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  1. Who said the football gods and scoreboard attendants at the MCG don’t have a sense of humour? The gods spent a whole week teasing Demon and Bomber fans alike about Saturday night’s game. About how the entire match would be dominated by the hulking, brooding figures of 205cm Sam Draper and his 2IC Peter Wright lapping it up in the absence of Melbourne skipper and the club's No.1, No 2, No 3 and No 4 ruckman Max Gawn in the wake of that ankle injury. They painted pictures of Simon Goodwin nervously sending a bevy of undersized makeshift ruckmen out into a gunfight with a defective Swiss Army knife. The end result in this scenario would be painful for the ailing Demons already without another superstar in Christian Petracca and with Clayton Oliver well down on form while the Bombers’ own newfound midfield gods were propelling them into the stratosphere of a potential top two finish. For Demon fans, the script provided for more doom and gloom in an already derailed season that spelled an end to its mini “dynasty” of one flag, the hopes of seeing more premiership success on their beloved home of football at any time soon. But the gods were about to have their laugh by moving the goalposts somewhat. The MCG scoreboard attendants were in on the joke. They put it up there on the big screens for all to see in the form of Australian band when they played the 1983 hit of legendary Antipodean rock band Dragon, simply titled “Rain”. It was already coming down in buckets before the game started and Bayley Fritsch managed to allay some early fears when he spun around for the first goal but it didn’t take long for Draper to stamp his dominance in the ruck. This soon became panic stations when Melbourne’s defensive structures fell down and Essendon began to pick free targets at will to kick three goals in quick succession. The doomsday script was seemingly on track. It took two goals late in the term to all but even things out at the first break … and then the gods and Goodwin had their laugh. The heavens opened again. It teemed down and the Demons teamed up, playing good old fashioned contested football with acting skipper Jack Viney, Trent Rivers (who was already having a good game), Clayton Oliver (coming out of his shell) and Alex Neal-Bullen going in heads down, bum up winning the clearances and rattling opponents while Harry Petty and Jacob van Rooyen nullified the Bombers’ height advantage to the point where Brad Scott was forced to dispense with Two Metre Peter altogether in the third term as he was becoming a liability. You can’t underestimate the value provided by van Rooyen in the heat of the battle. Nor the work rate of Ed Langdon (31 disposals and a goal) and Caleb Windsor who was not as prolific as his team mate on the other wing but he was so polished. Then there was Kozzy Pickett in his 100th game who shone out in the difficult conditions with some sublime passages of brilliance which put the fear of god whenever he was thereabouts. Melbourne kept its two to three goal buffer throughout the third term, adding marginally to its lead and then went on a scoring spree in the first half of the last quarter when it jumped out to a 41-point lead on the back of some goal kicking accuracy and heroics from Jake Melksham, Fritsch and Turner. Whether it was the six-day break, the younger bodies or a surge of umpiring decisions that went against them, it’s hard to tell but once again they leaked goals at the end, losing valuable percentage in what will remain a tough race to make the final eight. Until that late Bomber surge, the Melbourne defence was virtually impenetrable with its key players Steven May, Jake Lever and Tom McDonald holding sway and Judd McVee acting ever so coolly as the smiling assassin of the Bombers attack. In the end, the big figure was Melbourne’s +12 advantage in clearances and not the -16 deficit in hit outs. It remains a mystery as to how the final margin was so close but even this was probably the result of some Demons up in the heavens having a laugh. MELBOURNE 3.2.20 6.6.43 8.6.54 13.6.84 ESSENDON 3.3.21 4.5.29 5.7.37 10.7.67 GOALS MELBOURNE Fritsch Turner 3 Melksham Pickett 2 Chandler Langdon Windsor ESSENDON Martin 4 Duursma Langford 2 Durham Jones BEST MELBOURNE Rivers Oliver Langdon Melksham Windsor Pickett ESSENDON Ridley Martin Merrett McKay Shiel INJURIES MELBOURNE Nil ESSENDON Nil REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil ESSENDON Nil SUBSTITUTIONS MELBOURNE Taj Woewodin (replaced Andy Moniz-Wakefield in the fourth quarter) ESSENDON Nick Hind (replaced Peter Wright in the third quarter) UMPIRES Nick Foot Andrew Stephens Nathan Williamson Cameron Dore CROWD 52,866 at The MCG
  2. The crack in the captain’s ankle might be very small but the repercussions of the injury are enormous. The aftershock of the news that Max Gawn will sit on the sidelines for the next two or three weeks has provided Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin with a giant headache, not unlike the one he faced after the Kings Birthday when another Demon superstar Christian Petracca suffered his season-ending injury. That headache is magnified by the fact that Goodwin is facing a month of tough encounters against other finals contenders at a time when his team’s fate hangs in the balance. First cab off the rank is Essendon which few would have predicted would be sitting inside the top four at this stage in proceedings after such an abysmal end to its 2023 campaign. This year, the Bombers’ favourable draw and some narrow wins against lowly sides have them in the top four with a percentage below 100. However, with a number of players in career best form, they present problems for Goodwin and his team. Notable among them is Bomber skipper, Zach Merrett who has been the catalyst for the Bomber revival, but he hasn’t been alone among a playing list that spells danger for the Demons. Their defence has tightened up and is stronger with the return of Ridley who joins Ben McKay in career-best form. They have a bevy of players like Jye Caldwell, Nic Martin, Sam Durham, Jake Stringer and Dylan Shiel who are standing up to be counted. Last week Merrett and Caldwell each notched up 30 disposals to throttle Collingwood's premiership midfield. Their influence must be curtailed. Then there are their talls like ruckman Sam Draper who has managed to avoid a direct confrontation with Gawny for the second time in as many years. Two Metre Peter will also stretch the Demons’ defence. Which brings us back to Melbourne’s giant ruck headache, exacerbated when the club agreed to part company with Brodie Grundy at the end of last year. The club chose Brisbane’s 200cm Tom Fullarton to replace the former Magpie, but he is designated on the club’s website as a “key forward” and hasn’t played an AFL game since the 2022 semi final against Melbourne when he managed just four hit outs. As the club’s General Manager of AFL Football Performance Alan Richardson said during the week: "While Max is the calibre of player that can't be replaced easily, it provides an exciting opportunity for others to come in and play their role in our side." It remains to be seen what rabbit the Demon selectors pull out of their hat but that has been the story of their season so far. Just as the loss through the premature retirement of Angus Brayshaw, the well documented off-season problems of Clayton Oliver and the seemingly never-ending investigation into Joel Smith have all caused grief, the club has soldiered on without complaint. The coach moves players around like chess pieces, changes tactics and strategies, and all the while he manages to keep the club’s finals prospects alive as it moves deeper into the season. Each turn of an unfriendly card presents a challenge that must be confronted. The mother of invention has caused a major upheaval at Melbourne during 2024. The previously rock solid midfield foundation stone of Petracca, Oliver, Viney and Brayshaw has been split. That midfield no longer dominates the clearances at the feet of Gawn as it did in the past when it overwhelmed the opposition with offensive momentum smashing the inside fifty count. We now have something different; the excitement of new, young faces and names making their mark over all parts of the ground, a mix that might not make them immediate flag contenders but they’re always a chance to win on any given day. Trent Rivers in the middle is one example of change, Jacob van Rooyen up forward and pinch hitting in the ruck another and Judd McVee down back a third … and then there’s Caleb Windsor and there’s more. As some might despair the absence for a few weeks of a six time All Australian heading for a seventh, one or more of the personnel within the team are expected to step up and help repay Gawn for his outstanding contribution as captain over 100 games. The three aspects of his absence that demand attention are leadership, ruck craft and marking, especially down back where Gawn would drop in to intercept when the key defenders needed a chop out. Suffice to say on the leadership score, there’s captain Jack Viney standing at the ready with Steven May, Jake Lever and a rejuvenated Tom McDonald down back and how timely is Jake Melksham’s return to the forward line after his ACL injury to add experience in the air, on the ground and around the goals? The merchants of gloom and doom have short memories. Last year, when the teams met in Adelaide, the Bombers were rank outsiders but they approached the game with ferocity and intent against a complacent opponent and they surprised with a win. The Demons have upped their intensity over recent weeks and that mix of youthful enthusiasm together with their list of experienced big game players can be infectious and promote winning momentum. I think it will be just enough to surprise the Bombers by a small margin, say four points. This would honour the current wearer of the club’s #11 guernsey in a game to support the Reach Foundation co-founded by its previous owner, the late, great Jim Stynes. THE GAME Melbourne v Essendon at the MCG Saturday 13 July 2024 at 7.30pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 86 wins Essendon 131 wins 2 draws At the MCG Melbourne 48 wins Essendon 67 wins 1 draw The last five meetings Melbourne 3 wins Essendon 2 wins The Coaches Goodwin 0 wins Scott 1 win THE LAST TIME THEY MET Essendon 15.14.104 defeated Melbourne 11.11.77 at the Adelaide Oval Round 6, 2023 In a shock result, Essendon dominated the Melbourne on a wet Adelaide day in the inaugural Gather Round. The Bombers’ big men took advantage of Max Gawn’s absence in a game where things were not helped by the absence defence of Jake Lever and the late withdrawal of Ben Brown in attack. They maintained the pressure all day and it was quite an achievement to exceed 100 points in the wet and woolly conditions. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B T. McDonald, S. May, J. McVee HB T. Rivers, J. Lever, J. Bowey C E. Langdon, C. Oliver, A. Neal-Bullen HF K. Pickett, J. van Rooyen, T. Sparrow F K. Chandler, B. Fritsch, J. Melksham FOLL H. Petty, J. Viney, C. Salem I/C A. Moniz-Wakefield, K. Tholstrup, D. Turner, C. Windsor SUB T. Woewodin EMG T. Fullarton, B. Laurie, A. Tomlinson IN H. Petty OUT M. Gawn (ankle) ESSENDON B J. Ridley, B. McKay, D. Heppell HB N. Martin, M. Redman, A. McGrath C X. Duursma, S. Durham, A. Perkins HF M. Guelfi, H. Jones, N. Caddy F J. Stringer, P. Wright, K. Langford FOLL S. Draper, J. Caldwell, Z. Merrett I/C N. Cox, J. Gresham, J. Kelly, D. Shiel SUB N. Hind EMG T. Goldstein, J. Laverde, W. Setterfield IN D. Heppell OUT J. Laverde (omitted) Injury List: Round 18 Ben Brown — knee / test Harrison Petty — hamstring / test Max Gawn — ankle / 2 - 3 weeks Charlie Spargo — Achilles / TBC Christian Petracca — ribs, spleen, appendix / indefinite
  3. In a game that best be described as lacklustre, the Demons took their time but finally asserted their superior skills to down the Bombers and record a 3-0 start to season 2022. The now makes it a 10 game winning streak for the club, a match for the career record of Jake Bowey who has never been in a losing side. The game really should have been well and truly over in the first quarter as Melbourne scored 3.5.23 to 0.4.4 but yet again, the wayward kicking in front of goal from set shots nearly came back to bite them. Unfortunately, this is becoming all too regular an occurrence, and with the game today highlighted by swings in momentum, it is important to put the scoreboard pressure on when the going is good. Fortunately, Essendon simply lacked the polish necessary to put the Demons away, and while they managed three majors for the second quarter, they still they remained behind at the major break. The other aspect was the poor quality of general play, and when two sides can only score seven goals between them to half time, it wasn’t what’s expected with a Friday night marquee game. Well, something was in the Gatorade at half time, as both sides lifted considerably, and 12 goals were posted in the 3rdquarter alone, but still the Demons held onto their lead, even by the fact they kicked more behinds than Essendon, to continue their inaccuracy in front of goal. The Demon fans should now be familiar with the game-style employed by the coaches and a 13-point ¾ time lead could almost be guaranteed to be the margin at the final bell, plus or minus a goal. And it was to be. So make sure those defibrillators are fully charged during the remainder of the matches this year, because this is what it will be like … Peter Wright had the opportunity to bring the margin back to a single kick with about 15 minutes to play, but fortunately was unable to kick straight for the very first time on the night. Then Ed Langdon put the result beyond doubt with a mongrel reverse swing kick from the pocket that would have done a Pakistani bowler proud, when it found the middle of the big sticks. The Demons finally ran out 29-point winners and sent the Bombers to their rightful place near the bottom of the Premiership table at 0-3 result, a first since 1967. Ain’t it beautiful! Make no mistake, this was a lethargic performance by the Demons. They looked like they were coming off a six day break after playing in humid conditions. They simply could not execute, and fortunately the job of lifting them up fell to Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw and Ed Langdon. Clarrie had to cover for Petracca, who came into the game with a heavily bandaged knee and simply wasn’t his usual powerful self. His 38 touches, 18 contested, 666 metres gained and 15 inside 50’s led the way. Ed Langdon racked up 31 touches and an equally incredible 490 metres gained on one wing, while his partner in the Wingers club, Brayshaw posted 518 metres and an equally incredible 20 marks from his 34 disposals. With the loss of BBB pre-game due to Covid health and safety restrictions, Sam Weideman stepped up with four goals, and while that is all that could be expected of a full forward, he had ample opportunity to improve on that, especially in the first half. Too often he was out bodied, and may not be the answer long term in front of goal. Other players had extraordinarily quiet games, Fritsch until the last quarter, Pickett, ANB with a paltry 10 disposals, TMac with 6, although he does a power of work bringing the ball to ground and providing linking up the ground. Down back the Smith-Tomlinson-May brick wall held true again, and while some may criticize, the opposition only scored 70 points, most of which was courtesy of Wright, who like BBB is almost impossible to stop with his leap. Next week its off to Adelaide to face Port, who are managing to turn 2022 into a nightmare, having lost to Adelaide despite leading easily with minutes to play. They also are dwelling at the bottom of the table, and with the coach’s job on the line, expect them to come out firing . MELBOURNE 3.5.23 4.8.32 9.12.66 14.15.99 ESSENDON 0.4.4 3.5.23 8.5.53 10.10.70 MELBOURNE Weideman 4 Fritsch Harmes 2 Langdon McDonald Petracca Spargo Sparrow Viney ESSENDON Wright 4 Stringer 2 Cutler McGrath Perkins Wanganeen BEST MELBOURNE Oliver Brayshaw Weideman Langdon Harmes May ESSENDON Shiel Parish Wright Ridley Heppell INJURIES MELBOURNE Nil ESSENDON Nil REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil ESSENDON Nil SUBSTITUTES MELBOURNE Toby Bedford (unused) ESSENDON Devon Smith (unused) UMPIRES Nick Foot Andrew Stephens Alex Whetton CROWD 44,503 at The MCG
  4. Melbourne fans have been living with the premiership glow for six months since their team won its first premiership flag in almost six decades. Supporters are now getting used to following what is officially a powerhouse, one that’s faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, travel to different parts of the country, play in difficult humid conditions on soggy grounds and win matches under adversity. The Demons’ victory over the Suns at the weekend wasn’t pretty and some might say it’s a sign that the team might be coming back to the field after tasting the glory of a flag, but the fact remains that they alone of the 2021 Preliminary Finalists remain undefeated after two rounds. Indeed, two of last year’s big four have yet to record a victory at a time when the AFL ladder is being held up by recent cellar dwellers in Hawthorn and Carlton. Meanwhile, Melbourne’s opponent this week is under the pump and staring at a history-making 0-3 start, something that hasn’t happened at Windy Hill since 1967. You might think on this basis that the Demons are in line for an easy night on the MCG but don’t be fooled. Coming off a six-day break after an interstate trip is never easy and when you have to go back more than half a century in their history to find such a poor start to a season, then you know the Bombers can never be taken lightly. After all, there are some respected pundits among football’s commentariat who, less than a fortnight ago, had Essendon as the flag favourite. On their day, they have a midfield that has a few prolific ball gatherers and is strong enough to challenge their Demon counterparts. The running defenders will test the Melbourne forwards who aren’t exactly setting the world alight at this time. Fortunately for the Dees, their accuracy kept them in the game early last week but the progression from 10.1 after Bayley Fritsch’s goal in the third term to 12.10 at the end was testament to a haphazard approach to goal in the second half — something they can’t afford to repeat against a team like Essendon. Much has been made of the premiership defenders missing through injury at the moment but despite having A-listers Jake Lever, Christian Salem, Harry Petty and Michael Hibberd on the sidelines, this division has been holding up well with players admirably filling in who, for one reason or another, missed out on last year’s glory. They will be anxious to impress and to hold their places in the side. Together with the pressure coming from those in the VFL team, this means the club is so well placed to continue its successful streak in the future. And above all, there’s the mobility and strength of Melbourne’s ruckmen. Max Gawn and Luke Jackson are proving a formidable big man division that are tough to beat in the air and on the ground. If Maxy’s not at his best, then you can rely on Dogga to get the job done and vice versa. Therefore, on the 1st day of April, I would be fooling if I didn’t think the Demons will go into the game as strong favourite to make it three in a row for 2022 and ten on the trot overall. Melbourne to win by 25 points. THE GAME Essendon v Melbourne at the MCG Friday 1 April, 2022 at 7.50pm. HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 85 wins 2 draws Essendon 130 wins At the MCG Melbourne 46 wins Essendon 67 wins 1 draw The last five meetings Melbourne 3 wins Essendon 2 wins The Coaches Goodwin 1 win Rutten 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 9.14.68 defeated Essendon 8.9.57 at The MCG, Round 15, 2021 The Demons were going through something of a mid-season trough but they managed to work their way through to an ugly victory in a low scoring game. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B: T.Rivers 24 A. Tomlinson 20 S.May 1 HB: J.Hunt 29 J.Smith 44 J.Jordon 23 C: T.Sparrow 32 C.Petracca 5 E.Langdon 15 HF: L.Jackson 6 T.McDonald 25 J.Viney 7 F: B.Fritsch 31 S.Weideman 26 C.Spargo 9 Foll: M.Gawn - C 11 C.Oliver 13 K.Pickett 36 I/C: J.Bowey 17 A.Brayshaw 10 J.Harmes 4 A.Neal-Bullen 30 Sun: T. Bedford 12 Emerg: M.Brown 38 J.Melksham 18 L.Dunstan 27 In: Sam Weideman Out: Ben Brown (H&S protocols) ESSENDON B: J. Stewart 17 J. Laverde 15 J. Kelly 29 HB: M. Redman 27 D. Heppell - C 21 N. Hind 19 C: A. McGrath 1 J. Caldwell 6 T. Cutler 12 HF: J. Stringer 25 M. Guelfi 35 N. Martin 37 F: A. Perkins 16 P. Wright 20 T. Wanganeen 40 Foll: S. Draper 2 D. Parish 3 S. Durham 22 I/C: B. Ham 33 A. Phillips 34 J. Ridley 14 D. Shiel 9 Sub: D.Smith 5 Emerg: B. Hobbs 8 A. Waterman 44 B. Zerk-Thatcher 30 In: Nic Martin Andrew Phillips Dylan Shiel Out: Nik Cox (ankle) Aaron Francis (omitted) Zach Merrett (ankle) Devon Smith (omitted) Round 3: Injury List Kade Chandler - Quad | Test Jake Lever - Foot | 1 - 2 weeks Harry Petty - Calf | 2-3 Weeks Michael Hibberd - Calf | 2 - 4 weeks Daniel Turner - Foot | 4-6 weeks Christian Salem - Knee | 5-7 weeks
  5. Mid season 2021 at the MCG 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)
  6. Essendon was the latest casualty as the Melbourne juggernaut rolled over the Bombers on its way to a 12th win for the 2021 Season. It was a display of the difference in quality, coaching and system that defines those who will compete in finals and those that lie outside the top eight. Sadly, in these Covid times a mere 19,414 attended the game and the silence outside the ground before the match was eerie. Normally, thronging crowds lining up at ticket gates and food carts were replaced by vacant footpaths and lonely merchandise sellers. Inside the famous stadium, things were not much different although the powers that be at least spread the crowd around in a concession to common sense. Still common sense, or at least a sense of the rules of the game evaded the Essendon supporters, who booed incessantly at any decision that went against their team. They had been given a sense of entitlement from five wins out of their last six games but this was a game against one of the big boys, and they didn’t like it. Scoring was certainly a highlight as both sides failed to score ten goals with poor kicking in front of the big sticks causing the goal umpires to shuffle left and right time and time again - no more so than the Demons with their sub par set shot kicking highlighting the need for a full-time full forward who can consistently score from the 50m mark — is there one available? From early in the first quarter it was obvious that Melbourne had a system in place which would win the match. As has been seen in other matches this year, the opposition simply could not move the ball around the ground freely, because its defensive structures were so solid and quickly mobilised. Without this free movement, the scoring opportunities dried up for the Bombers and it was only the occasional turnover which enabled them to score. The Demons, on the other hand, were far more methodical and their consistent movement of ball was precise and accurate. The ball would move from one end of the ground to the other, without a single Essendon player sighting it, but the Demons fell down badly once approaching the forward 50. There simply wasn’t a target to aim for, and worse, Essendon’s defenders are by no means the gold standard in the competition. Resting a ruck might sound good in theory, but rucks are not forwards. They don’t know the skills of leading and working with other forwards. So poor Tom McDonald found himself a lone soldier in front of the big sticks. It was made even worse when he was then expected to take on forward half ruck duties, leaving a forward line that consisted of Alex Neal-Bullen, Charlie Spargo, Bayley Fritsch, Tom Sparrow, and Kossie Pickett at one point, and much the same for the rest of the game. Have we got someone who could fill the role? In the middle Max dominated the hitouts with 32, and while the Essendon mids dominated the possession count, they simply weren’t effective. Often those same mids were simply left unattended, because they can have all the touches they like, they just don’t hurt the opposition. Meanwhile the Melbourne mids, Clayton Oliver (34), James Harmes (27), Christian Petracca (26) and remarkably James Jordon with 21 from only 60% game time, concentrated on quality and delivery. Jordon, Petracca and Luke Jackson contributed over half the side’s goals. You could probably can Tom Sparrow’s vital final quarter long range goal to the list showing the evolution of the midfield into a more threatening unit and also reaffirming the need for a more solid forward line. The backs were magnificent again, as they frustrated multiple Essendon attacks. The intercepting skills of Steven May 8, Jake Lever 10, Trent Rivers 5 and even Jayden Hunt with 6 repelled the Bombers forward moves. They certainly lapped up the delivery from Parish, Merrett and Stringer, who simply just kept kicking it high to them and never learnt the lesson. Michael Hibberd covered any forward move by Stringer, and Christian Salem became the go-to man to clear the zone with 26 touches, and his favourite up-field target of Ed Langdon finished with 23 to further relieve the pressure. Tom Petty played goal-keeper for the match, but was rarely called upon, simply because the ball didn’t get past the Lever-May wall. What can be improved? Well certainly the management of rotations left a lot to be desired, as we were twice caught out with the 6-6-6 rule. Not knowing who is on or off after a goal should be a simple matter, and yet these weren’t the only times as we had Brayshaw forced into the middle because the designated mid didn’t get on in time as well. Then we had Max and Jackson stranded at the wrong end of the ground, and not able to impact at critical points in the game, or all too often we had Jackson trying to out-ruck Draper with his superior height and weight. All this is about off-field management, and something was not working. Another win, another opponent consigned to the dust-bin and the Demons move on to the next one. The fans would like to see big scoring wins as they did in 2020 but it is more important to get the wins first. Winning ugly, or more to the point, winning without flair has produced the best Melbourne season in over 50 years. Best to get used to it … and ain’t it delightful! MELBOURNE 1.5.11 4.8.32 8.12.60 9.14.68 ESSENDON 2.3.15 4.5.29 6.7.43 8.9.57 GOALS Melbourne Jordon 2 Petracca 2 Harmes Jackson McDonald Spargo Sparrow Essendon Jones Wright 2 Heppell Hooker Smith Stringer BEST Melbourne Petracca Oliver Salem Jordon Lever May Essendon Merrett Parish HeppellRidley Stringer Langford Redman INJURIES Melbourne Nil Essendon Nil REPORTS Melbourne Nil Essendon Nil SUBSTITUTES Melbourne Nathan Jones (unused) Essendon David Zaharakis (unused) UMPIRES Andrew Stephens Hayden Gavine Robert Findlay OFFICIAL CROWD 19,414 at the MCG
  7. Melbourne and Essendon last met in Round 3, 2019 - exactly one year ago in football terms but, as we know, that’s 14½ months in real time. The game was a high scoring shoot out and notably, both sides were remarkably accurate in front of the goals. Also of interest, Mitch Brown who is now on the Melbourne list, was omitted from the Bomber's team for the game. THE TEAMS 
 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)
  8. Seems like an obvious statement doesn’t it? Yet the MFC coaching staff/team seem to have forgotten to change their calendars on January 1st. A 3 goal loss against the equal bottom side in the competition and now with a 0-3 record for the current season, it should be obvious that things have changed from 2018. Not so on the field, as Melbourne continue to play the style which got them to a Preliminary final. Once again the Demons saw 20 goals scored against them for the game. It is easy for the coach to come out and say “ we were scored against easily” but the reason that happened is probably because we are still playing the game as it was played in 2018. The rules have changed, and other teams have worked us out. The Melbourne “brand” of contested football is fine if you win the ball, when you don’t it means you leak goals because we have insufficient players behind and outside the contest. It is why we see other teams this season “waltz” the ball into goal. It is why opposition forwards are seen to be un-manned. The Rules have changed. 6-6-6 was introduced to open the game up in the middle. The jury on that aspect is still out, but opposition coaches are now sitting a resting ruck in their forward line in lieu and we have seen it in all 3 games in 2019. In this game Zac Clarke was brought into the side to do exactly that alongside Bellchambers. They had little effect as players, but it forced us to put one of our tall defenders on them and that opened the gate for Stringer, Tipungwuti and McKernan who each kicked 4 goals! And our resting ruck?…..he will be playing at Casey. It may not be obvious to some but Jesse Hogan is now playing for Fremantle. We are playing with 1 less tall forward in 2019. So why is Sam Weidemann being used as a substitute ruck? In this game against the Bombers, we saw the ridiculous situation when Tom McDonald injured an ankle in the 2nd quarter, had to leave the ground, and then was used on a wing. Max Gawn was resting on the bench and Weideman was rucking. Even after Gawn came back on, Weideman had to be rested on the bench. Having Gawn return to the ruck position saw Melbourne’s resurgence in that quarter. Does that not send a message we need a full-time ruckman on the ground? It is easy when the opposition kicks 20 goals to focus on the backline. There is no doubt that Oscar McDonald is playing well below par. Frost is filling a hole, which he will probably continue to do so, even with the return of May and Lever. But they are being asked to take on opponents much bigger and stronger than themselves, especially with resting rucks dropping back. Then to top it off we are still following the mantra of going at the man with the ball, even if it means 3 Melbourne players doing exactly the same thing, resulting in loose opposition players. And the backline needs help, especially with our current defender drought. The wingers need to get back to cover, but instead are heading toward the middle like they did in 2018. In 2019 it should be the HFF’s heading to the wing and the middle, but hey it worked last year, didn’t it? The disfunction of the forward line is more critical, because this is from where the opposition in 2019 have launched their attacks. Contested football isn’t just in the middle, and once again the lack of pressure from the forwards to keep the ball inside the scoring area was appalling. We saw Melbourne players all flying for the ball leaving no-one crumbing. The times when Hunt and Lockhart stayed on the ground saw them rewarded, but it was the exception. Neal-Bulleen provided nothing again in the forward line, with his opponent Saad doubling his possessions. 2018 performances shouldn’t get games in 2019. This week the Hun re-opened the wounds of the “tanking saga” of the 2009 season ... winning no more than 4 games was thought to be a good thing, because it worked for Carlton, Collingwood, Hawthorn and others in previous years. Well that turned out really well didn’t it, since we learned playing by last years rules doesn’t get you reward. Are we making the same mistake on the field in 2019? Melbourne 3.1.19 10.1.61 12.3.75 18.4.112 Essendon 6.4.40 8.6.54 15.6.96 20.10.130 Goals Melbourne Harmes Hunt 3 Lockhart Melksham Weideman 2 Brayshaw Gawn Kolodjashnij Neal-Bullen Petracca C Wagner Essendon McDonald-Tipungwuti McKernan Stringer 4 Fantasia Smith 2 Baguley McGrath Parish Zaharakis Best Melbourne Gawn Brayshaw Hunt Oliver Harmes Lockhart Essendon Heppell Shiel McDonald-Tipungwuti Zaharakis Stringer Fantasia Injuries Melbourne T McDonald (ankle) Essendon Mutch (hamstring), Francis (corked quad) Reports Nil Umpires Stevic Harris Haussen Official crowd 52,475 at the MCG
  9. The two rogue clubs of the AFL face off tonight and I’m tipping that they will change their respective roles for the game. The Demons will play as if they have ingested some powerful potion that turns each of them into supermen and the Bombers will ... er, tank it.
  10. Friday night sees two clubs of which a great deal was expected in 2019, facing off in the battle of the slow starting tortoises. Both have had calamitous starts to the season and are sitting at 0-2. One of them will, by the end of the evening, be seeing their season slipping away from their grasp. Both clubs are playing without confidence and without purpose. The Demons, who had the best-performed attack of all clubs last year, managed to convert 73 entries inside their forward 50 metre arc into just six goals at the Cattery on Saturday night. Their opponents who managed 25 less inside 50s scored six goals or more in the first, third and last quarters. That is as damning a statement of the team’s ineptitude as you can get. Leaving aside the first 11 minutes of the season when it scored three goals to zip against Port Adelaide, Melbourne’s scoring has completely dried up and is a definite cause for concern for coach Simon Goodwin along with the decline of many team members who were in sparkling form last year. But the Bombers have been in a similar place in their two games, barely giving a whimper against Greater Western Sydney and lowering their colours to an injury-hit St Kilda in their two matches. With so little form to go by, it’s almost impossible to predict a result in this game so the only thing I can go on is history. Melbourne is playing at home on a Friday night. Its last two encounters on that day and at that time were electrifying finals victories in front of large enthusiastic crowds that marvelled over the team's hardness and endeavour. The Demons haven’t had an MCG home game against the Bombers since 2010 so they should relish the reminder of how they played just four or five games ago in AFL terms. Although neither side has many aces up their sleeves, the Demons can take heart from the fact Max Gawn returned to form last week in the ruck and Clayton Oliver was sensational in a losing team and in a midfield that came close to matching a very strong Geelong engine room. Their presence will, in my view, tip the scales in favour of the home side and hopefully, end a slump as the team has done in the past two years when facing Essendon. Last year's win started a six game winning streak that ultimately led the team into the finals and a top four berth. There's not much to go on but if one of these sides is going to play the hare to the other’s tortoise this week then it had better be us. Melbourne by 4 points. THE GAME Essendon v Melbourne at the MCG Friday, 5 April, 2019 at 7.50pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 83 wins Essendon 129 wins 2 draws At MCG Melbourne 45 wins Essendon 66 wins 1 draw The last five meetings Melbourne 3 wins Essendon 2 wins The Coaches Goodwin 2 wins Worsfold 0 wins MEDIA TV – Fox Footy Channel Channel 7 Live at 7.30pm RADIO - THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 16.12.108 defeated Essendon 10.12.72 at Etihad Stadium, Round 6, 2018 Melbourne started slowly but gradually took control and dominated the second half. Gawn dominated the rucks while Salem, Hibberd and Jones got plenty of the football. THE TEAMS 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) Round 3 injury list: Jeff Garlett (shoulder) – available Charlie Spargo (jaw) – 1 week Steven May (groin) – TBC Jordan Lewis (hamstring) – 1-2 weeks Aaron vandenBerg (foot) – 3-5 weeks Joel Smith (groin) – TBA Mitch Hannan (knee) – 6-8 weeks Jake Lever (knee) – 6-8 weeks Jay Kennedy Harris (knee) – 10-12 weeks Guy Walker (shoulder) – indefinite Aaron Nietschke (knee) – season
  11. Back in the good ol days ... THE TEAMS ESSENDON B: Brendon Goddard, Michael Hurley, Adam Saad HB: Patrick Ambrose, Cale Hooker, Dyson Heppell C 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 C 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
  12. I havent looked at a single comment on DL before writing this, and will probably be brave enough to venture back shortly to witness the carnage. Instead I thought Id write my own report, call it catharthis. Tonight was clearly disappointing. An underwhelming performance at best, truly dispiriting at worst. I havent yet seen the press conference by Roos, but I have seen fleeting comments through twitter and one in particular stands out, the difference between our best and worst is pretty dramatic. Roosy, youre not wrong. Despite promising signs early, the Dees slumped in to old habits, seemingly brought on by pressure. One gets the feeling that the boys have built their confidence around slick ball movement while unopposed at training, yet forgot that in games there is an opposition thats trying to stop you. Decision making is a serious concern and when that is coupled with at times suspect skills, you have the makings of a train wreck. Unfortunately, tonight, like so many nights before it, thats exactly what happened. Those two factors defined the last 2.5 quarters, while the first 1.5 appeared to be tainted by an inability to put the ball through the sticks when it appeared the easiest option. Thankfully, I think this is rectifiable. Garlett is a god-send, he is so vital to this team now. However we need one other, and that is something we will have. Both Kent and JKH have shown an ability to sniff an opportunity, so come round 1, heres hoping some of those bouncing balls find their home off their feet. Tonight also highlighted something else we all hoped wasnt true, Hogan is young. He is inexperienced and will take time to develop. I dont think anyone doubts his talent, the bloke will be a star. But not yet. Its as if at the back of all our minds we secretly hoped hed kick 6 goals the day he walked in. Our very own Wayne Carey from day dot. Sadly, not. A few other players stood out for different reasons: · Frost is a very handy pick up. Personally, I liked the look of him down back but I understand what theyre trying to do. In the ruck however, he is super raw. He was beaten time and time again and it allowed the opposition to get on top in the clearances. · vandenBerg was a shrewd pick up, and is a lock for Rd 1. · Sadly, I think the man expendable when Vince comes back, is Toumpas. I still hold hope that he can fill a role, but when you look at the team and where Bernie slots in, its on the wing or HHF. Sorry Toump. · Viney is all heart, but he makes bad decisions and his foot skills are dubious. Talk of him as a future star is premature to me. A wonderful clubman he is, but future A grader mmm, I just dont know. · For the second game running, I was pleased with what Grimes put out there. Thought he was one player in our defensive 50 who showed a bit of poise and his disposal was much improved. He had 19 disposals tonight at 100%, bet you never thought youd hear that. · Watts looks ripe for a good season. He has definitely filled out and now looks a man, rather than a lanky boy. He did some really good things tonight, knows how to kick a goal and covered a hell of a lot of ground as well as making lead after lead. There are plenty of others we can speak of, but I fear its been heard. Our tackling was disappointing tonight, this is a little concerning and hopefully doesn't represent a backwards step from last year. its a major factor in a game. Without it, you dont get momentum and it can affect everything. So, Im hoping a lot of what happened tonight can be put down to psyche around it being NAB Cup and not wanting to get injured. Well see. My team for Round 1? FB: Jetta Dunn Garland/Howe (fitness dependent) B: Salem McDonald Grimes C: Vince N Jones Lamumba HF: Watts Frost Garlett FF: Gawn Hogan JKH Foll: Jamar Tyson Cross R: Viney, Kent, M Jones, vandenBerg Sub: Toumpas · Im not comfortable with Frost at CHF, but with Dawes there, what do you do. Im open minded about Pedersen on form. If he comes in I move Frost back to the resting ruckman, but Jamar takes the workload and Cross/Dawes provide the chopout until Frost works out what hes doing. · I persevere with Toumpas as the sub, he has to grow comfortable on this stage. Its like he gets stage fright. · I find Garland underwhelming at the moment. There were a few times tonight where we looked like we had a bit of class, but its baby steps. You look at the team above and its clear were a better side than last year, vastly better? Maybe not, at least not yet. Baby steps.
  13. I didn't see this coming either. Ten minutes into the game we were looking shaky but level at one goal each. Ten minutes later Essendon had broken our backs and then our hearts went too. There's nothing much more to say. MELBOURNE not much ESSENDON a lot more. If you have a thirst for further knowledge about this game then click here.
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