AFL Round 15: Melbourne v Brisbane Lions, latest news, scores and KFC SuperCoach stats

Steven May’s fellow Demons backs reassured him that he had nothing to prove on Thursday night following the turmoil that surrounded his fight with Jake Melksham.

Melbourne defender Jake Lever has revealed how he reassured Steven May pre-game he had nothing left to prove to his teammates ahead of his return from a club-imposed suspension on Friday night. 'Best defender in the competition’

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While May had been eager to regain the respect of his teammate following his altercation with Jake Melksham at a Prahran restaurant earlier this month, Lever stressed to his fellow All-Australian that his presence alone on the field would give the Demons a significant boost.

“He’s a star,” Lever told News Corp after Melbourne smashed Brisbane Lions by 64 points to record their first victory in 34 days.

Jake Lever says Steven May is a ‘star’ who had nothing to prove on Thursday night. Picture: Getty Images
Jake Lever says Steven May is a ‘star’ who had nothing to prove on Thursday night. Picture: Getty Images

“I think he (May) probably felt like he had to prove something.

“But myself and Harrison Petty spoke to him before the game and we said ‘We’re so happy to have you back, you don’t need to do anything more than what you did in the first 10 weeks’.

“He was clearly the best defender in the competition in the first 10 weeks, so to slot back in was pretty phenomenal.

“He is a man who definitely speaks out there (on the field), he yells and demands, but he leads by his action. For us, that’s all we can ask of him.

“I am glad that game is over for him and he can get on with being the best player he can be.”

May made a strong comeback in his first game since being concussed against Fremantle in Round 11, the first of three successive Demons’ losses.

But his return had its impact on others, including Lever, who was back to his intercepting best as one of the key Demons players alongside Jack Viney, Clayton Oliver and James Harmes.

“We definitely walk taller when he is in the team,” Lever said of May’s return to the side.

Lever detailed how injured skipper Max Gawn played a key role in the planning and preparation for the Demons’ clash with Brisbane.

“Maxy is such an important part of our football side and our football club,” he said. “He was pretty vocal during the week and he tried to stay involved.

“As you saw tonight, that helped Sam Weideman and Luke Jackson (in the ruck), which helped us. As much as he is not out there, he has played a role.”

Lever said the last three weeks had been “a bit of a challenge for us, but I was just so proud of the footy club to be able to bounce back and we had some pretty special players tonight.

“We understand that when it is your turn (to go), it’s your turn. Some of our guys in the midfield were incredible. Jack Viney, I’ve never seen him play like that.”

Jake Lever has never seen Jack Viney play the way he did on Thursday night. Picture: Getty Images
Jake Lever has never seen Jack Viney play the way he did on Thursday night. Picture: Getty Images

“The way we bought into the defensive part of the game was pretty special. I think it was a bit of a blueprint for us and teams are going to try and challenge us and probably watch this game and see what they can do differently to what Brisbane did.

“It was more valuing and recognising the things we value and that’s what we reflected on (during the bye). It wasn’t like we had to invent the wheel again. We just had to knuckle down on the things we know work in big games and in big finals.”

Lever said his favourite moment on Friday night came when the entire Melbourne team rushed to Viney after an act of great courage and sacrifice instead of going to celebrate with Charlie Spargo, who kicked the resulting goal.

“I felt bad for ‘Spargs’, he kicked the goal and to just see 16 blokes get around Jack Viney is a reflection of what we have had (worked on) over the last three weeks,” he said.

“The things we value, we have probably gone away from that a bit. I guess you look at the scoreboard and say how good is that win … when you look at the offensive side of it.

“But the things we value the most were on show … our defensive actions and our willingness to buy into team (acts).”

Leadership the key for dominant Dees

Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin has credited the club’s leaders including stand-in skipper Jack Viney and returning defender Steven May for playing a significant role in the reigning premiers’ first win in 34 days.

In a stunning statement that won’t be missed by other premiership rivals, the Demons won their first game since Round 10 in the most emphatic fashion, smashing the Brisbane Lions by 64 points at the MCG.

After a month of external criticism, the Steven May-Jake Melksham incident and seemingly a loss of form and confidence, Goodwin couldn’t have been more pleased with the manner in which his players answered their critics.

He put much of the kudos on the leaders in the absence of premiership captain Max Gawn, but stressed this was very much a team effort as the Demons kicked their second biggest score of the season (117) and restricted the Lions to only 53 points.

“Full credit to the players, and especially the leaders, I thought Viney, (Jake Lever), Stevie May, Alex Neal-Bullen, Angus Brayshaw and Christian Petracca were terrific,” Goodwin said.

(Viney) is an outstanding leader of our footy club and he showed it again.

Jake Lever was back to his intercept marking best on Thursday night. Picture: Getty Images
Jake Lever was back to his intercept marking best on Thursday night. Picture: Getty Images

“He has been brutal around the contest all year. He has been in some fantastic form all year but I think tonight when the spotlight was on our footy club and he was skippering for the first time all year, he stood up massively for the club.”

Goodwin was delighted with May’s return from a club-imposed one-game suspension over the incident with Melksham, which followed a further missed match through concussion.

He stressed May had learnt a lot about himself since joining the club from Gold Coast and had learnt even more in the past few weeks.

“We know what Steven delivers on field, he is an outstanding player and an outstanding leader and he plays the right way,” the coach said.

“We haven’t learnt anything different about Steve, but he continues to evolve as a person. He has come a long way in the last three or four years since being at our footy club.

“He has made a mistake, he has owned up to it. He has put the things into place that he needs to, but first and foremost we need him playing his best footy.

“When you get your cohesion of your key personnel back into your team, I think you see the impact (May’s return) has for Jake Lever, you see Harrison Petty go to another level.

“(May) brings a calming influence to our team and you get those three guys operating well, along with Michael Hibberd, you have a pretty good foursome down there who can cope with most tall forward lines.”

Demons make mockery of top-two contest with 24-year first

- Ronny Lerner

The naysayers who were writing Melbourne’s premiership epitaph will have to put their quills back in the ink well after the Demons sent out an ominous reminder to the rest of the competition that they are far from a spent force on Thursday night.

Melbourne put their month from hell behind them by regaining first spot on the ladder with a thumping 64-point victory over fellow title challengers Brisbane in their top-of-the-table clash at the MCG.

It was their biggest win over the Lions in 24 years.

The Demons headed into the clash on the back of a three-game losing streak, amid more explosive details being revealed relating to coach Simon Goodwin’s behaviour in the lead-up to the 2021 season, as well as a wild night out involving senior players, which led to a physical altercation between Steven May and Jake Melksham.

Clarry Oliver’s leather poisoning continues. Picture: Michael Klein
Clarry Oliver’s leather poisoning continues. Picture: Michael Klein

But without key players Max Gawn and Tom McDonald, who are both sidelined due to ankle injuries, Melbourne rediscovered their premiership ferocity and produced their best performance of the season. After slipping 13 points behind early, they kicked nine of the next 10 goals to pummel Brisbane into submission, who were missing key trio Dayne Zorko (hamstring), Zac Bailey (Covid) and Darcy Gardiner (lungs).

The 16.21 (117) to 7.11 (53) result extended the Lions’ eight-year losing streak at the MCG to 10 matches, and it was compounded for Brisbane with an apparent chest/sternum injury to Jarryd Lyons.

Jack Viney led from the front as stand-in skipper. Picture: Michael Klein
Jack Viney led from the front as stand-in skipper. Picture: Michael Klein

The midfielder bravely played on after he copped a knee to the upper torso in a marking contest in the second quarter, but was eventually subbed out in the final term.

Melbourne’s defence had looked decidedly vulnerable in their previous three games without May (who was subbed out early in Round 11 due to concussion), leaking an average of 83 points compared to 58 in their first 10 matches.

And their forward efficiency had nosedived without McDonald in the line-up, averaging 58 points since Round 10, compared to 94 in the first two-and-a-half months.

But with May back in the team, the Dees were back to their stingy selves, restricting the Lions to their lowest score of the season, while down the other end, Melbourne’s attacking potency returned, as they registered their second-biggest score of the year.

Christian Petracca gave the Lions nightmares. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
Christian Petracca gave the Lions nightmares. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Melbourne finished up thumping Brisbane in contested possessions (170-133) and clearances (46-35), and despite comfortably ending up with more disposals (399-332), still finished level on tackles (68-68).

Clayton Oliver (35 disposals, 12 clearances) and Jack Viney (34, eight) were spectacular in the middle of the ground, James Harmes (two goals) negated the influence of star Lion Lachie Neale (22 touches), and James Jordon was instrumental in turning the tide with 24 touches and two majors.

Luke Jackson relished the opportunity in Gawn’s absence, racking up 21 touches and a goal, Christian Petracca (31 disposals and eight clearances) was industrious, while Jake Lever, Angus Brayshaw and May starred down back.

No Max, no worries? Luke Jackson stood up in Gawn’s absence. Picture: Michael Klein
No Max, no worries? Luke Jackson stood up in Gawn’s absence. Picture: Michael Klein

Lions waste early ascendancy

Brisbane started like a house on fire, but were undone badly by poor goalkicking, missing four set shots early, including a sitter from directly in front by Cam Rayner, to let the sluggish Dees off the hook.

Tough nut Angus Brayshaw gave the Dees plenty of grunt and drive. Picture: Getty Images
Tough nut Angus Brayshaw gave the Dees plenty of grunt and drive. Picture: Getty Images

Dees make Brisbane pay dearly

After the Lions grabbed a 13-point lead, Melbourne responded fiercely, making the visitors pay for their wastefulness by kicking the next five goals as their confidence and pressure rose sharply.

The momentum shifted dramatically and the Demons took a stranglehold on the contest as they resembled the premiership-winning team that strung together 17 wins in a row.

Melbourne overwhelmed Brisbane’s backline in the second term, recording 12 scoring shots (6.6) from 14 inside 50s, and by halftime, they were walloping the Lions in contested possessions (93-61) and clearances (26-16).

After the Demons registered 12 scores in a row (5.7), Mitch Robinson stopped the rot for the Lions with a late goal in the second term, but it proved to be a momentary reprieve as Melbourne opened up a 45-point advantage in the third period to put the game to bed early.

King interceptor Jake Lever had a welcome return to form. Picture: Michael Klein
King interceptor Jake Lever had a welcome return to form. Picture: Michael Klein

Pickett brilliance

Early in the third term, with the game already as good as done, Kysaiah Pickett put a brilliant exclamation mark on the result. After dropping a one-handed marking attempt in the forward pocket, he rode the Charlie Cameron tackle, spun around, and was slingshotted to the goal line to put the Dees up by 42 points.

Bayley Fritsch booted three goals for the Dees. Picture: Michael Klein
Bayley Fritsch booted three goals for the Dees. Picture: Michael Klein

Young Lion loses bearings

Late in the first quarter, Harmes kickstarted the Dees’ fight back with a remarkable floating snap shot from the pocket that went high into the sky, and dropped rapidly before being marked by James Tunstill. The problem for the Brisbane first-gamer, though, was that instead of collecting the ball in front of the goal line, he misjudged where it was, and casually took the mark behind it.

Daniel Rich found plenty of the footy in a losing effort for the Lions. Picture: Getty Images
Daniel Rich found plenty of the footy in a losing effort for the Lions. Picture: Getty Images
Slick-footed Hugh McCluggage tried hard for the Lions. Picture: Getty Images
Slick-footed Hugh McCluggage tried hard for the Lions. Picture: Getty Images

SCOREBOARD

MELBOURNE 2.4, 8.10, 11.17, 16.21 (117)

def

BRISBANE 3.4, 4.4, 6.7, 7.11 (53)

GOALS

Demons: Fritsch 3, Jordon 2, Harmes 2, Pickett 2, Bedford 2, Sparrow, Neal-Bullen, B.Brown, Jackson, Spargo

Lions: Robinson 2, Hipwood 2, Daniher, McCarthy, Rayner.

RONNY LERNER’S BEST

Demons: Oliver, Viney, Harmes, Jordon, Lever, Jackson, Petracca

Lions: Rich, McCluggage, McInerney, K.Coleman, Andrews

RONNY LERNER’S VOTES

3 — Clayton Oliver (Melb)

2 — Jack Viney (Melb)

1 — James Harmes (Melb)

INJURIES

Demons: Nil. Lions: Lyons (chest/sternum).

Umpires: Foot, Hosking, Meredith

Venue: MCG

Originally published as AFL Round 15: Melbourne v Brisbane Lions, latest news, scores and KFC SuperCoach stats

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