Christian Petracca has made it clear he wants to be Tigers champion Dustin Martin’s successor as he led Melbourne to a dominant victory over the reigning premiers to stamp the Demons as a genuine premiership contender.
He was the most powerful player on the ground in the second half, while Martin had one of the quietest nights of his career, before being concussed in a marking contest in the third quarter.
Christian Petracca is congratulated by Alex Neal-Bullen after kicking a goal for the Demons in their win over the Tigers.Credit:Getty Images
The knock means Martin will miss next Friday night’s huge match against the undefeated Western Bulldogs.
But Anzac Eve was Melbourne’s night as they beat Richmond at their own game to celebrate loyal veteran Nathan Jones’ 300th game in style.
After withstanding the Tigers’ fierce and familiar pressure early they gained momentum when the rain arrived at the start of the second quarter, kicking seven unanswered goals to break the game open.
Dustin Martin puts on a jacket after leaving the ground with concussion.Credit:Getty Images
In the end they had rattled Richmond so much the Tigers gave away two undisciplined free kicks in front of goal without the ball being contested as a melee broke out when Kysaiah Pickett became upset with Rhyan Mansell.
Melbourne supporters enjoyed the moment but they will enjoy more the fact the Demons remain undefeated after six rounds for the first time since 1965 (the year Norm Smith was sacked).
They had winners on every line, with Michael Hibberd scoring the points in the game’s most important battle against Martin, who had just six disposals in the first half before finishing the game with eight touches, having spent most of the second half off the ground.
Such was Melbourne’s ferocity it would have mattered little if Martin had been fully fit as they had contributions from Petracca and his fellow midfielders Clayton Oliver, Jack Viney and James Jordon.
Their wingman Angus Brayshaw and Ed Langdon were excellent too, with Langdon an expert at creating overlap run while ruckman Max Gawn was indefatigable.
Gawn’s example early was crucial, as he stood in the hole in front of Tom Lynch and took the punishment, dusted himself off and then outworked Toby Nankervis around the ground.
The most impressive aspect of the win was that Richmond – who lost Kane Lambert with a calf injury in the third quarter – weren’t lacking effort.
Nathan Jones played his 300th game for the Demons.Credit:Getty Images
It was just that Melbourne were able to move the ball in waves to reach the most impressive forward on the ground in Tom McDonald, who kicked back-to-back goals in the second quarter when the game was hot.
That ability to run in waves is due to their belief in what lies behind the ball with Richmond’s surges coming up against brick walls in Lever’s marking and Christian Salem winning ground balls at will.
Steven May is an elite defender and showed great courage to return from an eye socket injury, beating Lynch in the one-on-one battles while Lever has become the player Melbourne recruited him to be.
At the moment Alex Neal-Bullen is an underrated player, with his brilliant snap shot getting the Demons moving in the second quarter while Charlie Spargo has found the terrier role to his liking.
There were contributors all over the ground as the Demons celebrated one of their most decisive and impressive wins in their recent history in front of 56,418 spectators.
Richmond now face the prospect of a rampant Bulldogs on Friday night without Martin, who has rarely missed in his 250-game career, and Lambert, raising the question of whether the lure is in danger of being caught.
Shai Bolton was their best player but the pressure they applied in the first quarter disappeared when Melbourne realised they could stand up to it and punch back.
Melbourne Petracca, Salem, Oliver, Gawn, Langdon, McDonald, May, Hibberd
Richmond Bolton, Baker, Edwards
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