Christian Petracca celebrates a goal during the round four clash between West Coast and Melbourne at Optus Stadium on April 9, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE premiership forward Tom McDonald has responded to his axing last week with four goals on return, spearheading the Demons as they handled an injury-hit but committed West Coast by 63 points at Optus Stadium on Sunday.

It wasn't pretty for much of the afternoon as the Eagles made up for their lack of polish with competitive spirit, but the Demons broke them in the second half and cruised to a comfortable 19.12 (126) to 9.9 (63) win.

While McDonald was the main beneficiary in a return to form that will give the Demons selection headaches ahead of Gather Round, gun midfielders Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver were the stars at the site of their 2021 flag.

EAGLES v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats

Oliver set the Demons up with 34 disposals and 10 clearances, while Petracca finished the Eagles off with 29 and three goals, with the pair overwhelming West Coast in the critical third quarter as Melbourne piled on six goals to two and opened a 49-point lead.


Ruckman Brodie Grundy was also excellent in a stoppage-heavy game, finishing with 22 disposals and seven clearances while controlling the hit-outs (48-26) against Bailey Williams. 

With tall forward Ben Brown likely to return from back soreness ahead of next Saturday's clash against Essendon at Adelaide Oval, McDonald's performance was well-timed, with a 50m goal on the run out of a centre bounce his highlight. 

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Young key forward Jacob van Rooyen was eye-catching again, finishing with two goals, while Bailey Fritsch booted three and Kysaiah Pickett added two in his return from suspension, with the Demons moving to 3-1 and third on the ladder. 


The only issues to emerge from the match were a repeat of Achilles tendon soreness for defender Michael Hibberd, which will need to be assessed, and an ankle tweak that gun backman Jake Lever was able to play through.  

After making a massive seven changes to cover injuries to key personnel, including star defender Jeremy McGovern and captain Luke Shuey, the Eagles were always going to rely on the contested elements of the game to be competitive.  

They were energised early by their fresh faces and took it up to the Demons in the contest, bringing a high-pressure game that kept the match tight in the first quarter.

The Eagles were willing to stick with their more attacking game style, too, despite their personnel issues, and ran hard to link up with handballs through the corridor.


The gulf in class was obvious, however, and the Demons were able to kick five goals from their nine first-quarter entries, with McDonald and Fritsch linking up perfectly late in the term to set the quarter-time margin at 17 points.

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Oliver had been held to six disposals in the first quarter and little impact, but he lifted in the second and gave his less experienced opponents, including draftee Reuben Ginbey, a lesson in midfield craft with 12 possessions (six contested) and three clearances.

The match remained hotly contested, however, with the standard dragged down by high tackle numbers from both teams (34-40 at half-time) and desperate defensive efforts.


Tim Kelly, who was his team's best performer with 36 disposals and 10 inside 50s, and Connor West both converted long-range opportunities to keep the Eagles in a competitive position, but the Demons were able to find targets inside 50 and built a 24-point half-time lead after Charlie Spargo's late goal.

It got out of control in the third quarter as the Demons started to show more of their attacking flair, with Petracca launching the run when he marked and played on to snap a classy goal nine minutes in.


The 2021 premiers started to break tackles, move the ball rapidly and punish the Eagles' turnovers in a ruthless manner, opening up a 54-point lead late in the quarter.

Having given everything but worked incredibly hard for their six goals to that point, the Eagles looked well and truly beaten in the final term as Melbourne put an exclamation point on a match they never looked like losing but were always made to work in.  


Demons' centre bounce lesson
The third quarter is when Melbourne really got to work and added some flair to what had been a grinding performance to that point. The Eagles won the centre clearances 6-5 in the first half, but the Demons responded to win seven consecutive centre bounce clearances at one point through the third quarter as Jack Viney and Oliver got to work, giving the team an 18-7 edge in forward entries for the quarter. The Demons could have opened a much bigger break if not for Pickett kicking three behinds to enter the final quarter with 0.5. His rewards came late with two final term goals.  

Jack Viney in action during the round four clash between West Coast and Melbourne at Optus Stadium on April 9, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Yeo's temporary role
Premiership star Elliot Yeo looked ready to return to his best over the summer as he dominated midfield contests in match simulation training and pre-season games. But in his return from a calf injury on Sunday, he was a permanent defender, even lining up on key forwards. The Eagles could have done with the 29-year-old in the centre square, particularly in the third quarter, but Adam Simpson held firm. It will likely be a temporary move, however, as Yeo settles back after the injury, with his substitution ahead of the fourth quarter precautionary.

Elliot Yeo in action during the round four clash between West Coast and Melbourne at Optus Stadium on April 9, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Eagles' new blood
The upside of the Eagles' injury carnage is the way it has expedited their rebuild, forcing the selection of several depth players who would otherwise struggle for opportunities. Among the club's seven inclusions were midfielders Greg Clark, Jai Culley and Luke Edwards, who have played a combined 24 games and remain unproven at the top level. Edwards particularly showed something, while Culley never takes a backward step in the contest. Simpson said the lessons learned against the Demons would probably be worth three or four WAFL games. 


WEST COAST        2.2   2.2    6.8    9.9 (63)
MELBOURNE       5.1    8.4   14.9   19.12 (126)  

West Coast: Allen 3, Kelly 2, Hunt, Long, Petrevski-Seton, West
Melbourne: McDonald 4, Fritsch 3, Petracca 3, Pickett 2, Spargo 2, Van Rooyen 2, Chandler, Neal-Bullen, Viney 

West Coast: Kelly, Allen, Hunt, Yeo, Duggan
Melbourne: Oliver, Petracca, Grundy, Viney, McDonald, Rivers, May 

West Coast: Nil
Melbourne: Hibberd (Achilles), Lever (ankle) 

West Coast: Josh Rotham (replaced Elliot Yeo in the fourth quarter)
Melbourne: James Jordon (replaced Michael Hibberd in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 42,458 at Optus Stadium