Kysaiah Pickett celebrates a goal in the round one clash between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs at the MCG on March 18, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

THE GAWN and Grundy show has been upstaged.

All eyes were on Melbourne's new ruck combination on Saturday night, and the pair were important in the Demons' 50-point win over the Western Bulldogs to open their season.

But they couldn't quite light up the MCG like their teammate Kysaiah Pickett, with the electrifying small forward producing a brilliant, at times combative, performance in the Demons' comprehensive 17.13 (115) to 9.11 (65) victory.

DEMONS v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats

Pickett kicked four goals from 19 disposals in the win, with his speed, class and smarts the main show in a night full of storylines. The out-of-contract premiership forward also caught the attention of the umpires, with Pickett reported for his high bump on Bulldogs midfielder Bailey Smith in the second quarter.


The 21-year-old wasn't alone in helping the Dees get off the mark for 2023, with the ruck pairing of Max Gawn and high-profile recruit Brodie Grundy also effective.

Gawn was busy close to goal, kicking two majors, while Grundy was also creative in attack, including a final-quarter goal, and had some key moments teaming with Melbourne's star-studded midfield unit. Christian Petracca had some explosive moments in his 30-disposal game while Clayton Oliver worked into things and finished with nine clearances.

Clayton Oliver in action in the round one clash between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs at the MCG on March 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Without key defender Steven May, the Demons' defence was tested early by the four-pronged forward attack of the Bulldogs, however Aaron Naughton, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Rory Lobb and Sam Darcy were kept to a combined two goals.

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Pickett's presence was significant early in the contest, as the Melbourne speedster booted the opening goal and was influential in the Demons' five-point lead at quarter-time.

But after an early period of red and blue control, the Dogs started to find their groove as Marcus Bontempelli's influence came through by floating forward and squeezing through his side's first goal.


Naughton and Ugle-Hagan began to get involved as the quarter wore on and continued to create problems in the air at the start of the second term as Naughton marked and goaled from a set shot.

The Dogs skipped out to an 11-point lead but that kickstarted the Demons into action, with Simon Goodwin's side booting five goals in nine minutes to take a 19-point break into half-time.

Pickett continued to have a say on the game, his third goal to start the third quarter pushed the Dees' ahead by 26 points. The Dogs kept challenging, with Jack Macrae's clever snap bringing them back within 15 points late in the quarter.


But it only supercharged the Demons, who countered with the next two goals to head into the final quarter with a 28-point advantage.

Again Pickett was involved as the game was all but sealed, with his fast steps and deft pass landing in the lap of Jake Melksham who, only just activated as the tactical substitute at three-quarter time, slotted a bouncing goal from the centre square to break the Dogs' hopes early in the last quarter.


Dogs' talls kept under tabs
The Dogs will continue to find the balance with their tall forward stocks. Lobb was quiet in his first game for the club, with six disposals, while Darcy is still only into his fifth AFL game. Naughton looked most threatening in the air and booted one goal from 11 disposals and five marks, but the Bulldogs missed some of Cody Weightman's ground level pizazz as the small forward works through a groin injury. The Dogs' majors came from nine single goalkickers. Their tall stocks also received a hit when returning defender Liam Jones was substituted out of the game with a neck knock in the second term.


Kozzy under MRO glare
There will be an early focus on the bump after Pickett's hip-and-shoulder on Bulldog Smith in the second term. Smith had the ball and had kicked inside-50 when Pickett left the ground and cannoned into Smith, appearing to also make head high contact. Fortunately, Smith bounced straight back up and continued to play on but Pickett's decision to bump will likely come with consequences from the Match Review Officer after he was immediately placed on report.



MELBOURNE                           3.3    9.4    13.8   17.13 (115)
WESTERN BULLDOGS             2.4    5.9     8.10     9.11 (65)

Melbourne: Pickett 4, Brown 4, Spargo 2, Gawn 2, Sparrow, Melksham, Grundy, Chandler, Neal-Bullen
Western Bulldogs: Williams, Ugle-Hagan, Treloar, Naughton, Macrae, Liberatore, Johannisen, Bontempelli, Baker

Melbourne: Pickett, Brown, Gawn, Petracca, Rivers, Lever
Western Bulldogs: Liberatore, Richards, Bontempelli, Treloar, Macrae

Melbourne: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Jones (neck)

Melbourne: Jake Melksham (replaced Bailey Laurie at three-quarter time)
Western Bulldogs: Toby McLean (replaced Liam Jones at half-time)