Essendon coach Ben Rutten spoke to the media after the game…
Q: Ben, you said last week that you wanted to test yourself against two of the best teams in the competition over this next fortnight. How did you see the way your side went about it tonight?
A: I was really pleased with their fight and their effort. And I think we’re closing the gap. I thought, you know, our games against Port, Brisbane, Richmond, and now Melbourne, I think, you know, our guys are getting more and more trust and belief in what they’re doing and what we’re trying to do, but we’re not quite there yet. I thought there were some opportunities especially in the last quarter for us to connect a bit better inside 50 and potentially hit the scoreboard and put a bit more pressure on Melbourne, but we just aren’t quite able to find that connection inside 50. We had 17 inside 50s in the last quarter, which was the most of any of our quarters, but a bit of our execution there letting us down.
Q: Kicking it inside 50 in the last quarter, the way I saw it, it was mainly Steven May and Jake Lever cutting it off. That’s something that’s hard to avoid but what would you have liked to have seen differently going into the forward 50?
A: Yeah, look, those guys have been doing it all year. We know that they’re very good at that. So a little bit of it was about our composure, it was about our forwards and our midfielders engaging their defenders, making them compete. You know, when we kicked the ball pretty straight inside 50, that’s where Lever and May tend to gravitate. So that’s some of that composure, and, you know, in a tight game, when fatigue, when our guys are tired, when we’re down on the scoreboard, that’s where our growth is as a group, to be able to understand that they’re the moments that we really need that composure and that ability to stick to our method of play. And that’s where we’ve still got some growth and we’ve still got some growth and we’ve got a way to go.
Q: I’m sure you probably noticed the fans weren’t overly happy with the umpiring. I was just wondering how you saw it and particular, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti looked like he had James Harmes holding the ball at the end there. How did you see that?
A: Yeah, look, it’s – we know it’s a tough game to umpire, in those tight games, we look at all those sorts of moments, just as, you know, we’re looking at all those moments we could’ve potentially done better or we might like our time again. So, yeah, look, it’s a tough game to umpire, and it’s difficult for the umpires out there as well, so I don’t think it was the reason why we lost the game.
Q: That frustration, though, has been a bit of a theme for supporters all year. Have you at any stage reached out to Dan Richardson or anything or clarified any decisions? Because it seems like in a few games, certainly from the supporters at least, they’ve walked away with a level of frustration.
A: Yeah, look, it’s not really where I spend much of my time, to be honest. I mean, as I said, it was a difficult game to umpire. The umpires are doing their best. It’s not a perfect game. But I think we want to make sure there’s consistency. The players will adapt. The coaches will adapt, so long as there’s consistency in the umpiring and the interpretation. And if free kicks are there, they should be paid. I think that’s the most important bit. So I think so long as there is that consistency or communication, if there is going to be an adjustment to the rules, I think that’s the most important bit.
Q: Will you put in a phone call next week to ask about anything, or is that not the way you operate?
A: No, not really, no. We’ve got areas of our game that we need to spend some time on. We have a six-day break and we’re playing the Cats. So there’s enough for me to take care of there.
Here’s some more reaction to Melbourne’s win tonight…
Christian Salem spoke to Channel Seven after the game…
Q: May and Lever have been unbelievable haven’t they?
A: They’ve been great, haven’t they? That’s just the cohesion that we’re building. The last few years they haven’t had many games together. They’re starting to work together. Harrison Petty as well, probably doesn’t get as much praise as them but he’s just as important in my opinion. He’s had to play a massive role. Adam Tomlinson was playing that lockdown role so well.
Q: It’s been seamless between losing Tomlinson, who you didn’t want to lose, clearly, Petty has done the same job beautifully.
A: Absolutely. He’s been in great form in VFL and he was knocking down the door. For him to get his chance, unfortunate circumstance but we need him playing his role.
Q: You’re a great user of the ball and that’s your role in the team. Twenty minutes into the last quarter, 18 kicks, going at 100 per cent. You missed your last one. That’s your role, though, as the distributor?
A: For me it’s just being confident in getting the ball in my hands. That obviously helps the team so I’m just getting spots and just trying to use it the best I can.
Q: You debuted in 2014. You guys have been in an ordinary spot a lot. It must be a little surreal to find yourself where you are now.
A: Yeah, I guess. But in a way, I’m not surprised. Like I’m just sort of – all the boys came back very
invested and we put a lot of time into our pre-season. So we’ve done well so far but there’s still a lot of footy to be played and we’re not satisfied.
Q: The coach started the year, the whole footy world piling into Simon Goodwin. You see now clearly he’s an outstanding coach. Does his role particularly well. You must be really happy for him the way the year has unfolded so far?
A: He’s been unbelievable, not only him but the assistant coaches as well. They’ve put a lot of time and belief into us and simplified the way we want to play. A bit of credit from both ends but we have to keep it going.
Q: We were watching Mark Williams on the bench. He doesn’t stop talking. Your best guess, is he a sleep talker?
A: Definitely. He lives down the road from me.
Q: Can you hear him?
A: Can probably hear him in the middle of the night.
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin spoke to the media after the game…
Q: Simon a pretty gritty performance tonight. You must be pretty pleased to come away with the win against a really good up-and-coming side?
A: Really good. I thought we got back to the way we’d normally defend and we were pretty disappointed after our Collingwood game before the bye in that phase of the game and I thought against a really strong offensive team, who are in form, with some pretty dangerous players, I thought we defended in the right manner and we got our rewards on the back of that.
Q: You had to show a fair bit of resilience throughout that game, given that you lost two of four going into it. Was that one of the most pleasing aspects, the fact they stood tall when they were tested like that?
A: I think if you look at our games throughout the whole of the season, there’s been periods where we’ve had to reset, stay calm, find a way to get a victory and a lot of our games haven’t been big wins, they’ve been narrow wins, and wins where we’ve grinded our way to victory and that’s just the way we play. It’s the Melbourne way, and I was really proud of our players the way they went about it, especially the defensive side. We won contests well and we started to get some forward-half dominance back in our game. So this was a big uplift from the previous game against Collingwood and we can take a big step forward on the back of that.
Q: Must’ve been happy with Michael Hibberd’s game, Jake Stringer got going a little bit late in the first quarter but after that, Hibberd really seemed to get the better of him?
A: Jake Stringer is in great form. In the first quarter he started to get some real corridor use going for them. Hibberd did a great job after quarter time. He started to nullify his influence on the game. He was a big reason we were able to get some real forward-half dominance in the game. His game was strong, especially after quarter-time.
Q: Zach Merrett and Darcy Parish obviously racked up the touches but a lot of them seemed to be more in their defensive half. Was that pleasing in that sense, that they couldn’t really attack that much, those guys back there?
A: Look, that was one of our discussions throughout the week as a group of coaches, they’re two quality players. They’ve spent a lot of time in the midfield. They get a lot of possession. We were quite happy for them to get possession in those areas of the ground. Our ability to defend certain areas of the ground was the key to our game, and we wanted to make sure we held our structure, knowing they were going to get touches and they did but our ability to rotate to the middle of the ground and defend a certain way was really strong, and that method proved right, but they’re two quality players that get plenty of possession.
Q: Simon, did you have to address a lot during the break after that Collingwood game or was it more just reiterating what you’ve done well in the first half of the season?
A: I think it was a combination of both. We wanted to really celebrate the position we were in, we were 11-2 and we’d done a lot right, from where we it’s started at the start of the season but there were just some elements in our game and the way we were going about our footy that weren’t quite to the level as we head into the break and it was a great chance for the players to reset themselves and they had some really fruitful discussions around what they wanted to stand for again and how they’re going to continue to move forward and that was led by our leaders with ‘Gawny’ (Max Gawn) and ‘Vines’(Jack Viney) and the boys and I thought they responded really strongly tonight, and I think what they see in front of them is a great opportunity and they know they will have to continue to build a certain way of playing, and they will have to continue to do it week after week and make sure it’s competitive every week, every time they step out there. Tonight, this had to grind away and they got the result.
Q: There were some critics when you invested so much money in Jake Lever and Steven May as two players behind the ball, but how satisfied are you with the way they’re able to impact games, and to control the back line which is probably the best in the AFL right now. How much of a weapon are those two players for you?
A: They’re really important. If you look around the best teams in the competition, they have great key backs and the investment that the club put into that was really clear. We wanted to build in the back half, make it really reliable in the way we defend and May and Lever have been amazing. They’ve come into the club, it took a bit of time for them to get cohesion in the way they played,
but right now, they’re a formidable pair, and they certainly stiffened us up behind the ball no question about that.
Jack Viney said he had been looking forward to feeling the “love” upon his return to the Demons’ line-up, but he and his side were made to work for it by a feisty Essendon on Saturday night. Click here to read the full match report.
Melbourne defender Jake Lever spoke to Channel Seven after the game…
Q: What about the game tonight? It was pretty hot at the end. The defence had to hold up. You have only given up eight marks again in that defensive 50 tonight. It was outstanding.
A: Absolutely. I think that going back to our last game against Collingwood that was probably one of the areas that as a defensive group we didn’t really find that we were strong in, definitely Collingwood almost took 20 marks in our D50 which hasn’t been a trend for us. For us to get back
to the way we were, that was super. For us it was about bouncing back and setting the tone.
Q: Looking at the style of play, you look like you have a system now that’s sustainable, incredibly consistent and hard to play against. Why has it gelled so well? You look at times as though you’re unplayable.
A: It’s purely about our buy-in. The games we’ve lost this year, we probably haven’t brought in our team defence as much as we would’ve liked, but tonight and a lot of our other games, we have, and it’s really hard to play against, and it’s really deflating for teams. We know being probably the last couple of years, when you can’t score when you go inside 50, it is really, really frustrating and for
us, it’s not just the defence, it’s the midfielders, it’s the forwards, I know it’s cliched but the forwards start that defence. When you have pressure up there like Alex Neal-Bullen, Tom McDonald, Kysaiah Pickett, Charlie Spargo, it’s really easy to ease the ball.
Q: I thought the one time you can feel a bit vulnerable as a defence is obviously the centre bounce, because you’re one-on-one and it gives the opposition more of a chance. You were able to even win it back in that situation three or four times tonight, where direct one-on-one wins by your defenders and that’s big, isn’t it?
A: Absolutely. That’s probably been the hallmark of our game in defence. We base ourselves on our contests, and you saw I can vividly remember Trent Rivers winning that one-on-one against Archie Perkins, who is a great player in his own right. For Trent, second-year player to be able to do that, you see all the flashy stuff that Trent does, but for him, it’s purely based on defence, and a lot of our players thrive off the contest and it gets the ball back for us, so it’s great.
Q: You personally have had your dramas over the years. You had a serious knee injury as a junior and in the AFL system. You look sound in your body at the moment.
A: I think it’s really based on probably a conversation that I had with ‘Goody’ (coach Simon Goodwin) at the end of 2019. It was just a little conversation where he thought that I probably wasn’t working hard enough. I come from Adelaide and there was a coach there that told ‘Goody’ that I was one of the hardest-working blokes and he just thought that in 2019, which was a struggle for me because I was coming back and then I had an ankle injury. It was really difficult. So in that off-season I put my head down and really worked hard and I was able to play every game last year and I’ve done the same this year.
Q: Was it hard feedback?
A: I agreed with it. I thought that I found myself not necessarily by my own account in terms of my own ability to actually get on the track and train, but sometimes as a player when you’re not confident in your body and what you’re doing, you can sit off and not do much, but for me, it was just about getting confident in my body and once I did that, I was able to train every session and really put the hard work in, and then last year being able to play every game and this year the same thing it’s been great for me.
Q: What about the Melbourne supporters? Are you noticing you’re bumping into a few around town and they’re getting pretty excited?
A: Absolutely. A few more people are getting noticed, the boys reckon, around the town. Young guys like Luke Jackson and Trent Rivers are pretty happy about that. You can imagine ‘Kozzy’ (Pickett) when he goes to the shops, he can’t escape everyone. For us, we love the fans. It’s been a tough ride for the fans. This is my fourth year here. For those who have supported the club for so long, it’s great to see some success. It’s not over yet. We’ve won 12 games but we understand this is a really important time of year. We’ve set ourselves a great platform to build off in the second half of the year this year’s a great stepping stone, but we’ve got another challenge in GWS next week then Port Adelaide so we’re really looking forward to it.
Here’s some more reaction to Melbourne’s 11-point win tonight…
Melbourne superstar Christian Petracca spoke to Channel Seven after the game as well…
Q: Well played tonight.
A: Thank you very much. It was a gritty win, an ugly win but the second-highest scoring team in the comp, to keep them to 57 points for the viewers out there probably wasn’t a great game, but for us, defensively, we were poor last week, two weeks ago against Collingwood, but to bounce back in a defensive effort like that is awesome and the offense wasn’t going, but you win games on defence. We’re pretty happy with that.
Q: What’s going through your mind with a few minutes to go? The Bombers start to wrestle back momentum. Jake Stringer is looking dangerous through the middle of the ground but you guys managed to get it done?
A: Yeah, we did. We tried to go really skinny, keep the ball on the boundary line. They like to use the corridor. We tried to nullify that. But they’re a great team. Their record doesn’t reflect how well they’re going. They’re going unbelievable. Darcy Parish, Zach Merrett and Stringer, such a great dynamic in the midfield. They’re going really well.
Q: Post the loss to Collingwood, it was an unusual afternoon for you guys. I think you had scored 63 points but it was very un-Melbourne-like. What was the message post and I assume it’s sort of stuck in the guts a little?
A: Yeah, it did. I think, you know, it doesn’t matter if we win or lose, as long as we play our brand. But it was really disappointing the way we actually played. Probably some habits creeping in from last year, you know, biting back on feedback and being a little bit unselfish – being selfish at the first gives. So we wanted to rectify that and use the break in a way to sort of re-energise our second half of the season, and our energy was up, our spirit was up this week, and to get away with a win like that is awesome.
Q: You highlighted defensively against the Pies, that probably wasn’t up to scratch with the side that you really pride yourself on, the defence. So what aspects did you work on over the bye to really hit the Bombers hard tonight?
A: I don’t think we actually worked on any aspects. It was our energy and our intensity in defence.
Being active in the corridor. Shutting off those 45s. When we actually do get a spoil or an intercept mark, getting that energy going. Getting around each other. I just felt like I think was lacking a bit against Collingwood but against Essendon it was right up there.
Here’s some of the social media reaction to Melbourne’s win over Essendon…