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The funnest day in the history of Springfield

There was a dark time when all our flags were so grand and old (or in some cases stolen) that soon no living person would remember them happening. Then the 2020s came along, the greatest global health crisis in a century somehow worked in our favour, and the Melbourne Football Club has now won premierships across the entire spectrum of national league football. Today, more than ever, let me say what a time to be alive.For those of us who celebrate all the meats of the MFC cultural stew, a seven season wait for AFLW glory wasn’t anywhere near as traumatic as waiting a lifetime for the men, but that doesn’t detract from how important it was to finally capture the cup. For years the women have inched their way to this point – initially denied by ludicrous finals systems, having a season cancelled mid-finals, losing a Prelim, then a Grand Final. Technically everything was advancing in the right direction, and even if we’d lost almost the exact same team would have been back for another go next year, but it left open the unpleasant possibility of other sides catching up quickly and leaving a golden generation going out empty-handed. If you can find one that’s not rocking back and forth, ask a St Kilda fan what that’s like. Our men avoided this issue by playing an average of one good season a decade before breaking through, but for years their counterparts have won the majority of their games without getting over the line.The AFL’s handling of the competition this year had truckloads of scorn poured on it, but the realignment of the calendar worked in our favour. It made sure Daisy went another year, it created threadbare expansion teams that important players refused to consider, and left the coach with something to do before he ran out of patience and started flicking through the men’s coaching section of footyseek.com.au.Post-Adelaide redemption couldn’t happen without making another Grand Final. We did that, via a season with only one loss and some of our all-time most savage wins. Then, in a weird outer suburban location, under strange atmospheric conditions, and a couple of hours after Delta Goodrem clambered atop her piano this happened: Which was nice.The classic moment didn’t come easily though. Unlike the hour of power during our last triumph, 27/11/22 required the grimmest struggle possible, with the result in doubt from midway through the second quarter until the final seconds. By then I was, in the words of David Lee Roth, crazy from the heat, having quite literally gone troppo under conditions unsuitable for a soft southern shite who’s never done a day’s outdoor work in his life, and might have been airlifted home in a straightjacket if we’d lost.Men in white coats were on standby to carry me out, but were not required due to our team standing up under a hail of incoming bullets for three quarters and earning one of the grittiest wins you’ll ever see. No club has ever deserved a flag, but given our run-up since 2017, and the recovery from a drastic position on this day, they were as worthy winners as you’ll see. ‘Brave’ is usually said when patronising shit teams who’ve had had a go, but there’s no better way to describe Melbourne AFLW on Sunday afternoon. Now the group has the reward its deserves, and by any means necessary I’ve seen Melbourne win a Grand Final in person. Everyone’s a winner – unless you’re involved with Brisbane. And in that case you’ve been here, so step aside and let us have our moment.Also important, if you’re a sicko like me, is that it may have completed the circle of winning every VFL/AFL (1897-) endorsed competition ever staged. Some are so frivolous that it’s almost embarrassing to mention them, but I need this to make the point that we’re the only side with such a collection. Your 126 year path to grand slam glory:Men’s flag – 1900Seconds/Reserves – 1931Third/Under 19s – 1947Lightning Premiership – 1952McLelland Trophy – 1955Little League – 1967Night Series – 1971AFLX – 2018Women’s flag – 2022 Spring(Warning: Don’t try and claim annexed Sandringham or Casey modern VFL flags, because that will expose that ‘we’ never won the defunct VFL Development League, and haven’t yet done the VFLW)Appropriately, both our first and most recent senior premierships involve beating the Lions by four points. In 1900, Fitzroy arrived so sure of victory that carriages outside the ground were adorned with ‘Premiers’ decorations. This time they took us more seriously, almost everyone else was assuming victory on their behalf. Regrettably, that included me so I’m glad that years of underestimating our side came home to roost in the most delicious fashion. For once, you can’t blame me for being nervous. The only side to beat us all year had just spent the second half of a prelim with their feet up, and had us playing in ripe (in more than one way) home conditions. You could picture a path to victory, but it seemed the major obstacles were a) running the game out in the heat, and b) scoring enough to win in the first place. Turns out neither are an issue if you hold the opposition goalless for three quarters. A valuable lesson for the next team who are forced to play late November games in Queensland.Any venue in that state would have provided an equatorial experience, but with the Gabba and Carrara both booked we were off to the literally all-new Brighton Homes Arena (AKA ‘Springfield’ if you’re the ABC or keen on Simpsons gags) for its inaugural event. Sure the turf had only been put down a month earlier, but what could possibly go wrong? Part of me was outraged at playing on a third choice construction site, but compared to the proposal of playing in Cairns it might as well have been the MCG.I wondered if they couldn’t play on cooler Saturday night game because the lights hadn’t been plugged in yet, but now that we’ve won there’s no point moaning about the venue. Like the men having to travel the country from east to west for a flag, sometimes things that don’t seem ideal to the naked eye turn out ok. You don’t know what would have happened on a temperate Melbourne afternoon, but you know they won in the sauna so embrace the oddity.With legitimate questions about the surface holding up, a minority movement ironically campaigned for the game to be played at Death Valley Docklands. I was against this not only for reasons of fairness to Brisbane, but more importantly because it would have left me holding non-refundable flights and accommodation. Besides, the claim idea that 50,000 would have turned up in Melbourne doesn’t compute with 43k less than that attending the only other AFLW decider held here. We’d certainly have got more than Springfield, but the showcase game would have been played in front of a near-empty stadium. If you want to know what that would have looked like, refer to the Brighton Homes Arena five minutes after the final siren as Brisbane fans evacuated like there’d been a bomb threat. The AFL took Brisbane’s word that the ground would be fit to play on, so we had to go with it. Turns out they were right, but I still wasn’t confident until we reached midweek without turf chaos. The only remaining issue was getting in. I didn’t think that would be a problem while impulse booking to go, but came perilously close to disaster. Fortunately, I was in place at 5pm when tickets went on sale, because within a few minutes they were gone, only to return for a window of about 45 seconds later in the week. I don’t doubt there was plenty of interest, but the rapid disappearance of tickets probably had a bit to do with letting people 10x per transaction, including freebies for kids. To the credit of the people snatching enormous handfuls of tickets in one go, if capacity really was 8000 then only about 500 didn’t show. Maybe they turned up to discover the zaniest queue in the history of western civilisation and gave up. There’s no way to adequately describe it if you weren’t involved, but the thing had more bends than the Mississippi River, leaving you several hundred metres away, perilously close to standing on a road, with nobody official to be seen. As part of the Simpsons theme it left me thinking “if the line’s this long it’s got to be good” and expecting to get to the front and find I was queuing to sign up for Auskick.The reason for the congestion was eventually revealed as an entry point where nobody had thought about a ‘bag free’ line, meaning anybody without one was stuck waiting for security guards to do half-arsed checks that wouldn’t have found a loaded AK-47. But eventually I was inside a Grand Final venue hosting the Melbourne Football Club and ready to party like it was 2021. Yes, that night meant more than any other moment in the history of football, but it took place in my loungeroom with one smuggled family member who semi-cared, and two residents who were just humouring me. This was the chance to see premiership football alongside people who cared.So, if I was looking for the aura of quality MFC people it makes no sense sitting in a spot that gradually filled with Brisbane fans until I was a one man red and blue enclave. It was partly because I’d mentally had enough, having got up at god knows what time, carted myself across two states after suffering a random fear of flying at the last minute, then foolishly walked around in the heat for a couple of hours before going to the ground. Now I just wanted a spot to take the game in and damn the consequences. Not surprisingly it didn’t last.My first thought on walking in was how good the controversial newborn turf looked, having expected to find something resembling the surface of the moon. “Wait until somebody turns left and does a knee” I thought, but it never even looked like happening. Given that everyone else associated with Brisbane got to do a speech at the end they should have had the groundskeeper up for a round of applause as well. The playing area had come up so well that the only questionable bit was the unprotected brick wall just over one bit of the boundary line. No doubt that will be fenced in before a nondescript reserves player is crippled after sliding into it.The next key question was how the heat would affect players. Brisbane should have had the advantage, given that we haven’t had a hot day in Melbourne for about nine months, but it turned out to be a non-factor. You couldn’t know that at the time, and whoever put together the day’s running order hadn’t studied player welfare. After warming up, in all senses of the word, both sides were called to the middle for what would traditionally be the national anthem. Except in this case they stood there for about 45 seconds listening to a club mix of ABBA’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), then unnecessarily long sponsor chat, and an extended version welcome to country where the guy threw in ad libs as they came to mind. Looking for any excuse to expect defeat, I thought this extra energy-sapping, awkward standing around would cost us late. And if we’d a goal at the end you’d better believe that’s precisely the line of whinging you’d be reading.Our beating of the heat will be great for the resumes and future job interviews of conditioning staff, but there was an unexpected assist from nature. While it remained 32 degrees and stickier than the floor at the Crazyhorse Theatre throughout, the sun was obscured by cloud during the middle quarters. The weirdness continued with a thunderstorm warning. Luckily this came about 30 hours early because 7000 people would have had nowhere to go if it started pelting. Most would probably have bolted for home, but I was prepared to go down with the ship if that’s what it took to see live flag.It took four quarters of trench warfare (almost as long as the introduction to this post) but my tribute pilgrimage to seven seasons of joy from watching this team turned out pretty bloody well. What follows is an amalgamation of my live viewing and the replay, because I could barely make out what was happening at the other end. There was a video screen but it was so small that you could only make out the score and the elapsed time, and I know writers watched footy for 120 years in these conditions but they probably just made stuff up to compensate.To pay off one of the great storylines of the season, starting Harris in the ruck made me nervous. With the fear of wilting in warm weather I wanted to get off to a good start, and even whe she does well in the middle it robs us of our only serious contested marking target forward. Her absence also reduces our chances of bringing the ball to ground or scattering packs like a bowling ball. Whether it was due to being painkillered to the gills or not she didn’t show any obvious effects from the shoulder injury, and while Tayla wasn’t disgraced in the ruck duels we couldn’t win a clearance under any circumstances so I couldn’t see (he says questioning a premiership coach) where the benefit was.I’m not saying she’d have kicked eight if left forward, but you got an early example of what we lost without her as a target when Hore had to aim at centre half-forward Paxman. Of course she didn’t mark, because it’s not what she does, and the ball did work its way to Daisy for a missed snap, but we were all motion under pressure rather than having time to think about building attacks.Speaking of Paxman, it was good to see her go with the pre-bandaged head one last time. And why not, when it’s become so iconic somebody in the crowd had made their own replica. Sadly it wasn’t unhygienically piffed into the audience at the end but was hopefully preserved with tongs for inclusion in any future MFC museum. In an unexpected post-match twist, the next time you see Paxman it might be in purple. Other sources suggest it’s unlikely, but after seven sensational years I wouldn’t begrudge her going. Presuming Daisy hangs up the boots, there doesn’t need to be much more movement from the flag winning side but we’ve got to get McNamara back and start looking at the future so we’d go on.Our more immediate issue was getting the ball out of defence. We couldn’t clear from stoppages, and had no clear targets when exiting Brisbane’s 50. What we did have was Tahlia Gillard tormenting the piss out of the league’s top goalkicker. Multiple times in the opening minutes alone she stopped Wardlaw from taking clean possession, and continued to get us out of jail all afternoon. In the lowest moment for the 3-2-1 voting system since the umpire leaked Brownlow results to his mates, she didn’t get a cracker in the BOG award. Not that I’m saying the expert panel were influenced by stats, but you won’t be surprised to discover that the two players who finished a mile ahead of everyone else also had the most possessions.Birch was pretty good, and Heath did a spectacular shutdown job on their best small forward, but Gillard did so much that doesn’t get counted on a basic stats sheet that it’s criminal that she didn’t get more credit. From my restricted view she was best on ground. It wasn’t just me, I heard somebody else say she was going to win the medal shortly before it was given to a Brisbane player who profited from having it kicked to her 15 times. The AFL’s website report had Gillard fifth best, which was a bit more realistic, but they also had Hanks first and she didn’t get a vote either so who are you supposed to trust?Our midfield did their bit, especially West throwing herself into every confined space on the ground, but we didn’t win without the backline standing up. The coaches would know, and for the rest of her life Tahlia will be able to review gamefootage to prove she was robbed. If she wants to launch a legal challenge on the result I’d be prepared to testify under oath for her. In a change from usual procedure, Brisbane’s first shot was taken by two-time after the siren misser Greta Bodey. I was almostcertain that she’d finally go third time lucky on us here, and kept this firmly in my mind until the game was over. This time her kick landed in the square, we short-circuited about six attempts at a snap, and the panic continued. It didn’t help that I was already considering throttling about 90% of the adults sitting within a five metre radius. As well as we did to stop the Lions scoring from close range, it was ridiculously difficult to get the ball away from their goal. We survived one hopeful kick being intercepted, before the second ended with a player standing on her own miles in the clear. As Brisbane fans whinge about the umpiring, feel free to note the absurd angle liberties taken by the player before this kick, but it’s still our fault for not having somebody in the way. It was the third time from three this final series that we conceded the first goal, and it turned out alright the first couple of times so there was no need to stress out. “At least it gets the ball away from their end” I thought, only for them to fang straight out of the middle and into attack again. This time there was no titantic struggle for scoring, the umpire missed Birch headlocking one player, then made up for it by giving a soft as butter free straight after. Now we were two goals back and in a spot of deep, warm shit. To their credit (because we ended up winning) the coaches kept the faith with Harris in the ruck, but panic alarms were going off at full volume when the Lions broke out of the middle and went forward again. Guess which defender got in the way? Hint – her surname starts with ‘Gill’ and ends in ‘ard’. I thought watching the replay would unlock the secrets of why she wasn’t considered in the best players, and it only further convinced me she was robbed blind.Our forward issues were demonstrated by Zanker marking, kicking to Daisy one-on-one, and still being the next closest Melbourne player to the ball when it hit the ground. It felt like if we were ever going to go four quarters without a goal this would be it. At 11 points down, strong defence was appreciated but no longer enough to win the game. My only consolation was that we’d have the use of a slight breeze in the second quarter. That should have also helped us in the last, but the bastard died off during the second half. We got to quarter time without any further damage, but not before another panic kick off the last line of defence nearly led to what might have been a death blow third goal. Top defensive performances by Gay and Chaplin (later a clear BOG in the early celebrations) saved us, finally setting up a gilt edged chance at the other end that we stuffed up in such farcical fashion that it made you want to catch the early plane. A series of handballs left Fitzsimon walking in an open goal, but unfortunately not being made aware that there was an opponent right behind her. From the other end it looked like she was too close to miss, so I shouted “That’s more like it” a millisecond before the tackle mowed her down. The upside to being on grass, and with Brisbane fans a respectful distance away, was that I could flomp to the ground in frustration. On replay, I can see that if you were under oath at Footy Court you could argue that the ball hit her foot on the way down, rolling to Bannan on her own 10cm out, but morally you couldn’t argue the free.There was plenty of time to recover, but that blunder felt symptomatic of where the game was going. Brisbane had nicked goals out of nowhere, while we worked our arse off for one good chance then blew it in comical fashion. The ball stayed at our end but a Wacky Waving Inflatable Flailing Arm Tube Man would have been more chance of marking than anybody we had down there. You can win a game without forward 50 marks, it just puts a lot of reliance on goals plucked from the arse. And there we were, two goals down at quarter time of the Grand Final, being yelled at relentlessly by the world’s cheeriest ground announcer while baking like rotissierie chicken and wondering if there was something better going on at the shopping centre over the road. As much as I’d prefer to either have a designated seat or somewhere Row MMish to stand, you could get away with playing Grand Finals at a grassy knoll if spectators had the remotest decency and sense of occasion. I wouldn’t have minded being in enemy territory if you could confirm the enemy was Brisbane Lions and not Gilbert Sullivan, because the fans present were the biggest collection of theatregoers known to man.The greatest crime perpetrated by these people was to stand in front of you and have a casual chat while the game was going on. Forget that there was a Grand Final happening, just hang around gasbagging like you’re at a BBQ you peanuts. Which is a gasbagging and peanuts short of what I said to the two men in front of me when the second quarter was about to start. Interacting with fans is not my go, but nobody else seemed to care and without intervention they’d have stayed there forever. Then, of course, the siren went and nothing happened for about 30 seconds. You could see them considering whether to start saying things like “have you missed anything yet?”, or “is this exciting enough for you?”, at which point I’d have switched to low-blow personal sledging and probably been evicted.I didn’t understand at the time, and am no wiser having watched the replay, but somehow the best attack in the competition never kicked another goal. You’d never have guessed from the start of the second quarter, where we got what passed for a centre clearance in the circumstances only to be pinged holding the ball to gift them another chance. By now I was starting to get a bit nostalgic for playing the shit teams, and thinking how it good it was to sit at home and sulk in front of the TV.After all the false starts, various Christmases came at once when a lovely tap-down from Paxman allowed Hanks to stuff the ball right onto Harris’ chest 30 metres out directly in front. Much to the glee of the fans around me, who had decided to call a surprise Carnival of Hate, she missed. If my Plan B of kicking to marking forwards wasn’t going to work I was flummoxed.We didn’t look any more likely to kick a goal, but the midfield were starting to break even, Brisbane’s defence was starting to absord pressure, and we remained alive. Usually at this stage of a struggle to score I’d say ‘when all else is lost call in a legend’ and either Daisy or Paxy will kick a goal. This time it was ‘call in the foreign legion’, as cult figure Mackin unexpectedly cropped up. Bannan deserves credit for assisting it, putting in about four efforts before flipping the ball out to her running teammate and bingo, bango the margin was less than a straight kick.I take it the women are included in the post-2021 pledge to automatically make all premiership players life members when their careers end. I don’t think much of that idea no matter the gender, but am interested in the perversity of a player who first came to Australia in August leaving at the end of November with life membership in the bank.This was the goal that changed everything, and was solid reward for improved performance. Now everything that happened in the first quarter was irrelevant, and it didn’t hurt that their captain was injured in the same passage. Considering how much long we had the ball down there, one goal wasn’t a fantastic reward but more importantly nothing went in at the other end. We did have to survive one scare in the dying seconds when old mate Wardlaw finally got a chance courtesy of Gillard doing Gillardish things up the ground but grassed the mark.When the first hints of storm came at half time I thought everyone in the uncovered 99% of the ground would rush for the train station. It never went behind a few fat, menacing drops and the crowd was unmoved. I had to find somewhere to properly express myself in the event of a thrilling and/or controversial finish, and would like to thank the Demon Army for providing a safe space where I could leech onto their general presence and make sure somebody in the immediate area understood my feelings.After my earlier outburst about people standing illegally I was left open to charges of hypocrisy when the President parked herself practically right in front of me before the third quarter bounce. I was pondering whether to risk excommunication by asking her to move when she avoided a diplomatic incident by moving voluntarily.Further evidence against the zany, Trumpian idea that the umpires were helping us win came from West’s early kick to Hanks in front of goal not being deemed 15 metres. Perhaps it was 14.86 but would have been paid anywhere else on the ground. It was part of more forward half dominance, until much to my “I told you so” satisfaction, Harris marked a kick that never went as far as West’s. Then she tried to play on so ridiculously quickly that the player was still hanging off her from the contest and she could plausibly deny it. This time she kicked straight, and we were ahead. On a related note, I saw lots of people wearing a fugly, bootleg t-shirt of her that could only have been sold via Facebook ads. If you’ve ever wondered who falls for those crappy sponsored posts the answer is several Melbourne fans in the greater Ipswich area last Sunday.After doing all the hard work to get, and stay, in front (including narrowly surviving a touched kick) nothing would have been more typical Melbourne Football Club than conceding right at the end of the quarter. Or in this case after it, as Brisbane’s latest shot after the siren was the most realistic and gettable of them all. From 30 metres directly in front I was all but resigned to the result, but as the fairness and probity loving Brisbane fans behind sooked about the cheersquad waving a giant flag behind the kick, it missed. I’d like to think it was the flag that won it. Our lead survived, but spending the last couple of minutes under siege suggested to the nervous onlooker that we didn’t have much left in the tank. False alarm, there was plenty to go around. Two goals in two quarters was a great result for long-term AFLW hatewatchers and once a year sooks alike, but they can jointly piss up the nearest rope. There’s a difference between players missing set shots from the square then shanking the kickout on the full at right angles, and a grim pressure struggle where every goal is worth is weight in gold. You’ll never convert the skeptical, but I look at it like Halloween – you’re more than welcome not to enjoy it, just don’t be the miserable kent who sets out to ruin the game for everyone else. I’d still like to commission research to determine crossover between the saddest of these gits and people who vote for political parties with ‘Freedom’ in their name.These people could never understand, but I was STRESSED AS FUCK at three quarter time. We’d literally come too far to lose this in disappointing circumstances, and after dominating through the middle quarters any result short of victory would have sent me off the deep end. Cue the most knife-edge quarter imaginable. Maybe neutrals weren’t invested enough to appreciate it, but I was hanging on every kick, and continually looking at the time ticking towards 15:00, safe in the knowledge that there would be stuff all time on. If anybody looked to be tiring in the conditions it was Brisbane, but the longer we went without putting the game away the longer they stayed a chance of throwing one lucky punch to nick it.No moment seriously impacted the result under the last 30 seconds, but there was a moment of excitement after Mackin was caught in a failed dummy. The umpires got confused as to who was in charge, Bannan spotted one of them calling play-on and ran through the ball-carrier like a rocket launcher hitting a tank. In normal circumstances this would have been either 50 or holding the ball, but ended in the Brisbane player being sent back to take her kick like nothing had happened. I saw a post during the week about a fan being served at Rebel Sport by Bannan two days before the Grand Final, and if this was anything to go by she should ditch retail, join the police and start pummelling Victoria’s crime rate.An exclamation point winning goal would have been nice. Zanker had a set shot that she aimed perfectly but just didn’t have enough leg to put through. If you know what to look for you can see me in the crowd ready to go absolutely apeshit if this went through, before slumping back down again as it was rushed through. Like everyone else in our side that didn’t rack up bulk possessions, Zanker was ignored in best player calculations, but was really good. I don’t know if there was something wrong with Lauren Pearce, but she spent a lot of time rucking, and also pulled in a lot of crucial touches around the ground.I didn’t know there were only two minutes left, but it was obvious that we were getting close to the end. It would have been a good time to lock the ball inside 50, but Brisbane quickly took off and reached the wing unimpeded. Thank god that a kick which might have unlocked their path to goal missed the target and bounced straight to Hore, who was caught high in a tackle. Her kick was picked off, but we lived to fight again. Possibly out of guilt at the Bannan missile tackle debacle, the umpires then completely ignored the ball being piffed over Goldrick’s head after a free, leaving us still stuck on the defensive side of the ground.At last, it was time to open the MFC White Pages, scroll to ‘L’ and dial a legend. After struggling one-on-one as a forward for most of the day, Daisy went big when it counted and plowed into a contest with zero regard for own safety, breaking up what would have been a certain mark and another forward thrust. Bannan and Gay both had half chances to seal it, but the second miss troublingly left Brisbane kicking in with what turned out to be 36 seconds left. A lucky bounce let them get a kick forward but Hore was parked behind the ball, Hanks worked her arse off to mark her kick and if I was watching on TV I’d have known we were safe.Instead, despite somebody in the distance yelling about there being 30 seconds left, my ringpiece was clenched so tight it could have produced diamonds. I might have been immediately behind our cheersquad, but was still wedged between two families of wholesome Brisbane supporters so was trying not to be a complete bastard. By this point heat, humidity, and sporting tension had gotten to me so I probably wouldn’t have been able to hold back the anti-social behaviour if we’d lost. I was so delirious that as a Fitzsimon snap bobbled towards goal I was too focused on it to notice that the siren had gone. The first realisation that we’d won was when Bannan let out a clenched fist, almighty roar in our general direction. They cut away before you saw where the kick went, but as it failed to score thank god she wasn’t shooting to win it. Cue a little bit of carnage, and surprise interaction with strangers. I got so excited singing the song that when a Channel 7 bloke stuck his camera in my face I went with it instead of hiding. Thankfully they didn’t show it, saving me from being permanently attached to a premiership moment looking like a dong. Later the party atmosphere got to me again, and as manners had been thrown out the window anyway I snuck my head into a group photo of the Demon Army and Daisy Pearce. No regrets, when else am I ever going to be in the same picture (even peripherally) as a legend?Of course, it wouldn’t be a Melbourne premiership without the presentations turning into a farce. The only difference here was the absence of Basil Zempilas, and a Brisbane captain going through the longest concession speech of all time. I don’t envy the job of having to speak after losing a Grand Final but you’d think the instinct would be to congratulate the winners, thank the sponsors, promise to come back next year, and leave. Instead she may as well have thanked every Brisbane member from Aaronson to Zakowski.Then it was time for the Ms. Norm, and while I was ready to howl in ecstasy when Gillard was rightfully announced I’d have accepted any of our lot. The Brisbane winner played well, but the announcement fell flatter than a plateful of piss because there were only about 103 home fans left in the ground. She briefly livened up proceedings by telling us she’d only just avoided having a Chris Mew, before picking up where the captain left off and mentioning every person who’d ever visited South East Queensland except Joh Bjelke-Petersen.Eventually the winning side was asked to be involved, and obviously respectful of her teammates itching to have a massive piss-on in the rooms she kept her remarks to the point. The big difference in winning Grand Finals was this time the coach got to speak, and also showed admirable brevity so that Brisbane didn’t have to camp out for the night listening to us rub the result in. The weather didn’t care for their feelings and exploding red and blue streamers wafted directly into the deject Lions group.In case you thought proceedings had gotten back on track, the individual presentation of players was the biggest post-match Grand Final shambles since Peter Moore threw his loser medal to the crowd. Anyone who has ever watched one of these ceremonies knows how it works, which apparently didn’t include the person who’d been hired to do it here. First she promised to read the names in ‘chronological order’ (?), then took off saying them in numerical order at world record pace. She was going so fast that it got to #7 Tayla Harris and #3 Maddie Gay hadn’t yet completed her medal-hat handover with the kid. Somebody wisely chipped in to suggest slowing down, causing her to realise it was going tits up and make a self-deprecating comment. It was tremendously undignified, but she’d probably have read out I.P Freely if it was on the sheet. No doubt Channel 7 would have preferred Telstra Premiership Cup Ambassador (this was a real thing) Abbey Holmes to do it, if they could have stopped her wandering around confused as to why Adelaide hadn’t won.Finally, because they couldn’t locate the recruiter for the Springfield Communist Party, the players were free to go nuts. During the raucous post-match I just stood up the back applauding like a bandwagon live attendee, watching our team interact with the cheersquad in a series of the most wholesome footy moments since the Casey player’s dog ran on the field. The men appreciate the week in/week out, around the country support they get from these fans, but I can tell it meant the world to the women It’s one thing to be there for the win, but this will also be a cherished memory.After getting within sight range of a recently won AFL premiership cup at last, I had no more contribution to make. My voice was gone, my core temperature was above Fukushima reactor three, and the happy memories were in the bank. The added bonus to hanging around so long – single digit numbers of home fans on the train back. And that was it. The prospective storm didn’t drop for another 24 hours, I had a brief but fruitful session at the State Library the next day scanning for coverage of our first game against the Bears at Carrara, did some other limited tourist stuff and came home. As far as interstate Grand Final thrills and spills go it didn’t come close to sneaking into WA for live flag then spending three months in the clink, but for where I’m at right now it was perfect.If there’s anything to complain about, and there really isn’t, it’s that we did it in this weird year that will forever be referred to as ‘Season 7’. It’ll always be the 2022 Spring season to me. It won’t make it any less ludicrous if they come back in a year with ‘Season 8’ as if they’re naming Wrestlemanias rather than sports seasons. Here’s to us winning a weirdly named cup that will baffle people in the future, before sanity is restored and the 2023 premiership is awarded. Preferably also to us.What a day, what a team. I’m so happy for the originals who have been there from the start, but also the great players picked up on the way, all of who are doing this part-time. They might have had to go back to jobs on Monday, but every one of them has their place in history. Regardless of how long their careers last, each has the most important words in footy etched next to their name forever – ‘premiership player’. And in a completely platonic and non-threatening way I love them all for it.2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Tahlia Gillard4 – Eliza West3 – Shelley Heath2 – Eden Zanker1 – Tyla HanksApologies to Purcell, Gay, Birch, Chaplin, Hore and most everyone else.Final leaderboardIn the most tricky finish to a Demonblog awards season yet, the result came down to a game where you could throw a blanket over a dozen players for the last vote. Sadly for Purcell she was just edged out by Hanks, leaving us with the first major award tie in the 17 year (!!!!!) history of this page. Congratulations to both on fine seasons, and to our other confirmed winner this week, Demonblog’s own Tahlia Gillard, who ended up romping the Rising Star.27 – Tyla Hanks, Olivia Purcell23 – Karen Paxman22 – Eliza West20 – Lily Mithen15 – Tayla Harris, Kate Hore12 – Libby Birch (WINNER: Defender of the Year)10 – Tahlia Gillard (WINNER: Rising Star Award)7 – Eden Zanker6 – Shelley Heath5 – Sarah Lampard4 – Maddie Gay 1 – Alyssa Bannan, Lauren PearceGoal of the Week Considering the gravity of the event there’s not much on offer here. Obviously, in the battle between running goal and set shot from the square, motion gets the nod, so Blaithin Mackin can add this honour to her premiership medal and TBC life membership. No change to the overall top three, meaning it’s a Bannan quinella at the top. Congratulations to the excitement machine, who takes home the annual award of a lifetime supply of Jolt Cola.1st – Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 2nd – Alyssa Bannan vs Adelaide (QF)3rd – Eden Zanker vs Gold CoastNext weekThis was my 50th post for 2022, so the first thing I’ll be doing is not writing any for a few months. Apologies to anyone who is still interested in an End of Season Spectacular, it’s just not going to happen. Please do expect some demonwiki.org updates, starting with adding the words ‘premiership player’ to a lot of profiles, but also historical stuff. I’m currently doing the 1996 papers so get ready for a spot of merger chat. But not for a bit, let a tired old man rest.Final ThoughtsDespite ending the day in a state of near total physical/mental collapse and losing my hotel key it was the best time I’ve had in Brisbane since Expo ’88.

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Once more with feeling

In the grand scheme of Australian sporting schedule cockups, you don’t have to wait for all the good grounds in Queensland to be booked on Grand Final Day, just come to my place when the joyous occasion of a Prelim intersects with an equally important toddler related event, leaving my house full of people who had absolutely no interest in the composition of the AFLW Grand Final.Of course this wasn’t going to stop me from watching, and I absolutely turfed my dignity out the window by casually slipping the TV on at 3.09pm. The discreet option would have been to sneak into another room and watch on my phone but I thought it was time to be out and proud as somebody who would give equal weight to a footy game and a small child’s milestone event. Deft management of the schedule ensured that all the really important stuff was out of the way by the first bounce, but I was still left trying to watch while interacting with normal people and not flagrantly yelling obscenities at the TV until after half time.The third quarter was a great time to be able to fret via the medium of offensive language, because what turned out to be the greatest defensive performance since Rorke’s Drift looked a lot like North pounding away with repeat inside 50s and threatening to blow the game to pieces at any moment. I nervously used all the seven words you can’t say on television, but somehow we only conceded two behinds from 18 attacks and only conceded two behinds. This tough effort didn’t win the game on its own, but it helped kill North off, setting the table for what happened in the last quarter.Now, for the third time in 18 months a Melbourne team is playing a Grand Final. Make if four if you count our Putinesque annexation of Casey. ‘What a time to be alive’ was already achieved on 25/09/2021 but for those of us who celebrate AFLW this would be a delightful exclamation mark.With our old friends Adelaide on the scrapheap, and a rematch with lone conquerors Brisbane awaiting, we may have started favourites but I wasn’t taking anything for granted. It’s easy to be confident once the win is in the bank, but I was shitting it about losing. Eighth placed teams shouldn’t be scary for one that missed top spot by a literal point, but there was no doubt North was the fourth best side in the comp. NQR competition structure and fixturing buried them in eighth (just a casual 1.5 wins and 80 something percentage points ahead of ninth), but they’d have been worthy Grand Finalists if it had gone that way. But it didn’t, so in the most respectful possible terms, bad luck.Considering how short AFLW season is, it feels like a lifetime since we nearly lost to North in Round 2. Remember the controversy about making it a curtain raiser to the men’s final, when they were still a flag chance but we still weren’t convinced by the women. The M bombed out quickly, and the W went on to lose just one game and achieve the best defensive record in the history of the competition. It’s insanity to compare AFLW and AFL stats, but if you were so inclined best of luck finding somebody at any point of the leagues’s history that let in just 18.4 points per week. As an admirer of the defensive arts dating back to a brief fascination with Phil Gilbert, it won’t surprise you to find out that I. Love. This. Shit.After our dud start against Adelaide, I wasn’t surprised to concede the first goal. That game gave me confidence that we could return serve against top opposition, if we could get the ball forward. There wasn’t much of that early, as the ball stayed camped at North’s end. We were turning them back effectively – something that would happen x18 the next time they kicked to right of screen – but struggled to get the ball clear. Our play-on tactics look good when they work, but it’s harder to get acres of space to run into against good sides.We were finding it hard to move the ball, with regular accumulators Purcell and West being jumped on before, during, and after getting it, so sneaking one at the other end felt like thievery. In what Jane Bunn would describe as ‘blustery’ conditions, Fitzsimon’s set shot was pinpoint and we were back on level terms.For all the scorn poured on Casey for being a wind tunnel, and suggestions that AFLW should be played at decent grounds more often, there was an absolute gale blowing through Princes Park. The cameras Channel 7 used for the play were stable, albeit with the usual issues of zooming in way to far on the ball so you didn’t know what was happening two metres away, but their Celebrity Cam that perused the stands looking for well known figures was so shaky you couldn’t focus for long without risking a spew. If that first goal felt like we’d been lucky because North couldn’t convert, getting another was Ronald Biggs, the Great Bookie Robbery and Oceans 11 rolled into one. This time it was Mithen from a standing start, suggesting it was going to be one of those days where the goals come from unexpected sources. This is a good thing at any time, but especially in a competition where most games don’t break a 50 point aggregate. It also helps when your actual forwards are hit and miss – Harris hasn’t kicked a goal for weeks, Daisy had to roam up the ground to get involved, and all of Hore, Bannan and Zanker were in and out across the afternoon. Like Lampard getting two against Adelaide, anything unexpected is a bonus.Speaking of Harris, things got more complicated when she did herself a shoulder mischief in a ruck contest. The contact looked innocuous, the reaction showed that the result was extremely painful, and she basically played with one arm for the rest of the day. You can’t say I wasn’t thinking about her, because my first thought was “well, at least she doesn’t have to lose another Grand Final”. After three in six seasons, a fourth might be too much. Rene Kink lost five so hopefully she’s not on the phone to him for support on Monday morning.For want of anywhere else to put it, Paxman Head Injury Watch can report that she had the bandage off during a midweek media appearance and the wound looks horrific. I’m not sure how it can be still be so bad weeks after the contact, unless she’s headbutting lockers pre-match Goldberg style. If we win the cup they should wrap it in tape too. Off-season plastic surgery issues aside, Paxy was very good again here, but the long-term future is Tyla Hanks. She isn’t quite at the Clayton Oliver sixth sense level in traffic or possession level, but looks so comfortable with the ball in traffic and chaos swirling around. She also had 12 tackles. What a legend.After briefly going behind again, the cavalcade of unusual goalkickers continued with Casey Sherriff, and we were never headed again. Not without one of the most heroic defensive performances of all time. A goalless third quarter is gold for people who hatewatch AFLW/do reflex snarky replies whenever it’s mentioned, but it was the equivalent of an exciting 0-0 in soccer. Yes, such thing does exist, when one or both teams have dozens of chances but can’t break through. You don’t need a blow-by-blow description of this quarter – just imagine North pounding the ball forward a million times, but not finding targets. We’d dash out of defence, break down somewhere between half-back and half-forward, rinse, repeat and do it all again. The rare times we did burst forward were for nowt, and usually didn’t leave the ball down there long enough to put any pressure on North. There was one particularly rotten one where Bannan did all the running, had nobody to kick to, and so just punted it down the throat of a defender in her own postcode of free space. It didn’t help that Zanker had to be sacrificed to the ruck after Harris’ injury, but I felt like we were going to be trying to defend a lead of a couple of points until the final siren. This was no way to live, but getting to the last change three points ahead was practically a miracle under these circumstances. Hands up if you had any confidence from here. I thought we might win, but not without a death struggle that went down to the final siren. In the end, it was reasonably easy, aided by North failing to score again. Daisy missed one chance to kill them off with an irregular attempt at a close range snap that missed everything. It the end it proved a handy OOF. Hore’s strong mark and goal gave us breathing space and set Pearce up for the in-game redemption story. She’s just going at this point, but her winning goal was a thing of beauty, running away from an opponent, breaking a tackle, turning, and hoofing it through and snapping the shit out of it from 30.Start your Simpsons gags, because we’re off to Springfield. Quite literally in my case. As Daisy’s goal cross the line I fist pumped my way through the living room, and went straight for the phone to see how much flights to Brisbane cost. By the siren I’d gotten over my all-consuming inner tightarse and booked. Stick your ‘Move It To Marvel’ campaign where it fits, I’m fully invested in self-interest now.One game shy of seven complete seasons of being stitched up from attending games at every opportunity by family commitments, work, or the fact that Casey Fields may as well be in South America for its proximity to me, I’ve finally found a game I can go to. It’ll cost several hundreds of dollars more than just getting in the car and driving to Cranbourne (although with petrol prices…) and probably take the same time, but the convenient meeting of last week of season and first week of holidays gives me the chance to go.And, despite North fans sooking hard about umpiring, nobody can deny that we deserve a spot. There’s only four good teams in the competition, but two of them have to miss out. Unlike most seasons the standouts will play for the cup, and I can’t wait to have another massive crack at the Lions on a deck that looks like the fifth day of a test match in Lahore. Bring on next weekend ASAP.2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Tyla Hanks4 – Lily Mithen3 – Karen Paxman2 – Tahlia Gillard1 – Shelley HeathApologies to Birch, Chaplin (minutes points for saying we ‘verse’ North in a post-match interview), Mackin and ZankerLeaderboardWhat seemed off is now very much back on, with the last two survivors pocketing votes and the leader missing out. There are still multiple permutations that could land us this website’s first triple dead heat. As long as we win I don’t care if Coco the Clown gets five votes but it will keep things interesting. Congratulations to Libby Birch, now confirmed winner of the Defender of the Year award, and to her fellow defensive Tower of Power, Tahlia Gillard who can’t do worse than a share of the Rising Star. I’ve got hopes of a heartwarming Mackin BOG that forces a draw but won’t let that unduly influence proceedings.27 – Olivia Purcell— Can still win —26 – Tyla Hanks23 – Karen Paxman— Cannot still win —20 – Lily Mithen18 – Eliza West15 – Tayla Harris13 – Kate Hore12 – Libby Birch (WINNER: Defender of the Year)5 – Tahlia Gillard (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Rising Star Award), Sarah Lampard, Eden Zanker4 – Maddie Gay3 – Shelley Heath1 – Alyssa Bannan, Lauren PearceGoal of the Week For sentiment and context you can’t beat Daisy. Nothing to trouble the Bannan heavy top three but vital in the context of our season. If this is the last goal she kicks for us – and by christ I hope it isn’t because a couple will come in handy on Sunday – it was memorable. IT JUST HAD TO BE DAISY!The Captain has kicked the sealer and Melbourne are into another Grand Final 🤯#ColesGoals | #AFLW | #AFLWFinals | #AFLWDeesNorth pic.twitter.com/gwU4Y6fehC— AFL Women’s (@aflwomens) November 19, 20221st – Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 2nd – Alyssa Bannan vs Adelaide (QF)3rd – Eden Zanker vs Gold CoastMedia WatchPatrick Dangerfield’s brand of Full Frontal level comedy usually shits me but on special comments he acted normally and was quite enjoyable. I look forward to a couple of years when he’s promoted post-retirement to their main roster and is encouraged – usually by his fellow callers – to be as absurdly wacky as possible, give everyone the shits, and ends up hosting ‘Roaming Danger’ when Big Turd finally spontaneously combusts.Next weekMuch like winning the men’s variety interstate due to a global pandemic, I didn’t grow up expecting my first taste of live MFC Grand Final action to be through a women’s team. And if you’d told me it would be the first game at a venue somewhere in the Brisbane suburbs, in late November, on a ground where the turf was laid a month ago, and where there are only 600 seats I’d have called you a dickhead. I’d have also called you a dickhead for running a league and failing to account for one of the best sides making. Understandably, the Gabba is out for cricket, but Carrara is also taken by something called Festival X. Lucky they’re not holding it in a club. The good news is that every sniffer dog in the state of Queensland will be occupied so feel free to show up at our game carrying a trafficable quantity of gear.Once absurd suggestions of moving the game to Cairns were ruled out, Brisbane’s new training ground (and, to be fair, future home of AFLW and Reserves games) was confirmed as the venue. Of course, when I say ‘confirmed’, I’m expecting that several hundreds of dollars invested in flights and hotels will go up in smoke when the surface is declared unfit on Wednesday and the game is relocated to a region where there’s more than two suitable grounds. Like Melbourne.I’ve been laughing at the idea of ‘venue subject to change’ for years, but the joke will be on me if it winds up here. There’s no way the league would refund you if that happened, but I note that while their ticketing FAQ says “the AFL reserves its right to change the AFL fixture at its discretion and without notice. The AFL will not be liable for changes made to the AFL fixture.”, the actual terms and conditions linked to only say they won’t be liable for changes made due to COVID border restrictions. I expect their response to that loophole would be to make you spend more on lawyers than you paid to go their in the first place. Maybe Peter Lawsuits will take up the case for fans instead of suing the club again?I’ll remain positive for now, but be on guard for a stitch up until about 2.39pm AEST on Sunday. Regardless of whether the ground holds up, what says Grand Final more than a ground where 7400 people will be standing. So far, so Casey Fields, but at least this joint has a train station and it won’t be freezing cold. Instead, we’ll stand outside with no shelter and die of heatstroke so swings and roundabouts.Here’s an artist’s impression of how it’s supposed to look. I’ll be the guy awkwardly reacting as if he’s standing the mark, you can be the lady in the background who looks like she’s demanding holding the ball, and if any of us can effectively get food, drink, or take a slash with running water it will be a miracle.Second to the Death Valley Docklands style turf chat is the small matter of playing a Grand Final against the only side to beat us all season. You’ll recall that day we were without Tayla Harris, went three goals up, then fell in a crater.Based on that, and predicted hot weather, Brisbane will certainly be expected to win. I’m quietly hopeful though (which is a few steps below quiet confidence). Harris might only have one arm but she hasn’t kicked a goal for weeks and we’ve found alternative avenues. This statement may backfire when we lose the AFLW equivalent of the 1989 Grand Final, but we’re in a good position because the better your defence the less you’ve got to score to win.If Harris is fit and nobody else gets hurt midweek there won’t be any changes. I maintain that if Duffy is alive she’d probably be a better forward on paper than Daisy at the moment, but even half-heartedly suggesting a switch would lead to somebody assassinating you in the street with a poison umbrella. And you’d deserve it. That would be like trying to turf Nathan Jones at the last minute if he’d made it back into the side in late 2021 – with the added bonus of her being the serving captain. She brings great aura, and as discovered on Saturday can still do some damage if given space, so form an orderly queue behind the legend and let’s get the fairytale finish that Jones was denied.Given my travelling schedule there may be an interim post on Sunday night, but the full enchilada won’t be up until Wednesday at the earliest. If it arrives before that you’ll know I’ve entirely run out of things to do in Brisbane (which doesn’t seem very hard) and am trying to stave off the temptation to try autoerotic asphyxiation.Final ThoughtsRegardless of what happens at the local park next week, we’ve had a wonderful season in an otherwise stagnant year for the competition. We may never get the opportunity to be this good again, so why not make it the nearest thing to a perfect season and win a shock flag? I fully expect the result will be decided by a fluky bounce off some lumpy turf, and will not complain in the slightest if it goes our way.

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For a feud dollars more

One way or the other we’ve seen off every decent in the competition since 2017, except Adelaide. Even Brisbane, who could easily beat us to a flag in three weeks, were toppled in a final last year. But, until Friday night we’d never beaten the Crows in a seriously important game. Round 1 this season was good, the mid-2021 win even better, but they’ve had us on a leash when it counted. There was the humbling in the last round of 2019, the 2021 Prelim disaster, and a Grand Final where we escaped humiliation but never looked any reasonable chance of winning.All this has left me with both fear towards, and hatred of Adelaide AFLW. Regardless of the fact that we could very well play them again in a Grand Final (and if we learnt anything from the men’s season it was not to prematurely claim superiority over a side that hasn’t been eliminated yet), it might be time to start treating them like everybody else. Coincidentally, the aura started to fade just as they had to start sharing players with Port Adelaide, and have gone from an unstoppable juggernaut to just one of the – admittedly minuscule – teams who deserve to be at the top of the ladder.Beating them at our last start was irrelevant here. 10 weeks ago may as well be a lifetime, especially coming in off the back of the easiest finals lead-in of all time. Maybe somebody got to play Footscray, North and Hawthorn in consecutive weeks at the end of 1927 but I bet they didn’t hold all of them + and one other side scoreless in both the first and last quarters. The dream run of the millenium saw us fall a point short of finishing top and left us vulnerable to the biggest non-drug related comedown in history. Now we’ve come back from the dead to win in heroic fashion, put ourselves on what appears to be the weaker side of the finals draw and the sun came up Saturday morning in red and blue.It’s easy to talk like this now, but cross to me halfway through the first quarter and I was having kittens. Starting favourites was understandable, but after thrashing Hidem, Foldem and Flee in glorified training runs, I didn’t consider us dead certainties like the bookies. Sports betting is a cancer, and I’d never bet against my own side but still perked up at Adelaide paying $4.20 to win. If that’s the scale they were grading on, West Coast must have been about 200-1 last week.My discomfort with starting raging favourites against a defending premier who’d finished one spot below us on the ladder went into overdrive when we conceded the quickest goal in league history. Purcell won it from the bounce, but her handball was picked off, Adelaide pelted forward for the opener, and I swore in front of the kids.Couldn’t go forever with other teams failing to score in the opening quarter, but this was a bit ridiculous. It still left us with a good recent first quarter average, so no harm done as long as we didn’t spend the next five minutes under peak defensive stress, eventually conceding a second goal and confirming that you can’t actually play the shit teams every week.Initially, it didn’t look like we had any hope of escape. It was a lot like that 2021 Prelim, and consistent with Adelaide’s status as a grown up, competent, side, they didn’t allow the sort of freewheelin’, piss takin’ run as the dud sides, instantly burying anybody who touched the ball. It wasn’t until we got running that things started going well, showing that the Crows had the right tactical idea but just couldn’t drag it out across four quarters. For now, there was a bit of tits up about us. Even on the rare occasions we escaped their clutches and got forward, it looked unlikely that anyone would convert.By the end we’d found a multi-pronged forward line – including from some random sources that nobody saw coming – but at first Harris and Pearce, D were miles off it. Harris has an excuse for going goalless a third week in a row because she ended up doing a lot of rucking after Pearce, L hurt her shoulder (and did a bloody good job of it), but hasn’t looked her usual terrifying self inside 50 for weeks. With her goes about 99% of our contested marking power, so you can see why I had so little faith in overcoming an early deficit. This is also partly due to me being a massive, yellow streaked, coward. Which is why I was almost ready to scuttle the fleet and head for the lifeboats when their ruck shoved Pearce out of a ruck contest and snapped a third. At the time I was outraged, but in their defence the umpires did ignore LP doing the exact same thing later. Even with umpire whinging removed, it was an especially painful goal to concede because it put the brakes on our first decent patch of play all night. We’d just narrowly missed goals when an end-to-end move saw Zanker dispose of her opponent in the marking contest but drop the mark, and Mackin almost got to a bouncing ball in the square but ended up kneeing it through. She nearly killed a defender in the process, which might have come in handy.These half chances were as good as it got, so thank god the backline held firm under pressure and stopped us letting any more in. Birch was incredible again, but while they’ll be pushed out of the votes, a word please for Chaplin and Gillard who were also fantastic in helping stop the Crows early, and almost completely blanketing them after quarter time. Chaplin also got genuine laughs telling the joke in the huddle before the third quarter, so that’s another win for her. Not bad for somebody who was delisted without playing a game nine months ago.Already three goals down, it also looked like we’d lose Lily Mithen, seemingly knocked into oblivion in a collision. That’s just what we needed, not only a player down for the night but probably next week as well. She might have kept her head wrapped and loaded the bandage with metal 1980s wrestling style, but turned out to be naturally made of iron, returning with no ill-effects to be one of our best players. After Paxman instantly bounced back from a head knock that still has her head bandaged several weeks later, you start to wonder if they’re playing to a different concussion protocol in AFLW. Or do lighter bodies mean less damage in collisions? Ask Dr. McCrory.Finally, deep into the quarter and with the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse roaring down Royal Parade, something finally went our way. The second movement of an otherwise innocuous tackle on Harris made contact with her back, giving us a cheap, nasty, and free chance to get on the board. If anyone in this league is going to effortlessly hammer through a goal from that distance it’s Tayla, but perhaps put off by the big Carlton logo behind the goal, she kicked it like a bag of potatoes and barely registered a point. That was our absolute lowest point of the night, and where you could have been forgiven for throwing your hands up in the air and walking out of either Princes Park or your own house. 90% of the time you won’t go wrong following that instinct, but to the credit of everyone involved the next three quarters couldn’t have gone much better. We’d been overwhelmed, but the quality of game itself was an astronomical improvement on the dreck served up by half the competition. Makes you wonder what it would be like if these were the matchups you got in Division 1 every week why the rot played each other. The terminally miserable are never going to care, but you’ve got more hope of retaining open-minded viewers after this than some woeful slopfest featuring Carlton and Essendon.Then, just when you thought all was lost and the women were heading into the previously male domain of straight set exits, we belatedly turned up and Adelaide couldn’t cope. I’m not into claiming game-changing moments that don’t lead to a score, but if there’s ever been a team-lifting moment that ended in a turnover, this was it. Alyssa Bannan turned on the jets down the wing but there’s no highlights on Sarah Allan’s watch 🙅‍♀️#AFLW | #AFLWFinals pic.twitter.com/woJgVRQWLQ— AFL Women’s (@aflwomens) November 4, 2022 Bannan is like an electrical storm, she shows up at random but offers a spectacular visual effect. Six bounces in one run were just two short of the leading total for our male players across 24 games. I don’t blame her for not making perfect decisions after having just charged down the ground like a juiced up racehorse, but it’s still a shame that the kick found Hore stuck behind two opponents instead of the three players standing on their own. Even if she’d shanked it to one of them due to fatigue, there would have been enough doubt to declare it the greatest run since Cathy Freeman.As well as the game went from here, it’s fair to admit that a stroke of luck got us going. Purcell did well to walk out of traffic before her snap, but the kick only narrowly avoided a defender who should have rushed it through (and may very well have, thank god for the lack of video replay), and still had take the right bounce in the square. No complaints from me, the way we’d gone until then I’d have taken the cheapest, most administrative 50 in the history of the game to get us moving.Now there was room to run that didn’t exist in the first quarter, and Mackin increased the available space with some of the widest dummy sells in the history of the game. One of them saw her tilt so far to the side that a light breeze might have left her cartwheeling across the ground. It was genuinely thrilling stuff, and in conjunction with Goldrick fanging off half back at maximum speed, this is the greatest overseas combination we’ve had since Stynes and Wight.Things were getting interesting in unexpected ways. The world’s most underrated player Sarah Lampard previously had one goal in 50 games (and even that was a free hit against first expansion slurry West Coast), but wandered forward to thump one from distance. This was a fine time to try something new, bringing the margin back to under a goal and all but wiping out our dreadful start. If the plan had been to run Adelaide off their feet it was starting to work. With Daisy Pearce struggling to have an impact we still lacked firepower, but namesake Lauren had no such issues, doing a marginally less obvious shove from a ruck contest than the earlier one, and putting us in front.It would be an understatement to say I didn’t foresee the game flipping on its head like this. Instead of  holding a side scoreless in the opening term we did it in the second, but it’s not like Adelaide didn’t have chances, it’s just that the backline was on fire. Birch is so good it’s not funny, and at this stage I’d like to remind you that we effectively got her for pick 8, with about as many years left to play. That’ll do nicely.Considering where we’d started, it was an achievement to be ahead at half time. Without any sort of wind that might encourage the Crows to run up another big score to the left of screen, we escaped the first 15 seconds without conceding this time and things were looking up. Not that the game was won yet, far from it, but we had more run, looked more likely to score, and their attacks were being turned away with the greatest of ease. Enter greatest show on turf Bannan again, to kick her first (complete with an elite finger aloft celebration) and increase the margin to eight. It might have been RIP Adelaide if Hore hadn’t missed a sitter from directly in front not long after. Alternatively, it might have prompted the Crows to kick nine unanswered goals and win in a canter so best consider it part of the plan and move on. I was NOT interested in this way of thinking when they flung straight down the other end and immediately kicked another.Now our lead was four points at the last change, with no recent experience of a tough last quarter, West off the ground clutching her shin like Nancy Kerrigan, and the Adelaide coach declaring that he was confident his side was going to run the game out better. I was, quite frankly, shitting it. Like almost every scenario involving this side, it was premature panic. Our run of keeping sides scoreless in the last quarter ended, but only to the tune of one point, while down the other end we piled on three to win in what would have seemed like absurdly comfortable fashion an hour earlier.In a completely random turn of events, Lampard got the party started with her second. I haven’t seen such an unexpected goalkicking rush in a final since Sam Weideman, but at least he was expected to be a forward. Her set shot was so good that I’d encourage more forward excursions in the future. The final death blow was struck by one of the all-time zaniest AFLW goals. With 10 minutes left, and a 10 point lead, we were by now means safe. And when Bannan marked on the edge of her range I didn’t hold out much hope, then she deviated to the right mid-run up, and sprinted just close enough to goal that she still had to kick over the outstretched hands of a second defender. It was absolutely glorious, but you can understand why that would make the opposition shut up shop and start thinking about the flight home. The last remaining interest from the Crows was to start niggling, as if they hadn’t pissed away a match-winning lead by playing three quarters with the handbrake on, but we refused to show anything but the most token interest. Zanker chucked another one on for good measure, and against all odds we’d pissed it in. Not really payback for the 2002 Semi Final but it’ll do for now.2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Lily Mithen4 – Tyla Hanks3 – Libby Birch2 – Olivia Purcell1 – Sarah LampardApologies to almost everyone, but especially Chaplin, Gillard and Mackin.LeaderboardNow there’s a maximum of two games to play, everyone outside the top three is gorn. Realistically, Purcell must win this from here. I would never have seen it coming pre-season, but accumulation is boss. 27 – Olivia Purcell— Needs two more games —21 – Tyla Hanks20 – Karen Paxman— Abandon at hope ye below here —18 – Eliza West16 – Lily Mithen15 – Tayla Harris13 – Kate Hore12 – Libby Birch (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Defender of the Year)5 – Sarah Lampard, Eden Zanker4 – Maddie Gay, 3 – Tahlia Gillard (LEADER: Rising Star Award)2 – Shelley Heath1 – Alyssa Bannan, Lauren PearceGoal of the Week Congratulations to Lampard for being apologised to in a different category this week. I loved to see her smash through the first like her leg was a baseball bat, but good luck beating the Bannan extravaganza.   Alyssa Bannan just loves the big stage!#ColesGoals | #AFLW | #AFLWFinals pic.twitter.com/44IdWwpNMs— AFL Women’s (@aflwomens) November 4, 2022 I liked it so much, that I’m promoting her to second place on the overall leaderboard. You can’t beat the game winning supersnap against North, but this was tremendously enjoyable in its own way. The Princes Park ground crew is still trying to unscrew the player on the mark out of the turf. 1st – Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 2nd – Alyssa Bannan vs Adelaide (QF)3rd – Eden Zanker vs Gold CoastMedia WatchThere must have been somebody watching who thought commentator Alister Nicholson was the same guy who used to play full back for us. He was good, joining the list of Channel 7’s perfectly sensible commentators who you’ll never see during the men’s season because they prefer blithering idiots with ‘personality’ over competent media professionals. Next weekNothing. Have a well-deserved rest. Cheer for whoever you think we’re a better chance of winning against…… the following weekNow that we’ve lost our chance of finally playing Geelong, it’s a Prelim against Richmond or North. We can beat Richmond but the Roos would be interesting. A little too interesting for my liking, so let’s get rid of them ASAP. As long as West’s leg didn’t fall apart when the tape came off, I don’t see any reason for changes. After demanding Duffy for the first half of the season she might have missed her chance now. If you were playing a video game and there was no element of sentiment involved, you’d probably say she was more likely to kick goals than Daisy at the moment, but the captain is the heart of this side so she stays no matter what.We’ve had a good run with injuries, and have natural replacements available for each part of the ground. Duffy as the replacement forward, Ivey in the middle, Caris in the ruck, and Wilson or Brown in defence. Other than Duffy, none are nearly as good as what they’d replace but are good enough to play a role in the machine. What we’ve got on field is a 50/50 proposition if we end up playing Brisbane at the end, but for now it should take care of any of the other options.Next question is where the Prelim will be played. Sorry to people who enjoy games played in Falkland Islands style conditions but Casey is out. With the Big Boring League a month away, I expect Docklands is also off, so back to Princes Park I suppose? Not ideal, but having won comfortably there twice this year there are worse places they could send us. This team has so much heart that I’m confident they could play in a minefield and it wouldn’t affect them, so here’s to avoiding shitting of bed in a fortnight and we just might get another look at a Grand Final.Final ThoughtsEight years of membership later, my daughter still couldn’t give a rats for footy of any gender (and is still bitter that I wouldn’t let her go to bed before the final siren on 25/09/21. Bad luck.) but has been around long enough to pick up the vibe. When I offered the view that the women might win the flag she said, “that wouldn’t mean as much to you as the other one though”. Which is true, but that’s like being upset because your Powerball win is inferior to the GDP of the European Union. It would still mean a tremendous amount because I absolutely love this side. Unlike the men, I don’t need a premiership to validate my own supporting life, I want it for the players and coaches who have done so much for this program since 2017. But also a lot for myself.

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Taking advantage of the less fortunate

If you follow Melbourne long enough you’ll keep finding things to surprise you. When I took this lifestyle on in 1989, I’d have scoffed at the idea of a women’s team, with games broadcast live on an interconnected network of worldwide computers that also delivers on-demand viewing, gaming, and – let’s be honest here – filth. Now, after 33 years of milestones being ticket off – including winning the original recipe competition flag I never thought would happen – we’ve reached the point where I felt a bit flat after a 79-1 win.As far as last round percentage disappointments involving West Coast go, it had nothing on the two day fiasco at the end of 2017. That weekend we had a simple task, botched it, and were punished accordingly. This time every effort was expended, in unfavourable conditions but we narrowly ran out of time. Grabbing the minor premiership (and if you’re calm enough to look that far ahead, Grand Final hosting rights) via the heist of the century would have been ace, but it still meant finishing with a 9-1 record, a double chance, home final, and perhaps a trip to [Venue TBC in Queensland] for the big one if things go as planned.Brisbane’s comfortable win on Friday night seemingly removed most of the drama from this game. We were left having to either keep West Coast to a humiliatingly low score, or score well over hundred. I wasn’t confident in either option, between wind blowing so hard that our banner disintegrated, sodden turf after days of rain, and the expectation that the Eagles would try and escape their last game without looking silly, I never thought the magic margin would be threatened. After the visitors were subject to death by a thousand cuts, we ended up with about 90 seconds of drama and fell short by the loneliest number.West Coast was on a hiding to nothing here. They knew we were playing the game, but we didn’t need to play the game, because we’d already won the game. Give that Richmond finished fourth, their win over Brisbane doesn’t even count as a colossal upset anymore, leaving about zero major surprises this season. If you were in an AFLW tipping comp you’d be ashamed at having an average of less than eight a week. To their credit, the Eagles tried to keep things from getting out of hand before eventually being swamped. I’d struggle to get out of bed for any sort of inevitable defeat, let alone one where you have to fly across the country, then drive 90 minutes to a suburb where the weather randomly changes every 20 minutes.If they were wondering what the point was, so were Fox Sports. The host broadcaster correctly identified this game’s limited appeal to viewers and put on the lowest budget coverage since ESPN Ocho did the Slippery Stairs. There was zoom in, and a zoom out that made it look like they were filming from Stony Point, but nothing in between. Usually their sideline interviews with players come with picture-in-picture, this just had them fliping frantically between dejected West Coast players and the play. They never spoke to any of our side, who had no time for gasbagging with commentators mid-match when there was important work to do.West Coast’s all-yellow long sleeves were a fashion disaster, but made them look appropriately like a PacMan ghost, existing only to be mown down on our way to a high score. Still, no matter how savage it got in the end, talking about racking up astronomical scores before the game was uncouth. I’m pretty sure coaches and players had discussed the idea though, because we spent the afternoon bamboozling clearly outmatched opposition by trying to play like the Harlem Globetrotters. It didn’t always come off, and despite conceding plenty the Eagles’ intercept defenders were probably their best players, but it was obvious from the first bounce that we weren’t going to do something silly like losing.Why wait until Round 10, I could have told you after the fixture was released that we wouldn’t lose to a bottom four side in the most unbalanced competition since the late-1980s VFA. I can understand why a lot of people who are otherwise open to this sort of thing don’t rush to watch their side being monstered at every start. We’ve all been through periods of total incompetence in the men’s competition, but nobody’s scored 0.1.1 for about 100 years. It’s not an indictment on the long-term future of the league, but doesn’t promise tremendously competitive seasons until good sides start losing their best players to retirement and can’t replace them. Hopefully we prop ourselves up by constantly swiping promising players from other clubs. What more could a future superstar ask for than playing on a windswept tundra in the middle of a housing estate?We had the best of the early minutes, but the egg didn’t start to crack until a self-destructive panic kick from the last line landed with Paxman. Just when it looked like her campaign for another medal was over, Paxmania has taken off again recently. It’s happened ever since she started pre-wrapping her head. I hope she keeps doing it even when no longer necessary until somebody throws it in the crowd like an unsanitary version of Bruce Doull’s headband. Paxman mastered the extra head weight and the tricky wind to steer her shot through, then hit Hore with a delightful pass for another opportunity and it looked like the parade was going to begin early. She missed, and I switched back to thinking the bumper margin was going down the Casey Crapper. The Eagles looked as likely to kick a goal as I was from the couch, but that didn’t matter unless the ball was going through middle post at our end. By the time we reached 1.4, neutrals would have been forgiven for checking in with Race 3 at Port Kembla. And they’d have missed the best part of the quarter. Hore – who also had five forward 50 tackles in the opening quarter alone – set Fitzsimon up with a delightful handball, then the Eagles backline lost Purcell for a third and things were looking up again.If you just multiplied 23-0 by four we’d have easily covered the score required, but when has it ever worked like that? More good news – it was the fourth week in a row holding an opposition scoreless in the first quarter, and I’ll be well and truly buggered if that’s ever been achieved in high level competition before. We later doubled our fun with a fourth consecutive shutout last quarter. None of this is any good for the credibility of the competition, but has been tremendous fun for us. I hope there’s no culture shock when we go back to playing half decent teams.Their forwards may have stood little chance, and stuffed themselves up when given opportunities, but let that not detract from an unreal defensive game by Libby Birch. She was cutting off everything that came near, and is as responsible for keeping West Coast to a frighteningly low score as their own issues.The victims found some respite by parking the ball at their end for the first five minutes of the second quarter. Sadly for anyone hoping to break the ultimate taboo and keep a side scoreless, they used this time to shamble through a point. Turns out that was it for them, but they did blow a few more chances around this time. The worst was the player standing on her own within scoring range and dropping a mark, which prompted us to belt down the other end, say “thanks for keeping things interesting, now get out of the way” and kick another. We were trying to move the game on as quickly as possible but Harris’ handball from 15 metres out to Bannan nearly backfired, as she only barely got boot to it before being caught. They all count, but we won’t be pulling off razzle dazzle moves like that against Adelaide or Brisbane.There was never any doubt about us winning, but after Zanker took about nine bites of a mark before gently dropping her kick over the top of a square full of defenders a poleaxing was back on the cards. The inability to rush that through made them look foolish, but not as much as bursting from the next centre bounce and having a player smother her own teammate. It was hard to get excited watching the semi-professional equivalent of playing against a kid and refusing to go easy on them but I secretly loved it. The commentators did their best to make excuses for the Eagles, but all you need to know is that they have beaten Port and GWS, but lost to Freo, Hawthorn and Essendon so would probably be near the bottom of a second division as well.The hapless visitors were back to defending like the Russians at Stalingrad, and their task was made more difficult by a half that started in lovely sunshine ending with pouring rain and gale force wind. This made it look less likely that we’d double our 38-1 advantage and get near the magic mark, but we nearly got there. West Coast had another five minutes of serenity after the restart before the procession recommenced. Hore got our sixth, but we were also piling up wasted chances. Zanker and D. Pearce missed gettable shots, and Harris bombed one wide from distance, before Mackin steamed into the wide open spaces of our forward line for her inaugural AFLW goal. Again, it was an assist to Kate Hore, who won’t get a stat for disposing of her opponent in a marking contest, but morally deserves a slice of the action.As tragic as this was getting, we were now only 15% behind Brisbane so there was suddenly a lot to play for. The minor premiership means more to me since Gawn in Geelong, but I still think it’s presumptuous to worry about hosting a Grand Final before the important stuff has even started. I just wanted to do it for the achievement, to go into finals knowing we chased down a massive total.If any West Coast fans were still watching they’d have briefly taken their head out of the oven for another near score late in the quarter. Sadly for them, the ball failed to break for a chasing player inside 50 and was quickly sent in reverse to safety. It was not a day for proving my theory that we didn’t give Krstel Petrevski enough of a run as a small forward, but you could have put Gary Ablett Sr in that forward line and he would have struggled for a kick.Restricted to just two goals for the quarter, we went into the last needing to pile on four and a bit to bugger all in the final term. We got the four, but fell agonisingly short on collecting even bits to reach correct weight. To prove that the chase was serious, Harris did a risky bump to a player with extremely large hair. Luckily her voluminous barnet absorbed the blow and Tayla escaped with a fine.It got to 60-1 with eight minutes left after Harris, Hore and Hanks combined for a Triple H goal. Still doubted we’d get three more, but was quickly put back in my box by Hore and Zanker and the chase was well and truly on. Sadly, swathes of the last few minutes were lost to charity umpiring, letting the Eagles feel better about themselves by throwing the ball and/or walking into tackles unpunished, wasting valuable clobbering time.Then an end-to-end move sent the unlikely Heath through, and when Lauren Pearce snatched one out of the ruck for a point we only needed another behind to jump in front of the Lions by 0.2%. It was not to be, and you can’t blame players for not knowing what the obscure percentage calculations are while they’re in the middle of a match, but if only Daisy had any sort of shot from the boundary instead of trying to centre we might have got the required score. Never mind, what would a Melbourne flag be if won the easy way? Narrow percentage disappointment aside there’s nothing to complain about. Harris got away with the bump, nobody was injured, and the banana skin was not only avoided but lobbed into landfill and left to decompose. Now the real stuff begins.2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Kate Hore4 – Libby Birch3 – Lily Mithen2 – Olivia Purcell1 – Karen PaxmanMajor apologies to West and ZankerLeaderboardWith a maximum of four to play the dreaded line appears. Farewell to anyone with fewer than five votes. At the top, Purcell will have to work hard to lose from here, and Birch all but wins the Defender of the Year.25 – Olivia Purcell20 – Karen Paxman18 – Eliza West17 – Tyla Hanks15 – Tayla Harris13 – Kate Hore11 – Lily Mithen9 – Libby Birch (LEADER: Defender of the Year)5 – Eden Zanker— Gorn —4 – Maddie Gay, Sarah Lampard3 – Tahlia Gillard (LEADER: Rising Star Award)2 – Shelley Heath1 – Alyssa Bannan, Lauren PearceGoal of the Week A few contenders this week, but with respect for the turbo runs by Mackin and Heath, I very much enjoyed Zanker swinging the kick over a bunch of defenders who had lost the will to live. 1st – Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 2nd – Eden Zanker vs Gold Coast3rd – Tayla Harris vs CarltonNext weekIt’s good when you take so long to write the post that not only the tribunal results are in, but so is the finals fixture. We knew it was Adelaide somewhere in Victoria, but in a blow for the Casey faithful we’ll be playing at Princes Park. Theoretically, playing at a stadium with sides should provide a better standard of play, but if you’re into arguing about this sort of thing it should be pointed out that Geelong and Collingwood both get to play finals on their home grounds.Once I discovered that finishing top would have also given us the chance to go directly to a Prelim by tonking Richmond, there was some bitterness about not having got the percentage required. On the other hand, you win that, get a week off, then meet a much better side having not played a competitive game for months. Adelaide are not as they once were, but will still be a challenge. If we win then start booking your tickets for Queensland, if not I’m still confident that there’s nobody from fourth to eigth that can beat us without somebody weird and wonderful happening.Final ThoughtsI’ve gone from 0-100 and back again on our chances of winning the flag this year. Now I’m a 75% believer, but desire it 100%. This has been a Mickey Mouse season but I really, really, REALLY want the flag. Don’t let the big D(emonblog) down.

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Business as usual

If there’s any reason to feel slighted while following a team neck deep in premiership contention, it’s been watching every other established side in the competition rip an arm, leg, or both, off one of the expansion clubs while we missed out. Sure, there was the consolation of unleashing a dollop of wallop on failed foundation teams Carlton, Footscray, Freo and GWS, but I wanted some of that sweet Adelaide 63 d. Port 3 action. Then, after waiting until the second last round for our turn on the dismembering machine, we get the only half decent expansion side around. This failed to satisfy my bloodthirsty lust for carnage, but will probably leave us in better shape for the finals than teeing off on the tired, poor and huddled masses of Sydney or Hawthorn. We got something more than a glorified training session, against a side that had a fair physical bash, with freelance niggle to keep things interesting. And still won easily, so let the good times roll.Other than the usual background tension about doing a Melbourne, I didn’t think we were a serious chance of losing. There was still a worryingly strong smell of farce in the air – Essendon turned up wearing a clash jumper that clashed with our jumper, and the traditional Casey Fields wind was blowing across the ground, guaranteeing the boundary umpire about 45 touches. Then the banner that the players had helped the cheersquad make all but burst just before they ran through it. Going down to the biggest upset loss since good old St Kilda 2020 would have rounded things off nicely, but we did the right thing and erased any tension about a mystery loss by quarter time, briefly threatened to win by lots, before coasting home with nothing to worry about. We’d all love to win in savage fashion but sometimes you’ve just got to bank the expected points and move look to the future. Try telling that to the commentators, who kept going on about how much we needed to win by to overtake Brisbane at the top of the ladder. This was a bit disrespectful to the opposition, but ultimately correct in identifying them as cannon fodder.Not only are we operating a confirmed double chance, probably top two, side, but are also leading the way in footy fashion. While Lauren Pearce returned unscathed from her concussion break, her collision mate Paxman has still got a taped up head two weeks later. I like to think she never took it off, flying back from the Gold Coast and going about her business during the week looking like she’d just been trepanned. It was such a bold fashion statement that Lily Mithen joined in too, and if Paxman is (spoiler) best on ground again next week I expect the entire team to pre-tape their heads for finals.The opening minutes were a replay of the Footscray game, where the ball was stuck down our end and the other side had no idea how to extract it. Even when they did get forward, with me having kittens about giving them a psychological boost by letting a goal through on the break, it was instantly fired back the other way and almost cost them a goal. Bannan’s turbo run down the wing looked good, but it never happened without Gillard absolutely pouncing on the ball in defence and bursting away at a speed not befitting somebody of that height. She’s already done more for me than Julia, but even allowing for dealing with dud forward entries, this was her best game, deservedly ending in a Rising Star nomination. If I didn’t still think the league will force good teams to give players to the duds (like I was last year when it… didn’t happen), I’d say she and Birch are your AFLW version of the Jurassic Pack for several years to come.It was a shame that this crisp end-to-end play died with Daisy missing a shot from right in front, but it was a reminder that conditions were going to slaughter set shots all day, and not to get too excited by marks close to goal. Or, as it turns out, too worried about Essendon having shots from anywhere outside 20 metres.There was still the outside chance of a rebound goal and zero reward for our early domination when elite celebrator Bannan hit the turbo button NBA Jam style and ran through a Grand Canyon style gap in Essendon’s defence. Soon after the Fox Sports director had so little confidence in the Bombers stopping us that when a kick was heading in Alyssa’s general direction they cut straight to her in anticipation of a mark, ignoring the defender standing in the way.Speaking of the host broadcaster, some people go over the top hanging shit on Kelli Underwood but referring to foundation Melbourne player Cat Phillips as a ‘former Saints player’ suggests a lack of fun facts research and/or feel for the occasion. Conversely, Robert Harvey risked not being invited back on special comments by pointing out shit umpiring decisions.This was the last two weeks all over again, wearing the opposition defence out with non-stop bombardment and waiting for them to lose hope before pouncing. Hore did her bit, albeit with an assist from the umpire who ignored a defender being blatantly infringed against in a marking contest, selling a dummy in confined spaces K. Pickett style for our second.The gap between these sides will close over the years, but for now it was ridiculously one sided. At one point they were finally moving forward at speed before a player nearly missed her hand trying to give the ball off under no pressure. The knockout blow hadn’t yet been thrown, but our third straight week of keeping the other side to nil at quarter time was a reasonable start. Stats fans will note that it was also the third week in a row where the other side finished on 1.3. If those two aren’t a combined record I’ll eat Titus O’Reilly’s gimmick hat.Anyone who expected Essendon to sink without a trace would have been thrilled to discover that Essendon’s coach was Natalie Wood. The Hollywood theme continued with a Six Sense handball by West over her head for Paxman to run on to for a goal. Describing it as a ‘blind’ handball would do it a disservice, she knew exactly where it was going and it was glorious.Now it was reasonably clear that we’d win, and my fantasies switched to holding them scoreless. This seemingly went out the window when their first half decent kick inside 50 found a forward 30 metres out directly in front. God knows why, but with the wind at her back she tried a pass to the pocket the ball was being pulled to and they came out of it with nothing. These ring-in teams have got some excuse for failure but you can’t help a self-inflicted wound. Never mind, soon after St Kilda legend Phillips walked around Goldrick to kick their first and last goal.I hadn’t gone in with the goal of building a monster percentage, keeping the race for top spot competitive into the last round was enough for me, but there was a brief moment where things looked like they could get too close for comfort. Essendon had a string of chances before an ambitious/loopy kick across goal from Birch and a rotten turnover from Wilson nearly cost us another. No doubt she was still sad about me narrowly missing winning her pride jumper in the midweek auction. It was a tremendous blunder not to include the emergencies, I’d have spent a fortune trying to get the #35 of my surnamesake.There was nothing to worry about, they weren’t capable of crafting a goal in the conditions (and may not have done much better under a roof), and we went down the other end where a bobbling ball cost Purcell her chance at goal of the year. On a day where she was reasonably well held, this was nearly the consolation prize but it rolled from a tight angle then nearly stopped dead on the goal line. Zanker did her best to let it roll through before eventually conceding and soccering through from the line.We were still offering chances, Heath and Goldrick did a combined Rock Bottom on an opponent but they missed again. And after Gillard shanked a kick-in out of bounds, she made up for it by touching the return kick through. This was already developing signs of slopfest, even with a margin of ‘just’ 15 at half time. As far as Essendon was concerned that may as well have been 115, and was probably going to be enough no matter what happened, but we made sure of it when the ball was taken in front of our goal and kept there again. The defender who blew the a promising escape via shambolic disposal was probably happy when Hore turned it into a goal, because it gave her 60 seconds of respite before the next onslaught. And that was about all she got, because Bannan cannoned through the middle for another, and they hadn’t even got through a sideline interview with an Essendon player before Hore lobbed another one through from the pocket. I don’t even think the interviewee realised her team had just shipped another goal. I’d have preferred the commentators speak to the Essendon fan who was, consistent with every other game played by the Bombers since 1896, yelling out nonsense. You won’t be surprised to discover that he thought they were getting the rough end of the umpiring. With the team that couldn’t convert if their lives depended on it kicking with a wind they weren’t equipped to use, any remaining neutrals probably switched over to whatever Vatican City vs Tonga T20 World Cup game was on. Suckers and enthusiasts like me stayed and were rewarded with not much more than some good old fashioned niggle between Mithen and some outmatched Essendonians. Heath sprinted inside 50 and missed, and Harris blew one from the top of the square much to the joy of Annoying Essendon Fan (who you can be almost certain was online whinging about her getting a statue before acquiring an interest in the league), who had delivered a barely comprehensible spray during the run-up.Down the other end they nearly got to double figures via a charity free after a player fell over under Birch, but the kick fell short and they went scoreless in three of four quarters. That can’t have happened very often.And so, another roadbump was safely negotiated on our way to the finals. Nothing that took place suggested mauling a premiership contender at the first opportunity but it was good enough. You can’t romp to victory every week, and I’ve got perhaps misplaced faith that we can beat any of the main contenders on our day. Now, watch us going out at the hands of some jabronis who finished six with about four fewer wins.  2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Karen Paxman4 – Kate Hore3 – Tahlia Gillard2 – Eliza West1 – Alyssa BannanMajor apologies to Heath, Purcell, Birch and Mithen.LeaderboardWith a minimum of three, maximum of five left to play it’s still advantage Purcell, but Paxmania is starting to build, and any of West, Hanks, or Harris could still win. I haven’t seen a wild finish like this since the Viney vs Vince vs McSizzle superclash that went down to the last round of 2015. The big news is that we have a leader in the Rising Star – it’s a bit cynical to adopt the same rules as the men to a season that’s not even half as long, but bad luck I’m doing it. As Gillard started the year on three games she qualifies and leads. Take it up with the committee.23 – Olivia Purcell19 – Karen Paxman18 – Eliza West17 – Tyla Hanks15 – Tayla Harris8 – Kate Hore, Lily Mithen5 – Libby Birch (LEADER: Defender of the Year), Eden Zanker4 – Maddie Gay, Sarah Lampard3 – Tahlia Gillard (LEADER: Rising Star Award)2 – Shelley Heath1 – Alyssa Bannan, Lauren PearceGoal of the Week Consistent with a week where set shots were death, we had a few good contenders on the run. Hore’s snaps were delightful, and Purcell deserves partial credit for doing everything but getting the ball to cross the line, but for sheer enjoyment on both sides of the fence you can’t beat a Bannan. I liked the first one best, bolting into nothingness to get us started. Nothing to change the overall leaderboard though.1st – Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 2nd – Eden Zanker vs Gold Coast3rd – Tayla Harris vs CarltonAmendment to Be (featuring Constitution Corner)I was going to do a full breaking news post on the Deemocracy deebate, but don’t have the required time or mental capacity so you’ll have to settle for highlights. For those who’ve got better things to do, the unnecessary public biff involves the group (?) going to the Supreme Court to get member details so that they may promote their case against the board’s proposed constitutional amendments.So far, so tedious, and as neither side is suggesting we permanently rebrand as Narrm and play out of Phillip Island it’s hardly the sporting version of Roe vs Wade, but at the point where lawyers are being paid a fortune to argue, and the unofficial side is waving around a rival constitution (NB: posted as if it’s an official document, without ‘draft’ watermarks or anything to explain that it’s a fantasy document) it’s worth talking about.First, let me tip you off on where I stand by pointing out that I’ve got nothing to do with the board. Would be nice (HINT) if they sponsored Demonwiki, but for now nothing. And in that spirit, I’m not saying you should vote for the amendments unless you’ve done your research and are happy, but would like to be clear what voting against means beyond putting the boots to the board for whatever reason they’ve annoyed you. Contrary to what some people think, it’s not a referendum on who’s got better ideas and which document will be adopted. If 25.01% of the electorate vote against the amendments then they fail, nothing changes (including the requirement to spend shitloads of money by conducting all elections ballots via post), and the cosmic wankfest goes on. I’ve got no issues with my details being shared with these people, as a customer of Optus and AHM everyone else on the internet has already got them, but I’m not keen on the minority torpedoing important changes for the real life equivalent of a Facebook argument.The fact that it’s all being led by a member who has lost two bids to join the board also makes me uncomfortable. The morality of incumbents going out of their way to wreck the chances of a challenging candidate is an entirely different matter, it didn’t need to end in undignified jostling that – at a point where we’ve finally got money and stability – makes us look like we’re being run by Essendon.   It’s true that like most boards ours is a racket that ensures outsiders are practically no chance of being elected. In isolation this seems unfair, but anyone who has ever voted in a council election will know what it’s like to make a decision between two dozen candidates (some not even pretending to be sane) on the basis of 300 word campaign statements. The end result is usually the biggest collection of mismatched people since Gilligan’s Island punching on for three years – in the case of my area until the government sacks them.The switch to electronic voting, sensibly supported by both sides (though the club might want to invest in a better platform than Typeform) removes the ability to scare potential candidates off by telling them how much a postal votes is going to cost the club, increasing the odds of contested elections in the future. Next thing you’ve got factions sniping at each other, leaking through the process, and getting nothing done. I prefer the Singapore model where they pretend to have a democracy but it’s really a one party state and everyone goes on happily with their lives.If we’ve got to go that way I can cop more contested elections, but for the same reason I’ve got no problem with the club’s proposal for candidates to be nominated by 20 voting members instead of the existing two. Don’t be melodramatic, if you can’t find that many people who are interested in your candidacy then you’re not trying very hard.Other factors turn me off this group too, like wanting to include motherhood statements about how we aim to win premierships (you reckon?), and nakedly trying to show off as being progressive by claiming we ‘pioneered women’s football’ (which will come as a shock to the people who plugged away in the suburbs for years while nobody in VFL or AFL cared). But more than anything I’m offended by the lame promotional materials. I used to be in marketing before metaphorically taking Bill Hicks’ advice, and if I’d proposed something like this my boss would have deefenestrated me. I don’t know if this is a real conversation. I feel as though my leg is being pulled. pic.twitter.com/BqQzp1mCq9— BT (@bentyers) October 20, 2022Unlike some, I’m not offended enough to write back and tell Pete to Far Cough, but while the officially proposed changes aren’t perfect they’re better than the alternative of standing still and doing all this again in six months. And we all know it’s going to keep being played out in the future so cutting off nose to spite face now is pointless. The proposed constitution could be the biggest hit since the Magna Carta, the current board are never going to put it, and the challengers will never take over the board to get their chance to implement it. You’d be forgiven for missing the bit where we’re in a better position on and off-field than any time since Norm Smith was around.Next week (incorporating the Ms. Bradbury Plan)We’ve got West Coast and should win easily, but interestingly Brisbane have to beat Collingwood to stay ahead of us. The Pies are the most boring good team in the competition so here’s to them putting the Lions to sleep and letting us slide into first place. This could end in playing them in the first week, depending on whether Richmond (somehow fourth) beat North Melbourne and hold their spot. More likely we finish second and probably play Adelaide in the Qualifying Final. They’re level on wins with the sides below them but have 20% on Richmond, 30% on the Pies, and play St Kilda who are shite so I’d almost have the house on them there.Other than Maddie Gay, there’s nobody out of this team who’s likely to come back now so I expect we’ll go with much the same lineup. Wilson probably makes way for her and we go in search of a win that’s comfortable and injury free but – as Collingwood/Brisbane will have already happened – doesn’t need to be a million point massacre. Then we hold our breath and test the system against the best sides in the competition. I wanted the 2021/2022 flag to go alongside the men, I’ll take the 2022B version as a consolation prize.Final ThoughtsI tempted fate and checked the date of the Grand Final to make sure I could attend. So anything bad that happens from here is my fault.

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Golden casket

Fans of Melbourne 1954-1964, Adelaide 1991-2019, and Geelong in general already know it, but following a side that wins almost every week is tremendously satisfying. It might not end in a flag (and for several years didn’t even guarantee making the finals), but there’s something calming about knowing you’re objectively better than almost every team in the competition.However, if we were going to do something silly and lose to a mid-table struggler for the first time since Footscray 2021, this was the week. With Goldrick, L. Pearce and Sherriff missing from last week, and Gay still injured, Gold Coast caught us wrist-deep in our reserve stocks, with two players making their first appearance of the season, and a pair of Casey ring-ins (including one with a decidedly upper class surname – and who is still, apparently the #904 tennis player in the world) as emergencies.Considering everyone expected the Suns to lose anyway, this would have been a good opportunity for them to come out firing and hope we collapsed under the weight of expectation. Instead they waved the white flag by parking a player behind the ball from the first bounce. Not the first time there’s been a surrender in a Melbourne/Gold Coast game, but at least this guy waited until the last quarter.The early result of this anti-spectacle cowardice was that we got plenty of the ball but struggled to convert that into scores. Which was fine from a Suns perspective, if they were going for a nil-all draw. Eventually, they were reduced to panic bombing the ball straight to our defenders, and ended the evening with one goal. And that was all they deserved for trying to sandbag their percentage before being thrashed anyway. If the Bulldogs do as expected and beat St Kilda on Sunday they’ll be a game behind anyway, what’s another 5% to have a serious crack at winning? I’d have – as they say in Sydney – blown up deluxe and tried to sack everyone if we’d been done the same in their position. Instead, we remain firmly in top four calculations with two (keep it quiet) easy games to end the season. This was not only a night for overcoming a team trying to bore their way to a narrow loss, but for demonstrating how well we’ve done recruiting from other clubs. Between them, Libby Birch, Tayla Harris and Olivia Purcell cost the equivalent of pick 8, 15, 17 and Chantel Emonson. I wish Emonson well at Geelong, and hope whoever was drafted in those spots is having a lovely career, but all three imports must be in All-Australian contention. When I foolishly declared us a spent force a few years ago it failed to take into account the piratical ransacking of other teams to improve our lot.It’s easy to be frothy after keeping the opposition to a single measly goal for the third time in four weeks, but our inability to break through for more than a point in the opening minutes left the door ajar for them to sneak one on the rebound. Then, much to the surprise of commentators who acted as if beating Sydney was an achievement, the Suns discovered that you can’t play teams with a percentage of 30 every week. Once things got rolling we may have had our best ever game for finding targets by foot, and after conceding three goals in the last few minutes of the quarter the Suns were never coming back. I don’t think I’ve ever been as confident in such a slender leadThe usual stars did starrish things, but this was one of our more across the board performances. I very much enjoyed Maggie Caris tackling everything that came near her. She’s been on the outs all year due to L. Pearce/Harris but was very good, and should probably send the tape around to all the clubs that need rucks if the alternative is to be stuck in the queue behind a pair of All-Australians for years to come.Given how much better we were at moving the ball in our direction, it was nice to finally get some reward when Daisy pulled down a contested mark in the square and did the high-risk Russell Robertson play on from a metre out. In her 50th game, and probably the last time she’ll ever be the sole representative of the Pearce dynasty in our side, she looked as dangerous forward as any time since taking a baseball bat to the Freo reserves. It didn’t last the four quarters but helped get us off to a positive start.That encouraged the locals to switch off and allow us to turn one of the cleanest centre clearances you’ll ever see in this competition into another goal. Caris put it straight into West’s path, she did a lovely handball to Purcell, and the AFLW equivalent of Clayton Oliver hit a leading Hore with a delightful kick. I’ve never thought about the best seven seconds in our AFLW history but this would have to be up there. A miss would have detracted from the moment, but while she’s occasionally wonky from close range Hore showed that she’s probably distantly related to Travis Cloke with a perfect shot from distance. It helped to come a mile off the line and all but run around the player on the mark but they all count.By this stage I was almost satisfied that we’d broken them, but no matter how well you’ve done in one quarter, calling it over at 13-0 would have been a bit optimistic. Turns out we wouldn’t have needed to score again to win. The third made all the difference, allowing me to figuratively put my feet up and light a cigar. Maybe it was the pisstake nature of it, with Mithen about to bomb a kick to the square when she was called to play on and handballing backwards to Harris instead, who stepped around an opponent and lamped it through from the exact spot Mithen had started in.We have a list for everything, so I can exclusively confirm that keeping the opposition scoreless in the opening term two weeks row isn’t anything new. In 2018 we did it three times straight and somehow still lost twice, so this was definitely an improvement. The damage was mostly done by now, and the second quarter lacked fireworks. For the first few minutes it also lacked scores, until another golden kick to a lead found Harris running through the middle of two defenders. Everything about it was delightful, and if all the other sides could give her this much space it would be most appreciated. This, temporarily or not, put her back ahead of Darcy Vescio as the all-time leading league goalkicker, and even if we’ve only got a 1/3 share of her career total I’m just happy to see a Melbourne player holding a major record.Gold Coast’s innovative ‘lose by as little as possible’ theory was heading for disaster, but that goal prompted them to temporarily put the brakes on. They even got their lone goal of the evening, for what that’s worth. The value was determined at about 90 seconds of relaxation before Zanker dispatched a defender to take a contested mark and drill another set shot.That was our lot for the half. Sadly we were denied a tremendous highlight from my new favourite player Mackin, who gathered a bouncing ball inside 50 at about 100km/h like she’s been playing the game all her life and was about to kick a cracking goal when she started going too fast and fell over. Her goals will come, and I’m confident she’s not going out of the side any time soon.Whether percentage comes into the final ladder or not, it would have been nice to emerge from half time with flamethrower in hand and burn the Suns to a crisp, but they had all the play early. This was good news for everyone except the player who was left on Planet Koozebane after coming off second best in an aerial dual with Birch. Silly to get involved in the first place. The Suns will be advocating for 15-a-side games, because even with one of their players on the ground they turned this calamity into a rare shot on goal.Given my hatred of inside 50s as a stat, I spend a lot of time discussing them, but a 45-9 tally was outrageous. We could even afford Bannan failing to get a boot on ball from centimetres out and only ending up with a point. It looked like we were set to take the win and get on with our lives, but the home side had other ideas. After keeping us goalless until the last minute, a clumsy clothesline to Fitzsimon got her on the board, before Zanker did something quite outrageous with a second left, ripping the ball out of the ruck and hoofing it through from 30 metres out. Regretfully I didn’t see this goal until later, watching on an hour delay I was trying to get through the breaks as quickly as possibly so when there was a ball up with four seconds left I decided to get a head start on the last quarter. We were winning so comfortably the extra bump in our score didn’t even register, and I only discovered it happened from watching the highlights. Oops.Considering the margin, the early minutes of the last quarter featured a surprising number of Suns players being assassinated off the ball. None of it was worth the tribunal getting involved, but you could have been forgiven for thinking the sides had serious bad blood between them. In reality, no matter the genders involved Gold Coast are so irrelevant that even Brisbane has to work hard to pretend there’s a rivalry.The game was already long dead five minutes in when Hore won a free burying her opponent in a tackle. As Harris swept through to play on and kick her third the commentator got his words mixed up and said something that sounded like “Kate Hore got her pissed”. And given that they’re two of the great goalkickers, why not. Hore got one of her own not long after, via another series of beautiful passes that started with Paxman (perhaps the first player to turn up with her head bandaged due to injuries suffered a week earlier), before West found her standing in a postcode of space 25 metres out directly in front. From the average start, we were now in our third straight week of free scoring fun. Alas that was as good as it got. Duffy missed a shot after the siren but nobody was worried, another mid-table mediocrity had been pushed out of the road on our way to glory. Congratulations to the Suns on knowing their role, and if they’ve stuffed the salary cap as badly as the men and need to dump a couple of good players on us we’ll be happy to show them a good time.2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Olivia Purcell4 – Eliza West3 – Libby Birch2 – Shelley Heath1 – Tayla HarrisMajor apologies to Hore and Mithen. Other apologies to near on everyone, but mainly Hanks, Hore, Lampard, Paxman, Pearce and Zanker.LeaderboardRacking up of bulk possessions is always a reliable indicator of votes, and with Hanks missing out this week the award is Purcell’s to lose. I certainly did not see this coming in pre-season but she has been excellent. In the minor awards, there’s nothing for the rookie of the year yet but Birch captures the 23 – Olivia Purcell17 – Tyla Hanks16 – Eliza West15 – Tayla Harris14 – Karen Paxman8 – Lily Mithen5 – Libby Birch (LEADER: Defender of the Year), Eden Zanker4 – Maddie Gay, Kate Hore, Sarah Lampard2 – Shelley Heath1 – Lauren PearceGoal of the Week I was intending to give this to Harris from the first quarter, then I discovered that the Zanker goal had happened. She might have been saved by the timekeeper’s finger slipping off the button but it was a quality finish. So good that I’m promoting it to second for the season. Congratulations all.1st – Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 2nd – Eden Zanker vs Gold Coast3rd – Tayla Harris vs CarltonSocial issues cornerIt’s not hard to improve a Gold Coast jumper that looks like the local Maccas franchise, but we still won the battle of pride jumpers. Usually, I’d confine my analysis to fashion (I like to be comfy and current) due to a) being outside the target market for these jumpers, and b) mortal fear of cancellation, but Gold Coast’s inclusion of a ‘straight ally’ flag got me involved on a technicality. I’m all for the intimately involved communities flying flags, but trying to get one from long distance for showing a basic level of human decency is a bit rich. Otherwise, hooray for everything.Next week (incorporating the Ms. Bradbury Plan)It’s Essendon next Sunday, and I’ve been caught out expecting big wins against very average Bomber sides before so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But if you take a dispassionate, neutral view we should win in a canter. All four of the key injured players could be back for our second consecutive game against a side that’s just had a training run against Sydney. Essendon are clearly the best of the expansion sides but have also had a reasonably soft run, so really shouldn’t give us much trouble here. Which makes it almost certain that they will, and I’ll come out of this looking like an absolute cockhead. In more important matters, Essendon have fielded three players this year with ‘Van’ surnames, which must be a record.The good news, if you’re keen on not jinxing the process, is that percentage probably won’t come into the race for the top two. It could decide whether we or Brisbane win the minor premiership, but unless we do something silly and lose to either Essendon or West Coast, while Collingwood beat North, Brisbane and close a 50% gap on us, then it should be a simple case of winning and heading back to Fortress Casey. I don’t mind playing the Lions or Crows in a Qualifying Final but would rather it happen at Mt. Variable Weather than at their grounds.Assuming everything goes to plan I don’t see us passing Brisbane, who will run up their percentage piledriving Hawthorn, before the more touch-and-go fixture against the Pies in Round 10. Given that you get stuff all for finishing top, other than the perceived easier fixture game against fourth place, I’ll cop it. It’s been so long since we played Collingwood that I’d almost rather take the challenge of finally winning a final against the Crows.  Final ThoughtsI still think the season is in the wrong place, but there is something to be said for enjoying wins in mid-October. Let’s revisit this in January when, for the first time since 2017, I’ll be left with no team to follow in any sport played in the southern hemisphere. Happy to be consoled with a flag.

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Cruelty to animals

If you’re going to play in a competition with only three good teams, best to be inside the tent looking out. A lot has been said, not much of it complimentary, about how bad the expansion teams are but it must be hard for fans of foundation clubs like Carlton and GWS (come on, be polite) to be watching dripping, rancid slop after seven seasons. It’s not like they’ve been rubbish in the meantime, both have made finals, and via one of the worst competition structures ever devised the Blues even made a Grand Final. Now both are shite, but I didn’t expect the Bulldogs to join the party with such relish.Unlike the last time we pummelled a team called Footscray, it’s unclear if there was any angst over a song that never made the Australian top 40. What we got instead was a pre-match address from Dogs coach Nathan Bourke that rivalled Adelaide’s power stance for summoning up mystical spirits, standing in a circle of players holding hands and saying Melbourne “don’t deserve to break this bond” or similar. This is probably the sort of nonsense all coaches do, but it’s high risk letting the cameras film it in case the results goes tits up. See, for example, Mark Neeld’s address that inspired us to keep the margin against Essendon to just 148.To be fair to Bourke and his players, the bond took a while to stretch beyond breaking point and explode all over the south eastern suburbs. Given that they were kicking into the wind, (at Casey of all places…), a scoreless first quarter where the ball was permanently camped down our end isn’t as bad as it sounds when you consider how many opportunities we failed to capitalise on. The dam wall burst eventually, but not before a few scary moments where it looked like we were going to leave in the game for as long as possible.Judged purely on territory occupied, we were so dominant that the United Nations should have been invited to mediate. Which might have been a moral victory, but did nothing when our best scoring chance was Harris and a defender co-marking the ball. Apparently the same defender then disappeared into outer space, because the next thing you knew Paxman was heaving a handball to Tayla on her own at the top of the square. Consistent with her regular approach, she kicked the absolute buggery out of the ball, to the point where the goal umpire’s life probably flashed before his eyes.On the subject of Carlton not being any good all these years later, how good was it to get her on the cheap in the original multi-team MegaDeal™ and land possession accumulation machine Purcell at the same time? I don’t care what sort of controversy was going on behind the scenes, she was very good last year, and other than the week off via unnecessary suspension has been better this time. All at our end for nothing better than Harris and a defender co-marking the ball. That defender apparently then disappeared into outer space because the next thing you know Paxman was lobbing a handball to Tayla standing on her own at the top of the square. Consistent with her regular approach, Harris kicked buggery out of the ball, to the point where it might have killed anyone who’d been standing in the way. Given that Harris seems to have been around forever, you may also have missed the bit where she’s only 25. Several years more of this sort of thing please.If nothing else, we now had six points on the board. There’s been a lot of games this year where that score would have won the game, but I spent the first two and a half quarters waiting for a Bulldog response that never came. While you were waiting in vain for them to turn up, or for our ruthless streak to kick in, most of the fun was in what could be heard in the effects mic. When a kid (?) was caught screaming “SHE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE IT!!!” I was desperately hoping that somebody would be caught saying something offensive. Sadly not, or Channel 7 realised and lowered the sensitivity of the microphone before losing their licence.When we gently chipped around an absent backline to set Harris up 40 metres out, with the wind, and without much angle, I had glorious visions of her kicking double figures, but this time the kicking of cover from ball went wrong, landing it out on the full. And that was as close as we got to another, on the rare occasions the Dogs got the ball to the right of screen it was instantly turned away, but we toiled away for just one more scoring shot. Inside 50s are the worst stat of all time, unless they help support your point, and 12-1 for a seven point lead was a bit wasteful. As always, it brought back memories of the time we get Freo to none in the first quarter and still lost.In a win for the people who hatewatch AFLW for political reasons, AAMI are apparently donating $10 for every clanger this season. Their Chief Financial Officer would have winced every (admittedly rare) time Footscray got the ball from here, because they had absolutely no idea what they were doing. Ellie Blackburn should be on the phone to Nathan Jones for advice on how to deal with a sore back from carrying an entire team. Alternatively, having had her fun with the Dogs and winning a flag she should come home to where it all began. Concerns that we’d wasted what kept being talked up as a savage wind (but didn’t look like one on TV) were heightened when the Dogs were having a shot 25 seconds into the second quarter. Long term viewers of any gender of Melbourne weren’t surprised that the player who’d previously kicked one goal in 23 games landed it. “Oh shit” I thought, the Bulldogs said “that’ll do us” and didn’t get another for the rest of the day. From here, almost every highlight involves us slowly tormenting the Dogs until they collectively lost the will to live. For one good thing that didn’t lead to a goal, let me reiterate how much fun I’m having watching Blaithin Mackin. At one point she ran down the wing taking bounces like Travis Johnstone, then set up Harris to pull down a tremendous one handed mark. Alas, this time Tayla’s 100kmh style failed, with a quick play on and long bomb missing. Who knows if she played on because the wind would affect the set shot, or if she would have gone at that speed under any conditions, but I was still nervous about a comeback. Especially because we’d started pinging away madly at the allegedly wind-affected end of the ground. Finally the umpires did their bit to get us going, blatantly ignoring Zanker fiercely shoving an opponent out of the contest, ultimately leading to Hanks giving off to Bannan running into an open goal.That was all the fragile visitors could stand, the next thing you know West’s mowdown tackle was advanced to point blank range by a 50 and the wind could officially rack off. The ball went straight back down our end and we piled on an endless supply of behinds from every possible angle. Things were going so strongly in our favour that even when Hore didn’t make the distance from 30 metres it still found Daisy in the pocket. She opened the angle more than any player in the history of the game but sliced it in off the post, leaving the door arguably ajar for us to be run down after half time. Remember, at this time it wasn’t entirely clear how badly we were going to tonk them off the park.The captain’s miss unexpectedly led to carnage for her teammates, setting up the loose ball that Pearce (L) and Paxman clobbered heads over. Tellingly they were able to do this because there was no opponent within the same local government area. Paxman was left dripping blood like she’d just been run through a woodchipper, and my nerves about a collapse were not helped by the prospect of playing two short for the second. Had it come to that I’d have grudgingly had to accept that it was better that the game was being played in spring and not a 38 degrees summer afternoon. I’m not one to question the decision of qualified doctors but I’ve got no idea how Paxman was cleared to come back. Having to wear so much tape around the head that you look like something found in King Tut’s tomb was one thing, but it’s a miracle if she passed the concussion tests. Pearce did too, but in her case we opted to play safe an leave her on the bench for the second half. At the time both of them could have had fractured skulls for all we knew, so it was comforting when Zanker steered one through after the siren to extend the lead to 26.I was reasonably confident we weren’t going to lose from here, but you never know. Which is why I enjoyed Harris’ ridiculous goal off the deck so much, especially as she was in the middle of being pushed over when the boot connected. Thanks to the umpire for doing us another solid by missing Bannan putting her opponent in a headlock about five seconds earlier.Any Footscray fans slogging their way through what was now an obvious defeat would have considered doing anything else when they marked 30 metres out and failed to score. It was as comprehensive as you like, and if we hadn’t already thumped Carlton and would presumably do the same to GWS, they were playing as badly as any foundation club could be expected to. And will probably still play finals, when under my Eddie McGuire-esque radical plan they’d be flat out trying to avoid relegation at the bottom of Division 1. We took an additional litre of piss out of them when Hore’s centering pass from an outrageous angle skipped through for a goal.Things were getting very bleak for Mr. Circle of Trust Nathan Bourke, and with former interim Dogs coach Sam Blease (yes, this actually happened) probably ready to launch a coup against him he chucked the magnets in the air. Forwards went back, backs went forward, Footscray went nowhere. To be fair they did kick two behinds for the quarter, while we whopped on another four into a breeze that I now believed to be fictional. The first FU of our 15 minute victory lap came when Goldrick decimated an opponent in a tackle, bedraggled players forgot to give the ball back, and Bannan ended with a mark and goal. She got the next one as well, taking advantage of the opposition all but left the ground. And why not, when Kayo informed me that the World Indoor Cricket Championships were also being played in the area. We almost conceded a goal, but their mark in the pocket led to no score after the player tried to kick about nine metres backwards to a teammate, who was subsequently wrapped up and didn’t even get a shot off. There was a rare bit of good news for them at 52 points behind when what looked like a Purcell goal was called touched off the ball, then the pummelling resumed when Duffy kicked the next one anyway. It was all good fun, narrowly pushing ahead of Freo 2017 and West Coast 2020 as our second highest score/biggest win. Those wins both felt more savage, this was more death by a thousand cuts. It’s not that the Dogs weren’t having a bash, they were just methodically dismantled by a better side.2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Tayla Harris4 – Tyla Hanks3 – Olivia Purcell2 – Eliza West1 – Sarah LampardMajor apologies to Bannan and Hore. Other apologies to Mithen, Paxman, Zanker and pretty much everybody.LeaderboardNothing for fans of random players this week, but the top of the leaderboard is becoming a battle royale of epic proportions. With at least four games to play this could go anywhere.18 – Olivia Purcell17 – Tyla Hanks14 – Tayla Harris, Karen Paxman12 – Eliza West8 – Lily Mithen5 – Eden Zanker4 – Maddie Gay, Kate Hore, Sarah Lampard (LEADER: Defender of the Year)2 – Libby Birch1 – Lauren PearceGoal of the Week As much as I enjoyed the lightning toe poke by Harris, we’ll pretend Hore meant to have her flying shot from the boundary. But we won’t pretend enough to alter the top three for the season? 1st – Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 2nd – Tayla Harris vs Carlton3rd – Kate Hore vs BrisbaneNext Week There’s more mid-table mediocrity on the cards when we travel to the Gold Coast on Saturday night. The Suns are only in the eight because Footscray’s percentage collapsed like a Russian bridge, so with any luck they’ll do the Dogs a favour and let us win by a massive margin again. You’d think we’d win easily but stranger things have happened. We’ll be wearing the pride jumper, and in the words of Bill Hicks, if this bothers anyone I recommend you looking around at the world we live in and shutting your fucking mouth.Final ThoughtsFair way to celebrate a contract extension for Mick Stinear. And who’ll ever say no to whipping the Dogs in any format?

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Stop the boats

Say what you like about AFLW, but where else are you going to play a nautically themed team on a ground with a surplus Iraqi air raid siren? Well, to be fair, the 2015 men’s pre-season – but when will you do it while watching a Melbourne side that wins more than it loses for seven consecutive seasons?Standing in the way of our continued adventures in the top four, a Fremantle side that has plummeted from contention at warp speed. In 2020 they were on an unstoppable romp to the flag in arguably the league’s best quality season before it was abruptly cancelled, now they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel alongside overmatched expansion teams. In a week where, several months too late, people have started to take the idea of two divisions seriously, Freo’s ladder position makes them relegation candidates but they’re better than that. Like many teams in this competition, they’ve got a handful of excellent players at the top end, and a lot just holding a spot until somebody better comes along.The purple people’s situation is not as dire as last year, when we unleashed the cruellest treatment of dockers since Chris Corrigan, but you could still make a case for them pulling off an upset here. After a rotten start to the year they’d found (relative) form recently, were coming off a training run against the Eagles, and got to play us at home in weather that was like Equatorial Guinea compared to Casey Fields. And if you’re into omens and mysticism, I suggested during the Brisbane review that we only ever lose to good teams so that could have been setting up an ironic defeat. Sure, we beat Carlton straight after but my girls are a combined nine years old and they could have got a kick that night.Over the last couple of years I’ve been spoiled into expecting to win as red-hot favourites, to the point where our first true upset loss for either gender will probably set off a mental spiral that leaves me in state care. Why not here, while watching an hour on delay and expecting Kayo to screw me at any moment, as Freo were more than a match in the opening minutes. Turns out they only had three quarters in them, but considering their home weather advantage how was I supposed to know that?After a bit of arm wrestle, it turns out our advantage came from (ironically, considering some of our recent issues) a more efficient forward line. Our first decent inside 50 of the afternoon went to ground, where Harris scooped the ball off the deck and thumped it through like it owed her money. The evidence for playing one of the best forwards in the history of the league as a forward was growing. Then she spent the rest of the game either a) doing gold medal hitouts, or b) taking tremendous saving marks in defence, and I was willing to accept that as long as somebody else could take a grab inside 50 then she can play anywhere they like. Having said that, we’ve seen enough times over the years that what looks good against lowly sides doesn’t always stand up in important games.The lead didn’t last long, and the circumstances of their first goal were enough to send a shiver down the spine of cowards like me. It started with a forward a mile clear on the lead before dropping the ball cold – which was good – and ended in another doing the biggest throw in the city of Perth since the Western Force before they wobbled the snap through – which was bad. Given that the mark would have led to a kick at a distance only about five players in the league would have covered it might have been better if they’d just grabbed it the first time. I could understand the umpire missing the ball being chucked out of a pack, it made more since than when Eliza West caught a player for what should have been holding the ball, then dumped her upside with a German suplex and it didn’t end up as a free for anyone.If Freo weren’t going to go away, we needed to make our opportunities count. Eventually they ran out of juice, but there were a few nervous moments early. Kate Hore ended up with three goals but started by running into an open goal and kicking on the full from 20 metres. Good thing for her, the St Kilda player who shanked a point from centimetres out had the market for shocking misses cornered.Paxman missed another before we gifted them a golden opportunity right in front via Gay’s good old fashioned two-handed shove in the back. They necked themselves with that kick, allowing us to put on a coast-to-coast rebounded masterclass that ended with Zanker wandering in at the other end. After the St Kilda incident, Channel 7 didn’t have any faith in a player just because she had an unguarded square ahead of her, holding the camera on her as ball hit boot so you only knew it went through by the celebrations.Scoring almost every time the ball went forward was different to normal policy, but Freo seemed almost as likely so this game was still a chance to go anywhere. As keen as I was to retake the all-time AFLW win back this was clearly not heading in the same direction as Adelaide 96, GWS 1.We got a break from a defender suicidally diving on the ball 30 metres out directly in front and forgetting to do the Acting Football League routine. Daisy’s subsequent goal didn’t hurt for long. It would have helped if we could win a clearance. Enter Zanker, who got her second via a mark, and Harris doing another million dollar hitout towards Hanks that created another chance. Ironically our best centre break of the game ended up pinging the other way for Freo to turn two quality opportunities into a point. This made it clear that if we could keep scoring there was no way they’d catch us. Sounds obvious, but sometimes you can score five only for the other side to respond with 10. The Dockers would have needed to go until midnight to reach double figures under any circumstances. Our next came via Bannan turbo-boosting into space, flubbing her bounce, then regathering. This eventually set up Daisy to gently rotate in space for a bit before allowing Duffy to stitch up her old side. That’s fun when it doesn’t happen to us.My anti-Harris in the middle propaganda tipped into full disarray when she did another tremendous tap to start the third quarter. This led to Hore giving us a three goal lead, and Tayla hit the next ball up so well that it was too fast for Hanks to run on to. It was that good I was almost at the point of going back and deleting all my complaints about her playing in the middle. Hanks might have double grabbed at this footy coming towards her at light speed, but she was otherwise excellent again. About time this club had a Rising Star winner that didn’t immediately go into turmoil and/or demand a trade.In some circumstances, this would have seemed a comfortable lead. As if you’d trust a Melbourne side with a lead. We were unlucky not to add another when a defender hung off Bannan in a marking contest like she was abseiling, then followed that by accidentally whacking her in the mouth. It was all red and blue now, which is why nobody was surprised when our next blown chance immediately begat a goal at the other end. This was bad news for the baby who was vigorously hoisted in the air in celebration behind the goal. If we hadn’t defended so well from there somebody would have called child services.With scant respect to the feelings of an innocent child, this briefly sent us into self-destruction mode, giving away a stupid downfield free for a late bump, then not properly marking their captain at the top of the square. She got the short pass, kicked the goal, and it was back to six points. The Dockers were kicking with something of a breeze but it wasn’t the sort of divine wind that nearly guaranteed victory if we were in front at three quarter time. Breeze be buggered, the game was balanced precariously, and my tension was not helped by them having multiple opportunities against the wind in the final term. The low point was when we flung out of defence but lost the ball via West’s botched kick. Then a 50 gave them another shot which mercifully failed to make the distance. After a hot start to the year I’m getting frustrated by West’s disposal. See also her next rebound, which came off the boot like a sack of shit and rolled 20 metres along the ground. All’s well that ends well, because that accidentally ended in Purcell kicking a crucial goal to put us 10 points up.Shelley Heath deserves credit for Purcell’s goal after taking a belting contested mark, and the former kung fu artist also had a big part in Hore’s second. That was the end of the Dockers’ resistance. Good news for the kid. Then Hore crumbed the bejesus out of a contest for our third and it was time to put the babies to bed rather than waving them about like the premiership cup. One spectator took Freo firing off distress signals like the Titanic so badly they started making animal noises.Everyone contributed, but a moment please for Blaithin Mackin who I’m very keen on. Irish players being good kicks has become a cliche (especially when you ignore all the players who came here and were never heard of again), but for somebody who’s been in Australia for six weeks a couple of her passes were spot on. Like Goldrick, who was lucky not to be pinged earlier for instinctively playing on, she can do things that get her into trouble but in open play her kicking is better than some players who grew up here.By the last couple of minutes Freo had lost interest. Things got farcical when the ball stopped just before rolling over the boundary, Duffy casually tried a banana from the pocket, thought she’d hit the post and had to be told by her captain that it had gone through. Makes up for that one Hanks got ROBBED out of at Casey last season. And regardless of what it might have clipped on the way through, if that’s the sort of madcap goal she’s going to kick, pinching Duffy from the Dockers and waiting five weeks for her to find fitness was worth it.It was a slow burn, but in the end 66 points represented our equal third best score of all time. Didn’t feel like it, but you can’t argue with six players sharing 10 goals. I don’t expect this against top sides (would be nice though), but have renewed hope that if Harris stays unsuspended we’re a premiership chance. Now that there’s a double chance on for the top four – and only five good teams – we’re in a reasonable position for the future.On the other hand, Fremantle is now 17th. This says something about their fixture but should also be a source of immense shame considering the ratshit teams at that end of the table. The good news is that they get to play… Adelaide and Collingwood, before coming home with a stiff breeze against Sydney and Hawthorn. Which might see them climb to the giddy heights of 14th if they’re lucky.  Bad luck, look up and learn something.2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Tyla Hanks4 – Lily Mithen3 – Tayla Harris2 – Kate Hore1 – Olivia PurcellMajor apologies to Gay, Heath and Zanker. Apologies to Birch, Goldrick, Paxman and West.LeaderboardFor once there’s genuine drama at the top, with Hanks surging, Purcell slowing down, and Paxmania randomly breaking out every couple of weeks. No change in the minor awards, with Lampard still narrowly ahead of Birch in the defender race (though the committee will need to decide on an appeal from the People for Maddison Gay Committee on whether she should be ahead of both). Nothing yet for the Rookie of the Year. 15 – Olivia Purcell14 – Karen Paxman13 – Tyla Hanks10 – Eliza West9 – Tayla Harris8 – Lily Mithen5 – Eden Zanker4 – Maddie Gay, Kate Hore3 – Sarah Lampard (LEADER: Defender of the Year)2 – Libby Birch1 – Lauren PearceGoal of the Week Lots of goals, some of them very good, but no contenders for the annual award. For novelty value I’d like to nominate the Duffy banana experience.1st – Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 2nd – Tayla Harris vs Carlton3rd – Kate Hore vs BrisbaneNext Week On a weekend where Brisbane’s percentage temporarily went above 300, everyone else gets to take their turn dismembering one of the awful teams while we… play a 4-2 Footscray. Ultimately, going through the 12 Tasks of Hercules will probably serve us better come finals than beating up on slop for months then running into the good sides when it counts. Mind you, our last two games are Essendon and West Coast, so hopefully it sets us on a path of destruction that rips through the finals like a tornado. Stranger things have happened.There shouldn’t be any need for changes – enforced or otherwise – for what should be the nearest thing to World War III this week not involving North Korea. I like to think we’ll put the final seal on our top four credentials with a win but remain, as always, scared to death.Final ThoughtsFor perhaps the first time ever I’ve got nothing. Go the ‘mons.

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Princess pork

For all my whinging about starting AFLW season in September, it’s nice to extend our Grand Final weekend winning streak be another year. Round 5 in a rushed season that’s playing second fiddle to the men’s finals and race hate scandals isn’t nearly the same as kicking 100 of the last 107 points to win a flag, but it’s still nice to be involved in something at this time of the year meatier than a half time sprint.Considering how easily the Blues were dismissed it’s hard to comprehend why I thought this was a danger game. They might have been mid-table, but as we’ve discussed at length the gap between the top six, middle six and bottom six is like the difference between the Gross Domestic Product of the USA, Estonia and Tuvalu. Earlier in the day, expansion walkovers Hawthorn and Sydney had a perfectly good, competitive game, which furthered my theory about playing in divisions for a couple of years. If they had hired me to run the league, and there’s still time, I’d have narrowly had the Blues amongst the top nine sides but a run of injuries would already have them in deep relegation trouble. But, even at the stage where they’re promoting players directly from the the scrapheap into their starting lineup, they can be thankful that the 18 team competition offers enough dud sides that they should finish the year without being disgraced.With paper-thin lists, injuries are an absolutely valid excuse for struggle (mind you, we made finals for the first time after activating the ‘break in case of emergency’ recruitment rules), but my heart positively dripped blood for them as commentators lamented their youthful team, compared to our experienced, cohesive lineup. You’ll certainly remember Carlton’s battle to put a team together since joining the league in… its first game.Regardless of how they got to this point, and how little pressure comes from the sides below, the Blues are as mid-table as any team in the history of the game. They’re leaning into the gimmick so hard that they’d drawn their last two games. I was worried that we’d keep them close enough to leave the door open for an unprecedented threepeat of ties. That’s because I’m a panicky idiot, serious pundits would have had their house and that of every living relative on us winning. If you lived through Sydney breaking a 26 game losing streak against us in 1993 you’d have trust issues too.While we may have never won major honours in AFLW, we’ve also avoided losing as hot favourites too many times. There was GWS in season one (“surely they’ll never play games at 5pm Friday again” I said) , and that first game against St Kilda, both caused by players kicking for goal as if blindfolded. Other than Mo Hope unleashing a Ms. Kingsley on us in Alice Springs, we’ve usually only lost to genuine contenders. That’s no comfort to me, I expect everyone down to the South Morang Under 11s to keep things interesting against us.Considering how many times we’ve beaten good teams, it was a bit baby out with the bathwater to declare us no chance of a flag based on one loss to Brisbane. Slowly roasting a mediocre Carlton hasn’t fully changed my mind, but I am willing to accept that having Tayla Harris romping around the forward line like a Viking would have improved our chances. Instead we tried to beat a top side with an underdeveloped first game spearhead who was expected to make something of forward entries which could only be described as ‘chaotic’. This situation shoudn’t be repeated unless Tayla is injured or belts somebody again. The Blues were, to put it politely, shithouse. Yes injuries, but even if pre-season form is as untrustworthy as a politician it turns out beating them by 70 points was a hint of things to come. It wasn’t so savage this time, instead of a six goal first quarter they were slowly drowned under a steady wave of goals throughout the first half, and a couple of exclamation marks later. Their response was to kick one goal, score a point in the second half, and barely have any chances other than that.I’ve scoffed at inside 50s as a serious stat, but if they ever tell a story it’s when a team registers a comically low amount. It might have pissed rain for 10 minutes before half time but 13 is a horrendous night. The only side to have less this year, and only by one, was when Sydney kicked 0.2. Even Freo went inside 50 times when their final score was one measly point. If there’s ever been a team capable of keeping a team away from goal to that degree and still losing due to kicking 0.7 plus nine on the full it’s us, but there was no such drama in this case. From the first bounce you could tell it would take self-destruction on an apocalyptic scale to offer the Blues any hope. Still, there were a couple of nervous minutes before the scoring started. Watching any variety of Melbourne you never know when the opposition will come out flat, then get a second life when they realise we can’t put them away.We were very good, but it wasn’t without help from their rancid play. Let they whose team hasn’t done 3000 turnovers cast the first stone but at one point a player was pinged for a last touch free because she completely missed her teammate with a handball. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before. Our first goal was born from an intercept in the middle, before Harris took a massive contested mark at 50, turned around and low-key booted the cover off it for the opener.As much as I don’t like it, Harris as second ruck is apparently what we’re doing now, but I will note that when she went forward it was generally within the sort of range where damage could be done. Compare to pre-suspension when she’d mark on the wing and look up to see nobody who could get on the end of her kick. We desperately need somebody else who can take a contested mark inside 50, by the looks of it that will never be Bannan or Zanker. Each have their charms, though neither contributed much here, but neither’s going to be a KPF. I suppose you park Georgia Campbell at FF for Casey in next year’s VFLW and hope for the best, or try and pinch one off another team. There must be prospects at one of the rock bottom teams who don’t want to wait years for a win, let’s exhibit big club energy and pinch one of them. This was probably the method we used to get Olivia Purcell from Geelong, and she’d turned into a possession gathering machine. Her 30 tonight is the most we’ve ever had in a game, and while I’m not going to sign a stat dec vouching for their efficiency, it’s can’t hurt having somebody win so much ball. Compare Purcell’s accumulation with the three Carlton players who reached half time without a touch. Three more had one each and it was no wonder they barely looked like scoring. At the other end we threatened to kick a large score, and might have with a bit more marking power. See, for instance, a certain T. Harris, who dismissed two opponents to take the grab that led to our second. She does good work up the ground, and a link player would have come in handy last week, but that’s all academic if you can never get the ball to a player within range to score.You’d be mad to trust any Melbourne lead, but after keeping them to a point in the opening quarter, Paxman’s ice cold Petracca in Perth style finish (and come to think of it, Harris’ first was a bit like his opener that night too, so it’s was nice of them to pay tribute to the greatest event in the history of the world) made it obvious where this was going. The only question was how far. Even when we were three goals up against Brisbane you could tell they were capable of scoring,  while  Carlton looked a half chance of finishing goalless. So I still thought “here we go” when they finally got one in completely unorthodox fashion, with a hopeful kick at a ball that hit the deck after a ball up, which then only got past a diving Birch on the line by taking a zany bounce. If that was the best they could do in a quarter and a half we should have been right. Turned out to be the best they could do in four full quarters.It doesn’t feel right now that it was still only 14 points the difference late in the first half. Enter, at last, Sabreena Duffy. After much speculation of whether she actually existed, the ex-Freo forward ran onto a handball from Daisy, took advantage of a quality shepherd from Hore, and opened her account for us. She didn’t get much of the ball (and please, for the sake of headline writers everywhere can she win a game after launching into a tackle Ginnivan style so we can do ‘Duffy Duck’), but still looked good and will comfortably retain her spot from here.The Blues were still barely alive before letting another in just before the break. With one play to navigate, another Daisy handball found Harris storming towards goal, and she booted it through mid-tackle to extend the margin to four goals. Even I was ready to concede it was game over at this point, though I’d never have said it publicly.If, like me, you were hoping to plunder Carlton for a record score, there wasn’t much to offer in the third quarter. They were kept at arms’ length while we picked up a million inside 50s for nowt but points and intercept marks. Even the goal we did get had an element of luck about it, bouncing straight back into Hore’s hands at the top of the square with 40 seconds left.By now the hard work was done, and with the four points easily in the bag the last quarter was about a) percentage, and b) any implications for next week. So Paxman lightly bumping a player with her head over the ball in the opening minute was a bit of a concern. It was more of a collision than an assassination attempt so I’d be outraged if she ended with anything more than a token fine.I’d love to have run away with it but it again took until right at the end to get our only goal. At least it was a good one, with 50 gamer Lauren Pearce turning her opponent inside out, regathering and snapping. I know the Blues had lost the will to live by this point, but if more teams could allow our forwards to be in one-on-ones that close to goal it would be much appreciated.So, it was all very good. I still don’t know if it translates to winning finals but you can only beat who’s in front of you – and given that about 14 of those sides are going to be the drizzling shits then we should win a lot more games than we lose this year.2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Tayla Harris4 – Olivia Purcell3 – Tyla Hanks2 – Sarah Lampard1 – Karen PaxmanApologies to Gay, Mithen, Paxman, West and Hore.LeaderboardIt could be the first time we’ve ever had a leader with higher votes than kicking efficiency, but welcome to the wild world of AFLW.14 – Karen Paxman, Olivia Purcell10 – Eliza West8 – Tyla Hanks6 – Tayla Harris5 – Eden Zanker4 – Maddie Gay, Lily Mithen3 – Sarah Lampard (JOINT LEADER: Defender of the Year)2 – Libby Birch, Kate Hore1 – Lauren PearceGoal of the Week Apologies to Paxmania at the start of the second quarter but I’ve got to go with Harris kicking an intercontinental ballistic missile that Vladimir Putin would be proud of. I enjoyed it so much she leaps into second place in the seasonal leaderboard.1st – Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 2nd – Tayla Harris vs Carlton3rd – Kate Hore vs BrisbaneNext Week It’s back to dear old Perth to take on the Dockers. Last time this happened we won by a record margin and Daisy kicked five, but I’ve got no expectations of similar slaughter this time. For one, they won’t be so short on players that randoms are being called two hours before the bounce and invited to come down for a kick. The good news is that while Freo are from of COVID (and haven’t ‘health and safety protocols’ gone out the window recently?), they’re still not very good. They just won their first game of the year against a West Coast side that had previously been propped up by the most generous draw in history, and drew against the same side we just trounced. Due to my deep mental scars I’m prepared to focus instead on them nearly beating Footscray and wondering the same could happen again.It should not, which would set us up for a blockbuster against the Dogs a week later. Then we roll home downhill against some of the shit teams on to Qualifying and/or, Preliminary and/or Grand Final glory.Final ThoughtsThis was the eighth time this year that a side has scored fewer than 10 points, which might be a necessary evil when you’re sprinting to get to 18 teams as soon as possible but makes the season feel like a placeholder that the league is just trying to get out of the way before coming back seriously in spring 2023. It won’t stop me getting excited if we win the flag – I’ve got a lovely spot right next to my framed men’s premiership merch for whichever gender wins one next.

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One on the Clapometer

Hello, I’m back again, crawling out from under the digital rock to get on with my footballing life post-straight sets. At least the men are still defending premier, at the time of writing, for another five days. Thanks again to guest reporter Olivia for stepping in last week while I had a breakdown. As much as I wanted to ignore footy for the rest of 2022, I can’t help myself from getting involved in anything with Melbourne written on it. Even when Narrm is temporarily plastered over the top. And just like the men, we discovered that you never go full Narrm. It always starts with a win in the first week, then a loss.Speaking of teams that have rebranded, my curtain raiser was the Casey Demons (nee Springvale Scorpions) winning a flag in the worst weather since Paul Peos was pelted from a great height at Waverley. I was very happy for all involved, especially the non-AFL players who really care but was still watching an adopted kid win. I want more premierships from real deal Melbourne Football Club teams, so the pressure is on the women to complete the set.In a competition that has more sub-divisions than the House of Representatives, starting the season with wins against Adelaide and North was a good start. If we beat another genuine premiership contender my numerous doubts about our flag credentials would have disappeared for a bit. In the spirit of all teams called Melbourne in 2022, everything looked good early then plummeted like Evil Knievel jumping Snake River. If there’s ever going to be a ground subject to deadly cricket ball style hail it’ll be Casey, but given that I live at the other end of the Melbourne metropolitan area and we’d been battered with a storm 20 minutes before the bounce it looked like the first time the Cranbourne rain belt would ever provide a superior weather experience. Then the banner went within 0.1% stretch of falling apart due to wind, and ominous looking skies suggested players would be ankle deep in slush by quarter time. Sadly, we never got to find out if the world’s most cheerful boundary rider could maintain enthusiasm for the full four quarters as my weather predictions proved spot on. The dark clouds were there – for now in the sky rather than on-field – but were travelling away from Casey, delivering the big piss to everyone east of Cranbourne but leaving the playing area untouched.In the event of heavy rain, a start would be important. Shame it didn’t come, because we jumped to a three goal lead and temporarily looked irresistable. It stayed dry, Brisbane eventually turned up and we slide slowly to our doom across the next two and a half quarters. You’d never guess how bad we’d be at scoring in the last three quarters when you saw Zanker swipe the ball and stuff through the opener. The problem, as we discovered throughout the afternoon, is that it’s one thing to have players who can kick for distance but you have to get the ball down there to start with. For now it looked as big a landslide as the one that tore St Kilda apart before quarter time last week. Daisy didn’t do much because the ball didn’t go down her end often, but put on a perfect block at a ball up for Hore to run in from a range she couldn’t miss from. Our all time greatest/notoriously wonky goalkicker then snapped a ripper out of the pocket and looked set for a massive day. And then we kicked one more goal for the rest of the game.Conditions didn’t deteriorate – and consider that we’d just seen a brave patron at the VFL pull his hoodie up and keep necking a can while Hurricane Katrina dropped on him – but it was still a day for crumb. Including Brisbane toepoking their first from the square. Fans of the men’s game will recognise the same sort of non-existent defence that allowed the Lions to beat Richmond and ultimately stitch us up a week later. You’ll also have noticed the similarities between sides called Melbourne fanging to an early lead at maximum speed then hitting the brakes and letting the other side back in. Perhaps if we’d got the ball down our end something would have happened, instead Brisbane forced us into full defensive mode for several minutes. It did more to ruin the game as a spectacle than over-expansion, and making players compete under infantile rules (smaller balls, less players, shorter quarters etc…) combined, but stopped us from running away with the game.Brisbane had obviously done their research, because for once West and Purcell weren’t allowed to rack up a thousand possessions combined. This didn’t seem to affect us greatly, even with a first gamer from Northern Ireland/Ireland/United Kingdom (delete as applicable, I’m not getting involved in political scandal) who arrived in the country a month ago. Mackin could have done with a game against a shit side to get her feet, but improved as the game went on. She’s also a quick learner, with a strong Acting Football League line in pretending you’re trying to handball when tackled. In the absence of our early season stars, it was welcome back to celebrity Bunnings spokesperson Tyla Hanks, who reminded us of why she looked set to go supernova last year. I’d prefer she was the one getting bulk possessions over the other two, but once the Lions got on top it would have been good if anyone could get the ball and find a target further up the ground than the defensive 50 arc.Tayla Harris would have come in handy, but was suspended due to finally achieving her dream of walloping somebody. This opened the door for the most novelty father/anybody selection of all time, as Georgia Campbell carried on the legacy of her dad’s… err… two game stint in 1994. I bet plenty of people still think her dad is Tony. Campbell was also eligible for Footscray but apparently chose us because she lives closer to Cranbourne than the Western Oval, which might make it the first time anyone has ever considered Casey the lesser of two evils. She also appears to have Birch-esque white line fever, giving away one downfield free, then pushing an opponent over as they crossed the line. The actual getting of ball was a bit harder, restricted to one possession and never got into the game.The prospect of another hot start going up in smoke became real when Brisbane spent the first five minutes of the second quarter camped inside 50. It eventually ended in a goal when Libby Birch was left grappling with an opponent while the rest of the defence had ducked off for a milkshake, allowing another player to waltz in under minimal pressure. Midway through the quarter we hadn’t been inside 50 and I don’t think the ball had gone into our side of the ground. Even when it did happen there was no reward. All the miracle goals were gone and we weren’t much chance of creating one the old fashioned way. There was one bit where a fluke kick hit Paxman after travelling a distance that 9/10 umpires would probably pay. I reckon he’d already decided it was play on as initial kick was shanked and couldn’t readjust in time.Like [deleted on legal advice] in Perth, we were on the rack. The Lions blew multiple chances as we struggled to get the ball away from our end. Enter – again – Tyla Hanks, who can both tell you which aisle to buy a whippersnipper in AND kick vital goals. She also demonstrated magician style sleight of hand at one point, getting away with the biggest throw of all time directly in front of an umpire.That goal shifted some of the momentum. Now we got the ball down our end and wouldn’t let the Lions out. The difference being that the Lions didn’t just keep us out, they eventually executed a golden coast-to-coast for a goal against the run of play. It looked like the player initially dropped the ball while being tackled before soccering through anyway. I’ll assume they decided it hit her boot on the way between hand and ground the first time. Good luck getting a critical analysis on commentary, they didn’t even know who half the players were.A four point margin at the last change set the stage for our old friend Greta Bodey to have her third attempt after beating us with a goal after a siren. There was no need, the game was dead and buried by the final stages. Why wait for somebody to kick a set shot when opposition defenders punch the ball off a pack and directly to a player running into goal. I don’t blame the backline, they’d been under siege all day so it’s understandable that cracks would appear eventually. While we’re on the subject of crumb, you’ll never believe how they got their next one. Meanwhile we continued to rely on the same combination of set shots and freak snaps that carried us to the giddy heights of being thrashed in a Grand Final. Losing Harris didn’t help, she played her best game of the year against Brisbane last year and was sorely missed here. Even in her questionable new role playing further up the ground, a few relieving marks would have helped.Down we went without a trace, even Hanks was rumbled holding the ball (on a day where you had to be 101% guilty for it to be paid), and when the free kick fell short it landed straight in the hands of a player in the pocket. That only ended in a point, before our death sentence was pronounced by an intercepted handball and goal. Keep the ball down there long enough and something good will happen. We did get it straight out of the middle, but with the chance to get it back under two goals Hore spun out of traffic, faced an open goal and missed. In case you’re counting at home, that’s nine goals in the last two first quarters and one in the other six combined. Seems like an issue. Scoring is all that’s holding us back at the moment, it’s one thing to build on a solid defensive base but in a low scoring competition you’re asking for trouble going 3/4 of a game without a goal. Good thing St Kilda were putrid at the start last week or they’d have made things interesting too.I say it every year and we find a way to contend but this isn’t a premiership team. We’ll beat some of the rubbish teams into dust, but this will fall over well before the Grand Final unless they sort out the forward line. Feels like I’ve been saying that for seven seasons and they continually find a way to pluck victories, but surely we’ve learnt by now that near enough isn’t good enough.2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Tyla Hanks — a fair old distance —4 – Lily Mithen— an equally lengthy gap —3 – Maddie Gay2 – Kate Hore1 – Lauren PearceApologies to Paxman, Purcell, Lampard (who will get to run through a banner for 50 apologies soon) and ZankerLeaderboard I left with the big three pocketing top votes every week, I come back to all of them missing out. Keeps things interesting. They’ve still got a commanding lead at the head of the pack.13 – Karen Paxman10 – Eliza West, Olivia Purcell5 – Tyla Hanks, Eden Zanker4 – Maddie Gay, Lily Mithen2 – Libby Birch (LEADER: Defender of the Year), Kate Hore1 – Tayla Harris, Sarah Lampard, Lauren PearceGoal of the Week Hard to go past Hore in the first quarter – where all the action is – and indeed I think it was good enough to jump her back into the top three. Let’s have some of these in the second, third or fourth quarters next week?1st – Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 2nd – Kate Hore vs Brisbane3rd – Tyla Hanks vs Adelaide Next Week While everyone else gets to lay the boots into an expansion team, we get to play the W’s ultimate mid-table mediocrity side Carlton. Considering how close they came to beating us last year I wouldn’t take for granted that we’ll return to the winners’ circle. Could be a good opportunity for Harris to belt one of her old teammates, and she comes back in for Campbell at the warpest warp speed.The good news for Sabreena Duffy fanatics is that she is alive and well, named as a emergency this week. Drop whoever you like but pick her instantly. Otherwise, unless Goldrick is ready, I don’t see the need for changes outside the forward 50. Mackin came in for the much more experience Ivey but arguably showed more in one game against a top side than Ivey has done in three weeks. And if you’re going to cart somebody halfway around the world to play a foreign sport you may as well get experience into them ASAP.I think we’ll win via an excessively difficult struggle.Final ThoughtsThe way this wacky league goes we’ll either score 100 points or seven next week.

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