It seems like I attend more Melbourne games than any other side apart from my own on my travels to the greatest city in the world bar none. At least 3 of the last 4 Easter weekends now have seen the team supposedly telling their members that it’s “Time to Raise Hell” playing on a weekend where resurrections are celebrated by some people who are deeply religious. I don’t think Stone Cold Steve Austin even got away in the mainstream with “Raising Hell” during the Easter period, although the WWE universe is as alternate as it gets to reality. It also is usually against an interstate opponent, for I believe the Dees have played Port, Gold Coast, GWS and now Fremantle on that weekend. I’m guessing next year they’ll be hosting any of the Eagles, Crows, Lions or Swans to keep that tradition somewhat alive.
Winning the previous weekend at home at least gave the 1000 or so Fremantle fans in the ground optimism, but this was the first time in many years that Melbourne fans went to a game I watched with expectation rather than hope of success. Certainly this was a far cry from the 2015 trip to Perth where watching from the 3-tier stand at Subiaco Melbourne put up a performance as poor as an over salted sauce on an overpriced pub style rib eye. Sadly some of the skills and decision making through the day paid homage to that performance. Not that Freo were much better on either afternoon, for they reverted to a style of play I refer to as “Ross Ball”. Simply put, it’s to slow the game down to crawling pace, create a loose man (usually Michael Johnson) in defence in order to play that style effectively, then promptly create visions of the Gerard Neesham “chip and charge” era to try to win by scoring lower than Sergio Garcia did on the weekend at Augusta.
Discipline didn’t help the Fremantle cause, but each of the quartet of 50 metre penalties I felt were justified. One was for delaying passage of the ball going to the recipient of a free kick (Michael Walters), one was about the second given all season for encroaching upon the 10 metre zone (Cam McCarthy), another was for creeping over the mark followed a matter of seconds later by another for verbal abuse, which was Brad Hill’s contribution for the first half. It’s about time in my view that creeping over the mark gets policed as it should. Too many players creep forward whilst going the so called “East-West” direction along the mark (it can’t be East-West because not every ground is oriented that way), a point that I feel no commentator picks up on when they are happy to moan about angles and run ups when kicking a set shot.
If ever a contrast of styles can create massive momentum swings it was in the middle quarters. Melbourne looked to take control courtesy of the ill discipline, horrid decision making and increased work ethic in the second quarter. Freo responded after half time displaying the football that got them across the line last week against the defending champions. Many of the players from the visitors who did as much work as a three toed sloth prior to the long interval pulled their finger out when they needed to. It wasn’t all down to the 2015 Brownlow Medallist either, for Fyfe’s influence was present yet not as pronounced as it should have been.
It turned out to be a lost opportunity in the last quarter for Melbourne. It seemed as though Melbourne’s best chance was to get the ball in the hands of Jayden Hunt who looked like doing a Jason Johannisen from the GF last year. They even hit the front with 3 minutes to go, but after the previous day I didn’t like the look of Melbourne trying to play with an 8 man backline just to further scramble the minds of the seemingly rattled back 6. As it turned out the 8 man backline pressed too high and allowed Cam McCarthy, in arguably his best career game, to get in behind and scramble a goal that looked more questionable than many that get reviewed. To this day, I’m still unconvinced that the ball actually made contact with his right boot and I was surprised that play wasn’t held up for a review like it would have been if this was a free to air game (this game was a Fox exclusively live game, as Channel 7 in WA delayed this game much like I’ve delayed finishing this piece until Monday Night. Why the governing body or a free to air network would agree to such a deal is a tale for another time) even if the procedure is that all goals are automatically reviewed.
So once again the Melbourne crowd left a game lamenting a missed opportunity. Sure they may blame a suspended duo for their absence but at the end of the day, the 22 that took the field have themselves to blame and themselves only for evening the ledger for the season. As for the Purples, suddenly their season at least looks to be somewhat on course for a return to September provided they win the bulk of their 8 remaining genuine home games (the Derby is considered a 50/50 preposition at all times) and avoid playing “Ross Ball” for longer than they do.
MELB: Garlett 3.1, Harmes 2.2, Watts 2.2, Petracca 2.0, Spencer 2.0, Kent 1.1, Viney 1.1, Neal-Bullen 1.0, Salem 1.0, Bugg 0.1, Hannan 0.1, Melksham 0.1, Tyson 0.1, Weidemann 0.1, RUSHED 0.2
FREO: Neale 4.1, Mundy 3.0, McCarthy 2.3, Fyfe 1.1, Balic 1.0, Crozier 1.0, Grey 1.0, S.Hill 1.0, Kersten 1.0, Walters 1.0, B.Hill 0.2, Weller 0.1, RUSHED 0.2
MELB: Oliver, Harmes, Hunt, Petracca, Spencer, Garlett
FREO: Neale, Mundy, Walters, McCarthy, Hamling, Weller
3: Lachie NEALE (FREO)
2: David MUNDY (FREO)
1: Clay OLIVER (MELB)
FIELD: Matt STEVIC, David HARRIS, Andrew MITCHELL
BOUNDARY: Dillon TEE, Graham BERGROTH, Joshua MATHER, James SCULLY
GOAL: Daniel WILSON, Luke WALKER
CROWD: 27829 at the MCG