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AFL Round-Up: Melbourne’s demons return, and Freo are poised to pounce

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We’re into the second half of the 2022 season, and things are starting to get seriously interesting. As Melbourne slip up again, the Freo hype is now impossible to ignore.

Welcome to the AFL Round-Up, where we digest the week that was.

Melbourne’s demons cause for concern?

Two weeks ago, we here at the Round-Up pitched forward to Melbourne’s next four fixtures and suggested the Demons’ greatest test of the season to date was about to arrive.

In fact, we said the coming month would offer “a final verdict on just how far ahead of the pack Melbourne are”.

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The Dees are only halfway through that run, but already an early verdict has been reached. They’re probably not quite as far ahead as we thought.

Max Gawn nearly single-handedly dragged Melbourne over the line.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

And perhaps it’s not so much a matter of the Demons falling back to the pack, though they have certainly seemed a different beast without the cool hand of Steven May steering the ship at the back.

The big difference might be the steps up taken by teams like Fremantle and Sydney, who have both now recorded defining victories over Melbourne at the MCG.

Early in 2021, the Swans had an eye-catching win over reigning champs Richmond in which the full capacity of their young attacking arsenal was on display. This felt similar, only the performance needed to be even more complete and more mature.

It was hard to split the teams with a glance down the stats, but what did stick out was Sydney’s big win in the tackle count, which finished 75-53.

Tom Papley holds his arms out in celebration
Sydney at their best are as fun to watch as any team in the league.(Getty Images: Michael Willson)

There was a commitment to match Melbourne in the contest — no easy feat, especially with Max Gawn playing the most dominant game of his season so far.

Sydney’s ability to attack and move the ball through open space hasn’t been debated. But it was this hardened edge that raises the Swans’ ceiling for the second half of the year.

As for Melbourne? No need for panic. But if they have now struggled for two straight weeks against teams who can match them at the contest and attack with pace and flair, they’ll need to find rapid improvement for games against Collingwood and Brisbane.

Flagmantle, baby

If you had to identify two hallmarks of this Fremantle team — the one that has fans daring to dream and loading up on pre-emptive Flagmantle tattoos in their thousands — it would be defensive structure and complete, unflinching relentlessness.

You get no time off against Fremantle. They’re not going to doze off for a quarter to let you get your breath back. They’re going to come with the same heat, the same miserly defence, for four full quarters.

Bailey Banfield screams in delight as disappointed Lions players surround him
Bailey Banfield kicked four in Fremantle’s win over Brisbane.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

They played rope-a-dope footy for the first half against Brisbane. The Dockers didn’t fire many shots by way of attacking play, and the Lions certainly held sway in terms of possession and field possession.

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