MELBOURNE has squared its win-loss ledger with another fast-finishing victory over North Melbourne in Adelaide, ahead of next week's season-defining clash with Collingwood.
The Demons' campaign was on life support after an awful display against Port Adelaide 10 days ago, but dates with two of the AFL's cellar-dwellers – Adelaide, then the Roos – came at the right time.
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Simon Goodwin's men put the Crows to the sword with a seven-goals-to-one final term on Wednesday night, then piled on the last seven majors on Sunday night to blow North away by 57 points.
Missing captain Max Gawn (shoulder) and vice-captain Jack Viney (concussion), Jake Melksham stepped up to skipper Melbourne to a much-needed 13.14 (92) to 5.5 (35) demolition.
DEES RUN OVER ROOS Full match coverage and stats
The Demons' percentage has spiked from 89.9 to 109.9 in the past two games and they now sit on the fringes of the top eight – only two points behind the eighth-placed Magpies.
It was a lopsided contest after quarter-time, with Melbourne recovering from a lethargic start and a 10-point deficit to run over the top of the Kangaroos, who've lost eight of their past nine starts.
Christian Petracca produced another scintillating display and likely picked up three more Brownlow Medal votes, racking up 29 disposals (17 contested) and 12 score involvements.
Angus Brayshaw (29, eight inside 50s) thrived on his extra opportunity in the centre, while Clayton Oliver's torrid stretch continued with a team-high 31 touches and six clearances.
Goodwin would have been pleased with his side's improved connection with its forwards, with Sam Weideman and Bayley Fritsch both dangerous, albeit inaccurate.
Luke McDonald (33) and Nick Larkey (four goals) were North Melbourne's best players, but most promising of all was Luke Davies-Uniacke's 24-touch outing in his return to the line-up.
Brayshaw benefits from Viney absence
Melbourne midfielder Angus Brayshaw's career-best football came in the second half of 2018, including a stretch where he was racking up 20-plus centre attendances a game. That number's been closer to half that this season, with increased time on the wing, and he's struggled to have the same impact. There were signs of life from Brayshaw in the second half against Adelaide and he kicked it up another notch with Jack Viney out on Sunday night. The 24-year-old was inside the centre square at the opening bounce and a good contributor from the outset. The problem for the Demons is giving Brayshaw a platform to succeed once Viney returns, given Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver are other centre-bounce staples.
Goldy gets a breather
Star Demon Max Gawn (shoulder) not playing meant there wasn't going to be another chapter of his captivating ruck rivalry with Todd Goldstein. North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw said on game eve Gawn's absence wouldn't impact on his club's plans, but things certainly looked different. Majak Daw, rather than Goldstein, started in the ruck – although Goldy was in there by the second centre bounce – and the 2015 Virgin Australia AFL All-Australian played far less game time than usual. Goldstein is one of the AFL's great workhorses, but he played only 87 per cent of Sunday's game. The Kangaroos still dominated the hitout count, but only split the clearances. They were playing for the third time in nine days, so the 32-year-old was deserving of lighter duties in what's been a mighty individual campaign.
Weideman wayward but makes big impression again
Sam Weideman's AFL career has been full of fits and starts, and he struggled to go on with the job after a breakout run late in 2018. Coach Simon Goodwin made him wait for his chance this year – trying Mitch Brown and Luke Jackson as the second tall alongside Tom McDonald – but he's blossoming once more. Weideman's work ethic and marking were standout features against the Roos, particularly in the opening half. The 23-year-old key forward has now played six straight matches and kicked multiple goals in five of them. It could have been a more sizeable bag than two in his latest outing, with his wonky set-shot kicking returning from the loss to Brisbane. Melbourne's recruiting team drafted Weideman in the top 10 in 2015 knowing he would take time, and that patience is starting to pay dividends.
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.2 4.2 5.4 5.5 (35)
MELBOURNE 1.4 4.7 7.8 13.14 (92)
North Melbourne: Larkey 4, Daw
Melbourne: Weideman 2, Fritsch 2, Pickett, Brayshaw, Melksham, Petracca, Spargo, T.McDonald, Hannan, Sparrow, Oliver
North Melbourne: McDonald, Larkey, Dumont, Davies-Uniacke, Goldstein, Higgins
Melbourne: Petracca, Brayshaw, Oliver, Langdon, Pickett, Lever, Weideman
North Melbourne: Bonar (left shoulder), Anderson (eye), Walker (corked thigh), Tarrant (corked calf)