Melbourne Lays Prelim Demons to Rest

September 24, 2021 by
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Preliminary Final – Melbourne V Geelong

Liam Chambers

After a sterling season where the Dees constantly confounded their critics and supporters alike, no one, not even the most wildly optimistic rusted on Demons fan, could have predicted the absolute rout that occurred at Optus Stadium. At the same venue in 2018, Melbourne failed to score a single goal in the entire first half. Melbourne supporters across the nation were left traumatised by the events of that Saturday afternoon and many carried that trauma into the game against the Cats.

When the kick off siren sounded, many expected a tight contest with the score potentially seesawing between the two oldest clubs in the competition and for the first 10 minutes, that’s more or less what happened. Jeremy Cameron kicked the first major for the Cats before a Christian Petracca kick sailed deep into the Dees’ forward 50 and was collected by the willing hands of Ben Brown putting Melbourne back in front.

James Harmes got the Dees’ second when he snapped a high kick from 45m in front. Alex Neal-Bullen made it three in a row when he collected the ground ball from a Brown free kick to send the Demon fans into a frenzy. Towards the end of the first quarter, Seven May suffered a hamstring injury which was a huge concern for one of the pivotal pillars in Melbourne’s defence. Fortunately it appears less serious than first though and May was even able to return to the field for the rest of the half.

The other players would have been concerned about their key defender but continued to preform at the highest level. Christian Petracca showed how dangerous he is by running rings around the Cat’s back line then tapping one in off the outside of his boot. Charlie Spargo kicked goal number five from a set shot, giving the Dees a very comfortable 25 point lead to take into the break.

The Cats have started badly more often than not this year so there was plenty of time to play catch up. Rhys Stanley got the sherrin rolling when his set shot in front of goal pulled one back for Geelong. Not for long though as the clearance bounce went Melbourne’s way and Clayton Oliver’s kick deep inside 50 was knocked to ground by Ben Brown. After a little fumble from Tom McDonald, Charlie Spargo collected the loose ball and snapped one round the corner from 30m out, making it back to back majors for the small forward.

It was goal for goal when Gyran Miers was awarded a free kick 30m directly in front and converted cleanly. Next Tom Sparrow converted at the other end from a difficult angle and the lead reverted back to 27 points in Melbourne’s favour.

When it comes to kicking goals, Max Gawn has done alright this season. However, the captain was as surprised as anyone when marking the ball from a Petracca free kick. Gawny saw the ball had been touched after it left Tracca’s boot, so he kept running, taking the Cats’ players by surprise and launching a mighty round the corner kick from 40m out. Superb! Give Kysaiah Pickett a hint of a chance and he’s going to take it. His low ball pick up and dribble straight through the uprights added to his impressive tally and stretched Melbourne’s lead to 38 points.

Towards the end of the half, Tom Hawkins gave the Cats a glimmer when his set shot 35m from the left of goal sailed though. Then Issac Smith did the same from the other side of the uprights to rein in the Dees lead and take some momentum into the second half.

As we all know Melbourne has played some outstanding football this year. The comeback to end all comebacks when they clawed back a 42 point deficit to claim the minor premiership has become the stuff of legend. However, the third quarter of the preliminary final must go down as one of the Dees’ finest moments in recent times.

From the first bounce, it was all Melbourne. The interaction between Petracca and Oliver which delivered the ball to Ben Brown inside 50, landed an early body blow against Geelong. Petracca was involved again when he got the ball to Bailey Fritsch just inside 50. Fritsch was gifted a 50m penalty after a Geelong infringement, giving Melbourne a 40 point lead. Everything was going the Demons’ way when Gawn took a Petracca handpass and launched a kick from 55m to claim his second of the night.

Tom McDonald decided to get in on the action when his turn and snap from 40m also sailed through and the Dees were 52 points in front. Max kicked his third when awarded a free kick from 20m out. After that conventional shot, his fourth was a little more unusual. As he was being tackled near the pocket, he was able to get a kick away and watch it find the target. Gawn almost looked embarrassed when he marked a Trent Rivers kick from 20m out. That soon turned to jubilation when he slotted his 5th for the night, cementing his place in Demon folklore.

With a 70 point lead Melbourne continued to dominate and Geelong had no answers. The Dees didn’t slow down and just kept attacking, eventually picking up another when Kossie Pickett marked and ran on to score from the goal square. Even when it looked like the Cats might have a whiff of a chance, Melbourne continued to pounce on every loose ball, not giving Geelong any leeway whatsoever.

After the totally dominant display of the third quarter, the final term seemed almost anticlimatic. However, Melbourne continued to prevent Geelong scoring any majors before adding a couple of late goals themselves. First Pickett snapped one through from 35m out to claim his hat trick, then Fritsch marked and converted from a similar position. Eventually, the Cats got a consolation when Jeremy Cameron marked just inside the goal square, preventing a totally goalless second half for Geelong.

Now there’s one more game to come. We know the Bulldogs won’t hold back. They’ll target Max. They’ll target Petracca and Oliver. Lever and May will be in the cross-hairs. Pickett and Spargo will be watched like hawks. With so much talent to spot, the Dogs won’t know where to look. Fortunately we have so many gifted determined players, no matter how many they target, it will always leave someone else to wreak havoc.

The whole squad is playing for the team now; which sounds obvious but wasn’t necessarily always the case in recent times. Also the games lost this season allowed the Dees to engage in some serious self-criticism. Even though each player now knows that they’re playing for the team; not being selfish but also knowing when to go for personal glory if it will benefit the final result.

We’ve come a long way and there’s no reason we can’t cross the finish line on Saturday with a performance that will echo through the ages. A great expectation rests on the collective shoulders of the boys in the red and the blue but if any group was born to win, it’s the Demon class of 2021!

Go the Mighty Dees!!!


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