WHERE AND WHEN: MCG, Sunday, June 24, 3.15pm
LAST TIME: First meeting
The Demons have a strong chance of recording their second win on Sunday against AFL newcomers Greater Western Sydney, but will need to be on their toes to avoid what would be a horror loss to the Giants’ youngsters.
GWS have proved to be at least plucky in most of their clashes this year, barring a few abberations (a 129 point mauling at the hands of North Melbourne in round 2 and a non-competitive effort against Brisbane culminating in a 92 point loss in round 8). Their number one draft pick, Jonathan Patton, had a solid debut and the Giants very nearly had a huge upset against Richmond last weekend, with accurate kicking taking them within 12 points of a victory.
Melbourne can at least look at their formline, and the hope they’ll be well rested after coming off the bye for solace. They defeated top 4 side Essendon in round 10 in a scrappy affair, and were reasonable against ladder leaders Collingwood on their annual Queen’s Birthday fixture after that.
Coming in to the business end of the season this match takes on a bit of an added spark, that of avoiding a dreaded wooden spoon. Although the Gold Coast Suns currently sit bottom their percentage is superior to both sides playing in this match and one would expect them to pluck a win or two on their run home. Melbourne and GWS both have abysmal percentages and one win apiece and this game could prove to be season-defining at this point, especially if the Demons were to capitulate.
Mark Neeld has tried to instill a hardness in a Demon’s playing group that has been accused of playing bruise-free football this season on various occasions. He will need to draw a line in the sand and demand nothing but a strong victory on Sunday. GWS’s coaching staff have successfully implemented a hard, contested style of football to their young (sprinkled with older) list which means this is definitely a danger game for Melbourne.
There will be added spite with defectee Tom Scully playing his first game after leaving Melbourne to join GWS on a lucrative contract last season and one would suspect the MCG crowd will have a good turnout and will express their displeasure. However one would think that treatment wouldn’t be extended to other ex-Demons player, now GWS elder James McDonald who was a fantastic clubman for Melbourne during his time there.
The Demons’ have made four changes for this game, which mostly seem like-for-like replacements. Brad Green is out with an injury and Luke Tapscott is out suspended, while Cale Morton and Sam Blease have been omitted.
They welcome back Matthew Bate, Aaron Davey, Rohan Bail and Joel McDonald in their place.
Number one draft pick Jack Watts has been in fine form as of late and will play his 50th game for the Demons on Sunday. He will again line-up off half-back and Melbourne will be hoping for his precision kicking and intercept marking to be in play.
Aaron Davey would be my choice for sub, as he is a player who in the past has been able to have good impact on games, but has been in poor form for nearly all of 2012. He could add a spark late in the game though and be used to good effect.
The Giants have made three changes this weekend, with Sam Schulz out injured, veteran Chad Cornes being rested and forward Andrew Phillips omitted. The Cornes choice is an interesting one as he has been very good for them this season, but the GWS player rotations between rounds this year has worked so far.
They are replacing these three with handy players though, with impressive ruck pickup Jonathan Giles returning alongside defender Jack Hombsch and forward Nathan Phillips.
With Dean Brogan remaining in the side it means that the Giants will be lining up with two ruckmen. Expect one to rest up forward to try to let forward Jeremy Cameron get loose as much as possible.
Tom McDonald vs Jeremy Cameron – Young tall defender McDonald has been solid in his second season but will have his work cut out for him against Cameron on Sunday. Cameron has been GWS’s most reliable forward all year, kicking 18 goals in a side that has often struggled for scores. He doesn’t amass disposals but has a very high workrate and is always damaging with the ball in hand.
He could easily provide headaches, and Mark Neeld will be hoping he doesn’t become such a problem that Melbourne’s premier defender James Frawley will need to be moved on to him, as Patton and Giles will also need to be contained in the Giants’ forward line.
Jack Trengove vs Callan Ward – Two co-captains will go head-to-head in the midfield and although their styles of play will be different, it will be important for Trengove that he is made accountable for Ward. He has been easily one of the Giants’ best this season and is able to take games by the scruff of the neck if allowed to run free. The Demons cannot allow this.
It’s almost a line ball, but it’s hard to tip against Melbourne at the MCG in this one. They’re almost as inexperienced as the Giants, but that little bit extra, plus an imposing looking forward setup, should get them over the line. They will need to start strong and play four quarters, as any large fadeout will easily let a determined young Giants outfit have a sniff and a chance at getting back in the game.
Melbourne by 20