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  1. Buddy Franklin’s farewell to his Sydney crowd, with a home finals berth in the offing for the Swans. All was set for a victory party in the Harbour City except that someone forgot to tell the Melbourne Demons, who turned out to be real party poopers. It certainly was set up for those victory celebrations when the Swans bounced out to a near three goal lead in the third quarter, but by the end that time the Demons had pegged the lead back to a mere four points. That lead soon evaporated, with Melbourne keeping the home side to a mere two points in the final stanza while they piled on a further four goals. At the commencement of the game, Melbourne already knew its fate with the results in other matches already being decided, and a fourth-place finish and a final against the arch-enemy Collingwood locked in for the first week. Melbourne teams in the past would have put the cue in the rack, and coasted to the end of the game, avoiding injury, and resting valuable players. But not this side. When the going demanded a lift in tempo, and with the game result in doubt up stepped the leaders of the club and the coach who demanded the output epitomized by the Demon Spirit. We have often heard of “playing our style of game” and it was on full display in this game. Especially in that third quarter when injuries threatened. Bayley Fritsch on return from seven weeks away with a foot injury, hobbled off the ground, and the fans feared the worse. However, he was to return, and finish the game with five goals, and what looked like a bruised side of his foot. It seems he will be able to play in subsequent games. Jake Bowey was in all sorts of trouble with a shoulder injury, but he also returned to the field and had a hand in repelling many an attacking thrust by the opposition. Then the worst was to occur when an innocuous stumble by a running Jake Melksham saw him collapse clutching his knee. While Melbourne fans can only hope, the body language from the coach in the post-match conference was rather glum, with an ACL injury as a strong prospect. After missing the 2021 Premiership, this would be a catastrophic event for Jake, especially since his form has been so good in the past weeks. For the first half of the game, the Demons clearly were not at their best. Perhaps it was slippery in the middle of the ground, but fumbling seemed to be the order of the day. With a tag on Clayton Oliver, his output was curtailed. But then Christian Petracca got going especially from that mid-point in the third and the tag was moved to him, to no avail, and that released Oliver as well. Petracca finished with 29 touches, and while he didn’t take full advantage in front of goal, he still accumulated 17 of those possessions as contested. Oliver, when he was unshackled finished with 25 and 10 contested, while the ever-irrepressible Jack Viney just powered on with 29 touches of his own and 14 contested. Tellingly, when Gawn, Petracca and Oliver were rested in the final minutes, Viney was still out there fighting and bullocking his way through the opposition. Down back, stability has returned with the addition of Daniel “Disco” Turner in only his third game for the club. Importantly, he knows how to play and execute a zone defence and positioned himself as required. It meant Jake Lever and Steven May were free to do their best jobs, so it was not surprising that May finished with 21 disposals, six marks and an incredible 550 metres gained. Lever was free to do his best and both stayed on the ground for 100% of the game. Unsurprisingly as a result, the Sydney talls in McDonald and Amartey only managed a single goal between them. Disco is likely to be playing finals in only his fourth game, so he probably needs to speak with Jaky Bowey about what can happen to someone in that circumstance. On the wings, Lachie Hunter ran riot again, and Ed Langdon was almost as influential, certainly saving one Sydney goal with a last gasp tackle. Hunter racked up another over 500 metres gained game from his 21 touches. Kudos also deserve to go to Jacob van Rooyen who despite low disposal numbers had plenty of time in the ruck and managed 15 hit outs from 80% game time. It was a big effort for a 20-year-old, especially since Sydney’s number 1 ruck in Tom Hickey only managed 17 hit outs for the game. With a break now to the first of the finals, a couple of Melbourne players will relish the rest, after a long season. It was interesting that even in this game, the coach was trying all manner of things. Jake Bowey taking most of the kickouts, Trent Rivers and Hunter in the midfield, Alex Neal-Bullen on the wing. It all pointed to the flexibility that will be needed and for the opposition to be unexpected come finals. With the forthcoming game against Collingwood, whose fans have declared their team to be certain premiers already, the stage is set for the Demons to become the party poopers, yet again. How sweet will that be! MELBOURNE 3.2.20 5.4.34 7.8.50 11.11.77 SYDNEY SWANS 2.5.17 3.8.26 7.12.54 7.14.56 GOALS MELBOURNE Fritsch 5 Melksham 2 Brayshaw Petracca Pickett van Rooyen SYDNEY SWANS Gulden 2 McDonald McLean Mills Warner Wicks BEST MELBOURNE Petracca Fritsch Viney May Brayshaw Neal-Bullen SYDNEY SWANS Gulden Mills Parker Warner McCartin Stephens LATE CHANGES MELBOURNE Nil SYDNEY SWANS Tom Papley (hamstring) replaced in selected side by Ryan Clarke INJURIES MELBOURNE Fritsch (foot) Melksham (leg) Bowey (shoulder) SYDNEY SWANS Nil REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil SYDNEY SWANS Nil SUBSTITUTIONS MELBOURNE Bailey Laurie (replaced Jake Melksham in third quarter) SYDNEY SWANS Nil UMPIRES Ray Chamberlain Simon Meredith Nathan Williamson Andre Gianfagna CROWD 41,753 at the SCG
  2. This is the time of year in football terms when the contenders separate themselves from the also rans. Last weekend’s results including one that rightly or wrongly, for the second week running, was determined by a goal umpire’s interpretation of an event that took place right in front of his eyes, has ensured that only one team in the competition can enter the ranks of the contenders from the outside. The rest will be considered by many in the football world as bums planning their campaigns for the future. For the third consecutive season, the Demons remain contenders and given their top four finish, they are strong contenders now. Their game in Sydney against another contender in the Sydney Swans, won’t change that but it would be unwise to consider the contest simply as a dead rubber. They still have their eyes on a top-two finish and home qualifying final but, because their final game for the season will be played out on Sunday afternoon, that issue might have been decided by then and they could well be already locked into fourth spot. The Swans are on a roll with six wins in a row. They can still finish anywhere between fifth and eighth and will be anxious for another scalp, particularly against a top four team in circumstances that could land them a much-prized home game elimination final. Whatever the case, there is an overriding principle at stake being that, while you don’t want to show your cards early or lose players with injury at the pointy end of the season, you don’t want to flirt with form either. History has proven that on numerous occasions. And even at this time of year, both clubs have many things to prove as their preparation for the finals ramp up. In Melbourne’s case, it has still yet to settle the all-important forward line up which appeared to have been fixed until Harrison Petty’s season-ending injury a few weeks ago. Bayley Fritsch is set to return this week, but will the Demons also give premiership big man Tom McDonald an opportunity to show his wares at the same time? What balance will be struck between the club’s midfield and the move of Christian Petracca for moments up forward and how to run Clayton Oliver into peak fitness and form on his return after such a long layoff? How does Simon Goodwin manage his ruck set up with the Gawn/Grundy experiment desperately in need of resolution (if that hasn’t yet been determined)? At the time of writing, the next day on which rain is predicted on the ten-day weather forecast for Sydney happens to be this Sunday. If the weather gurus turn out to be correct, then it will give the Demons the opportunity to dispel as a myth the idea that the team can’t perform in the wet. The last time they were called upon to do that was in the 2021 Anzac Eve clash when they demolished the reigning premiers Richmond and went on to win the flag. So, while many might claim that this game has no meaning, the Demons need to play like true contenders in all aspects of the game, rain, hail, or shine. That’s always been the Goodwin way and has particularly been the case in the past three seasons when his charges have always been in the competition’s top echelon. It will continue this week and deeply into September. Melbourne by 10 points. THE GAME Sydney Swans v Melbourne at the SCG Sunday 27 August 2023 at 3.20pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Sydney Swans 117 wins Melbourne 95 wins 2 drawn At SCG Sydney Swans 14 wins Melbourne 8 wins Last 5 meetings Sydney Swans 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins The Coaches Longmire 7 wins Goodwin 3 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 21.8.134 defeated Sydney Swans 12.12.84 in Round 3 2023 at the MCG The Demons were keen to avenge their loss to the Swans in last year’s qualifying final and, after a strong start and a keen tussle, they blew their opponents off the park with a 50-point shellacking on the MCG. Christian Petracca starred with 33 touches and, in the absence of Max Gawn who was injured the week before in Brisbane, Brodie Grundy starred with 25 hit outs to go with his 21 disposals. THE TEAMS SYDNEY SWANS B T. McCartin D. Rampe H. Cunningham HB O. Florent N. Blakey J. Lloyd C E. Gulden C. Warner D. Stephens HF W. Hayward H. McLean I. Heeney F L. McDonald J. Amartey R. Clarke FOLL T. Hickey L. Parker C. Mills I/C B. Campbell R. Fox J. Rowbottom S. Wicks SUB A. Francis EMG L.Melican M.Roberts IN J.Amartey OUT T. Papley (hamstring) MELBOURNE
 B J. Bowey S. May T. Rivers HB J. McVee J. Lever C. Salem C L. Hunter J. Viney A. Brayshaw HF K. Chandler J. Melksham A. Neal-Bullen F E. Langdon J. van Rooyen K. Pickett FOLL M. Gawn C. Oliver C. Petracca I/C B. Fritsch J. Smith T. Sparrow D. Turner SUB B. Laurie EMG T. McDonald A. Tomlinson T. Woewodin IN B. Fritsch D. Turner OUT J. Schache (omitted) A. Tomlinson (omitted) Injury List: Round 24 Bayley Fritsch - Foot | Test Michael Hibberd - Concussion | 1 - 2 Weeks Ben Brown - Knee | TBC Blake Howes - Hand | Season Harrison Petty - Foot | Season Oliver Sestan - Elbow | Season
  3. While the chequered flag was waved to indicate the end of a F1 race at Albert Park, it was the Grand Old Flag of Melbourne that flew high at the MCG to celebrate the Demons win over Sydney. At the final bell it was an emphatic victory of nearly a nine goal margin, which against a Sydney side who have had “the wood” over the Demons in recent years, was something special for the fans. Make no mistake, Sydney are a seriously good side. After all they played in the GF last year and have always been competitive with a never say die attitude. It was exactly the same in this game as the score bounced between a 3-5 goal margin for the Demons for most of the match until the final quarter. Even during the third quarter the Swans had pegged the margin back to a single goal, but that was as close as they got. It was then that the Demons put the pedal to the metal, and came home by the length of the straight, kicking seven final quarter goals, and putting through 21 majors for the game. A team playing without captain Max Gawn meant the rucking roles fell to Brody Grundy and first gamer Jacob van Rooyen. And what a debut for the 19 year old kicking three goals himself and six contested possessions, while breaking open packs and creating chances for others. Assisting him in the forward line was Bayley Fritsch with three goals, and also a return to form with his dangerous crumbing around packs, but Kade Chandler also chipped in with three goals, as a result of serious running to space to take advantage of forward thrusts. Surprises abounded right from the start as Simon Goodwin placed Harrison Petty in the forward line, thereby stretching the Swans defence right from the start, which probably created more opportunities for the smaller Demon forwards. Final clearance statistics including centre square and around the ground stoppage were a dead heat for both sides. But this wasn’t the case for the majority of the match, as the Swans clearly led. It was only in that final quarter when the Demon mid-field trio of Christian Petracca, 33 disposals, Clayton Oliver 25 and Jack Viney 19 took control. In the absence of Max, Grundy took on the Sydney rucks and chalked up nine score involvements, while the damaging wingers of the Demons in Langdon and Hunter showed a clean pair of heels to their opposition with 23 and 24 possessions respectively. Melbourne are now playing a very modified type of game, where territory is king. Six players in Petracca, Oliver, May, Jordon, Hunter and Rivers had over 400 metres gained, while only one Swans player exceed this mark. This countered the Swans’ tactic of short possession type moves, and was disheartening for them when their efforts saw a single Melbourne disposal destroy all their good work. We all know the AFL season is not a sprint race, like a Grand Prix. It is truly a marathon event and keeping players fit and healthy is paramount. And like a marathon it is a grinding sport, where the final stages of a game show us the true champions. The Grand Old Flag was waved strongly at the end and after having played three of last years finalists in their first three games, and beating a Grand Finalist so emphatically in this game, shows that the Grand Prix at season end is well within its grasp. MELBOURNE 6.1.37 9.3.57 14.4.88 21.8.134 SYDNEY SWANS 1.3.9 6.6.42 9.9.63 12.12.84 GOALS MELBOURNE Chandler Fritsch van Rooyen 3 Hunter Oliver Spargo 2 Brown Jordon Neal-Bullen Melksham Petty Sparrow SYDNEY SWANS Papley 3 Franklin Hayward 2 Blakey Gulden McDonald McInerney Rowbottom BEST MELBOURNE Grundy Oliver Hunter Petracca Chandler van Rooyen SYDNEY SWANS Mills Papley Franklin T McCartin Gulden Blakey INJURIES MELBOURNE Nil SYDNEY SWANS Nil SUBSTITUTIONS MELBOURNE Jake Melksham (replaced Ben Brown in the third quarter) SYDNEY SWANS Matt Roberts (replaced Dylan Stephens in the third quarter) REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil SYDNEY SWANS Nil UMPIRES Hayden Gavine Alex Whetton Robert Findlay Jacob Mollison OFFICIAL CROWD 42,423 at The MCG PLEASE SUPPORT THE REACH FOUNDATION https://www.reach.org.au/support-us/
  4. If the Demons are to win their Round 3 encounter with the Sydney Swans this week, then the frustration of last Friday night’s uncharacteristic performance against the Brisbane Lions cannot be allowed to live in the collective heads of the players. What made the mediocrity of the first three and a half quarters of the encounter with the Lions so uncharacteristic was that it defied every aspect of the impressive months of preparation for the season the players underwent along with the match simulation, the practice match form and the opening round performance against the Bulldogs. All of those things were impeccable but right now, it will all amount to nothing unless the team regains the resilience and composure of which those months showed it is clearly capable. The positive aspect of this week’s game is that the conditions that conspired to bring about the Demons’ downfall up north are unlikely to be replicated. Firstly, there was Max Gawn’s knee injury in the first ten minutes of the game. Simon Goodwin referred to it as the "emotional toll to your team when you lose your skipper that early in the game," but it went far beyond that given that his removal from the game also had a dramatic impact on the structure of the side with the need to rely on Brodie Grundy to do most of the ruckwork and the loss of an important tall to work around the ground, both forward and back. Combined with the last minute withdrawal of defender Steven May, the effect on the team’s ability to contain the surging Lions in the last half of the opening term and the vital first ten minutes of the third quarter was devastating. Secondly, the conditions at the Gabba definitely caught Melbourne off guard, particularly in those "emotional moments" of the game when the skipper’s plight was front and centre in the players’ minds. The tiniest lapse in concentration can and does lead to a drop in confidence and the fumbling begins, especially where the opposition is desperate itself to increase its work rate and intensity after its own troubling form of the previous week. This is not a case of making excuses but rather, a way of stating that the team is now much better placed to confront its next challenge. This is especially so now that Gawn’s prognosis for the future is known to be better than the gloomy outlook of Friday night when the players were stunned by their skipper’s sudden departure from the field. This week against the Swans at the MCG, the Demons should feel right at home and be motivated by the need to get their season back on track. It’s no coincidence that the Swans are on top of the ladder given who they were pitted against in the opening two rounds. The upshot is two very comfortable wins and a great percentage but the downside is that they have barely been put under much pressure either at the stoppages or in defence over 200 minutes of football. The Swans have even had the luxury of playing without Tom Hickey, their number one ruckman, leaving them with Peter Ladhams and a primary key position forward in Hayden McLean to take care the ruck work. This week they are almost certain to come up with a like for like ruck combination and a far more formidable midfield outfit stung by last week’s events. I wouldn’t put too much store on what took place in the five-goal post power surge minutes of the final term but at least they did show some fight and an ability to bring up a change of momentum. If they can introduce that sort of intensity for four quarters then they will be on their way to a win and an acceptable 2 - 1 record after meeting three of the early season’s contenders. With May back, a game under the belts of Bayley Fritsch and Jack Viney, the composure and resilience of the midfield is expected to restore the normal balance against a very difficult opponent. If they can stay on target, the Demons by 5 points. THE GAME Melbourne vs Sydney Swans at The MCG Sunday 2 April, 2023 at 3.20pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 94 wins Sydney Swans 117 wins 2 drawn At The MCG Melbourne 50 wins Sydney Swans 47 wins 2 drawn Last 5 meetings Melbourne 1 win Sydney Swans 4 wins The Coaches Goodwin 2 wins Longmire 7 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Sydney Swans 14.7.91 defeated Melbourne 10.9.69 in the Second Qualifying Final, 2022 at The MCG Melbourne established a good early lead but Sydney gathered the momentum to lead by a goal at the main break. The Demons turned things around early in the second half but a change came over the game when a lucky free and a 50 metre penalty were paid to Lance Franklin who was being dominated by Steven May. The ailing Demons couldn’t take a trick while the Swans were kicking them from everywhere to overwhelm their hosts by 22 points. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B T. Rivers S. May J. Lever HB K. Chandler H. Petty L. Hunter C J. Jordon C.Oliver E. Langdon HF T. Sparrow B. Fritsch A. Brayshaw F A. Neal-Bullen B. Brown C. Spargo FOLL B. Grundy C. Petracca J. Viney I/C J. Bowey M. Hibberd J. McVee J. van Rooyen SUB J. Melksham EMG L. Dunstan B. Laurie T. McDonald IN M. Hibberd J. Jordon S. May J. van Rooyen OUT M. Gawn (knee) J. Harmes (personal reasons) T. McDonald (omitted) A. Tomlinson (omitted) NEW J. van Rooyen (East Fremantle WAFL) SYDNEY SWANS B T. McCartin D. Rampe P. McCartin HB O. Florent J. Lloyd N. Blakey C E. Gulden L. Parker D. Stephens HF I. Heeney W. Hayward J. Amartey F T. Papley L. Franklin L. McDonald FOLL P. Ladhams J. Rowbottom C. Mills I/C B. Campbell H. Cunningham J. McInerney C. Warner SUB M. Roberts EMG H. Hall-Kahan H. McLean A. Sheldrick IN L. Franklin OUT H. McLean (omitted) Injury and Suspension List: Round 3 Steven May - Calf | Test Daniel Turner - Foot | Test Kysaiah Pickett - Suspended | 1 Week Josh Schache - Concussion | 1 - 2 Weeks Max Gawn - Knee | 4 - 6 Weeks Taj Woewodin - Finger | 5 Weeks Christian Salem - Knee | 6 - 8 weeks Will Verrall - Pelvis | 8 - 10 Weeks PLEASE SUPPORT THE REACH FOUNDATION https://www.reach.org.au/support-us/
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