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Apparently no one had read the script to the Melbourne Demons. They hadn’t beaten a team in the top eight all season and it was a West Coast Eagles home game, Optus Stadium is a fortress and at 75 degrees, it was supposed to be too hot for Melbourne teams to last four full quarters. All that mattered little when the siren sounded and the Demons put on a display worthy of finalists when they ran over the Eagles in an upset in the West.
From the very first moments it was clear that Melbourne had come to play. They were ferocious in their tackling and hunted the Eagles down in packs all over the ground. West Coast were rattled and started to make disposal errors that played right into Melbourne’s hands.
Outside it was cold and wintry (by Melbourne standards) but good conditions under the roof at Etihad on Saturday night shielded fans. Inside, it was the Hawks who nearly got the chill. Despite the indoor game, the crowd numbers were down on recent clashes between these two teams.
Early it was Gunston who opened the scoring for the Hawks. The Saints worked hard around the contests to shut down Hawthorn's run and delivery into the forward link. Burgoyne finally managed to eke out a second for the Hawks. St Kilda had plenty of the ball, but not a lot of it in their forward 50.
Twenty one rounds into the AFL season and incredibly the finals and top four races remain wide open and just two weeks to go. A big win to Richmond over the Suns has locked up a top two spot for the reigning premiers while an amazing last gasp win to the Eagles – in almost identical fashion to their final in 2017, and once again over a distraught Port Adelaide – leaves them in great shape to finish in the top two and secure a home final.
A gutsy win to Hawthorn over Geelong has catapulted the Hawks into fourth position on the AFL ladder, in turn sending the Cats crashing out of the eight, while the Giants 14 point win over Adelaide kept them in great shape for a finals double chance while ending the Crows chances of any finals participation in the process.
It took until the third quarter for the Fremantle Dockers to break the shackles after a pedestrian start to take down bottom of the ladder dwellers the Carlton Blues. Carlton were struck a blow when their premier ruckman Matthew Kreuzer was omitted, possibly for the rest of the season, with an elevated heart rate when training the day before the match in Perth. After having lost five of the last six matches in the West, Carlton were going to need all the help they could get.
As the 2018 season heads towards finals, some players have already started toward the door by announcing their retirements. With just a few weeks left, Melbourne's Harley Balic, Adelaide's Sam Gibson, Gold Coast's Matt Rosa and Fremantle's Lee Spurr have all called time on their careers.
Balic was originally drafted by Fremantle in 2015 but a wrist injury kept kept him sidelined in 2016. He finally debuted in 2017 but played just four games. He took a leave of absence from the club in May and later July 2017, and returned to Melbourne for personal reasons. He then asked to be traded back to Victoria, also for personal reasons. He had struggled with homesickness and feelings of isolation during his time in Perth.
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