AFL Grand Final: Injury clouds have lifted over two key players

Russell GouldNCA NewsWire
Christian Petracca is ready for the AFL Grand Final . Michael Klein
Camera IconChristian Petracca is ready for the AFL Grand Final . Michael Klein Credit: News Corp Australia

Grand Final injury clouds over Melbourne duo Steven May and Charlie Spargo cleared, as the pair trained in the sunlight in Perth on Wednesday, with Christian Petracca revealing the “ripple effect” key to this year’s success.

Melbourne conducted its main session before Saturday’s showdown with the Bulldogs at Optus Stadium and both May (hamstring) and Spargo (ankle) took part.

It leaves Simon Goodwin and his coaching staff with only one real dilemma – whether to stick with the 23 men who flayed Geelong in the preliminary final, or recall speedy defender Jayden Hunt and fellow backman Joel Smith.

Melbourne’s success this season, which has included claiming the minor premiership, has been built on a one-in, all-in attitude, which All-Australian star Petracca said had grown on the back of senior players embracing the role-playing philosophy.

“It kicked in all pre-season, every training session we have an emphasis on being selfless and playing your role,” he said on Wednesday in Perth.

“So many teams have won premierships doing that There’s no real secret to it. We got to an age, I’m 25 now and maturing a bit, and you just want to win and be part of a football club that is great.

“It’s a ripple effect. Once you get one person across the line, you see the leaders are doing it, then everyone understands this is what we stand for as a footy club.

“When we were 8-0 (to start the season), we realised it worked; accepting your role for the team.”

Petracca said the star-studded Demons midfield was set to go “head-to-head” with their equally talented and deep Bulldogs opponents on Saturday in a battle set to determine the outcome.

The gun on-baller said there was no way Melbourne would try to throw anything different at the opposition in such a big game, knowing where the contest would be most fierce.

“We’ll go in with a system to try and nullify or negate some of their best players. But I don’t think we’ll tag,” Petracca said.

“I don’t think we’ll change what’s been working. The reason we have got here is because our system is strong, same as the Doggies.

“We are probably both the best two contested teams at it and that’s when the pressure is up, when the ball is on the ground and you need to win one-on-ones.”

Petracca said it was the Demons’ “system” devised by Goodwin – and finally this season produced consistently on the field – which had helped carry Melbourne to the “surreal” moment of playing in a Grand Final.

“So many guys have been here before, we have had this success. We made a commitment over the off-season to put words into actions. To fulfil that, to be here, is surreal,” he said.

“I’ve always had belief in our system, ever since 2018. Sure, 2019 was a frustrating year, but the talent, the camaraderie between the group has always been there.

“It’s the on field culture now and accepting and understanding when we play for the Melbourne football club, this is what we do. The more those habits were shown in training, the most consistent they were, the better our team got.”

Originally published as AFL Grand Final: Injury clouds have lifted over two key players

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