The rest of the AFL is keeping their eye on the red and the blue at the moment, as the Dees surged to a 29 point win over Geelong at the MCG in their Elimination Final. The Dees started well, leading 33 – 2 at quarter time, after a Richmond-like opening quarter.
They could have opened that margin more, if not for some wasteful play in the second and third quarters, but finished well to move on to a Semi-Final against Hawthorn next Friday night. Geelong however, is set for an earlier than expected Mad Monday, (they’re probably better at those than they at than finals footy…) after a below-par season that should have brought more.
1. There’s a bit of the yellow and black about these Dees
There’s been a potential narrative circling in the past month that now the Dees have their tails up, they’ll be able to ride that momentum deep into finals, much like the Tigers did last year. Well stick a pickle in me and tickle it, because that’s exactly what happened last night.
Nobody’s saying the Dees are as good as the Tigers just yet, but they were certainly playing like them on Friday night when the side took total control of the contest, buoyed by making it to the finals. The Dees’ pressure was immense, especially in the first quarter, as they had 89 tackles (the Tiges had 81 in the wet a night earlier, and averaged 62 for the year), and took total control of the match
2. Even experienced campaigners get shook.
Sure, the Dees were pretty good. But Geelong turned up a quarter late, as a poor opening term gave Melbourne a five-goal head start. The Cats continually handed the ball back to their opponents, as several of their big-name players had shockers. They might have improved slightly as the game wore on, but the damage was done as the Cats were on the back foot and lost by 29 points, two points less than the quarter time margin.
3. Geelong’s season is an underachievement
To get Ablett, the Cats only had to give up the compensation pick they received from Motlop’s departure, so it’s not like they mortgaged their future to go all-in on this season. But much like Essendon and Port Adelaide, the other off-season headline grabbers, this season can only be considered an underachievement. The Cats had potentially assembled the best midfield core of all time; to scrape into finals and be knocked out in the first game, it’s undeniably a fail mark for this season.
4. The Dees have the best midfield group in the comp
There’s a lot of different tactics in footy (except if you’re Alistair Clarkson), but you’ll come out on top in a lot of games of footy if you’re dominant at the contest and that’s exactly what Melbourne did last night. Never was it starker than last night, when Viney, Brayshaw, Oliver and co. won the centre clearances 13-1. Against a midfield group consisting of the greatest player of the last decade (Ablett), the best hard-nosed Captain of the last decade (J Selwood), the game’s current best (Dangerfield), and the game’s best ball winning first-year player (Kelly). Max Gawn was a big part of that, but that it was a dominant performance that should scare Hawthorn and everyone else further down the line.
5. Jesse Hogan isn’t being missed
Losing your two best key position players shouldn’t mean this little. Jake Lever is a huge out for the Dees obviously, but the absence of Hogan has barely changed the complexion of their season. Whilst the side was still below-average inside 50 (10 goals from 60 inside 50s), both McDonald and Weiderman both were named amongst the Dees’ best. Weiderman was exceptional, with 24 disposals and 3 goals, while the pair finished with 15 marks between them while having as much influence as anyone.
FIRST ELIMINATION FINAL
MELBOURNE 5.3 5.9 6.13 10.15 (75)
GEELONG 0.2 2.4 3.8 6.10 (46)
Melbourne: Weideman 3, Harmes, Gawn, Melksham, T.McDonald, Jones, Hannan, Neal-Bullen
Geelong: Hawkins 2, Kelly, Tuohy, Murdoch, Duncan
Melbourne: Weideman, Harmes, Brayshaw, T.McDonald, Gawn, Viney, vandenBerg
Geelong: Dangerfield, J.Selwood, Ablett, Bews, Tuohy
Geelong: Stewart (neck)
Umpires: Chamberlain, Findlay, Mollison
Official crowd: 91,767 at the MCG