Not Quite Deja-Vu, All Over Again

April 10, 2020 by
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Round 1 – West Coast Eagles Vs Melbourne

Liam Chambers

While not quite deja-vu all over again, when I watched Melbourne’s Round 1 game against West Coast two weeks ago, I was reminded of a few Yogi Berra quotes . He said some interesting things in his career as a baseball player and coach. Two that stood out for me were: “Make a game plan and stick to it. Unless it’s not working” and “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up somewhere else”

Then I replayed the match yesterday and I realised how mistaken I’d been. In my mind the first quarter had been a blood bath where the Eagles had ridden rough shod over the Demons. In reality, Melbourne has some sloppy passing at times and their kicking efficiency was below par. However, nearly all the damage was done in two of the last three minutes of term one when the Eagles scored four goals. In one minute of play alone, West Coast kicked three unanswered goals.

A few weeks ago, in a fit of nostalgia, I sat down with a friend to watch the first 2018 semi final between Geelong and Melbourne. As we all remember, Melbourne dispatched the Cats and went on to defeat Hawthorne the following weekend, reaching their first preliminary final since 2000. The new found belief in the Dees, having come through a somewhat roller coaster season, seemed justified. A dream run of four wins in a row including triumphs over WCE and GWS in Rounds 22 and 23 pointed to a Melbourne side which a sense of purpose.

Then the horror show that was the 2018 Preliminary Final in Perth. I wrote at the time that I had been unable to bring myself to watch that game again. Fast forward eighteen months later and I still can’t watch it. However when I settled down to cheer on the lads in Round 1, I had to check that I hadn’t pressed the replay button at the end of the first quarter. Maybe I should have pressed replay and watched the last three minutes again which were indeed a bloodbath.

Despite the first term score of 31 to 4 in favour of West Coast, there were many positives to the way Melbourne played. For sure there was some dubious long kicks and wasted passing opportunities but there were also some glorious glimpses of brilliance. When new recruit Kysaiah Pickett ran through and launched a kick from forty metres out, which would have been a spectacular debut goal, I could see a road map for our revival.

Jack Viney was playing with a great determination and shortly afterwards Bayley Fritsch just missed to the left. Even after Liam Ryan got the Eagles’ first goal it still felt like a fairly even match. Despite some costly mistakes, the Dees looked competitive. Ed Langdon was making good runs up the side and when he marked the ball inside 50 it looked like a good chance for Melbourne to take the lead. Unfortunately his ensuing shot hit the post.

Then that awful two minutes when everything fell apart for the Dees. A fifty metre penalty saw the ball soar towards goal and a nice touch from Nic Naitanui gave Brendon Ah Chee the opportunity to score his first goal. Twenty seconds after the hitout, Ah Chee got his second. Twenty seconds after the next hitout, an unfortunate turnover gave Dom Sheed a chance to kick a wildly focused shot and increase West Coast’s lead to twenty one points. Finally, Lewis Jetta scored the Eagle’s fifth with one minute to go.

The second quarter was better for the Dees. Alex Neal Bullen got a great opportunistic six pointer from a scrum like scramble in front of goal. Then through through some fumbles and a turnover, Jack Petruccelle got an opportunity for a set shot on goal, which he duly converted. The Eagles kept the pressure up in Melbourne’s inside 50 but Jake Lever was equal to the task, despite the dubious moustache.

At the other end Charlie Spargo gave away an unnecessary 50m penalty when the Dees were beginning to apply some good pressure on goal. Then the ensuing run of play gave Liam Ryan another set shot chance to score. Fortunately he hit the post. At times there were too many holes in Melbourne’s structure eventually giving Ryan another set shot, this time missed to the right. Our second goal courtesy Jack Viney owed a little to luck when he was awarded a 50m penalty.

With Jack Darling getting the Eagles second a minute from time, it looked like we were going to end the quarter still twenty seven points behind. That was until a great 50m kick from Kysaiah Pickett reached Jake Melksham who scrambled the ball to Tom McDonald who picked it up and scored from 15m out. Second term to the Dees!

At the start of the second half Ah Chee continued his influence; hand balling a tap from Darling onto to Liam Ryan who scored his second. Demon fans will have been delighted to see the exciting play of Pickett finally rewarded with his first goal for Melbourne. Another new recruit Toby Bedford was also having a good debut. On the other side Liam Ryan was having mixed afternoon with another miss on goal. Then a couple of minutes later he got his third.

For a while in the third quarter Melbourne were making it too easy for the Eagles, exemplified by Dom Sheed’s second. A few minutes later Tim Kelly got his first goal and pushed West Coast’s advantage to forty points. The Dees continued to kick long into the Eagles’ inside 50 when a shorter kick may have been a better option. After Pickett hit the post from a set shot, a twisty turny Viney got the ball to Jake Melksham who clawed the margin back to thirty three points.

The last quarter saw a great kick from Bayley Fritsch to T Mac who converted for his second. Unfortunately the villian of the peace Andrew Gaff marked the ball near goal after a nice short kick from Nic Naitanui. His kick restored West Coast’s advantage. The great news came late in the quarter when Toby Bedford’s superb tap down in defence and subsequent pass to Pickett gave the Dees another goal.

Where Melbourne may have thrown in the towel last season, this year they kept on fighting till the end of the match. The final score was 78 – 51, the same margin as the end of first term. Some of the Dees had a quiet game, notably Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver. Max Gawn had a mixed session, his first as captain. Jack Viney really wants to be captain but the troops have spoken for now. When there’s a hungry Jack, he plays his heart out.

There is so much to be optimistic about with the line up for this year. Lots of talent and enthusiasm. Ed Langdon, Adam Tomlinson, Toby Bedford and of course Kysaiah Pickett all had a good first game. Lots of if onlys but overall not a bad start and one that went someway to erasing the memory of that horrendous preliminary final.

I’m keeping everything crossed that we get a few more games played before the year is out. It’s also good to hear that the AFL have secured a $600m loan facility that should keep the code afloat. Hats off to the NAB and ANZ in these troubling times.

Go the new improved Dees!!!


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