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2021 Toyota AFL Premiership
Preliminary Finals • Melbourne v Geelong Cats
125 19.11
Full Time Demons by 83
42 6.6
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    Who will make it to the big dance? Final teams, subs locked in for MASSIVE prelim

    It's all on the line as Melbourne and Geelong fight it out for a spot in the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final

    Melbourne and Geelong will face off in a blockbuster preliminary final at Optus Stadium on Friday night. Picture: AFL Media

    FINAL TEAMS

    Melbourne v Geelong at Optus Stadium, 5.50pm AWST

    NO LATE CHANGES

    MEDICAL SUBSTITUTES
    Melbourne: James Jordon
    Geelong: Shaun Higgins

    DEMONS v CATS Follow it LIVE

    SUMMARY

    After a classic clash in round 23 to decide the minor premier, Melbourne and Geelong meet just three weeks later to determine which team will progress to the Toyota AFL Grand Final. The Demons got through their qualifying final unscathed and have had a week off to rest and recover. They have, however, lost Joel Smith and replaced him with veteran half-back Michael Hibberd. Jayden Hunt was overlooked despite recovering from an ankle injury, and Nathan Jones and Jake Melksham were also left hanging. The Cats are without Brandan Parfitt after his season was ended by a hamstring injury in the semi-final. Zach Guthrie comes into the side, while Shaun Higgins, Luke Dahlhaus and Quinton Narkle are among the emergencies with Narkle replacing Sam Simpson, who has suffered a concussion.

    Where and when: Optus Stadium, Friday September 10, 5.50pm AWST

    WHAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR? 

    Round 23: Geelong 12.5 (77) lost to Melbourne 12.9 (81) at GMHBA Stadium

    The Demons delivered an epic comeback to secure the minor premiership for the first time since 1964. It took a goal after the siren from Max Gawn to complete the victory, as the Cats had skipped away to a 44-point lead in the third term before the Demons stormed home. Clayton Oliver (37 disposals, two goals) and Gawn (25, one) starred for the victors, while Tom Hawkins kicked four goals for the Cats.

    ‘MATCHUP CATCHUP’ is now streaming in AFL On Demand

    03:51 Mins
    Published on

    Last two mins: Max the hero after insane finish

    The thrilling final moments between the Cats and Demons at GMHBA Stadium

    Published on

    Round 4: Melbourne 12.13 (85) def Geelong 9.6 (60) at the MCG

    The Demons announced themselves as genuine contenders with an emphatic win in the wet over last year's runners-up. Christian Petracca (36 disposals, nine clearances, two goals) was at his imposing best and Bayley Fritsch (four goals) also mastered the slippery conditions. Joel Selwood (30 touches, seven tackles) led the way for the Cats while Tom Hawkins' stray elbow left Steven May with a gruesome eye injury.

    Melbourne defender Steven May shows the extent of the damage to his eye after the round four clash with Geelong. Picture: Instagram

    WHAT TO WATCH FOR

    Melbourne
    A midfield led by Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and Jack Viney can batter opponents and has helped the Demons top the League for contested ball (ave 148). But like the Demons, the Cats have only lost the contested battle four times and the count was even at 140 each in round 23. Whether the Demons can rely on their ability to win the ball at stoppages and especially around the ground again looms as a crucial area of the game.

    06:06 Mins
    Published on

    Match Previews Preliminary Finals: Melbourne v Geelong

    Sportsbet's Nathan Brown, Matthew Richardson and Matthew Lloyd preview the game between the Demons and the Cats at Optus Stadium.

    Published on

    Geelong
    Last week was the first time this season the Cats selected all of Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Cameron, Esava Ratugolea and Gary Rohan in the forward line, with Mark Blicavs in defence and Rhys Stanley in the ruck. It's a towering set-up that could stretch the Demons' defence and ensure their intercept marking masters Jake Lever (ave 4.3, most in the League) and Steven May (2.6) are more accountable rather than focused on turning defence into attack.

    Geelong's Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins celebrate a goal against GWS in a semi-final on September 3, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

    THE STATS THAT MATTER

    Melbourne
    Melbourne has had a settled team for much of the season with 10 players lining up in every match and another four only missing one. Even the Demons' regulars should now be well rested and ready to take advantage of the break between finals, just as 28 of the 32 qualifying final-winning teams did on their way to a Grand Final in the years before the pre-finals bye was introduced. 

    Geelong
    The Cats are on familiar ground after making 12 preliminary finals in the past 18 seasons and seven in Chris Scott's 11-year reign as coach. They broke a streak of four losses in the penultimate week to make last year's Grand Final and with a battle-hardened midfield, and the addition of Jeremy Cameron and Isaac Smith this season, are again primed to return to the decider.

    IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR… 

    Melbourne
    An influential ruckman is the point of difference that could drive the Demons to a Grand Final. Max Gawn is a five-time Therabody AFL All-Australian and showed in the round 23 clash between these teams that he can outrun and outclass the athletic but inconsistent Rhys Stanley. A performance similar to Gawn's 25 disposals, seven clearances and six marks in that game would surely have a huge bearing on this match.

    Melbourne's Max Gawn and Geelong's Rhys Stanley battle in the ruck during the R23, 2021 clash. Picture: AFL Photos

    Geelong
    Joel Selwood was quieter than usual in the Cats' semi-final win with only 14 disposals but is built for finals and will line up in one for the 37th time on Friday. The Cats captain is sure to take on a crucial role and it could be to contain Clayton Oliver after Selwood beat him in disposals (18-12), contested ball (10-9) and clearances (5-4) when they went head-to-head for 49 minutes in round 23.

    Joel Selwood is chaired off the ground by Tom Hawkins and Corey Enright after his record-breaking game in the 2021 second semi-final. Picture: AFL Photos

    PREDICTION

    Melbourne by five points. Matches between the Demons and Cats have been decided in the dying seconds four times in four seasons, and with the teams so evenly matched another thriller looks on the cards.

    MATCH REPORT

    CATS ARE GAWN: Demons storm into Grand Final after Max madness

    Melbourne has advanced to its first Grand Final in 21 years after thrashing Geelong at Optus Stadium

    Melbourne's Max Gawn celebrates a goal against Geelong in a preliminary final on September 10, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

    MELBOURNE captain Max Gawn has driven the Demons into their first Grand Final in 21 years with an iconic finals performance, kicking five goals to spearhead a ruthless 83-point win against Geelong at Optus Stadium on Friday night. 

    The inspirational leader, who has lived through some of the Demons' toughest years, kicked four goals in the third quarter to seal the 19.11 (125) to 6.6 (42) win on a magical night for the red and blue.  

    DEMONS v CATS Full match coverage and stats

    The Demons are now one win away from ending their 57-year premiership drought and will meet either Port Adelaide or the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium in a fortnight, entering the clash with unrivalled form.  

    07:09 Mins
    Published on

    Highlights: Melbourne v Geelong

    The Demons and Cats clash in the preliminary finals

    Published on

    Tough, unrelenting and clinical, the Demons put their more experienced opponents to the sword in the midfield, where Christian Petracca (32 disposals, eight clearances and a goal), Jack Viney (34 and nine) and Clayton Oliver (27 and seven) refused to give an inch. 

    The trio combined for 45 contested possessions and took turns bursting out of the centre in the critical third quarter and setting up Gawn as the Demons booted eight unanswered goals. 

    02:41 Mins
    Published on

    MAX IMPACT: Gawn transforms to new heights in five-star demolition

    Max Gawn elevates to a frightening level in this outrageous five-goal performance

    Published on

    The 29-year-old converted on the run from outside 50m, slotted set shots, and then snapped a magnificent goal out of the ruck as the Demons took a 78-point lead into the last quarter, knowing they were home. 

    They will now sweat on the fitness of star defender Steven May, who experienced hamstring tightness in the first half that he was able to play through before being substituted in the third term. 

    00:31 Mins
    Published on

    Disastrous Dees blow with May hurt

    Melbourne star Steven May leaves the field with a hamstring injury before returning in the second term

    Published on

    While Geelong's bold recruiting of experienced players has been critical to their sustained period of success, the veteran Cats could not match the speed and power of their younger opponents. 

    The manner of their defeat with an ageing list leaves significant doubts around their ability to climb the mountain again in 2022, having fielded 11 players aged 30 or over. 

    It was the Cats' heaviest finals defeat since 1969 and their biggest loss under Chris Scott since 2014, bowing out with a single September win this season after a top-four finish. 

    FIVE TALKING POINTS Are the Cats finally too old, too slow?

    Champion midfielder Patrick Dangerfield never gave up and led the Cats with 29 disposals and a game-high 10 clearances, while wingman Isaac Smith (26) and captain Joel Selwood (24 and eight clearances) battled hard.  

    The Cats had too many passengers, however, with star recruit Jeremy Cameron kicking two goals from just four disposals and having little impact. Fellow forward Gary Rohan had one disposal. 

    00:39 Mins
    Published on

    Jezza draws first blood with cracking dribbler

    Jeremy Cameron brilliantly snares the opening goal of the game with this delightful dribbler

    Published on

    The Demons, in front of a pro-Melbourne crowd of 58,599, simply owned the venue at which they had lost the 2018 preliminary final against West Coast by 66 points. 

    And symbolically, they reached the high point of their recent history with a win against the club that had sent them to their lowest ebb in 2011, with a 186-point defeat. 

    THE FINAL PIECE OF THE PUZZLE Ben comes up BIG when it counts

    The Demons went goalless in the first half of their 2018 preliminary final nightmare, but they got their work done early on Friday night, booting five of the first six goals to race to a 27-point lead at the first change. 

    Their ferocious pressure, led in the midfield by Petracca and Oliver, had the Cats rattled and the game opened up for the Demons once they forced the turnover, going inside 50 17 times to 12.

    The Demons didn't let up in the second, with small forwards Tom Sparrow and Kysaiah Pickett the dangermen, while Gawn ignited the pro-Melbourne crowd with a terrific snap after playing on inside 50. 

    00:42 Mins
    Published on

    Pickett puts some more icing on the cake

    Kysaiah Pickett keeps the crowd roaring with this awesome snap in the last

    Published on

    Their lead grew to a game-high 41 points before the Cats kicked back-to-back goals for the first time, with Hawkins and Smith converting set shots to give their team the faint hope of a comeback.

    It took only five minutes in the third quarter, however, for the Demons to snuff that out as Gawn burst forward to kick the memorable 55m goal that had the Dees home. 

    MELBOURNE       5.3   9.6   17.8   19.11 (125)
    GEELONG               1.0   5.1   5.2   6.6 (42) 

    GOALS
    Melbourne: Gawn 5, Pickett 3, Spargo 2, Brown 2, Fritsch 2, Petracca, Harmes, Neal-Bullen, McDonald, Sparrow 
    Geelong: Cameron 2, Hawkins, Stanley, Miers, Smith 

    BEST
    Melbourne: Gawn, Petracca, Oliver, Viney, Salem, Pickett, Brown 
    Geelong: Dangerfield, Smith, Selwood 

    INJURIES
    Melbourne: May (hamstring)
    Geelong: Rohan (hamstring)

    SUBSTITUTES
    Melbourne: James Jordon (replaced Steven May)
    Geelong: Shaun Higgins (replaced Gary Rohan)

    Crowd: 58,599 at Optus Stadium

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