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As it happened: Melbourne Demons win a thriller against St Kilda Saints to boost finals hopes

St Kilda coach Brett Ratten spoke to the media after the game…

Q: Just your thoughts on the [Christian Petracca goal] review. Dougal [Howard] thought he touched it.
A: He thought he touched the ball. The umpire was there, in a pretty good position. He thought he got the ball. There is no real review here. It is what it is. We can’t change it. There is probably a lot of other things in the game we don’t get right. That’s just a decision that was in the game. We had our opportunities. Plus 16 inside 50. Our ability to capitalise in an area we’ve been pretty good at going inside 50. It’s probably dried up a little bit in the last few weeks but we’ve done a reasonable job at scoring and been potent when we go inside 50. We missed early. Had reasonable shots in front. They weren’t that difficult. Yeah, we gave Melbourne a look. They scored early. Really, after quarter-time, they scored four goals but we had our chance.

Q: What’s your gut feel on the conversion? Why it couldn’t happen with that plus 16 as you say?
A: I thought they intercept-marked a lot. 18 mark off the boot. They intercepted the ball really well. May took six of ’em. I think they shared it around a fair bit. We as a forward line group probably didn’t engage them enough and also the other side of the equation was we didn’t use the ball well enough. Some of the kicking – blokes under pressure, you can live with that. That’s taking ground and trying to get the ball in there but some of the kicks when we weren’t under pressure and they were just an easy kick, we gave it to Melbourne or kicked to advantage. That wasn’t great.

Q: On the flipside, their ability to score early particularly from their inside 50 zone. Four goals out of their first nine. You couldn’t seem to stop their scoring early, could you?
A: Yeah. Two come from free kicks and they scored another two one from the centre bounce. [Max] Gawn got down there and marked the footy. They did score early. They made the most of their inside 50s and capitalised on that. When you look at the game, plus six in clearances as well, we had the game on our terms, we just couldn’t convert and they got that four-goal head start and they were accurate. Yeah, it’s pretty disappointing.

Q: We just spoke to Simon Goodwin on the score review system. He said if you don’t do it right, don’t do it at all. What’s your view?
A: It doesn’t really worry me. It is the AFL’s call whether they want to put the money or the resources into it or back in the goal umpire. We got bigger things to worry about from our end about trying to kick straight, convert or defend players or stoppage set-ups. It might happen to your team once for the year or a couple of times, it’s up to the AFL to make that call.

Q: That’s St Kilda’s fourth loss by six points or less this year. Obviously the side is still young, are you still learning a bit of composure that will see yourself out in the tight situations where the game is so tight?
A: I think so. Last week was a little bit different to this week where we probably had re-entries and a lot of them. Tonight was slightly different. We couldn’t get a contest really forward of the ball, then we did get a few late. We’re growing as a group. We’ve won the Gold Coast game that was close, which was pleasing and we probably pulled away when the game was close and a few others as well. We need to grab a couple of these performances because they can dint your confidence but we’re right in games all the time and we’re not going away. That’s the pleasing aspect. We’ve got to try and finish the game and get the points and find a way, which we haven’t done.

Q: Has the bye come at a good time or would you rather get back into it mid week and atone for this, I guess?
A: I wouldn’t mind playing tomorrow, but we can’t do that. You know, it’ll be good for some players to have a break. They’ve worked extremely hard and some of the efforts today, [Jack] Steele was fantastic. I thought [Callum] Wilkie came into some form again. Some players – [Brad] Hill got 26 possessions, gave us run. Across the board, there were some players in really good form, found form as well. There’s some pluses but I think the group probably needs a bit of a break now. The eight days before the Hawthorn game would be really good for us.

Melbourne coach Michael Hibberd spoke to the media after the game…

Q: The score review, what goes through your mind when you are looking at that in the box?
A: It was a pretty lucky bounce obviously but obviously when you are waiting, as a coach, you are more thinking about what’s next. You are not too consumed by what it looks like. I haven’t had a good look at it. I was on ground level, always nice to get one go your way.

Q: You spoke yesterday about getting a big scalp so to speak, must be pleasing to get that win and get into the eight?
A: It is. We have been working hard as a footy club, especially the way we defend as a footy club. We are starting to build consistency. We needed to do it against a really good side. St Kilda are that. It was a slog. It was an ugly win. It wasn’t pretty. I think we only had 30 inside 50s. Had to go it the hard way, great to get the result.

Q: Efficiency going forward, particularly early, that set it up for you. You mentioned the inside 50, you didn’t have as much as them but used the ball well going in.
A: Our ability to use the inside 50 is improving. At times we’d get more supply. We lost centre bounce convincingly today. Early in the game we were efficient and kicked our goals. It makes a big difference to the scoreboard when you do that. It was a pretty tight affair, so critical in the end.

Q: One more about [Christian] Petracca’s influence. Four goals out of eight. Continues his stunning season, doesn’t he?
A: He does. He is a great player to have for our footy club. He is going to excite our supporters for many years to come. As a coach, you get the privilege of being able to place him through the midfield or as a forward when you need him to influence the scoreboard. I thought tonight he had a really good balance in his game, defended strongly through the midfield and when he went forward, he had multiple opportunities to impact the scoreboard. He is an incredible player and continuing to get better and better.

Q: Simon, was it important to get the scalp? Everyone talks about playing the best sides and getting a really good win when you can. Collingwood a couple of weeks ago, had a chance last week and didn’t take it. Tonight managed to get over the line, how important was it for self-belief in your own group?
A: It is really important. We have been building as a side throughout the last year. Four out of five, six out of the last nine, we’ve been able to get across the line. Starting to build a good block of form but it is important to translate that against the good clubs and the good teams in really good form. St Kilda have been doing that all season. They play a very distinct style of play. They’re quite quick. They force you to defend strongly. We had to do that tonight. They challenged us in a lot of areas. It is just great for our supporters and our club to get a win against a team above us and to continue to press forward as the season goes on.

Q: Was that one of Steven May’s best games for the club?
He has been unbelievable all season. He has been one of the best key backs in the competition throughout the year. Tonight he displayed it again, his ability to mark the ball on entry was outstanding and went a long way to winning the game. Also his ability to clear the air, beat good opponents. He’s done it all year. If you look back through the history of who he’s played on and
how he’s gone, he’s had an outstanding season at our footy club and tonight he was brilliant again.

Q: I know you haven’t seen a replay of Christian’s goal but would you like to see goal line video so the video umpire can have a closer look?
A: I spoke about this a while ago around the importance of getting it right. If we can’t get the technology to a point where you can’t make accurate calls, it is better off not having it. It was designed for the real obvious ones but when you are trying to pick up touched ones from a fair way out or on the goal line, you need the technology at every venue.

Q: Simon, you seem to have that bit in the second and third quarters where you seemed to be quieter and St Kilda were four in a row. How do you get yourself in a position where you’ve won the game?
A: I thought we were defending strongly all night but we probably weren’t winning enough contests ahead of centre, in the forward half of our ground. Struggling to get supply inside 50 and the game probably turned on our ability to win a few more contests ahead of the ball. Our mids stepped up around stoppage but our ability to win a contest ahead of the ball and get more inside 50 was critical. St Kilda’s ability to intercept mark and mop up ground ball ahead of centre was strong and causing us grief through the second and third quarters. Something we tidied up as a coaching group and the players worked hard to win more contests with a few adjustments. We got the momentum back our way.

Q: Can I check on [Michael] Hibberd’s injury?
A: He has rolled his ankle. We’ve got a game in five days so we’ll see how he comes up. It’s swollen up quickly so we’ll make a good assessment on that. We are in a position where we can look after our players through this period. Coming into a compressed phase of our season, we will have to assess Michael to make sure he is fit and healthy.

Q: He is the only [injured] one tonight?
A: He is the only one tonight.

Christian Petracca was immense again for the Demons with four goals and he joined Channel Seven after the game…

Q: What about the last goal? You had to win the ball one-on-one first and foremost. Then you got a nice little Googly wrong-un turn on it, then it was the match winner.
A: I originally thought it was a mark, I stopped, heard him [the umpire] call “play on”. I tried to get on my boot, got the nice bounce. Take it every day of the week.

Q: The first goal you kicked, you could not have hit that better. A good 60m drop punt. You are striking them superbly at the moment.
A: Going well with my goalkicking. I have been working on it over the off season. Felt disappointed two years ago. Last year got better. This year it was an emphasis on my pre-season. It is something I’m working on, happy the results are showing.

Q: You’ve been on-ball most of the year. Previously in your career you have been a one-on-one forward in the forward 50. Did you spend a little bit more time in there tonight?
A: I think so. I think [Sebastian] Ross is going to me a fair bit through stoppages and [Jack] Steele is a great defender as well so we had someone going with him as well. I felt like I was dominant down the forward line, I felt I could make an impact down there. It wasn’t necessarily all the forwards marking or kicking goals, it was bringing it to ground for our little guys. They’re a really good
team. We needed to bring the ball to ground and provide pressure in there.

Q: Your best season of footy you’re in the middle of. I know you used to head to Nona’s get stuck into the lasagne. Used to find the skin folds a bit tough. Is it discipline that’s got you to where you are?
A: It’s a bit of both. That’s a good one. I’m still going to her. She cooks a nice gnocchi. It has been a bit of maturity over the off-season. Probably really comfortable with who I am at the moment and my footy. I guess we’ve got a great team at the moment. Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw, [Jack] Viney, we have a great midfield and we complement each other. If I’m not having a great game, I can push down field and have an impact.

Q: We have to give a shout-out to Steven May. He was outstanding.
A: He was unbelievable. I guess that’s why we got him to the club. We knew he could do that. Last year, he slowly worked into it, obviously had a hamstring injury but the way he came back this pre-season he is so consistent and such a rock for us. Probably if it wasn’t for him tonight, we wouldn’t be winning that because his efforts on Max King, such a great young talent, was unbelievable.

Q: Unbelievable moments, the big bomb in the first quarter. Took a mark outside 50. Didn’t see the eyes darting too much. You could not have hit the set shot any better.
A: I was going to go to the top of the square. ‘Gawny’ [Max Gawn] said, “You’ve got the distance”. I think it is a misleading 50. I feel it is 45. If we say we kicked 60, we’ll take that.

Q: How are you going in the hub? You are a fast-twitch unit, how are you coping with the hotel room?
A: I’m loving it. I’m not really a beach person but I’m getting used to it. Going for swims every morning. Not used to the buffet food yet, I’m not liking that. I wish I could cook, get Nona up, get a few bowls of pasta going. The Australian lasagne isn’t my type. We have to embrace it. We have done that well, embraced being up here. We’re a young group, getting around each other more, having dinner dates and stuff like that is critical.

Steven May was one of Melbourne’s best players tonight. He was enormous down back, and he spoke to Channel Seven after the game…

Q: You were under siege late. What’s going through your mind? You are deep in defence, St Kilda are coming hard.
A: It was like, “not again”. We played hard against the Doggies last week and they overran us. They found a gear late. I was nervous. I was like hoping the siren goes. Thrilling win.

Q: Christian Petracca didn’t get the numbers we normally see of him but his ability to impact the scoreboard so important.
A: He is a beast. When he is up and about, hard to stop. He is filthy about dropping a couple of marks late. If he can do that every week, he can help us.

Q: Sydney in five days, fly back to Queensland, then up to Cairns but what does recovery look like?
A: ‘Burgo’ [fitness coach Darren Burgess] has us flat out. It is a rigorous regime but, apart from the Port Adelaide game, our four- or five-day breaks have been good. I don’t know who we are playing next week because this was such a big game. After a win, you pull up much matter.

The Demons belt out the song with gusto!

Here’s some of the social media reaction to Melbourne’s thrilling win…

Melbourne captain Max Gawn spoke to Channel Seven after the game…

Q: Congratulations on the win. You are in the top eight. How good does that feel?
A: It’s a long way to go. Still four games to go. We needed to beat someone on top of us. We did. We were going to beat the Saints. Would have been a nailbiter for Melbourne supporters back
home.

Q: What was going through your mind with a minute to go? St Kilda really pressing forward, you needed to hold on.
A: Couldn’t do much. Tried at every stoppage. Straight down, tackle, they seemed to have numbers.

Q: Bradley Hill was electric.
A: He was. We were able to get over the line. Michael Hibberd, said he broke his leg on the field. Think it was a rolled ankle. He came back on, made a good tackle. Jake Lever, that was great.

Q: How much belief does this group have from a win like this? As you said, there is still a long way to go, still four games remaining. But winning against a side above you who is inside the top eight, surely that stands for something moving forward.
A: It is big. It is big. We needed to beat someone on top of us. Just really proud we can
make people smile back in Melbourne, doing it very tough. My family, my wife, back at home, probably watching. Just hopefully put a smile on a few people’s faces down in Melbourne.

Q: Just quickly, on the flight conditions coming in, you fly in, you fly out tonight. I think you get back at 3am. Surely there is a sleep-in on the cards tomorrow.
A: Five-day break, straight up to Cairns, day-of-the-game flight. A whirlwind of a season. We’re on the same flight as St Kilda tonight. Hopefully we can smile.

The Saints came up short despite winning the inside 50s 46-30, clearances 29-23, tackles 47-36, free kicks 11-9, hitouts 31-30 and scoring shots 14-12.

Christian Petracca.

Christian Petracca.Credit:Getty Images

Melbourne 4.0, 5.1, 7.3, 8.4 (52)
St Kilda 1.3, 4.5, 6.6, 7.7 (49)

GOALS
Melbourne: Petracca 4, Weideman 2, Gawn, Brown
St Kilda: King, Phillips, Steele, Marshall, Battle, Ryder, Membrey

DISPOSALS
Melbourne: Oliver 26, Langdon 22, May 22, Salem 21
St Kilda: Hill 26, Steele 26, Jones 20

INJURIES
Melbourne: Hibberd (right ankle)
St Kilda: Nil

The siren sounds just as St Kilda were launching another forward thrust!! Melbourne win by three points!!

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