Dees Never Say Die

July 23, 2023 by
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons, Our history 

Round 18 – Melbourne V Brisbane

Liam Chambers

Q1 – The Demons come out fighting.

It was a must win game for the Demons if they were to maintain the coveted top four position. Geelong is making a late dash and we don’t want them to usurp us in the last weeks of the regular season. On the positive side, the Lions have been underperforming in their away games and the MCG hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for them in almost a decade.

Melbourne went hard early hoping to catch Brisbane napping. Let’s just say, the Lions were still rubbing the sleep from their eyes, while the Dees tore through the visitors’ back line.

Alex Neal-Bullen kicked the opener from a free, after he was taken out of the marking contest, just to the right of the square. It was an easy conversion, and the Dees were away.

A minute later, Christian Petracca had his first, after controlling the bouncing ball, then turning and snapping from 15m in front. Two minutes later, Petracca had a second when he marked on the arc, then ran in a semi-circle before booting from 50m to split the middle.

Dees fans little time to bask in their team’s reflected glory though, as Ben Brown was awarded a free against Harris Andrews, who was caught holding the ball. Big Ben’s signature long run up set shot resulted in the key forward hitting the target from 50m.

With four goals in ten minutes, Melbourne had reason to feel very happy with their performance. It was only a matter of time though before Brisbane settled down and showed what a quality opponent they can be.

Slowly, the Lions started to wrest back some momentum, culminating in Zac Bailey’s 50m set shot hitting the spot and giving his team their first major. Despite Brisbane’s new found dominance, it was the Dees who picked up the next goal, via a great team effort.

Jake Melksham controlled the bouncing ball, then turned and snapped to Ben Brown inside 50. Brown marked and ran on, then unselfishly hand passed to Charlie Spargo, as he hovered on the edge of the square. The small forward strolled to goal line and hammered it home for Melbourne’s fifth.

After the goal, Brisbane resumed control of the game but were unable to make the most of their chances. Then, with three minutes remaining, Charlie Cameron ran out to take a mark, 20m from the goal line. It was a piece of cake for the high scoring Cameron and Brisbane narrowed the margin to seventeen points. It was already a goal fest for the fans but there were more majors to come.

First Kysaiah Pickett was awarded a free for his tackle on Darcy Wilmot in the pocket. Kozzie has struggled to put points on the board in recent weeks, but his 35m set shot from the tight angle was perfect.

Then, Joe Daniher marked the ball in a similar spot, up the other end. His kick after the siren sailed through, setting up an exciting second term.

Q2 – The Lions even the score.

The opening chapter of our heroic tale had been a quarter of two halves, with first Melbourne and then Brisbane dominating; the Lions carrying the momentum into the break.

The Demons got the opener though, after Brisbane turned the ball over, allowing Jake Bowey the opportunity to collect and snap from 40m.

After the bounce, Melbourne continued to worry the Brisbane defence before the visitors broke through and transitioned the length of the ground. Oscar McInerney, lumbering inside 50, was able to collect the ball and just manage to tap it through the uprights. Then the Lions had back to back majors when Will Ashcroft was the last link in a seamless end to end chain. His 40m kick from the pocket was only ever going between the uprights, and Brisbane gave the screw another turn.

After that, the Lions went up a gear, controlling the game with Melbourne valiantly fending off wave after wave of attacks. Finally though, Jaspa Fletcher took an intercept mark and bounced his way inside 50, before unleashing from 40m.

It was now a five point game with the Lions well and truly on top; the pressure continuing unabated. It was only a matter of time before Brisbane took the lead. The inevitable happened when Jack Gunston cleanly converted his 40m set shot, putting the Lions ahead by a single point.

Then, when it looked like Melbourne risked falling further behind, Petracca took a mark inside 50. He went back and kicked from the 50m line, claiming his hat trick.

Brisbane wasn’t to be denied their half time lead though. With thirty nine seconds to go, Lincoln McCarthy marked at the top of the square and put the Lions ahead again.

Q3 – Brisbane turn it up to eleven.

Melbourne dominated the stats in the first half, but Brisbane transitioned the ball better and made the most of their opportunities inside 50. In order to take back control, the Dees needed to emulate the Lions’ kicking efficiency.

Unfortunately, Brisbane hit the scoreboard first when Lincoln McCarthy kicked another goal after he marked 35m out. It was back to back majors for the forward and just the start the Lions wanted.

Undeterred, Melbourne went on to win the clearance and launched an immediate attack. Taj Woewodin, who almost kicked a goal on his debut in Round 17, was not to be denied a second time, as his 45m shot from the boundary found the target. There was much rejoicing as his team mates gathered around to celebrate.

The scoreline see sawed as the goals continued with Jack Gunston snapping from 15m, returning the margin to seven points. Despite the numbers on the board, the Lions were owning the quarter, keeping the Dees hemmed inside their defensive half.

Melbourne withstood the avalanche of pressure for what seemed like an eternity, before Brisbane finally broke through, courtesy of a Zac Bailey’s snap from 30m. The juggernaut from the north continued to ride roughshod over the Demons’ defence, scoring their third in a row when Jarryd Lyons snapped a bullet from 48m. More torture ensued when Jack Gunston marked and scored from a 30m set shot.

The outlook for Melbourne was bleak with the Lions completely dominating inside 50 and being frustratingly accurate with their kicking. It was a worried looking coach on the sidelines, as Simon Goodwin pondered his options in a game rapidly slipping from his grasp. To add to the pain, Harrison Petty was subbed out with an injury. His replacement Joel Smith ran on to take up the fight.

Then, a moment of sweet relief, when Kozzie Pickett swooped to collect the loose ball, before finding enough space to launch and score from 25m.

Regrettably, the relief was short lived as Eric Hipwood converted from deep in the pocket to restore the twenty eight point margin.

Captain Max Gawn, who was in his element dominating the ruck all night, was suddenly gifted a free kick from 45m out. Gawny kicked for the stars and was rewarded when his shot fell back down to earth, just behind the goal line. It was the boost and injection of self-belief that the Dees needed, and the fans were ecstatic.

It looked like Melbourne might get another, immediately after the bounce, but Brisbane turned the ball around and got it up the other end. There, Charlie Cameron kicked his second, with the shot coming off the inside of his left boot.

There was an encouraging end to the quarter though, and reason for optimism, as Jacob van Rooyen took up the ruck position, tapping down the ball, where Kozzie collected and passed to Petracca, allowing him to snap his fourth of the night.

Q4 – The miracle at the MCG.

On paper, the Lions had the game in the bag, but the Demons have played some great footy in the last term this season. However, a win for Brisbane would greatly assist their chances of securing a top two spot, so there was motivation aplenty.

When Joe Daniher hit the turf like he was auditioning for the Fall Guy reboot, it appeared to be a case of signed, sealed and delivered for the Lions. Joe slotted the set shot for his third of the night and Steven May was left fuming that his gentle caress of Daniher’s back had handed Brisbane a twenty six point lead.

Possibly because the Lions felt safe enough to relax, or the Dees were naturally motivated by the injustice of it all, is uncertain (possibly a combination of both) but the incident proved a catalyst for a Demon revival.

The determination was unquestionable, but it seemed that old accuracy hoodoo was again haunting Melbourne, with three minor scores in a row. When James Jordan put his set shot wide and the clock slipped under ten minutes, a victorious comeback seemed a bridge too far. 

However, master bridge builder Max Gawn continued to lay the ground work, refusing to submit and urging his troops forward. As the minutes ticked away, the four goal disadvantage pushed victory further and further out towards the horizon.

Then with just over seven minutes remaining, Kozzie went for a mark just outside the 50m line; bent down to retrieve the ground ball while evading two encroaching Lions, then ran on, kicking with his left boot. The ball curved slowly in a beautiful arc that could have been set to music. Finally, and incredibly it floated between the posts.

Now, it was caution to the wind time, as Melbourne took their momentum and launched themselves at Brisbane with no thoughts for the consequences. Another minor score and then a wonderfully placed kick by Gawn, which was marked in the pocket by Jake Melksham. The around the corner set shot kick went through and took the Dees to within two goals of the Lions, with less than five minutes to play.

The Lions were under siege and a rushed behind ensued. Then a stoppage where the ball was tapped down. Oscar McInerney grabbed the sherrin, but he had it ripped from his hands by the iron willed Jack Viney; the midfielder then spun around and snapped at goal, taking the Dees to within five points of an unbelievable upset.

Melbourne had two minutes to win the match and the Lions had two minutes to deny them. The entire MCG was in a heightened state of tension.

When Angus Brayshaw’s kick inside 50 soared high, all eyes were on the ball, but it was Jake Melksham who ended up with the sherrin tightly clasped in his hands, as he tumbled across the turf. Taking the full thirty seconds, Melksham went back to kick perhaps the most important shot of his career. The kick, when it left his boot from just inside 50, was pure perfection. As the ball crossed the goal line, the roar from the crowd was deafening.

With ten seconds left, the Lions made one last desperate dash. The ball sailed towards Brisbane’s goal, but the mark was taken on Jake Lever’s chest, with Eric Hipwood’s arm draped across his shoulder. The mark was rightfully claimed by Lever, despite pleas from Hipwood to the umpire that he had marked it. Maybe the Brisbane fans believed that but nobody else was buying it.

While the history of the Melbourne club continues to be written, a special paragraph should be dedicated to this famous victory.

We host the Adelaide Crows in Round 19. They may be fading towards the business end of the season, but we would be foolish indeed to dismiss them.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!


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