Round 24 – Sydney V Melbourne
The Swans start strongly.
Sydney had everything to play for; sixth spot and a home game for their elimination final. The Dees, on the other hand, had already locked in number four on the ladder with the top three positions settled whether we win or lose. A victory though, albeit symbolic, would also be a statement to the other finalists, that the Demons are serious contenders.
The Swans made their intentions clear from the start and brought the game to Melbourne. Logan McDonald scored Sydney’s first, after ten minutes of play, with his 20m set shot.
Bailey Fritsch announced his return from injury with a nicely taken contested mark before slotting the set shot from 45m.
The reply from Sydney came quickly with Errol Gulden receiving a hand pass as he sprinted down the ground. He launched from 50m sending the sherrin straight through the uprights.
Any expectations that Fritsch would have a quiet game after his enforced hiatus were quickly put to bed when he slotted his second from 30m after being a awarded a free kick. Jake Melksham had the Dees in front when he marked the ball on the edge of the square, then ran around to snap it through.
Melbourne build momentum.
After a fairly even first term, the second quarter started in a similar fashion, with neither side gaining the upper hand. Finally though, Sydney took back the lead when Callum Mills’ running kick from 45m sailed through.
Jake Melksham continued his good form with a contested mark, then went back to nail the set shot from just inside 50.
Then, in the shadow of half time, Angus Brayshaw was able to get a kick away, through traffic, from 40m out. The ball landed just over the line, evading the last gasp effort of the Swans’ defender.
The Swans make a break for it but are eventually reeled back in.
Undoubtably Melbourne had the best of the first half, preventing Sydney from taking control of the match. The pressure of expectation to secure a home final would also have weighed heavily on the Swans and they urgently needed to up the desperation stakes.
Both sides came out looking determined after the break, but it was first blood to Sydney after Sam Wicks’ mid-air soccer kick from the goal square hit the back of the metaphorical net. Then Hayden Mclean made it back to back goals for the Swans when his 50m set shot from deep in the pocket hit the target.
Directly after the clearance, the ball was back in Sydney’s forward 50 where Callum Mills marked, then passed to Errol Gulden, who again happened to be running past. The midfielder launched from the 50m arc to make it three in a row for the hosts.
The Swans were piling the pressure on Melbourne in a desperate attempt to take advantage of the momentum they’d created after their opening minutes ambush. The tactic paid off with a fourth goal for Sydney when Chad Warner’s set shot from 45m split the middle.
In fact it was beginning to look like plain sailing for Sydney, especially when Bailey Fritsch limped off to have his injured foot checked out by the medical team. To compound the injury woes, Jake Melksham also made his way to the sidelines with a suspected knee injury.
Then just when the situation for the Dees was looking it’s darkest, Christian Petracca burst through the pack and across the 50m line, to launch a bullet from 45m. The ball sailed over the top of the Swans’ defence to give Melbourne their first goal of the quarter.
The Demons’ cause received another boost, with forty seconds left on the clock, after Kozzie Pickett jumped to take a contested mark 30m from home. His subsequent set shot just slipped inside the left hand upright, and it was a four point game.
Melbourne shatters the Swans home final aspirations.
The Dees came out at the start of the last term with the look of a team hell bent on sending a message to the other sides in the top eight. They were not there just to make up the numbers.
Bailey Fritsch was back on the ground and looked even more determined to send his own message. He took his third inside 50 mark for the game and made it three goals from three set shots with his kick from 48m.
The Dees were back in front and pressing their advantage with Sydney frantically defending against the visitors’ onslaught.
They valiantly protected the goal area but were unable to find anything against Jacob van Rooyen’s excellent contested mark to the left of the square and his around the corner set shot kick which put Melbourne ten points ahead.
Sydney then proceeded to embark on a counter offensive but were unable to break through the Dees defence before Melbourne wrested back control, with Bailey Fritsch scoring his fourth from an around the corner snap 25m from goal. The high scoring forward wasn’t finished yet and he slotted a fifth after his 40m snap hit the bullseye.
With just over three minutes remaining, there was no coming back for the Swans.
It was a bittersweet victory however, as it’s since been confirmed that Jake Melksham’s injury is an ACL tear, meaning he misses yet another finals campaign. Sad news indeed for Melbourne fans.
However, we next take on the Pies for a chance to automatically go through to a preliminary final.
Go the Mighty Dees!!!