Melbourne Demons vs Geelong Cats (MCG)
State of Play:
This is a battle between two differing line-ups: the finals hardened Cats and the young enthusiastic Demons. After a disastrous end to 2017, Melbourne finished strongly this season to book their finals berth for the first time in 12 years. By contrast, Geelong has missed the finals only once in the same 12 year period. The contrast continues with the Cats playing two easy beats in Gold Coast and Fremantle to complete the minor round, winning both games by over 100 points each. The road for Melbourne was much tougher, coming up against the Eagles and GWS in the final two games, both ending with excellent victories for the Demons.
Head to Head:
If recent history is any indication of what to expect on Friday night, the football public is in for a treat. In round one, Max Gawn had the chance to snatch victory for Melbourne at the death, but his kick went wide, handing Geelong a three point victory. In the return engagement in round 18, a Zach Touhy goal after the siren once again saw the Cats prevail, this time by just two points. Overall in their last five meetings, the Cats lead the head to head tally at 4-1.
The Demons strength starts in the ruck with All-Australian player Max Gawn who has had a sensational season averaging a league leading 45.5 average hitouts per game, and will have a big say in how far Melbourne can go in this year’s finals series. Big Max will be feeding the ball to one of the most dynamic young midfields in the game led by Clayton Oliver (29.8 avg. disposals per game), Angus Brayshaw (avg. 26.7), Nathan Jones (avg. 26.7) and, injury recovery permitting, Jack Viney (avg. 25.3). What the Melbourne midfield lacks in finals experience it makes up for in brute aggression. Viney, Oliver and Jones have a physicality that is difficult to match. The loss of forward Jesse Hogan hurts, but when you consider that the Demons led the league in entries inside the 50 meter arc, there should be plenty of opportunities for Tom McDonald (2.82 avg. goals per game), Mitch Hannan, Jake Melksham and Christian Petracca.
The Cats will be prepared to take a hit in the ruck whether they gamble on Marc Blicavs taking on Max Gawn or not. Where the Cats have a distinct advantage is in finals experience, boasting 209 games worth, while the Demons have just 44; with over half of those attributed to ex-Hawk Jordan Lewis. The Cats experienced midfield of Gary Ablett Jr. (29.1 avg. disposals per game), Joel Selwood (27.1) and Patrick Dangerfield (28.3) has talent and experience to burn. Add in Mitch Duncan (26.6), Sam Menegola (23.7) and young star Tim Kelly (23.1) and you have a midfield that bats very deep. Tom Hawkins (2.9 avg. goals per game) is the focal point up forward, but the Cats will need some help from Daniel Menzel (2.25) if they want to take down the high scoring demons. Dangerfield will play forward in patches to boost the Cats scoring potential.
This game promises to be another brilliant contest between the youthful Melbourne midfield and the veterans of Geelong. If the Cats want to defeat the Demons for the third time this season, they need to find a way to curb both Gawn’s ruck dominance and the Melbourne midfield clearance kings. The Demons led the league in scoring, marks inside the 50 meter arc and center clearances, such is the dominance of the young group around Gawn. The last two contests between these two teams have gone down to the wire, will Geelong be able to find a way to do it again?
With Jesse Hogan missing, Christian Petracca should spend more time forward where he is well suited. Petracca has matured as the season has developed, demonstrating an increased willingness to bring his team mates into the game and look for better avenues to goal rather than blazing away. With Jack Viney back in the mix, the time is perfect for Petracca to show what he can do.
Melbourne by 15 points.
Article last changed on Monday, September 10, 2018 - 2:47 PM EDT