Christian Petracca celebrates a goal during Melbourne's clash against Sydney in round 24, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE has surged into September in form and denied Sydney a home final with a 21-point triumph at the SCG on Sunday.

The Demons were sure of finishing fourth and facing Collingwood in a qualifying final before the first bounce, but fine-tuned for the business end with an 11.11 (77) to 7.14 (56) win over the Swans.

SWANS v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats

The Swans, needing a win to secure a sixth-place finish and a home final, took a four-point lead into the last term but missed their chances as Bayley Fritsch sealed the result with three late goals for a bag of five.

The Demons (16-7) looked more settled near goal with Fritsch back in the side for the first time since breaking a foot in round 16, and the forward made an immediate impact with two early majors.


Fritsch looked sharp throughout and finished with five goals despite spending periods on the interchange bench receiving treatment on his foot before playing out the match.

Fellow medium forward Jake Melksham was a lively partner near goal and kicked two goals before being subbed out in the third term after suffering a knock on the knee.

Christian Petracca (29 disposals, one goal) helped spark the Demons in the second half, although he failed to make the most of several chances near goal, while Jack Viney (29) and Clayton Oliver (24) played big parts.

Key defenders Steven May and Jake Lever were also important as they controlled the backline even as the Swans tried to find avenues around them.

The Swans had the momentum in the third term and pulled away to a 17-point lead before Melbourne fought back with two late goals to stay in the contest before eventually overrunning the hosts.

Errol Gulden led the Sydney effort with 42 disposals and two stunning goals.


Co-captains Callum Mills (30, one) and Luke Parker (23) gave the Swans drive out of the middle along with Chad Warner (22), while retiring ruck Tom Hickey, playing his 150th match, engaged in a spirited running battle with Demons skipper Max Gawn.

The Swans (12-1-10) had their chances throughout but paid the price for misfiring near goal as Logan McDonald (1.3), Isaac Heeney and Parker (both 0.2) all missed gettable shots.

Last year’s runner-up Sydney will now be on the road for an elimination final against Carlton or St Kilda.


Fritsch marks return with bag
Playing his first game since round 16 after suffering a foot injury, Bayley Fritsch marked his return with a five-goal haul. The forward hurt his foot again during the clash, but played out the game and had a huge role in the Demons' victory. Fritsch had 16 disposals, took four marks and kicked 5.0 in a starring role.


Tearful Buddy gets deserved farewell
Nearly a month after announcing his retirement, Lance Franklin was given a fitting farewell by fans at the SCG on Sunday. Franklin, one of the all-time greats, was tearful as he undertook a lap of honour at half-time in front of the adoring Swans faithful. 


SYDNEY                   2.5     3.8     7.12       7.14 (56)
MELBOURNE           3.2     5.4      7.8      11.11 (77)

Sydney: Gulden 2, Wicks, Warner, Mills, McLean, McDonald
Fritsch 5, Melksham 2, van Rooyen, Pickett, Petracca, Brayshaw

Sydney: Gulden, Mills, Parker, Warner, McCartin
Petracca, Fritsch, Viney, May, Brayshaw

Sydney: Nil
Fritsch (foot), Melksham (leg), Bowey (shoulder)

Sydney: Tom Papley (hamstring) replaced in selected side by Ryan Clarke

Sydney: Aaron Francis (unused)
Bailey Laurie (replaced Jake Melksham in third quarter)

Crowd: 41,753 at the SCG