AFL Round 5 wrap

It was all set up to be the best day of Jake Spencer’s football life.

About to play for Melbourne against Richmond in the Anzac Day Eve blockbuster, Spencer stood in the shadows in the middle of the MCG as they performed the traditional and ever-humbling pre-game memorial services.

The silence of the Last Post, the minute’s silence that follows, the national anthems and the roar of the crowd just prior to the first bounce. It’s one of football great moments. One of life’s great moments.

There in the middle of it all, set for his 38th game in front of a crowd like nothing he’d seen before, was the 27-year-old bearded and mop-haired giant from Townsville.

Thrust into the No.1 ruck role in the absence of the injured Max Gawn in the biggest and best opportunity of his career, up against impressive Tigers youngster Toby Nankervis, Spencer was set to play a key role in a crunch game that would define at least some way the credentials of two of the emerging teams of the 2017 Toyota AFL premiership.

The crowd was 85,657. It was the biggest ever for a game between the two foundation sides of the competition and the biggest crowd for a Demons home-and-away game since 1964. Fifty-three years.

It was almost twice as big as anything Spencer had played in front of. That was 46,773 against Richmond at the MCG in 2012.

Spencer got a couple of early touches as the Demons started solidly and then he was crunched in a heavy tackle.

He retreated to the bench for treatment before being sent back into the action.

In the second quarter he took another knock to the knee and again he was forced out of the game.

Again they strapped him up and again he went back to work as Melbourne, with all the momentum, led by a goal.

But when the teams emerged for the start of the second half Spencer was missing.

Soon after he emerged wearing a tracksuit with his shoulder in a sling. His day was done.

It was a sad day for a man who has been nothing but respected and admired at Melbourne for the manner in which he’s gone about a 10-year career coming off the rookie list.

With Tim Smith already in his way to hospital with broken ribs and suspected internal damage, the Demons were down two players on the bench.

Inevitably Melbourne were over-run by a rampant Richmond side that has started 5-0 for the first time since 1995.

That the Demons refused to confirm details of Spencer’s injury post-game only pointed to the likelihood that it’s not good. He’s facing an extended stint on the sideline, and a chance to play an extended stint at AFL level was gone.

It was a disappointing feature of an Anzac Day weekend that had more downs than ups for Queensland football.

Tom Hickey, Tom Bell, Aliir Aliir, Josh Smith and Jesse White, regular senior AFL players in recent times, were left out of their teams and up-and-coming youngster Braydon Preuss, such a star in the first four rounds, was curiously rested.

The Queensland football highlight was the Brisbane Lions Saturday afternoon performance against the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Saturday. And even that finished in defeat.

Still, there was much to enthuse Lions fans as they led the defending premiers at every change in the 300th game of club favorite Bob Murphy.

That the Lions conceded the last seven goals to go down by 32 points was almost irrelevant. With five teenagers and 10 players aged 21 or younger in the side, they’d shown a world of promise that suggests the rein of new coach Chris Fagan and captain Dayne Beams will be a good one.

Captain Beams had a season-high 36 disposals (18 contested) to go with nine clearances and five tackles in a wonderful performance. He scored 100 Champion Data ranking points.

Dayne Zorko, too, had a season high in disposals when he collected 32 (12 contested) on top of eight clearances, eight tackles and two goals.

This earned him a season-high 121 Champion Data points and leaves him one of only five players to have scored 100+ points in each of the first five rounds.

The others are Joel Selwood, Nat Fyfe, Cameron Oliver and Tom Rockliff.

Eric Hipwood kicked the first three goals of the game and was excitement plus throughout as he finished with 12 disposals, five marks and four tackles to go with his scoreboard hat-trick.

Ben Keays made the most of a late injury call-up to grab 12 disposals, five tackles and a career-best two goals.

Claye Beams had 15 disposals and two goal assists, Liam Dawson eight disposals and Harris Andrews 15 disposals and nine one-percenters.

Lachie Weller (26 disposals) and Lee Spurr (24 disposals) continued their good form as a resurgent Fremantle made it three wins on the trot against North Melbourne in Perth, and Zac Smith had 15 disposals and 31 hit-outs as Geelong made it five wins from five games in a good win over St.Kilda.

For the Saints, Nick Riewoldt had 17 disposals and a goal, and Sam Gilbert posted 15 disposals.

Sam Reid continued to enjoy the GWS ride with 15 disposals and a goal in their win over Sydney at the SCG. Kurt Tippett had five disposals, 15 hit-outs and a goal for the Swans.

Charlie Dixon, too, continued his fine start to the season as Port flogged Carlton at Adelaide Oval. He had five disposals and two goals to lead the 2017 Queensland goal tally with 10.

Jarrod Harbrow, with 25 disposals, was the standout Queenslander in a Gold Coast side that was well-beaten by Adelaide at Metricon. Alex Sexton had 17 disposals and a goal, Jesse Joyce 17 disposals and a personal-best seven one-percenters, and Jack Bowes 15 disposals.

By Peter Blucher

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