The Sweetest Victory Of All

September 1, 2020 by
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Round 14 – Melbourne Vs St Kilda

Liam Chambers

Apologies to Paul Keating but like he said after the 1993 election win, Melbourne’s hard won triumph over the Saints was very sweet – The Sweetest Victory Of All.

After a few weeks recuperation, Captain Max Gawn was back for the Alice Springs Sundown Showdown. Also returning for his 293rd game was ex Captain Nathan Jones.

St Kilda immediately set a frenetic pace, threatening Melbourne’s defence, which held up well. While the Saints had some early opportunities, their kicking lacked accuracy. First blood went to the Dees when Christian Petracca was awarded a free kick on the edge of inside 50. It’s always a promising sign for Melbourne when Tracca looks confident early on.

Max King scored St Kilda’s first goal after several early misses from set shots. Melbourne was having no problems in front of goal when the opportunities presented themselves. A Jack Viney kick from the inside 50 line was beautifully marked by Petracca to set up his second. Max Gawn’s marking accuracy has improved greatly over the years as he proved when he took a catch 30 metres out to convert for number three.

With the clock ticking down, Jake Melksham showed much more focus this week when he spotted the unmarked Sam Weiderman waiting inside 50. Melksham landed the ball into the hands of the waiting Weiderman. Sam popped it straight through for the Dees’ fourth of the quarter. With the score 24-9 in Melbourne’s favour, it was a solid start for the Dees.

After only managing one goal in the opening term, St Kilda increased the pressure on the back line up but Melbourne’s defence was equal to the task. Frustratingly for the Saints, their kicking continued to miss the target. Sam Weiderman’s early snap went wide as he was pushed while kicking.

The Dees continued to look in control but their turnovers were still way too frequent. Mitch Brown indicated he would like a more regular spot in the side when he got himself into a good position, marking the ball forty metres to the left of goal. He didn’t make any mistakes when he kicked Melbourne’s fifth from set shots.

The Dees continued to look comfortable even after Ed Phillips got a second for the Saints. However, Melbourne allowed themselves to relax and lose focus towards the end of the quarter. A turnover in the last minute saw the sherrin sailing towards Jack Steele like a brown paper package tied up with strings. As Steele marked it he was heard to remark “thanks for the present lads, it’s one of my favourite things”. Steele didn’t waste the gift and neither did Rowan Marshall when it was his turn. The Dees were napping after the centre bounce clearance, allowing Jack Sinclair a free run down the corridor where he kicked to the waiting Marshall. Rowan was able to mark, turn and tap it in for St Kilda’s second in thirty seconds.

Simon Goodwin probably had a few choice words at half time after we reduced a fourteen point margin to two points in record time. After a disappointing previous quarter, Melbourne started the second half cautiously. Then despite some stellar defence work by Steven May, St Kilda finally broke through with Josh Battle slotting home after a stoppage, regaining the lead for the Saints. Inspired by the goal, they continued to pound Melbourne making it difficult to get the ball out of the Dees’ half. It was all Saints as Melbourne continued to struggle. A combination of good defending and continuing inaccuracy from St Kilda kept the margin low.

Eventually the Dees weathered the storm and started making some inroads towards the Saints goal. Melbourne had a few close calls before Petracca got the sixth with a snap kick from twenty five metres in front of goal. In a continuing game of goal for goal, St Kilda got another after Paddy Ryder took advantage of confusion in the Dees’ defence. He sprinted after a loose ball and ran in number six for the Saints. Then they tried to push their advantage with successive waves of attack on goal but the magical Steven May was everywhere.

Unfortunately Melbourne’s turnovers kept occurring. The defence remained calm though and finally the Dees got the ball out and up the field. Michael Hibberd was able to launch a mighty kick from the middle of the ground which landed ten metres inside 50. As the sherrin bounced along, Sam Weiderman showed exceptional skill in handling the ball on the run before dropping it to kick in his second. Despite the worrying sight of a hobbling Hibberd being helped off the field, the momentum was back with the Dees.

You could be forgiven for thinking Simon Goodwin had Steven May cloned before the game as he again popped up outside the 50 line to mark the ball and kick it on to Petracca. Unfortunately Tracca was unable to convert for his forth of the afternoon and had to be content with a minor score. With only three points dividing the two sides, the last quarter was set up to be a cracker.

The crowd was definitely getting its money’s worth with the nail biting scoreline not budging for the first ten minutes of Q4. Max Gawn was proving his versatility, getting into good positions and marking important balls. Steven May continued to be a marking machine. The Dees got a point eventually when the ball bounced behind but the goals were proving elusive.

Then with six minutes to go, Petracca displayed some Houdini like skills while being wrapped up by two St Kilda players. He somehow managed to get a foot to the sherrin, launching it goal ward where it bounced nicely between the uprights. The Umpire’s decision was appealed but the footage showed it was touched only after it had crossed the goal line. No goal line cameras in Alice Springs but I’ve looked at the footage multiple times and can’t see how it wasn’t a goal. Anyway, the Umpire’s decision stands.

Much as I hate to admit it, Jack Sinclair’s kick, from the mid field to reach Tim Membrey inside 50, was impressive. Membrey converted and the margin was back to four points. The last few minutes felt like hours for the Dees fans. Then when May was beaten to the mark by Rowan Marshall on the 50m line we all silently prayed to the footy Gods for a miss kick. The Gods complied and as the shot sailed wide, the cheers were heard across the land.

Now everyone’s focus was on the clock. The seated spectators were on the edge of their seats. All the rest swung between the edge of despair and jubilation. Fans on both sides held their breath as every loose ball was pounced on desperately, hoping to gain the advantage and score the winning goal.

When the Saint’s Dougal Howard was awarded a free with thirteen seconds to go we all knew every second counted. All except Dougal Howard that is. I’m not sure why he wasted seven seconds deciding who to kick to but by the time Dean Kent marked the shot, he only had three seconds before the final siren sounded.

With “The Grand Old Flag” blaring out in the local Indigenous language, the joy around the ground was palpable. I almost felt sorry for St Kilda but I recovered quickly.

Only five days to go until the Swans game in Cairns. With the heat and humidity along with an early evening game, Melbourne will have to be at their fittest. The Swans are better than their position on the ladder would indicate but if we have a good game plan like Round 14, then we should be competitive.

We really need to work on not giving the ball away so much though. I know it sounds simple and I know some turnovers are inevitable but Melbourne is way too generous in that respect. Also we need to remain focused for the entire game. If we can achieve that, I wouldn’t bet against us.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!


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