Melbourne can’t be backed without Clayton Oliver.
Placing too much emphasis on the loss of one player can be a mistake but losing Clayton Oliver to injury is an enormous blow for Melbourne.
No player wins more disposals. No player wins more clearances. He is the straw that stirs the drink. With the absence of their heartbeat, the Dees are vulnerable.
James Harmes will probably see more midfield time, but being without Oliver for the first time in 128 games is a terrifying prospect for the Dees.
Melbourne’s problem is they aren’t playing well enough to absorb his loss. They have gone 2-4 in the last six weeks, with one of those wins being over the Crows.
The Dees were smashed in clearance last week by the Cats and ultimately flattered by the scoreline. Meanwhile Port Adelaide crushed the Giants, and continued their terrific form which has seen them go 3-1 in the last month with the only loss being by 8 points against Freo, at Optus Stadium.
This is probably the best side Port Adelaide have put on the field all season, with most of their injury troubles behind them.
With the points, the Power are clearly the play.
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James Harmes should see the bulk of the midfield minutes vacated by Clayton Oliver since Simon Goodwin declined to recall Luke Dunstan.
Three of Melbourne’s four losses this season have come by 25 points or more. They were lucky not to lose by 40 or more last week against the Cats. With Oliver out, it’s possible the Dees just fall apart.