Melbourne v Gold Coast – A Different Lens


A Different Lens

The Suns arrived at Heritage Bank Stadium with a daunting task ahead of them. The Demons are in good nick and are ready to continue their assault on the top four. Can the Suns find a way to limit the offensive powers of the Demons and secure a famous victory in club history, or will this Melbourne machine keep doing what they do best? There’s a lot to play for in this game, with both teams looking to continue to build in 2023. What transpired?

Let’s find out.


Game of the Year (So Far)?

It’s an early call, but this may be the current clubhouse leader for match of the year. Each side had periods of momentum, and the lead was never insurmountable. Both teams also had their opportunities – took some, missed others – to go further ahead or capitalise on their momentum.

It was an enthralling back and forth contest, that saw fringe players rise (Malcolm Rosas Jr, and Tom Sparrow … here’s looking at you) and some of the game’s genuine superstars steering their collective ship. Throughout the game, not doubt we (I know I did) expected the Demons to get a run on and blow the Suns away but, to their credit, the Suns of the Gold Coast sky never let the Demons kick more than three goals in a row, and would, every time, match the run the Demons had. They couldn’t however get themselves ahead on the scoreboard, expending their energy chasing the game.

There were ebbs and flows, great goals, high pressure, and clutch finishing at key moments. In games like these, it sucks that only one team can walk away with four points, given the intensity, theatre, and pressure that comes. Will Powell and Jake Bowey were enormous in the defensive half for their respective teams, intercepting at will and gaining distance with their disposals. The likes of Christian Petracca and Jack Lukosius sending the ball inside 50 regularly, and then the opportunists being able to impact the game.

It was a great spectacle of game, for much of the contest. Here’s to more games in season 2023 like this one!


Contest v Intercepts

The way in which this game transpired saw two distinct styles, and the teams having to adapt as the game went on. The Demons have a highly vaunted midfield that is regularly amid the discussions for the best midfield in the game. Well, in this game, the young Suns took it to their more experienced opponents, winning the contested possessions by 27 (Melbourne’s biggest negative differential this year) and the clearances by 7.

Noah Anderson continued his incredible start to the season (game-high 37 disposals), with an immense performance that nearly dragged his team over the line. He was well assisted around the ball by Jarrod Witts, and Matt Rowell, among a host of others. The Suns were able to pressure the Demons players and gain field position advantage from their control of stoppages and around the contest. However, this didn’t translate on the scoreboard.

In fact, it played into the hands of the Demons. Melbourne was able to endure many forward forays from the Suns, and would respond in kind. The Dees outscored their opponents 73-38 in terms of scores from turnovers (or, intercept possession chains). This meant that despite their deficiencies around the ball (despite the efforts of Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca), the Demons were never out of the game and were able to utilise their defensive system to kick-start their offense.

I must add the caveat, that both team’s systems were very good in the second half, significantly limiting the effectiveness of defensive 50 chains of their opponents reaching the forward 50. Credit must also go to both team’s defensive lines, and the midfielders pushing back in support. The Demons were +16 in I50’s despite the clearance differential, meaning that the Suns defenders were under pressure for extended periods, but were able to hold up reasonably well. Charlie Ballard and Darcy MacPherson are big reasons for their defensive stability this year.

We saw Richmond do this to great success during the height of their recent success. Teams can figure this out, but the Demons have many weapons in how they can dismantle your system, and then hurt you offensively. The Suns are continuing to show development and fight. There’s a lot to like – something people have been saying a lot in recent seasons – but eventually, they need to move into the place of winning these games, rather than continuing the trend of honourable losses.


From the Viewing Gallery

Tom Sparrow is building a great season. He had some clutch moments in this game, especially in the third quarter. Early in the term, he intercepted a handball and was able to dish it off to a teammate in space, which resulted in a goal. Towards the end of the term, he found himself in space, and finished well with a long-range goal. In close games, you look for players to stand up.

Matt Rowell was at his brutal best in this game. Whether it be in the contest, his defensive efforts, and even, at times, using the ball to go forward, he had a big say in the game. Rowell is slowly redefining his role and getting back to the levels from when he first burst onto the scene.

Lachie Hunter has been a good addition to the Demons this year, but a veteran like him should know his limitations by now. He isn’t the spriteliest player on the field, so trying to take on faster players shouldn’t be something he attempts. He got caught out at a clutch moment in the second half by Brandon Ellis who kicked truly. This is a good reminder for all players.

The crowd was great. While not the biggest crowd we’ve ever seen at a game, they were invested in the result – for both sides. That is a positive for the Suns that they are becoming a team worth following and gaining support, even on a weekend when the NRL’s Magic Round is in the Sunshine State.

Jack Viney’s courage was on full display to win his team the match. He stood under a high ball, with players coming from all directions, and held the mark ensuring a Demons win. This is what you want from your leaders!

Ben King’s continued accuracy since his return is something that others can learn from, in terms of his kicking technique and his set shot routine. It’d be good to see him get more of the ball and add some layers, but he is building nicely post-return.

Speaking of returns from injury, the leading man in the Gawndy double act, Max Gawn, had another outstanding game, especially forward of centre and hitting the scoreboard.
I’m not going to offer much of a comment on the Jacob van Rooyen incident with Charlie Ballard, other than to say that tackles are being outlawed, the bump is basically obsolete, it’d be deflating for spoils to be removed too … without those, it’s basically a non-contact sport. The MRO needs to have a brain and understand that accidents happen in contact sports, even when it may be an accidental impact for a football action. This tribunal hearing will be watched with much interest.

Well, the Demons managed to hold off the Suns and move into second on the ladder, while the Suns lost some touch with the top 8. The Demons face the Hawks at the MCG next Saturday afternoon, while the Suns travel to the far reaches of the opposing Australian coast to face the Dockers at Optus Stadium in the second Friday night game. Subscribe to the Mongrel Punt to hear more about those matches.


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