, but applied all his efforts to produce a final quarter barrage of three goals. This brought the Demon fans to their feet with chants of “Roo” rebounding throughout the near 84,000 strong crowd. Equally important was the contribution of Kade Chandler around goal, with desperately needed three majors,given the quiet games of Kozzie Pickett and Bayley Fritsch, who usually fill the roles of major goalkickers. The experiment of Harry Petty up forward will probably be parked for a “break glass” situation as he could only manage four marks for the game and by the final quarter found himself back in his role in the defensive structures. Likewise, the resting ruck forward experiment can be put to bed as, despite their height advantage, Grundy failed to kick a goal and Max Gawn managed to snag one lucky one late in the piece. Their skills are more useful around the ground and of course in the ruck roles. The wingers Ed Langdon and Lachie Hunter, keep on keeping on and the only question of heat would be how hot the opposition players get chasing them around the ground. Twenty disposals each, covering the defensive roles and driving the ball deep into attack is emblematic of the heat which the Demons brought to the game when needed. Melbourne was genuinely fortunate that Richmond were unable to kick straight in a grinding game, particularly from set shots which saw them kick 6.9 while the Demons scored 9.5 from their set chances in front of goal. In the end this was the difference between winning and losing. Once again, it was when Grundy finally got on top of the opposition ruck in the latter stages of the game, in exactly the same way as he did against Brisbane and Essendon, that the side came back into the contest. Except this time it produced the winning outcome in the game. Once he brought the heat, the likes of Clayton Oliver, Viney and Christian Petracca were able to do their best as well. The Richmond lead slowly evaporated to see a mere 2 points separating the sides at ¾ time after an Oliver goal after the siren. The final stanza then became a question of how much courtesy of the Van Rooyen show while the Tiges could only manage a single goal late in the game. The Demons’ Deep Heat melted the poor Toiyges like the butter that they are made of according to the old Fairy tale. For Melbourne it was the type of heat that they need to bring to each and every game. But with some very tired legs, cramps and plenty of body contact in this game, they will be needing bucketloads of the lineament version during the 5 day break before their next match against North. MELBOURNE 2.2.14 6.2.38 10.5.65 15.6.96 RICHMOND 5.2.32 8.4.52 10.7.67 11.12.78 GOALS MELBOURNE Chandler van Rooyen 3 Fritsch Gawn Jordon Langdon Neal-Bullen Oliver Petty Pickett Viney RICHMOND Riewoldt 4 Cumberland 3 Hopper Mansell Martin Ryan BEST MELBOURNE Viney Oliver Petracca Gawn Lever Sparrow RICHMOND Short Riewoldt Taranto Martin Hopper INJURIES MELBOURNE Nil RICHMOND M.Rioli (hamstring) REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil RICHMOND Nil SUBSTITUTIONS MELBOURNE Bailey Laurie (replaced Trent Rivers in the fourth quarter) RICHMOND Hugo Ralphsmith (replaced Ben Miller in the fourth quarter) UMPIRES Brett Rosebury Robert O'Gorman Curtis Deboy Jamie Broadbent CROWD 83,985 at The MCG
  4. Is Melbourne regressing into the unreliable combination of its pre-Covid days when fans never quite knew what to expect from the team on any given day? We are five matches into a new season and the Demons have produced outstanding performances in three matches coupled with two insipid displays, albeit marred by conditions and circumstances that were not ideal. However, any good team worth its salt, is expected to rise above adversity and Melbourne did not against Essendon last week in Adelaide. The Demons have not yet lost the faith of the supporters but on Anzac Eve, at a time we traditionally associate with strong spirit, heroism, and the triumph of courage over adversity, they will be tested. There will be no room for them to shrug shoulders at the end of the night and claim that “this was not us”. Certainly, Melbourne without its indefatigable skipper, was tested for yet another week by a team with two tall rucks who dominated in front of the goals in wild and woolly conditions with rain falling and the normally ever-reliable defence stretched in the absence of Jake Lever and Michael Hibberd to intercept the ball coming regularly out of the middle, particularly early when Clayton Oliver was well shackled. But there was still something terribly wrong happening for the Demons in the first half against the Bombers. They give up the ascendancy in each of the opening terms, regained momentum, took control momentarily and gave it away again. On the second occasion, the Demons were outrun and outplayed after cockily wasting opportunities to increase their lead to something handy while a heavy downpour threatened. The team that a week earlier were being vaunted for their newly found high scoring attacking style of play, spent fifty spiritless and goalless minutes under intimidation from a team that one week earlier, struggled to beat the lowly Giants on their home turf. So, the question on every Demon fan’s lip as the Anzac Eve match approaches is simple - which Melbourne team is going to turn up on the night? It will certainly be a different combination to the one that gathered round and spectated for so much of their game in Adelaide. The makeup of the team will necessarily change with players mooted to return from injury and others who have shown some form at the level below. Melbourne can take solace from its midfield leaders who fought out the last game in the Anzac Spirit. That Oliver finished with more than 40 touches was testament to the will he showed and the example he brings to the team. Likewise Christian Petracca and Jack Viney who never gave in and gave their team a touch of respectability in the final term last week. This still leaves Simon Goodwin with a massive repair job for this week against a team with troubles of its own. The Tigers’ form has been poor lately and they will miss Nankervis in the ruck and Lynch at full forward. Missing also will be some valuable foot soldiers in Broad, Short, Gibcus and Soldo. But even if the memory of their recent premiership run is fading, they cannot be taken lightly and if the Demons do so, they will suddenly find themselves back in the pack with other contenders fighting for life and light years away from the premiership favouritism to which they only recently aspired. I’m tipping them to win but only if they show some spirit this time. Otherwise, it will start getting close to the last chance saloon as far as their credibility as a football power is concerned. Melbourne by 15 points. THE GAME Melbourne v Richmond on Monday 24 April 2023 at 7.25pm at the MCG HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 77 wins Richmond 107 wins Drawn 2 At MCG Melbourne 65 wins Richmond 72 wins Drawn 1 Past five meetings Melbourne 2 wins Richmond 3 wins The Coaches Goodwin 2 wins Hardwick 4 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 9.22.76 defeated Richmond 8.6.54 Clayton Oliver had 41 possessions in an outstanding display of midfield power. Max Gawn dominated the rucks and Ed Langdon was supreme on his wing. Despite all that, thanks to their appalling inaccuracy in front of goals the Demons scrambled their way to an unconvincing 22-point victory. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B H. Petty S. May T. Rivers HB K. Chandler J. Lever E. Langdon C A. Brayshaw C. Oliver L. Hunter HF J. McVee B. Grundy A. Neal-Bullen F K. Pickett J. van Rooyen B. Fritsch FOLL M. Gawn J. Viney C. Petracca I/C J. Bowey M. Hibberd J. Jordon T. Sparrow SUB B. Laurie EMG L. Dunstan J. Schache D. Turner IN M. Gawn M. Hibberd B. Laurie J. Lever OUT J. Melksham (omitted) T. McDonald (omitted) C. Spargo (concussion) A. Tomlinson (omitted) RICHMOND B N. Balta D. Grimes T. Young HB L. Baker N. Vlastuin D. Rioli C K. McIntosh T. Taranto M. Pickett HF M. Rioli D. Martin R. Mansell F B. Miller N. Cumberland J. Riewoldt FOLL S. Ryan S. Bolton J. Hopper I/C J. Clarke T. Cotchin D. Prestia J. Short T. Sonsie SUB H. Ralphsmith EMG J. Bauer J. Ross T. Sonsie IN J. Short OUT T. Sonsie (omitted) Injury List: Round 6 Ben Brown - Back | Test Max Gawn - Knee | Test Michael Hibberd - Achilles | Test Jake Lever - Ankle | Test Charlie Spargo - Concussion | TBC Kye Turner - Groin | TBC Joel Smith - Thumb | 1 Week Christian Salem - Knee | 2 - 4 Weeks Will Verrall - Pelvis | 8 - 9 Weeks
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