Interesting team selections from Melbourne on Thursday night: Sam Frost and Dean Kent are in for Cam Pedersen and Jayden Hunt. It’ll change things, as we’re about to get into here.
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An extra tall defender
Frost’s inclusion comes off the back of strong VFL form for Casey playing as a defender, which is key here. In theory he should be coming in to play on either Ben Brown or Jarrad Waite, which allows Jake Lever to play as the third tall/interceptor, putting him in a position to maximise his strengths while also forcing North to rethink its ball movement.
The thing is, Frost has been named at centre half forward. Now nine times out of 10, the selected positions on Thursday night mean nothing. From a North perspective, let’s hope this is the remaining occasion. Frost as a forward leaves Melbourne with only two tall defenders, a situation which plays right into North’s hands.
One less tall forward
At the risk of assuming one conclusion and then using it as the basis for my next point, once Frost plays back it leaves a small Melbourne forward line.
Kent, Jake Melksham, Bayley Fritsch, Tom Bugg, and Jeff Garlett around Jesse Hogan is Richmond-esque, before we even get to Christian Petracca when he has his spells close to home.
While Scott Thompson and Ed Vickers-Willis can play small, clearly the Melbourne focus appears to be an attempt to expose the North defence at ground level and pressure the ball use coming out of the back half. We’ll see how it pans out.
At the risk of repeating myself, those who follow me on Twitter will have seen my thoughts on how Geelong exposed Melbourne in Round 1.
The basic premise is as follows: Melbourne attempts to outnumber around the ball and use this as the basis to force the ball forward. It can be exposed if you win clean at the contest and then move forward with speed. We also covered this in our JLT 1 review from Tasmania.
The standout for Melbourne in winning contested ball is clearly Clayton Oliver – 36 contested possessions in the first fortnight. Despite the curve ball thrown last week with Ben Jacobs going to Seb Ross, you’d imagine Jacobs will go straight to Oliver from the opening bounce on Saturday.
To paraphrase a saying which is way too extreme for a game of football, cut the head off a snake and it makes it harder for other Demons to win contested ball. I think that’s how it goes anyway.
Who the Demons are missing
The two key Melbourne absences are Tom McDonald and Jack Viney, both crucial to how the Demons want to play. They’re both dealing with medium term injuries, to a toe and foot respectively.
We’ll be back on Saturday morning with the game day preview, and hopefully the Sunday morning review is full of sunshine and rainbows. See you then.