27/02/2024

Melbourne Demons midfielder Tyla Hanks (Photo: Melbourne FC)

The Demons’ engine room showed no mercy at Casey Fields as they decimated the Bulldogs by 64 points on Sunday afternoon, cementing their spot in the top four.

The midfield group of Tyla Hanks, Eliza West, Olivia Purcell and Karen Paxman combined for 76 disposals in the round seven clash, as the midfielders tore through the Bulldogs defence with slick and accurate ball movement.

Paxman in particular was prolific in the first term, gathering seven disposals, three marks and two tackles to get the Dees to a flying start.

While Paxman began the second term in similar fashion, a head injury saw her spend a significant period on the bench, causing the rest of the midfield group to burrow in, extending a seven point quarter time lead into a 26 point lead at half time.

Purcell finished the game with 25 disposals and nine tackles, leading all-comers in both departments.

Hanks and West added 18 and 24 disposals respectively, while Paxman fought back from injury to rack up 19 of her own.

The Demons won the disposal count 241 to 175, due to the battle in the midfield being comfortably won by the home side.

Demons coach Mick Stinear was proud of his midfield’s response to last week’s game against the Dockers.

“We had a good challenge against Freo last week…We got beaten in there last week,” he explained.

“Coming into today against another strong midfield, we wanted to be good at winning our own footy but then denying their opportunities as well.

“I think for the better part of the game, the group did that and they really put it on themselves to lead by example today.”

The Bulldogs had no answer to the Demons free-flowing ball movement through the middle of the ground, as they struggled to produce any meaningful entries in the forward half of the ground themselves.

The Bulldogs could only manage 28 marks for the game as poor decision making and skills saw numerous turnovers and interceptions from the Demons defenders, with only one mark taken on the lead for the game.

The Demons on the opposite end were clinical in their entries, with the midfielders finding the likes of superstars Daisy Pearce and Tayla Harris on numerous occasions.

Harris got on the scoresheet early once again, kicking the first goal of the game after she found herself out the back of an aerial contest.

Stinear spoke on Harris’ impact when she hits the scoreboard early.

“I think goals bring so much energy in this competition,” Stinear said.

“Tayla’s got good goal sense and not afraid to take a shot and it’s nice to get the first one on the board and let the nerves settle.”

The Demons had 12 inside 50’s to one in the first term but struggled to fully capitalise on the opportunities provided by their midfielders, kicking just the one goal.

Harris, after kicking the first, had five disposals and two tackles in the first term to announce her presence on the game, even if she wasn’t able to convert on the scoreboard.

She produced some outstanding moments throughout the match, including an unbelievable one handed mark in the forward line that will contend for the mark of the year.

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Sarah Hartwig kicked the Bulldogs first and only goal of the game early in the second quarter, with the Bulldogs forwards being virtually unsighted for much of the second half.

The Demons produced a consistent effort in the last three quarters and did not let up the pressure, kicking four goals in the final term to drag the margin out and boost their percentage.

The Bulldogs have now lost three matches in a row and have fallen out of the eight, with coach Nathan Burke visibly angered over his side’s poor performance.

“(We) didn’t play the way we wanted to play footy,” he said post-match.

“We came out and we wanted to be fierce. We just made some really dumb decisions and we played some dumb football.

“That’s what happens against good teams. You play really dumb football, you get beaten pretty heavily.”

The final three games of the season now become even more dire, as the Bulldogs fight to return to the top eight and play finals football for the second time in their history of the women’s competition.

The Bulldogs look to redeem themselves against the Saints in Ballarat, while the Demons get set to take on the Suns at Metricon Stadium.

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