Max Gawn dominant as Demons crush Saints

Shayne Hope |

Simon Goodwin has hailed Max Gawn’s influence after the ruck master shrugged off a tight calf to lead Melbourne to a commanding 38-point win over St Kilda that has catapulted them back into the AFL’s top four.

Gawn passed a late fitness test before putting on a clinic in the Demons’ 14.16 (100) to 9.8 (62) victory at the MCG on Sunday.

The imposing captain racked up 27 disposals, 10 clearances, seven marks and a goal as Melbourne (7-4) leapt from ninth position at the start of the day up to fourth on percentage.

“He played well, and that typifies the leader he is,” Melbourne coach Goodwin said.

“He knew it was an important week for us to get right and he stepped up.

“He knew the challenge that he had from an individual perspective (opposed to St Kilda’s in-form Rowan Marshall) but he also knew what it was for the footy club.

“He rose to the occasion and played accordingly.”

Gawn gave his midfielders silver service, and Alex Neal-Bullen (27 disposals), Clayton Oliver (24), Christian Petracca (24) and Christian Salem (32) cashed in.

Jacob van Rooyen (three), Bayley Fritsch, Jack Viney and Petracca (two each) all kicked multiple goals.

Jacob van Rooyen
Jacob van Rooyen kicked three goals in the Demons’ 38-point win. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Adam Tomlinson stepped up as a replacement for injured defender Jake Lever and was outstanding alongside Steven May, the pair combining for 23 intercepts.

Tom McDonald also stood up in the Demons’ brick wall of a defence, which restricted St Kilda to just five goals in the first three quarters.

Goodwin put a spotlight on his side’s contest work and ability to defend the ground after they were humbled by West Coast last weekend, and felt they responded well.

“The boys went after that and it was a really pleasing performance right across the board for the whole day,” Goodwin said.

“It was really encouraging. We’re still a work in progress … and that’s OK, but it was a step forward.”

Melbourne’s win came at some cost, with versatile tall Harrison Petty substituted out with what Goodwin said was a sprained ankle.

It will require further assessment ahead of a clash with Fremantle in Alice Springs on June 2.

St Kilda leave the field.
Defeat left the Saints at 3-8, their finals hopes in tatters at the halfway point of the season. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

St Kilda spearhead Max King (three) kicked multiple goals for just the second time in six weeks under close watch from May, and Jack Higgins booted two on return from suspension.

Captain Jack Steele (33 touches) and Jack Sinclair (30) fought hard in the midfield for a side that was well beaten.

Coach Ross Lyon lamented Saints’ poor ball use and decision-making, while admitting they fell down defensively and were beaten by Melbourne’s run on the outside.

The loss left the Saints’ (3-8) finals hopes in tatters at the halfway point of the season, after they reached an elimination final last year.

“I feel for our fans and our members, and I just said to our players we need to stick together,” Lyon said.

“We’ve really fallen away a bit, so we’ve got to go away and assess, keep a cool head, take the heat that comes and stay true to working hard and keeping a safe environment for the players.”