25/04/2024

Bayley Fritsch was instrumental in Melbourne's victory over Hawthorn. (Image: Melbourne FC)

Despite the injuries suffered by two of its star defenders, Melbourne was able to hold firm and pick up a 55-point victory over Hawthorn, thanks to an impressive five-goal display from Bayley Fritsch.

The Demons forward started hot, booting two goals in an opening quarter that was comfortably dominated by his side. He would only convert one major in the following two quarters, coinciding with signs of improvement from the Hawks, though the final quarter was another excellent team display from the Demons which saw Fritsch add the final two goals to his tally.

Melbourne head coach Simon Goodwin heaped the praise on Bayley Fritsch in his post-match press conference, referencing how he was able to make an impact despite having James Sicily behind him for a lot of the game.

“Sicily was having a little bit of an impact early, but ‘Fritta’ stuck to his task,” Goodwin said.

“We gave him a pretty big job there to try and get that matchup, and then try to make sure he hit the scoreboard.

“I know he’s been a little bit frustrated with his form in the last couple of weeks, but today he had a role to do, he performed it well, and he bounced back incredibly strongly.”

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With Demons key defenders Steven May and Jake Lever both subbed off by the end of the third quarter due to injury, the Hawks seemingly had a chance to capitalise on a severely compromised Melbourne backline. However, this wasn’t to be the case as the Dees managed to move the magnets around, utilising the tall timber that they had at their disposal to grind out an impressive victory.

While the losses of May and Lever would certainly be a concern, Goodwin heaped praise on the work that other players were able to do in their positions late in the game.

“When you lose two key pillars pretty early in the second half… I thought Harrison Petty, Tom McDonald, and Marty Hore did a great job down back for us,” he said.

“We’ve got guys that can play those roles. Clearly Harrison’s done it previously. We’ve got some other guys, Adam Tomlinson will play tomorrow in the VFL.

“So we’ve got some options in that space which is pleasing, so we’ll assess that during the week.”

The depth that the Demons were able to display in the backline meant that it continued to be very difficult for Hawthorn to take advantage of their opportunities, something that Sam Mitchell flagged as a key reason for his side’s defeat.

“We’d control the ball in the back half, and then we’d have plenty of chances to go inside 50 and we just didn’t take them,” Mitchell said.

“The idea to take some more uncontested marks was obvious. Taking some more territory and actually looking for chances to penetrate [in] the front half was where we fell down, and fell down badly.”

Mitchell also conceded that the game plan they implemented in the first quarter particularly, with high possession in the back half, is not one that they will go with on a consistent basis.

“It’s clearly not a sustainable way to play, and not a model that we’ll look to do too often, but we thought it might help us early in the game today, and we just weren’t able to get any front half potency across the whole game really,” he explained.

Stoppages were also a big issue for the Hawks once again this week, comfortably defeated in the clearance battle and conceding plenty of goals through that method. It’s something that Mitchell will definitely want to tidy up in the coming weeks.

“Two weeks in a row we’ve given up an enormous amount of field position through centre bounce and clearance work,” he said.

“We couldn’t halve a contest, so once we did get a 50/50 play, get a clearance… we just didn’t have any flair, run, or dash. We just couldn’t execute the plan.

“A clear focus for us is being able to sort out the centre bounces. To be minus 18 [in centre clearances] after two rounds is disastrous.

“Last year we were really strong in that area. Obviously the new law that’s been brought in has made the way that teams compete in there a little bit different and we haven’t adapted to that as well as we could’ve.

“That’s going to be a heavy focus for us. I imagine there will be some changes, whether that’s personnel, system, or both, I’d suspect there’s going to be something different the next time we play. Easter Monday, we’ve got a couple of extra days now to recover and make sure we’re really sound to play against a Cats side that’s humming along.”

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