The second part of the six-part series comprises the five players the Collingwood Magpies, Essendon Bombers and Fremantle Dockers can least afford to lose in 2021, plus each side gets one honourable pre-draft mention.
It should have been James Harmes’ moment. Poised just outside Melbourne’s attacking 50 with ball in-hand, the game on the line, Harmes had the chance to win the game for his boyhood club.
He blazed away from 50, taking the responsibility… and missed.
A goal would’ve seen Melbourne win by three points and move to three wins and one loss. A look to the left would have revealed an unmarked Jeff Garlett in the forward 50 some ten metres closer to goal. The miss confined Melbourne to an even ledger with a tough game against Richmond to follow.
A game of football is intricately constructed of little moments and granted, hindsight allows us as critics to look smarter than we are. Harmes was running on adrenaline and the chance to kick the match-winning goal could not be given up easily by any player. However, it’s in these moments that finals-bound teams make the right decision.
This moment highlight is that Melbourne have some way to go mentally before they can be legitimate finals contenders. There is plenty of style and swagger to Melbourne, we just need to see some mental substance.
Some credit must go to Fremantle and Ross Lyon, delivered a coaching masterstroke and provided the best game of the season so far. Playing Nat Fyfe and David Mundy up forward, aided by a free-roaming Cam McCarthy and a straight-kicking Lachie Neale, Fremantle has unearthed some firepower in a forward line which was previously barren.
The Dockers, unrecognisable from the side which was embarrassed at Adelaide Oval a fortnight ago, performed blitzkrieg of remarkable proportions in the third quarter, led by their star players in David Mundy and captain Nat Fyfe. The offensive prowess shown through-out that 20-minute domination not only opened the game up but also showed Fremantle can be well and truly in the quest for finals come the season’s end.
To link back to the early example, Melbourne has shown it has finals ability yet at times, the second and last quarter prove it, but there is a lack of mental fortitude. Granted they miss Max Gawn, Jesse Hogan and Jordan Lewis, any team would but good teams find ways to win.
Melbourne were unable to halt a rampant Fremantle and their leaders were unable to stand up when the game mattered. Melbourne must find a plan B when teams come at them, their leaders must be ready to take control and win the game for their young side.
In a game of intricate moments, that is what separates good from great.