Gawn stars for Demons in AFL win over Cats

For Melbourne to end their nine-year winless AFL streak against Geelong on Sunday, they needed standout displays across the park.

That midfield warriors Nathan Jones and Bernie Vince were able to combine for 73 possessions was a huge positive, but not entirely unexpected.

Ditto the efforts of young tyros Angus Brayshaw and Jack Viney.

Lynden Dunn’s blanketing job on Cats spearhead Tom Hawkins was also vitally important in the Demons’ 18.5 (113) to 13.11 (89) win.

But perhaps the most unexpected major contribution – and arguably the most important one – was the ruck dominance provided by unheralded duo Max Gawn and Jake Spencer.

The Cats’ rash of injuries to their ruck division is well documented – so much so that they had to make do on Sunday with pinch-hitters Josh Walker and Mark Blicavs.

But no one could have predicted the dominance of Gawn, playing far and away the best of his 29 AFL matches spread over five injury-interrupted seasons.

Gawn ended the 24-point triumph with 19 possessions – 15 of them contested – eight marks, 44 hitouts, five tackles and a goal.

Spencer had less of the ball but also played his part, making coach Paul Roos’ decision to play two ruckmen an inspired one.

“It’s a risk, because not many teams do it now with the sub,” said Roos.

“It’s risk and reward – today we got reward for it.

“There’s no doubt about it – we tried to keep even numbers forward of the ball, whether that’s six or seven, and our bigs did compete. They competed really hard.”

With leading key forward Jesse Hogan absent through injury, it was crucial that the resting ruckmen and marking forwards Chris Dawes and Jeremy Howe picked up the slack.

“(Gawn) was fantastic,” said Roos.

“I thought our bigs were really, really significant, both around the contest and also forward of the ball.

“With Hoges coming out, we had to do something different.”

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