1. Clarry shows why is League's best mid
In the same week he was awarded the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award and named a Therabody AFL All-Australian for the second time, Clayton Oliver again stamped himself as the competition's best midfielder with a dominant showing. Right from the early going he was in the thick of everything, gathering eight first-quarter disposals and snapping a clever goal on his left foot. He got more involved in the second term and was the centrepiece in Melbourne building its match-winning lead. His hands were clean under pressure, his decision-making quick, and his ball use exquisite, setting up four goals with direct assists, including one lovely weighted kick for Kysaiah Pickett running back to goal. Oliver finished with 33 disposals.
DEMONS v LIONS Full match coverage and stats
2. Melbourne's best is premiership football
No matter what facet of the game – contest, ball movement or transition in either direction – Melbourne showed it is capable of handling anything from any opponent. The Demons' midfield outworked their Lions opponents for much of the night, both at the coalface and away from it. When Brisbane did win the ball, Melbourne's defence was so well organised and its pressure so good, they often turned it over and then used powerful running to sweep the ball from one end to the other and expose their opposition. Some wasteful goalkicking in the second quarter aside, the Demons' performance was about as complete as you would hope to see in a finals outing with +23 inside 50s and +21 contested possessions. Whoever they face in a preliminary final will have their work cut out.
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3. McStay had to McGo after a sickening early hit
One of Brisbane's most important structural players, forward Dan McStay, barely saw five minutes of the game before being helped off by trainers after an accidental knee to the head from teammate Nakia Cockatoo. McStay had just competed for a mark and was rising from the ground when Cockatoo collected him on the way past as play continued. The big forward had blood streaming from his face and was assisted from the field and immediately ruled out for the game. His absence was felt mightily by the Lions – already missing Eric Hipwood – as they often looked aimless going forward with their usual link target missing. Jake Lever had a field day, gathering 11 first-half intercepts and finishing with 15 for the night.
4. Fritsch delivers as Melbourne dominate the skies
After Brisbane had worked its way back into the contest to trail by 19 points early in the final term, a contested mark and goal to Bayley Fritsch summed up his team's dominance in the air. Surrounded by Darcy Gardiner and Marcus Adams, Fritsch somehow came down with a high ball and then calmly slotted his fourth goal from 40m to extinguish the Lions' faint hopes. It typified the marking disparity between the teams. Melbourne finished with 81 marks to 68, but more tellingly 15 marks inside 50 to five and 12 contested marks to three. Fritsch, Ben Brown and Luke Jackson were all dangerous forward as Gardiner and Harris Andrews had nights they'd rather forget.
5. Charlie's lone hand
Playing his 150th career game and first final at the Adelaide Oval since he kicked five for the Crows in a prelim against Geelong in 2017, Charlie Cameron again shone on the big stage. He kicked three goals in the first quarter to keep the Lions in the hunt and finished with 5.1 for the night, looking dangerous every time the ball was in his vicinity. To Melbourne's great credit, he was the only forward from the competition's highest scoring team that looked consistently dangerous. Aside from Cameron's heroics, Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale was relentless, finishing with a whopping 46 disposals. It was left to far too few for the Lions.
The AFL is pleased to partner with the South Australian Tourism Commission to bring this match to Adelaide and thanks the South Australian Government for their support.