AFL finals week 2: Demons challenge the finals masters

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Max Gawn at training this week, all set for tonight’s match.

By SAM McLARTY

It is sure to be a tantalising clash at the MCG tonight when the young, fierce Demons outfit takes on battle-hardened Hawthorn.

Semi Final: Hawthorn vs Melbourne

Friday September 14, 7.50pm at the MCG

Melbourne are in imperious form, having taken down  West Coast and GWS in the final rounds of the season and Geelong in the elimination final last week, but they face a tough challenge from the revitalised Hawthorn Hawks, masterminded by coaching icon Alastair Clarkson.

Talking points

Can the Dees’ young brigade repeat their heroics?

Despite all the talk about Geelong’s star-studded midfield, it was the young Demons that set fire at the MCG last Friday with Sam Weideman, Clayton Oliver and Angus Brayshaw all among the best. It was a coming-of-age performance from Weideman, who kicked three goals and had 24 disposals to claim best on field. Let’s not forget Christian Petracca, Christian Salem and Mitch Hannan, who are all 23 or younger, which suggests the Dees’ best is yet to come.

Can Harmes stop Mitchell?

Dee James Harmes has had some big scalps recently such as Joel Selwood, Josh Kennedy and Luke Shuey, but faces his most daunting task this weekend – stopping Hawthorn ball-magnet Tom Mitchell. The dual All-Australian and AFL MVP is in career-best form, averaging 36 disposals a game, and is the favourite to claim the Brownlow Medal. If Harmes can stop him, the Dees may just run away as winners.

Key players

Max Gawn (Melbourne): Hawthorn have some brilliant midfielders in Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara, so making the most of the ruck contest will go a long way to limiting their influence. Good players play well in finals and dual All-Australian Gawn will need to impose himself if the Dees are to win.

Jarryd Roughead (Hawthorn): Few players have a CV as decorated as captain and four-time premiership winner Jarryd Roughead. The Hawks will need their big man firing on Friday night. Roughead is coming off a three- goal performance against the Tigers and will look to lead from the front if the Hawks are to make their fourthpreliminary final in sixyears.

Prediction: Melbourne by 20 points