Perfect seven for Fritsch as Melbourne hold Adelaide at bay
By Lance Jenkinson
Is Melbourne forward Bayley Fritsch about to tear September apart?
Fritsch is oozing with confidence after a perfect seven-goal haul in the Demons’ 41-point win over Adelaide Crows at the MCG on Sunday.
Fritsch has caused headaches for opposition defenders all season and will be a player that opposition coaches will need to tame if they are going to beat the Demons in the finals.
The 24-year-old has blossomed into one of the best mid-sized forwards in the AFL.
The polished left footer has booted a career-best 46 goals this season.
Fritsch is a unique talent in that he can play tall or small, winning the ball in the air and on the ground.
He is adept at kicking goals on the run, around the corner from acute angles or from set shots.
With 46.18 from 64 scoring shots, never has Fritsch been as accurate in his four years in the AFL.
It is these attacking attributes that put Fritsch in the headlines, but Demons coach Simon Goodwin admires another part of his game equally.
“I’m not sure whether he’s underrated externally or not, but what I do know is he’s really highly rated internally,” Goodwin said.
“I think he’s kicked 45 goals for the season, so he’s clearly got some talent and hits the scoreboard, but he’s really worked hard on the defensive side of his game and that’s the most improved area of his game that we love about him.
“He’s a quality player, he’s got a lot of talent, he’s a tough match up for opposition teams and he kicks straight, so his game is in really good shape.”Embed from Getty Images
Melbourne’s major advantage heading into the finals will be their ruck duo Max Gawn and Luke Jackson.
Gawn has long been a star of the game, but even the best players need a chop out.
Jackson, one of the rising star favourites, has been a fast learner and is beginning to have a major impact on games.
The 19-year-old has a well rounded game: competitive in the ruck, hits the aerial contests with vigor and good skills for a big man.
What Jackson’s emergence has done is allow Gawn to rest forward or back, depending on where the team needs him, and re-energise before a return to his ruck duties.
Goodwin knows how lucky he is to coach a side with two capable big men.
“He’s evolving quickly, Jacko,” Goodwin said.
“His game has come on in leaps and bounds
.”His aerial work has improved.Embed from Getty Images
“You saw late in the game today, his work work and what he can give around centre bounce and clearance.
“I think the duo with Gawny is becoming pretty potent for us.”
Melbourne managed to keep Adelaide at an arm’s length for most of the day.
After a sluggish start, the Demons kicked out to a 28-point lead in the second quarter, but the Crows rattled off five of the next six goals to get to within three points early in the third.
From that point on, it was all Melbourne.
Christian Salem was the Demons leading possession getter with 29 disposals from the back half.
Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver slowly got on top at the coal face, with Petracca jagging two goals at crucial times.
Ben Brown’s two first quarter goals kept the Dees in touch, while Jackson also added two, including one after a spectacular pack mark.
While it was far from a complete performance for Melbourne, Goodwin was thrilled that his team was able to respond to any questions throw their way by a hungry Crows team.
“It’s probably been a hallmark of our game, the ability to just stay in that moment and be able to understand what the game needs and to be able to respond,” he said.
“There were certainly areas of our game that weren’t to the highest level, but we understood the game.
“I thought our group were terrific today.”
Melbourne can wrap up the minor premiership with a win over Geelong Cats in a blockbuster final round clash.