Another Thursday night, another pre-final blockbuster

For the second Thursday night in three weeks we have the top two teams vying to start a round and on this occasion it’s the second-placed Geelong Cats who welcome the best-placed Melbourne to Kardinia Park.

After a rough patch, including three consecutive losses to fellow finalists Fremantle, the Sydney Swans and Collingwood, the Dees have retaliated in the fortnight since their parting, leaving the Brisbane Lions and Adelaide Crows in the thick of it.

The win over the Lions in particular became more impressive as they were without captain Max Gawn when they exposed the Lions as MCG novices, while against the Crows they were also without striker Luke Jackson due to an injury.

All this while talking about the behavior of his coach Simon Goodwin and other key staff at the start of their 2021 season, which, as we all know, ended in ultimate glory.

While the Dees were the most consistent side of 2021, it wasn’t until the final lap that they sealed their first minor premiership since 1964, which was also the year of their most recent flag to that point, with a dramatic win after the siren. about the Geelong Cats in Kardinia Park.

It all came down to Max Gawn’s boot to decide which of the Cats and Dees would finish at the top of the ladder, and it was he who would really convert to give his side the win and condemn the Cats to make it into Port Adelaide away in the first week of the final.

Sadly, no one was there to see it in person as Victoria was in the midst of another COVID-19 lockdown, which ultimately forced the AFL Grand Final to be played out of state for the second consecutive year.

As if missing the small premiership on home soil and losing the qualifier to the Power at the Oval wasn’t enough, the Cats were then humiliated for three weeks by Simon Goodwin’s men in the preliminary final at Optus Stadium. later.

The Dees, who had had so many torturous defeats by the Cats wrong in the past 15 years (think of the near-record 186-point loss at Kardinia Park in 2011 that cost the late Dean Bailey his job), brutally turned the tables. that night with an 83 point win.

Max Gawn, the only remaining player from the Bailey era, produced a finals performance for years as he scored five goals to lead his side to their first major final since 2000, finally leading them to victory against the Western Bulldogs two weeks later.

Now, ten months later, the Cats and Dees face each other for the first time since that historic night at Optus Stadium, with Chris Scott’s side eager to get revenge on a side they inflicted so much misery last year.

Past Melbourne teams had never enjoyed the highway ride before, although a highlight came in 2015 when they won by four goals, with Gawn putting in a stellar performance as the Dees destroyed Cats veteran Corey Enright’s 300th match celebrations.

It was their first win at Kardinia Park since 2005 and their first against the Cats since 2006, at which point the Kardinia Park men had yet to develop into the dominant and consistent squad that would score three of the next five flags as the Dees slipped away fall into oblivion.

Aside from that, the Red and Blue also suffered a 111-point loss in Paul Roos’s last game as coach in 2016, lost after the final siren after a whopping five goals in 2018, and took on an 80-point loss that marked the beginning of the end of their 2019 campaign.

Back to the present, and despite fears that the preliminary final mauling of the Cats by the Dees in September of last year would leave some mental and psychological scars in this season, they’ve all but proven that they are once again among the contenders for this season’s flag. years belonged.

Max Gawn leads the Melbourne Demons out

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Chris Scott’s side go into round 17 with 11 wins from 15 matches, having won the last six matches since losing 10 points to St Kilda in round nine at Marvel Stadium at the Marvel Stadium to move up to second on the ladder.

Last week against North Melbourne, they took the biggest win of any side this season, with a 112 point gain, with Jeremy Cameron rising to the top of the Coleman Medal standings with four majors and 30 disposals.

With no injuries, Cameron hopes to be part of the Cats’ next premiership and would like to do so while captain Joel Selwood, who will be playing his 350th game in a few weeks, and Patrick Dangerfield are still playing.

At stake is the chance to potentially knock the Dees off the top of the ladder and get in on their own, though they’ll (proverbially) have to bury the demons from their three losses to the Dees last year.

Aside from those two aforementioned matches from last year, Melbourne also won their round four clash by 25 points in the MCG.

However, this will be the teams’ only regular season meeting this year, although the two clubs are expected to cross paths again in September.

Having home field advantage will certainly help the Cats retaliate, but it’s likely the Dees will take Max Gawn and Luke Jackson back in tow as they try to take four more premiership points from Kardinia Park and extend their lead at the top of the table. the ladder.