ADVICE

Luke Jackson's impact a key to Demons' AFL premiership

The play of youngster Luke Jackson was a major factor for Melbourne on Saturday night. Photo: Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images
The play of youngster Luke Jackson was a major factor for Melbourne on Saturday night. Photo: Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Among the many heroes in red and blue in last Saturday's grand final, Luke Jackson's role in Melbourne's scintillating third quarter deserves more recognition.

The voting for the Norm Smith Medal was spot on, with Christian Petracca, Bayley Fritsch and Clayton Oliver clearly the three best players on the ground.

But there were several Demons unlucky not to be considered and Jackson was at the top of the list.

Jackson's statistics did not indicate his impact on the game, but importantly he had nine score involvements and finished with a goal in the last quarter.

Before the game the Western Bulldogs' ruck combination of veteran Stefan Martin and Tim English had to stand up if the Dogs were to win.

English was prominent in the first half and Martin was doing his job by competing hard against Demons skipper Max Gawn and Jackson.

As the Bulldogs pulled away to a 19-point lead 10 minutes into the third quarter, Jackson moved into the ruck and Gawn was switched down back to stem the bleeding.

While Melbourne's midfield led by Petracca, Oliver, Jack Viney, Angus Brayshaw and Ed Langdon provided irresistible momentum from the centre clearances and stoppages from midway through the third term, Jackson's influence was immense.

In only his 30th AFL game, the athletic former basketballer helped turn the tide in Melbourne's direction, winning several hit-outs with his excellent leap and then becoming an extra midfielder with his run and creative ball use.

The Demon, who turns 20 on Wednesday, proved too hot for the ageing Martin to handle and by the time English moved back into the ruck the damage had been done.

Jackson, taken at No. 3 in the 2019 national draft, won this year's Rising Star award.

Melbourne will be determined to ensure the West Australian resists the temptation of going home and is part of its long-term strategy.

The premiership was the culmination of many years' toil, heartbreak and tragedy since the club's last flag in 1964, and the emphatic victory after such an impressive campaign this season was the exclamation point on the Demons' latest rebuild.

The appointment of coach Paul Roos and chief executive Peter Jackson at the end of 2013 laid the foundation, changing the culture by instilling rigid principles and belief combined with some tough love.

The drought-breaking victory set off a tidal wave of emotion across the country.

While there were plenty of Melbourne fans who managed to make it to the game, it was such a shame for so many to be denied the pleasure of being there to witness a piece of history.

The Dogs' defence was overrun by the Dees. Photo: Gary Day/AFL Photos via Getty

The Dogs' defence was overrun by the Dees. Photo: Gary Day/AFL Photos via Getty

DOGS' DEFICIENCIES EXPOSED

After appearing to be in a winning position early in the second half, the Bulldogs' meek capitulation was bitterly disappointing.

There will be plenty of soul-searching over summer.

The Dogs resurrected themselves in the finals after looking gone towards the end of the home and away season and slipping out of the top four, but the Demons revealed glaring deficiencies in the grand final.

Melbourne reduced the effectiveness of pocket dynamo Caleb Daniel, who was instrumental in the Bulldogs' second-quarter revival.

Demons small forwards Alex Neal-Bullen and Tom Sparrow applied huge pressure on Daniel, the Bulldog defender's trademark pinpoint disposal by foot abandoning him during the second half.

Of the Bulldogs' much-vaunted midfield, skipper Marcus Bontempelli and Adam Treloar were shining lights, but there was precious little resistance to the Demons' onslaught from midway through the third quarter.

Maybe the coaching staff could have put a defensive mechanism in place to stop the run.

In the end, the Dogs' defence finally cracked. Veteran Easton Wood struggled to keep up with Fritsch and Bailey Williams never recovered from a nightmarish start.

Martin battled hard, but he failed to run out the contest and is not the long-term answer in the ruck.

The late-season loss of Josh Bruce, the Bulldogs' leading goalkicker this year, was significant and they rely too heavily on their midfielders and high-flying forward Aaron Naughton to do the bulk of their scoring.

Despite a week's break between the preliminary final triumph over Port Adelaide and the grand final, the Bulldogs' strenuous travel schedule might have been a bridge too far.

BACK TO DAY GRAND FINAL NEXT SEASON

Western Australia deserves huge plaudits for hosting its first AFL grand final in style.

Perth put on superb weather and the capacity crowd at Optus Stadium created a magnificent atmosphere.

The massive national TV audience, combined with the attraction of having the half-time entertainment under lights, added weight to the argument of those wanting to make the grand final a night-time event permanently.

Channel 7 and the AFL will use the ratings to promote a night grand final, but let's not forget there were thousands of fans in Victoria forced to watch at home in lockdown.

The start time should return to the traditional afternoon slot when the MCG hosts it again, hopefully next season.

A night start in Melbourne is not family friendly. If there must be a compromise, a twilight start is preferable.

During the day there is a party vibe with the pre-game breakfasts and lunches, while post-game supporters can celebrate properly.

Importantly, the standard of play is generally better.

Has Howard got it right? Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com; Twitter: @hpkotton59.

This story Luke Jackson's impact a key to Demons' AFL premiership | Howard Kotton first appeared on The Canberra Times.