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Hooroo hoodoo as Demons finally win at Etihad

Highlights: Melbourne v GWS The Demons and Giants clash in round 23
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 6: Jeremy Howe of the Demons takes a spectacular mark over Lachie Whitfield of the Giants during the 2015 AFL round 23 match between the Melbourne Demons and the GWS Giants at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, Australia on September 6, 2015. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Jeremy Howe soars for a trademark speccy against the Giants

MELBOURNE midfielder Daniel Cross has finished his career with a typical act of bravery, waving goodbye on a stretcher as the Demons ended their Etihad Stadium curse with a 26-point win over Greater Western Sydney on Sunday.

Cross ran back with the flight off the ball in a marking contest on the wing and was motionless after hitting the Etihad grass with his head before leaving the ground to a standing ovation and chants of 'Crossy'.

He emerged from the rooms minutes before the end of the match to receive a proper send-off, with Nathan Jones and Jeremy Howe chairing the 32-year-old off the ground.

"It's obviously final for me, so it's disappointing to go out that way I guess, but the scoreboard reflected how we played today and it was a great win," Cross said after the match. 

Final courageous act a 'microcosm': Cross

The veteran midfielder bowed out with a typically courageous performance, finishing among the best on ground with 25 possessions in the 15.13 (103) to 11.11 (77) win.

Talking points: Melbourne v GWS

The gutsy effort will likely end a 249-game career played with the Western Bulldogs (210 games) and the Demons (39 games), which included a best and fairest at the Bulldogs and six top-three finishes.

While Melbourne broke its Etihad Stadium curse, which had extended for 22 games, they made unwanted history by hosting the lowest crowd ever at the venue, with just 8974 there to see the final round clash.  

The previous lowest at Etihad Stadium was 12,542 for the Western Bulldogs clash with Fremantle in 2003. The Demons' lowest crowd at the venue was 12,566 against the Dockers in 2001.

Led by captain Jones, the Demons broke Sunday's game open in the third quarter, taking control in the centre and sparking a six-goal-to-two run.

Jones finished with 36 possessions and 11 inside 50s, while Bernie Vince went head-to-head with Adam Treloar and racked up 38 possessions and a game-high 14 clearances.

Jack Viney finished the season on a high with 29 possessions and 12 tackles, while Jeremy Howe and Jesse Hogan provided the highlights with each taking some thrilling contested marks.  

Coach Paul Roos was encouraged by the form of James Harmes in his eighth game, with the 19-year-old finishing with two goals. Ben Newton and Hogan kicked three each.  

"It's really important for the footy club to go into the off-season with a little bit of hope and to see the players and supporters celebrating is terrific," Roos said. 

"Winning today probably puts an exclamation mark on the improvement this year.

"It doesn't change the fact we've played some really poor footy … (but) we've played some super footy and we did again today." 

Giants hopeful on Treloar

It was an eerily quiet match early, with the third level of Etihad Stadium closed off under the roof, so much so that some GWS goals passed without acknowledgement except for a quiet cheer from the dedicated but pocket-sized Giants cheer squad. 

Without key players Ryan Griffen (knee) and Stephen Coniglio (hamstring), the Giants did well to cut the half-time margin to just two points, but Jones sparked the Demons' run with a classy goal off one step to open the second half.

GWS captain Callan Ward was gutsy with 32 possessions, while Treloar racked up 26 possessions in what may have been his last game with the club. 

"It was a five-goal loss in the end but I felt it was an eight or nine-goal loss," GWS coach Leon Cameron said.

"I thought our hunger fluctuated today, and it was as simple as that.

"I thought there were some moments where we were OK, but our energy levels there were fluctuating and Melbourne capitalised on that because they were better."

Bulldogs champ Matthew Boyd chats to retiring Demon Daniel Cross after the match. Picture: AFL Media

MELBOURNE                                 4.1     7.6     13.10     15.13 (103)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY    4.1     7.4       9.7       11.11 (77)

GOALS
Melbourne:
Newton 3, Hogan 3, Garlett 2, Harmes 2, Howe, Jones, Grimes, Dunn, Kennedy-Harris
Greater Western Sydney: Williams 2, Cameron 2, Palmer, Whitfield, Townsend, Ward, Stewart, Smith, Greene

BEST
Melbourne:
Jones, Vince, Viney, Hogan, Cross, Garland, McDonald, Gawn
Greater Western Sydney: Ward, Greene, Smith, Shaw, Townsend

INJURIES
Melbourne:
Cross (concussion)
Greater Western Sydney: Nil

SUBSTITUTES
Melbourne:
Alex Neal-Bullen replaced Mitch White in the final term
Greater Western Sydney: Jake Barrett replaced Caleb Marchbank at half-time 

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Foot, Fisher, Hay, Wallace

Official crowd: 8974 at Etihad Stadium