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Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin won’t dare look ahead to finals despite Demons closing in

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Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin still won’t dare look ahead to September despite the Demons closing in on their first finals berth in 11 years, having all but ended St Kilda’s 2017 hopes in the process on Sunday.

And Goodwin says he will maintain the “simple philosophy” of picking the side’s best 22 every week, unwilling to reveal much about the fates of Jack Watts and Christian Salem, who were both dropped for Sunday’s match at the MCG.

Dees move into eight

Melbourne is back in the AFL top eight after a 96-72 victory over St Kilda at the MCG.

Instead, the coach lauded youngster Angus Brayshaw, who starred with 26 disposals in his first senior game since round two after a brief head knock scare in the first quarter.

Conversely, Saints coach Alan Richardson was left to lament his side’s poor ball use early in the game, which he suggested was as bad as he’d seen, but insisted St Kilda had the talent within their group to improve despite it being near certain that they will miss the finals for a sixth straight season.

The Dees won by 24 points, but the damage was done early as Melbourne kicked six goals to one in the opening quarter before extending their lead to 40 points in time-on of the second term. The Saints hit back, cutting the margin to just four points early in the last quarter, but Melbourne steadied to regain their spot in the top eight.

The win left the Demons in seventh, ahead of West Coast and the Western Bulldogs on percentage, with games against the last-placed Brisbane Lions and Collingwood – both at the MCG – to come.

Yet Goodwin was not getting carried away. “It’s certainly not where you sit now, it’s where you sit at round 23, and I’ve said that a lot,” Goodwin said.

“We’ve won today but we know we’ve got important matches ahead. Brisbane are playing some great footy, this competition’s as ruthless as it’s going to be.”

He said Watts and Salem would be judged like every other player at the club when it came to selection. “They both won plenty of the ball [in the VFL on Saturday]. I think they’ll be judged like every other player on our list.

“But ultimately it’s a pretty simple philosophy from a coaching group about how we pick our team, and we picked players today that we felt were in form. Our best 22 was out there.”

Brayshaw, who hadn’t played at senior level since round two having been plagued by concussion two years in a row, bounced back after a first-quarter clash of heads with Saint Koby Stevens, to be among the Dees’ best. Stevens wasn’t as lucky, sitting out the rest of the game on the bench with concussion and a burst eardrum.

Goodwin was relieved Brayshaw was able to play out the game. “I was pretty excited when he popped up. I thought he was terrific,” Goodwin said.

“You know how much he’s been through, and the family’s been through.”

Goodwin also said the Demons could query a string of ruck free kicks paid against Max Gawn to Saints big man Billy Longer in a bid to gain greater clarity.

The Saints find themselves a win and more than nine per cent adrift of the eighth-placed Eagles with games against North Melbourne (Etihad Stadium) and Richmond (MCG) to come.

Richardson said execution had been the issue. “It’s as bad as I’ve seen us use the footy,” Richardson said.

“It was a big game for the club, it was a big game for the group, they’d given themselves every opportunity to really keep our season alive…and we weren’t able to execute.”

However he remained upbeat about the club’s future despite an apparent stagnation this year following a ninth-place finish in 2016. “What I do know, is I know we’ve got the personnel. We have high expectations of our players. We’ve got a lot of blokes moving into that 50, 60, 70 game bracket now, where consistency of performance should be there.

“We’re clearly not quite there yet.”

Richardson also said he expected retiring champion Nick Riewoldt to face the Kangaroos after missing Sunday’s game with concussion, but would not shed any light on the future of out-of-contract veteran Leigh Montagna, who has previously conceded his career may be over after a serious hamstring injury last month.

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