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AFL Round 4 Review
After only a month it's already crisis time for Melbourne
Michael Clough (clough)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-24 01:43 (KST)   
The Australian Football League season may only be one month old but already Melbourne's tilt at premiership glory is effectively over: the Demons are winless and entrenched at the bottom of the AFL ladder, devoid of confidence and battling a crippling and mounting injury toll.

Already without a number of key players coming into the match against Fremantle, the downtrodden Demons couldn't afford what happened to them on Sunday afternoon, not only were they on the receiving end of 45-point loss at the hands of the Dockers, but what was a high injury tally became a disastrous one after Matthew Whelan (hamstring), Nathan Jones (ankle), Daniel Bell (concussion), Nathan Brown (calf), & Paul Wheatley (shoulder) all keeping the Demons medical staff rushed off their feet. Add that to the late withdrawals of Travis Johnstone and Brent Moloney and the Demons are looking like the Australian Rules equivalent of a Shakespearean tragedy.

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Melbourne's problems though should not take away from the Dockers' fine win. The previously winless Fremantle midfield clicked, Paul Hasleby racked up 37 possessions and veteran Shaun McManus won the football 31 times. Dockers captain Matthew Pavlich made a welcome return to form after an average start to the season with a six goal return but the big story for the Dockers was Des Headland.

Headland, who made headlines in Australia after escaping suspension despite being found guilty of striking after the AFL tribunal accepted Headland's defense of provocation from comments he believed West Coast's Adam Selwood had made about his six-year-old daughter and was jeered at every turn by the partisan Melbourne crowd, had the last laugh. The former number one draft pick played one of his best games in the AFL, collecting 29 possessions and kicking three goals.

The most thrilling match of the weekend was played out at Launceston, Tasmania with Hawthorn holding on for a four-point win over Geelong. Little separated the two sides in the last three quarters after the Cats had made a great start, kicking the only three goals in the first quarter. But after that the Hawks adapted to the windy conditions in their second home better, especially when kicking with the wind advantage in the second quarter.

The Hawks grabbed the lead in the in the last quarter and held on desperately as the Cats attacked their goal again and again. Hawthorn's defense played brilliantly, keeping the Cats tall forwards of Cameron Mooney, Nathan Ablett and Tom Hawkins goalless, while the always dangerous Paul Chapman suffered the same fate, well held and well beaten by underrated Hawk Brad Sewell.

Richmond sit with Melbourne as the only sides in the competition yet to record a win in season 2007, like the Demons the Tigers campaign is already in tatters after Friday night's 32-point MCG loss against the Western Bulldogs. The Doggies made a positive return to form after a poor fortnight, leading at every change and rarely really challenged.

Robert Murphy and Luke Darcy both played their best matches since their return from knee reconstruction surgery, both kicking four goals. The pair's successful return with be a key if the Bulldogs are to make a genuine push for the premiership. Once again Richmond were their own worst enemy, overusing the ball, actually having 58 possessions more than the Bulldogs and were indirect in the path to goal, while the Tigers have been competitive in the first four rounds, concentration lapses and over handling off the ball have been costly.

The Kangaroos notched up their first win for the year, making a successful debut at their new second home at Carrara at Queensland's Gold Coast, handing the Brisbane Lions a 24-point defeat their second straight loss. In wet conditions the Kangaroos intensity at the football was too much for the Lions to handle.

The conditions did affect the standard of the match, with both side making over 40 clangers (unforced errors) each, while the normally reliable Jonathon Brown had a shocker with his goalkicking, only kicking 1.5 from six shots. Had Brown been on target may well have had the edge over their opponents. After critical attention in the local media in recent weeks Kangaroos Daniel Wells silence his critics with a brilliant second half, picking up 18 quality possessions in the second half that even had Lions coach Leigh Matthews impressed.

With only a four day turnaround before Wednesday's ANZAC Day clash at the MCG, Collingwood had their plans for the big match derailed with a string of injuries in their 18-point loss to Port Adelaide. The Magpies fell away badly in the second half in a rain soaked Melbourne Cricket Ground, not kicking a goal after the five minute mark of the third quarter as the Power kicked the last five goals of the match. Port Adelaide's Cornes brothers, Chad and Kane Cornes starred in the second half with 42 possessions between them in the second half of the match but they had plenty of support with the Power adapting to the conditions better than the Magpies over the full four quarters.

What will concern Collingwood ahead of Wednesday's fixture, one of the biggest of the football calendar, is the physical bruising the Magpies copped during the match with Simon Prestigiacomo (groin), Paul Licuria (hamstring), Dale Thomas (ankle) and Scott Burns (knee), all doubtful for Wednesday.

Collingwood's opponent for the ANZAC Day clash, Essendon, fared much better. Playing only kilometers away from the MCG, the Bombers avoided the rain by playing under the roof at the Telstra Dome and claimed their third win for the season, proving too good for St. Kilda, the Bombers taking away a 31-point win for their efforts.

With two of the best forward lines in the competition, the match was surprisingly low scoring at the start with only three goals between them in the first quarter but from their the Bombers took charge with their superior leg speed. The Bombers younger players impressed once again, Paddy Ryder in his second season showing that he has potential to fill a key defensive post. The highlight of the round came from this game as well, Essendon's Dustin Fletcher making his nomination for goal of the year with a massive roost from over 70 meters out that sailed through the goals.

Adelaide have proved once again that they are one of the best in the competition at stopping their opponents at playing their game as they choked up the Swans supply in their 17-point win at AAMI Stadium. The Crows controlled the tempo of the game and were happy to chip the ball around and hold up play and wait for the opportunities to present themselves. Andrew McLeod continued his great start to the season with another best on ground performance and All-Australian Ben Rutten played a magnificent game on Sydney co-captain Barry Hall. The Swans were uncharacteristically poor in their disposal of the football and their on-field discipline, the Swans missing many simple shots at goal and giving away too many silly free kicks.

In the final match of round four, West Coast showed they are a class above Carlton in their 61-point win. The Eagles set a new AFL record for most team disposals in a match with 469 (compared to the Blues 293) and had nine players who collected 25 or more individual possessions. West Coast got the jump on the Blues at the start of the match with the first two goals before heavy rain began to fall and from their the Blues found it difficult to score, only kicking four goals for the entire match.

AFL Round 4 Results
Western Bulldogs 20.12.132 defeated Richmond Tigers 14.16.100
Essendon Bombers 15.9.99 defeated St. Kilda Saints 9.14.68
Port Adelaide 12.12.84 defeated Collingwood Magpies 9.12.66
Kangaroos 12.15.87 defeated Brisbane Lions 8.15.63
Adelaide Crows 9.7.61 defeated Sydney Swans 5.14.44
Hawthorn Hawks 10.16.76 defeated Geelong Cats 9.18.72
Fremantle Dockers 21.11.137 defeated Melbourne 13.14.92
West Coast Eagles 14.16.100 defeated Carlton Blues 4.15.39
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Clough

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