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  1. With a return to the winners circle, Melbourne produced a much needed victory against the Saints, in a fourth v fifth on the ladder match. The win also created a small buffer to those below, whereas a loss would have put the team’s whole finals objective on the edge. After losses in the wet, it could be said that the team had accumulated a fair bit of rust, and even in this game it wasn’t a pretty sight for their supporters. There were plenty of unforced errors, miskicks, dumb decision-making and certainly not the free flowing style of game we know the side is capable of, and more importantly, that’s needed to feature in finals action. The game was turned into a dour contest by the opposition coach, who honestly will never produce a premiership side while the main focus is on defence and defence alone. It might prevent the Saints from being thrashed, but it doesn’t teach them how to kick winning scores. This tactic might have been the norm more than five to ten years ago, unsurprisingly when the Saints and Fremantle featured in finals, but it will usually end in failure in the long term. While the Demons were busy trying to find their best on the field, the Saints were badly affected by injury. Pre-match they were without Hill, Membrey, Battle, Higgins and Coffield and less than a third of the way into game they had lost King, Cordy and Ross. This made the Saints even more defensive, and while some supporters criticised players in the backline for not moving the ball quickly, there was nothing open further up the field due to the extreme flooding tactics being employed against them. So the game simply became a waiting and watching scenario, back and forth, back and forth. Melbourne would intercept on the half-back line and try to thread their way through the St.Kilda lines, but not doing such a good job too often. When things didn’t work the Saints would try to switch immediately (another old tactic, that isn’t employed by leading coaches), only to discover the Demons had already covered their move by the time it got to the wing, and another intercept would occur. Start all over again! And intercept Melbourne did. There were 23 team intercept marks, with Steven May leading the way with eight from his 13 intercepts alone. Of course he was ably backed up by Petty with seven intercepts, Lever, McVee, Salem and Rivers chipping in with six each. The absence of any St.Kilda tall forwards certainly helped the situation, but without a change to game plan, the Saints were simply never going to be successful. Their goals almost exclusively came from spillages or dropped marks by the Melbourne players, a sure sign of how rusty some were, especially in the perfect conditions under the roof of Marvel stadium. Let’s hope the rustiness exhibited in the ruck division has finally been ground away, since Gawn and Grundy were given a lesson in not only ruckwork but around the ground play by Rohan Marshall on his own. Thirty disposals, seven intercepts, seven i50’s and ten marks at 86% disposal efficiency equalled or exceeded the totals for both Gawn and Grundy combined. Once again the Gawndy experiment of resting up forward was a miserable failure with zero score from both. They clogged up the forward line, unable to run defensively against smaller fitter defenders who stream away from them bringing the concept beyond the rusty stage to just plain embarrassing. We only need one on the ground at any time, and give the other a rest on the bench. Troubling is that Grundy was only on the ground for 67% of the time, so perhaps more than rust is involved. The much vaunted woes of the forward line had some of the rust scraped away. At least the side was kicking straight from set shots this week. Thanks mainly to Christian Petracca who, with brute strength was able to beat his opponent one-on-one to record four goals for the match. His kicking from set shots was more assured, indicating some considerable work had gone on during the week. The sad indictment is that our best forward is our best mid at the moment. We got away with it in this match, but will that be possible against Brisbane next week who have top rate midfielders to match against. If the ball doesn’t get into attack, it won’t matter how good Trac is up forward. Melksham kicked 2 goals, but rather than get excited about the number, both came from his usual tactic of out the back. Once again zero tackles despite being on the ground for over 90% of the game is more than being rusty. Those type of scoring opportunities won’t be repeated against the Brisbane defence. As they say, a win is a win. Maybe, but if the opponent is swaying on their feet in the first quarter, and only two interchange available for the majority of the game, a three goal victory in perfect conditions is a sub-par outcome. It was the time to grind off the rust and re-discover the shiny, polished metal beneath. By game’s end, only part of the job had been done, with just glimpses being shown. The engine is barely turning over smoothly and the drive train is a bit wonky. Time to get out the WD-40 and apply a hefty measure of hard work.  MELBOURNE 5.0.30 7.2.44 9.5.59 12.7.79 ST KILDA 3.5.23 4.7.31 6.8.44 8.10.58 GOALS MELBOURNE Petracca 4 Melksham Sparrow 2 Brown Hunter Langdon Neal-Bullen ST KILDA Gresham Owens 2 Billings Sharman Steele Wood BEST MELBOURNE Langdon Neal-Bullen May Sparrow Viney Petracca ST KILDA Steele Sinclair Marshall Wanganeen-Milera INJURIES MELBOURNE Petty (back) ST KILDA Ross (hamstring) King (shoulder) Cordy (concussion) REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil ST KILDA Nil SUBSTITUTIONS MELBOURNE Joel Smith (replaced Harrison Petty in the final quarter) ST KILDA Ryan Byrnes (replaced Max King in the first quarter) UMPIRES Chris Donlon Nick Foot Andrew Stephens Nathan Williamson CROWD 30,749 at Marvel Stadium
  2. There’s only one way that St Kilda will beat Melbourne on Saturday night and that is if the roof of Marvel Stadium develops a leak from the rain outside (the Bureau of Meteorology predicts a 70% chance of rain). Under a closed roof, the windless conditions at the venue give the Demons’ forward line their best chance in ages of snapping out of the most massive dose of off the rails scoring yips since Ian Baker-Finch put away his favourite set of clubs and retired from golf. It’s a well-documented fact that from Rounds 1-9 this season when Melbourne was ranked No. 1 for scoring accuracy, they have plummeted to a No. 18 ranking through rounds 10-16. And all this before the Demons confirmed their best forward Bayley Fritsch will miss an estimated 7-8 weeks with a broken foot which effectively means his season is over even assuming his recovery rate sees him at full fitness at a slightly better rate than Clayton Oliver or Tom McDonald. These players are all vital cogs in the club’s revival. The thing is that Melbourne is still playing its customary tough, hard brand of pressure football in the air and on the ground in defence and in the middle but when the ball starts zeroing in on that front third of the ground, it automatically finds a player wearing an opposition guernsey or goes through the wrong side of the big sticks. The saving grace has been that while Demons kicked 5.15 against the Giants, following scores of 8.15, 8.18, and 8.13, most of their recent losses were played in heavy wet conditions and that won’t be the case this week. The team has been followed around by dark black storm clouds laden with precipitation. It has followed them at home, in Geelong, over to Adelaide a couple of times and even to the country’s normally dry heart. The malaise has virtually eliminated their final two chances altogether and threatens their tenuous hold on a top four spot. They might even drop out of the finals altogether if they continue to miss their targets in front of goal. Fortunately, the circuit-breaker is now at hand for the game at St Kilda, winners at their last start but by a paltry eight points against the AFL’s most easy to beat side since the days when Dean Bailey and Mark Neeld ruled the roost at Melbourne. Over the first three quarters, the Saints allowed the Eagles to score 12.2 from 28 inside 50 entries. Now a defence as lousy as that is quite capable of leaking goals even to the wayward Demons on dry ground and I’m eliminating the possibility of a reprise to the days when the sprinkler system was inadvertently left on overnight before a game at the Saints’ old home ground. There are too many comic book heroes at Marvel Stadium to allow that to happen. I’m tipping Melbourne to hit its targets in the dry conditions at the Docklands and to win by 50 points. THE GAME St Kilda v Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday 8 July 2023 at 7.25pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall St Kilda 94 wins Melbourne 124 1 drawn At Marvel Stadium St Kilda 9 wins Melbourne 6 wins Past five meetings St Kilda 2 wins Melbourne 3 wins The Coaches Lyon 0 wins Goodwin 0 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 14.9.93 defeated St Kilda 8.7.55 at The MCG, Round 8, 2022 Ah, what a glorious time it was when the Demons found their men on the forward line and those men kicked truly. Ed Langdon, Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca all gathered possessions in the high thirties and Ben Brown and Kozzie Pickett snagged three goals each. Oh, wasn’t that a time? THE TEAMS ST KILDA B Z. Cordy D. Howard C. Wilkie HB J. Webster M. Windhager N. Wanganeen-Milera C M. Wood J. Steele S. Ross HF D. Butler M. Phillipou M. Owens F A. Caminiti M. King J. Gresham FOLL R. Marshall B. Crouch J. Sinclair I/C J. Billings Z. Jones C. Sharman L. Stocker SUB R. Byrnes EMG T. Campbell H. Clark J. Peris IN J. Billings Z. Cordy Z. Jones OUT J. Battle (concussion) J. Higgins (knee) B. Hill (knee) MELBOURNE B J. Bowey S. May H. Petty HB C. Salem J. Lever A. Brayshaw C J. Jordon J. Viney E. Langdon HF K. Pickett J. Melksham T. Sparrow F A. Neal-Bullen B. Brown C. Spargo FOLL M. Gawn C. Petracca T. Rivers I/C B. Grundy L. Hunter J. McVee T. Woewodin SUB J. Smith EMG K. Chandler J. Harmes J. van Rooyen IN J. Jordon C. Spargo T. Woewodin OUT K. Chandler (omitted) B. Fritsch (foot) J. Harmes (omitted) Injury List: Round 17 Clayton Oliver - Hamstring | Test 
Michael Hibberd - Kidney | 2 Weeks 
Tom McDonald - Ankle | 4 - 6 Weeks 
 Bayley Fritsch - Foot | 7 - 8 Weeks 
Kye Turner - Groin | TBC
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