Richmond v Melbourne April 14, MCG 1:45
What would have been seen as a fairly innocuous game pre-season has now become season defining for both clubs.
Melbourne have had an abysmal first two weeks, 41 and 108-point losses to Brisbane and West Coast respectively has seen the Demons fall from finals contenders to cellar dwellers.
The Dees have made another slew of changes this week in an attempt to construct a competitive team, the most notable of which is former captain Brad Green, whose omission shows the dire situation of Melbourne.
Richmond will have also been disappointed with their start after having high hopes pre-season. However, their losses have been respectable and they have been competitive for periods in both matches.
This game has now become crucial to both teams as Melbourne are in desperate need of a win or at least a resemblance of a competitive performance while Richmond can’t afford to drop a game that they are now clear favorites in.
James Magner vs Daniel Jackson
Magner has been the one shining light for the Demons in the last few weeks, the mature-age rookie has made an impressive transition into the AFL.
Magner has been Melbourne’s best player over the last two weeks gathering 32 and 23 disposals, if the Dees want any chance of winning he will have to fire.
Jackson has come under fire early in the season and is often a whipping boy for the fans, but he may have the opportunity this week to play on Magner and perform a shutdown role. If he succeeds then he will guarantee a most likely midfield dominance for Richmond.
Jack Riewoldt vs James Frawley
Riewoldt was far from his best last week, only kicking 3 behinds as he was well held by Ben Reid and was also less than impressive the week before but still managed to kick four goals.
If Riewoldt can kick four goals on an off-week against a strong opponent, he should kick a bag against Melbourne..
Part of Riewoldt’s problem has been playing too far away from goals. Frawley will be hoping this trend continues and as a result he will be easier to contain.
Frawley, like the rest of his Melbourne counterparts, has been out of form and a down-on-form Riewoldt may be a good place to turn it around
Mitch Clark vs Alex Rance
After drawing criticism for his round one performance, Clark turned it around last week kicking 5 goals from very limited opportunities.
Rance meanwhile was exceptional against Collingwood big man Travis Cloke, taking a career-high 17 marks.
This duel will have a significant impact on the outcome as Melbourne’s forward line doesn’t have much else besides Clark, and Rance’s drive off the half-back line is equally important for the Tigers.
This game has become one of the most interesting of the round out of a morbid curiosity.
Melbourne desperately need to show something. Mark Neeld can only do so much from the coaches box, if they don’t improve, the tag ‘bruise free footy’ will quickly return.
For Richmond this game simply is a must-win if they plan on challenging for the final eight this year.
They have shown signs of improvement from last year, which, combined with the likes of Trent Cotchin and Brett Deledio should get them over the line.
Prediction: Richmond by 23