Joel Smith and Jake Melksham celebrate a goal during the match between Melbourne and Hawthorn at the MCG in round 23, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

MELBOURNE has overpowered giant-killing Hawthorn to keep its top two hopes alive with a 27-point win in Max Gawn's 200th game at the MCG on Sunday afternoon.

The Hawks got within six points after Dylan Moore goaled 30 seconds into the final term, but that was as close as they would get, with the Demons running away to win 13.9 (87) to 9.6 (60).

DEMONS v HAWKS Full match coverage and stats

Their 15th victory of the season locks up a double chance in the top four and has them within a game of second place entering a final round trip to Sydney to face the Swans.


After quiet days through three quarters, superstar midfielders Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver had big moments to ensure Melbourne wouldn't be added to Hawthorn's list of late-season scalps.

Oliver was kept to just 10 disposals until the final change under the close attention of Hawthorn glove Finn Maginness, but with the tag dropped in the last, Oliver had his time, kicking a brilliant stoppage goal to put space in the scores.


Petracca followed up a minute later with a lovely snap on his right foot run to put the game beyond doubt, capping a 22-disposal afternoon.


Jake Melksham continued his rich vein of form since returning to the top team, kicking three goals, while Jacob van Rooyen added three and Joel Smith two in the revamped Melbourne forward line.


Jack Viney (25) was the most consistent Melbourne midfielder, while Jake Lever (19 disposals including 10 intercepts) helped arrest momentum and Trent Rivers (27, nine intercepts) also had a big day.


It was a grind for much of the contest as Hawthorn fought valiantly despite the late out of red-hot midfielder Jai Newcombe (hamstring tightness).

The Hawks owned possession for large chunks of the first quarter and kicked three of the game's first four goals.

Debutant Henry Hustwaite gave them a six-point lead at the first change with a calm set shot from 35m after he clamped Rivers to win a holding the ball decision.


Melbourne swiftly upped its intensity in the second term, with Melksham proving a real handful for James Sicily.

After missing his first four shots at goal, Melksham broke his drought with a brilliant left foot kick off the ground from a tight angle and followed up with a second later in the term to give his team a two-point lead at the half.


Melbourne continued to tighten its grip on the match after half-time with Sparrow, Joel Smith, Melksham and Van Rooyen adding goals.

While earlier in the match Hawthorn was able to transition the ball swiftly and use the corridor with angled kicks inside, the Demons woke up to this and slowed their opponents' ball movement down.


James Worpel (30 disposals, 10 clearances) and Conor Nash (26 and nine clearances) carried a big midfield load in Newcombe's absence.


Melbourne getting creative in the ruck
After deciding to drop Brodie Grundy again, it was always going to be interesting to see how Simon Goodwin opted to support Max Gawn in the ruck and Melbourne's coach did not disappoint. Regularly when the ball was in the Demons' forward 50, they opted to use a smaller player as the ruckman at ball-ups and boundary throw-ins and plonk Gawn a kick behind the play. Clayton Oliver, Tom Sparrow and Joel Smith all had turns in the ruck, to good effect as they were able to follow-up at ground level and pressure Hawthorn possessions.

Deja vu on no score review?
Less than 24 hours after a controversial goal umpire decision cost Adelaide a chance of victory over Sydney, we had a similar looking incident late in the second term – but thankfully not the same outcome. Dylan Moore hammered a set shot from the junction of the right boundary line and the 50m arc and celebrated as if he'd kicked it, only for the goal umpire – in perfect position – to signal that it had touched the post. While the Hawks lightly celebrated, Melbourne took the kick in and moved the ball down the outer wing. Replays seemed to indicate a deflection off the post.

AFL goal umpire Chelsea Roffey signals a behind after the ball hit the post during the match between Melbourne and Hawthorn at the MCG in round 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

The Hawks have unearthed another promising youngster
He was whisked in at the last minute when Newcombe (hamstring) was a late scratching and Henry Hustwaite made a big impression on debut. Taken at No.37 in last year's AFL Draft, the 195cm midfielder looked composed beyond his 19 years, slotting a goal just before quarter-time after pinning Trent Rivers holding the ball and then added a second before the half following a contested mark over Christian Petracca. Hustwaite finished with 15 disposals and five tackles to go with his two goals in an excellent first outing.

Henry Hustwaite runs with the ball during the match between Melbourne and Hawthorn at the MCG in round 23, 2023. Picture: Getty Images


MELBOURNE     3.2     6.5    10.6    13.9 (87)
     4.2     6.3    8.5     9.6 (60) 

Melbourne: Melksham 3, van Rooyen 3, Smith 2, Brayshaw, Chandler, Oliver, Petracca, Sparrow
Hawthorn: Breust 2, Hustwaite 2, Macdonald 2, Day, Grainger-Barras, Moore

 Melksham, Lever, Viney, Rivers, Brayshaw, Petracca
Hawthorn: Worpel, Nash, Maginness, Day, Sicily, Amon

Melbourne: Nil
Hawthorn: Nil

Melbourne: Nil
Hawthorn: Jai Newcombe (hamstring), replaced in the selected side by Henry Hustwaite

Josh Schache (replaced Adam Tomlinson in the fourth quarter)
Hawthorn: Jai Serong (replaced Max Ramsden at three-quarter time)

Crowd: 50,142 at the MCG