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Max Gawn masterclass lights up AFL world amid dramas around Brodie Grundy

Brodie Grundy's future with Melbourne is even more clouded after another brilliant display from Max Gawn.

Max Gawn battles in the ruck against Richmond Ivan Soldo on the left, with Brodie Grundy pictured right.
Max Gawn's sensational fourth quarter against Richmond has sparked further speculation regarding Brodie Grundy's future at the Demons. Pictures: Getty Images

Not for the first time in the past month, a dominant Max Gawn performance for Melbourne has raised major questions about the future of teammate and former All Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy. In a crucial match against Richmond on Sunday afternoon, Gawn turned in an utterly dominant fourth quarter performance in which he had 13 disposals, and seven clearances.

Gawn's performance left the AFL world in awe as he finished with a total of 28 disposals, 22 contested possessions, 11 clearances, eight inside 50s and 10 score involvements. Nine of his contested possessions came in the fourth quarter alone, an indication of how influential he was in taking the narrow four-point margin the Demons held at three quarter time into the the eventual 32-point victory.

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As he did following his standout fourth quarter against the Brisbane Lions a fortnight ago, which propelled the Demons to a comeback one-point victory, Gawn's monster final term against the Tigers prompted more talk of Grundy's future with the 2021 AFL premiers. Grundy was widely seen as a canny pickup for the Demons, with his former club Collingwood choosing to move him on via a trade in a bid to cut down their salary cap constraints.

The Magpies are paying part of Grundy's salary, with the 29-year-old contracted through to the end of the 2027 season. The complicated pay structure involved could through up some difficulties should the Demons opt to move him on, given he was dropped from the side in the lead-up to the earlier win over the Lions.

“No way is Grundy getting back in this team," sports writer Oliver Caffrey wrote on Twitter in the wake of Gawn's powerhouse performance against Richmond. "Gawn’s played two of the best individual last quarters of the season in crucial wins since being back as the main ruck.”

Demons coach Simon Goodwin had hinted during the week prior that Grundy was a chance to return against the Tigers, but it ultimately wasn't to be. Goodwin has downplayed the Demons' previously stated desire for the former Magpies ruckman to work on his game as a forward, with Gawn coming alive in recent weeks with the position to himself.

Many other AFL fans were left in absolute awe of Gawn's display. The 31-year-old will be firmly in contention for another All Australian selection, having missed the early stages of the season through injusy - a period in which Grundy impressed in his absence.

Max Gawn masterclass bodes poorly for teammate Brodie Grundy

The Demons, who twice fell 20 points behind after halftime, edged closer to a top-two spot with their 20.10 (130) to 15.8 (98) victory in a classic contest at the MCG. Defender turned forward Harrison Petty was a major factor alongside Gawn, booting six goals in a game that looked for a long time as though the Tigers were on the verge of springing an upset.

"We weren't playing our best footy in the first half but Max and Jack Viney, as leaders of the footy club, basically said, 'come with us lads and we'll show you the path forward'," Goodwin said. "He's been instrumental in the last three or four weeks and he's carrying a huge load for us."

The Demons remain in fourth spot on the ladder but moved closer to the top three after Collingwood, Port Adelaide and Brisbane all lost in round 20. Richmond would have climbed into the top eight if they had won, and were left kicking themselves for letting their lead slip.

Jake Melksham also kicked four majors, including the goal that marked the sixth lead change in a see-sawing contest and put the Demons in front for the final time midway through the last quarter. They finished strongly, kicking the last six goals of the game to reach their highest score since round seven and settle a gripping battle in front of 52,294 fans.

Brodie Grundy battles Tom Hawkins in a ruck contest.
Brodie Grundy hasn't gotten a game for the Demons since round 17, with incumbent Max Gawn showcasing some dominant form in the meantime. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images) (AFL Photos via Getty Images)

"We're not frightened of finding ways to get better and we'll continue to do that as we progress forward, and today (the forward line was) fantastic," Goodwin said.

"Harrison (Petty), Jacob (van Rooyen) and Jake Melksham all looked really dynamic ahead of the ball on the back of some pretty good supply. We had 73 inside-50s and the way that functioned was certainly very pleasing."

With AAP

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