Melbourne midfield dominant in another high octane showing

After a quiet Round 1, Karen Paxman was back to her best on Friday night. (Photo: Melbourne FC/Twitter)

Melbourne’s midfield was yet again a dominant force, as the premiership favourites stamped their credentials for a second week in a row.

After a staggering start last week against the Bulldogs, the Demons midfield couldn’t be stopped yet again. All of Melbourne’s midfielders racked up a high disposal count, with Karen Paxman leading the way with 23, four inside 50s, and a goal.

It was a brilliant return to form for the veteran (and her mullet), after she had a quiet start to the season last round with just eight touches.

Tyla Hanks continued her strong start to 2022 with 20 disposals and four clearances, whilst Lily Mithen and Eliza McNamara finished with 17 each.

They won the ball at the coalface and on the outside, coming out on top in both contested and uncontested possessions. The Demons won the count 228 to 180 following their dominance in that area last week against the Western Bulldogs.

Melbourne also led in countless other inside midfield areas too, with a +8 difference in contested possession (100 to 92) and +5 difference in clearances (25 to 20).

Senior coach Mick Stinear said post game that the end of the first quarter gave them hope they could fight back.

“We just started to wrestle it back on our terms and that gave the group a bit of confidence. To start the second quarter that way it showed what the group’s capable of,” Stinear said.

Kate Hore finished with 14 disposals, two goals and three tackles, with Stinear impressed by the performance of his star key forward.

“She’s a critical player for us and generated a lot of opportunities in our forward half, but then late in the game still able to go in and win the ball and help get that ball back in our forward half.”

Fresh off their victory over the Saints, it was the Tigers midfield that started out on top. Their first goal came through the first centre clearance of the game.

It was Monique Conti who was yet again the main force in midfield, consistently getting the ball across the ground as well as setting up the first goal from the centre bounce.

Whilst she was kept quiet for patches of the contest following the first quarter, she still finished up with a game-high 25 disposals.

Conti also got game-highs in clearances (seven), inside 50s (five), contested possession (15), also acquiring six tackles and a goal.

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Richmond coach Ryan Ferguson was also impressed with how the red-hot midfielder performed, adding she embodied the pressure game of his team.

“Her aggression at the footy and her aggression at the player, I just love her work rate and her effort at the moment is unbelievable,” Ferguson said.

Following that quick start by Richmond, Melbourne fought back to cut the margin to seven points at the break. However, it started to get on the front foot in the second quarter.

The Dees’ midfield got back to their dominant best, with the likes of Hanks, Paxman and Eden Zanker constantly giving the Demons first use. They were also clinical in front of goal in that quarter, as they took at 26 point advantage into half time.

It started to even out in the second half, but despite some resistance from the Tigers, they still held on to an impressive win against a contender.

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