Essendon 1.5 2.9 5.13 6.16 (52)
Melbourne 1.2 4.3 5.5 8.10 (58)
It took ten weeks but one positional change was the key in Melbourne’s stirring and resilient win over an inaccurate Essendon at the MCG on Saturday night.
Demons key defender Colin Garland, despite being originally recruited as a forward, raised eyebrows when he walked into Melbourne’s forward line prior to the opening bounce.
His impact was to be matchwinning. He had 20 disposals, seven of which were contested, and eleven marks, three of which were also contested. But his most telling stat was that his 2.2 all came in the last quarter to lead the Demons home.
Two goals in the last quarter was a huge contribution, given that Melbourne only kicked eight for the night, and Essendon six, in what was a traditional wet-weather contest.
The game was scrappy and intense, and the Bombers played it more skillfully in the first quarter, but they failed to capitalise, dominating the inside 50s yet only kicking a solitary goal.
The Demons stood tough, however, and soon played the drizzly conditions to their advantage. Nathan Jones’s 26-disposal, nine-tackle, eight-clearance effort set the tone as Melbourne kicked long and tackled hard, while Essendon, bar captain Jobe Watson, seemed almost expectant at times.
Watson was clear best on ground for the Dons with 32 disposals (16 contested), five tackles, five clearances and two goals, but besides him and David Zaharakis whose 30 disposals was important, the players appeared casual, typified by Patrick Ryder missing an fairly easy snap from fifteen metres out late in the first quarter which would have given the Bombers a handy break.
The class and tactics were undoubtedly there – Essendon on the spread looked very damaging at times throughout the night – but the second efforts, the intent and the will to win was, at least in comparison, clearly below Melbourne’s. Their set shots were also deplorable, with 0.7 for the night, and Stewart Crameri, Michael Hurley, Leroy Jetta and Angus Monfries combining for 0.10.
It was as all-round team display from the Demons – co-captains Jack Grimes and Jack Trengove led from the front, Brent Moloney kept pumping it inside 50 and Daniel Nicholson’s pace was very useful. Alongside this, their back half was fantastic in James Frawley’s absence.
They were persistent and relentless in their attack on the footy, preventing and rebounding from dangerous situations in the back half through immense pressure.
Although the statistics may say that Essendon had more inside 50s and Melbourne had more clearances and tackles, they can’t ever tell you that Melbourne’s desire to win was far greater and, to Mark Neeld’s relief, it resulted in their first win of the season.
3 – Colin Garland (Melb)
2 – Jobe Watson (Ess)
1 – Nathan Jones (Melb)
Essendon: Watson 2, Davey, Melksham, Hocking, Colyer
Melbourne: Garland 2, Howe, Morton, Moloney, Jones, Clark, Sylvia
Essendon: Watson, Zaharakis, Dempsey, Howlett, Stanton
Melbourne: Garland, Jones, Watts, Nicholson, Moloney
Essendon: Hooker (soreness) replaced inselected side by Pears
Melbourne: Bail (concussion) replaced in selected side by Morton, Blease (groin)
Essendon: Alwyn Davey replaced in the fourth quarter by Sam Lonergan
Melbourne: Sam Blease (groin) replaced in the third quarter by Lynden Dunn
Umpires: McBurney, Jennings, Foot
Official crowd: 42,987 at the MCG