When Melbourne traveled to Darwin in 2010 to host Port Adelaide at TIO Stadium, they hadn’t won a game outside of Victoria in four years.
While some fans were bemused at the club’s decision to play a home game interstate, Melbourne was pursuing a strategic plan to make more money for the club.
Not that any of it mattered when they took to the field in their Round 9 clash.
Each week, AFLPlayers.com.au will bring to light the perspective of someone at the heart of a memorable moment from a game played between two sides before their upcoming clash.
Neither side was flying. The Demons were 3-5, while the Power were 5-3 and both clubs would finish the year without featuring in the finals series.
For many Melbourne players, it was their first time playing in Darwin conditions — the Power had previously traveled to the northern city to play the Bulldogs in recent years.
And the first thing noticed by the players were the affects of the conditions.
“It became a wet weather game in about six minutes because of the humidity,” former Melbourne forward Brad Miller said.
“It’s a totally different way to play and, for guys who aren’t used to it, you fumble the ball a fair bit.
“We relied on the guys that had played there a bit like Aaron Davey and tried to tap into his experience in terms of the conditions and what to prepare for.”
That preparation may have had a positive influence for the majority of the match for the Demons. They jumped to a 12-point lead at quarter-time and kept the Power at arms length before an explosive third term resulted in a 33-point margin their way at three-quarter time.
Miller, playing his first game since Round 1, also had a career-best five goals as he walked to the huddle for the final break.
“2010 was a rough year. That was my last year in Melbourne and I was in and out of the side and spent a bit of time in the VFL,” Miller added.
“From a personal point of view, I was fighting to stay in the team, so I built that game up to be huge. I remember sitting in the hotel room all day because it was too hot to go outside but you’re cooped up in the room which means you have a lot of time to think.
“It’s hard not to rehearse what was going to happen but I did my best to try and stay calm. To be able to get onto a few goals and kick pretty straight was a positive but once you’re out on the ground you forget about that fact you’re fighting for a spot in the side.
“The want to win takes over. I actually didn’t know I’d kicked five goals, it was almost irrelevant because we still had a game to win.”
The Power fought back, with a run of five unanswered goals in the final term enough to hit the front late in the last term.
Each side traded goals before Brad Green drew the scores level with a major at the 30-minute mark. The Demons forced the ball forward again before a half smothered Jamie Bennell shot landed near goal in the arms of ruckman Mark Jamar, who thought he marked the ball.
A stoppage at the top of the goal-square ensued, where Miller and Jack Trengove combined to smash the ball through for a rushed behind their way — the Demons were up by a point.
Unbelievably, Alipate Carlile stepped over the line when kicking out from full-back, resulting in another stoppage close to Melbourne’s goal.
But instead of knocking the ball through again, Miller had other ideas.
“Instead of scoring another point, I tried to hit it towards the boundary line to cause another stoppage,” Miller said.
“So we’d stay one point ahead and keep the ball in our forward line rather than be two points ahead with Port in possession. We’d been through those situations quite a bit at training and Dean Bailey was big on rehearsing that stuff.
“To be able to act that out during a game was great and I remember Dean giving me a pat on the head because of it so that was a rewarding moment.”
The Demons held on to win in stunning fashion, with Miller kicking five, Aaron Davey and Colin Sylvia in the Brownlow Medal votes, while the Power was led strongly by future skipper Travis Boak who was the best player on the ground.
And a memorable win in a new environment meant for a great, albeit weird, celebration for the young Demons.
“We celebrated in the little cauldron at TIO Stadium in half dark but we were going bananas. It was a memorable win because it’d been an arm wrestle for a bit of the night and we were so cooked because of the conditions.
“We were cooked at the end of it. I remember losing between three and a half to four kilos through sweat, mostly because I’m a heavy sweater.
“I was absolutely spent.”