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  1. Melbourne fans have seen it all before in 2023. Poor starts and poor kicking for goal. Ultimately, it was what cost Melbourne a Preliminary final berth (at this point) by losing to Collingwood. Apparently, it was only the second time in 85 years that the Pies had beaten Melbourne in a final, but history meant nothing when the Black and White came out breathing fire in the first quarter, and completely ran over the Demons. In the ruck, Mason Cox set the tone, and won the first nine hit outs against Max Gawn, while Braydon Maynard was true to his word about being physical in this game when he wiped out Angus Brayshaw in the early going. The battered Demon departed on a stretcher and will not play in the next game at the very least. Surely, the Demons would have expected this? Going into the game with only one ruck meant Max would be targeted. And Maynard and Adams have reputations from the past. The result was that Collingwood took a three-goal lead into the first change, while once again, the Demons could only manage a single major for the opening term. And that was from the downfield free kick after the Brayshaw incident. That lead which would prove to be the difference in the end. From that poor start, the Demons started to get themselves into the game overcoming that first quarter trouncing. Unbelievably, they were down ten in the contested possessions game in the first stanza, showing how poor their start had been. By then end of the game, they had “out contested” the Pies, but it was to be all too late, after that ordinary opening term. Even at half-time, with the momentum of the game changing, Melbourne had only managed to score one more major. Two goals to half time in a final is never going to get the victory. This was despite more than doubling the Pies inside 50 entries, but Melbourne just couldn’t score goals when needed, and after all the hard work to get the ball there in the first place. It was to be the recurrent theme for the rest of the match. Melbourne winning just about every statistic but little on the scoreboard to show for it. In one respect, this demonstrated the fallacy of statistics. They are a numerical representation of actions in the past, but they fail to show the quality of those actions, or whether there is an association with final outcomes. In this game, there was nothing more amply demonstrated. Kicking for goal was again the Achilles heel for Melbourne 7.11 for the match and several out on the full. It was almost an identical result as the Kings Birthday game when Melbourne posted 8.18. Had Melbourne scored points from all of those out of bounds it would have made the difference between winning and losing. And while many criticise the Demon forwards, the fact is the options aren’t available in the absence of the injured Brown, Petty and Melksham. Petty would all be playing in that role if not injured, while Schache hasn’t shown much to justify a spot, even with all these injuries to others. Then when Angus went down, it meant Petracca had to spend more time in the middle, thus taking away another forward threat. It also doesn’t help when the coaches persist with putting Max outside the 50m arc when in attack and letting the full forward take the ruck leaving his opponent free to do whatever he wanted. Surely winning the ball in the forward 50 should be the target? The final quarter became a hope of comeback for the Demons, and they scored three majors, while holding Collingwood to a mere two points with the ball living almost exclusively in Melbourne’s forward half. But it was all too little too late, although even in that final effort, there were misses which should have resulted in two fingers from the goal umpire, which were not. The chance was there, and to put it simply, the Demons blew it! Despite a poor opening, Max finally took control in the ruck, without any backup, and finished with 31 hit outs, 22 disposals including 10 clearances. Clayton Oliver was outstanding with 31 touches resulting in an incredible 742 metres gained. The backline were the real heroes, who at the end of the match had held Collingwood to a meagre 60 points, including that paltry 2 behinds in the final quarter. They did everything right, since they denied the Pies their basic game plan with May, Lever and Bowey all with nine intercept possessions. Michael Hibberd held the dangerous Jamie Elliott to two points, and it was only Hill who broke free on several occasions to really give Collingwood the win with his three goals. This game was feeling of Déjà vu or Deeja Vu for the Melbourne fans. They know all too well how this type of game would finish. Now the question will be does Deeja Vu happen again in the coming week, as the Demons are facing another straight sets exit from the finals. MELBOURNE 1.0.6 2.4.16 4.9.33 7.11.53 COLLINGWOOD 4.2.26 5.3.33 9.4.58 9.6.60 GOALS MELBOURNE Fritsch 2 Pickett McDonald Neal-Bullen Smith Sparrow COLLINGWOOD Hill 3 McStay 2 Cameron Crisp De Goey Mihocek BEST MELBOURNE Gawn Oliver Pickett Hunter Petracca Neal-Bullen COLLINGWOOD Crisp Sidebottom Hoskin-Elliott Quaynor Hill Murphy INJURIES MELBOURNE Angus Brayshaw (concussion) COLLINGWOOD Nil REPORTS MELBOURNE Nil COLLINGWOOD Nil SUBSTITUTIONS MELBOURNE Bailey Laurie (replaced Angus Brayshaw in first quarter) COLLINGWOOD Jack Ginnivan (replaced Darcy Cameron in fourth quarter) UMPIRES Matt Stevic Curtis Deboy Andrew Stephens Hayden Gavine CROWD 92,636 at the MCG
  2. The coming of Springtime brings about a renewal in the cycle of life in all walks and on all levels. We feel the warmer weather, we work better and the changes affect the way we live and how we rest and play. This includes our pastimes and, in particular, our sports. In the AFL, they say that when the home-and-away season ends, a new season begins. On Thursday evening, Melbourne and Collingwood will embark on this new season in a game that could well be pivotal in determining which of the remaining eight teams will be triumphant at the end of the month on that one day in September. The fact that Collingwood is the minor premier and led the field for most of the regular season to finish on top of the league table is certainly of significance but it’s not as important in terms of finals outcome as the recent form of the respective clubs. So let’s look at how they’ve been travelling in the lead up to the finals? From Round 20 onwards, the Pies lowered their colours on three occasions. They also managed to just scramble in to beat the Cats and they finished with a huge victory over the basket case Bombers in a pressure-free meaningless environment after an opening moments when it was clear they were playing against witches hats. No team in recent memory has won a premiership with a record of so many losses in the run home to an AFL/VFL finals series. While it’s true that, Collingwood will welcome back captain Darcy Moore and Nathan Murphy to add some steel to their often chaotic defensive lineup, the question remains whether the skipper and his offsider will be ready for the pressure cooker conditions of a finals campaign and whether the team can regain the confidence and composure it held over the season and a half prior to its recent form reversal. On the other hand, Melbourne’s recent form has been more impressive with six wins from the last seven matches with the solitary loss in that time coming at the hands of the competition’s form team in Carlton and only after a controversial goal review late in the game. The finals of course, are a different beast and, in that regard, finals experience and particular, a record of high performance in finals is crucial. An index of players at clubs in the finals race with the highest average AFL Player ratings in finals has four Demons in the top eight rankings with Clayton Oliver coming in first at an average of 17.2, Brodie Grundy fourth (14.9), Christian Petracca fifth (14.3) and Max Gawn seventh (13.9) with only two Magpies — Moore (14.1) and Scott Pendlebury (13.8) filling in at sixth and eighth respectively. And on recent form, the latter while still dangerous is slowing down appreciably. Of the Demons in this group, Grundy is only an outside chance to play, but this only highlights the strength and depth of the Demons. In addition to this, is the fact that during Oliver’s prolonged absence due to hamstring issues, Melbourne covered his loss remarkably well. Jack Viney, Angus Brayshaw and a number of others stepped up from their comfort levels to fill the breach in the middle and Petracca even went forward with telling effect. The upshot is that we have a Demon midfield that is in no way reliant on one or two star players at the very time when the Magpies are exposed for speed and feeling the effect of the loss of their ace card in Nick Daicos. And meanwhile, Ed Langdon and Lachle Hunter lie in wait for that player’s older sibling on the wings. Much has been made of Melbourne’s supposed forward line woes and the absence of Harry Petty and Jake Melksham who booted ten straight goals in their last full game together. Again, the club’s depth will be tested, but the return of Bayley Fritsch and the likely return of Tom McDonald should be enough to confront the Collingwood defence which, notwithstanding its last up start when it conceded a miserable 31 points to a dysfunctional Essendon forward line, has been problematic in the run home to the finals. I haven’t mentioned Melbourne’s defence yet but it really should be recognised for its strength and effectiveness as demonstrated in its last game, one which had little meaning in terms of where the club was going to finish and who was to be its first finals opponent against a team desperate to win a home final. The high pressure applied by the Demons for much of the game was impressive and a fantastic tune up for September action. Melbourne has timed its run to perfection. It sits in the top six in every recognised premiership indicator and is number one in four of them including inside 50 differential, metres gained differential and inside 50s. The Demons are primed to continue their decades long run in finals of dominance over the Magpies. That run will continue on Thursday night when Melbourne takes its first step to premiership glory with a 27-point victory over the old enemy. THE GAME Melbourne v Collingwood at the MCG, Thursday 7 September, 2023 at 7.20pm HEAD TO HEAD Overall Melbourne 85 wins Collingwood 153 wins 5 drawn At the MCG Melbourne 64 wins Collingwood 85 wins 3 drawn Last five meetings Melbourne 2 wins Collingwood 3 wins The Coaches Goodwin 1 win McCrae 2 wins LAST TIME THEY MET Melbourne 8.18.66 defeated Collingwood 9.8.62 at the MCG in Round 13, 2023 The Pies were off to a flying start with the opening three goals of the game but managed just six for the remainder including two in the final moments to make it a close finish but, in reality the inaccurate Demons were in control for most of the contest. THE TEAMS COLLINGWOOD B N. Murphy D. Moore I. Quaynor HB B. Maynard O. Markov S. Pendlebury C S. Sidebottom T. Adams J. Daicos HF B. Hill B. Mihocek J. Howe F J. Elliott D. McStay J. De Goey FOLL M. Cox B. McCreery J. Crisp I/C D. Cameron W. Hoskin-Elliott P. Lipinski T. Mitchell SUB J. Ginnivan EMG B. Frampton F. Macrae J. Noble IN B. McCreery D. Moore N.Murphy OUT B. Frampton (omitted) F. Macrae (omitted) J.Noble (omitted) MELBOURNE B M. Hibberd S. May J. Bowey HB J. McVee J. Lever A. Brayshaw C K. Pickett J. Viney E. Langdon HF L. Hunter T. McDonald A. Neal-Bullen F T. Sparrow J. van Rooyen K. Chandler FOLL M.Gawn C. Oliver C. Petracca I/C B. Fritsch T. Rivers C. Salem J. Smith SUB B. Laurie EMG B. Grundy J. Jordon A. Tomlinson IN M. Hibberd T. McDonald OUT J.Melksham (knee) D. Turner (omitted) Injury List: Qualifying Final Michael Hibberd - Concussion | Available Bayley Fritsch - Foot | Test Ben Brown - Knee | TBC Luke Dunstan - Knee | Season Blake Howes - Hand | Season Jake Melksham - Knee | Season Harrison Petty - Foot | Season Oliver Sestan - Elbow | Season
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