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Analysis of 2018 Melbourne fixture

Matt Burgan  November 1, 2017 7:12 PM

Analysis: 2018 Melbourne fixture

Round 1, Sunday, March 25, Geelong Cats, MCG, Home, 3:20pm, Seven

Footy’s back for 2018 and what a ripper this match should be! For Melbourne, it will be the first unveiling of boom recruit Jake Lever in a red and blue jumper. For the Cats, they will welcome back the return of one of the game’s greatest players, Gary Ablett, back in the blue and white hoops. Geelong skipper Joel Selwood will also play his 250th. The two oldest clubs in the competition will play at the MCG for just the second time since 2009. It will also be the first time the two sides have met in a season-opener since 1996. In fact, the Demons and Cats played four round one matches in the 1990s, with both teams winning two each. Melbourne fans from that era won’t forget Andrew Lamprill’s match-winning goal in his first game in 1992 and Allen Jakovich’s 8.8 in 1994, when Melbourne won by 65 points.

Round 2, Saturday, March 31, Brisbane Lions, The Gabba, Away, 6:25pm, Foxtel

Queensland-based Melbourne fans have been starved of red and blue action in recent years, but they will get their fix early in 2018, when the Demons play two games during the first eight rounds in the Sunshine State. It will be the first-time Melbourne plays the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba since round five, 2013. The Demons will be looking to secure their fourth consecutive victory against the Lions and their first win at the venue since round 18, 2010, when Dean Bailey was coach. It will be the Lions’ first home match of the season and the first-time Hawthorn great and new Lion Luke Hodge plays in front of his home crowd. The match will be played on Easter Saturday.

Round 3, Saturday, April 7, North Melbourne, MCG, Home, 2:10pm, Foxtel

Since the Paul Roos/Simon Goodwin era started, Melbourne has ended just about all long-standing hoodoos. Yet the one that still stands out is Melbourne’s terrible recent record against North Melbourne. The Demons have not beaten the Kangaroos since round 20, 2006. And after losing its past three against North Melbourne by an average of 7.66 points, Melbourne will be desperate to end its 17-match losing streak against the Roos. It will be the second time the Demons meet the Kangas in 2018, with the two teams set to open the JLT Community Series in Hobart, Kingston Twin Ovals on Saturday, February 24. For the footy purists, this is Melbourne’s only traditional ‘Saturday arvo’ match for the season. The Demons will also be aiming to win its first round three clash since 2011.

Round 4, Sunday, April 15, Hawthorn, MCG, Away, 3:20pm, Seven

After suffering some horrible losses against the Hawks from 2007-15 – the past three tussles have been fascinating encounters – and this one could be a beauty. The Demons went down to the Hawks by three goals in round 11, 2016, before they snapped a 13-game losing streak with a stunning 29-point win in round 20, 2016, with Jack Viney and Max Gawn starring with three and two Brownlow Medal votes respectively. It was one of Melbourne’s best wins from the past decade. When the two sides met in round seven, 2017, the final margin was just three points. It will be the second-time four-time premiership player Jordan Lewis comes up against his former side. Christian Salem is on track to notch up his 50th AFL game this round.

Round 5, Tuesday, April 24, Richmond, MCG, Home, 7:25pm, Seven

If you haven’t been to an Anzac Day eve match, then mark this down in your diary! The pre-match ceremony is a wonderful spectacle. The MCG is lit up in all its glory, with some moving tributes on show. This will be the fourth consecutive Anzac Day eve match between Melbourne and Richmond – and the sixth overall – after the two teams met in 1915 and 1937 (albeit not under lights). This year’s clash in round five was the highest attended match between the two teams. A total of 85,657 witnessed an epic encounter, with the eventual 2017 premiers winning by 13 points. That match now sits 21st on the list for the greatest attended Melbourne games since 1897, including finals. Now, one of the genuine blockbusters of the competition. Must see!

Round 6, Sunday, April 29, Essendon, Etihad Stadium, Away, 1:10pm, Foxtel

After playing four of its opening five rounds at the MCG, Melbourne will venture across town to play back-to-back matches at Etihad Stadium, starting with the Bombers in round six. It was in the corresponding round this year that the Demons defeated Essendon by 38 points at Docklands – Melbourne’s first win over the Bombers at Etihad Stadium since 2009. It will also be the first-time Melbourne has played Essendon at Docklands in successive seasons since 2006-07. The 1.10pm match is one of three for Melbourne next season – the earliest it will play matches in 2018. For the Bombers, this will be their fourth Etihad Stadium from their opening six rounds. James Harmes is on scheduled to play his 50th AFL game, if he plays the first six rounds.   

Round 7, Sunday, May 6, St Kilda, Etihad Stadium, Away, 3:20pm, Seven

After coming off a five-day break from Anzac Day eve to round six, Melbourne will enter this clash against St Kilda having had a seven-day break. This year, the red and blue finally ended a 14-game losing streak against St Kilda in round one, after Simon Goodwin – in his first game as Melbourne coach – guided his side to a 30-point win at Etihad Stadium. The Demons then made it two-from-two against the Saints after they recorded a 24-point victory at the MCG in round 21. And although they didn’t play in that game this year, St Kilda will be somewhat of a different looking side without long-serving duo Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna, who both retired at the end of the season. Demon Tom Bugg could play his 100th AFL game, if he plays the opening seven rounds.

Round 8, Saturday, May 12, Gold Coast Suns, The Gabba, Away, 4:35pm, Foxtel

Not since they met for the first time in round four, 2011 have Melbourne played the Gold Coast Suns at the Gabba. For the record, the Demons won that match by 90 points under Dean Bailey. But due to the Commonwealth Games being held on the Gold Coast next year – and Metricon Stadium not being available until June – this clash will be played at Woolloongabba, instead of Carrara. In the space of less than two months, Melbourne will play a couple of matches in Queensland next year, after having played just one game in the Sunshine State, at Metricon Stadium, since round 20, 2013. That game was against the Suns in round seven, 2016, when Melbourne won by 73 points – Paul Roos’ greatest winning margin as Melbourne coach.

Round 9, Sunday, May 20, Carlton, MCG, Away, 1:10pm, Foxtel

Melbourne returns to the MCG for the first time since round five, after playing Essendon and St Kilda at Etihad Stadium, and Gold Coast Suns at the Gabba from rounds six to eight respectively. It’s worth noting that this will be Melbourne’s only game at the ‘G from rounds six to 11, with matches to follow against the Adelaide Crows (TIO Traeger Park) and Western Bulldogs (Etihad Stadium) in rounds 10 and 11 respectively. This clash will also be Melbourne’s second away game at the ‘G, after playing Hawthorn in round four. Melbourne will be aiming to win three in a row against Carlton, after notching up a 22-point win in round two and an eight-point victory in round 16 this year. Speedster Jayden Hunt is on track to play his 50th AFL game.

Round 10, Sunday, May 27, Adelaide Crows, TIO Traeger Park, Home, 2:50pm, Seven

Key signing Jake Lever probably didn’t expect his first game against his former club to be in Central Australia, but that’s where it’ll be, all things being equal, when he lines up for Melbourne against his old side. Lever, who played 56 games for the Crows from 2015-17, looms as a 10-year-plus player for the Demons, and it’ll be fascinating to see him play against his ex-teammates, particularly Taylor Walker, who was vocal in his departure. Notwithstanding the Lever intrigue, this is a match that any footy fan, especially those of the red and blue leaning, should attend, if the opportunity presents. Watching an AFL game in Alice Springs, in stunning surroundings is an absolute treat. Dom Tyson, who played 13 games for GWS Giants from 2012-13, is on course to register his 100th AFL match.

Round 11, Saturday, June 2, Western Bulldogs, Etihad Stadium, Away, 1:45pm, Foxtel

If all runs to plan, Nathan Jones is due to play his 250th AFL match this round, meaning he will become just the ninth Melbourne player to reach the milestone behind David Neitz (306 games), Robert Flower (272), Adem Yze (271), Jim Stynes (264), Steven Febey (258), Brad Green (254), Brian Dixon (252) and James McDonald (251). Young-gun Christian Petracca is also on target to play his 50th AFL game. This will be the first of two meetings against the Bulldogs in 2018 – and the third and final match at Etihad Stadium next year. In round 13, this year, Melbourne recorded its biggest win for the season over the Dogs – a 57-point victory. The Demons will be aiming to win their first round 11 match since 2011, when they defeated Essendon at the MCG by 33 points.

Round 12, Monday, June 11, Collingwood, MCG, Home, 3:20pm, Seven

Officially locked in since 2001 – although they’ve previously met on the Monday public holiday – the Queen’s Birthday clash remains a blockbuster on the AFL calendar. The addition of Neale Daniher’s ‘Big Freeze at the ‘G’ since 2014 – to raise funds to help rid motor neurone disease – has added to the occasion. However, after failing to defeat Collingwood 11 times from round 20, 2008 to round 10, 2015 – there was a draw in round 12, 2010 – Melbourne bounced back to record four consecutive wins from round 18, 2015 to round 12, 2017, including successive QB victories in 2016-17. But Melbourne’s winning streak over the Pies came to a halt in that round 23 match this year and it will be desperate to turn the tables this time around. Jack Viney is slated to play his 100th AFL game.

Round 13, Bye

Round 14, Friday, June 22, Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, Away, 7:20pm, Seven

Melbourne’s only Friday night match in 2018 will also be the first-time ex-Demon Jack Watts comes up against his former side. It will be a fascinating match – not only for the Melbourne and Port Adelaide faithful to see how Watts fares – but the general football public at large. The Demons have won their past two encounters against the Power, having notched up an outstanding 40-point win at Adelaide Oval in round 21, 2016 and a 23-point win at the MCG in round 18, 2017. And for the history buffs, it will be just the second-time Melbourne and Port Adelaide have met on a Friday night, with the only other match coming in the Power’s first year in 1997. Unfortunately, it happened to be Neil Balme’s final game as coach. Oscar McDonald is on track to reach 50 AFL games this round.

Round 15, Sunday, July 1, St Kilda, MCG, Home, 1:10pm, Foxtel

This will be the first-time Melbourne plays an opponent twice in next year’s home and away season. But it will be the third-time the Demons and Saints meet in 2018, given they play in the JLT Community Series at Casey Fields on Thursday, March 8 at 7.05pm. And not since 2012-13 have Melbourne and St Kilda played at the ‘G in consecutive seasons. Interestingly, for the first time since April, Melbourne will play at least two games in the same month at the MCG, with the Demons hosting the Western Bulldogs at the ‘G on July 14. Angus Brayshaw and Billy Stretch could play their 50th AFL match each, if they play every game until this point. The Dees will also be aiming to win their first round 15 win since 2010, back when they defeated the Dons by 19 points at the MCG.

Round 16, Saturday, July 7, Fremantle, TIO Stadium, Home, 7:10pm, Foxtel

Melbourne returns to the Northern Territory for its second home game of the season. After playing in Alice Springs in round 10, Melbourne heads to Darwin, where it will play its ninth home and away match at TIO Stadium since 2010. It will be the third time the Demons and Freo have met at the venue, with Melbourne recording a 32-point win in round 16, 2016. The Dees lost their first encounter against the Dockers in Darwin, when they clashed back in round 16, 2014. This will be recruit Harley Balic’s first chance of coming up against his former side, after playing four games with Fremantle in 2016. Clayton Oliver is due to play his 50th AFL game and Sam Frost is on target to reach the half century with Melbourne, having played 21 matches for GWS Giants from 2012-14.

Round 17, Saturday, July 14, Western Bulldogs, MCG, Home, 4:35pm, Foxtel

The Demons and Dogs battle it out for the second time in 2018, after meeting at Etihad Stadium in round 11. And it will be the first time since 2015 that the two sides have played each other twice in a season. It was back in round eight, 2015 when Melbourne had its most recent victory over the Bulldogs at the MCG – a 39-point win under coach Paul Roos. It’s also worth pointing out that this will be the end of Melbourne’s lean period at the MCG, when it plays just four matches at the ground from rounds six to 19. The Demons will be aiming for their first round 17 victory since 2011, when they defeated Port Adelaide by 21 points in Darwin. Alex Neal-Bullen will be aiming to play his 50th game, if he plays every match from the start of the season.  

Round 18, Saturday, July 21, Geelong Cats, GMHBA Stadium, Away, 7:25pm, Seven

After playing Geelong at the ‘G in round one, it’s back to the Cattery this time around. Although Melbourne didn’t play at Kardinia Park in 2017 – now GMHBA Stadium – the Demons have been a regular at Geelong in recent history. Including 2018, Melbourne will have played the Cats at Geelong eight times from their past 11 meetings. Demon fans will be hoping for an occasion like round 12, 2015, when Melbourne ended a 10-match losing streak against the Cats to win by 24 points. Potentially, three players could reach milestones this round. Jordan Lewis is on track to play his 300th AFL game, after 264 games with Hawthorn. Jake Melksham could notch up his 150th AFL game, after 114 with Essendon. And Bernie Vince could crack the ton with Melbourne, after 129 games with Adelaide.

Round 19, Saturday, July 28, Adelaide Crows, Adelaide Oval, Away, 7:10pm, Seven

Before this game, the past two Melbourne and Adelaide encounters will have been in the Northern Territory. In round 17, 2017, the Demons went down to the Crows in Darwin, while the two teams are set to meet in round 10, 2018 in Alice Springs. But Melbourne is back at the Adelaide Oval for the first time since its brilliant victory over the Crows in round eight, 2017, when it produced a 69-point turnaround to defeat the eventual grand finalists by 41 points. It was one of coach Simon Goodwin’s best wins in his first year. In fact, the Demons have won their past two games at Adelaide Oval, having beaten the Power by 40 points in round 21, 2016. Although this will be Jake Lever’s second game against his former side, it will be even more intriguing, given it’s his first against his ex-side at Adelaide Oval.

Round 20, Sunday, August 5, Gold Coast Suns, MCG, Home, 3:20pm, Seven

Having played St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, Geelong Cats and Adelaide Crows twice, Melbourne’s fifth ‘double-up’ team is against the Gold Coast Suns. The Dees are back at the MCG and will play their first back-to-back matches at the home of football since rounds four and five. It will also be the first of three MCG games in the run home, with Perth Stadium – against the West Coast Eagles in round 22 – the only other venue Melbourne plays in the final four rounds. If the red and blue gains the four points from its clash against the Suns in round eight, and records a victory here, it will have notched up six consecutive wins over Gold Coast. The Demons have won four of their six matches against the Suns at the MCG, with its most recent coming in round 19, 2016.

Round 21, Sunday, August 12, Sydney Swans, MCG, Home, 3:20pm, Seven

For the 11th consecutive season, Melbourne will play the Swans just once in the home and away season. Not since 2007, when the Demons played the Swans in Sydney and Canberra, have they played twice in a season. Yet from 2000-07, they met twice each season. Melbourne also won’t take on Sydney until it has played Adelaide Crows, Geelong Cats, GWS Giants, St Kilda and Western Bulldogs twice in 2018. Interestingly, this will also be the seventh-time Melbourne and Sydney have played at the MCG from their past nine outings. The Demons will be looking to end a six-match losing streak against the Swans, with their most recent win coming in round 17, 2010, when Dean Bailey was coach and Paul Roos was at the helm of the Swans.

Round 22, Sunday, August 19, West Coast Eagles, Perth Stadium, Away, 1:20pm Seven

Melbourne will play its first game at the new Perth Stadium in the penultimate home and away round next year. It will be the club’s only trip to Western Australia next year, given it plays Fremantle in Darwin. Not since 2014 have Melbourne and West Coast clashed twice in a season, and this will be the fourth time, from their past five outings, that they have played in Perth. The Demons produced an epic win over West Coast in round 14, this year. Jack Viney played a blinder, notching up 38 disposals, and Tom McDonald slotted through the match-winner – and a career-best fifth goal – to give the Dees their first win over the Eagles since round 14, 2009. It was one of Melbourne’s most memorable victories in years, and its first win over West Coast at Subiaco since round 19, 2002.

Round 23, TBC, GWS Giants, MCG, Home, TBC, TBC

Like all final home and away games, Melbourne’s match at the MCG remains a floating fixture, with the day, date and broadcaster to be decided closer to the event. With this match set to be the only encounter between the Demons and Giants next year, it means the two sides will have only met once in each season since 2016. And whoever wins this match will go ahead on the ledger, given they have won five matches each from 10 encounters. But Melbourne has the edge over the Giants at the ‘G, having won four out of five games. And if everything run accordingly, Jay Kennedy-Harris and Aaron vandenBerg could play their 50th AFL match, while Tom Bugg could reach 50 games with Melbourne. The match looms as a beauty, given the potential both teams have in 2018.