Melbourne Demons ended their 12-year wait to reach the finals after a sensational 17-point victory over a West Coast side currently occupying second place in the AFL ladder. In what was their 13th win of the season, the Demons took advantage of the Eagles losing forward Jack Darling after just 10 minutes, producing some scintillating football on their way to a 16.12 (108) to 14.7 (91) victory. While West Coast now face a nervy wait to see whether they can still secure a top-two spot, Melbourne know they now have a chance sneaking into the top four after the final round of the regular season.
West Coast now need to beat Brisbane at the Gabba in order to secure two home finals, with a loss resulting in them dropping as low as fourth in the table. The Eagles were still very much in the game in the final term, only for the Demons to end the encounter the stronger of the two sides, kicking the match's last three goals to clinch the win. Jake Melksham helped himself to four goals for Melbourne, while Tom McDonald and Mitch Hannan kicked three goals each. Willie Rioli booted three goals for the Eagles, but West Coast looked a much less dangerous team when Darling left the field.
Having entered the match with a dismal 0-7 record against the AFL's top nine sides this season, West Coast started as the overwhelming favourites. Whether it was the criticism or the pressure on the Eagles, the Demons burst out of the traps, booting four goals to race to a 26-0 lead before West Coast really knew what was going on. While their opponents managed to get back into the game, Melbourne were just too good for the Eagles and deserved their win.
"Demons Walk to the Gee 14-06-2010" (CC BY 2.0) by Flying Cloud
While the Demons have now ended their 12-year absence from the finals, it remains to be seen whether this win is the turning point in terms of Melbourne's record against the AFL's best. Currently priced at around 9/2 with the latest AFL betting odds to reach the Grand Final, it's clear that many feel Simon Goodwin's men are in with a very real chance of going all the way. After such a long wait for finals football, Melbourne will be hoping to now do themselves proud as they see where this season's story ends.
One real concern will be how easily West Coast got back into the game in the third period, though, and Melbourne will need to stay switched on from the first whistle to the last if they're going to be able to compete with the league's top sides. But the league ladder doesn't lie and Melbourne deserve to be where they are despite their questionable record against the best. As well as showing the rest of the league they are capable of beating a top team, this result will have also proven to the Demons themselves that they can mix it with anyone they come up against in the finals.