OPINION

Why Melbourne is a genuine AFL flag contender

Clayton Oliver, Max Gawn and the impressive Melbourne Demons continue to jump every hurdle. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Clayton Oliver, Max Gawn and the impressive Melbourne Demons continue to jump every hurdle. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

If there were any doubts about Melbourne's credentials as a genuine premiership contender, they were surely dispelled by the Demons' demolition of the Western Bulldogs last Friday night.

Sadly, there were no spectators in the stadium as the much-anticipated battle between the AFL's two top teams turned into a fizzer.

The final margin flattered the Bulldogs, whose frailties were exposed under fierce pressure from the ruthless Demons.

The much-vaunted Bulldogs midfield was thrashed by the Demons led by Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and James Harmes.

While the Dogs were missing injured duo Josh Dunkley and Adam Treloar, it should not be forgotten Melbourne was without its vice-captain Jack Viney.

There is plenty to like about Melbourne and it appears the Demons have all bases covered to be successful.

They have the best ruckman in the competition, skipper Max Gawn, who is well supported by promising youngster Luke Jackson.

Their midfield depth is impressive and they have stars in Oliver and Petracca.

But just as importantly there are role players such as recruit Ed Langdon and Angus Brayshaw.

The speedy Langdon creates plenty of run and Brayshaw has become a more complete player by doing the little things well, particularly defensively.

Steven May and Jake Lever spearhead the AFL's stingiest backline. Christian Salem is a superb distributor with his penetrating left boot off half-back, Harrison Petty has covered the loss of the experienced Adam Tomlinson and Trent Rivers adds a hard edge.

The attack has plenty of scoring options.

Tom McDonald has regained his touch after almost being thrown on the scrapheap at the end of last year, Bayley Fritsch knows where the goals are and Charlie Spargo is courageous and a workhorse who applies fierce pressure.

Sam Weideman and former Kangaroo Ben Brown are competing for a spot on the forward line, with Weideman doing just enough to stay in the team for now.

The Demons have lost only once this season, by a point when they were on the receiving end of poor umpiring against Adelaide last round, but they bounced back with a vengeance against the Bulldogs.

This Friday night, they face another big test against the in-form Lions, who have recovered from a tardy start to the season to win their past seven games.

Halfway through the season, a top-four spot and maybe a home final beckons for Melbourne.

And there is every reason for the red and blue faithful to be excited, having not seen a premiership since 1964.

There's plenty to like about Essendon's young side. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

There's plenty to like about Essendon's young side. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

IMPRESSIVE BOMBERS A BIG SURPRISE

Sydney made an early charge as the season's surprise packets - now Essendon is making an eye-catching run with its exciting brand of football.

After winning their opening four games the Swans have been inconsistent, but they sit in sixth spot with a 7-4 record after defeating Carlton at home.

Recently, though, the Bombers have won plenty of admirers.

They have won their past three, highlighted by a superb come-from-behind victory on Saturday night to inflict West Coast's first loss at home this season.

Essendon will remain in Perth to play Richmond in the annual Dreamtime game, which has been shifted to Optus Stadium on Saturday night.

Despite losing their past 10 clashes against the Tigers, the Bombers would fancy their chances and a win would put them into the eight - a prospect few would have expected before the season after a disappointing finish in 2020 and losing several experienced players in the off-season.

They are playing to a good system under the new coaching set-up led by Ben Rutten. Importantly, they are playing with renewed spirit and passion.

Nick Hind has slotted seamlessly into Adam Saad's role at half-back, Darcy Parish is thriving as a midfielder and playing the best football of his career, and youngsters Nik Cox, Harrison Jones and Archie Perkins show great potential.

PUT ASHES BEFORE THE IPL

The major focus for Australia's cricketers should be on the upcoming summer, highlighted by an Ashes series and not on the lucrative Indian Premier League.

Cricket Australia should prevent key players including Pat Cummins, Steve Smith and David Warner from going to the United Arab Emirates and competing in the remaining 31 IPL games.

The IPL, postponed in May because of India's COVID-19 crisis, is set to resume in late September and be completed in early October in time for the T20 World Cup scheduled for the sub-continent.

When the IPL resumes, many of the Australian players will be busy on national duty preparing for the T20 World Cup. Later on, some will be gearing up for the Ashes.

Even if players do not return to complete the IPL season, they will be paid as their salaries have been insured by the Board of Control for Cricket in India and franchises.

Players who are not involved in the T20 World Cup or the Ashes could fulfil their IPL commitments and play the remaining matches.

Representing your country is far more important than a private T20 competition and CA should hold its star players to their contracts.

Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com; Twitter: @hpkotton59.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story Howard Kotton | Why Melbourne is a genuine AFL flag contender first appeared on The Canberra Times.