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Five talking points: Melbourne v St Kilda

Ben Guthrie  August 13, 2017 3:45 PM

Highlights: Melbourne v St Kilda The Demons and Saints clash in round 21

1. Goodwin's selection table statements pay off
With so much resting on Sunday's result, it was a gutsy call by Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin to leave out three of his walk-up best 22 players. But Goodwin has shown on numerous occasions in his first season at the helm that he is not frightened to change things if he feels that it is necessary. Dropping Jack Watts, Christian Salem and Sam Frost to the VFL based on form was another example of Goodwin's ruthless mindset. With Watts out of the team, and with Jesse Hogan still on the sidelines with a broken collarbone, Melbourne's forward line was less predictable, and the Saints' defenders were all at sea. James Harmes booted three goals in the opening term to prove Goodwin's assessment was the right one. Tom McDonald went back down to defence in Frost's absence and was generally solid, while Mitch Hannan prospered in the final quarter after his week's rest.

Full match coverage and stats

2. Melbourne lives to fight another day, Saints' September dreams squashed
Melbourne's finals hopes are still alive after holding off a fast-finishing St Kilda the MCG on Sunday. The Demons have moved into seventh position on the AFL ladder with two matches to play, while the Saints are a game and percentage behind eighth-placed West Coast. The Demons appeared to have the game in their keeping after a dominant first quarter saw them leap out to a 32-point lead at the major break. But St Kilda came roaring back into the contest to at least give themselves a chance and cut the lead to just four points early in the last term. But it was young forward Mitch Hannan who stood tall when his team needed him to, booting two goals in a row to put the game out of St Kilda's reach. 

3. Gus who's back, but not without a scare
It has been a nightmare season for one of Melbourne's brightest young talents, but the sight of Angus Brayshaw strutting his stuff on the MCG was one for Melbourne fans to get excited about. Playing his first game since round two, Brayshaw wore a protective helmet  and was put to an early test when he clashed heads with Saint Koby Stevens. From there he settled into the game and was one of Melbourne's best players, with 26 disposals. It has been a frustrating year for the No.3 pick in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft after he suffered his fourth concussion in 12 months while playing in the VFL in May. The hard-at-it midfielder missed almost two months of football before he made his return for Casey in the VFL last month.

4. Billings' 'bee-sting' eye creates buzz
Every time Jack Billings lined up for goal the camera panned in on his face. It was difficult to look away, with the Saints forward's giant welt around his left eye, suffered in a first-quarter contest, impressive to look at. Billings' eye blew up as if he had taken a direct sting from a bee to his face. The mercurial forward did not allow the shiner to affect his performance, gathering 30 disposals and kicking one goal for the afternoon. He was again a little wayward, with 1.3, but he was a genuine spark for the Saints when they needed it and his running, and ability to repeat lead into space was paramount in the Saints' splendid third-term comeback.

It was hard to watch in more ways than one for Jack Billings. Picture: AFL Photos

5. Longer continues to take strides
Going up against last year's All Australian big man Max Gawn was a hefty challenge, but St Kilda's Billy Longer was up to the task. In an intriguing battle, Longer took the points against his ruck counterpart, racking up 34 hit-outs to Gawn's 19. Longer was vitally important during St Kilda's third-term blitz, giving Jack Steven and Luke Dunstan silver-service out of the middle of the ground. Gawn had his moments and he is crucial to Melbourne's finals hopes, but Longer is starting to make a key impression as St Kilda's top ruckman.