Melbourne hosts Brisbane in an epic do-or-die semi-final to kick off the second week of the post-season, but the Lions have been hit with a big out.
The Demons (16-6 in home and away season, 130.5%) will be looking to bounce back from last week’s 22-point loss to the Sydney Swans as Simon Goodwin’s side goes into the clash unchanged.
Meanwhile the Lions (15-7, 119.3%) have made several changes from the side that narrowly ousted Richmond by two points last week as they hope to make amends for their 58-point loss to Melbourne in Round 23.
Watch every match prior to the AFL grand final Live & Ad-Break Free In-Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
The Lions lost Joe Daniher on Friday due to family reasons, with Tom Fullarton coming in to replace the star forward.
“The Club supports Joe’s decision to be with his family at this time and respects their privacy,” the club said.
There were no other late changes for the two sides, with Joel Smith (Melbourne) and Rhys Mathieson (Brisbane) named subs.
Demons skipper Max Gawn will play, but has been struggling with a few niggles in recent weeks, according to Herald Sun reporter Jon Ralph.
“Max Gawn is banged up. He’s got a groin complaint,” Ralph told Fox Footy.
“He trained this week and was OK. He will take his spot in the side, but he’s been banged up with various ailments for the better part of the last 10 weeks.
“My understand is he’ll still play in the ruck and will play mostly in the ruck and try and get on top of Darcy Fort.”
QUARTER-BY-QUARTER MATCH REPORT
Lions skipper Dayne Zorko got his first touch in the opening minutes, and to no great surprise, received loud boos from Demons fans following his sledging controversy with Harrison Petty last time these teams met.
“Here’s some early heat for Zorko to deal with from the Melbourne crowd,” Channel 7 caller James Brayshaw said.
Ed Langdon kicked the first goal of the contest form a set shot in an ideal start for the Dees.
In a big concern for Brisbane, Charlie Cameron limped off the field early in the game with an ankle/leg issue and was immediately treated to by trainers before going down to the rooms.
‘Early heat’ for Zorko as Lions face potential ‘massive blow’ against Dees: AFL semi LIVE
“That would be a massive blow,” Channel 7 commentator Brian Taylor said of Cameron coming off.
Melbourne had all the play in the opening term through its domination in contested ball, kicking the next two goals including a hanger form Jake Melksham to take an early 19-point advantage.
In a sigh of relief for the Lions Cameron returned to the contest later in the quarter from his injury scare.
Brisbane got its best chance yet to kick a goal late in the period, but Dan McStay’s kick off the ground was deemed touched on the line after a score review after a great defensive effort from Petty.
The Lions really lifted late in the quarter, and finally kicked their first goal of the game through Cameron.
The Demons’ goalkicking inefficiency hurt them early, but still took s 15-point lead into quarter-time 3.6 (24) to 1.3 (9).
It was a much slower start to the second term as both clubs tried to play possession footy, but couldn’t get the ball in an attacking area of the ground.
Kysaiah Pickett finally broke the deadlock nearly halfway through the quarter with an incredible something-out-of-nothing goal to extend Melbourne’s lead to 22 points.
“The game needed a spark. Who better than Kysaiah Pickett?” AFL Nation commentator Anthony Hudson said.
Hawthorn legend Luke Hodge said of the Dees on Channel 7: “They’re just thinking through their play at the moment.”
Brisbane near instantly responded at the other end of the ground via a tough set shot nailed by Eric Hipwood to bring it back to a 15-point game.
Neither side could gain momentum for the rest of the term in a real arm wrestle at the MCG with plenty of heat on the ball.
Bailey Fritsch kicked a regulation set shot late in the period amid a quiet performance from the Dees forward to extend their lead back out to beyond 20 points.
Christian Petracca looked proppy throughout the second half as he plays through a hairline fracture in his leg, with Taylor noting Melbourne has “got a massive decision to make” on whether to shut him down to preserve him for a potential preliminary final next week.
“How sore do they want Petracca to become before he’s ruled out of next week?” Taylor posed.
“I got told about this going into the game by several doctors and physios, they all said the same thing, he will get sore. He’s clearly really sore now.”
Pickett added one more goal late to threaten to blow the game out, but Brisbane instantly responded back the other way right in the nick of time on the half-time siren through Callum Ah Chee.
“That last play just about sums up the first half. The Lions are hanging in by the skin of their teeth,” Demons great Garry Lyon said on Fox Footy.
Melbourne led by 22 points at the main break, 6.8 (44) to 3.4 (22).
Brisbane really turned up the heat in the third term, kicking the opening two goals including a Cameron special to make it three in a row overall for the visitors.
Tempers boiled over as Petty and Zorko regained their feud by wrestling on the ground, with the umpire shouting: “Hands off!”
And Brisbane’s surge of momentum continued throughout the third quarter as Hipwood put through his game-high third goal of the match.
“Those boys have got a bit to concern themselves with,” Brayshaw said of Melbourne’s defence.
Clayton Oliver and Jarrod Berry maintained the heated nature of the game by going at it on the turf, with the latter appearing to attempt to gouge the Dees star’s eye in an incident that could be looked at by the MRO.
“There is absolutely no doubt that those fingers got tangled with Oliver’s eye,” Taylor said.
Next Hugh McCluggage kicked a highlight long-range bomb — the Lions’ fifth in a row —after a lengthy run to see the visitors get back within a point as Brisbane fans erupted in a shock turnaround at the MCG.
“Impressive this is from Brisbane,” Brayshaw said.
But Melbourne got a timely goal at the other end from Fritsch to stem the flow, while Alex Neal-Bullen followed it up with another to ensure the scoreboard was back in the home side’s favour.
But such had been their form in the third term, the Lions kept fighting and came right back with the next two goals — both after laying crunching tackles for holding the ball free kicks — to see the scores all tied up at the last change.
The Demons 8.11 (59) were drawn with Brisbane 9.9 (59).
“It feels like a final now. Brisbane came out, they lifted their intensity and urgency with the ball. They looked far more threatening and they’re back in the contest,” Saints great Nick Riewoldt told Fox Footy at three-quarter time.
This match gets underway at 7:50pm AEST from the MCG.
Watch it live on Fox Footy (channel 504) from 6:50pm AEST.
Follow Melbourne v Brisbane in our live blog below!