The sealer: Young Demon Jay Kennedy-Harris celebrates Melbourne's final goal in its thrilling victory over Richmond at Etihad Stadium on Friday night. Photo: Pat Scala
On a night commercially reserved for romantics nothing quite screams romance like Etihad Stadium and a pre-season football match.
But Melbourne had been waiting for this date all summer. The Demons have already had a lot of love for Paul Roos and what he might bring to this new Melbourne incarnation. After Friday night, Melbourne fans went home more than satisfied after a first date that did not disappoint.
It was only a summer glimpse but it was a palpably different Melbourne team in manpower and style. It was a Sydney play book with numbers folding back, heavy contested possession - Melbourne won the contested possession by 24 - and indeed heavy possession with 445 touches to the Tigers' 262.
AFL NAB Challenge - Richmond v Melbourne
Lynden Dunn spoils. . Photo: Pat Scala
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Griffiths (1.0.1), Vickery (0.3.1), Miles (0.2.2), Deledio (0.2.1), Newman (0.2.1), Batchelor (0.1.0), Edwards (0.0.3), Lloyd (0.0.2), Ellis (0.0.1), Lennon (0.0.1), Martin (0.0.1)||Scorers||Pedersen (1.0.0), Howe (0.4.1), Kennedy-Harris (0.3.1), Bail (0.2.2), Blease (0.1.0), King (0.1.0), Spencer (0.1.0), Trengove (0.1.0), Jones (0.0.2), Terlich (0.0.1)|
All the Demons wanted from the outset was a glimpse of something positive - new players, style of play, endeavour. What they got was a little more than that, especially bearing in mind they did it with only Jeremy Howe as a marking forward.
The difference in Melbourne's complexion was reflected in Bernie Vince and Daniel Cross taking a place alongside Nathan Jones at the opening bounce. At times it was the young Giant recruit Dom Tyson who took his turn.
Tyson gave Melbourne precisely what it had hoped for from him - an assured player unlikely to rip a game open but who will work and accumulate and create and make others better.
The Demons illustrated they have introduced new defensive mechanisms. Alex Georgiou, a rookie defender, showed impressive composure.
Small forward Jay Kennedy-Harris, pick 40 last year, was a sprightly presence. He kicked a very assured goal from a tight angle late in the match, then minutes later cleverly tipped his defender under a high ball and ran onto the loose ball and snapped the goal to stretch a thin Melbourne lead.
David Astbury's missed kick across half-back that gifted the ball to Kennedy-Harris to take on Rance in a foot race delivered the goal to make certain of the win, Howe's a moment later the icing on the cake.
The Tigers were without Jack Riewoldt, Reece Conca and Ivan Maric among their best 22 players and played with a February feel to their game. They will acquire more in the next six weeks.
Dustin Martin's run from half-back kept them ahead of the contest for most of the match, along with Trent Cotchin in the first half.
Ben Lennon, the Tigers' first pick last year, settled himself into the game, hurrying to pick up the idea of fast ball movement. He looked better as the game wore on.
Anthony Miles, a rookie picked up from GWS, had a bit of bite, shunted out a good handful of clearances and had a snapped goal. He just has that ability to be where he needs to be, such as in the last quarter to kick his second goal.
Liam McBean, who has impressed at Coburg, struggled with the step-up out of the goal square for the Tigers. Sam Lloyd looked likely in the second half.
Shaun Hampson, newly arrived at Richmond, didn't dominate the ruck in the manner it might have been expected given the inexperience of his opponents.