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  1. In the space of a month Melbourne has gone from chocolates to boiled lollies in terms of its standing as a candidate for the AFL premiership. The club faces its moment of truth against a badly bruised up Collingwood at the MCG. A win will give it some respite but even then, it won’t be regarded particularly well being against an opponent carrying the burden of an injured playing list. A loss would be a disaster. The Demons have gone from a six/two win/loss ratio and a strong percentage just south of 125 which placed them firmly in the top four after besting the previously unbeaten Cats to where they are now. At seven/five, a percentage barely over 100 and tenth on the ladder, a catastrophic fall from grace on the back of a scoreless opening term against Carlton, a woeful capitulation by 35 points to West Coast and last week’s 92-point drubbing by Fremantle. The only W in this period was against St Kilda. Their opponent this week is not in such good shape either but not for reasons of poor form or a lack of enthusiasm but rather, because they have been decimated by a massive injury list. At Marvel Stadium on Friday night, they came out firing and full of enthusiasm to kick four of the first five goals to lead by 22 points before the Western Bulldogs reeled them in and ultimately dominated the final term scoring five goals to nothing. If the Magpies had nothing to give in the last quarter of that match, then consider the Demons who gave nothing for all but the opening seven minutes of their game against the Dockers in Alice Springs! As former Collingwood coach, Nathan Buckley, said after the game: top four teams “just don’t have a performance like” the Demons’ 92-point loss. “Plenty of sides have got players out at the moment and to only get 37 inside 50s against any opposition is a concern.” Buckley believes there are lingering issues beneath the surface at Melbourne and there are some real questions to be asked. The fans have been asking those questions all week, but nobody has come up with any answers so the task of looking into the crystal ball has been made more difficult because of the lack of clarity coming from the Demon camp. In the normal course of things, I would look at Collingwood and read missing names like De Goey, Mihocek, Cox, Pendlebury and Elliott and declare Melbourne past the post for a win by five goals. However, on current form (and if truth be known, there is no current form that you can trust in the context of this team), you would be justified in arguing that the firm of N & J Daicos could beat them on their own, such is the skill and brilliance of that duo. They never let their team down which, after some of the Demons’ dismal recent performances, you can’t say about any of them other than perhaps Max Gawn and possibly Christian Petracca and the skipper is carrying an enormous burden on his big shoulders at present. The Magpies at least showed plenty of aggression and determination in their last up display which means that they should be able to open up a big enough lead on the Demons to hold off any fast finish that their slow starting opponents are capable of mounting. Collingwood by 5 points. THE GAME Collingwood v Melbourne at the MCG, Monday 10 June 2024 at 3.20pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Collingwood 154 wins Melbourne 85 wins 5 drawn At the MCG Collingwood 86 wins Melbourne 64 wins 3 drawn Last five meetings Collingwood 4 wins Melbourne 1 win The Coaches McCrae 3 wins Goodwin 1 win LAST TIME THEY MET Collingwood 9.6.60 defeated Melbourne 7.11.53 at the MCG in the 2023 Qualifying Final The Demons were jolted early in the 2023 Qualifying Final by the head high hit that ended Angus Brayshaw’s career and helped give the accurate Magpies a big enough start to fall in by 7 points despite a goalless final quarter. Many Melbourne fans argue that hit cost their team a flag and many others are still bemused about the fact that the perpetrator was free to play on in his team’s finals campaign including the winning grand final. THE TEAMS COLLINGWOOD B B. Maynard, D. Moore, C. Dean HB I. Quaynor, B. Frampton, J. Noble C S. Sidebottom, F. Macrae, J. Daicos HF B. Hill, L. Schultz, W. Hoskin-Elliott F B. McCreery, P. Lipinski, J. Howe FOLL D. Cameron, J. Crisp, N. Daicos I/C J. Bytel, H. Harrison, N. Kreuger, O. Markov, L. Sullivan EMG E. Allan, T. Jiath, A. Johnson IN W. Hoskin-Elliott, N. Kreuger OUT A. Johnson (omitted), W. Parker (omitted) MELBOURNE B J. Bowey, S. May, T. Rivers HB C. Salem, T. McDonald, J. McVee C E. Langdon, C. Oliver, C. Windsor HF K. Pickett, B. Fritsch, H. Petty FF K. Chandler, J. van Rooyen, A. Neal-Bullen FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, C. Petracca I/C J. Billings, B. Howes, B. Laurie, T. Sparrow, D. Turner EMG B. Brown, K. Brown, T. Woewodin IN J. Billings, B. Howes, B. Laurie, IN J. van Rooyen OUT L. Hunter (calf), S. McAdam (omitted), A. Tomlinson (omitted) T. Woewodin (omitted) Injury List: Round 13 Jacob van Rooyen — adductor / Test Marty Hore — calf / 1 - 2 weeks Josh Schache — foot / 1 - 2 weeks Jake Lever — knee / 2 - 3 weeks Jake Melksham — knee / 2 - 4 weeks Lachie Hunter — calf / 4 - 6 weeks Charlie Spargo — Achilles / TBC
  2. Situated roughly in Australia's geographic centre, Alice Springs has for many years been a troubled town suffering from intermittent crime waves, particularly among its younger residents. There was a time a little while ago when things were so bad that some even doubted the annual AFL game in the town would proceed. Now, the hope is that this Sunday’s Melbourne vs Fremantle encounter will bring joy to the residents of the town and that through the sport and the example of the participants, better times will perhaps come to the people of Australia’s red heart, so bring it on! This week’s round involves the first of the second group of byes in 2024 and added attention to the two teams fighting for ascendancy in the logjam of clubs in the race for one of the competition’s vital top four spots. While the Demons will be keen to win this one to create a buffer against the other contenders, the Dockers have had the edge on them since they won their premiership in the West in 2021. Those defeats in 2022 and 2023 were particularly galling as not only were they unexpected, but because they were also played on Melbourne’s home ground at the MCG. This time, the match up is on neutral territory. The Demons are not yet to be entitled to call TIO Traeger Park their home away from home. Last year, the weather played its tricks when unseasonal rain turned the ground into a sodden mess so that despite their dominance everywhere around the ground, they lost to the Giants by two points thanks to an ugly score line of 5.15.45 to 7.5.47. Melbourne’s score was the lowest ever in AFL history at the venue. But if history means anything then this could be a turning point for the Dees against the Dockers. Their midfield, which came back well against the Saints last week, usually fares well at the ground. Jack Viney is due to register his tenth game at the ground on Sunday to become the first AFL player to make double figures in this category and last year, he became the first player to record 40 possessions at the ground. His midfield partners in crime, Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca are regular high disposal winners at the ground. Kozzie Pickett has the record number of goals in a match there - six (scored against Port Adelaide in 2022). Of course, records mean very little when the team plays there more often than others, especially when their Freo counterparts have never played there at all, but there’s no doubt about the Demons’ capacity to play good footy in the Red Centre. I wouldn’t underestimate the opposition’s midfielders either with Brayshaw, Serong and Young all racking up good numbers in the middle recently and Jackson backing them up as a mobile ruckman. Whoever gets on top in this department, will go a long way to winning this game. I also put the Demons ahead marginally in measuring the strength of the respective defences even in the absence of Jake Lever. The Melbourne forwards looked better and more balanced last week with the return of Jacob van Rooyen. Essentially, Melbourne will win the battle of the nation’s red heart if it can bring its usual intensity to this troubled area. The Demons have put a lot of effort into working with the local community. They won’t let them down. Melbourne to win by 13 points. THE GAME Melbourne v Fremantle at TIO Traeger Park, Alice Springs on Sunday 2 June, 2024 at 1.00pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 18 wins Fremantle 25 wins At TIO Traeger Park Melbourne 0 wins Fremantle 0 wins Last five meetings Melbourne 2 wins Fremantle 3 wins The Coaches Goodwin 2 wins Longmuir 3 wins LAST TIME THEY MET Fremantle 12.7.79 defeated Melbourne 10.12.72 at The MCG, Round 20, 2023 The Demons were on top of the Dockers early with Gawn and Grundy dominating the rucks and Petracca and Brayshaw controlling ground level. Freo ground its way back into the game with their superior kicking for goal and held Melbourne out to record a 7 point victory away from home. TEAMS MELBOURNE B J. Bowey, S. May, T. Rivers HB C Salem, A. Tomlinson, T. McDonald C E. Langdon C. Oliver, C. Windsor HF S. McAdam, B. Fritsch, K. Chandler F K. Pickett, H. Petty A. Neal-Bullen FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, C. Petracca I/C L. Hunter, J. McVee, T. Sparrow, D. Turner, T. Woewodin EMG J. Billings, B.Brown, B. Laurie IN D. Turner OUT J. van Rooyen (adductor) FREMANTLE B H. Chapman, A. Pearce, J. Draper HB J. Aish, L. Ryan, J. Clark C J. Sharp, A. Brayshaw, H. Young HF J. O'Meara, S. Switkowski, M. Frederick F J. Treacy, J. Amiss, L. Jackson FOLL S. Darcy, C. Serong, N. Fyfe I/C B. Banfield, S. Sturt, C. Wagner, B. Walker, M. Walters EMG T. Emmett, N. Erasmus, M. Johnson IN M. Frederick, S. Sturt OUT T. Emmett (omitted), M. Johnson (managed) Injury List: Round 12 Tom Fullarton — hamstring / Test Harrison Petty — ankle / Test Daniel Turner — calf / Test Marty Hore — calf / 2 - 3 weeks Josh Schache — Achilles / 2 - 3 weeks Jake Lever — knee / 3 - 4 weeks Jake Melksham — knee / 3 - 5 weeks Charlie Spargo — Achilles/ TBC
  3. Clashes between Melbourne and St Kilda are often described as battles between the forces of heaven and hell. However, based on recent performances, it’s hard to get excited about the forthcoming match between these two sides. It would be fair to say that, at the moment, both of these teams are in the doldrums. The Demons have become the competition’s slow starters while the Saints are not only slow to begin, they’re not doing much of a job finishing off their games either. About the only thing about their games that creates any interest these days is the post game conference from Saints’ coach Ross Lyon. That’s because he talks so much gibberish, that it provokes a great amount of debate and discussion as to the meaning of his words but not their content. At least with Simon Goodwin, we know what he’s saying which is what his expectations are from his team which, for various reasons are not currently being achieved. Which is exactly why I am tipping the Demons to win this week. They at least retain a clarity of purpose and belief in themselves and this is what should get them across the line in what promises to be the most dull, colourless and boring game of the round. It’s a game that’s been perfectly placed in a Sunday afternoon time slot where the AFL bosses will be hoping that nobody notices. Melbourne fans can be thankful that some of its stalwarts from the rapidly fading memory of the glories of the 2021 flag are still around pouring their hearts and souls into the game - the likes of big hearted ruckman Max Gawn and his deputy Jack Viney, Christian Petracca, Steven May and Alex Neal-Bullen. Many of the others are content to provide cameos of their ability during matches but little else. As it’s still part of the Doug Nicholls round, I’m expecting big things from Kozzy Pickett and Shane McAdam in honour of that recognition along with Maysie who will have the job on the Saints’ King, who their fans say has been due for a big game all season. If Narrm can get its turnover game going instead of fluffing every opportunity it had to do so, it will come out of the game a winner and restore the team’s prospects for 2024. Narrm by 15 points. THE GAME St Kilda v Melbourne at The MCG on Sunday 26 May 2024 at 4.20pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 125 wins St Kilda 94 wins 1 drawn At The MCG Melbourne 60 wins St Kilda 37 wins Past five meetings Melbourne 4 wins St Kilda 1 win The Coaches Goodwin 1 win Lyon 0 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 12.7.79 defeated St Kilda 8.10.58 at The MCG, Round 17, 2023 The Demons came out and kicked five goals in the first term which gave them a reasonably comfortable buffer for the rest of the game. Christian Petracca was a menace when up forward kicking four goals. Ed Langdon and Steven May were best players for the Demons. THE TEAMS NARRM B J. Bowey, S. May, T. Rivers HB J. McVee, T. McDonald, C. Salem C E. Langdon, C. Oliver, C. Windsor HF A. Neal-Bullen, H. Petty, K. Pickett F K. Chandler, B. Fritsch, S. McAdam FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, C. Petracca I/C L. Hunter, T. Sparrow, A. Tomlinson, J. Van Rooyen, T. Woewodin EMG J. Billings, T. Fullarton, B. Howes IN L. Hunter, E. Langdon, A. Tomlinson, J. van Rooyen OUT J. Billings (omitted), B. Brown (omitted), B. Howes (omitted), J. Lever (knee) EURO-YROKE B J. Battle, D. Howard, C. Wilkie HB J. Webster, L. Stocker, N. Wanganeen-Milera C S. Ross, J. Sinclair, M. Wood HF D. Wilson, B. Hill, L. Henry F J. Higgins, M. King, A. Caminiti FOLL R. Marshall, J. Steele, M. Windhager I/C R. Bonner, L. Collard, P. Dow, M. Owens, C. Sharman EMG R. Byrnes, Z. Jones, B. Paton IN J. Higgins, S. Ross, L. Stocker OUT Z. Jones (omitted), B. Paton (omitted), M. Phillipou (omitted) Injury List: Round 11 Jake Bowey — ankle / Test Jacob van Rooyen — concussion / Test Daniel Turner — calf / 2 - 3 weeks Charlie Spargo — Achilles / 2 - 3 weeks Marty Hore — calf / 3 - 5 weeks Jake Lever — knee / 4 - 6 weeks Jake Melksham — knee / 4 - 6 weeks Josh Schache — Achilles/ 4 - 6 weeks
  4. As a long term resident of Waalitj Marawar, I am moved to warn my fellow Narrm fans that a danger game awaits. The locals are no longer the easybeats who stumbled, fumbled and bumbled their way to the good fortune of gathering the number one draft pick and a generational player in Harley Reid last year. They are definitely better than they were then. Young Harley has already proven his worth with some stellar performances for a first year kid playing among men. He’s taken hangers, kicked booming goals and even physically taken the mickey out of men a decade and more older than he. It’s not often that a person of such tender age has proven to be a team lifter in professional sport but the Eagles have W’s to show for games at Optus Stadium against Richmond and Fremantle. Those wins were not insignificant and nor was their last up home game effort against the Bombers. For their part, the Demons have been slow starters in recent weeks and that, of itself is a danger sign. Their last four games have produced opening halves of 2, 3, 3 and 3 goals and, as a consequence, they haven’t been convincing when they won and unsteady when they lost. This week, they travel across the continent without two marking forwards in Jacob van Rooyen and Daniel Turner. The team might well be rested after a decent break but we won’t know how affected they are in the wake of two tough encounters within five days. Of course, you might say, that Narrm has the best defence in the competition but then again, it failed to prevent a six goal opening quarter avalanche from Carlton last week. The Blues were exceptional at converting forward thrusts into goals last week as they barged through that much vaunted back line with eight goals from ten scoring shots in a great wet weather first half to lead by 31 points. A few weeks earlier, Brisbane did much the same to them. The big questions loom for Narrm. Is it capable of playing out four quarters of football from start to finish, and if it can’t do so against a bottom six outfit, what are the consequences for when it plays the best of the best? The wet conditions also took their toll on the Demons’ hard-hitting but not overly endowed with pace midfield which needed readjusting and reinforcement. Coach Simon Goodwin nearly pulled a rabbit out of the hat when he moved Christian Petracca into attack. The problem for Waalitj Marawar is that, apart from wunderkind Reid, some of the players who led their charge a few weeks ago, the likes of Elliot Yeo and Jake Waterman have been out injured, along with Oscar Allen. If they can get these players back on the field, this game could be a close contest so team selection will be of paramount importance. The big warning for the coach and his team is that this outfit from Waalitj Marawar should not be taken lightly. I’m going for Narrm but all eyes will be on how the team moves in those opening fifteen minutes or so. Narrm by 9 points THE GAME Waalitj Marawar v Naarm at Optus Stadium Sunday 19 May, 2024 at 6.20pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Waalitj Marawar 37 wins Naarm 20 wins At Optus Stadium Waalitj Marawar 3 wins Melbourne 4 wins Past five meetings Waalitj Marawar 1 win Melbourne 4 wins The Coaches Simpson 4 wins Goodwin 4 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Narrm 19.12.126 defeated West Coast Eagles 9.12.66 at Optus Stadium in Round 4, 2023 The Demons made short work of a disorganised West Coast outfit and were untroubled to record a percentage booster at Optus Stadium. Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca, Brodie Grundy and Trent Rivers were the stars and Tom McDonald booted four goals for the visitors. THE TEAMS WAALITJ MARAWAR B A. Witherden, T. Barrass, B. Hough HB T. Cole, J. McGovern, L. Duggan C C. Chesser, H. Reid, J. Hunt HF L. Edwards, J. Waterman. J. Cripps F L. Ryan, J. Darling, J. Williams FOLL B. J. Williams, T. Kelly, R. Ginbey I/C J. Jones, J. Rotham, D. Sheed, J. Williams SUB T. Dewar EMG J. Culley, H. Edwards, A. Gaff IN J. Jones, J. Waterman OUT H. Johnston (omitted), J. Petruccelle (ankle) NARRM B B. Howes, S. May, T. Rivers HB J. McVee, T. McDonald, J. Lever C J. Billings, C. Oliver, C. Windsor HF A. Neal-Bullen, B. Fritsch, K. Pickett F K. Chandler, H. Petty, S. McAdam FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, C. Petracca I/C J. Bowey, B. Brown, C. Salem, T. Sparrow SUB T. Woewodin EMG T. Fullarton K. Tholstrup, A. Tomlinson IN B. Brown, S. McAdam, C. Salem OUT E. Langdon (personal reasons), D. Turner (calf), J. van Rooyen (concussion) Injury List: Round 10 Christian Salem — hamstring / Test Josh Schache — Achilles/ TBC Jacob van Rooyen — concussion / 1 week Charlie Spargo — Achilles / 2 - 3 weeks Daniel Turner — Calf / 2 - 3 weeks Marty Hore — Calf / 4 - 6 weeks Jake Melksham — knee / 5 - 7 weeks
  5. In days of old, this week’s Thursday night AFL match up between the Demons and the Blues would be framed on the basis of the need to redress the fact that Carlton “stole” last year’s semi final away from Melbourne and with it, their hopes for the premiership. A hot gospelling coach might point out to his charges that they were the better team on the night in all facets and that poor kicking for goal and a couple of lapses at the death cost them what was rightfully theirs. Moreover, now was the time for revenge. Those days are over and cooler heads will prevail. What happened last September is history and besides, it’s actually a different team with some new faces, a team that’s travelling nicely with five players having less than 10 AFL games under their belts. It’s time to take care of business in a raw, unemotional way, much the same as how the club has been going about things since the beginning of the year. Just as it did on its recent business trip to Adelaide when the assignment was to win two matches against the local clubs on the same ground and with only five days separating the games. In Adelaide, much ado was made about the belief that by the end of the second game, the Demons would be sapped of energy and that this factor could cost them the win. In the end, the tempo of the game slowed down and their pressure levels were lower but the win was never in doubt. The club’s fitness levels were modified by less intense training in the lead up to the game to ensure that fatigue was kept to a minimum. The Blues will also be looking at their own training schedule in their approach to the week and their second six day break on end is also not ideal. Melbourne has other advantages in the lead up to Thursday night. It has the momentum of two consecutive wins, albeit that neither of them was pretty but one of them at least was against the then form team of the competition, the undefeated Cats. Moreover, they were able to select an unchanged line up for that encounter and suffered no new injuries. At this point in time, the Demons’ selectors have the benefit of picking the best team for the job at hand from a group of in form players. This is in distinct contrast to their opponents in Carlton. While the Blues started the 2024 season in ripping form, they have lost the past two games and three of their last four. Coming up against stronger sides, they have wilted and reverted to a one-dimensional style which depends on their twin towers firing on all cylinders. Their problem is that, as good as they are, Curnow and McKay are coming up against the best of the best defences in the competition. As strong as their midfield might be, the Demons have the wherewithal in the middle to counter them plus plenty of outside run with Ed Langdon and this week’s rising star Caleb Windsor taking care of business in that department. And let’s not forget that it’s a department headed by the player acclaimed as the best ruckman in the business. So much so, that he only needs to be called by his first name — Max! There have been questions raised about Melbourne’s attack in the past, and rightly so. However, as demonstrated to the football world as late as last week in its game against Geelong, Bayley Fritsch and Kysaiah Pickett are two of the competition’s most dangerous forwards. And while Harry Petty and Jacob van Rooyen are not at the same level as the Carlton pairing, they have shown a capacity to get among the goals while Alex Neal-Bullen is also very capable and regarded as the epitome of the high half forward of football. So, there’s no need to get up in arms and enraged about losing those contests last year or to lose our heads over the revenge factor. The Melbourne Business Plan will take care of things. Demons by 19 points. THE GAME Melbourne v Carlton at the MCG Thursday 9 May 2024 at 7.30pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Carlton 119 wins Melbourne 97 wins Drawn 2 At the MCG Carlton 52 wins Melbourne 56 wins Past five meetings Carlton 2 wins Melbourne 3 wins The Coaches Voss 2 wins Goodwin 2 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Carlton 11.7.73 defeated Melbourne 9.17.71 at the MCG Semi Final 2024 The Demons dominated the general play for most of the night but their inability to trouble the scoreboard and some panicky decision making in the game’s final moments proved fatal to their chances of advancing to the preliminary final stage of the season. It was truly the stuff of frustration and dare we say it, very unbusinesslike! THE TEAMS CARLTON B B. Kemp, J. Weitering, L. Cowan HB A. Cincotta, M. McGovern, N. Newman C O. Hollands, P. Cripps, B. Acres HF J. Martin, H. McKay, E. Hollands F M. Owies, C. Curnow, T. De Koning FOLL M, Pittonet, S. Walsh, M. Kennedy I/C J. Boyd, A. Cerra, M. Cottrell, C. Durdin, G. Hewett EMG D. Cuningham, O. Fantasia, L. Young IN B. Kemp, O. Hollands, M. McGovern, J. Martin OUT D. Cuningham (omitted), O. Fantasia (omitted), Z.Williams (glute soreness), L. Young (omitted) MELBOURNE B B. Howes, S. May, T. Rivers HB J. McVee, J. Lever, T. McDonald C J. Billings, C. Oliver, C. Windsor HF E. Langdon, H. Petty, K Pickett JF J. van Rooyen, B. Fritsch, D. Turner FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, C. Petracca I/C J. Bowey, K. Chandler, A. Neal-Bullen, T. Sparrow, T. Woewodin EMG B. Brown M. Hore, B. Laurie IN J. Bowey OUT B. Laurie (omitted) Injury List: Round 9
 Jake Bowey — shoulder / Available Josh Schache — Achilles/ Test Christian Salem — hamstring / 1 - 2 weeks 
Charlie Spargo — Achilles / 2 - 3 weeks
Jake Melksham — knee / 5 - 7 weeks
  6. I was asked to write a preview of this week’s Round 8 match between Melbourne and Geelong. The two clubs have a history that goes right back to the time when the game was starting to become an organised sport but it’s the present that makes the task of previewing this contest so interesting. Both clubs recently reached the pinnacle of the competition winning premiership flags in 2021 and 2022 respectively, but before the start of this season, many good judges felt their time had passed - neither was regarded as a major challenger for this year's flag and particularly not so the Cats. Geelong’s form late in 2023 was abysmal while Melbourne was ushered out of the finals in straight sets for the second time in as many years. The conventional wisdom was that the season belonged to last year’s Grand Finalists, Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions. If not them, then last year’s late bloomers, GWS Giants and Carlton were the next in line for consideration as the leaders of the pack. Who would have thought then, that seven rounds (okay, eight if you’re a Round Zero pedant) into the season, the Pies and Lions would be outside the top eight, the Cats would be resuscitated and sitting on top of the ladder at 7 zip, with the Demons, also undergoing something of a rejuvenation, in fourth spot? Geelong has a healthy list and is in great form coming off a last start victory over another premiership contender Carlton in a blockbuster shootout at the MCG. That game followed a convincing victory 2023 Grand Finalists Brisbane at the Gabba. The Cats will therefore come into the game, chock full of confidence, especially after having the wood over Melbourne in their encounters since the 2021 Preliminary Final. They are settled, with many of their players in good form and the list appears to have few weaknesses. Some have reinvented themselves like Jeremy Cameron who has risen to another level in a slightly different role and speedster Max Holmes who recently celebrated his spectacular conversion from wing to half back by inking a four-year contract extension. On the other hand, Melbourne has been in something of a rut since its successful sojourn in Adelaide a month ago. The apathy of its display against Brisbane was followed by a lacklustre first half against Richmond. Both performances were noteworthy for a substantially diminished output from the team’s acclaimed midfield ensemble. On the strength of their recent tip-top form, Geelong should win this one. While things aren’t always so straightforward in our world of football, a lot of things have to go right for Melbourne to upset the ladder leaders. For starters, a return of the big three in the midfield to their early season performance level. To win this week, they must get their act together. A consistent performance from all of the forward line components for more than one or two quarters of the game would also help. Melbourne’s defence has remained on song throughout the season and can be relied upon to hold the barnstorming Cat attack to far less than the 18 goals they kicked against the Blues. If Geelong had a weakness last week, it was in the way the defence leaked goals. Late in the game when Carlton made its last-minute desperate lunge, the Cats momentarily looked helpless to stop the flood in the shoot out. If Melbourne comes at the top of its game applying its defensive pressure, the Demons could cause them to drop their bundle. I’m expecting them to lift for the big occasion to provide the fans with a insight into whether they are capable of mixing it in a top of the table contest with their mixture of maturity and new emerging talent. The mission I was given was to tip with the head and not the heart so I’m leaning towards Geelong to prevail in a tough contest by 10 points. THE GAME Melbourne v Geelong at the MCG on Saturday 4 May 2024 at 7.30pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 88 wins Geelong 134 wins 2 draws At the MCG Melbourne 53 wins Geelong 54 wins The last five meetings Melbourne 2 wins Geelong 3 wins The Coaches Goodwin 4 wins Scott 7 wins LAST TIME THEY MET Geelong 11.12.78 defeated Melbourne 8.15.63 at GMHBA Stadium in Round 15 2023 The Demons were on a high, coming off a last start victory over the premiership favourites in the Kings Birthday blockbuster but they struggled to back it up with a repeat performance. Geelong grabbed the ascendancy early in the final term as it has often done on so many occasions at the Cattery. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B B. Howes, S. May, J. Lever HB J. McVee, T. McDonald, T. Sparrow C A. Neal-Bullen, C. Petracca, C. Windsor HF J. Billings, B. Fritsch, K. Chandler F K. Pickett, J. Van Rooyen, D. Turner FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, C. Oliver I/C E. Langdon, B. Laurie, H. Petty, T. Rivers, T. Woewodin EMG B. Brown, M. Hore, L. Hunter NO CHANGE GEELONG B J. Henry, S. De Koning, J. Kolodjashnij HB Z. Guthrie, T. Stewart, M. Holmes C Z. Tuohy, T. Atkins, M. Blicavs HF B. Close, J. Cameron, G. Miers F T. Stengle, T. Hawkins, O. Henry FOLL R. Stanley, C. Guthrie, T. Bruhn I/C J. Bowes, J. Clark, O. Dempsey, M. Duncan, G. Rohan EMG S. Neale, M. O’Connor, B. Parfitt IN J. Clark, G. Rohan, T. Stewart OUT P. Dangerfield (hamstring), O'Connor (managed), B. Parfitt (managed) Injury List: Round 8 Jake Bowey — shoulder / 1 week Christian Salem — hamstring / 2 - 3 weeks Charlie Spargo — Achilles / 3 - 4 weeks Jake Melksham — knee / 6 - 8 weeks
  7. There’s a touch of irony in the fact that Adem Yze played his first game for Melbourne in Round 13, 1995 against the club he now coaches. For that game, he wore the number 44 guernsey and got six touches in a game the team won by 11 points. The man whose first name was often misspelled, soon changed to the number 13 and it turned out lucky for him. He became a highly revered Demon with a record of 271 games during which his presence was acknowledged by the fans with the chant of “Oozee” whenever he had his hands on the football. Oozee notched up many achievements in his day but fell short of a premiership in the club’s grand final year of 2000. Some years after he retired as a player and with success as Alastair Clarkson’s back up at the Hawks, he came back home as an assistant coach in 2021 and, as such, he was a key architect in the club’s historic premiership win. He coached them to a win in the following season when Simon Goodwin had to sit out the game with Covid19. We all wished him well when he was appointed coach of the Tigers and look forward to greeting son Noah as a father/son pick at the draft later this year but that’s where the friendship ends. On Wednesday night, it will be all out war on Oozee. That’s not good news for the man whose first season at Punt Road has been severely impacted by player unavailability with the Tigers dealing with the longest injury list in the AFL. This should be nothing new for the man as the Demons were often plagued by injuries during his tenure as a player and believe me, those injuries hurt badly. I think the Tigers would have struggled anyway against the Demons who should be well refreshed from the bye while still smarting from their last up tired and insipid display against Brisbane. The Tigers also had a bye, but they will lose the dangerous Jayden Short and could regain former captain Dylan Grimes and midfielder Jacob Hopper (knee), with the pair needing to pass fitness tests. The issue is that they are both desperately short of match fitness which will be problematic against the Dees. Melbourne may well have had an excuse of their own after an exacting schedule saw them play with so very little in their tank. At least they are seeing some respite with players coming back from their early season injuries. There will be absolutely no excuses against the Oozee-led Richmond which is so badly hurt that it doesn’t even have a tank. Hence, I expect that our battle-hardened soldier will leave his beloved MCG on Anzac Day Eve with the same number of victories as a Richmond coach that he had with Melbourne - just the one. Demons by 49 points. THE GAME Richmond v Melbourne on Wednesday 24 April 2024 at 7.25pm at the MCG HEAD TO HEAD Overall Richmond 107 wins Melbourne 79 wins Drawn 2 At the MCG Richmond 72 wins Melbourne 67 wins Drawn 1 Past five meetings Richmond 1 win Melbourne 4 wins The Coaches Yze 0 wins Goodwin 0 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 20.10.130 defeated Richmond 15.8.98 at the MCG, Round 20, 2023 The Tigers gave it their best shot pushing the Demons throughout the game and remained threatening until a fare more accurate than usual Melbourne prevailed at the end through the agency of Harry Petty (6 goals), Jake Melksham and Jacob van Rooyen (4 each) who didn’t miss a shot for goal all day. Their six-goal final quarter blew Richmond out of the game and dampened their finals hopes. THE TEAMS RICHMOND B T. Young, N. Broad, D. Grimes HB N. Vlastuin, T. Brown, D. Rioli C H. Ralphsmith, J. Graham, M. Pickett HF S. Campbell, R. Mansell, M. Rioli F M. Lefau, S. Bolton, D. Martin FOLL T. Nankervis, L. Baker, T. Dow I/C S. Banks, J. Hopper, B. Miller, S. Naismith SUB K. McIntosh EMG J. Koschitzke, K. McAuliffe, T. Sonsie IN D. Grimes, S. Naismith, J. Hopper, S. Banks OUT J. Koschitzke (omitted), K. McAuliffe (omitted), J. Short (calf), T. Sonsie (omitted) MELBOURNE B T. Rivers, S. May, T. McDonald HB B. Howes, J. Lever, J. McVee C E. Langdon, C. Petracca, J. Billings HF K. Chandler, J. Van Rooyen, K. Pickett F A. Neal-Bullen, B. Fritsch, H. Petty FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, C. Oliver I/C T. Sparrow, D. Turner, C. Windsor, T. Woewodin SUB B. Laurie EMG B. Brown M. Hore, K. Tholstrup IN B. Laurie, K. Pickett, S. Turner OUT B. Brown (omitted), C. Salem (hamstring) K. Tholstrop (omitted) Injury List: Round 7 Marty Hore — thumb / available Shane McAdam — hamstring / available Clayton Oliver — finger / available Jake Bowey — shoulder / 3 - 4 weeks Charlie Spargo — Achilles / 3 - 4 weeks Christian Salem — hamstring / 3 - 5 weeks Jake Melksham — knee / 7 - 9 weeks
  8. DEMONLAND: Good evening, Demon fans and welcome to the Demonland 2024 Grand Final Podcast … It’s been a beautiful last day of September and how sweet it is to bring you our coverage of all things that matter about the great Demon resurgence which we’ve seen over the past six or seven months. How our team overcame a turbulent off season and a disappointing start to 2024 on a humid night in Sydney, turned our detractors into believers and then ended the year triumphant in the finals with our captain holding aloft the premiership cup on the MCG for the first time in six decades. Oops … um, I don’t think I’m supposed to reveal that part of the script yet so … For now, please join me in the DMC DeLorean as we return to the present where it’s your turn to make your feelings known about how the game will pan out. But before we delve into what our fans are thinking, here we go with what the critics in the media are saying about the Demons these days … MEDIA (GuyWhoLikesSport from Neds Sport): “Early in the season, I wrote a snarky column that said Melbourne had to win the premiership. “After just over a month of football, and with a record of 4-1 that is franked by their last two wins in Adelaide over the Adelaide sides, they must be the favourites. “Melbourne has been consistently excellent since they won the 2021 premiership, but this year they’re better than they have been in that entire period.” And now to the Demon fans DEMON DISCIPLE: I feel Brisbane have had the wood on us since the last home and away round of 2022. Need to get back to our convincing winning ways against them this week. AT THE BREAK OF GAWN: I think this will be a close game and I certainly won’t be underestimating Brisbane. Getting the monkey off the back last week will help them and it’s Neale’s 250th so I imagine they’ll throw the kitchen sink at us. LEAVE IT TO DEEVER: I think we have this. Lions are a quality side just down in form. Plus they don't play well at the G. We should relish being on our home turf again. We will miss Kozzie but I'm feeling we still have enough fire power to kick over 100 points while strangling the Lions to around 75 points. Some big match ups in this game. I'm also hoping our midfield rallies and wins the cc count … and the umps give us a fair shake. We win this and it's a pretty safe bet to say we will finish top four come September. To go into the bye at 5 and 1 will be awesome given that half of those games were interstate. DEMON HEAD: This is Melbourne’s first crack against one of last year’s Grand Finalists. To everyone’s surprise, both Collingwood and Brisbane aren’t in the top eight now and the signs aren’t promising for either of them. The Lions have struggled to win games at the MCG recently. They also had a great record at home last year but this year, they can’t even win at the Gabba. There’s not much comfort in beating North Melbourne on neutral territory at Norwood Oval in Adelaide on a ground that has dimensions of 165m x 110m compared with the MCG’s 173.6m x 148.4m. Fagan reckons they got their energy back, but I would argue that it doesn’t take much energy to play against a bunch of kids on a postage stamp sized footy ground. That’s where the Lions will hit a wall on Thursday night. The Demons are in great form, their team defence is elite, and the midfield is pretty flash too. Brisbane will find it tough adapting to playing on the wide wings at the best stadium in the land against one of the most focused teams in the country. Melbourne will take the game and go into the break with the four points. THE GREAT PRETENDER: If you look at the teams on an individual basis, they’re evenly matched. Who will dominate? Petracca (in game #182) or Neale (in game #250)? Love Steven May’s courage! Can the Lions stop Max? Will Melbourne kick straight for goal? How will Brisbane cope without the loudspeakers playing their favourite songs when they kick a goal (I anticipate they won’t kick many anyway)? Demons win because the Lions will simply suffer stage fright on the G. CHF: Brisbane fluffed their chance in the grand final against the Pies last year and both teams have a bit of a hangover in the initial stages of season ’24. Here we are staring down the barrel of Round 5 and the Lions have just one win on the board against lowly North while we, after dropping the first game in the round that has no number, have won the last four on the trot against some reasonable opposition and having travelled to Adelaide for two games in five days against home sides and come away with two wins. That sort of form indicates the punters have it right installing the Dees as favourites. We have an extra day of rest and one less flight than the Lions with them having to fly back home and then down to Melbourne for the game. However (and there’s always a “forever”), footy’s a funny game as they say, and I hope that the team prepares and realises that this is going to be a tough game. The Lions have a good mix of talent in all areas of the ground, and we will need to have a few ideas up our sleeves to ensure we are ready to react when required. I do believe that the coaching panel have been good at working out and reacting to what is happening around the ground so far this season. Defence: This section of our team is recognised as our great strength and as the best in the league. Steven May, Jake Lever, Tom McDonald, Judd McVee, Trent Rivers, Blake Howes and Christian Salem can mix and match with the best of them and against the Brisbane forward pack they will need to be at their best. The Brisbane forward setup has good individual players but so far this season they have not clicked together. Against North last round their forwards kicked 15 of their 16 goals while against the Pies the week before at the Gabba the forwards only kicked five of the total of 10. Very inconsistent. It will be interesting to see how and who we match up on in the defence. We have them covered at this end of the ground. Midfield: As they say… “This is where the game is won.” I think that will be the case in this match. Max Gawn and Christian Petracca are our leading lights so far this season with good support from Jack Viney and, in the last game, Tom Sparrow. Clayton Oliver with his hand injury is down on his usual standards and statistics but I feel he can only get better and will take a few steps forward in this game. We will need to respect the Brisbane midfield with Neale, McCluggage and Dunkley looking to be the main drivers out of stoppages with their clearance rate. Against Adelaide Petracca, Oliver and Sparrow dominated the clearances and gave us some good drive. Gawn against The Big O will be interesting. Not because I think McInerney will dominate or even challenge Max but because it will be interesting to see what tactics they adopt to try and control Max’s influence around the ground. It is a tough job for any team. Ed Langdon and Caleb Windsor winging their way around the G will also be good to watch. Brisbane named Fletcher and Berry on the wings for the North game and, according to the stats, both had reasonable games. Berry looked to be used more in the middle and managed five clearances along with 24 possessions. Fletcher might run on the wing with Langdon and Windsor to have a few rotating opponents. Forwards: This is where it gets interesting. So far this season the Demons have managed to have a good even spread of goal kickers in the games. Bayley Fritsch has been a standout. He is second in the Coleman behind Hogan now. We will present a few problems for the Lions at the pointy end. Ben Brown and Harry Petty will need to be covered because of their potential to cause problems with Jacob van Rooyen and Fritsch also needing to be contained. Melbourne had a lot of flexibility with its talls now and I can imagine a bit of a chess game with moves and counter moves in our forward fifty. Kozzie is such a livewire, but without him, Kade Chandler and Alex Neal-Bullen will be handy rotating as cover in his absence. There’s also some doubt about Chandler so if he also misses it will open the door for a couple of other contenders to get a run. The Brisbane defence, as with their forwards do not seem to have clicked yet this season. In their last outing against North Melbourne, they looked to have an easy time of it and will find the going tougher on Thursday evening. Tough opening quarter but I expect that we will get better as the game goes on and run out winners by a fair bit. Say five goals. And then on to a week off. --------------------------------------------- And that’s the Demon Crew’s Round 5 preview. Thanks to all who contributed and apologies to those who missed out. Time to crank up the DMC DeLorean‘s engine and go back to the future. THE GAME Melbourne v Brisbane Lions at The MCG, Thursday 11 April 2024 at 7.30pm HEAD TO HEAD * Overall: Melbourne 30 wins Brisbane Lions 24 wins At The MCG Melbourne 16 wins Brisbane 4 wins Last Five Meetings: Melbourne 3 wins Brisbane Lions 2 wins The Coaches: Goodwin 8 wins Fagan 4 wins * does not include Brisbane Bears or Fitzroy games LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 16.9.105 defeated Brisbane Lions 16.8.104 at The MCG, Round 18 2023 Melbourne pulled one out of the fire, with a one-point win over the Brisbane Lions in an enthralling, frustrating and nail-biting game. The Lions dominated the middle part of the game after the reeling back the Demons who had burst out of the blocks to take an early 25-point lead. The final quarter was a thriller with Melbourne’s strength and experience through its leaders prevailing in an exciting final quarter that established the team’s place in the top four leading towards the finals. THE TEAMS (to be included when available) MELBOURNE B T. Rivers, S. May, T. McDonald HB B. Howes, J. Lever, J. McVee C E. Langdon, C. Petracca, A. Neal-Bullen HF J. Billings, H. Petty,K. Tholstrop F J. van Rooyen, B. Fritsch, T. Sparrow FOLL M. Gawn J. Viney, C. Oliver. I/C B. Brown, K. Chandler, C. Salem, C. Windsor SUB T. Woewodin EMG B. Laurie, J. Schache, A. Tomlinson BRISBANE LIONS B B. Starcevich, J. Payne, R. Lester HB D. Wilmot, H. Andrews, D. Gardiner C J. Fletcher, Z. Bailey, J. Berry HF C. Cameron, E. Hipwood, H. McCluggage F C. Rayner, J. Daniher, D. Zorko FOLL O. Mclnerney, J. Dunkley, L. Neale I/C C. Ah Chee, N. Answerth, K. Lohmann, L. McCarthy SUB J. Tunstill EMG D. Fort, J. Lyons, L. Morris NO CHANGE Injury and Suspension List: Round 5 Daniel Turner — hip / available Kysaiah Pickett — suspended / 1 week Marty Hore — thumb / 2 - 3 weeks Shane McAdam — hamstring / 2 - 3 weeks Charlie Spargo — Achilles / 4 weeks Jake Bowey — shoulder / 5 - 6 weeks Jake Melksham — knee / 10 - 12 weeks
  9. When the announcement came in November last year that South Australia’s 2024 Gather Round opener was to be a clash between Adelaide and Melbourne, it was taken as a compliment to both clubs as the ones chosen to showcase the sport in a big moment. At the time, the Crows were one of the AFL’s emerging clubs known for their exciting brand of football; the competition’s highest scorer of 2023 and terribly unlucky to miss the finals after a failure to call a score review deprived them of victory against Sydney in Round 23. The Demons could reasonably argue that their progress to finals glory was blocked on more than one count by bad luck on matters of controversy involving an injured player as well as some questionable score reviews late in the season. There was even a suggestion that such benefits were awarded as a payoff for the silent acquiescence of the clubs, but who on earth could believe such nonsense about the AFL? The events of the intervening months have led the clubs to this week’s football festival in the City of Churches with unfortunately, a much less appealing opening for the weekend than the one which the organizers had originally anticipated. The much-vaunted home team is winless and seems to not only have lost the ability to score but also, its confidence, its strength and its capacity for a fight. At least Melbourne, which had a troubled summer on a number of levels and rightly or wrongly, was targeted by scuttlebutt within the game’s social bubble, has managed to overcome the noise and a disappointing opening round in Sydney by galvanizing its playing group and emerging with an impressive run of wins over the past three rounds. The victories include a meritorious win over the highly fancied Port Adelaide at the venue for Thursday night’s game. One only needs to compare the form of the respective teams in Round 3 to draw a definitive conclusion about the outcome of this game. The competition’s highest-scoring team of 2023 looked insipid and managed only four goals against Fremantle while Melbourne shrugged off the media attacks on its culture to win a high standard finals-like contest and affirmed that at the very least, they ARE the AFL’s culture club. Of course, the risk remains that in a very fickle sport like football, the five day break could prove a bridge too far for Demons. They might suffer from fatigue or a let down or underestimate an opponent desperate for redemption in the eyes of their home crowd. But I doubt it. For their part, the Crows are coming back from an interstate defeat with only one extra day’s break. Their coach Matthew Nicks certainly has the job in front of him to turn around the team’s 0-3 record and admitted at the weekend that too many of his players are out of form and “collectively not playing at the standard expected.” In playing the Demons, they can expect to come up against a team that is aware of what it means to play at that standard. They can expect a culture shock. Melbourne by 31 points. THE GAME Adelaide v Melbourne at The Adelaide Oval on Thursday 4 April 2024 at 7.40pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall - Adelaide 26 wins Melbourne 19 wins At Adelaide Oval - Adelaide 2 wins Melbourne 5 wins Past five meetings - wins Adelaide 1 win Melbourne 4 The Coaches - Matthew Nicks 1 win Simon Goodwin 4 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 14.13.97 defeated Adelaide 13.15.93 at The MCG, Round 19, 2023 This was a game of huge momentum swings. Melbourne took hold of the game in the third quarter and, at one stage were up by five goals. The Crows came back, the Demons regrouped but the visitors kept coming and the scores were level with 15 minutes to play. Melbourne opened up another two goal plus lead, and finally got over the line by four points. THE TEAMS ADELAIDE B J. Worrell, J. Butts, B. Smith HB P. Parnell, M. Keane, M. Michalanney C M. Hinge, J. Dawson, C. Jones HF J. Soligo, I. Rankine, J. Rachele F B. Cook, D. Fogarty, T. Walker FOLL R. 0 Brien, R. Laird, B. Keays. I/C C. Burgess, M. Crouch, N. McHenry, L. Nankervis SUB S. Berry EMG J. Borlase, L. Gollant, L. Pedlar IN S. Berry, J. Butts, B. Cook, L. Nankervis, P. Parnell OUT J. Borlase (omitted), W. Milera (knee), L. Murphy (knee), L. Pedlar (omitted), L. Sholl (omitted) MELBOURNE B T. Rivers, S. May, T. McDonald HB B. Howes, J. Lever, J. McVee C E. Langdon, C. Petracca, J. Billings HF A. Neal-Bullen, H. Petty, K. Pickett F J. van Rooyen, B. Brown, B. Fritsch FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, C. Oliver I/C K. Chandler, C. Salem, T. Sparrow, C. Windsor SUB T. Woewodin EMG B. Laurie, J. Schache, A. Tomlinson IN S. May OUT M. Hore (thumb) Injury List: Round 4 Lachie Hunter — calf/ available Kade Chandler — knee / test Steven May — ribs/ test Daniel Turner — hip/ 1 week Charlie Spargo — Achilles/ 2 - 4 weeks Shane McAdam — hamstring/ 2 - 4 weeks Marty Hore — thumb / 3 - 4 weeks Jake Bowey — shoulder/ 6 weeks Jake Melksham — knee/ 11 - 13 weeks
  10. The jubilation on the coach’s face as he danced a celebratory jig by the playing bench after the final siren sounded to record his team’s four-point victory over the Demons when the teams last met, said it all. On that rainy Friday night at the Adelaide Oval, Ken Hinkley’s young midfield secured much more than four points on offer. The victory over one of the big dogs of the competition after a succession of wins over some of its lesser lights gave his team respect and validation for their 2023 premiership campaign. Saturday’s rematch promises much the same for the winning team — respect and validation for that which lies ahead. We know such things mean very little at this early stage of the year but the confidence and momentum gained can make a difference as a season unfolds. Melbourne’s quest to achieve validation after a turbulent summer that left its list short by two primary list players was made even more difficult by the end of Round 2 with two All Australian key position defenders under an injury cloud. Steven May was in hospital with two broken ribs and a small transverse process fracture while Jake Lever was sitting on the bench wearing a tracksuit top on the bench, nursing a sore knee that turned out to be not as bad as first thought. But the injury list is long and a five day break before the Gather Round clash against the Crows will test the club’s depth. You can take it straight from the coach’s mouth that the possible absence of the two keys on top of the Bowey injury from Round Zero isn’t the end of the world. The coach, Simon Goodwin, spoke immediately after the Hawthorn game and maintained that he has plenty of material necessary to cover the loss of players: “I thought Harrison Petty, Tom McDonald, and Marty Hore did a great job down back for us. “We’ve got guys that can play those roles. Clearly Harrison’s done it previously. We’ve got some other guys, Adam Tomlinson will play tomorrow in the VFL.” (Tomlinson worked hard under adversity for Casey and did well enough to be considered if required). “So, we’ve got some options in that space which is pleasing, so we’ll assess that during the week.” And while the issue of depth (especially in the big man department) will be crucial against Port Adelaide, I think it could be a double-edged sword for the home team on a hot Autumn night. They have key forwards Dixon, Finlayson and Marshall, at one end with tall defenders in Aliir, Ratugolea and Zerk-Thatcher. They have plenty of height, but their issue might be one of having to handle the Demon small brigade, particularly if the Melbourne midfield gains the initiative. The engine room will, as usual, be the place where the game will ultimately be won and this is where things get interesting. Melbourne’s ace is Max Gawn who should beat Ivan Soldo even if the Demon skipper is subjected to the usual roughhouse tactics that are emblematic of Port’s routine strategy against him. Problem with that is the umpiring fraternity is onto this and paying greater attention to such an approach these days. Then there are the midfield pieces on both the inside and outside. Melbourne has the advantage of the bulls in Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca, Tom Sparrow and (congratulations to 200 gamer) Jack Viney with occasional appearances from Kozzie Pickett, Christian Salem, Trent Rivers and the peripatetic Alex Neal-Bullen and, on the outside, Ed Langdon, Caleb Windsor and Jack Billings adding class. Port’s equivalent is led by Butters who took the game by the throat last year to bring home the bacon for a rampant Port Adelaide assisted by Rozee and Horne-Francis (who has a hamstring injury and in doubt to play). They also have Brownlow Medallist Wines, Drew, Farrell, Houston and the evergreen Boak. In the final analysis, I put the Demon engine room ahead by a small margin, perhaps one per cent. There are a few other one percenters that should work in Melbourne’s favour. Despite last year’s Gather Round fiasco and the loss to Port Adelaide in Round 10, both can be considered as outliers because of the conditions in which they were played. Otherwise, the Demons have a good record at the Adelaide Oval including a strong finals win over the Lions in the club’s premiership year. The club is treating the next week or so with far more thought for the playing group than it did last year. Sticking around the City of Churches for an extended period will galvanize the group, and partially offset home ground advantage. And the bottom line is that the Demons not only have the depth, but they have an extra charge in terms of greater all-round flexibility. This will be a major factor in a game where whoever is available, you must play well enough on the day to beat your opponent in your next game. And beat them is what Melbourne will do. By 27 points. THE GAME Port Adelaide v Melbourne on Saturday 30 March 2024 at 7.30pm at Adelaide Oval. HEAD TO HEAD Overall Port Adelaide 22 wins Melbourne 16 wins At Adelaide Oval Port Adelaide 4 wins Melbourne 3 wins Past five meetings Port Adelaide 2 win, Melbourne 3 wins The Coaches Hinkley 4 wins Goodwin 4 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Port Adelaide 11.14.80 defeated Melbourne 11.10.76 in Round 10, 2023 at Adelaide Oval The game was a slog in wet conditions. Port dominated early but the Demons came back strongly to lead by 17 points only seconds before the final break. The game that was there to be won was to be prelude to Melbourne’s end of season issues. Clayton Oliver’s hamstring pinged in its frenetic latter stages. Lachie Hunter’s backside collision with Connor Rozee led to his suspension and a Port Adelaide goal. This happened late in the third term just after a controversial umpiring decision against Tom McDonald (his opponent was suspended in the aftermath) - potentially caused a twelve point turnaround. The home side took the initiative and a late goal sealed the deal for them. All things considered, the four premiership points would have seen Melbourne finish with a home qualifying final against Brisbane rather than Collingwood, perhaps a better outcome given the way things panned out for them. THE TEAMS PORT ADELAIDE B R. Burton, E. Ratugolea, B. Zerk-Thatcher 
HB L. Jones, A. Allir, D. Houston
 C M. Bergman, W. Drew, T. Boak
 HF D. Byrne-Jones, T. Marshall, C. Rozee 
F J. Finlayson, C. Dixon, W. Rioli 
FOLL I. Soldo, O. Wines, Z. Butters 
I/C F. Evans, K. Farrell, J. McEntee, J. Mead
 SUB J. Burgoyne EMG T. Clurey T. McKenzie, D. Visentini, IN J. McEntee OUT D. Williams (omitted) MELBOURNE B J. McVee, J. Lever, B. Howes HB T. Rivers, T. McDonald, C. Salem C E. Langdon, C. Petracca, C. Windsor HF T. Sparrow, B. Fritsch, K. Pickett F A. Neal-Bullen, J. Van Rooyen, K. Chandler FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, C. Oliver I/C J. Billings, B. Brown, M. Hore, H. Petty SUB T. Woewodin EMG T. Fullarton B. Laurie, A. Tomlinson IN T. Woewodin OUT S. May (ribs) Injury List: Round 3 Jake Lever — knee/ Test Clayton Oliver — hand/ Test Ollie Sestan — concussion/ Test Lachie Hunter — calf/ 1 week Steven May — ribs/ 1 week Daniel Turner — hip/ 2 - 3 weeks Charlie Spargo — Achilles/ 2 - 4 weeks Shane McAdam — hamstring/ 3 - 5 weeks Jake Bowey — shoulder/ 7 weeks Jake Melksham — knee/ 12 - 14 weeks
  11. This week Melbourne takes on Hawthorn hot on the heels of a six-day break after its encouraging response to a disappointing season opener in steamy Sydney. The Hawks were disappointingly wasteful last week, but they also failed to bring sufficient pressure into the contest and, as a consequence, the Bombers scored goals at will. Against the Demons, a repeat would be fatal. The Hawks are still in the rebuilding phase and need everything to go right against Melbourne which is gradually building up to overcome some of the deficiencies felt by its fall from grace in departing last year’s finals series in straight sets. Hawthorn is no pushover. Despite being in development mode, the Hawks managed to upset both 2023 grand finalists, Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions during the home and away season. Against the former, they completely took apart the Magpies’ system including shutting down a rampant Nick Daicos until he was injured. The problem was that which many young, inexperienced teams face - a lack of consistency. But more about the Hawks later. One of the consequences of the Demons’ tumultuous offseason has been the debate about its standing in the competition. While some observers were willing to write the club off even before a single ball was bounced, others believed the intrinsic strength of the list, coaches and support staff ensures its status as a premiership contender. I read a piece this week that was critical of the Demons for their lack of key forwards, an explanation for its poor “forward connection”, and for its aging list with most of its elite players being in the mid 20s and over. I’m not impressed by these lines of criticism because neither can be validated statistically. Melbourne’s forward woes in the latter part of last season were more in terms of conversion and the absence of key forwards through injury. As for aging, there are several other clubs with far worse age demographics (Geelong and Collingwood for example) and Sunday’s outing showed the club’s mix of players to be in solid shape. I tend to look at the playing group in terms of its binary nature with many of the club’s qualities coming in twos:- Leadership - ruckman Max Gawn, the best ruckman in the country, and the toughest midfielder in the game, Jack Viney leading by example. Midfielders - Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver, the best midfield duo going around and still young enough to be in that mix for half a decade. Defenders - How can anyone go past key defenders Jake Lever and Steven May? Mature age recruits - Jack Billings and Marty Hore are great mature age pick ups, adding to the club’s needs in attack and defence respectively. Emerging talents - Trent Rivers and Tom Sparrow are premiership players. Each is primed for a break out season. Debutants - Blake Howes and Caleb Windsor made their respective AFL debuts less than a fortnight ago and are already making an impact. Comeback kids - how about Ben Brown (key forward) and Tom McDonald (key back), both of who were virtually written off over the summer? The odd couple - Alex Neal-Bullen, a relentless running machine in the forward line and Jake Bowey who doesn’t cover as much ground but has great disposal skill. Second year talent - Judd McVee and Jacob van Rooyen. Both were kept on the back burner in the VFL in their first seasons, both were outstanding debutants last year and both are kicking on in 2024. Small forwards - the attack looked so much more potent with Kozzy Pickett in the team and Kade Chandler back in form and kicking goals. There’s more of that in the club’s armoury but let’s return to Saturday afternoon and Hawthorn who face up to Melbourne and a game plan that works in modern football. A team that dominates defensively and through the middle and is now primed to play more directly when going forward. I believe the six day break should not worry the Demons as it will be offset by the benefit of the extra game in their legs at this stage of the season. Hawthorn has a long injury list including Will Day, Denver Grainger-Barras, Changkuoth Jiath and Chad Wingard and are lucky to have James Sicily after his visit to the AFL Tribunal. The Hawks still have a decent midfield but will have their hands full with the Melbourne engine room. In the last encounter between the teams, tagger-in-chief Finn Maginness was given the task on Clayton Oliver and fulfilled it admirably but that was in the early days of Clarrie’s return from a long term injury. Even if Maginness gets the job again and succeeds in keeping him down, there are plenty of options available to the Demons which is something the Hawks lack. That’s where the club’s binary kit bag makes it such a difficult proposition to overcome and why the Demons will win this after a tough tussle. Melbourne by 31 points. THE GAME Melbourne v Hawthorn at the MCG Saturday 23 March 2024 at 4.35pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Hawthorn 87 wins Melbourne 82 wins 1 draw At the MCG Hawthorn 46 wins Melbourne 42 wins 1 draw Last 5 meetings Hawthorn 0 wins Melbourne 4 wins 1 draw The Coaches Mitchell 0 wins Goodwin 2 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 13.9.87 defeated Hawthorn 9.6.60 in Round 23, 2023 at The MCG The Demons locked in a top four spot on the AFL 2023 ladder on Sunday with a 27-point victory against the Hawks in the penultimate round of the season. It was a tough, hard tussle with barely a goal or two in it until the Demons broke the shackles in the final term. Jake Melksham was the their best player with three telling three goals. THE TEAMS HAWTHORN B J. Weddle, S. Frost, J. Sicily HB J. Impey, J. Scrimshaw, M. D'Ambrosio C K. Amon, D. Moore, C. Macdonald HF J. Ginnivan, M. Lewis, C. Nash F L. Breust, M. Chol, Nick Watson FOLL N. Reeves, J. Newcombe, J. Worpel I/C B. Hardwick, C. Mackenzie, F. Maginness, J. Ward SUB J. Gunston EMG H. Hustwaite, H. Morrison M. Ramsden NO CHANGE MELBOURNE B J. McVee, S. May, B. Howes HB T. Rivers, J. Lever, C. Salem C E. Langdon, C. Petracca, A. Neal-Bullen HF T. Sparrow, B. Brown, K. Pickett F B. Fritsch, J. Van Rooyen, K. Chandler FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, J. Billings I/C T. McDonald, C. Oliver, H. Petty, C. Windsor SUB M. Hore EMG T. Fullarton, B. Laurie, T. Woewodin IN H. Petty OUT T. Woewodin (omitted) Injury and Suspension List: Round 2 Harrison Petty — toe/ available Ollie Sestan — concussion/ 1 week Lachie Hunter — calf/ 2 weeks Daniel Turner — hip/ 5 - 6 weeks Jake Bowey — shoulder/ 8 weeks Shane McAdam — hamstring/ TBC Jake Melksham — knee/ TBC Charlie Spargo — Achilles/TBC Joel Smith — suspended/ TBC
  12. Melbourne’s performance in losing its Round Zero contest in Sydney has certainly caused the club, the coach and the players to come firmly under the watchful eye of the football world and exposed all of its aspects to a microscopic lens. Much of the commentary surrounding them has been less than complimentary and, while some might argue that this is unfair after only one round, leaving aside some of the scuttlebutt that surrounds a lot of the discussion around the game, a fair amount of the criticism has been deserved. That is the nature of the game. The Demons went into the match in Sydney without any apparent understanding of the conditions in which it was to be played. The ground and the ball turned out to be so slippery that, at times, the players appeared to be playing with bars of soap. The overuse of handball and poor skills compounded the lack of momentum and forward movement. Turnovers were costly and connection into an already crowded forward line was almost non-existent. Ed Langdon’s goal after the half time siren, barely made the scoreline of one major from 29 forward 50 entries up until then look any better. Even though the Swans managed only a single scoring shot in the second quarter, they were in front at half time, a factor that proved conclusive by the end. As a few of the other teams discovered in playing games at a relatively early stage in their preparation for the season ahead, the Demons ran themselves too hard early for the lack of reward and were found wanting in the final quarter - something we have not been used to from Melbourne teams in recent seasons. So, the Melbourne selectors go into the game this week with the mission of turning their game around and in doing so, they need to address every area of the ground. The defence is the only area that needs only a minor rejig in the absence of the injured Jake Bowey. The forward line will gain an instant boost with Kozzie Pickett’s return - he will not only make the attack more dangerous but as he showed in the practice matches, he can also go into the middle and cause some havoc. We know that as much as Max Gawn is a superhuman ruckman, he can’t do it all on his own and therefore needs more support in the ruck and from the teammates surrounding him. This is especially so against a talented ruck foe like Tim English who will have plenty of support from the Bulldog talls. Melbourne’s other main task is to subdue the influence of Marcus Bontempelli who many judges claim to be the best in the business. I was thinking of calling this a line ball game but if my theory about teams not being well enough prepared for a season from the get-go is correct, then the Dogs might struggle against a team that has played a hard game of football followed by a full week and more to reflect on getting better. I think it will be close, but the Demons will end up with the cigar and win by four points. THE GAME Melbourne v Western Bulldogs at The MCG Sunday 17 March 2024 at 1.00 pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 91 wins Western Bulldogs 79 wins 1 draw At The MCG Melbourne 48 wins Western Bulldogs 29 wins Last Five Meetings Melbourne 3 wins Western Bulldogs 2 wins The Coaches Goodwin 7 wins Beveridge 4 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 17.13.115 defeated Western Bulldogs 9.11.65 at The MCG in Round 1, 2023 Melbourne was primed to overcome the disappointment of the previous season’s straight sets finals demise and it did so emphatically with total control of the game. Ben Brown and Pickett booted four goals apiece and, but for Kozzie’s over exuberant hit on Bailey Smith, it might have been the perfect start to a season. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B T. Rivers, S. May, J. Lever HB J. McVee, B. Howes, M. Hore C E. Langdon, C. Petracca, C. Windsor HF T. Sparrow, J. Van Rooyen, K. Pickett F A. Neal-Bullen, B. Fritsch, K. Chandler FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, C. Oliver I/C J. Billings. B. Brown, T. McDonald, C. Salem, T. Woewodin EMG T. Fullarton, B. Laurie, K. Tholstrup IN B. Brown, M. Hore, T. McDonald, K. Pickett, T. Woewodin 
OUT J. Bowey (collarbone), J. Schache (omitted), B. Laurie (omitted), C. Spargo (Achilles), A. Tomlinson (omitted) WESTERN BULLDOGS B L. Bramble, L. Jones, N. Coffield HB E. Richards, B. Khamis, B. Dale C J. Harmes, A. Treloar, H. Gallagher HF R. Sanders, R. Lobb, C. Weightman F R. West, A. Naughton, J. Ugle-Hagan FOLL T. English, M. Bontempelli, T. Liberatore 
I/C C. Daniel, J. Johannisen, L. McNeil, L. Vandermeer, B. Williams EMG O. Baker, S. Darcy, J. O'Donnell NEW Ryley Sanders (Sandringham Dragons), Lachlan Bramble (Hawthorn), Nick Coffield (St Kilda), Harvey Gallagher (Bendigo Pioneers), James Harmes (Melbourne) Injury and Suspension List: Round 1 Harrison Petty — toe/ test Lachie Hunter — calf/ 2 - 3 weeks Daniel Turner — hip/ 6 - 7 weeks Jake Bowey — shoulder/ 8 weeks Shane McAdam — hamstring/ TBC Jake Melksham — knee/ TBC Joel Smith — suspended/ TBC
  13. The Coodabeen Champions have called it a day after more than forty years on various radio stations across Melbourne. When the lads chose the theme from the spaghetti western "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" as their signature tune, the game was uncomplicated with little time for scientific strategy. Summertime was for easy living and games of cricket, footy teams assembled in February, played practice matches in March and the season opened in mid-April. In their time, the Coodabeens saw changes upon changes that have turned the game on its head and, very late in the piece, they bore witness to a modern day miracle — the resurgence of the game’s perennial ugly duckling into a fully fledged premiership team. They saw the ugly, the bad and the good but in September 2023, the ugly returned with a vengeance. Collingwood won a flag and it was time for them to go. We usually judge a club’s off season by two measures, the quality of its list management in the transition from the past year to the present and then, by the way it prepares for season ahead with the aim of the team approaching the opening round in a positive frame of mind. The list management side of things always involves an element of conjecture about how the new blood introduced will fare and whether any departing players will leave gaps that the club might struggle to fill. The trading, free agency and draft process of October/November saw the following changes to the club’s lists:- In: Jack Billings (St Kilda), Shane McAdam (Adelaide), Tom Fullarton (Brisbane), Caleb Windsor (Eastern Ranges), Koltyn Tholstrup (Subiaco), Kynan Brown (Oakleigh Chargers), Marty Hore (Williamstown) Out: Brodie Grundy (Sydney), Michael Hibberd (Port Colts), James Harmes (Western Bulldogs), James Jordon (Sydney), Luke Dunstan (retired), Deakyn Smith (delisted), Kye Turner (delisted) As stated, such things are open to conjecture. Time will eventually tell the tale but the vibe for me is a little bit of good mixed with a touch of bad in that there isn’t much coverage in ruck for an injury to Max Gawn in the short term or, down the track when his career ends, and the ongoing issue of the need for key forwards in light of the impending retirements at the end of the year of Ben Brown, Tom McDonald and Jake Melksham and potential flight risk back to South Australia of Harry Petty. The other side of the off season is the need for peace, quiet and harmony in preparing for the year ahead. This was, for the most part, ugly and bad. The staff had barely finished packing the team’s equipment away for the summer when Joel Smith was provisionally suspended over an alleged positive drug test for cocaine from the Round 22 game vs Hawthorn and more recently, he was accused of trafficking or attempted trafficking. Smith faces a long stretch out of the game if his guilt is proved. Quick upon the heels of that news, followed revelations of Clayton Oliver’s now well-documented health and legal problems, an extended stint on the sidelines after a brief but disastrous appearance at the club’s December training camp in Lorne amid questions surrounding his future. No sooner had we finished singing Auld Lang Syne and the team came back to train, that the injury list started to grow. When the time came for the first scratch match against the Tigers, there were more than a dozen players unavailable through injury and suspension (including a raft of tall forwards). The Demons made a bright start at Casey Fields but things turned ugly and the defence leaked ten successive goals against an unfancied opposition forward line. They came back but the ebb and flow left some bad vibrations as Richmond’s new coach won the bragging rights if such things belong to match simulations in the month of February. The fans were digesting all of the above when the shock news came in of the forced early retirement of Angus Brayshaw, a much loved and experienced team leader and premiership star. A brilliant career cut short was a massive blow to the player as it was to all who love the club. The off field bickering and the fallout dating all the way back to the replacement of the club’s former chair in 2021, continued as mediation talks fell apart. The media had its fun and games, somebody mentioned “culture” and then, amid all the gloom and doom and ugly fake rumour mongering and speculation about the coach’s premature demise, the fans were finally treated to some very good as Max Gawn led the team to a demolition of the Blues at Ikon Park. And we noticed some rising fortunes among maturing players, new strategies and the emergence of new blood but wait - it was still only a scratch match. Which brings us here to Round Zero, 2024 at the end of a cycle of The Ugly, The Bad and The Good. I was surprised to see the early betting odds from last week heavily favouring the Swans to win Thursday night’s game. That was before the AFL Community Series matches but even then, Melbourne’s form turnaround against Carlton and Sydney’s insipid display in the NSW Derby in Canberra and injuries to Luke Parker and Taylor Adams were insufficient to bridge the gap. What it did take to even things up odds-wise was the announcement by Demons coach Simon Goodwin on Monday confirming that Clayton Oliver had been selected to face the Swans. Suddenly, we seem to have a standoff but I’m not buying. I will gladly concede that even in the absence of Callum Mills, Parker and Adams, Sydney has substantial midfield depth led by the likes of Eric Gulden, Chad Warner and a bevy of mid size players but … Melbourne’s midfield setup headed by skipper Max Gawn in dominant form in the ruck and the class of Oliver, Christian Petracca, Jack Viney, a resurgent Christian Salem back to full fitness and rising midfielder Tom Sparrow is miles ahead of whatever the Swans can produce. Brodie Grundy might have a point to prove but in cold, hard light of the evening, he won’t hold a candle to Gawn. Sydney farewelled Buddy Franklin well before the end of the last season but his replacement key forwards, McDonald and Amartey are hardly in his postcode at this early stage of their careers. And it’s a bad time for them to come up against Steven May and Jake Lever while their remaining forwards (and I include Tom Papley in that lot) are unfortunate in that they are likely to be strangled by the desperate defence of the likes of Jake Bowey, Judd McVee and Trent Rivers. There’s been a lot of talk lately about the culture of the Melbourne Football Club but little understanding that it’s actually a strong point because it’s a culture of hard work, attention to detail and hating defeat on the field of play. Cop that, Swans! Because Melbourne kicked away the chance to win both of its finals matches in 2023 (and a few others in the latter half of the season), there’s a perception out there that it has a weak attack. That’s a total misperception because even with those “connection” issues in the second half of the season it was still the sixth highest scoring team in the competition. The Demons have a good ground ball game and, as they showed last Thursday at Ikon Park, they’re handy in the air when the ball travels forward. Straighten them up a few percent and they would be top two or three in that category. And they have recruited well with youngster Caleb Windsor and Jack Billings — both of them excellent disposers of the football — to go with Bayley Fritsch and Jacob Van Royen who are no slouches with football in hand. On the small, spaceless SCG, Melbourne should be well suited to the size of ground and conditions expected on the day, even without Kozzy Pickett, Harry Petty, Ben Brown and Shane McAdam who are still to come into the forward mix. There’s something else to consider and it’s a factor of the early start to the season and the fact that the Swans have played their practice matches in oppressive heat and have not finished off strongly. That’s a sign for me that it’s unlikely for this matchup to turn into a standoff. To the contrary, it’s going to be a good, old wild, west ugly massacree with Melbourne winning bad by 49 points. THE GAME Sydney Swans v Melbourne at the SCG Thursday 7 March 2024 at 7.30pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Sydney Swans 117 wins Melbourne 96 wins 2 drawn At the SCG Sydney Swans 14 wins Melbourne 9 wins Last 5 meetings Sydney Swans 2 wins Melbourne 3 wins The Coaches Longmire 7 wins Goodwin 4 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 11.11.77 defeated Sydney Swans 7.14.56 in Round 24, 2023 at the SCG The Demons prevailed after a see saw game, thanks mainly to its midfield dominance in the personage of Jack Viney, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver and an outstanding return from injury of Bayley Fritsch who overcame a knock to his foot in mid game to finish with five goals. Scores were close until three quarter time but a four goal to nil final term sealed the deal. In form forward Jake Melksham suffered a devastating blow with an ACL injury that placed his career in jeopardy. THE TEAMS Injury and Suspension List: Round 0 Ben Brown — knee/ available Charlie Spargo — Achilles/ available Kysaiah Pickett — suspended/ 1 week Harrison Petty — toe/ 2 weeks Lachie Hunter — calf/ 3 - 4 weeks Daniel Turner — hip/ 7 - 8 weeks Shane McAdam — hamstring/ TBC Jake Melksham — knee/ TBC Joel Smith — suspended/ TBC
  14. Following successive comprehensive defeats by fellow Top Four heavyweights the Demons play down a division this Sunday against the highly promising Cats. Strangely, no games against the Cats for five seasons and now we play them twice in one season. With the blueprint on how to defeat the Dees available on the dark web the real question is, will we crumble again under the finals pressure cooker or will we rediscover our #DemonSpirit and execute a turnaround? Make no mistake this semi-final against Geelong is an enormous challenge. In Round 5 at Mordor, they stayed in the contest for three quarters but ultimately it was our record breaking forward efficiency that won the evening. Our high scoring has vanished these past two weeks, kicking only 9 and 28 points respectively. Against Top Eight teams this year our record is not so strong with a percentage of 98% whereas it’s 323% against the bottom eight teams. The weather forecast looks good for Sunday, 24 degrees and sunny. So, come along to IKON if you can and support our wonderful team. Noting there are a couple of milestones this week to celebrate: Midfield dynamo Liv Purcell’s plays her 50th game (including 19 games with Geelong), and Mick Stinear is coaching his 75th game. Good luck to the milestoners on Sunday. Selection this week Eliza West is back to boost our contested midfield pressure while Georgia Cambell is omitted. Rhi Watt, Charlotte Wilson and Sammie Johnson are named as emergencies. Geelong has lost goalkicking dynamo Chloe Sheer to a collarbone injury. Our opponents, Geelong The Cats have a strong engine room led by league stars in Georgie Prespakis and Nina Morrison. Support comes from 3-time best and fairest winner Amy McDonald, Zali Frizwell, and Mikayla Bowen. Meg McDonald leads the Cats’ defence along with former Dee Chantel Emonson, Claudia Gunjaca a strong intercept mark, Becky Webster, and Georgie Rankin. Ex Dee Jacqui Parry is having her best season up forward with 13 goals and 46 marks. It’s nice to see Shelley Scott back playing against her old team but the loss of Scheer will weaken their forward line. The danger player is tall athletic Irishwoman Aishling Moloney. She was on fire last time we played kicking 3 goals and will no doubt be a handful for Birch and Gillard again. Expect their coach Dan Lowther to have extra pressure planned for our stars Kate Hore and Tyla Hanks. He has two ready-made terrorisers to unleash in Darcy Moloney and Rachel Kearns. Meggs view Supporters’ confidence is understandably low following the recent defeats. There have been external comments about the Dees having illnesses last week so let’s hope we are fully fit and ready to give it red hot go on Sunday. Meggs is confident that we will bounce back and see an even team contribution. In leading goalkickers Hore, Zanker, Bannan, Harris and others we have the firepower to win. Our defence with Tahlia Gillard, Libby Birch and Goldrick is solid, and our engine room led by Liv Purcell, Tyla Hanks and Loz Pearce is a real strength. Reducing the impact of Prespakis and Ash Moloney is a key to winning. All of our players must win or at least halve the one-v-one contests, its finals footy. We are looking for more energy and physical pressure this week, a rediscovery of our trademark run and carry game and hoping our all-conquering forward line stars get their mojo back. Go Dees! Melbourne to win by 7 points THE GAME Melbourne v Geelong at IKON Park, on Sunday 19 November 2023 at 3:05pm (Melbourne time) HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 1 win Geelong 0 wins At IKON Park Melbourne 1 win Geelong 0 wins (Against others - Melbourne 7 wins 1 loss Geelong 2 wins 1 loss The Coaches Stinear 1 win Lowther 0 wins MEDIA TV – 7 mate, Fox Footy, Kayo Mobile – AFL Live Official App Radio – ABC, AFL Nation, Tagalog FIL THE LAST TIME THEY MET (Season 8, Round 5) MELBOURNE 2.1.13 5.4.34 7.5.47 11.8.74 GEELONG 1.0.6 2.0.12 4.1.25 4.1.25
 GOALS MELBOURNE Hore 4 Paxman Zanker 2 Gay Hanks Mithen GEELONG A. Moloney 3 Morrison
 BEST MELBOURNE Hore Purcell Paxman West Gillard Hanks GEELONG Morrison A. Moloney A. McDonald Prespakis Webster INJURIES MELBOURNE Nil 
GEELONG Nil
 CROWD 4,312 at GMHBA Stadium The Dees proved once again that they were the team to beat in Season 8 running away with a comfortable 49-point win. It was an intense battle and Geelong challenged us. Nina Morrisson was best with a game-high 30 possessions while Irish sensation Aishling Maloney was dominant everywhere and kicked three goals. Liv Purcell, with her typical ferocious play, contested strongly and was well supported by vice captain Tyla Hanks, Lily Mithen, Paxy, and Westy. Kate Hore had a fantastic game kicking four goals and our efficiency in the forward half was brilliant and the reason why we kicked away to win by so much. Mick Stinear said it was an even battle, the contest felt much tighter than the final result. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B L. Birch T. Gillard HB S. Goldrick M. Gay S. Heath C B. Mackin T. Hanks A. Mackin HF M. Fitzsimon P. Paxman E. Zanker F K. Hore T. Harris FOLL L. Pearce O. Purcell L. Mithen I/C A. Bannan M. Chaplin E. McNamara J. Ivey E. West EMG S. Johnson R. Watt C. Wilson IN E. West 
OUT G. Campbell (omitted) Milestones Olivia Purcell (50 games), Mick Stinear (75 games coached) GEELONG B C. Emonson C. Guniaca HB R. Webster M. McDonald G. Rankin C M. Bowen G. Prespakis N. Morrison HF R. Garing J. Parry K. Surman F S. Scott A. Moloney FOLL E. Hoare A. McDonald J. Crockett-Grills I/C K. Darby G. Featherston Z. Friswell R. Kearns D. Moloney EMG M. Bragg A. Kennedy B. Plummer IN K. Darby G. Featherston 
OUT M. Bragg (omitted) C. Scheer (collarbone) Injury List: Semi Final Rhi Watt - Concussion | Test Gaby Golvin - Achilles | 1-2 weeks Sarah Lampard - Wrist | 2 Weeks Casey Sherriff - Arm | Season
  15. A sunny Sunday afternoon feast of finals footy awaits at our team’s favourite home ground, Ikon Park. Great vibes at Princes Park where we remain undefeated from 7 matches and counting. Expect the Dees to come out strongly, sparring and outmuscling the Kangaroos in the middle. With Paxy back firing and our gun forwards mesmerising, hopefully we catch ‘em on the hop. Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane have filled ten of the twelve Grand Final spots in AFLW history, and this dominance looks well placed to continue with all teams finishing Top 4 in Season 8. The North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos are desperately hoping to shatter this stranglehold. Kangaroos superstar Jasmine Garner is the runaway 2023 AFLCA best player for an incredible third time. Her team relies on her dominance because when she does, they do. Her leading midfield buddy Ash Riddell has 320 disposals this season, an average of 32 per game. No Demons come close to besting this stat. North has won 67.2% of its matches since entering the competition in 2019. Prima facie, a great record but stats can be misleading. History shows us that the Demons, Crows, and Lions have been the Kangas persistent nemesis. The Roos record against the Big 3 is miserable. Only 2 wins from 16 matches or 12.5%. Whereas its record against the rest of the competition is an impressive 88.1%. Listening to Goldie and Heathy during the week you can tell that we’ve moved on from last week’s disappointing match. The Demons coach was highlighting our impressive Season 8 home and away record of 8 wins, finishing second with a double-chance, and kicking the highest ‘points for’ by any club since the competition began. We also have goal kickers Captain Kate Hore and Eden Zanker with 20 goals each, an AFLW record. Plus having two players from the same team winning the goalkicking has never happened in men’s or women’s footy either. Melbourne’s emerging young talent was recognised during the week with Tahlia Gillard, Eliza McNamara and Alyssa Bannan named in the AFL Player’s Association’s 22Under 22 Squad. No rain but some wind this Sunday. It should be ideal playing conditions between two closely matched hard working teams. Please come along if you can and be entertained by two exciting and super talented teams. Selection this week Importantly Paxy has been greenlighted for Sunday. We need her run and creativity. We hear that Georgia Campbell is in the mix to replace Rhi Watt who is out with concussion. Armchair selectors are hoping Georgia plays this week and that Harris and Zanker stay forward, not seconded as backup rucks. Aimee Mackin and Maddi Gay are seemingly available too which is great news. Unfortunately, Casey Sherriff has broken her arm again and now out for the season. Her clever ball use, which has led to many goal-assists this year, will be missed. Georgia Gall, a surprise replacement last week, will be one omission. Our opponents, North Melbourne North has midfield bull Mia King as a test with neck soreness. Utility Lulu Pullar is also a test. With key defender Nicole Bresnehan now returned from a serious ankle injury, North is at full strength. The North engine room is highly respected by the Melbourne brains trust. Garner, Riddell, Mia King, tagger Amy Smith and the highly skilled Jenna Bruton are a formidable group. Kim Rennie and Emma King do the Kangas ruck work, but our wonderful Loz Pearce has had the edge lately and Georgia Campbell scored a goal last time they played. Statistically North has the best defence with only 213 points against. The defence is led by their illustrious skipper Emma Kearney, the only player to be named All-Australian in every season of AFLW’s existence. With the reliable Bresnehan (who didn’t play in Round 8), and talls Ferguson, Wright, Shannon plus the speedy Irish player Erika O’Shea, the North defence is the best in 2023. Expect to see O’Shea mark up on Banno again. Forward wise, we kept them to 2 goals last time. Kate Shierlaw, Tahlia Randall and Emma King resting are all capable and potentially dangerous marks. Our defenders led by young Gillard and co will match up well. Meggs’ view Adelaide and Brisbane have shown the competition how to beat Melbourne. The Demons coaching staff know this and will be expecting North to emulate the physical attack on the ball carrier, bring numbers and apply high intensity to turn over the ball. Melbourne must match the pressure, swarm like Brisbane did last week, lower their eyes and attack. The playing surface at Ikon is superb so there are no excuses for poor skills this week. Heathy hinted that she might be shadowing Garner. As we’d expect. Meggs would like to see Mithen take on Riddell. Eliza Mac could be an interesting match-up on the emerging Taylah Gatt. North has the best backline, and Melbourne the best forward line. It’s going to be a cracker of match watching Zanker, Hore, Tayla Harris, and Alyssa Bannan strut their stuff. Eyes on the prize, a week off. Meggs fears an uncomfortably close one coming up. Go Dees! Melbourne by 1 point THE GAME Melbourne v North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos at Ikon Park, on Sunday 11 November 2023 at 3:05pm (Melbourne time) HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 6 wins North 1 win At Ikon Melbourne 2 wins North 0 wins The Coaches Stinear 5 wins Crocker 0 wins MEDIA TV – 7 mate, Fox Footy, Kayo Mobile – AFL Live Official App Radio – ABC Radio, NEMBC Media (Spanish Radio). THE LAST TIME THEY MET - Season 8 Round 8 at Ikon Park, 21 October 2023 NARRM 1.1.7 3.4.22 4.5.29 5.7.37 NORTH MELBOURNE 2.1.13 2.1.13 2.1.13 2.2.14 GOALS NARRM Campbell Hanks Hore Sherriff Zanker NORTH MELBOURNE Craven Martin BEST NARRM Hanks Purcell Hore Mithen B. Mackin Gillard
 NORTH MELBOURNE M.King Kearney Riddell Garner O'Shea INJURIES 
 NARRM Nil
 NORTH MELBOURNE Nil LATE CHANGES NARRM Aimee Mackin (ankle) and Gab Colvin (Achilles) replaced in selected side by Megan Fitzsimon and Charlotte Wilson
 NORTH MELBOURNE Nil CROWD 2,704 at Ikon Park It was an impressive defensive display by Narrm at our favourite home ground, with North scoring a solitary point after quarter time. Our Vice-Captain Tyla Hanks was clearly the best player on the ground and earned the 10 coaches votes. Hanksy had great support in particular from Purcell, Hore, Mithen, B. Mackin, Gillard and Heath. Heathy ran with AFLW Coaches favourite, Jasmine Garner, and limited her usual output, earning praise from Mick Stinear. The Dees kept the Roos under constant pressure and Darren Crocker commented afterwards that his team couldn’t move the ball like they have against lesser sides. By the end of the night, it was Narrm, with our trademark #DemonSpirit, just too good for too long and back on top of the AFLW Season 8 premiership ladder on percentage. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B L. Birch T. Gillard HB S. Goldrick S. Heath M. Chaplin C B. Mackin T. Hanks A. Mackin HF A. Bannan M. Fitzsimon E. Zanker F T. Harris K. Hore FOLL L. Pearce O. Purcell P. Paxman I/C (from) G. Campbell M. Gay J. Ivey S. Johnson E. McNamara L. Mithen E. West C. Wilson IN G. Campbell M. Gay S. Johnson A. Mackin P. Paxman C. Wilson
 OUT G. Gall (omitted) C. Sherriff (arm) R. Watt (concussion) NORTH MELBOURNE B E. Shannon J. Ferguson HB E. Kearney S. Wright E. O'Shea C A. Smith M. King T. Gatt HF B. Eddey K. Shierlaw A. O'Loughlin F T. Randall E. King FOLL K. Rennie J. Garner A. Riddell I/C (from) N. Bresnahan J. Bruton L. Burke T. Craven L. McGrath N. Martin L. Pullar R. Tripodi IN L. Burke M. King L. McGrath L. Pullar OUT E. Gavalas (omitted) Injury List: Qualifying Final Maddi Gay -Hamstring | Test Aimee Mackin - Ankle | Test Paxy Paxman - Hamstring | Test Rhi Watt - Concussion | 1 Week Gabby Colvin - Achilles | 1-2 Weeks Sarah Lampard - Wrist | 3 Weeks Casey Sherriff - Arm | Season
  16. Big stakes this weekend. For the winner, will it be a Dees minor premiership and potential home grand final or will it be a Lion‘s Top Four finish and a double chance? Huge interest circulates in the how the ladder unfolds over this weekend’s final round of the 2023 home and away season with some 10 teams vying for 8 places. It’s AFLW Pride Week, a celebration of people from all walks of life coming together, being respected, loved and accepted. Women’s football continues to be a benchmark when it comes to inclusivity and a safe workplace. Mick Stinear and Craig Starcevich are foundation coaches of their respective teams, and this is the 9th time they have met. Stinear leads with 6 wins and 2 losses. Milestones this week include Starc’s 75th match as coach and Libby Birch’s 75th AFLW game. The last match between these sides was the Demons inaugural premiership win in the Season Eight grand final at Brighton Homes Arena, Springfield. We’re back there this Saturday at 7:05pm for a rematch. Can’t wait. Selection this week The big selection news this week is that Tayla Harris has recovered from her hamstring injury. She will make her presence felt against one of her old sides. We also have Rhi Watt back, and a nice surprise with Jordey Ivey set to play her fourth game in the red and blue. Last week’s debutant Georgia Gall, Georgia Campbell and Charlotte Wilson have been omitted. Unfortunately, Maddi Gay is 1-2 weeks away. Such an important player for the Dees and was a standout in last year’s final series. Brisbane will bring back two of their best players in Sophie Conway and Cathy Svarc who missed last week in the Lion’s surprise loss to St Kilda, plus Ruby Svarc. Our opponents, Brisbane While, apart from Daisy retiring, no one wanted to leave the Demons during the offseason. Whereas the Lions lost their best mid Emily Bates and a proven goal sneak in Greta Bodey to Hawthorn. Plus, Jessie Wardlaw, the Season Seven competition leading goalkicker, signed with St Kilda. Brisbane, Adelaide, and Melbourne have filled 10 of the 12 available places in AFLW grand finals, dominating the landscape since the league’s inception. The Lions remain a force to be reckoned with. However, this season Brisbane has been upset by lower teams three times. By Richmond in Round 1, Collingwood in Round 6, and St Kilda in Round 9. Conversely, the Lions are undefeated against Top 4 teams with narrow wins over North (by 2 points in Round 4) and Adelaide (by 3 points in Round 9). This season Ally Anderson and Sophie Conway have really stepped up in the absence of Bates. Marking tall Dakota Davison has 15 goals this season and the exciting Courtney Hodder is a real handful at times. Brisbane has a great defence led by their captain Bre Koenen with good support from Nat Grider and Shannon Campbell. Their main ruck Tahlia Hickey wins plenty of hit outs but expect our Loz Pearce match her and have greater impact around the ground. Meggs view Expecting this match will be played in a finals-likemanner with significant consequences for both teams. Brisbane has already beaten Adelaide and North so will fancy themselves against us too. If things go awry during the match, remember that this team has incredible belief. Our coach Mick Stinear really rates his charges versatility and won’t be afraid to mix it up. Our forward line is the envy of the competition and we have scored 173 points more than the Lions this season. With Tay back to support Zanker, Hore and Bannan we have picked our best available lineup. Hopefully the sponginess of the playing surface is long gone, and we break the record for the highest all-time score at this ground also known as the Michael Voss Oval. Why not? Both midfields are high quality and bat deep, so we need to get our hands on the footy first and use our runners. The weather forecast says 20-21 degrees with a chance of rain. Let’s bring our own heat, put the Lions to sleep and win this Season 8 minor premiership. Go Dees! Melbourne by 18 points THE GAME Brisbane v Melbourne at Brighton Homes Arena, Springfield, on Saturday 4 November 2023 at 7:05pm (Melbourne time) HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 6 wins Brisbane 2 wins At Springfield Melbourne 1 win Brisbane 0 wins The Coaches Stinear 6 wins Starcevic 2 wins MEDIA TV - Fox Footy, Kayo. Mobile – AFL Live Official App Radio – WARF Radio. THE LAST TIME THEY MET - Season 7 Grand Final Melbourne 2.7 (19) defeated Brisbane 2.3 (15) at Brighton Homes Arena, Springfield, 27 November 2022 Playing the first ever match at a new venue with a spongy surface not ready-for-purpose did impact the ability of all players to execute skills, run and carry and thus a low scoring but engrossing affair ensued. A win by just four points was the final result but the Dees looked more determined on the day, particularly the final three quarters. Tahlia Gillard kept competition leading goalkicker Jess Wardlaw scoreless, while Westy, Hanksy and Liv P ultimately wore down their more highly decorated midfield opponents in Emily Bates and Ally Anderson. Tayla Harris was a real presence and kicked a goal while Irish player Blaithin Mackin scored our only other goal. But like so many Demon victories it was the collective mindset and uncompromising effort of the Dees that won the day. More contributors, a spread of the frenetic effort, plus the underrated gun players we have on every line. This mindset, our #DemonSpirit, has evolved from the coaching and mentoring abilities of AFLW pioneers Mick Stinear and Daisy Pearce and has been embraced by the whole club. MELBOURNE 0.1.1 1.4.10 2.5.17 2.7.19 BRISBANE LIONS 2.0.12 2.0.12 2.3.15 2.3.15 GOALS MELBOURNE Harris B. Mackin BRISBANE Davidson C. Svarc BEST MELBOURNE West Hanks Gay Paxman Gillard BRISBANE LIONS Campbell Grider C. Svarc Anderson Bates INJURIES MELBOURNE Nil BRISBANE: Koenen (right knee) REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil BRISBANE LIONS Nil CROWD 7,412 at Brighton Homes Arena, Springfield THE TEAMS BRISBANE LIONS B P. Boltz, S. Campbell HB B. Koenen N. Grider J. Ellenger C. O. O'Dwyer I. Dawes S. Conway HF L. Postlethwaite D. Davidson C. Mullins F T. Smith C. Hodder FOLL T. Hickie C Svarc A. Anderson I/C J. Dunne E. Hampson D. Heslop P. Monahan R. Svarc EMG A. McKee M. Pauga B. K. Smith IN S. Conway C. Svarc R. Svarc OUT A. McKee (omitted) M. Pauga (omitted) B. Smith (omitted) Milestone: Craig Starcevich (75 games as coach) MELBOURNE B L. Birch T. Gillard HB S. Goldrick S. Heath M. Chaplin C B. Mackin T. Hanks E. McNamara HF A. Bannan L. Mithen E. Zanker F K. Hore T. Harris FOLL L. Pearce E. West P. Paxman I/C M. Fitzsimon J. Ivey O. Purcell C. Sherriff R. Watt EMG G. Campbell G. Gall C. Wilson IN T. Harris J. Ivey R. Watt 
 OUT G. Campbell (omitted) G.Gall (omitted) C. Wilson (omitted) Milestone: Libby Birch (75 games) Injury List: Round 10 Gabby Colvin - Achilles | Test Tayla Harris - Hamstring | Test Aimee Mackin - Ankle | Test Maddi Gay - Hamstring | 1-2 Weeks Sarah Lampard - Wrist | 3-4 Weeks
  17. Foundation teams Fremantle and Melbourne clash early Saturday afternoon at the Demons’ fortress at Casey Fields in this penultimate round of the 2023 home and away season. It’s Shelley Heath’s 50th game this week and there is not one Melbourne supporter who doesn’t love Heater. The way she goes about it at 160 cms, big smiles and then takes on some of the biggest names in AFLW reducing them to shadows of their former selves. Her tackles are a joyful work of art to be savoured. Heater earned 1 coach’s vote last week for her efforts running with one of the league’s best players in Jasmine Garner. Meggs presumes Mick voted for Heath, but he cannot believe that North coach Darren Crocker gave Jazzy 1 one vote for her game. Gosh, Emma Kearney and Erika O’Shea were much better choices for him if he wanted a North player. Our group really jelled and felled North Melbourne last week and held them to a miserable 1-point for the last 3-quarters. Incredible team defence Dees. Such a driving force from Hanksy and Liv Purcell, with Tahlia Gillard an impenetrable wall with her punching and marking. Fremantle, who were Season Six preliminary finalists, haven’t defeated any team in the eight this season and their form line suggests nothing different will occur on Saturday. Selection this week Some were debating whether Tayla Harris is in our best side. Well to Meggs there is no doubt Tayla brings so much to this team. Selfless, incredible physical presence, arguably the best contested mark in the league, kicks the ball a mile, just makes a contest when it looks impossible. So, if Tay’s fit, she’s selected for sure. The selection committee will also have to decide whether to bring back Gaby Colvin at the likely expense of Charlotte Wilson. Willo was excellent last week in defence especially in the third quarter. Will there be mystery injury of the week? Maeve went down nastily last Saturday but we presume she’s good to go. A tough cookie is Maeve. Our opponents, Fremantle For Fremantle the bad news is that Ebony Antonio is out for the Season. Freo have a couple of tests for Round 9 in Amy Mulholland and the experienced Sarah Verrier. Irish export Aine Tighe is a tall, athletic, rangy player who has taken to AFLW and is really exciting to watch. Her pace and skills allow her to be such a dynamic forward and certainly a hard one to match up on. The Dees brains trust has a conundrum. Who has the pace and size to run with Aine? Expect it won’t be Birch but Gillard or more likely Goldie or Gay. In the midfield they have league champion Kiara Bowers, skipper Hayley Miller and Irish newcomer Orlagh Lally who was impressive last week against the Saints. Dana East was busy too. Ruck Mim Strom has impressed this year and will test Loz Pearce and Georgia Campbell on Saturday. Freo are 4 wins 4 losses and won well at home against St Kilda last week. Meggs’ view No rain is forecast for Saturday, and it will be sunny, a coolish 17-19 degrees with gusty winds. Meggs is heading down the Monash and anticipates a Dees victory but expects Freo to bring a committed effort. Hopefully our contested ball work and slingshot run and carry game style will prevail. It would not surprise if one of our top-drawer forward titans kicks a bag on Saturday. Having three league leading goal scorers in your side (Zanker, Hore and Bannan) must give Mick Stinear supreme confidence that his team can always kick a winning score. Watch out in the 4th quarter. Freo’s defenders will have their work cut out for them for sure. A little percentage boost won’t hurt our minor premiership aspirations so let’s win and win well. Keep our eyes on the prize. Go Dees! Melbourne by 38 points THE GAME Melbourne v Fremantle at Casey Fields, on Saturday 27 October 2023 at 1:05pm (Melbourne time) HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 5 wins Fremantle 2 wins At Casey Fields Melbourne 2 wins Fremantle 1 win The Coaches Stinear 0 wins Webb 0 wins MEDIA TV - Fox Footy, Kayo. Mobile – AFL Live Official App Radio – Casey Radio 97.7 fm from 12:35pm. THE LAST TIME THEY MET (Round 6, Season 7) Melbourne 10.6 (66) defeated Fremantle 5.6 (36) at Fremantle Oval, 2 October 2022 The Dees were unconvincing for 3 quarters as Fremantle at home were highly competitive and only down by 4 points at the 4-minute mark of the last quarter. Melbourne’s skilled ball movement and marking superiority proved too powerful in the last quarter with 4 unanswered goals to win by 30 points. This placed the Dees 5-1 and inside the top-four with Brisbane, Adelaide and Collingwood. Kate Hore starred with 3 classy goals, while midfielders Tyla Hanks (21 disposals and 5 clearances) and Liv Purcell (26 and five) set up the attacking chains that proved to be the difference in that final quarter. Eden Zanker and former Docker Sabreena Duffy kicked two goals each. Champion player Kiara Bowers (26 and eight inside 50s) and their captain Hayley Miller (17 and five clearances) were the best for the Dockers. MELBOURNE 2.1.13 5.2.32 6.3.39 10.6.66 FREMANTLE 2.1.13 3.2.20 5.3.33 5.6.36 GOALS MELBOURNE Hore 3 Duffy Zanker 2 Harris Pearce Purcell FREMANTLE Bowers Franklin Kauffman Miller
 Tighe BEST MELBOURNE Hanks Purcell Hore Zanker Paxman Harris FREMANTLE Bowers Miller, East Tighe O'Sullivan INJURIES MELBOURNE Nil FREMANTLE Nil REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil FREMANTLE Nil THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B L. Birch T. Gillard HB S. Goldrick M. Gay M. Chaplin C B. Mackin T. Hanks E. McNamara HF A. Bannan L. Mithen E. Zanker F M. Fitzsimon K. Hore FOLL L. Pearce E. West S. Heath I/C G. Campbell P. Paxman O. Purcell C. Sherriff C. Wilson EMG G. Gall J. Ivey R. Watt No change FREMANTLE B E. O'Driscoll P. Seth HB R. Roux S. Gibbs M. Scanlon C J. Low G. O'Sullivan O. Lally HF H. Miller L. Pugh M. Kauffman F S. Wielstra K. Bowers FOLL M. Strom D. East A. Stannett I/C J. Flynn M. Hyde T. Mulder A. Mulholland A. Runnalls EMG E. Fiedler A. Hetherington M. Tuhakaraina IN A. Mulholland S. Wielstra OUT A. Tighe (knee soreness) M. Tuhakaraina (omitted) Injury List: Round 9 Gaby Colvin - Achilles | Test Tayla Harris - Hamstring | Test Aimee Mackin - Ankle | 1 Week Sarah Lampard - Wrist | 2 - 4 Weeks
  18. In the second of the Indigenous rounds at Narrm’s favourite home ground, Ikon Park, expect the crowd to be buzzing with anticipation for this huge clash of two of the best skilled teams in AFLW. The Saturday night match sees the best offensive team take on the best defensive team and to the winner goes the spoils of a Top Two spot on the AFLW Season Eight premiership ladder. The extended quarters, interchange rotation limits, and our elite fitness, have allowed the Demons to now average the equivalent of 12.5 goals a game while North has the stingiest defence conceding only three goals per match. Narrm has three players in the top seven of the goal kicking table. The reigning premiers have won the previous five clashes but it’s always a nail biter and we should expect Saturday to be no different. Get along if you can and support our team. During the week Meggs read an AFLW article about the biggest improvers in Season Eight. They listed two Adelaide players, North’s Mia King, and Brisbane’s seasoned winger Sophie Conway (really?). So Meggs went poring through our list and reckons they missed Irish sensation, Blaithin Mackin. Blaithin’s career disposal average prior to 2023 was 8.6 per game and this year is 13.7. Tackles were 1.4 are now up to 2.4 per game and meters gained is 160.9 up to 315.9. A star is B! Selection this week Midfield maestro Paxy Paxman, utility Maddie Gay, first ruck Loz Pearce and defender Gab Colvin all return for the big clash. Unlucky to miss are Rhi Watt and Charlotte Wilson. Lampy has fractured her wrist and will miss at least three matches. Megan Fitzsimon is omitted and has been quiet in her three games so far in 2023. North Melbourne has named an unchanged team for this week. Our opponents, North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos Considered by many as the league’s best player, Jasmine Garner will be pivotal for the Roos on Saturday. Her midfield sidekicks include the indefatigable Ash Riddell, the clever Jenna Bruton and inside bull Mia King. They are a group highly respected by the Demons brains trust. Mick maybe sends Heater to run with Ash? Their defence is missing vice-captain Nicole Bresnehan, but defensive leader Emma Kearney, has good support in talls Ferguson, Wright and Shannon. The North key marking forwards Kate Shierlaw, Tahlia Randall and Emma King have been getting great supply from the midfield. This group will be a handful for Libby Birch and her crew. Only two weeks ago we learned how damaging strong goalscoring mids can be with Marinoff and Hatchard. O’Loughlin and Eddey and handy smalls. A huge challenge awaits on Saturday. Meggs view The weather forecast says gusty winds for Saturday and 16-18 degrees. It will be a fantastic battle between two of the elite AFLW midfields. If we can match their intensity and get our hands on the ball first and out to our runners, we should be able to kick a winning score. Meggs expects Irish player Erika O’Shea to pick up the in-form Alyssa Bannan. While both are speedsters, Erika is quicker so Banno will have to use her smarts as well as her skills. North rucks Kim Rennie and Emma King are top notch, and we should expect a great battle against the veteran Demon Loz Pearce and the young and emerging talent Georgia Campbell. Where we win this game is our forward craft overwhelming their strong backline. Containing our leading goal scorers Zanker, Hore and Bannan is a mighty challenge for North and they can only hope we suffer from inaccurate kicking. Another challenger to put to the sword. A big effort please. If we win and Brisbane beats Adelaide we go top of the ladder! Go Dees! Melbourne by 5 points THE GAME Melbourne v North Melbourne at Ikon Park, on Saturday 21 October 2023 at 7:15pm (Melbourne time) HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 5 wins North Melbourne 1 win At Ikon Park Melbourne 1 win North Melbourne 0 wins The Coaches Stinear 4 wins Crocker 0 wins MEDIA TV - Fox Footy, Kayo. Mobile – AFL Live Official App Radio – Check your local guides THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 5.3 (33) defeated North Melbourne 2.4 (16) in the Season Seven Preliminary Final at Ikon Park, on 19 November 2022 On a blustery Saturday afternoon where the conditions affected marking skills and the ball bounced unpredictably, the Mighty Dees stuck fat against a determined Kangaroos outfit to break away with two last quarter goals to none to win by 17 points. The winning margin was an all-time high between these two teams. From the outset the Preliminary Final was a fiercely fought contest with Melbourne unable to find the ball in space. North really amped up their one-percenters and tackling pressure and played an extra player behind the ball, making it difficult for Melbourne to score. With the Dees up by five points at the main break, North came out and dominated the third quarter holding Melbourne scoreless. The ball spent 82% of the time the Roos’ forward half but they could only muster 2 points. Bella Eddey had their best opportunity, but her reverse torpedo missed to the right. It was only 3 points the difference at ¾ time. With the game still in the balance, Daisy Pearce stunned the crowd with an amazing last quarter goal to book the Demons into consecutive grand finals, while simultaneously Deestroying the hopes of the North Melbourne supporters. MELBOURNE 2.0.13 3.1.19 3.1.19 5.3.33 NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0.6 2.2.14 2.4.16 2.4.16 GOALS Melbourne: Fitzsimon, Mithen, Sherriff, Hore, D.Pearce North Melbourne: Randall, E.King BEST Melbourne: Paxman, Mithen, Hanks, Heath North Melbourne: Kearney, Garner, Riddell, Wright INJURIES Melbourne: Harris (left shoulder) North Melbourne: Nil Reports: Nil Crowd: 5,592 at Ikon Park THE TEAMS NARRM B L Birch T. Gillard HB S. Goldrick S. Heath M. Chaplin C B. Mackin T. Hanks E. McNamara HF A. Bannan C. Sherriff L. Mithen F E. Zanker K. Hore FOLL L. Pearce E. West P. Paxman I/C G. Campbell G. Colvin M. Gay A. Mackin O. Purcell EMG M. Fitzsimon R. Watt C. Wilson IN G. Colvin, M. Gay P. Paxman L. Pearce OUT M.Fitzsimon (omitted) S. Lampard (wrist) R. Watt (omitted) C.Wilson (omitted) NORTH MELBOURNE B E. Shannon J. Ferguson HB E. Kearney S. Wright E. O'Shea C A. Smith M. King T. Gatt HF B. Eddey A. O'Laughlin K. Shierlaw F E. King T. Randall FOLL K. Rennie J. Garner A. Riddell I/C J. Bruton T. Craven N. Martin L. Pullar R. Tripodi EMG H. Bowey L. Burke E. Gavalas No change Injury List: Round 8 Pax Paxman (concussion) available Tayla Harris (hamstring) test Maddie Gay (managed) available Loz Pearce (shoulder) available Gaby Colvin (Achilles) available Sarah Lampard (Wrist) 3 weeks
  19. The last game of Indigenous Round 7 sees Narrm flying to Perth to take on the 17th placed West Coast Eagles at the Perth Demons home ground, Mineral Resources Park, starting at 5:05pm Melbourne time. After being comprehensively outgunned by the Crows in last week’s second and third quarters, Narrm responded brilliantly to get within three points in the last, but alas it wasn’t enough. Eden Zanker was unstoppable with five goals against the best defensive unit in the AFLW. Edo earned 8 coaches votes and is now top of the goalkicking table with 15 goals above Kate Hore with 14. Hanksy too was recognised with four coaches votes for her superior midfield exploits. With five wins and a good percentage we have a strong platform to reload our season heading into finals and we must aspire to secure a Top 2 position and the double chance. This all means they must make short work of West Coast on Sunday. AFLW ladder crystal ball gazing fun Looking at the draw for the final four rounds, Meggs expects the Dees to have percentage boosting wins against West Coast and Fremantle (at Casey in Round 9). The blockbusters against North (Round 8 at Ikon) and Brisbane (Round 10, grand final rematch in Ipswich) will help determine the shape the Top Four. The Brisbane game may well decide who wins the McClelland Trophy. If the Demons win all four matches, we are certainties to finish Top Two. Drop 1 game and other results and percentage come in to play. North has gimme games against Port Adelaide and Western Bulldogs, but Meggs expects North to lose to Melbourne (Round 8) and Adelaide (Round 9 in Adelaide). Adelaide will continue winning, but Brisbane might outperform at their home ground in Round 8 and cause an upset. This leaves Melbourne finishing as minor premiers by percentage from Adelaide and four teams on 28 points. Meggs has Carlton, Richmond and Fremantle finishing outside the 8 on 20 points. It looks like it could be a very exciting finish to the home and away season. Irish players Aimee Mackin and Sinead Goldrick both suffered lateral ankle sprains against Adelaide. The AFLW Head of High-Performance said that “if all things go to plan, they should be okay” to play on Sunday. Unfortunately, Loz Pearce suffered an AC sprain and is still sore so she will likely be replaced by Georgia Campbell. Paxy will miss again due to concussion protocols. Mick Stinear commented in the post-match presser that there are 3 or 4 non-playing squad members putting their hands up for selection. After witnessing a lot of quiet performances last week, he may well select some fresh names. Ivey, Chaplin, Wilson, Johnson, and Watt are a few experienced names available. Our opponents, West Coast The Eagles squad is similar to last season with no new key signings. Captain Emma Swanson is a consistent performer leading her team and is supported in the midfield by the capable Isabella Lewis, Irish player Aisling McCarthy and Dana Hooker. Defenders Charlotte Thomas and Belinda Smith are important high possession players. West Coast had a nice win against the Power in round 5 but have been otherwise one of the competition’s weakest opponents. Carlton beat them by 53 points in round 3 at Sunday’s venue. Meggs view Megg’s is anticipating a four quarter effort, where we maintain the contested footy rage, apply early scoreboard pressure and fly home with the four points. (plus a nice percentage boost). That’s not too much to ask? Kate Hore, Tyla Hanks and Eden Zanker continue to play starring roles each week but a key strength of Narrm remains the depth and versatility of this playing group. We’ll miss Paxy again of course but we know that Liv Purcell, Lily Mithen, Eliza West and plenty of others will step up. Last week Mick set Goldie and Blaithin Mackin midfield duties and they both excelled. Time to reload and get back on the winners list. Go Dees! Narrm by 48 points THE GAME West Coast v Narrm at Mineral Resources Park, Perth, on Sunday 15 October 2023 at 5:05pm (Melbourne time) HEAD TO HEAD Overall Narrm 2 wins West Coast 0 wins At Mineral Resources Park (Lathlain Park) West Coast Eagles 0 wins Narrm 0 wins The Coaches Stinear 1 Prior 0 wins MEDIA TV - Fox Footy, Kayo Mobile – AFL Live Official App Radio – Check local guides THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 11.13 (79) defeated West Coast 0.1.1 (1) at Casey Fields, 29 October 2022 Daisy’s Dees scored a huge 78-point one-sided win against West Coast in challenging windy and wet conditions at Casey Fields in Sarah Lampard’s 50th game. The match was the final round of the home and away season but the huge win felt more like a 1-point loss because one extra point would have secured the Season 7 minor premiership and the potential for a home grand final. But with 9 goal kickers and a dominant midfield there were no complaints about finishing Top 2 from the Coach Mick Stinear. Besides, only a few weeks later, we won our inaugural premiership so joyously on that sunny afternoon in Springfield. MELBOURNE 3.5.23 5.8.38 7.12.54 11.13.79 WEST COAST EAGLES 0.0.0 0.1.1 0.1.1 0.1.1 GOALS MELBOURNE Hore Zanker 2 Paxman Fitzsimon Purcell Bannan Mackin Hanks Heath WEST COAST Nil BEST MELBOURNE Paxman Purcell Birch Hore Mithen WEST COAST Thomas Roberts McCarthy Lackay INJURIES MELBOURNE Nil WEST COAST Nil REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil WEST COAST Nil CROWD 726 at Casey Fields THE TEAMS WEST COAST B Z. Wakfer S. McDonald HB B. Smith E. Gooch C. Thomas C J. Britton A. McCarthy C. Rowley HF K. Gibson E. Roberts S. Davison F A. Franklin D. Hooker FOLL S. Lakay I. Lewis E. Swanson I/C (from) K. Bartlett E. Elkington E. Hartill E. Humphries A. Schmidt J. Sedunary E. G. Smith L. Wakfer, IN E. Elkington A. Franklin E. Humphries S. Lakay J. Sedunary 
OUT S. Goranova (knee) M. Western (omitted) NARRM B L. Birch T. Gillard HB S. Goldrick M. Chaplin S. Heath C B. Mackin T. Hanks E. McNamara HF A. Bannan M. Fitzsimon C. Sheriff F E. Zanker K. Hore FOLL G. Campbell E. West L. Mithen I/C (from) G. Colvin G. Gall J. Ivey S. Lampard A. Mackin O. Purcell R. Watt C. Wilson IN G. Campbell M. Chaplin G. Gall J. Ivey R. Watt C. Wilson OUT M. Gay (soreness) T. Harris (hamstring) L. Pearce (shoulder) MILESTONE 50 club games – Libby Birch (Narrm) Injury List: Round 7 A Mackin (ankle) test S Goldrick (ankle) test L Pearce (Shoulder) test P Paxman (concussion) 1 week
  20. Big Guns, Melbourne and Adelaide, the two remaining undefeated teams in Season Eight, take battle on Saturday afternoon at Casey Fields, with the winner to go four points clear at the top of the ladder. We can’t wait to see how this potential grand final preview unfolds. Melbourne has been rocketing along this season as the highest points scorer and has the best percentage. Some questioned its opponents to date, but putting Geelong to the sword by 49 points at its home ground last week was super impressive. Offensively in the five games this season, the Demons have scored 58 goals kicked by 16 different goal scorers and the Crows have 49 goals from 14 different players. Defensively this season each have had 18 goals kicked against so there’s not that much in it. Over the nine matches played between the Demons and the Crows since 2017: • Total points scored - 285 to 289. • Wins – 5 to 4 • Finals – 1 to 2 • Casey Fields – 2 to 1 (combined scores 15.17.107 to 16.11.107, equal points) Again, not much in it. Mick Stinear has coached the Dees since inception in 2017 and Matthew Clarke joined the Crows from 2019. Adelaide has 3 premierships (2017, 2019, Season 6, 2022) and Melbourne has 1 (Season 7, 2022). Two teams 5 zip and in ripping form, it’s going to be a cracker of a game. Hopefully the notorious Casey wind will behave more akin to a zephyr this week. More recognition during the week for Demons skipper Kate Hore who made the Round 5 Team of the Week. Kate leads the Season 8 goalkicking tally on 14 goals and heads the all-time AFLW scorers on 67 goals. Selection this week Tayla Harris is a test this week on her hamstring. They won well last week without Tay but her first 4 weeks were full of team first contributions. Sammie Johnson also has a test, on her calf. Adelaide has defensive duo Steve-Lee Thompson returning and possibly Najwa Allen who has a hamstring test. Our opponents, Adelaide Any team that can win well when missing 3 quality premiership defenders in Sarah Allan, Steve-Lee Thompson and Najwa Allen, has great depth. In their absence Adelaide has shown us the defensive abilities of Zoe Prowse, Chelsea Biddell and Sarah Goodwin. While the Demons have such a dangerous quality and breadth of forward talent, the Crows possess a really strong defensive group and so the matchups will be critical to who wins this match. Usually, it starts in the middle and Adelaide have the outstanding Ebony Marinoff (10) and Anne Hatchard (33) who dominate contested footy but have ruck depth in Jessica Allan, Montana McKinnon and Caitlin Gould and a host of fast smalls in Martin, Waterhouse, Charlton and Kelly. Forward-wise the dangerous Danielle Ponter, winger Eloise Jones, ruck Gould and Rachelle Martin have been snagging majors this year. Our defenders will have their work cut out. Meggs view Thankfully no rain is forecast for Saturday. He is heading down the Monash and hoping for a super contest and senses a big margin this week is unlikely. It will be likely we won’t see the recent higher scoring due to sustained four quarter pressure. Both teams are super fit. On matchups Meggs thinks that, if Tayla Harris is available, we can better stretch the capable Crows defence. Gold Coast’s Lucy Single lined up on Marinoff and kept her quiet somewhat. Heath has been great at executing all tasks set her so maybe another ‘run with’ role awaits. A key power of our playing group is versatility, it’s such a strength. Expect Mick to confidently make positional moves during a match to improve outcomes. Edo Zanker and Kate Hore were super last week. Liv Purcell, Tyla Hanks, Lily Mithen and Eliza West were strong in the contest and will need to be physical again versus Adelaide. Watch out for the run of Paxy, Lize and the Mackins and our trademark handball chains. Another four full quarters please. Let’s smoke ‘em in this season defining top of the ladder battle of the Big Guns. Go Dees! Melbourne by 8 points THE GAME Melbourne v Adelaide at Casey Fields, on Saturday 7 October 2023 at 3:05pm (Melbourne time) HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 5 wins Adelaide 4 wins At Casey Fields Melbourne 2 wins Adelaide 1 win The Coaches Stinear 3 wins Clarke 4 wins MEDIA TV - Fox Footy, Kayo. Mobile – AFL Live Official App Radio – Casey Radio 97.7 fm from 2:35pm. THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 7.6 (48) defeated Adelaide 4.3 (27) at Ikon Park, 4 November 2022 The Dees convincingly overcome the fast-starting reigning-premiers Adelaide to win by 21 points in a fiery Qualifying Final match at Ikon Park. Adelaide jumped out of the blocks in the first quarter kicking their first goal inside 20 seconds and finished with 3 goals to nil. At the quarter time break Mick moved Shelley Heath to the dangerous Ponter and Sarah Lampard to a wing. Great moves. Lampy impressed everyone with her 2 goals and Heath was in everything laying 7 hard tackles, as she does. He matched up Goldie on 4-time AFLW most courageous player award winner, Adelaide skipper Chelsea Randall and kept her to 7 possessions for the game. A highlight of the second quarter was Bannan’s 6-bounce sprint down the wing while midfield ace Liv Purcell (BOG) and Tayla Harris were outstanding. Blaithin Mackin had 15 disposals and, along with Banno, sold lots of candy during the match. The Dees kicked the last 3 goals of the match to put the result beyond doubt. The final goal by Eden Zanker was a nice way for her to finish her ‘50 dazzling games’. MELBOURNE 0.2.2 3.4.23 4.6.30 7.6.48 ADELAIDE 3.2.20 3.2.20 4.2.26 4.3.27 GOALS MELBOURNE L Bannan Lampard 2 L Pearce Purcell Zanker ADELAIDE Gould 2 Ponter, Woodland BEST MELBOURNE Purcell Lampard Bannan Mithen Hanks Harris ADELAIDE Marinoff Allan Gould Ponter Hatchard INJURIES MELBOURNE Nil ADELAIDE Randall (head knock) REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil ADELAIDE Nil CROWD 2555 at Ikon Park THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B L. Birch T. Gillard HB S. Gillard M. Gay S. Heath C B. Mackin T. Hanks McNamara HF A. Bannan L. Mithen C. Sherriff F T. Harris E. Zanker FOLL L. Pearce O. Purcell K. HoreI/C G. Colvin M. Fitzsimon S. Lampard A. Mackin E. West EMG G. Campbell M. Chaplin J. Ivey IN M. Fitzsimon T. Harris OUT G. Campbell (omitted), P. Paxman (concussion) ADELAIDE B C. Biddell Z. Prowse HB S. Thompson N. Allen S. Goodwin C N. Kelly A. Hatchard M. Newman HF Y. Bonner C. Randall E. Jones F C. Gould D. Ponter FOLL J. Allan E. Marinoff T. Charlton I/C A Ballard R. Martin K. Mueller H. Munyard J. Waterhouse EMG M. McKinnon B. Smith B. Tonon IN N. Allen S. Thompson 
OUT M. McKinnon (omitted) B. Tonon (omitted) Injury List: Round 6 Tayla Harris - hamstring | Test Sammie Johnson - calf | Test
  21. Shadows form over Middle-Earth as the two oldest football clubs in the land Melbourne and Geelong take battle for the very first time for 4-points, down at Kardinia Park (aka Mordor). If you dare, come venture down the highway and support our talented team. Melbourne’s Season Eight form line is 4 zip and we’ve been playing some scintillating footy. The fanbase is growing. It needs to be said that our opponents so far have hardly been top shelf: Collingwood sits 12th on the ladder with one win and a percentage of 74.7%, Hawthorn (15th, 1 win, 56.5%), Western Bulldogs (16th, 0 wins, 58.3%) and GWS Giants (17th, 0 wins, 45.0%). Geelong on the other hand have beaten Western Bulldogs, the Swans and Power (both good wins away), and only lost to North at Mordor after leading well at half time. Lord Dan Lowther has his charges coming out breathing fire, they are fast starters. No team has scored a goal against the Cats in first quarters this season. Let’s spoil that party on Thursday! In comparison, no team has scored a last quarter goal against the Demons this season (actually not since Round 4 Season Seven, 2022). Meggs was pleased to see that Libby Birch, who has been building slowly this season, was named in the backline for the Round 4 Team of the Week. Other TOTW Melbourne inclusions were our superstar leaders Tyla Hanks and Kate Hore. Nice recognition girls. It’s Maddison Gay’s 50th this week (including 7 games for Carlton). Congratulations and Happy Birthday Maddi! Selection this week Gaby Colvin will play her first game back since her ACL and Maddi Gay was rested lasted week to be primed for this vital clash. Maeve Chaplin and the injured Tayla Harris (hamstring soreness) will make way. Meggs expects Tahlia Gillard (190 cms) to help Loz out in the ruck against the Cats beanpole Erin Hoare who is 194 cms. Tahls played well in the ruck during the 2023 VFLW season. Geelong reported no injuries last week. Our opponents, Geelong The Cats have elite young midfielders in Georgie Prespakis and Nina Morrison who have great support from the bullocking Becky Webster and Amy McDonald. Bowen and Crockett-Grills provide speed and pressure from the wings. The Cats’ defence is led brilliantly by Meg McDonald, with support from former Dee Chantel Emonson who takes the kickouts using her neat skills. Watch out for defenders, Claudia Gunjaca, a strong intercept mark, and Georgie Rankin. Chloe Scheer is equal second on the AFLW goalkicking table with 10 goals, equal with Captain Kate. While Ex Dee Jacqui Parry is equal 4th with 8 goals, alongside our girl Eden Zanker. Meggs view Expectations are high for an entertaining twilight match and a much closer contest than the Demons have seen so far in Season Eight. The Cats' home ground is narrow like last week at Frankston so hopefully that experience helps us. They are strong on every line and have several match winners. However, in their Round 4 top of the table clash against North only nine Cats players managed more than 10 possessions. Stopping Prespakis and Scheer would surely be gameday planning considerations. Heathy and or Hanksy to Georgie P, maybe Goldie runs with Chloe Scheer. Birch a likely option for the one-paced Parry or even the super competitor Gaby Colvin now that she’s back. Mick Stinear has shown us the power of versatility with this playing group. If gameday demands action, then expect Mick to shuffle his team and conjure moves. Our forward line is our ace. We have clever, talented goalkicking players everywhere you look. It will challenge the Cats backline, especially given our mid field support and trademark quick ball movement. It won’t surprise if Geelong lead at some point but our resilience and trust in #demonspirit is strong. Let’s bring the pressure over four full quarters like we have each game this season and, if so, Meggs is confident we can win the Battle of Mordor. Go Dees! Melbourne by 13 points THE GAME Melbourne v Geelong at GMHBA Stadium, Wadawurrung, on Thursday 28 September 2023 at 6:15pm (Melbourne time) HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 0 wins Geelong 0 wins At GMHBA, Geelong Melbourne 0 wins Geelong 0 wins The Coaches Stinear 0 wins Lowther 0 wins MEDIA TV - Fox Footy, Kayo. Mobile – AFL Live Official App Radio - check your local guides. THE LAST TIME THEY MET This is the first meeting between the two clubs. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B L. Birch T. Gillard HB S. Goldrick M. Gay S. Heath C B. Mackin T. Hanks E. McNamara HF C. Sherriff O. Purcell A. Bannan F E. Zanker K. Hore FOLL L. Pearce P. Paxman L. Mithen I/C G. Campbell G. Colvin S. Lampard A. Mackin EMG M. Chaplin M. Fitzsimon J. Ivey IN G. Colvin M. Gay OUT M. Chaplin (omitted) T. Harris (hamstring) GEELONG B M. Bragg C. Gunjaca HB C. Emonson M. McDonald G. Rankin C M. Bowen G. Prespakis N. Morrison HF K. Surman J. Parry D. Moloney F C. Scheer A. Moloney FOLL E. Hoare R. Webster A. McDonald I/C J. Crockett-Grills K. Darby Z. Friswell R. Garing Ab. McDonald EMG G. Featherston I. Houtsma B. Plummer IN J. Crockett-Grills Ab. McDonald 
OUT R. Kearns (knee) B. Plummer (omitted) Injury List: Round 5 Sammie Johnson - calf | Test Tayla Harris - hamstring | 1 Week
  22. Meggs asks is it time to heave ho the melodies and words of yesteryear and update Club theme songs with some Australian composers and singers? What prompted this reflection was the discovery that this week’s combatants’ themes were written by the same early 20th century American composer, George M. Cohan. Cohan’s melodies The Yankee Doodle Boy and You’re a Grand Old Flag have been used by Hawthorn since 1956 and Melbourne since 1912. Even earlier, the club themes of Brisbane (French National Anthem) and Geelong (Bizet’s Carmen) were written during the 19th century by two disparate Frenchmen. Meggs can’t see the connection to Aussie rules. A discussion for another time perhaps. This week Melbourne takes on Hawthorn at Kinetic Stadium in Frankston at 5:05pm. Get excited, it’s a brand new venue for the Dees to exploit and break records. So far in Season Eight Melbourne is undefeated with three convincing wins against Collingwood, GWS and the Western Bulldogs and are premiership favourites. By way of comparison, Hawthorn defeated the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat but has lost to Essendon and Fremantle. Mick Stinear would have to be pleased with his forwards. They have the highest points for (255), nine goals more than any other team, and are second on the ladder by percentage (271.3%). Kate Hore tops the all-time AFLW goalkickers list with 61 goals, while Tayla Harris sits third on 59. Enough stats. Last week’s match demonstrated the depth of Melbourne’s midfield, led by Hanksy, Purcell, Mithen, Paxy and Westy with support from Mackin, Hore and Heathy (trying to slow the Blackburn train). Isn’t McNamara building brilliantly into the season! Selection this week Alyssa Bannan is listed as a test on her sprained ankle. If Banno misses, then expect housemate Megan Fitzsimon (also listed as a test) to be her replacement. Go Fitzy. Hawthorn reported that Stephenson will be unavailable due to concussion. Our opponents, Hawthorn Hawthorn’s experienced coach Bec Goddard knows her footy. The practice match loss to Melbourne by 64 points will have provided plenty of learnings for her team. Meggs expects the Hawks to be prepared and much more competitive in this match. The key question is, can they match Melbourne’s fitness and pressure over four quarters? Watching them play the first three rounds you can see they have recruited a strong group of senior players from around the competition. All Australians Emily Bates and Greta Bodey from Brisbane, Aileen Gilroy and Kaitlyn Ashmore from North and their skipper Tilly Lucas-Rodd have been fantastic additions and are leading the team in 2023. The Hawks have a couple of young rucks, one is Lucy Wales (from Casey Demons), who should test our girls. Irishwomen Aine McDonagh and Bridie Hipwell have both impressed around goals. Meggs view The Demons are heavy favourites this week. The forward line should be too talented for the Hawks’ backline to control, especially with the mid field support and pressure applied over the four quarters. The evenness of talent and skill under pressure will be telling. It is hard to see Bates, Lucas-Rodd, Kashy, Gilroy, young Fleming et al sustaining the rage but they have looked good at times this year and applied lots of pressure in our pre-season game. That said, Meggs thinks we are humming and on song while the opposition will not be a happy team at the end of the night. Go Dees! Melbourne by 33 points THE GAME Melbourne v Hawthorn at Kinetic Stadium, Frankston, on Friday 22 September 2023 at 5:05pm (Melbourne time) HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 0 wins Hawthorn 0 wins At Kinetic Stadium, Frankston Melbourne 0 wins Hawthorn 0 wins The Coaches Stinear 2 wins Goddard 0 wins MEDIA TV - live free on 7mate. Foxtel, Kayo. Mobile – AFL Live Official App and AFLW Official App Radio - check your local guides. THE LAST TIME THEY MET This is the first official meeting between the clubs but they met last month in a practice match at Casey Fields with Melbourne winning a one-sided affair 8.16.64 to 0.6.6 (19 August 2023). It was a good chance for Mick Stinear to trial new strategies and test his team’s fitness under the new rules of longer quarters and interchange limits. He welcomed back Eliza McNamara and Gaby Colvin from long term injuries. Sherriff looked to be playing forward this year and Kate Hore was setting herself up for a great season. Georgia Campbell has played only one game mainly as a forward but went ok in the ruck and took a strong grab. Eden Zanker kicked four goals, looked confident and set for a big year. Missing players included Gay, Gall, Fowler, Ivey, Aimee Mackin and Watt. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B T. Gillard L. Birch HB S. Goldrick S.Lampard S. Heath C B. Mackin T. Hanks E. McNamara HF A. Mackin L. Mithen T. Harris F K. Hore E. Zanker FOLL L. Pearce P. Paxman O. Purcell I/C A. Bannan G. Campbell M. Chaplin G. C. Sherriff E. West EMG G. Colvin J. Ivey R. Watt IN A. Mackin OUT M. Gay (managed) HAWTHORN B E. Everist M. Eardley HB C. Brown J. Richardson C. Baskaran C K. Stratton T. Lucas-Rodd T. Smith HF A. McDonagh B. Hipwell G. Bodey F T. Luke S. Locke FOLL L. Wales A. Gilroy J. Fleming I/C K. Ashmore E. Bates B. Deed L. Elliott T. Fellows EMG M. Breed C. Dumont A. Kemp IN B. Deed T. Fellows OUT A. Makur Chuot (managed) L. Stephenson (concussion) Injury List: Round 4 Alyssa Bannan (ankle) test Megan Fitzsimon (back) test Sammie Johnson (calf) 1 week
  23. The Western Bulldogs and the Demons have history. Prior to the creation of the AFLW league, the AFL ran four years of exhibition matches featuring our two teams between 2013 and 2016. The winner holds the Hampson-Hardeman Cup, in honour of two women who were founders of the national women’s football competition. After 13 games the Demons hold nine wins, four losses record and currently hold the Cup after trouncing the Dogs last year by 64 points. The exhibition games were a precursor to formation of the AFLW league. Eight teams were granted licences including the Dees and the Dogs and thus began the national women’s football league. The Dogs rose early with a premiership cup in 2018 in Season Two. However, lately they have stalled, and their alumni of lost dogs includes some of the league’s most impressive names: Kearney, Conti, Brennan and our own Libby Birch. Bonnie Toogood has moved to Essendon. Hard names to replace and less than a handful of players remain from their premiership team. Selection this week The injury report suggests everyone is available, so Paxy comes in for sure. It will be interesting to see whether they bring Fitzy straight back too. Wilson will likely be the unlucky one to miss out. Bulldogs reported nil injuries last week and have Brit Gutknecht and Millie Brown listed as test. Our opponents, Western Bulldogs All Australian star Ellie Blackburn is clearly their matchwinner and there are other good role players such as stalwart Kirsty Lamb, Jess Fitzgerald, Sarah Hartwig and Deanna Berry. One improver is their ruck Alice Edmonds who, after leaving Richmond, has flourished at the Dogs under Nathan Burke and earned All Australian honours last season. The Western Bulldogs have only played at Casey Fields once and that was last season’s 64-point drubbing. Meggs view Another big score is on the cards this Saturday afternoon. Last week the Demons were again exciting when they were able to the win the ball and execute to outside runners. We are fantastic to watch, and Mick has the team firing early in the season. Loz Pearce was great last week and her battle with Alice Edmonds will be good to watch. Stinear last week praised our multi-faceted, versatile forward structure. It is amazing we have such a dynamic group and expect it will be a real headache for Nathan Burke on Saturday. The marking power of Tayla Harris and Eden Zanker, the speed of Alyssa Bannan, the sublime footy nous, and skills of Kate Hore, and our mids rolling forward to snap goals like Liv Purcell, Sarah Lampard, Blaithin Mackin and Lily Mithen did last week. Our opponents have lost their opening two games to Geelong by 48 points and to expansion side Hawthorn by seven points and have a percentage of 50.5%. On the other hand, the Dees have beaten contender Collingwood by 42 points and GWS away by 77 points to be second on the ladder with a percentage of 324.5%. Hope it’s a pleasant afternoon with not too much wind to hinder the skills. Go Dees! Melbourne by 45 points THE GAME Melbourne v Western Bulldogs at Casey Fields, on Saturday 16 September 2023 at 3:05pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 9 wins WB 4 wins At Casey Fields Melbourne 1 win WB 0 wins The Coaches Stinear 3 wins Burke 1 win MEDIA TV - live free on 7mate. Foxtel, Kayo. Check your local guides. Mobile – AFL Live Official App and AFLW Official App Radio - check your local guides. THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 10.13 (73) defeated WB 1.3 (9) at Casey Fields, 9 October 2022 This Season Seven Round Seven clash was all one-way traffic with the Dees earning a percentage boosting win and consolidating themselves in the Top Four. Other than an accidental clash of heads between Paxy and Loz Pearce it was simply a case of Melbourne’s system overwhelming anything the Dogs could muster. West and Purcell were instrumental in gaining control of the footy. Excitement machine Banno kicked three goals, with Harris putting her hand up for mark of the year and Zanker doing well too. Goals Melbourne: Bannan 3, Zanker 2, Harris 2, West, Hore, Duffy Western Bulldogs: Hartwig Best Melbourne: Paxman, West, Goldrick, Purcell Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Ferres, Edmonds, Grant Injuries Melbourne: L. Pearce (head knock), Paxman (head knock) Western Bulldogs: Nil Reports: Nil Crowd: 2,154 at Casey Fields THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B L. Birch T. Gillard HB S. Goldrick M. Gay S. Heath C E. McNamara T. Hanks S.Lampard HF A. Bannan L. Mithen T. Harris F E. Zanker K. Hore FOLL L. Pearce E. West O. Purcell I/C (from) M. Chaplin G. Campbell B. Mackin P. Paxman C. Sherriff EMG J. Ivey R. Watt C. Wilson IN P. Paxman OUT C. Wilson (omitted) WESTERN BULLDOGS B I. Grant K. Lynch HB E. Georgostathis K. Coyne M. Gorham C R. Wilcox K. Lamb I. Pritchard HF C. Moody G. Newton G. Lagioia F S. Hartwig D. Berry FOLL A. Edmonds E. Blackburn J. Fitzgerald IC D. Carruthers A. Smith B. McFarlane K. McLeod H. Woodley EMG R. Cranston N. Ferres B. Hunt IN M. Gorham H. Woodley A. Smith OUT D. Bateman (omitted) N. Ferres (omitted) B. Hunt (omitted) Injury List: Round 3 Megan Fitzsimon (back) test Paxy Paxman Chaplin (quad) test
  24. At half time in the 1975 Grand final against North Melbourne, legendary Hawthorn coach entered Australian sporting folklore when he implored his charges who were lagging behind their opponents to ‘do something’: "At least do something. Do. Don't think. Don't hope. Do. At least you can come off saying 'I did this'," Kennedy said. Kennedy’s plea failed but he had made his point and the Hawks rose again in 1976 when they took the premiership flag from the Kangaroos. The same frustrations which Kennedy faced in 1975 have been felt by the Demon faithful at times throughout 2022 and again, in parts of 2023. Last Thursday, as we sat and watched the train wreck of another slow start against Collingwood, followed by the last quarter and a half of a game in which opportunity after opportunity was butchered by poor decision making and execution in the forward line, many of us were moved to let out that helpless primal scream of ‘do something’! Melbourne won only one first quarter from Round 20 onwards (against an inaccurate Sydney team). The opposition put scoreboard pressure on the Demons, forcing them to work hard to get back into the game and win. Against, better teams such as Carlton (Round 22: 8.8.56 to 9.6.60) and Collingwood (EF: 7.11.53 to 9.6.60) the win simply did not eventuate even though Melbourne ran out the far stronger team in these match ups. Melbourne has as strong a defence and midfield as any in the competition. The defence has, for the most part, been playing out its role and has curbed the dangerous Charlie Curnow and his cohort of little men twice this year but the midfield needs to do something to lift its intensity rating when the battle starts. The contest between the midfields will be of paramount importance as the Blues’ Cripps, Walsh and Cerra, at their best can match the Demons’ gold star rated mids in Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca, Jack Viney. It might well devolve into a question of who among the bit parts of the respective mids can stand up and be counted, particularly when they play their opening gambit. The other something needed from Melbourne is its efficiency when going forward. They need to be less predictable as otherwise, the Blues’ defence headed by Weitering will pick the Demons apart. Any attack that has 32 more inside-50 entries than its opponent but kicks only seven goals in a match has to be classified as bordering on dysfunctional so the Melbourne selectors have to do something to turn that situation around. That’s easier said than done without the forward line trio of Harrison Petty, Jake Melksham and Jacob van Rooyen who, between them, managed 14 goals straight in Round 20 against Richmond but will all be absent on Friday night. Does the club have the depth of talent necessary to enable it to take advantage in front of goal if the midfield stands up to give them scoring opportunities as expected? Much is being made about claims that Max Gawn and Oliver might be going into battle on Friday night but a little bluebird tells me that Cripps and Marchbank will also be carrying their own injuries into the game. The Demons have the ability to select some seasoned players including All-Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy and James Jordon and Charlie Spargo who have both played in a premiership team, along with the likes of Bayley Fritsch, Kozzy Pickett and Tom McDonald who had major roles in the same campaign for that 2021 flag. There is plenty of scope left for coach Simon Goodwin and his team to do something. And, I’m tipping that they will do so and overcome the Blues by the slender margin of a solitary point. THE GAME Melbourne v Carlton at the MCG Friday 15 September 2023 at 7.50pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Carlton 118 wins Melbourne 97 wins Drawn 2 At the MCG Carlton 51 wins Melbourne 56 wins Past five meetings Carlton 1 win Melbourne 4 The Coaches Voss 1 win Goodwin 2 wins THE LAST TIME THEY MET Carlton 9.6.60 defeated Melbourne 8.8.56 at the MCG Round 22, 2023 The Demons made a poor start to the game but somehow were close enough to be well in the contest at each interval before falling asleep again in the opening minutes of the final term when they conceded three goals. Inaccuracy and a Carlton fingernail cost them the win that might have secured them a second place finish and an easier run to a Preliminary Final. Angus Brayshaw’s 31 touches were pivotal to the Demons’ ultimately unsuccessful lunge toward victory. THE TEAMS MELBOURNE B J. Lever A. Tomlinson J. Bowey HB J. McVee S. May C. Salem C L. Hunter C. Oliver E. Langdon HF J. Jordon B. Fritsch C. Petracca F T. Sparrow McDonald A. Neal-Bullen FOLL M. Gawn, J. Viney, K. Pickett I/C K. Chandler T. Rivers J. Smith C. Spargo SUB J. Schache EMG B. Grundy M. Hibberd B. Laurie IN J. Jordon J. Schache C. Spargo A. Tomlinson OUT A. Brayshaw (concussion) M. Hibberd (omitted) B. Laurie (omitted) J. van Rooyen (suspended) CARLTON B B. Kemp J. Weitering N. Newman HB A. Cincotta M. McGovern A. Saad C B. Acres P. Cripps M. Cottrell HF S. Docherty T. De Koning M. Owies F L. Fogarty C. Curnow J. Motlop FOLL M. Pittonet A. Cerra S. Walsh I/C D. Cunningham G. Hewett M. Kennedy C. Marchbank SUB O. Hollands EMG P. Dow S. Durdin Z. Fisher IN O. Hollands M. Kennedy OUT H. McKay (hamstring) J. Martin (suspended) Injury and Suspension List: Semi Final Ben Brown - Knee | Test James Harmes - Hamstring | Test Angus Brayshaw - Concussion | TBC Jacob van Rooyen Suspended | 1 Week Luke Dunstan - Knee | Season Blake Howes - Hand | Season Jake Melksham - Knee | Season Harrison Petty - Foot | Season Oliver Sestan - Elbow | Season
  25. The reigning AFLW champions dee-stroyed contender Collingwood last week, to open the 2023 season with a third-term masterclass and confirmed their premiership contender credentials. It was such an exhilarating and satisfying match to watch. We witnessed the Eliza Mac comeback, Heathy versus the goliath Davey, new captain Kate starring, Banno and Edo kicking goals, an exciting new tall unearthed in Campbell and our fleet of mids were everywhere especially in that third quarter. And what about those repeated pinpoint deliveries into the forward 50 arc? This weekend the team flies to Canberra for their first ever game at Manuka Oval against fellow foundation club Greater Western Sydney on Sunday at 5:05pm. In a pre-match interview last week Scott Gowans, the Swans coach, described GWS as the worst performing foundation club. Before this match no expansion team had defeated a foundation team. Thus, GWS should have been well motivated, but it was the Swans who backed up their coach’s words with a stirring victory at North Sydney Oval. GWS started well, being 25 points up mid-way through the third quarter but a Chloe Molloy inspired comeback led the Swans to a 5-point historic first ever win for the expansion side. This Sunday evening GWS will encounter a whole new level of dangerous forward line against the Dees talls, speed, and (fingers crossed) accuracy. If we match their intensity, we have the defensive structure to take control and kick a winning score. Selection One change: Maeve Chaplin returns from concussion and will add steel and strength behind the ball. Her ability to attack the contest and deliver a booming kick will be welcomed back. Megan Fitzsimon has been omitted due to injury. Defenders Colvin and Wilson along with Rhi Watt are the emergencies. While our best players were duly lauded for last week’s win there were couple of teammates who we hope will improve their performance this week: Fitzy was quiet (possibly injury impacted), Westy was in and out, and the defensive group Birch, Gillard and Goldrick seemed a bit rusty. At the MFC AFLW launch Meggs asked the coach how Gaby Colvin (named as an emergency) could break into such a strong defensive team, and he was at pains to emphasise what a competitor Gaby is. He is bullish on her so there is certainly pressure on that backline to perform. GWS has named an unchanged line up. Our opponents, GWS Watching their game last week GWS has a sprinkling of experience across the group with Alyce Parker, Alicia Eva, Chloe Dalton, Bec Beeson, Nicola Barr (who plays her 50th game) and a group of tall defenders in Pepa Randall, Grace Hill and Cambridge McCormick. Tall forward Georgia Garnett was lively kicking two nice goals and small Haneen Zreika can play. They will be smarting from their loss last week so expect them to come out strongly. Meggs’ view Last Friday, you could see that the Pies were intense and got on top in that first half led by Bri Davey and Brit Bonicci. Girls let’s start stronger this week. Watching the GWS game our general field kicking and handball skills appear a level above, so if we work hard enough we will overrun them early in the match and secure a big win. The new 60 cap interchange rule is advantaging Melbourne as we have many quality fit midfielders such as Hanksy, Liv Purcell, Westy, Lily M, Paxy plus running machines B Macken and Eliza Mac on the wings and Kate Hore and Heath have gameday midfield roles at certain times. This advantageous depth allows the Dees to share the load, unlike many teams such as GWS who have really only a couple of strong quality mids at their disposal and who will likely tire during the new regime of extended matches and rotation cap. During the recent Casey VFLW season both Fitzy and Goldie had turns on the ball and did well. If GWS star mid Alyce Parker is getting on top at any point expect Coach Mick to throw Giant slayer Shelley Heath on to her. Hore, Harris, Zanker and Bannan are all stars in our forward line and Meggs struggles to see how Pepa Randall and her GWS defensive cohort can contain their collective brilliance. The full ground defence is supported by a strong structure of well drilled teammates setting up and responding to ball movement. Of course, it doesn’t work as well when there is quick ball movement like Collingwood were able to do last week so expect GWS to try and unpick our systems. Good luck with that Cam (GWS coach Bernasconi). Last week Georgia Campbell kicked a nice goal, nicely celebrating her birthday and her first win. Our number one looks the goods as a ruck/ forward and will be tremendous support for Loz Pearce. If Georgia continues to develop, she shapes as a likely successor. Tomorrow’s weather looks fine. Feeling confident this week. Us Dees supporters need some good news this weekend and Meggs expects our champion AFLW team to deliver in Canberra and find our voice. Go Dees! Melbourne by 35 points THE GAME Melbourne v GWS at Manual Oval, Canberra, on Sunday 10 September 2023 at 5:05pm (Melbourne time) HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 4 wins GWS 1 win At Manuka Melbourne 0 wins GWS 0 wins The Coaches Stinear 0 wins Bernasconi 0 wins MEDIA TV - live free on 7mate. Foxtel, Kayo. Check your local guides. Mobile – AFL Live Official App and AFLW Official App Radio - check your local guides. THE LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 6.8.44 defeated GWS 1.1.7 at Casey Fields in Season 6 Round 6 - 12 February 2022 This Season 6 clash was one way traffic with the Dees handing GWS their biggest defeat of the season at Casey Fields, Melbourne’s fortress. If not for the notorious windy conditions, the Dees could have won by more as the forwards had issues converting. The defenders including Ali Brown, Libby Birch and Gaby Colvin were miserly, racking up intercepts and only allowing GWS one solitary goal, late in the game. The Coach sent Shelley Heath to GWS’s star Irish forward Cora Staunton and kept her goalless. What an impressive list of tagging victims Heathy has accumulated over the years. Our star midfielders Lily Mithen, Paxy Paxman, Tyla Hanks and Eliza West all gathered 20 or more disposals for the day and Tayla Harris and Kate Hore kicked two goals each. GOALS Melbourne Harris Hore 2 D Pearce Scott GWS Giants Doyle BEST Melbourne Hanks Mithen West Paxman GWS Giants Randall Parker Eva Dallaway THE TEAMS GWS B J. Hicks P. Randall HB C. Dalton G. Hill T. Evans C J. Doyle N. Barr M. Brazendale HF Z. Goldsworthy H. Zreika A. Parker F G. Garnett B. Mowbray FOLL F. Davies A. Lister A. Eva I/C (from) T. Cattle A. Dallaway T. Germech J. Grierson C. McCormick C. Miller K. Smith IN T. Cattle J. Grierson C. Miller OUT MELBOURNE B L. Birch T. Gillard HB S. Goldrick M. Gay S. Heath C S.Lampard T. Hanks E. McNamara HF T. Harris L. Mithen A. Bannan F E. Zanker K. Hore FOLL L. Pearce E. West K. Paxman I/C (from) G. Campbell M. Chaplin G. Colvin B. Mackin O. Purcell R. Watt C. Wilson IN M. Chaplin G. Colvin C. Wilson, R. Watt OUT M. Fitzsimon (Injured) Injury List: Round 2 Saraid Taylor (foot) test Maeve Chaplin (concussion) test
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