NOBODY embodies Melbourne's revival quite like Tom McDonald.
Just as the club has found itself at a crossroads recently, McDonald's career looked headed that way during last year's Trade Period. But on Sunday, it was the continuation of his remarkable turnaround that inspired the Demons to their first 9-0 start in 65 years.
DEMONS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
McDonald was at the centre of everything as Melbourne kept Carlton at a constant arm's length in a comfortable 26-point victory at the MCG. His three goals came from 18 disposals and five marks and included 10 score involvements in another commanding display.
He had come to life when Melbourne needed him, booting all three of his majors in a spell where the Demons kicked six of seven goals on either side of quarter time. It helped turn an early 12-point deficit into a 19-point lead late in the half.
The manner in which he then involved himself in a much higher role afterwards then set the tempo for another workmanlike Melbourne victory, this one to a rather stress-free 13.16 (94) to 10.8 (68) scoreline.
Carlton, at the other end, had spent long periods kicking aimlessly to the advantage of Melbourne pair Jake Lever and Steven May. The brilliant defensive duo continued their fine start to the season, combining for nine marks and 15 intercepts.
Rain lashed the MCG at the long break, but it didn't deter the Demons. Rather, smaller options in the form of Bayley Fritsch (three goals) and Ed Langdon (24 disposals, one goal) joined the party to extend the lead to 31 points.
Harry McKay, determined to keep his advantage atop the Coleman Medal leaderboard intact, kicked consecutive majors – one from the goal line and one from beyond 50m – to finish with three for the afternoon and keep a Blues pulse beating into the final term.
The big forward had played through an early shoulder issue, with his efforts perhaps inspired by Patrick Cripps. His co-captain was among Carlton's best, finishing with 27 disposals, seven clearances and 11 tackles in the wake of his own recent injury concerns.
But it was never going to be enough for the Blues. Clayton Oliver (29 disposals, 10 tackles, one goal) and Christian Petracca (27 disposals, eight clearances) would overwhelm Cripps and his supporting cast, as the Demons cruised to victory.
Dees lift as heavyweight showdown looms
Melbourne must have seen what the Western Bulldogs put down on Saturday night. Barely 12 hours after the high-flying Dogs accounted for fellow premiership fancies Port Adelaide, the Demons returned serve to stretch their unbeaten start to the season to nine matches for the first time since 1956 on Sunday. The comfortable victory over Carlton would prove significant, as Melbourne passed another test in the weeks leading up to that heavyweight battle against the Western Bulldogs in a fortnight's time. Beat the reigning 'wooden spooners' in Adelaide next week and the Dees will be 10-0 heading into that round 11 bout at Marvel Stadium. It will make for a mouth-watering occasion.
Blues relent as Williams heads back
Carlton played a few mind games as to where prized recruit Zac Williams would line up on Sunday, starting him on a wing before immediately rolling him to half-back. It's where he would feature for the remainder of the game, returning to a position that became natural to him at previous club Greater Western Sydney. Although it perhaps appeared out of necessity with David Cuningham – who started at half-back – subbed out of the match within five minutes due to a knee injury, a return to the backline had been pre-planned by the Blues. His role change came after criticism of his impact through the midfield to start his Carlton career, with Williams finishing the defeat to Melbourne with 19 disposals.
Did the Dees duo take their chance?
With young ruck-forward Luke Jackson a chance to return from finger surgery for next week's trip to Adelaide, key-position pair Ben Brown and Sam Weideman struggled to make the most of their opportunity on Sunday. Playing together at AFL level for the first time, the pair were outshone – individually, at least – by Tom McDonald in the forward line. Weideman, making his first senior appearance since a pre-season leg injury, worked well higher up the field to finish with 13 disposals and five marks. Meanwhile, Brown was quiet and ended the day with just 11 touches. Both were held goalless. Their attacking combination will leave Simon Goodwin with plenty to ponder as Jackson prepares to return.
MELBOURNE 4.3 8.6 12.9 13.16 (94)
CARLTON 3.2 6.5 8.7 10.8 (68)
Melbourne: McDonald 3, Fritsch 3, Neal-Bullen 2, Oliver, Hunt, Langdon, Pickett, Spargo
Carlton: McKay 3, Owies, Betts, Pittonet, Casboult, Stocker, Gibbons, Murphy
Melbourne: McDonald, Oliver, Petracca, Salem, Langdon, May, Jordon
Carlton: Cripps, Docherty, Walsh, Williams, Saad
Carlton: Cuningham (knee)
Melbourne: Melksham (unused)
Carlton: Gibbons (replaced Cuningham)
Crowd: 38,581 at the MCG