WELCOME to the Kysaiah Pickett show.

Pickett put in a career-best showing, which helped spark the Demons into life throughout a see-sawing contest with Port Adelaide - and ultimately to a much-needed 14-point victory - to help solidify their place inside the top two at TIO Traeger Park on Sunday afternoon.

Whenever it seemed as if the Power were gaining some of the ascendancy, Pickett would find a way to wrestle the momentum back in the Dees’ favour, booting all of his six goals (the most by any player in a single AFL game played in the Northern Territory) at integral points of the game - including three contenders for goal of the round.

06:25 Mins
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Highlights: Melbourne v Port Adelaide

The Demons and Power clash in round 18

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Pickett’s third and fourth goal helped Melbourne snatch the lead late in the third term and kick-off a run of seven straight goals, before his fifth and sixth majors put the result beyond doubt and sealed the 12.11 (83) to 10.9 (69) victory.

The small forward was supported by the exploits of Christian Petracca (30 disposals, 10 clearances, seven marks) and Jack Viney (28 disposals) who helped fill the void left by absent star midfielder Clayton Oliver.

Previously, contests between the two sides in Alice Springs had been all one-way traffic, with Port winning all three of the previous meetings in the Red Centre, but on this occasion Melbourne’s passionate faithful in the heart of the nation were the ones going home happy after watching their beloved Dees in the flesh for the first time since August 2020.

DEMONS v POWER Full match coverage and stats

The Dees were made to weather the storm by a desperate Power outfit, which was a far cry from the side the reigning premiers demolished at Adelaide Oval back in round four as they played for an opportunity to get within touching distance of the top eight.

Port won most of the statistical battles, gaining the ascendancy at the coalface (40-26 clearances) and in the territory stakes (55-49 inside 50s), but ultimately the Dees’ work in transition proved to be their greatest asset - carving the Power on the counter.

After conceding the opening three goals of the game, Melbourne roared to life in the second quarter, upping the intensity around the ground which in turn, got the scoreboard ticking over as the Dees booted the next three.

00:42 Mins
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Kozzy ignites Dees with outstanding snap

Kysaiah Pickett gives the Dees a much-needed spark as he nails this incredible goal

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Pickett and Fritsch combined for four of the Dees’ first five goals to help swing the ascendancy slightly in their favour, but the Power answered the challenge at every turn, with both sides exchanging the lead five times in the second term.

The Power regained the lead early in the third term through back-to-back goals, before Pickett got going again along with Ben Brown who booted his first of the game to help re-establish a ten-point lead by the final change.

In the end, another four straight goals helped get the lead out to 31 points before Port reeled in the margin late with three consecutive majors which were merely consolations at the final siren.

Melbourne now sits in second on the same number of wins as ladder-leading Geelong, while Port remains four points behind eighth-placed Richmond with five games to go.

Pickett's hat-trick
Kysaiah Pickett played his own game of ‘whatever you can do, I can do better’ on Sunday afternoon, but instead of challenging a team-mate or opposition player, it seemed as if he was essentially playing against himself. The first three of Pickett’s career-best six goals are almost certain to feature on his ‘best of’ highlight reels for many years to come - which continued to meet the criteria of spectacular with each passing goal. Pickett got things moving when he found the ball deep inside the forward pocket, before dancing his way around a cul-de-sac of Power players, to snap home an incredible goal on his left foot. Later that quarter, the 21-year-old snapped another sensational major, but this time on his opposite foot and in the opposite pocket while he was off-balance - before completing the hat-trick with a tremendous half-volley from a tight angle in the third quarter.

02:59 Mins
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Kozzy has a day out with six of the best

Kysaiah Pickett had an afternoon to remember as he put through six goals to lead his side to a crucial win over Port

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Power ruck duo pass tall task
Charlie Dixon and Jeremy Finlayson are the tandem pair who continue to make lemonade from very few lemons. The Port ruck duo faced by far the biggest challenge of their short careers as ‘key-forwards-turned-ruckmen’ against Max Gawn and Luke Jackson, and despite the huge task, both Dixon and Finlayson passed the test with flying colours. Their added mobility has made them a major asset for the Power throughout their resurgence, acting as effectively extra midfielders at the coalface and it was those traits which came to the fore against the Dees’ imposing ruck duo. While being beaten in the hit-outs, Port was able to level the battle when the ball hit the deck as Dixon and Finlayson combined for seven clearances while registering 15 and 17 disposals respectively.

ALICE SPRINGS, AUSTRALIA - JULY 17: Luke Jackson of the Demons and Charlie Dixon of the Power compete in a ruck contest during the 2022 AFL Round 18 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Port Adelaide Power at TIO Traeger Park on July 17, 2022 in Alice Springs, Australia. (Photo by Felicity Elliott/AFL Photos)

Who fills the Oliver-sized hole?
It’s been a long time between drinks since Melbourne last fielded a side without the services of its superstar midfielder Clayton Oliver, who missed his first game in almost six years. A thumb injury sustained against Geelong last weekend meant Oliver’s streak of 127 consecutive games came to an end on Sunday afternoon after Melbourne’s coaching staff opted to take the conservative route and not risk further injury by playing the three time best and fairest winner. Simon Goodwin, who had never coached a game without Oliver at his disposal, was forced to tinker with the Dees midfield in order to fill the sizeable hole left by the leading ball-winner in the competition. Tom Sparrow (18 disposals, six tackles) spent more time in the engine room and was rotated through the middle alongside the likes of Petracca, Jack Viney and James Harmes who were all impressive.

Tom Sparrow gets a handball away during round 18, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE            0.4     5.7    8.10   12.11 (83)
PORT ADELAIDE      2.1     5.3    7.6     10.9 (69)

GOALS  
Melbourne: Pickett 6, Fritsch 2, Brown 2, Jackson, Melksham
Port Adelaide: Bergman 2, Boak 2, Marshall 2, Finlayson, Dixon, Rozee, Drew

BEST  
Melbourne: Pickett, Petracca, Viney, Langdon, Jordon, Harmes, Brayshaw
Port Adelaide: Rozee, Boak, Houston, Wines, Dixon, Finlayson Byrne-Jones

INJURIES  
Melbourne: Lever (shoulder)
Port Adelaide: Nil

SUBSTITUTES  
Melbourne: Luke Dunstan (unused)
Port Adelaide: Jase Burgoyne (unused)