A Clayton Oliver masterclass kickstarted the Demons into action at Marvel Stadium, eventually pulling away to be comfortable 47-point winners over North Melbourne.
Melbourne rebranded to Naarm for Indigenous Round, and Simon Goodwin’s men lived up to expectations eventually, extending their winning streak to 10 in 2022.
It was in the midfield where Naarm got on top as the game went on, Clayton Oliver putting in one of the performances of the year with his on-ball masterclass.
A whopping 45 disposals (22 contested) was accompanied by 13 clearances, five marks and six tackles. Oliver has put plenty of work into his kicking in recent years and Saturday’s performance was another showcase of change, Oliver having just the one clanger for the night.
Despite the margin, the game saw a hot contest early, and the Demons were no sure thing when the Roos snatched the lead multiple times throughout the first half.
David Noble’s troops were playing some brilliant footy, a hard contested brand epitomised by numerous moments of brilliance that had them serving it up to the 2021 premiers.
Cam Zurhaar (three goals) had the damaging nature of his disposal back and the Roos hard nuts were matching it with some of the best of the competition on the inside.
Veteran Todd Goldstein was another one bringing the heat, former AFL forward Josh Jenkins noting in commentary for AFL Nation: “He’s turned back the clock tonight.”
However, the Demons' defence was simply too resolute. Jake Lever (seven intercept possessions, 16 disposals) and Steven May (eight intercept possessions, 391 metres gained) did what Jake Lever and Steven May do, dominating the back half for the majority of the clash. Nick Larkey threatened at times, but Naarm’s twin key talls put on a clinic yet again.
Kysaiah Pickett kicked two goals while wearing a long sleeve of Melbourne’s incredible Indigenous round guernsey, while Tom McDonald and Bayley Fritsch combined for five majors.
It was a familiar tale as the game wore on, the Roos simply unable to score, kicking just two goals after half-time.
However, Noble will at least be able to fall back on the club’s defence during Monday’s review of the game. The Roos kept Melbourne to an efficiency inside 50 of just 37.1 per cent, some 12 per cent behind their season average.
With Melbourne’s undefeated streak sitting at 17 when last year’s run is factored in, next week’s clash with Fremantle becomes even more salivating.
It’s set to be the biggest test of both sides yet in 2022, and AFL fans should find out plenty about two competitors at the top of the premiership market.
On the other hand, North Melbourne clashes with the red-hot Saints as they continue to search for their second win of the year.
North Melbourne: 3.0, 6.1, 8.3,
Naarm: 4.4, 8.9, 10.13,
North Melbourne: Zurhaar 3, Goldstein, Ziebell, Horne-Francis, Hayden, Xerri
Naarm: McDonald 3, Fritsch 2, Pickett 2, Sparrow, Rivers, Langdon, Melksham, Bedford
North Melbourne: McDonald, Corr, Scott, Goldstein, Davies-Uniacke
Naarm: Oliver, Petracca, Lever, McDonald, May
North Melbourne: Taylor (Concussion)
Naarm: Langdon (Ribs)