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By Barry Kennedy, AFANA Reporter in Melbourne

On the same day Australia returned to the World Cup of soccer, a display by two indigenous players with the oval ball showed just what a world class show piece Australian football can be at its best. Aaron Davey is showing by the week that he has so much more than speed at his disposal with unselfishness, class ball usage and instinctive awareness.

Byron Pickett, now at his third club, was described as unemployable by former coach Mark Williams after a bad year with suspensions in 2005. Now any coach would have him in their side. Yesterday at the MCG, Pickett and Davey slotted in perfectly to a Demon machine that played scintillatingly well and whose toughness and work rate was exemplary in a 47 point dismantling of the highly fancied Collingwood. The game at the MCG was played in a finals-like environment, and like all great finals  players rose to the occasion.

Collingwood got on the board early through another aboriginal superstar, Leon Davis, who roved brilliantly off a pack to kick the first major 25 seconds into the game. A short time later David Neitz replied for Melbourne and soon after created another by harassing Heath Shaw into a turnover, which the Melbourne spearhead gave off to Pickett clear inside the 50 meter line. Speed, high skills and entertaining duals were taking place across the park. Collingwood's Chris Tarrant kicked a tremendous grubber snap from the pocket while his opponent Cameron Bruce was significant in the unfamiliar position of center half back, creating and clearing to perfection. Mobile ruckmen Josh Fraser and Jeff White fought a tough battle for ruck supremacy across the field as both "engine rooms" shared the spoils. Fortunately Alan Didak and Davis were prominent in the Magpie attacking half, as Rocca was being held well by Ben Holland, but the Magpies would rue kicking two goals five for the quarter.

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Collingwood defender James Clement was clearly beating  Russell Robertson with strong bodywork and several good marks in the Magpie's back half.  However, Robertson got one pass straight out from Pickett which he converted. Late in the quarter the nervous Shaw was again run down, this time by Davey, whose subsequent after-the-siren kick sailed through the middle to give Melbourne a nine point lead at the break.

Melbourne dazzled as Collingwood were shown up by a side whose all round commitment was telling. Davey set up the first goal by sprinting clear and lobbing his kick to  Neitz directly in front. Didak provided an answering goal after some good work by Fraser. The next three goals were kicked by a slick Melbourne outfit who were transferring the ball through lines with great fluency and expertise. Matthew Bate kicked the first from outside 50 in what has been an extremely impressive debut season. Adam Yze kicked one also, while Jared Rivers bobbed up from defense to kick his first goal in league football. Philip Read, in his first game for the year, and Brad Green were providing the sort of run out of defense that Collingwood was missing with Dale Swan unavailable and with Ben Johnson and Shaw subdued.

Cameron Bruce was everywhere picking up possessions and using them well. Collingwood got majors from Tarkyn Lockyer and Didak late in the quarter, however they could thank a favorable free kick for Lockyer's. In contrast Davey took a fantastic mark between two opponents and sprinted clear to find Cameron Bruce who kicked truly. Six goals to three made the margin 26 points at half time.

Melbourne took its play to a higher standard in the third period, taking big marks and kicking goals of great difficulty with aplomb. Adam Yze kicked three for the quarter; one a soccer like volley that would  not be out of place in Germany, and another from a towering one handed mark. Neitz utilized his wide turning arc to kick another . Many of the Melbourne drives came from Travis Johnstone who had been comparatively quiet in the first half .  Bate, Clint Bartram and Pickett were also shone. Mark Jamar was providing the perfect foil for Jeff White against Collingwood's one ruckman, Fraser. For Collingwood, Leon Davis took a spectacular grab to add to his own highlights reel.   Scott Pendlebury and Scott Burns kicked goals, but at 47 points the game was gone for the Magpies at three quarter time.

Collingwood broke even in the last quarter, but it was still show time for Melbourne. Rivers doubled his career goal tally with a second, while Pickett kicked another and Bruce got his second from yet another piece of Davey magic. They have a rest next week and look like it's about due.

Melbourne coach Neale Daniher spent most of his press conference trying to hose down the premiership prospects of his side. He did concede that his charges were on the up. "I think we are improving. How much better? We have to wait and see but we are a better team than last year." Collingwood's coach Mick Malthouse was ruing poor decisions and hesitancy from his hunted team for the Magpie fade out. "Let's face the facts, Melbourne were fantastic, they smacked us in almost every department. The simple fact was today Melbourne were far better."

Despite Collingwood's loss, the Magpies are still a game clear in third spot, but have Sydney in a fortnight after a rest next week. It's a game Collingwood will need to win to stay ahead of a chasing pack including the Swans, Bulldogs and Melbourne who are still the third ranked Victorian team, on paper at least. On yesterday's result Melbourne is clearly the best in Victoria. They have plenty of players including Brock McLean, Colin Sylvia and Brett Moloney to come back into the side and a fleet of young players that are playing with the fearlessness of the 1993 'Baby Bombers' side, a team that included the emerging James Hird, Mark Mercuri, Joe Misiti and Dustin Fletcher.

That famous premiership side also had two explosive aboriginal players in Brownlow Medallist and recently retired Gavin Wanganeen and Norm Smith medal winner Michael Long. Through luck or exemplary vision, Melbourne now finds itself with its own indigenous Norm Smith Medallist in Pickett. Perhaps it even has a future Brownlow chance with Davey. T

MELBOURNE   4.2 10.3 17.7 22.9 (141)
COLLINGWOOD 2.3 5.7 9.8 14.10 (94)

Goals: Melbourne: A Yze 4 A Davey D Neitz B Pickett 3 C Bruce J Rivers 2 M Bate L Dunn M Jamar T Johnstone R Robertson 1 Collingwood: L Davis 3 A Didak C Tarrant D Thomas 2 S Burns J Fraser T Lockyer S Pendlebury A Rocca 1

Best: Melbourne: C Bruce A Davey B Pickett T Johnstone N Carroll B Holland M Bate Collingwood: J Clement A Didak L Davis J Fraser

Injuries: Melbourne B McLean (hamstring) replaced in selected side by P Read, M Whelan (hip/buttock) replaced in selected side by D Ward. Collingwood: S Wakelin (thigh).

Reports: Nil

Umpires: S McBurney M James M Stevic.

Official Crowd: 78,773 at the MCG.

Article last changed on Saturday, July 01, 2006 - 12:35 PM EDT


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