Late Tigers rally seals win but young Demon continues rise
IN past years, the Tigers mightn't have come back.
Damien Hardwick's men were down by 23 points late in the third quarter, with Melbourne in control and on a roll.
But led by Jack Riewoldt and Dustin Martin, the Tigers clawed their way back into the contest ran over the top of the depleted Demons to improve to a 5-0 record with a thrilling 12.16 (88) to 11.9 (75) win at the MCG.
Martin was under an injury cloud all week but he was at his bullocking best as he amassed a team-high 32 disposals and kicked a crucial last-quarter goal.
In an honest interview with Fox Footy post-match, Martin said the result might've been different last year if the Tigers were in the same predicament.
"It was all fight and spirit and we played with a bit of heart," Martin said.
"Last year we probably wouldn't have won that, so it was really pleasing."
DEES YOUNG GUN BEGINNING TO EMERGE
TO paraphrase The Life of Brian: "He's not Michael Voss, but he's a very talented boy."
The shock of red hair and the contact-loving, ball-seeking, contested warrior nature of Clayton Oliver's play has seen him draw comparisons to the Brisbane Lions great in recent weeks.
Let's perhaps slow down on comparing those who have played 18 AFL matches to Brownlow Medallists, but the fact that the conversation is occurring is some sign for his incredibly bright future.
Oliver starred in Melbourne's loss to Richmond on Monday night, finishing with 32 disposals (19 contested) with nine clearances and seven tackles.
He was particularly impressive in the third quarter when the Demons looked like they wouldn't be caught, with eight contested possessions and five clearances in the one stanza.
But it wasn't just the pure numerical output that impressed the many, many thousands watching at the MCG and at home.
"He's so hard at the ball, but he's so clean. He doesn't get knocked off the ball," three-time premiership Lion Alastair Lynch told Fox Footy.
"There's few midfielders that have that balance with just one grab. He hasn't played too much footy this kid, but he's a gun on the rise."
Oliver has stepped up dramatically so far in 2017. He averaged a touch over 19 disposals per game last season but so far this season he has recorded single-game totals of 36 and 35 on route to an average of 31.4.
"He's just a kid ... he has had a brilliant game and a brilliant start to his career," fellow redhead Cameron Ling said on commentary.
"He's going to be a favourite of Demons fans for many years to come."
His night was particularly impressive given the lack of ruck supply; an injury to Jake Spencer meant Richmond's Toby Nankervis dominated the hit-outs, so Oliver was just one of two Demons to record more than four clearances (Jack Viney had six).
Another late-game collapse will be very disappointing for Melbourne fans - but there's plenty to look forward to at the Dees.
OTHER DEES TO IMPRESS
OLIVER wasn't the only Melbourne player to stand up on the big stage, with two rebounding defenders also standing tall.
Speedster Jayden Hunt showed daring dash off half-back, while veteran Michael Hibberd proved he was worth the wait.
Hunt finished with 24 disposals, 10 intercepts and a stunning third-term goal that lifted his team's spirits.
"Hunt's game is going to the next level. Every week you see him do something new, something different," Fox Footy's David King said.
"He's super aggressive and now stepping up forward of centre and wanting to put speed into the game at every opportunity - and they're starting to cash in on the scoreboard."
Fellow analyst Alastair Lynch added: "Especially with the zone defences that we see, his ability to break the line and carry the ball, he gets over the back of the press so often, so his value off half-back is first class."
After missing the entire 2016 season due to a doping suspension, Hibberd played his first AFL game in 604 days - and his first for Melbourne since being traded from Essendon.
And he didn't disappoint, finishing with a goal from 27 touches, 13 intercepts and 588m gained, while his kicking efficiency of 83 per cent was first-class.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARLY
WE don't mean to be harsh when we say that Melbourne fans aren't used to such big games.
It was a massive night, and the Anzac Eve crowd of more than 83,000 was the biggest to watch the Demons play a game of footy since the 2000 grand final.
But that also meant that plenty trying to enter the members' section found themselves taking a bit longer than it would for, say, a game against Gold Coast on a Sunday afternoon.
Social media was full of shots of the huge queues outside the MCC just minutes before the 7.25pm opening bounce - admittedly, the Monday fixture may have caused part of the problem for the late arrivals.