An incredible 2021 season has Melbourne eyeing off their first premiership victory this century as the they look to break their 57-year drought.
Melbourne’s bread and butter is their suffocating defence, lead by star duo Jake lever and Steven May. The Dees' prolific partnership frees fellow defenders to commit to their direct opponent, as their reading of the play permits a plethora of intercepts and outnumbering in contests.
As a result, the Demons strike quick and ferociously as their daring ball movement is overpowering when in full effect. Not to mention the premium service that their star-studded midfield receives from Max Gawn’s ruck work.
Just to reiterate how dominant the Demons' have been this season; They led the league in tackles, tackles inside 50 and efficiency inside 50. They’re just as effective as they are fierce.
It’s apparent that Melbourne have been able to not only develop and implement a strong gameplan, but also perfect it, as a lack of injuries has all but given senior coach Simon Goodwin his strongest lineup weekly.
Furthering this injury-free luxury is the fact that the Dees will have had an extra week of recovery over their opponent. This additional rest period serves to further enhance the team's fitness and recovery, opposed to the Dogs’ - who have been both travelling and playing over the past three weeks.
Conversely, Melbourne isn't without its own injury concerns as of late, with May subbed out of the preliminary final with a hamstring complaint. May appeared to aggravate the issue in the first quarter, but proceeded to play until the result was all but certain.
May was adamant that he would be fit to play in the big game when asked on Saturday morning.
“There’s no chance I’m missing that”, he said after Friday's win.
"It’s pulled up really well – as good as I had hoped.
“I’m super confident in my body, I know my body pretty well now – I’ve been in really good shape this year.
Steven May on his hamstring:
— 7AFL (@7AFL) September 10, 2021
“I think last night was just a bit more of a nervy scare, but it’s business as usual come Monday, I guess.”
Yet, May's inclusion in the Grand Final squad will ultimately be the decision of Goodwin, permitting the key-defender passes the required fitness tests.
Additionally, Jayden Hunt and Joel Smith are set to fight for their respective spots back in the lineup, having been replaced recently by Jake Bowey and Michael Hibberd.
Bowey was able to tally 19 touches and initiate some attack in the win over Geelong, while Hibberd was effective and aggressive when called upon. Bowey will likely have to tussle with Hunt come selection, while Hibberd's experience is likely to give him the edge over the hamstrung Smith.
Hunt has been a speedy staple all season, having played against the Dogs on both occasions in 2021, while Smith has displayed his defence prowess over the past several weeks. Hunt appears to be one of several names to be banging on the door for a return, whereas Smith will likely have to prove himself over the coming training sessions as he looks to prove his fitness.
Youngster James Jordon has played all year but appears to be on the fringe, having been the medical sub on the weekend. The rookie Demon has played against the Bulldogs on both occasions as well, collecting 14 disposals in both outings despite having poor efficiencies and being restricted to his pressure role.
However, his experience in playing against the Dogs may prove crucial as he attempts to continue his development en route to a Grand Final appearance.
Club legend Nathan Jones has decided to return home to be present for the birth of his twins. While this may not directly impact the Demons' on-field play, Jones' absence will no doubt leave a spiritual void on Grand Final day as he watches from home.
Simon Goodwin finds himself in a similar position to the one he's been in all year, seemingly being able to choose from the majority of his playing group to enter yet another game at near-full strength.
Suppose Melbourne’s stellar defence is able to nullify the Dogs' offensive firepower, the game will most likely be decided by the matchup between the Dees' attack (their supposed weakness) and Bulldogs' dynamic backline, given that both midfields effectively cancel each other out.
Predicted Melbourne Demons Grand Final team:
B: Michael Hibberd, Steven May, Jake Lever
HB: Christian Salem, Harrison Petty, Trent Rivers
C: Angus Brayshaw, Christian Petracca, Ed Langdon
HF: Kysaiah Pickett, Tom McDonald, James Harmes
F: Bayley Fritsch, Ben Brown, Alex Neal-Bullen
R: Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney
Int: Luke Jackson, Charlie Spargo, Tom Sparrow, Jake Bowey
Emer: James Jordon (medical sub), Jayden Hunt, Joel Smith, Sam Weideman