A Series of Unfortunate Events

March 30, 2023 by
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons 

Round 2 – Brisbane V Melbourne

Liam Chambers

On a hot Brisbane night, it was the Lions who were first off the mark. Zac Bailey took advantage of a forward 50 stoppage and tap down to snap one in from the edge of the goal square. Two minutes later Tom McDonald was the beneficiary of a turnover that delivered him a set shot 35m from goal. He put it through the middle to even the scores.

Brisbane won another clearance, enabling Jarrod Berry to kick from 55m and claim the Lion’s second. While that goal was being scored, Captain Max Gawn was limping off the ground after what appeared to be an innocuous incident during the hitout. Fans initially feared the worst but thankfully post match scans revealed a ligament strain and not the dreaded ACL tear.

Even with their leader sidelined, the Demons initially seemed confident in their play with Christian Petracca slotting the second from a 55m set shot.

After the bounce the Lions started applying some intense forward pressure. Melbourne defended well but the sea of maroon was relentless. Despite Jake Lever’s best efforts, another Brisbane goal was looking inevitable and it finally eventuated via a 25m snap from Dayne Zorko.

Having set up camp comfortably inside their forward 50, Brisbane added a fourth when Will Ashcroft succeeded in drawing a high tackle, then converting his free kick in front of goal. The Lions were putting on a show for the faithful in the stands, again winning the clearance before Oscar McInerney took a contested mark. His set shot hit the target and the margin increased to nineteen points.

The night only go worse for the Demons when Joe Daniher got his hands on the ball after a stoppage just outside the goal square. He somehow managed to get a kick away in the right direction and watched as the sherrin bounced across the line. Quarter time couldn’t come soon enough. It was chaos at times but Melbourne managed to avoid conceding anymore before the break. The twenty five point deficit and the loss of Max Gawn meant it was going to be an uphill battle for the visitors.

Brisbane had dominated in all major stats and now the question was how would the Dees respond? Starting a match with Gawn out due to injury was one thing. Losing, arguably, their most influential player early on as a result of a potentially career ending incident was another matter entirely.

For most of the quarter, Melbourne didn’t concede any more goals, but they didn’t they score a major either and the gap remained stubbornly steady at twenty five points. Then Ben Brown gave the Demon Army something to cheer about when his 50m set shot found the space between the uprights.

It proved to be a short lived optimism however. Charlie Cameron ran out to take a mark 40m from goal and his subsequent set shot cancelled out Big Ben’s previous effort. Having never been much of a John Denver fan, the ritual of blasting out “Country Roads” after every Cameron goal was particularly grating on this occasion. To rub salt into the wounds, Brisbane again won the clearance and their attack on Melbourne’s defence resulted in another goal for Joe Daniher. The Lions now had a game high advantage of thirty one points and the signs were ominous for the Demons.

Despite the ongoing Brisbane pressure, Ben Brown was able to keep Melbourne’s hopes up with his set shot from the pocket, which bounce nicely across the line. Bailey Fritsch built on those hopes with his 50m set shot just before half time to bring it back to a more manageable twenty points.

The players would have been happier with their performance in the latter half of the previous quarter but trailing by twenty points meant they needed to get scores on the board and quickly.
The footy gods continued to smile on Brisbane however and another stoppage in front of goal resulted in Charlie Cameron getting the toe of his boot to the sherrin, notching up his second of the night. The next goal came after a huge pressure surge from the Lions, launching the footy into their forward 50 where Zac Bailey managed to control the ball before snapping it home; powering his side to a thirty two point lead.

The Dees were seriously scrambling now to limit the damage and trying desperately to hit back. It was all Brisbane though. When Zorko scored another, a missile from 40m, even the most optimistic Demon fan was reading the writing on the wall; albeit between gaps in the fingers covering their eyes.

Melbourne couldn’t seem to catch a break until Bailey Fritsch found himself alone in the Dees’ forward 50 and took a mark from Kade Chandler. Then it was just a case of walking in the goal. A small glimmer but at least something to build on. Unfortunately a couple of set shots went astray but then Alex Neal-Bullen took advantage of a loose ball to run through and score from the goal square.

The belief was back but then Lincoln McCarthy took a contested mark, on his second attempt, 25m in front. He converted and the lead was back to thirty two points. After that Joe Daniher seemingly sealed the deal with his third goal, one minute from three quarter time.

Melbourne have, in recent years, built a bit of a reputation as comeback kings but a thirty eight point margin at the beginning of the final term looked insurmountable. When Daniher scored from another set shot, this time from the pocket, a Demon win appeared almost impossible. New recruit Lachie Hunter wasn’t having it though and he snapped from just outside the square to reduce the gap to forty points. Stirring stuff but it still felt more like a consolation than a serious resurgence.

If the Dees were to have any chance, then Melbourne needed a major circuit breaker. As if on cue, the Gabba obliged. One second the Dees were racing up the field towards their goal, the next, the stadium was in darkness. After what seemed like an eternity, the officials blew the whistle to resume the game.

It was evident from the start of the restart that the momentum had shifted to Melbourne and they set about taking full advantage. Within a couple of minutes, Bailey Fritsch took a hand pass from Hunter and his round the body kick sailed in from 35m. It took another five minutes but Christian Petracca’s massive kick from the centre found an unmarked Ben Brown just outside the square and the big fellow just walked it in.

The clearances were finally going Melbourne’s way and another big kick from Tracca went deep inside 50, where Charlie Spargo combined with Kade Chandler to give the youngster another goal. Just over a minute later and Clayton Oliver nailed one from a 45m set shot. Four in a row and the lead was whittled down to eighteen points. Then Tom Sparrow was awarded a free kick just outside the 50m line. His shot went deep and in the confusion Ben Brown got a hold of the ball before tapping it in from 20m for his fourth of the evening.

The only thing stopping a Demons’ win now was the clock and unfortunately they couldn’t muster the final two majors for what would have been the upset of the decade. Brisbane were relieved and would have been justifiably dirty had the result gone against them at the death but it would have been a game for the ages.

It looks like Gawny will miss the next six weeks but he’ll take that over an ACL injury any day. We will miss his leadership but we have the talent to beat any team in the competition. The new look Dees sans Max will be severely tested in Round 3 when we take on the in form Swans.

I have a feeling the commentariat will be backing Sydney to win but we revel in the underdog status, so…

Go the Mighty Dees!!!


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