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High flyer: Happy Melbourne fans with Sam Frost after their win over the Bulldogs. Photo: Robert Cianflone
You could best surmise how much Melbourne still have to prove in the pundits’ eyes by checking out our footy tips for this round. Out of 24 tipsters, just two backed the Demons to beat the Western Bulldogs despite the fact they’d won three of their previous four games compared to the Dogs’ one win from four. On Sunday, form lines looked a lot more reliable than hunches, Melbourne’s 57-point win the result of relentless pressure and far slicker ball use. If consistency was an issue earlier in the season, it’s one which seems to have been overcome, the Dees’ midfield again on top despite the absence of a genuine ruckman, a problem no longer next week with the return of Max Gawn. This is a team growing not only in confidence, but finals credibility.
Shirt front: Lance Franklin tussles with Richmond’s Alex Rance. Photo: AFL Media/Getty Images
There’s plenty of talk around about Alex Rance’s place in the pantheon of all-time great key defenders. Given their longevity, I reckon it’s a stretch to be comparing him to David Dench, Geoff Southby, Steve Silvagni and co. just yet, but the Richmond man is certainly closing in, his performance against Lance Franklin more evidence. Rance was practically a one-man band as Sydney launched assault after assault in the final term. Midway through the quarter, he’d had seven possessions, four of which were intercepts. Unable to hold back the tide on his own, eventually the Tigers’ defences gave way, but it was a superb eff ort nonetheless. Rance an all-time great? The idea is growing on me.
Free choice: Melbourne’s Bernie Vince is dispossessed by Liam Picken. Photo: Robert Cianflone
The AFL’s mid-season experiment with four field umpires during the bye rounds has been interesting, but doesn’t seem to have won a lot of fans. One of the major issues seems to have been the “too many cooks” syndrome, with non-controlling umpires coming over the top to pay free kicks more regularly, causing a bit of confusion. The upside has been more occasions on which they’ve been able to spot infringements unsighted by umpires closer to play, a free for high contact to the Western Bulldogs’ Liam Picken in Sunday’s game against Melbourne a good example. Do we want fewer frees or more which haven’t been picked up spotted? It’s not necessarily an easy choice. I think the trials might be worth persisting with.
Sunset: Gold Coast leave the field after losing to Carlton. Photo: Chris Hyde
One step forward, two steps back seems to be the recurring theme with Gold Coast, and Saturday night’s loss at home to Carlton has further enshrined that unwanted reputation for the Suns. Just twice in 144 games in AFL company have Gold Coast been able to win more than two games in a row, squandering another opportunity to do so against the Blues just a week on from an important win on the road. Not for the first time jumped at the start, the Suns did enough hard work to hit the front, then promptly conceded the next three goals and the game. Using Michael Barlow’s horrific and untimely injury as an excuse is too convenient. Gold Coast’s inability to keep the momentum going after that spoke volumes.