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Melbourne captain David Neitz marked his third prominent milestone in just over a season--the Demons games record, with a commanding eight goal haul against St Kilda yesterday at Melbourne's spiritual home, the MCG. Neitz Melbourne's longest serving captain, adds the game record to his recently attained goal kicking mark.

 Although St Kilda's Troy Schwarze, kicked the first goal of the game,  it was Neitz who shaped it, kicking the first three goals for Melbourne.  Neitz looked dangerous in the air and on the ground against St Kilda's best defender, Max Hudgeton. His efforts came on the end of bullocking Brock McLean, perhaps the most improved midfielder in the competition in 2006. McLean was ably assisted by James McDonald and Clint Bartram.   Russell Robertson whose entire Melbourne career has been played under Neitz's captaincy added another goal for the Demons, the pair combining well.

St Kilda, although out-gunned replied with its own physical, hard running game, giving the match a quality and fluency sadly lacking in many games this year. Nick Reiwoldt kicked a late goal to make the deficit 14 at quarter time. His match up with Nathan Carroll was entertaining from the outset for its contrasts, Reiwoldt's athleticism against Nathan Carroll's aggressive, old fashioned defending. The image of seeing Reiwoldt, a kind the St Kilda white knight playing a man who wouldn't look out of place in a marauding band of warriors from the middle ages had its own entertaining connotations.

Neitz continued his dominance of the St Kilda defense with three more goals in the second quarter. It was all very simple for Melbourne, consistently getting their hands on the footy first and using the corridor to deliver deep into the forward line. St Kilda never got a chance to settle when in possession and felt the full force of the Demon cause and their crunching tackles. Fraser Gehrig was out of sorts, turning over the ball and missing half chances, although he did manage a late goal, while Stephen Milne was also well off his best. Nick Dal Santo kicked two goals and won many possessions, while Luke Ball was also great.

Form utility Brendon Goddard was reported for striking while Jason Gram will forever have to live with his horrendous error from a kick in. Gram had played on and with Aaron Davey hot in pursuit rushed his kick, which crashed off the head of teammate Jason Blake and into the arms of opponent Cameron Bruce who promptly goaled. Late goals by McLean and Matthew Whelan gave Melbourne a six goal half-time lead that didn't fully reflect the gulf between the two teams.

Many in the game feel fatigue can be a factor the week following a game in Perth, especially against the mighty Eagles. That theory was given further credence as a much flatter Melbourne side came out in the second half. After Neitz kicked his seventh, St Kilda hit back with the next five. Leigh Montagna picked up ten possessions in this time while James Blake took advantage of a spell on the bench of opponent, Jeff White, to give the class St Kilda mid-field the impetus.

The Demons were employing a much slower game plan, and looked uncomfortable and reactive doing so. Travis Johnstone, and younger guns, Lynden Dunn, Chris Johnston and Matthew Bate hung in there and ensured the Demons went to the final change with a 14 point lead. Gehrig missed an easy chance from 30 meters directly in front early in the last quarter that was answered shortly afterwards by a fellow full-forward Neitz.  Brett Voss kicked the next to keep the heat on the Demons, however Matthew Bate's fine goal on the run soon after was the sealer. It had come from a typically incisive run from Byron Pickett who had three bounces from the half back line. There were plenty of examples of classic 'one precentors' in defense that ensured the Dees were never headed, including a gutsy mark by McDonald, standing underneath a high ball and a great smother by Jared Rivers, as Milne looked poised to goal.

 St Kilda had far more entries into the attacking 50 meter zone in the second half and will rue a swag of chances that went begging. Reiwoldt had far more influence in the last quarter, coming much further out from goals in a clear change of tactics. This was another 'what if' factor, on a day St Kilda had many, not least of which its long injury list that couldn't be considered today. Brock McLean was the Demons best midfielder and Yze, Johnstone, Bate, McDonald and White were important but it was definitely David Neitz's day.

St Kilda got good efforts from its dependable on- ball division, Ball, Dal Santo and Montagna, while Schwarze was also good. Demons coach Neale Daniher was happy to notch another win after the long trip to Western Australia last week. "The first half was pretty emphatic I thought ,we looked a much better team...but to the Saints credit they really bounced back, but we got the job done," said Daniher. Grant Thomas was lamenting another inconsistent effort by his charges. "We were very reactive and they out-toughed us and they were much harder at the footy...We've got to take responsibility for that," said Thomas.

Melbourne's excellent form will next be tested by fellow hot team, Collingwood, in what shapes as one of the games of the season. As it will fall on the Queen's Birthday holiday the match looms as a possible MCG sell-out. "I can't recall a bigger Queens Birthday clash in my time, and if I could I wouldn't tell you, because we're talking this one up," said a excited Neale Daniher. St Kilda's injury- depleted line up next travels to Sydney ahead of a difficult month that sees them up against Adelaide, Hawthorn and Collingwood.
 
Whatever the outcome of the already highly anticipated match-up of the MCG co-tenants, the Magpie-army knows one thing, don't expect the low profile captain of Melbourne to go missing in a big game. They would best remind themselves not to expect the team that reveres him to shirk the issue either.
 

MELBOURNE: 4.4 10.9 12.10 15.13 (103)
ST KILDA: 2.2 5.3 10.8 13.12 (90)
 
GOALS Ð Melbourne: Neitz 8, McLean, Dunn, Robertson, Bruce,
Whelan, Bate, Pickett
 
St Kilda: Dal Santo 3, Gehrig 2, Riewoldt 2, Schwarze 2,
Montagna, Ball, Blake, Voss
 
BEST Ð Melbourne: Neitz, McLean, Yze, Bate, White, McDonald,
Carroll
 
St Kilda: Dal Santo, Ball, Montagna, Goddard, Schwarze
 
INJURIES Ð Melbourne: Whelan (hip)
St Kilda: Thompson (bruised back)
 
CHANGES Ð Melbourne: Moloney (groin soreness) replaced in
selected side by Godfrey.
St Kilda: Nil
 
UMPIRES: McLaren, Meredith, Wenn
 
REPORTS - Goddard (St Kilda) reported by field umpire McLaren
for striking McDonald (Melbourne) in the second quarter
 
CROWD - 41,665 at the MCG

Article last changed on Saturday, July 01, 2006 - 12:39 PM EDT


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