Round 21 – Melbourne v St Kilda: Peeking out from under the veil of negativity


This game was always going to break the hearts of at least one set of footy fans.


My Demons had endured ten years of finals-free seasons. The team with the longest premiership drought had shown promise in 2017 and sat on the edge of the top four in July. Now, two consecutive losses left them outside the 8, with the possibility of missing finals altogether.


I brought my mate Chris to this game. His Saints have the second-longest premiership drought. They had been teased with the prospect of premiership success earlier this decade but after falling off the pace again, they had been predicted to rise into finals contention.  However, the young Saints had so far failed to deliver on that promise, and now facing a future without their long standing champion forward Riewoldt, also looked like missing the finals with a loss.


It’s no surprise that the supporters of the two clubs were looking at the glass as half empty.  Paul Roos described the Demons fans as suffering under a “veil of negativity”, and the Saints fans around us suggested it should apply to both clubs. With a past so riddled with heartbreak and failure it’s hard for each club’s fans to be positive about their chances.


And so it was for the Saints – with not long to go in the second quarter, the Demons were 40 points up. Steam was coming from Chris’s ears. Some of the turnovers from the Saints were not only laughable at this level, but even a coach in a bush footy league would have blown his stack. Some of the squandered opportunities in the forward line in the early part of the second quarter, especially by Josh Bruce, were simply unbelievable. Melbourne weren’t doing anything special, but were gifted the footy by the St Kilda players over and over again. James Harmes took full advantage getting three first quarter goals. They could have been further in front if they had not also had some turnovers of their own. Repeated concussion victim Angus Brayshaw returned to the field to warm applause from the MCC Members, and he also got through a significant collision unharmed – hopefully he was beyond his major injury concerns. So you’d think the Dees fans would be pretty happy right now?


We were petrified that we’d blow it.

The mood throughout the stand was cautious. We’d seen it happen before this year – against Fremantle, the first quarter against GWS, and even to some extent against Port where we had a solid lead and yet Port got back within a kick. But St Kilda were playing so poorly that surely the Demons would kick away and help boost their percentage in the run to the finals?


Early in the final quarter Melbourne led by a mere four points. Yeah that’s right, it happened again.


It started with a string of three St Kilda goals in the dying minutes of the second half.  Pedersen’s goal on the siren restored a decent lead but the scoreboard no longer reflected the Dees dominance. Neither side really took control early in the 3rd quarter, but later in the third, another flurry of goals saw the Saints peg the margin back. Membrey and Bruce made up for earlier mistakes – Bruce took the mark of the day as well – and Billings, Dunstan and Webster all goaled, so the margin was only 10 points at 3 quarter time. Membrey got the first of the fourth quarter too and it was “game on”.


The positive for the Demons was that when faced with this challenge, they responded.  In a moment of huge courage both Hibberd then Lewis put their bodies on the line to repel a Saints attack.


A St Kilda fan behind us yelled “Only seven possessions, back to the VFL Hannan!”, obviously unaware that this was an improvement on his three-possession (all handballs) game against North Melbourne! But then with his eighth and ninth possessions, Mitch kicked goals, justifying his selection and causing the Saints fan to exit. Melksham got the sealer and the game was done.


The Saints fans walked away disappointed, knowing that a terrible first half had cost them the game. While there will be a sense of relief that the Demons remain in control of their destiny, a final eight spot is not yet locked away. Until then, we’ll continue to hope that the boys can get the job done and we hold our current spot in 7th, and then we can lift the “veil of negativity” and hopefully enjoy being part of September for the first time since 2006.


After all, recent results suggest that 7th is a good place to launch a finals campaign from!

About Joseph Ryan

Lawyer, amateur sportsman, and full-time sports-watcher. Follows Melbourne Demons and Melbourne Storm and is trying to be better at golf.

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