Melbourne is enjoying a 3-0 start in a second straight season for the first time since 1956, defeating a gallant Essendon outfit at the MCG on Friday night.
The Bombers are now 0-3 for the first time since 1967, but put in a fierce contest against the Dees, led by a four-goal haul from Peter Wright.
Christian Petracca recieved attention from the opposition and was quiet by his lofty standards, but Clayton Oliver thrived.
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Melbourne confirmed on Friday that Brown would be sidelined due to health and safety protocols, being replaced by Sam Weideman in the side.
There were no late changes for either side. Toby Bedford (Melbourne) and Devon Smith (Essendon) were named the medical substittues.
Essendon assistant coach Blake Caracella was asked pre-game by Fox Footy’s Drew Jones what plan the side had to try and quell the influence of star onballer Christian Petracca.
“We go into the game with a plan for Petracca and (Clayton) Oliver and (Max) Gawn and all these type of players,” he said.
“Last week we had a bit of trouble with Neale so we’ll go into the game with a plan and depending what happens we can go to (plan) ’B’, ’C’ or ‘D’.
“Hopefully plan ‘A’ works tonight.”
Andrew McGrath appeared to be running with Petracca early on.
Weideman was dominant early and used his second set shot to kick the Dees’ first goal of the night, while the Bombers had to deal with a strong wind at the other end.
An early concern for the Bombers was the ease with which the Dees transitioned from defence to offence, but the wind did appear to be toying with the latter’s goalkicking as well, with Weideman and James Harmes missing gettable set shot chances.
The match starting at 7:20pm as opposed to the usual 7:50 start appeared to be having an impact on the crowd, with members still pouring in well after the first bounce.
A free kick to Tom McDonald resulted in the Dees’ second goal of the night, while a classy bit of play from Petracca freed up Jack Viney for Melbourne’s third goal of the night.
“If I was defending Essendon, I would know exactly what they’re doing,” four-time premiership Hawk Luke Hodge told Channel 7.
“There’s no movement from the Essendon forwards or mids. They’re just sitting in the one spot, so you know they’re just going to kick it long down the line, they’re ready for a soft crumb and off they go.”
Melbourne entered the quarter-time break leading 3.5 (23) to 0.4 (4).
With the increased attention on Petracca, Oliver relished the increased freedom, dominating for much of the opening term.
Former St Kilda and Essendon player Brendon Goddard was baffled by the lack of attention being paid to Oliver.
The Bombers started the second term in more promising fashion, with Tom Cutler eventually kicking the side’s first goal nine minutes into the term.
Some trademark burst from Dylan Shiel led to a Peter Wright mark and the key forward sent it sailing through the middle to reduce the margin to just eight points.
While Tom Sparrow kicked a goal for the Dees, McGrath responded at the other end with a clean finish.
The Bombers entered the main break just nine points adrift after a much more encouraging second term.
Oliver entered the main break with a game-high 17 disposals, while Darcy Parish led the Bombers with 11 touches.
In a brilliant start to the second term, Tex Wanganeen showed some terrific forward craft before kicking his first AFL goal, after which he was swarmed by teammates.
Wright kicked his second goal shortly after to put the Bombers in front and then kicked his third to make it three goals in four minutes.
Melbourne responded with three straight goals, two of them from James Harmes, before Jake Stringer lifted with back-to-back majors.
A moment of controversy came late in the term when a kick from Christian Petracca appeared to be touched, with Petracca himself seemingly admitting as much to teammates.
Bizarrely, the game continued on with the goal not overturned.
Melbourne entered the final change holding a 13-point lead.
It took until 11 minutes into the final term for the first goal to come, with Charlie Spargo finishing on the run to put the Dees out to a 17-point lead.
Essendon continued to threaten, but a sensational goal from Ed Langdon on the boundary line sealed the result, with the only question being the final margin.
Recap Melbourne v Essendon in our live blog below!