The Best of the Day preview bends it in from the boundary with AFL tips for the Friday night showdown between West Coast Eagles and Melb0urne Demons.
20:10 (AEST), Fri 17th May @ Optus Stadium, Perth
History: Played 51: West Coast 34 V Melbourne 17
History: Preliminary Final, 2018: West Coast 18.13 (121) d Melbourne 7.13 (55) at Optus Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Melbourne Demons return to their venue of their landslide preliminary final defeat, taking on the West Coast Eagles in the AFL Round 9 opener.
The Demons’ watershed 2018 season ended with a 66-point loss to the Eagles, who went on to win the premiership.
Things didn’t get much better to start 2019 for one of the pre-season favourites. But after a 1-5 start, Melbourne have kept their campaign afloat with nerve-shredding wins over Hawthorn and Gold Coast by less than a goal.
Alex Neal-Bullen, Tim Smith and Oskar Baker come into the line-up this week. Jordan Lewis and Michael Hibberd are out injured, while Declan Keilty has been omitted.
"It’s a different year, different teams."
Jack Viney says the side has long moved on from last year's Preliminary Final loss.
— Melbourne FC (@melbournefc) May 15, 2019
It hasn’t exactly been the smoothest title defence so far for the Eagles, who are 5-3. But they also come off two straight wins, beating the Suns by 23 points and the Saints by 18.
Willie Rioli returns for Oscar Allen in West Coast’s only change.
“He’s playing. He’s back. He will be on limited minutes but he’s available.”
Adam Simpson declares Willie Rioli will play Friday night footy! pic.twitter.com/hMDSPC6aae
— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) May 16, 2019
The Eagles boast an 18-7 home record against the Dees during the regular season.
West Coast have also won 10 of the last 12 clashes between the clubs overall. But prior to last year’s prelim annihilation, Melbourne won consecutive regular-season encounters in Perth in 2017-18.
Their Round 22 showdown in Round 22 saw the Demons win an Optus Stadium thriller by 17 points.
The Demons are a long way from being back in the finals conversation, but they have won five of their last six intestate. The Eagles should get up but on current form the line looks too big. Expect a hard-fought one out west.