Kysaiah Pickett celebrates a goal during the round eight match between Melbourne and Geelong at the MCG, May 4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE has become the first side to defeat Geelong this year, needing to overcome both the Cats and its own inaccuracy on the way to a crucial eight-point victory at the MCG.

The goalkicking in the game ranged from the sublime to the truly, ridiculously bad, but Bayley Fritsch put a comprehensive full-stop on the game with a stunning dribbler from the boundary to secure the 10.14 (74) to 9.12 (66) win.

DEMONS v CATS Full match coverage and stats

Skipper Max Gawn was a colossal presence in the final term, youngster Caleb Windsor kicked a crucial goal, and Jake Lever was a constant intercepting thorn in Geelong's side.

Zach Guthrie's snap with four and a half minutes remaining cut the margin to just three points before Fritsch's clutch effort, the Cats defender's major bookmarked by Jeremy Cameron blowing two straightforward shots at goal.


But arguably only the purest fans of football tactics would have enjoyed the first half, a torrid arm-wrestle between two defensively strong sides.

Melbourne chose the patient route, with deliberate chipping around the ground to try and work through Geelong's defence.

In the first quarter, it worked. The Cats' backline looked momentarily rattled as it coughed up two goals to the slowest of Demon plays, Harrison Petty capitalising on a Sam De Koning slip on a cold MCG, before Kozzy Pickett injected some rare dash, pouncing on a ball that came off several sets of hands.


Geelong seemed to find a step more pace in the second, opting to move the ball much more directly than Melbourne, but the Dees' closing speed and tackle pressure often turned the quick plays into rushed and reckless handballs.

When they did break through, Steven May, Lever and Tom McDonald patrolled the air, a frustrated Tom Hawkins continuing his lean run of form, goalless for a fourth straight match.

An astonishing 14 consecutive behinds were kicked between the two sides across the first, second and third terms, before Kade Chandler finally kicked truly to drag the Dees out to a 14-point lead.


It opened the floodgates, the pressure boiling over into a series of stunning goals – Tyson Stengle's dodge-turn-spin snap and Ed Langdon and Ollie Henry's dead-eye shots in the vicinity of the boundary.

But as the quarter progressed, there was a chance Melbourne may have shot itself in the foot while it was aiming for goal, the sheer number of behinds catching up to the Dees as the Cats grabbed a two-point lead at the final break.


Christian Petracca rose in stature as the game progressed, starting to increase his impact in the third term as the game opened up and providing an explosive bounce across half-forward.

Geelong midfielder Tanner Bruhn's game finished in the third term, subbed off with a shoulder injury.


Gawn takes control
Max Gawn was in the wars, Rhys Stanley at one point jumping so high in a regulation ball-up he kneed the Dee in the head. After an on-field chat with the doctor, he continued playing, and lucky for Melbourne he did. With the Cats holding a slender lead after three-quarter time, Gawn wheeled on a big arc, thumping the ball home from 60m, a kick which cleared the goal-line with ease. It set the tone for the final term.


Where's Jezza?
One of the best centre-half forwards in the league taking kick-ins? That's just part of the Jeremy Cameron game in 2024. He started the game on the wing, facing young Windsor, who 12 months ago surely never thought he'd be in that position. He rotated with the unlike-for-unlike in Ollie Dempsey, but at three-quarter time only had eight disposals, McDonald controlling the battle in attack. He was well below his impressive best, blowing two crucial, straightforward shots at goal in the final 10 minutes.


Second-quarter slogfest
The two sides combined for an astonishing nine behinds – and nine behinds only – in a turgid second term. In fact, the entire run of consecutive behinds (with a handful of out-on-the-fulls mixed through) sat at 14, stemming from Caleb Windsor's snap in the first term to Kade Chandler's set shot. The Dees kicked five in the term and nine in the full run, with the Cats chipping in five.


MELBOURNE     3.2     3.7     5.14     10.14     (74)
GEELONG           2.4     2.8     6.10     9.12     (66) 

Fritsch 3, Pickett 2, Petty, Chandler, Langdon, Gawn, Windsor
Geelong: O.Henry 3, Stengle 2, Dempsey, Clark, Close, Z.Guthrie 

Melbourne: Lever, Petracca, Gawn, Oliver, Fritsch, May
Geelong: Holmes, Z.Guthrie, Atkins, Stewart, Miers 

Melbourne: Nil
Geelong: Bruhn (shoulder) 

Melbourne: Bailey Laurie, replaced Jack Billings in the fourth term
Geelong: Gary Rohan, replaced Tanner Bruhn in the third term 

Crowd: 51,795 at the MCG