COVID-19 wiped out Simon Goodwin and five premiership players this week, but it wasn't enough to wipe out Melbourne's stunning winning streak, which now stands at 14 after the Demons defeated Hawthorn by 10 points on Saturday night.
With Luke Jackson, Kysaiah Pickett, Alex Neal-Bullen, Tom Sparrow and Harrison Petty watching on from the comfort of their living rooms, and Goodwin with a direct line to the box at the MCG, Melbourne recovered from a quarter-time deficit for the first time since round 19 – the last time it lost – to bank four more premiership points.
DEMONS v HAWKS Full match coverage and stats
Seven rounds down, seven wins in, we are yet to see a side challenge Melbourne for four quarters.
Hawthorn continues to exceed expectations in 2022, but Melbourne flexed its muscles in the third quarter, just like it has all season, kicking six goals to three to put it on a path to a 13.13 (91) to 11.15 (81) victory.
Five-time All-Australian Max Gawn made light work of new Hawthorn ruckman Max Lynch, amassing 35 hitouts, 29 disposals, eight clearances, two goals and 406 metres gained to be the most dominant player on the ground.
Clayton Oliver (33 disposals and eight inside 50s) and Christian Petracca (31 disposals, 639 metres gained and one goal) starred without producing box office performances.
There was pressure on Adem Yze for multiple reasons. And it wasn't just due to Melbourne's flawless run since July 24, 2021. Yze is the fifth assistant coach to take charge of his team in 2022. Ash Hansen, Jaymie Graham, Blake Caracella and Brendon Lade were 5-0 – Graham with two wins from two – leading into the weekend. Yze maintained the 100 per cent record, doing his chances of one day becoming a senior coach no harm in the process.
In the adjacent coaches box, Sam Mitchell continued to ask questions of the opposition, especially early on, six days after a disappointing fadeout against Sydney on Anzac Day.
Hawthorn made the better start at the MCG kicking two goals inside the first four minutes and should have had a third if Luke Breust kicked straight.
The Hawks stayed within touching distance of the defending champions for four quarters on the back of standout performances from Jaeger O'Meara and James Sicily – the two men who have stood in as captain this year in the absence of Ben McEvoy – as well as Dylan Moore, who flew home in the second half, Finn Maginness who put the clamps on star wingman Ed Langdon, and Blake Hardwick who stopped Bayley Fritsch.
But it wasn't enough to stop the Demons who just keep on keeping on.
Melbourne has one of the best midfields and defences in the game. The one area of the ground that isn't settled right now is the forward line. Ben Brown, Sam Weideman and Tom McDonald have all spent time at Casey this year. All three played against Hawthorn and all made a contribution.
Brown was the pick of the bunch in his second game back after a stint on the sidelines following a suspension in the VFL. The former North Melbourne key forward finished with four goals – an equal personal best in red and blue – while McDonald kicked two after being recalled from the VFL.
St Kilda awaits next Sunday at the MCG. If they win that, attention will shift to the record books. When it comes to the modern era, Essendon (2000) and Brisbane (2001-02) won 20 on the trot, while St Kilda won the first 19 games of 2009.
Sicily a natural fit for captain
The star defender was handed the captaincy duties for the next month ahead of his 100th game on Saturday and he continued his ripping return to football after missing 18 months due to a knee reconstruction. Sicily is yet to earn an All-Australian blazer but he might have one by the end of September if he continues this form. When you consider how good the 27-year-old is, it is somewhat surprising it has taken him so long to get to this milestone, but he is now entrenched as one of the premier backmen in the game.
From medi-sub to starring role
Toby Bedford's first eight games are peculiar. He played twice last year and has been the medi-sub in each of the first six rounds. He came on in round one, but was unused in the past five weeks. With five players in health and safety protocols, the 21-year-old got his opportunity on Saturday. He hit the scoreboard in the opening quarter, added a second in the third quarter.
Moore continues hot form at the MCG
The last time Dylan Moore played at the MCG he kicked four goals in a stunning Easter Monday performance against Geelong. This time he roared to life in the second half, amassing 15 touches in the third quarter alone, before finishing with a career-high 33 disposals after playing through the midfield in the second half.
MELBOURNE 3.3 7.5 13.9 13.13 (91)
HAWTHORN 3.5 5.8 8.11 11.15 (81)
Melbourne: Brown 4, Bedford 2, Gawn 2, McDonald 2, Fritsch, Petracca, Weideman
Hawthorn: Koschitzke 4, Breust, Mitchell, Worpel, Macdonald, O'Meara, Moore, Wingard
Melbourne: Gawn, Oliver, Petracca, Brayshaw, Brown, Viney, Bowey, May
Hawthorn: Sicily, Moore, O'Meara, Koschitzke, Worpel, Maginness, Hardwick
Melbourne: Smith (ankle)
Hawthorn: Nash (quad)
Melbourne: Kade Chandler (replaced Joel Smith at three-quarter time)
Hawthorn: Daniel Howe (replaced Conor Nash in fourth quarter)
Crowd: 39,425 at the MCG