Melbourne v St Kilda – Saints Given Marching Orders

July 14, 2023 by
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons 

Round 17 – St Kilda V Melbourne

Liam Chambers

With a roof over their heads, Melbourne didn’t have to worry about playing in the rain this week. Also, their recent record at Marvel has been good, boding well for the must win match.

The game started badly for St Kilda when star goal kicker Max King made his way off the field with an injured shoulder; his season potentially over. Demon fans would cast their minds back to Round 15 when Jeremy Cameron’s injury only motivated Geelong to play one of their best games all year.

Alex Neal-Bullen put the Dees on the board by emerging from a stoppage, stumbling into the square, evading the grasping Saints and landing a kick into the goal.

Afterwards, St Kilda’s pressure was incessant as they pushed Melbourne back into their defensive half. Their sheer determination meant something would eventually have to give, and it did when Jack Steele took a mark just inside the arc. He kicked the 50m set shot, levelling the scores.

After the goal, the Saints took advantage of their momentum, forcing Melbourne to continually defend. A few efforts were thwarted before Jade Gresham booted a long shot from 55m to give his side a nine point lead. While the goal was being celebrated, Seb Ross was sitting forlornly on the bench with a suspected hamstring injury, and he too was subbed out. A minute later St Kilda extended their lead further when Mason Wood snapped from 40m in front.

We could have been forgiven for thinking the Saints were on a thumping victory trajectory, but I clung to my optimistic pre game prediction of a six goal first term for the Dees. They said I was a dreamer, but I said, “I’m not the only one”.

After the bounce, Melbourne won the clearance and took off for goal like the winner of a one minute trolley dash; eventuating in Lachie Hunter being taken high on the edge of the square. The wingman converted to reduce the deficit. The Dees had a second in quick succession when Ben Brown stole the mark, 30m from goal.

Then Ed Langdon gave Melbourne the lead with his opportunistic attempt from the right of the goal square. Ed looked slightly perplexed, as he was helped to his feet by his team mates; possibly not realising that the ball had gone through the uprights.

Once St Kilda had recovered from the flurry of Demon goals, they quickly regrouped and resumed their attack on Melbourne’s defence. They couldn’t quite regain their earlier momentum however and the Dees easily dealt with the renewed pressure.

Then with under three minutes remaining, Christian Petracca took an exceptional mark deep inside 50, and was quickly goalward bound before booting the ball from the middle of the goal square, sending it high into the stands.

Melbourne maintained the lead despite Mattaes Phillipou’s attempt, which actually landed on top of the upright. Luckily, there’s no points for trick shots of that quality. Angus Brayshaw attempted a 60 plus metre shot after the siren but unfortunately was unable to fulfill my prophecy of six majors in the quarter.

Q2 – three Saints down

With three of their players subbed out, the Saints looked to be on the back foot. They obviously didn’t get the memo though, as they continued to go all out in attacking Melbourne. The pressure was paying off with St Kilda setting up several set shots on goal, as well as creating other opportunities inside 50. However, they were suffering from the same affliction that has plagued the Dees for the past month and their accuracy left a lot to be desired.

The Saints completely dominated the first half of the term, but then Melbourne slotted the opening goal against run of play. Jake Melksham has settled nicely into his role as Bailey Fritsch’s replacement. His around the corner from deep in the pocket was perfectly executed.

After the goal, St Kilda just kept pushing forward before Mitch Owens was awarded a free kick in the square. It was an easy set shot to make it a one goal game.

The Dees counter attacked after the bounce and eventually landed the ball inside 50, where Ben Brown went for the mark and was taken high. Tom Sparrow immediately played on, taking the advantage and snapping from 25m to restore the lead to twelve points.

Melbourne then assumed control of the ball, slowing down the play to their advantage. The Saints just kept coming though, powering forward when they got hold of the sherrin. They couldn’t slot any more goals before half time though, trailing the Dees by thirteen points at the break.

Q3 – a slim 2 points

Whereas the Saints had dominate inside 50 in the first half, their efficiency once inside the arc was severely lacking. Also, Steven May was having an enormous night. Not having to shadow Max King, freed up the defender to intercept mark like it was going out of fashion.

Five minutes in, Jake Melksham hit the post with his around the corner set shot attempt, making it three all for posters so far in the game.

When Christian Petracca took an intercept mark, 40m from the target, he had the look of a player who had rediscovered his goal kicking mojo. He steered the shot cleanly giving the Dees a twenty one point cushion.

The Saints were still in it though and when Jack Billings converted from 40m in the pocket, St Kilda fans were on their feet. They barely had time to sit down again when Cooper Sharman took a mark 30m in front. Suddenly the lead had been whittled down to nine points and the hosts were again threatening an upset.

Melbourne though, was able to pad out their buffer when Ben Brown tapped down an attempted mark and Petracca ran past, collecting the footy en route. The all rounder then booted from the edge of the square to claim his hat trick.

There were no more goals when the three quarter siren sounded, with the Dees having won the term by a slim two points.

Q4 – all over with Trac’s 4th

The Saints had given everything in the first three quarters in an attempt to climb over the top of the Demons. The question now was, could they maintain the rage and clinch a famous victory.

The home crowd was cheering on their understrength side, willing them to keep going and they didn’t disappoint. The pressure on Melbourne defensive half was unrelenting and there were a few fumbles and stumbles along the way, as they continued to deflect the onslaught.

Fortunately for the Dees, St Kilda was unable to convert their chances. The Saints would have reflected on the bitter irony that the team who struggled to hit the target in recent games, was now landing goals against the run of play. Jake Melksham kicked his second from another round the corner shot; doing a great job filling Bailey Fritsch’s footy boots.

Then, just when the Demon army thought it was safe to relax, St Kilda stole one back twenty seconds after the clearance. Mitch Owens found just enough space to snap one from the top of the goal square.

Melbourne almost returned the favour, after winning the hitout and taking off for goal. The debutant Taj Woewodin received a handball as he ran inside 50, then snapped from 30m. His spontaneous celebrations were premature unfortunately, as the sherrin just skimmed the outside of the right hand upright.

A few minutes later Tom “Jack” Sparrow created his own piece of history when marked and converted to score his second goal in a match, for the first time in his sixty six game career. Surely Sparrow’s goal was going to seal the deal? Dees’ fans couldn’t relax though. Back to back losses and a gritty St Kilda side were enough to keep the doubt alive.

When Jake Gresham nailed his 40m set shot, the Saints still had five minutes kick another three goals and win.

It looked like St Kilda could in fact pull off a miracle when Mitch Owens marked five metres from the goal line. It was a false dawn however as Judd McVee was held off the ball behind the marker and awarded a free kick. The fans were incensed but the free was legit.

The Saints would be justified in believing that they had somehow angered the footy gods when Cooper Sherman’s snap from 35m landed next to the goal line before flipping back into the hands of Ed Langdon.

With a minute to go, St Kilda knew it was all over but would still have been dismayed to see Christian Petracca mark a Jake Melksham kick, 40m out in the pocket. Tracca then capped off a stirling game with his superbly taken set shot to notch up his fourth goal.

Post match – locking down 4th

With the victory, the Dees managed to put some daylight between themselves and the chasing pack. It was hard won and locked them into fourth spot on the ladder.

Congratulations to Christian Salem on his milestone 150th game. His twenty four disposals was an integral cog in the Melbourne machine on the day.

Brisbane are seemingly invincible at the Gabbatoir but surprisingly, they have lost four of their seven away games this season. Those stats will mean nothing however if we are not at our best on Friday night. Now that we are scoring more goals than behinds, let’s show the Lions we’re after that number three position.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!


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