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When I was asked to preview this game, I wasn’t sure whether it was going to be played in Darwin, on the Gold Coast or the MCG. I had no idea as to the identity of Melbourne’s opponent. This would have made for one hell of an interesting match preview so I’m glad that the AFL managed to reorganize its fixture to enable a game … any game at all … to proceed in Round 19. We’ll worry about the Gold Coast Suns or whoever they put us up against when the weekend’s done and dusted and if and when the Delta strain decides to move to a state or territory where there are no football teams left. Actually, I was scared suitcaseless about the prospect of taking on the 14th placed Gold Coast at the weekend. The way the Dees are going against such lowly sides at the moment, it would have been an absolute disaster facing up to the Suns so it seems that we’ve dodged a bullet for the moment at least. As coach Simon Goodwin said it all this week, “these are the type of games we look forward to as a football club”. Goodwin is satisfied that the players are doing the right things when they haven’t got the footy while most observers are worried about some of the things they’re doing when they have it. Still, a match up against the competition’s second placed club is the perfect recipe to soothe our jangled nerves along with our collective anxiety about surviving the ordeal of facing up to bottom six teams with hopeless records against all other comers. Compared to the above, the Western Bulldogs should be easy pickings for the Demons. They succumbed to Melbourne’s high pressure game a matter of only seven weeks ago in front of an empty Marvel Stadium and the only thing different this week will be that the empty ground will be the Demons’ own home, the G. The other familiar thing will be the team Melbourne assembles for Saturday night’s game assuming that none of the boys have recently wandered into a Tier One site. The club has been truly blessed on the injury front this year and I only hope that in saying so, I’m not jinxing the team. This should be an enthralling match up between clubs with premiership aspirations that would be further bolstered enormously by victory here. Both have powerful midfields with Melbourne’s rucks giving them a very slight edge. The Doggies’ strength is also up forward while the Dees’ backmen has been an absolute treat this year. If there is a criticism of that defence, it’s the fact that when that wall is penetrated, opposition forward lines score goals regularly and rarely miss. At the 10 minute mark of last week’s opening term, the Hawks sat on a score of 1.2.8. They kicked eight goals in a row from that point until time on in the third quarter when it stood at 9.2.56, a major factor in their comeback to eventually tie up the game in the end. Barring the fiasco on the small SCG against Collingwood, the team has dropped premiership points in games when they’ve had the greater number of scoring shots at goal. It’s a trend that bodes no good unless it can be dealt with sooner rather than later. On that score, I’m relying on the law of averages to start working in Melbourne’s favour this week. The Bulldogs will miss the easy shots at goal while the Demons will snag enough that just sneak through. All of this for the simple reason that the opposition is a fellow member of the top eight. The worm will turn again and Melbourne will win by 15 points. THE GAME Western Bulldogs v Melbourne at the MCG, Saturday, 24 July, 2021 at 7.25pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 89 wins 1 draw Western Bulldogs 77 wins At the MCG Melbourne 46 wins Western Bulldogs 28 Last Five Meetings Melbourne 3 wins Western Bulldogs 2 wins The Coaches Goodwin 4 wins Beveridge 2 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 13.9.87 defeated Western Bulldogs 8.11.59 at Marvel Stadium in Round 13, 2021 It was the club’s best performance for the year. From the first bounce, it was clear that the Demons were on and they dominated the Bulldogs despite the fact that their stars in Bontempelli and Macrae managed to rack up at least 30 possessions. Max Gawn and Luke Jackson won in the ruck contests and around the ground. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B: C. Salem 3 S. May 1 H. Petty 35 HB: M. Hibberd 14 J. Lever 8 T. Rivers 24 C: J. Jordon 23 C. Petracca 5 E. Langdon 15 HF: B. Fritsch 31 T. McDonald 25 A. Neal-Bullen 30 F: C. Spargo 9 B. Brown 50 K. Pickett 36 Foll: M. Gawn 11 C. Oliver 13 J. Viney 7 I/C: A. Brayshaw 10 J. Harmes 4 J. Hunt 29 L. Jackson 6 Sub: T. Sparrow 32 Emerg: T. Bedford 12 J. Smith 44 S. Weideman 26 In: J. Harmes Out: A. vandenBerg WESTERN BULLDOGS B: E. Richards 20 A. Keath 42 B. Williams 34 HB: T. Duryea 15 Z. Cordy 12 B. Dale 31 C: J. Macrae 11 B. Smith 6 C. Daniel 35 HF: R. Garcia 38 A. Naughton 33 C. Weightman 19 F: J. Ugle-Hagan J. Bruce 17 L. Hunter 7 Foll: T. English 44 T. Liberatore 21. M. Bontempelli 4 I/C: M. Hannan 29 J. Johannisen 39 J. Schache 13 R. Smith 37 Sub: A. Scott 28 Emerg: H. Crozier 9 L. McNeil 30 L. Young 2 In: M.Hannan T.Liberatore J.Schache Out: H.Crozier (omitted) J. Dunkley (isolating) L.McNeil (omitted) Injury List: Round 19 Nathan Jones (calf) — Test Mitch Brown (heel) — 2 to 3 Weeks Bailey Laurie (shoulder) — 2 to 3 Weeks Marty Hore (knee) — 6 to 7 Weeks Aaron Nietschke (knee) — Season Adam Tomlinson (knee) — Season
A SLEEP AT THE G OR ASLEEP AT THE G by George on the Outer On 26 May 2016, the Melbourne City Mission is running its annual sleep at the G to aid the homeless. This is all in a very good cause so it seems that the Melbourne players apparently thought they would start a little earlier than most in their game against the Western Bulldogs on Sunday. And in exactly the same manner as happened in their game against St Kilda just two weeks ago, the coaching staff thought they would take a quiet nap behind the wheel as well. Ten minutes into the game it was obvious to Blind Freddy that the zone defence wasn’t working again. Once again the Western Bulldog players were gifted uncontested marks inside their forward 50, or even worse, as happened on multiple times during the game, they managed to score from inside the goal-square without a Melbourne player in sight. If Neville Jetta is forced to contest marks against Jack Redpath then something is seriously wrong with the way the side is being selected and sets up. It clearly isn’t working, and if it isn’t working then something needs to be done about it!!! It took until half way through the final quarter before an additional player was dropped into the backline but by then the game was well and truly over. This was yet another game where the club had an opportunity to stamp its authority on the competition, and it was fluffed. Yes, the Western Bulldogs are a good side; they have players who are prepared to run, and run to space. Players who are prepared to work and their team set up is excellent. However, it is simple, and as we allowed Morris and Boyd to control proceedings from the half-back line, we were never going to win. It took until the final quarter to work out that we had to kick over the top of their defensive wall, and only then did Watts and Hogan finally get their hands on the ball and their names on the scoreboard. The Dogs have also mastered the art of throwing the ball, as it was plain for the 39K people to see at the game over and over again. The Adelaide coaching panel was absolutely right about the quality of umpiring at their game against the Dogs last week, and it was repeated again with us as the victim this week. In contrast we had too many passengers who were simply not getting enough of the ball or getting involved in the play. Even though he kicked two goals, Jeff Garlett has to do much, much more than the nine touches he managed in 100 minutes of football. He has to play defensive and stop the ball re-bounding out to allow the opposition to set up another attack. Again this week our forward line was over-crowded. We do not need three talls in there getting in the way of Hogan. We also don’t need three others filling up even more space. We need the players where the ball is, not playing into the oppositions plans. Naturally, Jack Viney and Dom Tyson continued their fine form and provided some measure of strength around the ball. But they were not enough to counter the skill and ability of Bontempelli and their fleet of running mosquitoes like Daniel, Liberatore and Dahlhaus. Our younger players suffered and it is probably time for a rest for them in this long season. Jayden Hunt, Josh Wagner and James Harmes were well off the pace and even though they performed when necessary, they just couldn’t get themselves involved like previous weeks. Likewise, Viv Michie is taking up valuable space in the seniors with another underwhelming performance as a mid. Our season is now on the line with four other sides sitting on 16 points. A win next week against Brisbane is essential, a loss is the end of any hope of improvement, as we face a harder draw in the second half of the season. The coaching staff need to wake up and make the necessary changes both on the field and at the selection panel, before the season is written off. Melbourne 2.2.14 5.5.35 7.9.51 12.10.82 Western Bulldogs 5.5.35 8.9.57 12.10.82 17.12.114 Goals Melbourne Watts 3 Garlett Kennedy 2 Hogan McDonald Oliver Petracca Viney Western Bulldogs Stringer 5 Redpath 3 Dickson Picken 2 Dale Hunter Liberatore McLean Wallis Best Melbourne Viney Tyson Stretch Kennedy McDonald Jetta Western Bulldogs Bontempelli Liberatore Hunter Dahlhaus Boyd Picken Stringer Changes Melbourne Nil Western Bulldogs Nil Injuries Melbourne Nil Western Bulldogs Stringer (corked calf) Roberts (head) Roughead (shoulder) Reports Melbourne Bernie Vince reported for rough conduct Western Bulldogs Nil Umpires Schmitt Findlay Wallace Official crowd 39,921 at the MCG