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.
Mitch Hannan was on the end of a horrible mid-field turnover by Daniel Venables and scored the first Melbourne goal. In short order, they had three more and the Eagles on the back foot. Willie Rioli did some magic and kicked the first goal for the home side to settle things down.
West Coast’s main spearhead Jack Darling was tackled fiercely and taken from the ground with concussion around the ten-minute mark of the opening quarter and did not return for the match. This left Eagles limited scoring options up forward, and a makeshift move by Coach Simpson had Jeremy McGovern move forward from his defensive role. The Eagles steadied and kicked three straight goals to have them back in the game.
Melbourne was relentless and seemed to blossom in the warmer conditions rather than flag. Ruckman Max Gawn was leading from the front and his midfield brigade of Nathan Jones, Angus Brayshaw, and James Harmes were delivering the ball with precision. Good service to the forwards meant an even spread of goal kickers, with Jake Melksham Melbourne’s best with four for the match. Tom McDonald and Hannan both finished with three each.
West Coast soldiered on but were never sparkling. There were players who stood out on occasions but overall they lacked the tenacity that the Demons showed. Luke Shuey was being closely watched by Harmes and Dom Sheed was getting possessions, but at times appeared either hurried or unsure of what to do with the ball once he got it. Elliot Yeo was having a less than stellar match and not putting his stamp on the game as he would have liked. Despite this, West Coast fought their way back and were never completely put away by the Demon. They managed to reverse the trend to overcome a five goal deficit in the fourth quarter. It came as a result of some direct football from the center square and a dominance in winning the clearances at stoppages. Rioli was doing his best up forward to score without Darling as the focal point and finished with three at the end of the day. Mark LeCras’ goal in the final term, with less than six minutes remaining, incredibly put the Eagles ahead for the first time in the match. To their credit Melbourne had the grit to fight back and score the last three goals of the match to put the Eagles away.
Melbourne now finds themselves in the finals for the first time in 12 years after a long and painful rebuild and many years in the doldrums. West Coast will have to wait on results from next week to see if they can retain second position on the ladder. However their future is in their own hands. Should they win the final round away in Brisbane, they will have secured the double chance, double home finals prize. If they lose they could find themselves in free-fall down to fourth. Melbourne has a healthy percentage that will ensure they stay in the top eight regardless of the results next weekend, but with a win next week and some other results going their way, they could climb to fourth.
West Coast: 3.0 5.4 11.6 14.7 (91) Melbourne: 4.4 7.6 12.8 12.12 (108) West Coast: Rioli, Hutchings, Sheppard, Redden Melbourne: Harmes, A Brayshaw, Gawn, Melksham
Article last changed on Monday, September 10, 2018 - 2:47 PM EDT