So Close You Could Rue It

May 22, 2019 by · Leave a Comment
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Melbourne v West Coast Round 9 2019

Round 9 – Melbourne vs West Coast Eagles – So close you could rue it

Liam Chambers

So many times we’ve read the line “Melbourne left ruing missed opportunities”. Friday night in Perth look like a certain upset until the last minutes of the third quarter. Even then you felt that the Dees would prevail.

Unfortunately some dubious decisions in the fourth quarter against Melbourne gave the Eagles the momentum to gain a late advantage. I know the umpires have a difficult job and an individual fan will have a subjective view of events on the field. However Demon supporters can feel vindicated regarding Q4 decisions now the AFL has admitted the decision to award Lewis Jedda a free kick for an incident that left Tim Smith concussed was incorrect. The furiously righteous indignation in my friend’s lounge room on Friday night was therefore completely justified.

Anyway, that’s all in the past now and we need to refocus for the next game.

I have to start by saying that for most of the game I felt like I was watching a different Melbourne team to the one that had played in the previous eight rounds.

The skill level went up several notches on occasion and the Eagles looked stunned that Melbourne was dominating them on their hallowed home turf. In particular, a wonderful run of play by Clayton Oliver and Jayden Hunt was a highlight of Q1.

On the subject of missed opportunities, we are letting ourselves down when it comes to set shots. So many times in the past couple of years when Melbourne have been playing well, they stumble when favourable circumstances present themselves in front of goal. Brilliant marks are taken only for a player to miss kick what looks like a certain six points. I don’t know what the answer to that particular dilemma is; however I am certain now that we will struggle to win the big prize if we are unable to drastically improve in that area.

Nathan Jones is always inspirational and his opening goal in Perth fired up the players and fans. Gawn was our best asset again and Petracca is so impressive when he puts everything into his game. Jeff Garlett was notable, not only for his tally of three goals but for his determination to break through the Eagle’s defence. An image for the ages was Sam Frost’s chase down of Jack Petrucelle to claim the ball and most of Petrucelle’s shirt.

Video: Sam Frost’s inspirational chase

The most encouraging Dees’ tactic for me was their willingness to tackle the opposition. Their tackle rate was almost double that of the Eagles’ at half time. We’ve also improved our defence and we’re not leaking goals like we did in the earlier rounds.

We were dominating inside 50s in Q3 and looked like we could create one of the upsets of the season. We were leading by nineteen points with only a few minutes to go at the end of the quarter but unfortunately we allowed Josh Kennedy a chance to have a shot at goal which he obligingly converted.

Once Luke Shuey score early in the final quarter for the Eagles, the home crowd really got behind their team. When you have an overwhelmingly hostile crowd roaring for your defeat, it can be a tad unsettling. Suddenly the Eagles were kicking at a much higher efficiency rate and they were stacking up goals with alarming frequency. Jayden Hunt’s goal in the twelfth minute was both brilliant and inspiring but unfortunately was not enough to snatch back the momentum from West Coast.

I’d like to mention that Oskar Baker made his debut for the Demons on Friday night. He has performed very well for Casey over the last few season and though he was a little overawed by the enormity of the occasion, he did enough to ensure he will be selected again.

Video: Oskar Baker’s special debut. I’m not crying, you are.

Next week we face the Giants and if we play as well like we did in Perth, then I believe we will definitely win. Go the Dees!!!

WEST COAST   3.2   5.4   7.6    13.7 (85)
MELBOURNE    3.4   5.8   8.12   9.15 (69)

GOALS
West Coast:
Kennedy 4, Rioli 2, Shuey 2, Cripps 2, Ryan, Darling, Sheed
Melbourne: Garlett 3, Petracca 2, Hunt 2, Jones, T.Smith

BEST 
West Coast:
Yeo, Hurn, Kennedy, Sheed, Shuey, Gaff
Melbourne: Gawn, Harmes, Hunt, Frost, Garlett, Petracca

INJURIES 
West Coast:
Venables (concussion), Hickey (ankle), Schofield (general soreness) replaced in selected side by Tom Hickey
Melbourne: Neal-Bullen (concussion), T.Smith (concussion), Salem (concussion)

The special history of guernsey number 2

May 15, 2019 by · Leave a Comment
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Nigel Dawe

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” – Albert Einstein

There’s something about milestones, club records and overall numbers in footy (especially those that pertain to guernsey number 2 of the red and blue) that just brings out my inner be-duffle coated 11-year-old and makes it 1987 all over again for me. And as a kid I don’t recall having any more larger than life hero than the mercurial number 2 wearing Robbie Flower – he was the very reason I started going for Melbourne in the first place. It was his sheer unrivalled silky skills and the legendary aura of his courage and loyalty to the one club – the same club he followed as a boy and even sat out of the game for 12 months so as to get the chance to play for.

The stats are one thing, and off the top of my head to this day I can still rattle them off as if they were my own PIN number or password – 272 games, 315 goals between 1973-87. Having bowed out of the sport a club games record holder and absolute icon of the Melbourne Demons, few will ever come close to how Robbie so personified all that is grand and true about the team of the red and the blue.

So now, skip forward 32 years and one equally loyal and true Nathan Jones is set to run out for the 273rd time this week wearing that same famous #2 and surely on his way to toppling David Neitz’s own club record of 306 games, in time. Which got me reflecting on the actual tale or journey of guernsey number 2 for the Melbourne Football Club.

The first custodian (as 1911 saw the introduction of player numbers) was none other than the slick goalsquare ace Harry Brereton – VFL leading goal kicker of 1912 and holder of a rather obscure team statistic, in that league topping season he kicked 41% of the Melbourne team’s entire output of goals, which no one in the club’s history before or since has bettered.

Without going through every player to don our #2 (which is all up around 20 people), perhaps the most infamous and ‘little known’ wearer – for one-appearance only – was none other than Ron Barassi in the now famous and rather ill-fated Grand Final of 1958. Because of a breach in who could list or report on player guernsey numbers – both sides had to alter the numbers that their players actually wore that day, and so our gritty and fire-brand Barassi for the only game of his career sported a number that wasn’t his usual, albeit absolutely iconic and luck-bringing ‘31’.

T Mac Brings the House Down

May 14, 2019 by · Leave a Comment
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Tom McDonald seals the deal

Tom McDonald kicks the point to win the game for the Melbourne Demons

Round 8 – Gold Coast Suns v Melbourne

Liam Chambers

Two games from seven. The worst percentage in the competition. A laundry list of pre season surgeries. An injury depleted back line. No wonder Melbourne is struggling to convince the world of AFL that they have a chance.

However, their performances in the last two games has given the Dees a glimmer of hope that they may still be in contention come September.

Though the Suns had won more games and were above the Demons on the ladder, Melbourne were still somehow favourites to take the honours in Round 8.

It was a tight game which Melbourne dominated; they led the Suns for most of the match but were unable to stretch their lead by further than a couple of goals.

Melbourne threw body and soul at Gold Coast but their skills set let them down at crucial moments. They kicked thirteen minor scores to their six goals. The good news is Tom McDonald kicked half of those goals. That will give his confidence a boost. The fact that he almost kicked a fourth in the last second didn’t matter as hitting the upright meant Melbourne won by a single point.

The bad news is the injury to Michael Hibberd. He has been involved in some goal saving plays in the last few games and those skills will be sorely missed. Jordan Lewis and Jake Melksham were also injured but may yet play in Perth.

I believe the wins in Rounds 7 & 8 will have been an enormous confidence boost for Melbourne after losing five of their first six matches. The fact that they hung in and kept battling to the last second, literally, showed a vital determination to win. The young Marty Hore was an inspiration, scoring a crucial goal when all seemed lost.

Of course next week will be the ultimate test of the Demons’ character. Their Round 9 opponents are the reigning champions and their home ground in Perth is the most inhospitable venue any visiting team could imagine.

Whether the ghosts of last year’s preliminary final defeat can be laid to rest remains to be seen. Melbourne will be the supreme underdogs. The crowd will bay for their blood, like the spectators in the Colosseums of ancient Rome. We will either be fed to the lions or we will be miraculously victorious. Go the Dees!

GOLD COAST     2.1     3.3     5.6     9.6 (60)
MELBOURNE     3.2     3.5     5.9     8.13 (61)

GOALS
Gold Coast:
 Ainsworth 2, Holman 2, Wright, Lemmens, MacPherson, Powell, Corbett
Melbourne: T.McDonald 3, Melksham, Harmes, Hunt, Petracca, Hore

BEST
Gold Coast:
 Swallow, Macpherson, Holman, Ainsworth, Hanley, Witts
Melbourne: Oliver, Jones, Melksham, Harmes, Salem, McDonald

Demons Battle Hawks To The Siren

May 7, 2019 by · Leave a Comment
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Young and pink

Round 7 – Melbourne Vs Hawthorn – Demons Battle Hawks To The Siren

Liam Chambers

Melbourne desperately needed a win to have any chance of playing finals this year. As in previous weeks, they burst out of the blocks in the first quarter, Angus Brayshaw scoring the opener for the Dees. The sides looked evenly matched with Luke Breust scoring the Hawks’ first midway through the opening term. Jayden Hunt restored Melbourne’s advantage but three unanswered goals from Gunston, Breust and O’Meara put Hawthorn in the driver’s seat at the end of the term.

Billy Stretch got one back for the Demons at the start of the second quarter. Melbourne played with greater confidence taking more contested possessions but unfortunately turned the ball over too often for comfort. The positive signs continued though with James Harmes playing a pivotal role in keeping the Dees in the game. A late goal from Bayley Fritsch narrowed the margin to 9 points at the end of the half.

Whatever Simon Goodwin said at half time certainly did the trick. After a shaky start, back to back goals from Nathan Jones and Jeff Garlett gave Melbourne the lead for the first time since the middle of the first quarter. Then Luke Breust restored the Hawks’ lead with his third goal of the afternoon. However Tom McDonald and Jayden Hunt responded quickly to ensure the momentum remained with the Dees. With Alex Neal-Bullen scoring Melbourne’s fifth for the term, the signs for a Dees’ win were brightening, despite a late Gunston goal.

The final quarter is the one where Melbourne has traditionally struggled in tight games. With a fourteen point margin, they needed to be at their most aggressive to ensure a victory didn’t slip from their grasp. Two early goals from Hawthorn gave Demon fans the jitters and there were a few nail biting moments, especially when Hawks’ legend Jarrod Roughead put his team in front at the midway point.

The Dees steadied though and two quick goals from Jay Lockhart (a star of the future) and man of the match James Harmes gave hope that we could claim line honours. Harmes had done a amazing job of keeping O’Meara out of the match thus weakening Hawthorn’s game. A goal from Luke Breust with less than ten minutes remaining meant the play went down to the wire. With Melbourne only managing to put one more point on the scoreboard, the pressure from Hawthorn became increasingly desperate.

Demon fans across the country and overseas were willing the clock to move faster as the remaining seconds ticked away. When the final siren sounded, the relief from players, fans and coaches was immense. Goodwin was hugging anyone and everyone as his side finally began to look like the team that made the semi finals last season.

Now focus turns to the Suns next weekend when Melbourne visits the Gold Coast. It’s a must win game, not least because the following four rounds are all against potential Grand Final teams. For the moment though let’s savour a well earned victory.

MELBOURNE 2.3 4.5 9.10 11.13 (79)
HAWTHORN 4.5 5.8 7.8 11.8 (74)

GOALS
Melbourne: Hunt 2, Brayshaw, Stretch, Fritsch, Jones, Garlett, McDonald, Neal-Bullen, Lockhart, Harmes
Hawthorn: Breust 4, Gunston 3, O’Meara, Lewis, Shiels, Roughead

BEST
Melbourne: Harmes, Gawn, Hibberd, Salem, Oliver
Hawthorn: Gunston, Shiels, O’Meara, Hardwick, Worpel

‘Find something’ to rally, gain momentum and show pride in the colours

May 3, 2019 by · Leave a Comment
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May our current heirs to the spirit of Tommy Wills in the red and blue ‘find something’ to rally, gain momentum and show pride in the colours

Nigel Dawe

Well if you’re anything like me, in the space of a month and a half you’ve probably gone from gleefully scheming a week or two off at the end of September so as to see that elusive premiership number 13, to wondering what the hell has gone wrong?

Have we simply dropped our zen-inspired Roosy built bundle, did the rest of the competition work us out and just matter-of-factly make amends over the summer, was Jesse Hogan the ‘missing link’ to potency up forward after all, or did the Prelim debacle in Perth so utterly erode our team’s belief in achieving the unbelievable? If any of us could answer this Alice-like rabbit hole cluster of questions, then I guess Simon Goodwin would soon be out of a job.

The great battle-forged Winston Churchill once sneeringly roared: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” And sadly, I can more than relate to this adage as a long loyal Melbourne fan (I was going to say ‘suffering’, but there have been many moments of joy over the years, however in times like these they’re easy to lose sight of if you let the down-turns determine your emotions).

I’ve more than once remarked to mates, that even if I played one solitary game for the Dees and I got absolutely pole-axed before I got a single touch and spent the next 6 months in a coma, I could say for the rest of my life, when I came to, that I played for the Melbourne Demons and it was the highlight of my life!

One of my favourite photos of the last 10 years (well there’s two actually) one is of the Jet & the second is of Big Maxy, both are sitting quietly in the rooms before a game looking immerse-fully at their guernseys – about to put them on ‘for real’, an honour your one-eyed fan could only imagine.

And it is that ‘magic’ of playing the game like men but enjoying it like little boys, that I hope each week’s first 18 might draw upon, rekindle and conjure within themselves for the sake of the entire team and the oldest footy club in the world.

As such, may our current heirs to the spirit of Tommy Wills in the red and blue ‘find something’ to rally, gain momentum and show pride in the colours as we head deeper into the business end of the season, because all is not lost, not by any remote stretch of the imagination.

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