Max Gawn's horror moment as Melbourne Demons make unwanted AFL finals history

The Demons skipper appeared to prevent his own side from scoring a vital late goal.

Max Gawn, pictured here preventing Melbourne from scoring the winning goal against Carlton.
Max Gawn may have prevented Melbourne from scoring the winning goal against Carlton. Image: Fox Footy/Getty

Melbourne's straight-sets exit from the AFL finals will be particularly hard to take for Max Gawn after the Demons skipper appeared to inexplicably prevent what would have been the match-winning goal against Carlton on Friday night. Blake Acres kicked the winning goal with less than a minute to play as the Blues prevailed 11.7 (73) to 9.17 (71) in front of 96,412 fans at the MCG.

But the Demons should have been further ahead when Acres slotted his goal, and might have been if Gawn hadn't touched Clayton Oliver's shot on the line. Oliver had a set shot from just beyond the 50m arc late in the fourth quarter, and started celebrating as if he'd slotted it home.

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But the goal umpire asked for a review, and replays showed the ball was touched just before it crossed the line. Inexplicably, it looked as though Gawn got the only touch and cost his side the goal.

It should have put the Demons up by more than six points and would have meant Acres' goal didn't matter. “Look at that! Maxy’s the last man to touch it – that’s a goal otherwise,” Jonathan Brown said on Fox Footy. “I feel bad for Maxy – he obviously didn’t mean to do it.”

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It was one of a number of costly mistakes for the Demons, who became the first team to suffer back-to-back straight-sets exits from the finals under the current system. Simon Goodwin's side will be ruing their kicking in front of goal after a whopping 17 behinds proved the difference.

Gawn missed a set shot in the final quarter that he would normally convert, while Kysaiah Pickett hit the post late in the game. Melbourne kicked 5.10 in the second half and are now 0-4 in finals matches since their breakthrough premiership triumph in 2021.

"We got enough shots to win the game and we just didn't kick our goals," Goodwin said afterwards. "In the end, it was inefficiency with the ball that cost us. When you lose finals and your season finishes, there's certainly an emptiness about the group and there's adversity that we'll have to work through.

“When you set yourself up (with) an opportunity to perform strongly in finals and you lose twice in straight sets, there’s going to be criticism out there. But as a footy club, we know we’ve got a list that’s building, and we’re going to continue to add to that … but it just doesn’t happen, it’s hard to do, and a lot has to go right. We certainly won’t be looking backwards. Once we step into next year we’ll be looking forward to the future about what’s possible.”

Fans couldn't believe Gawn's horror moment on the goal-line, although many suggested it had already been touched by a Carlton player before hitting the Melbourne captain's hand.

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Goodwin pointed to season-ending injuries to Harrison Petty and Jake Melksham, as well as a costly suspension for Jacob van Rooyen, as reasons for his side's sub-par performance in front of goal. “Clearly our personnel was a struggle late in the year, a lot happened late in the year for us in terms of Petty, Melksham and van Rooyen going out this week,” he said.

“We’ve had some challenges in front of the ball and we didn’t have a lot to select from in that space, so that was a challenge. But we had opportunities with the ball … and we didn’t take them.”

Max Gawn, pictured here after Melbourne's loss to Carlton.
Max Gawn was devastated after Melbourne's loss to Carlton. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Carlton, who haven't won a premiership in 28 years, are now into their first preliminary final since 2000. They will face the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba next weekend.

"We're all in a little bit of disbelief at how it unfolded," Blues coach Michael Voss said. "That was just a cracking game of footy, full of mistakes.

"But we somehow found a way through some will and grit and courage, and were able to hit the scoreboard at the end. I guess that's what matters."

with AAP

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