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The Big Questions - Melbourne v Gold Coast

A see-sawing contest riddled with errors will be forever remembered as the game Gold Coast seemingly lost the unlosable, with Melbourne scoring twice to record a remarkable win. Here are the big questions from Melbourne’s astonishing season saving victory.

 

How did Gold Coast lose?

With 49 seconds on the clock, Nick Holman nailed his running shot to seemingly give Gold Coast the unlikely victory. It should’ve ended Melbourne’s season. But this new 6-6-6 rule has paid dividends once again this year, as the Suns were unable to flood their backline, as the Demons relentlessly attacked.

When young Marty Hore kicked his first career goal and made the scores level, the inexperienced Suns did not know what to do next, and as Melbourne thrust forward once more, all Gold Coast’s defenders could do was scrap and try to force the ball away. It was all to no avail as a wild Tom McDonald boot pushed the ball into the post, handing the Suns the most devastating of losses.

Coach Dew will make sure his young charges take away valuable lessons from the heartbreak, and in time the Suns will learn what needs to be done to defend a lead in the dying seconds, but for now it will be important to feed the pain, and come out next week even harder knowing that victory was only inches from their grasp.

 

Can Melbourne still make an impression on the season?

Forget the question, “can Melbourne still make the finals?”, because with their ledger sitting 3-5, anything is possible. The more pertinent question focuses on whether Melbourne is capable of doing any damage in September should they get there. Reaching an improbable Preliminary Final last season will give long suffering Demons fans hope, but unlike last year there are glaring deficiencies in Melbourne’s game that need fixing ASAP if they are to make anything of this season.

Their midfield ranks among the best, but both forward and defence seem to always be on shaky ground. Leading goal kicker Tom McDonald has currently scoring at less than a goal a game, and Hogan replacement, Sam Weideman hasn’t yet found his feet at AFL level.

The Demons as a collective only score with 33% of their inside 50 entries, which is paltry for any level of Aussie Rules Football. Their defence also lacks the polish required to be a force, with Melbourne consistently allowing piles of goals to be scored on them without answer, and reinforcements Lever and May are still weeks away from returning. Losing the experience of Michael Hibberd with a broken collarbone will hurt them even more.

 

Will Gold Coast find success before Carlton?

What an interesting Saturday afternoon of football we had, with two rebuilding teams, both almost getting across the line, and only their own inexperience costing the Blues and Suns unlikely victories. With Stuart Dew and Brendon Bolton guiding their teams out of the muddy waters of regeneration, it will be fascinating to see which club of cubs reaches the summit first. Gold Coast has made its way to three wins this season, and could almost be 5-3 if things had gone their way. The Blues have tasted victory just once in 2019, but have fought until the final siren in all of their matches, with a few exceptions. Both clubs, on the field at least, are basically on par with each other, and it is difficult to separate them given both have played very poorly at times but also shown the fighting spirit that will give their supporters hope that a flag is within reach.

If I have to separate the two teams, I will give the smallest of advantages to Gold Coast, with their enthusiasm for the contest and will to improve giving them the edge over the Blues, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see both sides ascend the ladder together.

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How many more matches does Jordan Lewis’ body have left in it?

Season 2019 has been a journey of discovery for Lewis. Last season, Lewis averaged 23 disposals, his lowest tally since 2012. This season however, Lewis’s output has plummeted, down significantly in possessions, efficiency, marks and tackles. Appearing to injure his lower leg in the second quarter, Lewis came back on but didn’t have a big impact on the game, and perhaps if not for Melbourne’s extensive injury list, would be only good enough to be running around for Casey Demons.

When Lewis was recruited from Hawthorn, the Demons were seeking a veteran midfielder who could impart his wisdom on Melbourne’s young on-ballers, but now finds himself surplus to requirements. Like best mate Jarryd Roughead, it appears Lewis’s time in the AFL is coming to a close, probably a lot faster than he’d like.

 

Who was best and worst on ground for both teams?

Gold Coast:

Best – Darcy MacPherson

A man playing in only his 25th senior game, MacPherson was a standout in the Suns midfield. 27 disposals, 14 of which were contested as he spent the bulk of his afternoon at the bottom of the pack fighting for possession, he also had 8 tackles, tirelessly fighting whenever the ball was in his vicinity. 21-year-old MacPherson reminds this reporter of a young Sam Mitchell, and if he turns out anything like the 2012 Brownlow Medallist, the Suns have found one hell of a player.

Stiff: David Swallow

Couldn’t go past captain Swallow, who is just edged out by young gun MacPherson for Gold Coast’s best on ground. 35 disposals running all over the ground, Swallow’s experience was particularly evident all day as the young brigade followed his example. The Suns have selected by far the best two players in Swallow and Witts to lead them to success in the future.

Worst – Jordan Murdoch

After having a total of ZERO possessions in the first half, I had to double check if Murdoch had picked up an injury. He hadn’t. Recording a paltry five touches of the sherrin, Murdoch simply contributed nothing to Gold Coast’s cause, and when he was sighted, it was shadowing Jack Viney when he was pumping the ball inside 50. Signed by the Suns as a delisted free agent, Murdoch will be on thin ice to retain his place in the Gold Coast 22, and performances like this won’t help his cause.

Lucky: Alex Sexton

It is a double edged sword with Sexton, as his first four weeks of season 2019 were exemplary, but since then his output has steadily waned. Only touched the footy 10 times and missed both of his shots on goal. Looking at Gold Coast’s forward six, Sexton is the most important of the bunch, and if the Suns are to record more victories this season and beyond, Sexton will need to contribute much more than his last 4 games, and even more so around the ground.

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Melbourne:

Best – Clayton Oliver

Simply amazing from Melbourne’s midfield bull, with 38 disposals as the Demons fought to victory. 22 of his possessions cam in the second half as he dragged the Demons towards the finish line, and was in the thick of the action all day, as 22 of his possessions were contested, and he recorded 15 crunching tackles. It was clear to see that Oliver and Max Gawn understand each other so well, as Gawn knew exactly where Oliver needed the ball to be able to use it effectively.

Stiff: Jake Melksham

Comfortably Melbourne’s best player in the first half, Melksham was everywhere in the first 60 minutes, with 19 disposals and 8 marks. Suffered a foot injury in final quarter and went largely unsighted after that, with only 3 disposals in the second half, including none in the last term. Looked the only Demon player playing with any passion in the first half, and when other around him stepped, Melksham wasn’t asked to fix as many holes as he was having plug.

Worst – Jeff Garlett

Only his 3rd game of the season, Garlett hasn’t contributed enough (1 goal in the 3 games) for the Demons to post a meaningful score. Went largely unsighted for most of the of the afternoon, and while he had 6 of his 9 possessions in the second half, his disposal efficiency of 33% is clearly not good enough. Laid 5 tackles, but needs to offer a lot more to retain his place in the team.

Lucky: Declan Keilty

May be seen as a touch harsh on the 2nd gamer, who was asked to play a variety of roles, but it seemed that Keilty was overawed by the occasion of playing AFL. Was targeted a great deal by Melbourne’s midfielders, but could only take 1 mark for the day. Battled manfully in the ruck against the might of Jarrod Witts, but still needs time to find his feet, perhaps in the VFL, before he will be capable of producing games of value to the Demons.

 

Stray thoughts:

-          Melbourne’s next four weeks will show whether this group will play finals in season 2019. West Coast in Perth, GWS at home, a resurgent Adelaide in Darwin, followed by Collingwood on Queen’s Birthday. If the Demons stand for anything, they must win at least three of these enormously tough matches.

-          Even though the first 8 seasons could not have more of a catastrophic failure, key on and off field appointments have the Suns finally pointing in the right direction. Stuart Dew has the young kids believing, and their captains Witts and Swallow will be around for at least the next five years as the Suns look to make the finals and beyond.

-          Dane Rampe is one lucky fellow. He knew exactly what he was doing on Friday night, and under the letter of the law, should’ve been penalised for the now infamous “Goal Post climb and shake” incident. What is worse, however, is the AFL ticking it off as the correct decision. How is any umpire able to better his skills if they seemingly never make the wrong decision?

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