We here at The Mongrel Punt are realists. Sure, you could’ve gone into this game thinking both sides were fielding 22 players (and a substitute) and anything could happen. However, the reality was this game was more of a formality than Batman throwing his multiple nemeses into Arkham Asylum only for them to escape, over and over.
The Demons were on a 15 game winning streak coming into this game and have looked seemingly unbeatable for most of this season. They haven’t demolished some teams as they were expected, but they generally do enough to make each game comfortable for themselves.
The Eagles’ season has gone from bad to worse as they continue to struggle with inconsistencies with players. Not just game availability, but also being able to train together, plus any recovery from sickness and infection as well. Then you add the regular injuries you cop during a season and I’m sure most people wouldn’t blame the Eagles for having written this year off already.
The Eagles would actually land the first blow on the scoreboard with the first goal. Unfortunately, their next would not come until more than an hour later during the third quarter. The Demons quickly blew the margin out to around 40 points by quarter time, despite the best efforts of the likes of Kelly, Barrass and McGovern. The game looked like it would go the way of every Eagles fan’s worst nightmare.
However, in a credit to the Eagles, they made the game a bit of a stalemate during the middle half of the match. Yes, Melbourne largely had control but the Eagles refused to get blown away, as they did in their loss to the Tigers. Of course, some inaccurate kicking also played a part.
Eventually though, the Demons clicked back into gear in the last quarter, as they decided they would enjoy a bit more percentage and really drive the nail into the coffin with another burst of goals. The kick in the guts for Eagles fans was that this last burst put them back below North Melbourne’s percentage and remaining on the bottom of the ladder.
But enough about that.
Let’s get into The Stuff that Mattered…
The Best Stuff
West Coasts’ Resolve
It’s predictable, I know. But credit has to be given to the Eagles for not just accepting their fate and rolling over and taking a 100+ point loss. This is a Demons team that beats fellow top-four aspirants by 40 points, let alone a team trying not win the wooden spoon. To hold the reigning premiers to a solitary goal in the second quarter and only two goals in the third, after conceding six on the trot in the first and looking about as secure as the McAllister families alarm system in Home Alone.
I really did enjoy the attack on the ball (and player) from the Eagles. The likes of Jones, Rotham, Clark and West all definitely acquitted themselves well in terms of their endeavour in the contest for the footy against the elite team in the competition.
To paraphrase a scene from one of my favourite movies:
“How would you beat him?”
“With a stick when he slept. But on a footy field, with a ball, that man is unbeatable.”
And that perfectly sums up Petracca at this time in his career. Niggles and attention from the opposition be damned. “Trac” is going to steamroll through your team either way.
The stakes weren’t as high as the last time Melbourne played at Optus Stadium, but the result was the same, as was Petracca’s influence on the contest.
Viney seems to know no other way than 100% effort. Even in a game where you could’ve been forgiven for going 95% for a while, and it seemed like a couple of his teammates were.
Viney was ferocious in this game and definitely seems like he replays a match between Melbourne and their next opponent from 2013-14 to remind himself that no one deserves any pity. He’s been through the pain, and now it’s their turn.
Gawn, Oliver and Petracca may get all the plaudits, but I’m fairly sure there are 17 teams wishing they could throw Jack Viney into their starting four in the centre square.
I will be upfront and admit my Bias here. I am Cats supporter and Tim Kelly will always be viewed in a positive light in my eyes.
Kelly has not been the player he was at the Cats for the Eagles, but in this game, he was every bit the player the Eagles threw almost every draft pick they had plus the kitchen sink to get. He was lightning with the footy, consistently released his teammates into space and never abandoned that attacking mindset to go through the corridor, that you need if you’re going to try and score against the Melbourne defence.
The Good Stuff
McGovern and Barrass
Lord knows how this game would’ve panned out without these two pillars holding down the fort down back in the Eagles defence. You knew things weren’t going to be pretty when the demons had 20 inside 50’s in the first quarter.
With a combined tally of 16 intercepts and 21 one-percenters, both of them stood tall when called upon in the majority of their contests for this game. People will happily point out a few contests where they may have been outpointed. To them, I say you try being perfect under the long ball when its coming in 60 times in a match.
I really like the look of this guy. I will state that I had not seen much of him prior to this match, but if this is what he’s going to put out then the Eagles are onto a winner. West did not take a backward step out there. Despite being a little more mature due to his age, it still would have to have been daunting coming up against the much-vaunted Demons midfield. It didn’t matter to West who took on tacklers all day and threw his body around and made sure his presence was felt by all. You also can’t miss him with the flowing hair. It is a glorious mane.
Very good game from Pickett in this one. 20 disposals and three goals is a very solid return. Add to that, that he probably should have had one or two more goals if things went his way, and that he didn’t get used a couple of times by a few teammates who would rather U-turn and head back to goal themselves, and Pickett’s game really starts to look ominous.
I find it ridiculous that Melbourne would have so many underrated players in their team, but here I am about to mention another one. Jordon returned to Optus Stadium with the Demons and this time he was in the starting line-up. And he played like a man who wants to stay there this season with 27 disposals and 600+ metres gained.
The Not So Good Stuff
Expect to see Liam Ryan’s name in a couple of news reports this week as he likely comes under scrutiny from the MRO. I love a good bump and this game actually featured a few of those and was a decently physical contest. However, Ryan’s was just misjudged as he went past the ball and got Bowey straight in the head. Bowey did play on seemingly unaffected, but I doubt the MRO is going to let that stand in their way in the current age of awareness around head knocks.
Oh look, another incident likely to draw the ire of the MRO. In years gone by, this was the perfect tackle. Nowadays it’s a recipe for a holiday. Kade Chandler pinned the arms of Luke Foley in the tackle and thrust him into the ground. With no way to protect himself Foley’s head contacted the turf and he was taken off with a suspected concussion.
The tackles was one motion, with no sling or improper movement on first watch. It just seems to be that he laid too good of a tackle, that Foley had no recourse once ensnared.
West Coast Eagles
Beaten, but not disgraced. I actually felt there was plenty to take out of this match for the Eagles. It’s actually hard to gauge how their next few weeks could go. A trip to Giants Stadium next week against a GWS side that will be helmed by their interim coach after Leon Cameron stepped down, followed by a match up with the Western Bulldogs in WA, then a trip to Adelaide to play the Crows.
The Eagles could definitely give at least two of those games a fair shake on current form.
The Juggernaut rolls on. The Demons have put down a couple of challengers already this year, but I feel some genuine tests are finally on the horizon. And no, I don’t mean North Melbourne next week, which should be a tune-up opportunity for them as they head into a four-round stretch that may just decide if they go undefeated this season.
Back to back Saturdays at the MCG against fellow top-four hopefuls in the Dockers and Swans, then the traditional Queens Birthday game against the Magpies (and this fixture has thrown up some quality games). Then, after their bye, they host the Lions on a Thursday night at the MCG. I don’t think it will just be AFL fans looking forward to this stretch, but also the Melbourne players. When you know you’re the best you are looking for a challenger, someone that drives you to be better. Someone who is cocky and brash, that you want to make sure you remind them that you are the top dog. This is the opportunity that is presented to Melbourne over their next four matches. They can let the rest of the competition have a sniff of competitiveness and maybe lose one or have a few of them be close. Or they can crush these teams and show everyone just how far ahead they really are.