Front page of the internet… for Demon supporters

Category: Blog

Discreet sixteen

When you literally win every week they’re not all going to feature swashbuckling end-to-end football that strikes terror into hearts around the nation. This certainly did not, finally answering the key life question of “what’s the least exciting thrashing you’ve ever seen?” Which is just the sort of Alan Partridge-esque hot topic I’m hoping to discuss on my deathbed. As far as 74 point wins in Perth go, it lacked the razzle-dazzle of the last one. I’m not mad, fast approaching the anniversary of the debacle against Adelaide, and not much over a year since we gave 0-7 North a big start, it’s been scientifically proven that we’re not a scoring juggernaut. Even against a glorified WAFL team, with three late withdrawing premiership players, the method of execution was slow strangulation rather than a gloriously sparking, probably inhumane electric chair. We’ve lost to worse opposition with better sides, but no matter what state the other lot is in, expecting to win any game by triple figures is asking for trouble. I learned my lesson in 2011, when sooking over ‘only’ beating Gold Coast by 90 was put into perspective a few months later by 186. They all count. This might have ended in a bigger margin, and it sure looked like going that way for a few minutes during the opening quarter, but if you’re not satisfied by beating the Eagles by more than ever before, you’ve got to be pleased at keeping them to their lowest score against anybody in Western Australia.This time last year I thought flat performances against lowly teams (and to reiterate, we did win by 74, so ‘flat’ is a bit harsh) would reflect poorly on us when the important stuff began. The conclusion of 2021 says otherwise. So everything is going along swimmingly, we’ve started two seasons in a row 9-0, Jake Bowey has now won his first 16 games, and what used to be a horrifying interstate trip has become a victory lap for the greatest night of our lives.I’ll admit to secretly hoping for a landslide win but wouldn’t have publicly wished for anything beyond a battling, mediocre, six goal margin. It was close to the first time in my adult life that I’ve ever been sure we’d win, but the 11% chance of losing still made me queasy. Wackier things have happened, even against an opposition fielding the first player called Greg for about 20 years and one who looked like somebody called Greg who was going to a 1980s WWF-themed costume party. But they didn’t, and thank god for that. No matter the result here you can’t take away the memories but I still didn’t fancy providing even the smallest comfort to enemy sides.West Coast were sans Gaff, Hurn, Kennedy, Naitanui but sadly still retained their dignity. Still, now that their percentage has fallen below 50 it’s about time Eagles fans got a dose of humility. Most teams have had times where a 12 goal loss seems like a decent performance under the circumstances, it’s about time theirs. Now we’ve just got to wait for Geelong’s geriatric list to fall over and the set will be complete. A patronising well done to Eagles fans for turning up, if only because their families were sick of them walking around the house wistfully booing things like the good old days.The parallels to last season continue to stack up (though now we’ve reached the week the winning streak ended they hopefully go away for a bit), the difference being that we’re rotating our big quarter from week to week, and that the key forwards are taking it in turns to lead the goalkicking. This week the lucky combination was unexpectedly quarter 1/Tom McDonald, with assists from Fritsch, Brown, and West Coast finally running out of steam at the end.It was not pretty, especially in the middle, but was another comfortable win on the road to double flag glory. Also helped not to come back looking like cockheads for losing to a makeshift side who’d probably only met at Thursday training. After unnecessarily stressing about an upset, or at least it being so close that it caused legitimate fear, all week, the best thing for my health was to have it won by quarter time. That we did, but not before keeping it interesting by conceding the opening goal. It wasn’t worth being scared about, refer to the scoring progression against North in 2013 as discussed last week. Anything can happen, but there was no way they were going to hold us at bay for four quarters in perfect conditions unless we had nine injuries and an illness. Perhaps if it pissed down, or if gale force winds allowed them to keep the score down via heroic, Stalingrad-esque defence, but not on a perfectly normal afternoon in front of a friends and family crowd.As expected, the Eagles couldn’t hang on, collapsing in a tremendous heap by the end of the first quarter. It wasn’t that we played that well, but they were so undermanned we just chopped away at them death by a thousand cuts style until the margin was beyond anything they could realistically catch. Their remaining attacks for the quarter plumbed the depths of ineptitude. Josh Kennedy would have helped, but I still don’t think they’d have fed him enough to make any sort of difference. You knew everything was going to turn out alright when our first goal came as the result of a tremendous defensive blunder. Then the second one came from two players colliding mid-marking contest. It really lacked a third player unnecessarily getting involved like this classic, which goes to show how much further the Eagles have got to go before they reach truly tragic levels.If they’re going to become a truly dreadful side, conceding the last six goals of the quarter was a godo start. By the time Jackson hit Brown directly on the teet with a lace-out pass even I was starting to think an apocalyptic porking was on the agenda.Nobody mentioned a howling gale, so I was confident we hadn’t benefitted from a mystery six goal wind. Mind you, only one of the commentators was in the same state as the game so they hardly had a handle on conditions. Or, in the case of Kelli Underwood referring to “scuttlebug”, the English language. She’s still refusing to say the line and refer to ‘Slick Fritsch’ again. There’s no need to be embarrassed, we’re all dying for it to get another run. They could at least pretend to be at the ground instead of having the same commentators doing a halftime show from the studio. No need to waste money on airfares, the guy in Perth was the best of the lot, let him do it solo with Pavlich on special comments.Even with one side wishing for the sweet release of death and the other thinking about what they were going to watch on the plane home, the game hadn’t degraded to total grime and grit yet. In what would otherwise have been the most tedious quarter since some 1968 mudbath at Moorabbin, the sides livened things up with the best comedy slapstick since the Marx Brothers. First Oliver randomly booted the ball straight out of bounds in the pocket, allowing the Eagles to play on and fail to score. Later Jackson attempted a mark on the goal line despite half his body being behind the post, accidentally keeping the ball in and leading a West Coast shot on goal… which they also missed. This sort of comedy caper was literally the last reason left to be watching if you didn’t follow either side. Perhaps you were gagging to watch The Bounce, in which case the doctors had an entire second half to finish your frontal lobotomy.Having already waited until 5.20pm AEST for this fiasco to start, well done anyone who came back after half time instead of ducking out for a Zinger burger. You may have missed West Coast’s best period, including an arsey goal from the boundary line and… err… a missed set shot. To say there was nothing happening would be an understatement. Perhaps there’s a highlight I’ve forgotten, don’t think I’ll be watching the full replay/anything beyond ‘All The Goals’ to find out. Somebody tried to assassinate Bowey but even an elbow to the head couldn’t keep the undisputed Demonweight champion down for long.In the years where we’d have been on the other side of the six goal margin, unconsciousness would have been preferable to watching the rest. But I’m so grateful to be in a position of power that I’d still have clambered over a barbed wire fence to watch the rest. One day we’ll be the shambles again and you’ll look back at walk in the park games like this fondly. I’m not waiting. Imagine a world without Gawn, Petracca, Oliver, much less the rest of a list chockers with premiership heroes? Horrific, let’s just revel in it now.Which is not to say it was even remotely good viewing. I was just mad for what it represented. Like us getting the sort of wonky decision that the Eagles would never have conceded at home when good. Poor old George McGovern is already watching his career ebb away while his brother inexplicably heads for finals at Carlton, now he had his personal space invaded by a clearly not standing Christian Petracca and was forced to play on, then pinched for deliberate. This is what happens when you basically take over somebody’s ground for your own. Insert meme of that Somali “I’m the captain now” chap saying “We’re the home team now”.The margin fell short of Chris Sullivan Line proportions at the last change, but under the circumstances I was prepared to concede there was no possible way they could beat us. It would have taken more than random lightning, aliens would have needed to fly over and whisk our entire lineup off to their home planet.With memories of their twin capitulations in Perth still fresh, Geelong and Footscray fans would have been pouring tears watching us make scoring look difficult against a WAFL side. I was fine with it, considering the torture we were putting them through at the other end. The Eagles occasionally busted clear and could very well have found a forward target if any were playing, but either stuffed things up waiting for one to appear, or panic bombed it straight to a defender. Our best chance of winning by 200 would have been lots of stoppages, their best chance of survival was wasting time by running the ball away from our 50 as fast as possible.The only sizzle on offer was Tom McDonald, but people watch boxing for explosive knockouts, not grinding unanimous points decisions so we did our bit for any remaining neutrals by banging on another seven goals at the end. I was lucky to see any of it, the moment the ball was bounced Kayo started persecuting me with extreme buffering. Probably payback for trying to get in on that 12 months free scam a couple of weeks ago. If there was ever a day for a fourth quarter to be interrupted by internet trouble this was it, if that happens during a thriller I’ll torp my internet-connected device from one side of the room to the other. It took a few minutes to get the party started, but we took advantage of the situation to moderately clobber them. Seven goals to two landed the margin exactly on what it was on that one day in September (Contrary to what De La Soul reckon, the magic number is obviously 74) and everyone went home as happy as can be. The commentators talking sadly about how our forwards missing a chance to fill their boots were welcome to piss up a rope.There wasn’t much more to be said. I might be in an obscene hurry to get this review out and never think about the game again, but there was as little fizz as you could possibly get from a high scoring quarter. Again, let’s be quite clear, there are no complaints here. Every goal is sacred. Adam Simpson compared the different methods of dealing with Ed Langdon over the last two weeks and said “I’ll ‘ave ‘alf”, keeping him to 24 possessions but opening the door for Jordon to do what he liked on the other side. Nice of him to finally get a run at the Theatre of Dreams after spending most of September tucked up on the bench waiting for a teammate to fall over. We mention this because, on 25/09/2021, James Harmes generously proposed throwing an injury to allow Double J to get on the ground (and considering he grew up a Melbourne fan when we were SHIT, giving away your chance to be on the ground at the final siren of the impossible dream is the most underrated good guy moment of all time) and his karmic reward was to go down with an actual injury this time.This opened the door for 10 minutes of super-sub Kade Chandler to show what he could do against demoralised opposition. The answer involved a great chasedown tackle, unfortunately ending in him pulverising the bloke headfirst into the ground. You’ve got to feel for Kade, there wasn’t a hint of malice in it, but given how many players had fallen on their arse it was clear there wasn’t much grass to cushion the fall. It’s quite the kill ratio for Kade, who has only been on the ground for about 8% of his AFL career.On a night when the camera seemed to switch angles at random, Chandler was seen reacting with horror to the replay. He probably wouldn’t have stayed ahead of Bedford in the tracksuit race anyway, but he’s running out of time to have an impact at senior level so this won’t help. His natural reaction should have been worth a discount at the tribunal, who took the outright piss by giving him two weeks for a careless tackle and Liam Ryan one for trying to knock Bowey’s head off. He was probably hoping for a week instead of a fine, given that Casey has the bye anyway, but two is bonkers. Now that we’re aristocrats we should appeal just to make a point.And so, in the most comfortable way possible, that was 16 straight wins. which is a lot. Our run is now statistically eight times and morally 100000 times better than 2013. This year’s portion of the streak doesn’t mean dick if we don’t end the year with a flag, but live in the now and revel in how ludicrously well we’re doing.2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes5 – Christian Petracca4 – Alex Neal-Bullen3 – Kysaiah Pickett2 – Jack Viney1 – Tom McDonaldApologies to Brayshaw, Jordon, May, Oliver, Sparrow, and pretty much everybody else.LeaderboardJust when you thought Oliver was going to charge to a massive, uncatchable lead, a week of even performances squeezed him out, and vaulted Petracca back into the race. No changes in the minors, Gawn has seen off the early Jackson challenge in the Stynes, May retains his lead in the Seecamp, and there’s still chuff all action in the Hilton.21 – Clayton Oliver19 – Christian Petracca16 – Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)14 – Ed Langdon12 – Steven May (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)9 – Jake Bowey, Angus Brayshaw6 – Alex Neal-Bullen, Jack Viney4 – Luke Jackson, James Jordon3 – Ben Brown, James Harmes, Kysaiah Pickett2 – Harrison Petty1 – Tom McDonald, Charlie Spargo, Tom Sparrow, Sam WeidemanAaron Davey Medal for Goal of the YearI quite enjoyed Pickett leaving the West Coast defender in the dust during the first quarter then booting it into the top deck, and he gets the assist for Brown in the second quarter with a delightful gather, but I’ve got to go for Fritsch’s snap at the end. You can’t beat Crumb. It doesn’t affect the top three, and there’s no motivation for a random prize so he’ll have to be happy with our best wishes.Current podium: 1st – Langdon vs Essendon2nd – Petracca vs Essendon3rd – Pickett vs GWS Next WeekOne banana skin easily avoided, now for the other member of the bottom two. On paper North is just as bad, but for unclear reasons I’m more worried about them. Probably because I’ve heard of most of them, and still have distant memories of the 3000+ days when they would treat us with contempt. We should win easily, going one better than last year and dragging Bowey a step closer to the all-time greatest start to a career, but even against opposition at their lowest ebb, inside our dear friend Docklands I’m still wary of something silly happening. After that we play a lot of good sides so will be pleased just to bank the 40th premiership point and move on.We took a chance playing Gawn this week (who tested his knee by climbing atop a white plastic Bunnings chair on the boundary and briefly hanging on to the fence like he was doing a slam dunk), and obviously Lever wasn’t nearly as crocked as he looked at the end of the Saints game, but there’s no chance we’re going to risk tight hamstring Harmes. The question is who replaces him – Dunstan had a shitload of touches in a demolition of North’s reserves, but he’s not really like for like. We could give Bedford a full game and shuffle accordingly. Then there’s the chance to plan for the imminent return of Hibberd and Salem by doing something with Brayshaw and/or Jordon, but I’m going for a Bowey-esque Docklands debut for Bailey Laurie. You have to balance his four goals against quality of opposition, and two of them came after North B had lost the will to live, but it would be reward for a few solid weeks.Usually the hottest competition is for the tall forwards, but McDonald’s goals killed that debate off for another week. Bad news for the Weid and van Rooyen, who each plundered North for six. We’re beyond the stage of dreaming about trade week halfway through the season, but it’s still interesting to think about what we’re going to do with the forwards at the end of the year. Mitch Brown is playing out the year before we give him a hearty handshake and thanks for your cotnribution, but I think one of McDonald or Weideman will go. Maybe if JVR looks good by the end of the year they might be more comfortable letting McSizzle go and taking the punt on Weid. We’re at the stage where fringe players are going to start falling off the side at a rapid rate – especially if we’ve got to pay for Brayshaw and Jackson to play – so we can replace them with dirt cheap draftees, I think this will be the start of it.In a classic bit of VFL fixturing we played North’s reserves a week before the seniors, then have the bye, so if you miss the seniors next week you’re not playing anywhere. I know Aspley (former home of The Spencil and the Wagnii) pulled out at the end of last season, but if you’re going to have a 21 team competition may as well find any warm bodies to fill one more spot and play an even number of games. Bring back The Hammerheads, they can’t be much worse than B-sides of AFL teams losing by 110 points.IN: Laurie, Bedford (sub)OUT: Chandler (susp), Harmes (inj)LUCKY: NilUNLUCKY: Hibberd, van Rooyen, WeidemanI’ll go for a six goal margin again. Hopefully they put everything they’ve got into containing us then go tits up over the next three quarters. I’d still feel better if they could lose a couple of players to random misfortunes during the week.This is also the week where we’re rebranding to Narrm for the artist formerly known as Indigenous Round. I still say we could have made a unique, permanent contribution to the cause by adopting the sick rear of last year’s indigenous jumper on our playing strip but this hurts absolutely nobody so play on. If offended I recommend looking around the world in which you live.Final thoughtsDon’t take anything for granted, but I reckon we’re going to make finals from here. Play them all in Fortress Perth again.

Read More »

15 love

When you’re a middle class suburban dickhead it’s hard to understand why rich, talented and successful people fall off the rails. How, you wonder, can anyone go to pieces when they’ve got all the riches in the world at their disposal? Halfway through the third quarter here I discovered the sporting variant. Through no talent of my own except 33 years of staying power, I’ve wound up following a reigning premier that has won 15 games in a row, and the pressure is surprisingly immense. Amanda Heard might have shit in Johnny Depp’s bed because [reasons], but I’d hate to see what she’d have done when we briefly looked like torching a near 50 point lead. We’ve got to lose again eventually, I’m just heavily invested in it happening under fair and reasonable circumstances, not as the result of a miracle comeback or earth-shattering upset.I’d rather go on a Tinder date with Squeaky Fromme than live through the #fistedforever years again, but there was a lot more scope for carefree self-depreciation when wins came by surprise. Now I’ve got the greeds for endlessly hoarding wins. Maybe the big run won’t properly be appreciated until it’s over but I’m willing to wait and find out. For now, it felt like another in a long line of professional, solid wins, in a decade we’ll look back at another component of a streak that has now reached the all-time list.Tell you who doesn’t go for fear and self-doubt, Jake bloody Bowey that’s who. The man who has played every game of the great run, and who now outright owns the greatest winning start to a career in MFC history. Jake Spencer, Dean Terlich and Jimmy Toumpas also won 15 times, it just took them a combined 100 games. At a time where we need relief at the Bowza, I reckon he’ll get more write-in votes at the election than some official candidates.Even if Bowey finishes his career below 50%, few will be more closely associated with this era. The mere mention of his name will transport you back to a magical time. I’m not waiting, every time he touches the ball I think flag. I’ve never been one for taking it a week at a time (see various versions of the Bradbury Plan), but as he got within range of a record that none of us had ever thought about before April 2022 I found myself desperately wanting him to break it. Doesn’t hurt that we all win when he does, but even though he doesn’t get a medal, and the club doesn’t get premiership points I acted as if it would be final proof that everything is awesome.It’s appropriate that Jake became the undisputed owner of that hotly contested (?) record on the same day 2011 survivor Tom McSizzle played his 200th game, uniting both the shit and shit hot eras of our recent history. McDonald was the first MFC debut after 186, and if you want to feel old please review the list of who he lined up with – and against – that day. Between players who were Melbourned and Gold Coasted you’ve got two full class actions there.Think of all the water under the bridge since 28/08/2011, both in football and life. They were the years when I’d do anything unethical or immoral to go to games. Engagement parties avoided, family reunions dodged etc… And here I was on Sunday afternoon in or around the CBD, available at the perfect time to cart my arse to the MCG for the greatest show on earth and… pulling out due to fatigue. If you kept the same hours as me you’d be worn out too. Still, of all the midlife crisis content nothing gets me down more than a waning commitment to seeing every game live at the best time to be a Melbourne fan for 60 years. There were extra pangs of regret when Level 4 of the Ponsford was open (ironic if my whinging complaint helped then I didn’t turn up) but not surprisingly they were absent when the final siren went and I didn’t have to cart myself hither and yon to get home. It was also nice to dodge Dwayne Russell shrieking like he’s on a plummeting plane. Fox Footy treated this interesting game with top four implications seriously and sent Anthony Hudson, unlike the AFL fixturing it with the respect usually given to Hawthorn vs GWS in Launceston.I still treat every goal like a gift from the gods, so was thrilled when Pickett swung the door open with crumb after 30 seconds. Even when our man Jake’s kick inside 50 landed in the middle of all available targets things are going so well for him that it sat perfectly to be scooped up and slammed home. This was good, but I’ve seen plenty of games in a previous life where we’d snatch a goal out of the middle and things looked wonderful until the other team got a kick. We’re supposed to be patronising towards North’s current plight, but I remember getting the first against them, then conceding 22 of the last 25.Tactics will depend on available players, but whatever the paid experts at St Kilda saw in the review of our last game they missed the bit where a) you try to stop Ed Langdon having a million touches, and b) your best chance of catching our backline out is to get the ball down there quickly but not recklessly. Their effort was unquestionable but back with a comical lack of patience. Bad news for next big thing Max King, whose two goals came as third quarter consolations on either side of May battering him in every contest while teammates blindly hoofed the ball in his general direction from 60 metres. The squeezing of life from the opposition at one end usually translates to scoring at the other, but we like to keep things interesting. For instance, try to pick the quarter where we win the game in 10 minutes of glory before cruising to the final siren in Rancho Relaxo mode. But it’s the small things around that that make the difference, in this case Harmes’ Wayne-esque efforts at keeping the ball alive to set up Spargo. It was the same spot where we eventually cost ourselves a goal by unnecessarily doing the same thing against Hawthorn, but there was a big difference between blindly knocking the ball back into traffic and disposing of your closest opponent before using acres of space to kick towards a free player in the square.Two goals to nil means nothing, and it’s not like we were steamrolling them. In every aspect other than scoring, the Saints were fine. Having two good rucks helped calm Gawn down, and they were perfectly competitive around the ground, the problem was the attacking with blind optimism that usually ended with the ball pinging back the other way. Usually via the wing where Langdon was enjoying freedom of movement after a snap one week lockdown.Without ever being truly great, the quarter just got better and better, and before you knew it we were basically five goals up. Pickett missed a couple of chances, but you win some and lose some with players who sometimes go so fast they don’t know what they’re doing until it happens. Strangely, after a red hot start he didn’t get a touch when we were running riot in the second. Nice to have depth.After doing so well to restrict them to a couple of shots and no goals, all my warm and fuzzy feelings went straight out the window when we seemingly gave a goal back in the red hottest of DemonTime. It was a fair bet that a mark at the top of the square with seconds left was going to end in agoal, and as I was watching on a quarter and a half of delay there was no time to waste. As ball hit Tim Membrey’s boot I dived for fast forward to start catching up. The last thing I heard was Anthony Hudson saying something like “hold on a minute”, assumed he was referring to their belated comeback in an attempt to stop viewers turning off, and scanned straight to the start of the second. I only realised he’d flubbed it when they were still on 0.3 after the break, rumbled by the video replay for kicking into the man on the mark. What makes it even more remarkable is that unlike future Hall of Famers like Jack Riewoldt, Lance Franklin and Josh Kennedy, Membrey has kicked more goals against us than any other opposition. Didn’t get one here though, and I’m a bit sad not to have seen it live.If you were a St Kilda fan and survived the 2009/2010 Grand Finals you’re probably immortal, but I’d still have been wrecking inanimate objects when McDonald found Brown in acres of space for the opening goal of the second quarter. You get the easiest shot in history to bring the margin back to under four goals, stuff it up, then almost immediately let one in at the other end. You’d be ropeable. I loved it.This prompted the Saints to finally kick a goal, which we responded to with the next four. This was our contractually obligated nuclear blast of the week, opening an ultimately matchwinning 45 point gap. At that point we looked absolutely irresistable, McSizzle got two milestone goals to slowly edge closer to the one goal a game average we’ve been craving for years, on either side of Brayshaw kicking a pearler from the boundary, and Brown doing some plus-size crumb. Christ knows where Bayley Fritsch was, but it didn’t matter. You’d never have guessed that we’d concede the next five and would be forced to find a settler at the end of the third quarter to ensure things didn’t get ropey. Though if you’re of a nervous disposition like me there might have been some suspicions.While they conceded defeat on Langdon patrolling the wing like he was travelling by helicopter, the Saints finally decided to stop going forward like maniacs and it changed the composition of the game. Now we were under some pressure in defence. Most of the time it was turned away, but now they were getting serious opportunities. On the topic of backmen, a word for somebody who isn’t one but is doing a decent job of pretending. Angus Brayshaw’s disposal is about as heart in mouth as McDonald’s used to be (and didn’t we all love the Sizzle paying tribute to where he’s come from with an old fashioned ludicrously optimistic kick that across the ground?), but his ability to find the ball, and courage to get in the way of it on ground or in area is brilliant. He remains one solid blow from major concussion issues but throws himself into everything. The coaches would love that stuff so much that I could see him leading the B&F at this stage – and not just as a Chris Grant style rort to make him feel bad about leaving. If our salary cap is screaming so loudly that somebody’s got to go, and it ends in round one compensation I can live with that. Even if the AFL has one of its unpredictable changes of heart, scraps compo picks and leaves us empty-handed I’ll have no grudge against a premiership hero. He is also welcome to make all that irrelevant, take a fair wage and be part of something special for the next few years.After 45 minutes of rubbish forward delivery not even remotely befitting an unbeaten premiership side, we calmed the farm with a goal plucked directly from the arse. Brown marked a touched kick, then wheeled around like David Schwarz 1994 and snapped it through anyway. There can’t be a team in the league that marks as many touched kicks as us, it happens about five times a week. At least in this case the player on the end was aware enough to get on with things, and surprisingly nimble enough to make his At the time it looked like weird goals were all we’d get, because the artfully crafted, sensible ones had dried up. You do wonder how we can turn into a merger of Hawthorn ’89 and Essendon ’00 for a few minutes every week, then go back to making goals look more complicated than splitting the atom. You can’t get away with it forever, but as long as the band is tuned up by September I’ll cop a few random losses midway through the season. But for god’s sake not just yet.In a scenario slightly more realistic than Bob Random mysteriously going down for Richmond when they needed fresh legs, a real injury allowed the Saints to throw Marcus Windjammer on for the last quarter. I wouldn’t know him if he knocked on my door, but at this point of Success Stress Syndrome (if it’s not a real thing it should be), anybody could be the assassin who ends our run. On the day when Bowey and McDonald’s milestones drew two decades together, being turned over in dramatic style by a fifth game sub would been an unwanted flashback. Sadly for windjammers everywhere he goalled with his only kick but couldn’t inspire a dramatic coup Meanwhile on our bench it was feet up, tracksuit on, crosswords and a nice cup of tea for Toby Bedford, who achieved the goal of all young footy players – being the unused medical substitute more than any other play in club history. I think Bowey’s got him covered in a game of rock, paper, accomplishments.With our returning ‘cron victims showing no signs of flagging, a 28 point lead three quarter lead should have been safe against opposition who’d just played in tropical slop.Instead of treating this as a sign we were going to win without exiting second gear I convinced myself a great comeback was still on the cards. Because I am, at heart, a panicky idiot. The sort who celebrates a failed bounce because if runs two seconds off the clock. Plenty of time for that during this game, with the ball flinging off at all sorts of angles. At one point Max did his famous ‘thump it forward anyway’ trick, which was not nearly as much fun as when it annoyed a bald man.Looking for any excuse as to why the best team in the competition might go to pieces against a side made up 50% of finals calibre players and 50% who might get a game at West Coast if nobody else was available, I was heart in mouth when they got the first clearance. Like so many other times recently, an opposition attack worked in our favour, leading to a quick first goal that should have killed the game. Ironically it started by nearly killing Ed Langdon, who risked pulverisation to go back with the flight and defuse a centre clearance. Next thing you knew Fritsch was wandering through defenders with the ball in one hand like a rugby leaguist before snapping over his shoulder from close range.After a year of doing enough across the middle quarters then easing off, dishing out a little dollop of wallop to a title aspirant would have been welcome but I was happy enough to put down an unbridgeable gap and float to 15-0 atop a big fluffy cloud. When the Anal-Bullet lined up for a shot not long after I was ready to clamber aboard nimbo cumulous and call it a day. He hit the post, they went down the other end for two in quick succession and even if nobody else in the world thought they were a chance – even the St Kilda players – I did.The tension of whether we’d blow the lead or not – and unless you’re mentally broken like me there was no suggestion that was ever going to happen – was temporarily interrupted by some world class handbags at 20 paces action between Oliver and the less likeable Jones brother. The footage is like one of those ‘what colour is the dress’ wankfests, only instead of finding out what side of your brain is dominant it will demonstrate how much of a Melbourne nuffy you are. No doubt there was contact to the chest, but he probably didn’t need to go down like JFK in Dallas. The good news is that Jones’ passive aggressive whinging at him was 100x more fun than Jack Riewoldt sooking about Bowey allegedly diving. I’d also be more inclined to punch on for the Hamburglar’s reputation if he hadn’t gone down like Ricky The Dragon Steamboat at Wrestlemania III that time against the Eagles. It made me uncomfortable, but anything that annoys opposition fans is a good thing. Let them hate so long as they fear. The afters also took the heat off him setting Langdon up to be flattened in the first place. St Kilda fans had been going spare about the umpiring all day, and not without justification at times, so after the Jones incident it was delicious when we killed them off for good via Pickett giving it maximum Dial-A-Duck in a tackle. It’s no coincidence that things started going better for us when we introduced these sort of murky shenanigans into our game. If it’s good enough for everyone else there was no point trying to be so pure we practically levitated above the ground.The payback for this was lesser small forward Jack Higgins turning up for the first time all day and having his back barely pressed on by Petty 99% of the way through a tackle. It’s been a while since I’ve whinged about these frees, I don’t care how technically correct they are, if it’s not dangerous and the ball has already been wrapped up then it should be treated as an occupational hazard of playing a sport involving tackling. But it creates goals, which help ratings, which will allow the AFL to sell the broadcasting rights to AnotherBloodyStreamingService.com for a mint so good luck changing anything. Apparently, dissent was fine again though, including the St Kilda bloke inviting the umpire to review the scoreboard without penalty. Now, I know nobody expects consistency but… wait, I’m just getting an update here…. actually that’s exactly what they want.Once Harmes lobbed through a couple of the junkiest junk time goals ever seen I was ready to call time and go home with the points before somebody got injured. Then they cut to Lever hobbling to the bench with obvious leg concerns. It came so late that Bedford wasn’t even woken up, and far too late to be a factor in the game. Might not help in future weeks, I’m sure he was doing an exaggerated funny walk at the end but still looked like somebody wandering into an emergency department and saying “million to one shot doc…”So, nothing to complain about here. We might have gone on from the eight goal lead and buried them, but after 15 (fifteen) wins in a row I’m not going to moralise about they happen. We’ve got a fair distance to cover before qualifying to polish the boots of the Norm Smith era but there are some parallels – a forward line that shares their goals around, and a lot of very good players who will all get Brownlow votes but ensure that none is dominant enough to win the Brownlow. Somehow they’ve both only won this many games in a row once each. These are delightful times.2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes5 – Angus Brayshaw4 – Steven May3 – Ed Langdon2 – Clayton Oliver1 – Christian PetraccaMore apologies than most to Harmes, Jordon and PickettLeaderboardNot sure ‘any other player’ has ever scored one of these awards but Angus Brayshaw is now a red hot chance of a Seecamp boilover. However, if you’re betting on shadowy mid-season markets based in the Cayman Islands be wary of him going back to the wing/midfield when Salem returns and being disqualified. Otherwise, no new vote getters again, and only the slightest increase in Oliver’s lead. There are many, many games left so plenty still to play for.21 – Clayton Oliver16 – Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)14 – Ed Langdon, Christian Petracca12 – Steven May9 – Jake Bowey (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Angus Brayshaw (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)4 – Luke Jackson, James Jordon, Jack Viney3 – Ben Brown, James Harmes, 2 – Alex Neal-Bullen, Harrison Petty1 – Charlie Spargo, Tom Sparrow, Sam WeidemanAaron Davey Medal for Goal of the YearThere’s a few potential winners here, none worthy of dethroning the current top three but very enjoyable nonetheless. Apologies to either of the contributions by Pickett or Brown, and Rivers nine ironing his kick home, but it’s the coveted five votes/Davey nomination for Brayshaw. For the weekly prize he wins a new helmet. To claim please sign this piece of paper where I’m definitely not holding my hand over the bit showing it’s a new contract. Is there anything better than a post-goal hug? 😍 😍 #DemonSpirit | #AFLDeesSaints pic.twitter.com/OGtqP7i1xv— Melbourne Demons (@melbournefc) May 8, 2022 Current podium: 1st – Langdon vs Essendon2nd – Petracca vs Essendon3rd – Pickett vs GWS Next WeekAlright, we’re playing West Coast at the gloriously lowest ebb in their existence, will go in the reddest hot favourites, and some parasite bookmaker who wants free publicity will set the line at 99.5 points. In theory this means we should – and probably will – win, but settle down on predictions of apocalyptic beltings. It might happen, but plenty of people thought we were going to steamroll the Crows last year and look how that turned out. If you prefer a comparison with a happy ending, see MFC vs Essendon 2012. The Bombers weren’t reigning premiers, but were pinging off the walls on Mexican harness racing drugs so a major munting was on the cards. Enter leading goalkicker Colin Garland, Sam Blease bursting his grundle, a bit of rain and what was to that point the biggest ladder position shock in AFL history. I’m not saying it’s going to happen again but don’t spend the week wondering which forward is going to kick 12. Sure, Essendon won our next meeting by 148, but we didn’t know that at the time.I don’t think we’re at the stage of arrogantly resting players yet, and hopefully never will be, but Lever was absolutely crocked by the final siren so there’s no point carting him to the other side of the country. That’s good news for Adam Tomlinson, who is better than ‘break in case of emergency’ but has the misfortune of being stuck in the queue behind some bloody good players. He lost his first 21 games (and let’s not talk about the victim of the first win), once their careers are over he and Bowey should do a Yobbos Up The Guts style pub tour of Australia.There’s also some concern over Max Gawn’s knee, and I know the most sensible thing to do is rest him but in the moment I’m terrified by this idea. Sanity will prevail and they won’t risk him on what should be a non-event, but I reserve the right to nervously adjust my collar until it’s proven not to be the decisive move that leads us into the biggest upset for years. The Sizzle proved a highly competent replacement for Gawn five years ago, but given that they preferred Weideman as #2 against Hawthorn I’m not sure the coaches see it the same way. Maybe that was an Yze thing? Either way, I’m ready to give Daw a spin. He’s not going to be there next year, but this is no time to throw part timers in and assume everything’s going to be alright.IN: Daw, TomlinsonOUT: Gawn, Lever (inj)LUCKY: NilUNLUCKY: Bedford, M. Brown, WeidemanHere’s to the memories of our last visit to Perth spurring on a great victory. I’ll still spend the week quietly filling my shorts at the prospect of losing, but not in the same psychotic way as last year. Still can’t hear Midnight Train To Georgia or Regulate without having reverse PTSD about how wound up I was that week. Have probably never been that stressed over several days than that in my life, which is a) a sign that things have gone pretty well so far, and b) a good explanation as to why I’m comfortable taking a slight step back now.Final thoughtsTracking BoweyMania on the records of boxers, Rocky Marciano has knocked out Jimmy Walls in 1949, Mike Tyson has TKO’ed Mark Young in the first round in 1985 and Floyd Mayweather has stopped Miguel Melo in 1998. But none of them won a world championship as quickly so they can all get stuffed. Hail to the chief.

Read More »

Adem Yze’s Red and Blue Army

Now, let’s cross to the Melbourne Football Club COVID ward: Yes, it’s the week when the pandemic finally got to us. Until now Pfizer has been the only organisation to have done better from it, but our luck finally ran out when AAMI Park was (not for the first time) declared a total cluster. After dropping a couple of players here and there throughout the year, a veritable COVID plague ripped through the side, knocking out five players in three days. A reminder that each was our premiership player – which makes no difference to this discussion, it’s just satisfying to talk about winning a premiership.Having never followed the alleged standout team of the competition before, this game offered a brand new viewing experience. I’m used to stressing about losing now (instead of considering it a default starting position), but the combination of the ongoing greatest run of our lives, and the prospect of it all going out the window in the middle of a rampant viral outbreak was too much for my central nervous system. Either that, or the four quarters of chills were a hint that I’m also about to ‘enter Health and Safety Protocols’. Which makes it sound like the victims are going to the world’s worst nightclub. And as for Yze replacing Goodwin after Round 6, well I was a year out on that prediction but all’s well that ends well.Anyway, whether sports or the immune system were to blame, this game caused me to have a physical shocker. Win a flag they (I) said, you’ll never worry about losing again they (I) said. Maybe once we finally do lose again I’ll be able to dial back to an appropriate level of post-flag tension. Until then I’m risking dying in my seat. If that happens I’d like to update the instructions for my ashes – stuff the MCG, cart them across the country and scatter in the exact spot at Perth Stadium where Petracca started the Mad Minute.So, that’s all a bit morbid. Not my fault that Melbourne’s glory era is intersecting with a midlife crisis. I also didn’t want to lose in the week where clickbait fanatics up and down the media went nuclear suggesting nobody would beat us. No sane person takes this sort of thing seriously, but they’re happy to bring it up if it helps hang shit on you. See, for example, the Hawthorn fan on the train who opened his post-match comments with “Well, I thought they were supposed to be unbeatable” before following with a perverted sounding laugh. Well, unless we go 22-0 and there’s a finals rematch your lot won’t be the ones beating us. And you’re wearing brown in public. Which is what I would have said if I wasn’t too old to publicly joust with the lowest rungs of society.Anyway, look at this result however you like, we’re 7-0 for the second year in a row so there’s not a lot to be upset about. The difference is that this time it’s not such a novelty so we’re expecting better, but have a look at the run of wins at the start of 2021 and identify which ones were siren to siren rippers. Between our selection handicaps, and an opposition that held us for 7/8 quarters last year before recovering to mid-table mediocrity this season, it was never going to be the weird Saturday afternoon timeslot pulverisation of your dreams. We’ll clobber somebody for four quarters again eventually, for now just be happy with random malicious outbursts. Against the Giants it lasted 20 minutes and carried us to a big win, here it lasted 10 and we’d probably have lost if the game went another five. Sunrise, sunset. Or more accurately – eat, sleep, win, repeat.Yes, Hawthorn had been thumped by St Kilda a few weeks ago, and fell apart like a Russian tank in the last quarter against Sydney, but it was still a flashing ‘red light spells danger’ game. The losses of Jackson, Neal-Bullen, Petty, Pickett and Sparrow, were somewhat offset by Lever and Viney coming back from their own trip to Protocols, and experience like McDonald and Melksham being recalled from Casey. We weren’t exactly relying on kids, VFL players, and players recruited through Facebook Marketplace. This was still a side that should have been able to take care of largely anonymous, or well past their prime, opposition. But with memories of them almost beating us via scrappy, ‘any means necessary’ kicks into the forward line last year, I wouldn’t have had 10 Zimbabwean dollars on winning easily. Fortunately we covered for another fourth quarter flop with another half decent third quarter. As long as you’re in front at the end…As much as I respected Hawthorn for taking it to us last year, and was secretly scared by our outs, when they chose this week to ‘manage’ two young players part of me hoped that was the raising of white flag in an attempt to get the inevitable loss out of the way without losing too much percentage. They certainly went in for option B, providing a handy template on how to keep Langdon quiet and alternatively tagging either Oliver and Petracca. This kept one of them relatively quiet at a time, but allowed the other one to collect possessions out the yin yang when left alone. Get set for another 15 exciting weeks of this.If it wasn’t already obvious that this was going to be a weird day, unrepentant poker machine barons Hawthorn ran through a banner imploring us to enjoy the game not the odds. Every Victorian club has shamefully fleeced the vulnerable out of their lolly (and I would have guiltily kept the pokies if required to save the club), but there’s something extra sinister in reminding everyone that the bad form of gambling is the one you’re not getting a cut from.The Hawks were well within their rights to adopt negative tactics, you’d be idiots not to, and in a dream result against a superior side they not only worked but had us on the run. If international tourists turned up because a guidebook told them to see an AFL game while in Melbourne, 100% would have suggested they were the competition’s defending champion. Gawn was doing what you’d expect against the most uninspiring ruck division since Brett Goodes contested Footscray’s centre bounces, but once ball hit ground we were running around as if in quicksand. Like a repeat of either game against us last year they were legging it around the ground in numbers, free as toilet coloured birds.As we’ve learnt to both our benefit and detriment this year, two goals leads at the start of a game are almost worthless. So at 12 points down I wasn’t gathering my Coronavirus related excuses and Googling for trauma counsellors, but when they had a shot for three in a row there was a bit of heart in the mouth ‘is this the night?’ tension. A miss from 30 metres in front was welcome, but we had clearly not shown up. See, for instance, a string of uncharacteristic May clangers that suggested he had COVID of the leg, the worst being the kick over Gawn’s head – which looked extra comical considering how high you’ve got to miskick it to totally miss somebody that large.On days where we look like toiling and struggling to kick goals, the answer is usually a piece of lightning transition. Indeed it was again, with Langdon and Fritsch combining for the first before both disappearing into the Bermuda Triangle for the rest of the afternoon. That looked good, but things were still not going well. If I thought Petracca was short of 100% I’m convinced Lever is. Whether it’s related to foot or virus, he wasn’t moving like the man we know and love. Somehow we weathered the various storms and were just two points down at quarter time. No idea how. McDonald kicked one, then another that was taken off him because the umpire waited about 20 seconds to pay a free, and Bedford got the heartwarming first of his career after ‘playing’ more career games as unused sub than those where he’s stepped on the ground. He’s no Pickett, but it was still a positive performance. There was one ripper tackle on the outer wing, and a crumb to set up a goal for Brown that should lead to further opportunities. It had been grim and gritty, but no real harm done. The only question was which of the sides that have shown a deep love of the early finish would be ahead when the game prematurely went to junk time after three quarters. Because I worry about everything, the fact that Hawthorn has won a thriller this year and we haven’t scared me. Nevertheless, things started to look up when McSizzle either a) made sure of a goal or (delete as applicable) b) absolutely thieved one off Harmes at the start of the second. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was running back towards goal, saw the ball dropping towards him, and marked it out of instinct. Instead of either paying the goal, or the mark from a range that was only ever going to lead to a goal, the umpire wasted a minute going to the video to decide what had happened. I’m usually pro-McDonald, but had the replay shown that he juggled it over the line I might have tried to trade him to Gold Coast.When Gawn did another one of his long distance mortar goals shortly after, it seemed we were finally on the verge of putting them away. Oliver was now being tagged into the ground, after being on pace for about 48 disposals at quarter time, but that allowed Petracca space to do whatever he liked. Because nothing comes easy for us, defending premier or not, we couldn’t shake them off, and things remained uncomfortably tight for the rest of the quarter. Apparently only one of our forwards can fire at a time, and the Wheel of Footy spun in favour of Ben Brown this week. Hawthorn fans will be screaming about him getting goals from frees, but it’s nothing personal, it’s what he does in the weeks where we kick to the advantage of his robo-arms. It’s even funnier that Sam Frost was giving away the frees, not because I have anything against him, but because you know he’d love to unleash so much dissent that he’d be standing the mark in Federation Square. For fans of old school Frostball there was even one of his mad, ferret up the legs, no idea what he’s going to do next, runs out of defence. It was thrilling when it used to happen for us, but I think I’ll stick with May, Lever et al if that’s ok.Just as we were veering towards “I love you but you’re boring” territory, the big, ultimately match-winning break came midway through the third. After conceding an end-to-end goal at the start, when we should have just taken the ball out instead of trying to play like the Harlem Globetrotters, what floodgates there were opened in our favour. Brown from frees, Gawn with another long bomb, and a lovely Bedford goal on the run should have ended the game on the spot, before the Weid cropped up for the first time all day for his first. I’m all for recreational Weid, but he didn’t have a great day. I hate it, because he is a very likeable character so I want him to do well. However, while neither is perfect if we’re still in the business of trying to win flags I think McDonald is more reliable, versatile, and physically imposing. Sure he picked Harmes’ pocket, and is nowhere near the player he was a year ago but I think he’s got more strings to his bow. May Sam prove me wrong in spectacular fashion then triumphantly spit in my face on Grand Final night. I will squeeze the slag into a commemorative bottle.After royally cracking the sads at our inability/unwillingness to kill the ball in the pocket 20 minutes earlier, I had a hypocritical backflip when Fritsch did the same thing and it led to the goal that should have left us 30+ ahead at the last change. Which it would have, had we not kept things interesting by giving away a free and goal in the pocket. There wasn’t much to it, but the decision had an element of square up after they’d missed an obvious decision against us in the same spot about 10 seconds earlier.Being the dullest game we’ve played in ages, there isn’t much to say about the last quarter. We wobbled along but ran the clock down for long enough to win, and Joel Smith was injured again. This saved Kade Chandler (remember him?) from reclaiming his old record for most tracksuit time ‘appearances’, and blessed us with the sight of all joint record holders him, Bedford and Jordon on field at the same time. He didn’t do much when he came on, but to be fair he was trying to be enthusiastic amongst 21 teammates who’d mentally checked out. He’s never had a decent chance, but I think it might be curtains for Kade now, having to get past the likes of Pickett, Spargo, Bedford etc.. for a game. Let’s get him to parity between real games and fake games at least, he’s now on four sub appearances out of seven. No doubt we’ll delist/trade him, the rule will instantly change to allow teams to do subs whenever they want, and he’ll come of the bench successfully every week for somebody else.Despite looking like we wanted to be anywhere but the ‘G, there were various chances to put the game away. Oliver won a free but missed from close range, and Melksham failed to make sure of it from one of the most slapstick kicks across defence of all time. It kept the door open for a fiasco, but sadly for those of a brown persuasion, there wasn’t enough time left to run us down. We had excuses out the yin yang, but the finish was still flatter than a plate full of piss. Thank god for a friendly radio station revealing how much time there was left, so I knew only the most ridiculous double goal scenario could sink us in the dying seconds. An obscene number of people want the ‘five minute warning’ scenario of hiding the clock, but I implore you to show some respect for those of us who may have an aneurysm during a thriller. Once the technology exists to press a button and remove the clock you’re welcome to it, until then stop prioritising spectacle over my chances of survival.2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes5 – Max Gawn4 – Clayton Oliver3 – Jack Viney2 – Jake Bowey1 – Christian PetraccaApologies to Brown, Jordon and Brayshaw.LeaderboardNobody new in the votes for once, but Gawn and Oliver clear out at the top and the undefeated king of footy takes the outright lead in the Seecamp. Still nothing in the Hilton, but we’re pleased to say that as unused sub games don’t count, Toby Bedford and Kade Chandler’s long-term campaigns for the medal remain alive.19 – Clayton Oliver16 – Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)13 – Christian Petracca11 – Ed Langdon9 – Jake Bowey (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)8 – Steven May4 – Angus Brayshaw, Luke Jackson, James Jordon, Jack Viney3 – Ben Brown, James Harmes, 2 – Alex Neal-Bullen, Harrison Petty1 – Charlie Spargo, Tom Sparrow, Sam WeidemanAaron Davey Medal for Goal of the YearDefinitely nothing for the top three here. In fact, you’d struggle to find three goals worth remembering. Fritsch’s tap/Dunstan’s lucky connection to boot to set up Petracca deserves a mention, but only because we did bugger else of interest. By default, and because McSizzle cost Harmes the nomination, the winner is Toby Bedford on the run in the third quarter. For the weekly prize Tobes wins a pillow and book of crosswords for his next four quarters awkwardly sitting on the bench waiting for a teammate to fall over. Not bad for your second career goal. 🔥 🔥#DemonSpirit | #AFLDeesHawks pic.twitter.com/rGwcelO7SS— Melbourne Demons (@melbournefc) April 30, 2022 Current podium: 1st – Langdon vs Essendon2nd – Petracca vs Essendon3rd – Pickett vs GWS Crowd Watch (incorporating First World Problems)Given that the Cluedo passage between Olympic and Ponsford was locked, I gathered that the tightwads in charge of the former People’s Ground didn’t want anyone in the top level of the latter. With no time/energy left to scan out and back in at Gate 1, I settled for the second best option and gazed longingly at the handful of people who were up there. Then halfway through the first quarter I looked up and they were all gone.According to their website it was supposed to be shut, so the person who caught me trying to go up there for the Giants game must have deserted her post. So, instead of waiting for a break in the game they realise halfway through the quarter and send security guards up there to disappear the fans like a South American dictatorship. I’d have risked ejection by refusing to go until the break. I don’t ditch my family to rush to the ground, sit in the cold and risk a heart attack from stress just to miss parts of the game being herded around like livestock.So, instead of having the minimum 10 comfortable rows of space in front of me, I was reduced to three at best. For the second half this meant kids running up and down the aisle in front of me, one who had clearly shit himself, but never went close enough to his parents for them to realise. Obviously they thought my various disgusted faces were related to the footy. No wonder people aren’t doing a hammy to go to live games anymore. How much extra did it cost them to open the top level on the day there was about 20 of us up there against Gold Coast? Is the stadium with a 29 year waiting list for membership (but who’ll be happy if you start giving them money them well before that) under such financial stress that this will push them over the edge? Maybe somebody’s emptied their bank account and put it through Hawthorn’s pokies? Either way, I know it only affects a handful of people but it’s shithouse for those of us with what we’ll politely describe as issues. Remember when they were whacking off about having ‘Sensory Rooms’ at the MCG for people who don’t like crowded areas? Who knows if that’s still a thing, or some token effort that was quietly shelved post-COVID, but I don’t need a whole room, just the option to park myself as far away from people as is humanely possible. I sent in an official whinge to the MCC just to confirm it would come back with a ‘thank you for your valuable feedback, we have passed it on to the relevant department’ cut and paste response, and it did. Hopefully somebody takes the bait and calls me to discuss, just so I can have a real life whinge. ot that it’ll change their mind, ultimately they’re free to do whatever they like with their ground, but if you’re going to copy crowd management techniques don’t steal them from Docklands.  Next WeekBased on the way we’ve coasted over the line in fourth quarters, the numbers of players returning from illness, and my general fear that the rug will be irreversibly pulled from under us at any moment, I’m going to assume we lose to St Kilda. The counterbalance is that they just played (and lost) on soggy tropical ground, in 88% humidity. Still, it’s all pointing to that win against a big team that makes everyone slide off their seat in joy, only for the same people to turn on them for ‘getting ahead of themselves’ when they lose.The ins are all obvious, as we bring back anyone whose immune system has come good. And as far as I’m concerned, so are the outs. They might stick for the Weid considering he’s kicked a few goals recently, but until a dramatic change of heart in the next few weeks I’m rejoining Team Sizzle. The Milkshake didn’t set the world on fire, so I might go for a Bedford/Pickett double and see what happens. We could very well win, but I’m expecting to have a torrid time. IN: Jackson, Neal-Bullen, Petty, Pickett, SparrowOUT: Smith (inj), Melksham, Chandler, Dunstan, Weideman (omit)LUCKY: McDonaldUNLUCKY: Dunstan, WeidemanFinal thoughtsI don’t think we ever need to discuss this again. You may have gathered from the rest of the review that I wasn’t particularly keen on starting. The only incident of note is that Jake Bowey is now 14-0, capturing a share of the all-time MFC record alongside 2x premiership player Bryan Kenneally. I can’t see us winning five more on the bounce so he beats the all-time VFL/AFL mark, but it’s still quite the achievement. Otherwise, bury the tapes of this game in a landfill and move on.

Read More »

Any Which Way But Lose

Every great empire goes tits up eventually. The Romans met the Visigoths, the French dropped successive games in Vietnam and Algeria, Britain threw it all away over the Suez Canal, and Melbourne sacked Norm Smith. With an appropriate level of respect to the original best team of the last decade, I hope the Richmond version is Jack Riewoldt doing pantomime diving actions midway through the last quarter of a losing effort.If trying to start a fight with one of the most successful players in recent history is the key takeaway from continuing our outright second best winning run in club history, in front of 70,000 people, maybe winning is starting to get boring. Alternatively, he went on so much that it was a genuinely comic moment that deserves to be seen in every format from .GIF to .WMV. Even if Jack knew my opinion existed, I’m sure he wouldn’t give two shits, so it’s probably just a transparent attempt to start an argument with Richmond fans. After all, at this point, there’s no other set of fans who can reasonably taunt us about anything. Geelong and Hawthorn have won more flags this century, but at this stage that’s about as relevant as Adelaide’s back-to-back or Fitzroy 1944. Now that the Bulldogs have stopped crying about popular music I’m over them, so may as well fight with the side we’re chasing into immortality.Richmond circa Round 6, 2022 is not the future Hall of Fame model of a couple of years ago, but I still sensed some good old-fashioned post-flag arrogance towards them during the week. There’s never been a better time for swagger than 5-0 with a premiership in the bag, but treating the Tigers like a has-been bump in the road was full of risk. We’ve all had a surprise loss to Adelaide. They might have half a side that only enthusiasts have heard of, but the rest are still pretty handy. It ended up going about as you’d expect, but was far from a certain win in advance.If you subscribe to the theory that we’re doing a cover version of 2021, there were some similarities to last year’s groundbreaking win over the Tigers. We remained unbeaten, the medical sub sat on his arse all night, and they were kept to a criminally low score. On the other hand, was no post-quarter time outburst, no beloved player in milestone game subplot, and somebody informed the post-match host who’d won the medal before they started speaking. This points to a toil and struggle, come from behind win against dreck next week, but for we’re alone at the top of the ladder and everyone else can crane their neck looking up.Our 13th consecutive win didn’t come without some frustration. But have any of them? Even the Gold Coast landslide that started it all had some ropey moments in the first quarter. I’d love to kick the shit out of somebody from first bounce to last, but it’s not our thing. On this particular night, our thing was an almost unprecedented display of shithouse kicking for goal. With Richmond offering up an endless stream of chances with their dodgy exits from defence, and willingness to set up rebounds by booting to our cavalcade of superstar defenders, we tried again, again, and again to put them away. Got there in the end, but not without racking up an ugly final score of 9.22.You can find examples of us kicking > 10 goals and < 20 behinds in 1962, 1963, 1976, 1988 and 2000, but none of them came in a win. For that, you have to go back to flag year '59. I prefer the dead-set insanity of Round 7, 1940, when we kicked 34 of the afternoon's 35 behinds. Any way you slice, hook, or shank it, this was a rarity. Not, however, completely unexpected considering some of our struggles to kick straight this year. It was a massive night for "if they'd kicked 22 goals instead of 22 points they'd have won by heaps" style analysis. Stop the madness, it's not how this sport works. Maybe if teams kicked-in after any score, but the different ways and places to restart the game based on the outcome means there's no simple switch one column to the other = profit equation. If the first shot misses, the conditions for the next 21 behinds don't necessarily exist. You might still kick them, but it won't be the same players, doing it in the same way, at the same time. Or the first could lead to the opposition booting seven in a row out of the middle. Any professional who offers this insight should be sanctioned under the David King top eight rule.I'd like somebody who does actual, robust statistical analysis to look at the real value of behinds. Is it ultimately worth less than a point because you put the ball in the hands of the opposition, or a more because it improves the prospect of a seven (or more, if you played against us 10 years ago) point play?Regardless of what the boffins at the Ponds Institute come up with, when your team is playing you want the result that puts six points on the scoreboard, not one. I've got no complaints knowing the end result, but was in agony by the time we reached 0.6, and at regular intervals for the first three quarters. We've won plenty of games in the last year, but even the most passionate forward line fanatic would agree that a lot of the credit goes to defenders. Occasionally we go bananas and rain goals on the opposition, but generally the secret to our success is slowly chipping away on the scoreboard while the other lot lose their mind bouncing off a brick wall defence.For this reason, we're vulnerable to days where the backline does their bit but the forwards don't. See Bizarro Queen's Birthday or last year's GWS fiasco. If we contain games lost due to a misfiring attack to one or two in the middle of the year again we'll be well placed to run riot again when it counts. I don't think I could handle going 22-0 anyway, it would feel like being set up for a September collapse that would have neutrals pissing themselves for the next 30 years.This team is an enigma wrapped in a riddle, so even though we don't put up huge scores I wasn't panicking at being two goals behind in the first quarter. Neither felt like it was the sort of thing they'd do regularly, so the door remained wide open. The problem was that for most of the first quarter it looked like we were going to try and win 4.6.30 to 0.31.31. Our cavalcade of crappy kicking covered almost every element of the game other than somebody falling over while running into an empty goal. Perhaps the strangest was Gawn's 'mark' on the line. He may very well have controlled the ball marginally before it went over, but considering the goal umpire called it a point, and somebody gave Max a video review spoiler that caused him to sprint off for a kick-in, I don't know how the decision was overturned when the only video footage had a goapost in the way. If you're going to refer points for video review, maybe spring for cameras in those posts too? It was a classic first quarter decision, no way they'd have done the same thing if the game was on the line. Being an all round good sport, Maximum missed the kick. It's not right seeing him take shots from hard in the pocket without some Essendon humanoid yelling over the fence.From the "if they'd just done X, Y would have happened" file, who's to say that if they hadn't paid the original behind, the kick-in would have been booted back to him 50 metres out and he'd have got the goal anyway? And that if that had happened maybe Richmond would have piled on 17 in a row before quarter time. All we know is the game ended with Melbourne in front and Clayton Oliver went home with a medal, so best to trust the process.We were holding on well enough, but could thank a desperate May spoil on the line for not going three goals down. He hit the post with such force that I thought it was about to topple into the front row Leigh Matthews style. The video replay on that would have been interesting, the AFL equivalent of when stump cam catches somebody being clean bowled. Not sure I've been so protective of a player's fitness since early Jesse Hogan, who I expected to be struck down by death every time he changed direction.We had a lot of opportunities, but after taking the piss out of the person with their finger on Channel 7's ad button, Richmond guaranteed that they'd keep being booked for prime time games kicking two. It was painful but exactly what we deserved.After six behinds varying from unlucky to criminal, the answer finally came via Ben Brown. Welcomed with open arms after an extra week off for needlessly elbowing somebody in the head during a VFL game, he used the old Inspector Gadget arms to pull down a big grab in the pocket. Fans of 25/09/2021 will recognise it as similar to the start of that last quarter, and with significantly lower pressure this time he snapped it through. That was almost the last we saw of him, as we reverted to our old tricks of only having one forward at any contest, tipping opposition defenders off as to who they should jump on whenever the ball went inside 50.Brown O'Clock only struck once, but his goal got the party started. In a classic Melbourne-esque piece of business, Richmond rode their luck as we missed shots for 95% of the quarter, then lost interest for a couple of minutes and ended up behind. We'd been mediocre at best, but it was the same in the first half last week, and for large parts of every other game this year. You can't argue with the end result. The unexpected lead came from Weideman, arriving from a start so anonymous that you could have forgotten he was playing, bouncing a snap through off the umpire's tockley. In a Hans Moleman-esque twist, it took a left turn off one post and crashed into the other. I was ready to break things if they'd involved Force Majeure and called a point, but we were saved by the little known Flange Deviation Rule, which deemed that the ball would have crossed the line fairly if not impeded by the unmentionables. For comedy value, it would have been better if the umpire had hit the deck squealing "ooh me plums" in a voice three octaves above Kenneth Williams but we had to console ourselves with six points and the lead.I simultaneously couldn't understand how we were winning, and not further in front. In every element other than placing ball between large posts we were matching, if not exceeding, the opposition. I'll go hee if Petracca is 80% fit, but tellingly things got a lot better when Oliver threw off the lightly applied shackles and decided to rack up possessions like they were going out of fashion. In the second of two 40+ touch career games, it sure shit on the time he got 44 and we lost by almost twice as much.After Richmond had thrown practically everything in their arsenal at us for no reward, I was hopeful that they'd do the honorable thing and stand aside so the premiers could put on a primetime show. Sadly not, but their wonky disposal did offer us a few opportunities to get going. This was a good sign, but wouldn't be worth much without conversion. You couldn't argue the desperate lunge that touched Spargo's first effort through, but incidents like Pickett opening his angle to about 90 degrees before missing, then Neal-Bullen kicking his set shot like it was a bag of wet cement were causing me actual physical misery. I'm not ready to lose again, it may leave me in tears.Finally, the six points in one go breakthrough came from a Fritsch free. For some reason, Brown kicks most of his goals in the first half, and Bayley in the second half, so Spargo did his bit for that stat, played on and rolled it through. It was a bit risky, from 30 metres he'd have looked a dick if it hadn't bounced through. We didn't have to wait long for him to have a slapstick miss. Give the chance to instantly cancel one of their goals he flubbed what seemed like an absolute sitter of a snap. As much as I love Spargo, who did a kick inside 50 in the first quarter that would have required extra sensory perception to pull off, in the heat of "I never want to lose again" passion, I might have yelled unkind things. Sorry Charleston. And as the captain once said:I know our expectations are through the roof, and that I promised to sit down, shut up, and enjoy the serenity in the wake of a premiership, but our last five minutes of the first half were vile. We couldn't stop them scoring forever, but Spargo's miss was so bad that we got what we deserved when they pinged straight down the other end for a goal. Turns out we were kicking to the Wasted Dominance End, because just like Richmond in the dying minutes of the opening term, we found a way to turn a solid position into a deficit. I wasn't crazy about the defensive contributions of Hunt or Smith, but we still had them on the run, regularly filling their shorts while turning the ball over, but missed the opportunity to sink the slipper. Overall, we'd been the better side but that wouldn't help if we didn't outscore them by 4+ points in the second half.If there were suspicions that this would be the night the lights went down on Jake Bowey's winning streak, they went into overdrive when Joel Smith started the second half by handballing straight to a player running into an open goal. It was classic Melbourne vs Richmond, as best demonstrated in this classic clip.We responded with another pair of points, but just as it seemed the 1940 record was in danger, Weid reappeared to offer a steady boot. As far as respectable hauls go, it ranked alongside Dean Kent's four in Hobart 2016 for the least impressive overall performance but they all count. If anybody had an excuse for coming down with nervous leg it was the guy who permanently lives his life on selection death row. But he did not, and now sits on eight goals in four games. Still feels like McDonald offers more around the ground, but who am I to argue with scoring impact? It's not like any of our forwards are playing four quarters at the moment, but they're all doing their bit.This kicked off our most dominant period of the night. Naturally, there were more points to come (including Sparrow playing on instead of taking a set shot for some unknown bloody reason), but they were followed by a (relative) rush of goals. Suddenly Fritsch was in everything, kicking two, and setting up two more. He nearly landed a full house with a third goal, but an Oliver pass was probably rightly deemed not far enough, and he missed a panicked attempt to thump it through.You knew we were officially on top when the Richmond player nobody's ever heard of conveniently suffered a match-ending injury. Fortunate timing, coming just when they were being overrun. Mr. A Random was lucky they didn't put up a screen and shot him on the spot, because he was suffering from a life-threatening... corky. Good thing the replacement did bugger all, we're the dickheads who wouldn't even swing a rort to get Jordon on in a Grand Final and other sides are taking advantage of the most minor complaint to make a change. Meanwhile the camera cut to Toby Bedford, now level with Kade Chandler and James Jordon for Tracksuit Time appearances, and he was nearly falling asleep. We didn't even bother to rouse him when Luke Dunstan copped a bump to the head in the last quarter.Speaking of Dunstan, he had a solid debut. After 116 games it's not like he didn't know what he was doing. I wouldn't be dismantling our premiership midfield to play him permanently, but the season is young so it's handy to have experienced, competent players like this in the tank just in case. Also, in an odd twist he's the first ex-St Kilda player to join us since Jamie Shanahan in 1998. A few have gone the other way since, meaning it still falls short of the total embargo in direct exchanges with Hawthorn between 1985 and 2011.We'd played our rare 'comfortable last quarter' card against the Giants, so nobody would have been surprised when Riewoldt popped up just before the last change to keep it interesting. It was the sort of night where we still had time to miss two more shots before the siren. Lest anyone claims sour grapes for the Bowey incident, we have discussed this before, but isn't it weird how bad Riewoldt's record is against us? He's kicking three goals a game against Brisbane and Port, and since 2007 we've kept him to 34 from 21 starts. He's also done his bit, with 46 behinds. Which makes our wayward goalkicking a roundabout tribute to his storied career. It makes no sense when you consider some of the ratshit backlines he'd have played against in that time. I doubt it keeps him awake at night, under a blanket made of three premiership flags stitched together, but it's an interesting anomaly for abnormal people like me.In an era of moderately higher scoring but insane volatility, I wasn't going to relax over a 21 point lead. You wouldn't think they'd suddenly discover a path through the Great Wall of Melbourne after three quarters of torment, but it couldn't be ruled out. The best thing to do was start kicking goals. That we did. Only once, but combined with them having NFI how to get through Petty, May and friends, and a suicidal approach to moving the ball it was enough.And what a fun goal it was, with the Weid kicking a fallaway snap that went higher in the air than it did forward, and curled back at the last minute to drop narrowly over the line like a bowling bowl hurled from a second story window. Realistically, that was enough. The game went back into the same pattern of us missing shots, while they struggled to generate any in the first place, and Oliver wandered around collecting possessions like Super Mario grabbing coins.When Richmond got a goal that made it less than four goals I tensed up a bit. No need to worry, for the last five minutes nothing happened. They put on another point after everyone had lost interest, while we remained stationary on single figure goals and a metric shitload of behinds. I hope when we're eventually dragged into a thriller it will turn out we were deliberately putting the feet up in the last few minutes with the game won, and not that we're only got three quarters and 25 minutes in us.It was all very good. Nothing to make you start queuing for Grand Final tickets now, but the latest in a string of professional, no nonsense wins that are setting us up nicely. There's no time for complacency, we're still only a game and percentage inside the top four. You wouldn't expect some of these teams to hang around, and most of Geelong's list will be tucked up in bed with a hot chocolate by Round 20, but there's plenty more work to be done. Can't ask for more than beating everyone we play.For all the well-premature "I can't see who's going to beat them" wankery from attention seeking media nuffies, we're not going to win every game this year, but it's satisfying to know that even after a year and a half of exposure to our system, other teams can't consistently break it. Eventually somebody will get lucky, or the forward line will go to bits and fail to cover a score of 64, but teams are regularly lining up against us with hours of footage about how it's done and still can't work out a way past. How are we ever going to watch again when this is over?Still, this means STUFF ALL in April. Ask Geelong 2008, Richmond 2018, and sadly not Essendon 2000 about playing a brilliant season then forgetting to show up when it counts. There are going to be challenges that we'll have to adapt to, but the base we're working off is so good it almost makes me emotional to think of how lucky we are to be here. Even if the entire list retires to go Hare Krishna tomorrow, the memories cannot be erased. And if they don't, then we might just give flag #14 a shake. A year after discovering it was all real, I'm still struggling to comprehend being in this position. Ironically, it may not be fully appreciated until it's over.2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes5 - Clayton Oliver4 - Ed Langdon3 - Max Gawn2 - Harrison Petty1 - Tom SparrowApologies to Bowey, Fritsch, May and Neal-Bullen.Leaderboard15 - Clayton Oliver12 - Christian Petracca11 - Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Ed Langdon7 - Jake Bowey (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Steven May (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)4 - Angus Brayshaw, Luke Jackson, James Jordon3 - Ben Brown, James Harmes, 2 - Alex Neal-Bullen, Harrison Petty1 - Charlie Spargo, Tom Sparrow, Jack Viney, Sam WeidemanAaron Davey Medal for Goal of the YearAlmost worth a one-off rebrand as the Ben Holland Medal for Miss of the Year, but I'd need a week to sift through the contenders. Instead, it's got to be The Weid. For one, crumb floats my boat, secondly it went through in an NQR way, and thirdly Sam's joy at kicking goals is infectious. There should be more of it. Three goals for Weids 😎#AFLTigersDees pic.twitter.com/gBngAaRtUd— AFL (@AFL) April 24, 2022 For the weekly prize, he wins a Get Out Of Casey Free card to, be played as required on any Thursday night between now and September. No changes to the overall rankings.Current podium: 1st - Langdon vs Essendon2nd - Petracca vs Essendon3rd - Pickett vs GWS Next WeekBack to the MCG on Saturday night. Let's see how the crowd improves against Victorian opposition on a non-public holiday weekend. Hawthorn's early flirtation with mid-table mediocrity should drag a few through the gate. Like most of the sides playing above their pre-season predictions, I don't think they can keep it up all year, but for now there's genuine mystery about which version will show up. One week they're folding like a house of cards against St. Kilda, the next they're pulling out balls to the wall wins against Geelong, then they kick the first five goals against Sydney and lose by 40. Lunatics.Obviously the COVID Connection of Lever and Viney return. There may never have been a more obvious selection than Lever, but I do feel bad for Dunstan if he has to go. Viney's got enough runs on the board that surely you wouldn't waste him in the seconds (if the VFL moves Ben Brown to walloping somebody, Jack might go off like John Bourke), but I was so fond of the new version's game that I'm prepared to offer him the free game and match payment as sub. Bedford's done nothing wrong, because he hasn't had the chance, but after missing Casey's game this week, it's time to try something different. Speaking of the reserves, I caught some of the warm-up win against Richmond and was disappointed that there was no sign of the 7ft leviathan Richmond fans have assured me will be the next big thing in goalkicking. Did a search for him on Twitter to find out where he was and only found somebody begging Richmond for information on if will every play. Maybe don't put him in your Coleman Medal futures bets just yet. With El Gigante absent, the most important thing I discovered is that Bailey Laurie will debut before  the end of the year. Otherwise, Casey unpicked themselves from a dodgy situation to win comfortably ("there's an idea" said 23 senior players) but without anyone striking the sort of knockout blow that would make you want to mess with a winning side. McDonald was good, but not so great that I foresess an instant return to the seniors. Melksham was also solid, but it feels like he's been reduced to 'break in case of emergency' status. Meanwhile, I'm pining for Hibberd to replace Hunt, but he's going to need a warm-up run first.IN: Lever, VineyOUT: Dunstan (to sub), SmithLUCKY: Hibberd, WeidemanUNLUCKY: BedfordSo, we stay sensible with the changes for what has to be a danger game. You know it's dangerous because I can go. Worked out alright against the Giants, here's to doing Hawthorn over in similar fashion. I don't want to jinx it, but if Bowey wins here he'll tie the record for best start to an MFC career. Fortunately, he doesn't seem subject to any stress at all, as a baffling post-match TV interview proved. No matter what happens from here, his ride from game 1 to ??? will be talked about forever. Let's keep winning for his sake, he might flip out when we lose.Final thoughtsMore, more, more. How do you like it?

Read More »

MCG Hammer

There was a lot to be annoyed about between 2012 and 2021, but it always shit me that we’d never properly thrashed the Giants since our first meeting. There have been limited highlights at the ‘G, like the 12 goal miracle quarter against a side that went on to win one game for the season (against us), and the free hit after making finals in 2018, but usually a dozen orange-clad nuffies would go home happy while we were left rueing the circumstances that led us to follow Melbourne in the first place.This season there is no need to curse the friends, family, or random set of circumstances involving Murray Wrensted that landed you in red and blue. Even if you only jumped on the bandwagon after our September antics made your liver quiver, we’re doing the right thing by continuing to win every week. It’s now the second longest streak in the club’s history, and we are blessed to be a part of it. Most of the wins are by just enough to stop it getting interesting, occasionally we garotte somebody. It’s a wild scene.You’ve got to work hard to find things to be sad about during this golden era, but I’m slightly glum that a demanding life schedule has cost me seeing half a dozen wins in the last year. None of St. Kilda, Geelong, Sydney, Carlton, Essendon 2021 or Essendon 2022 were the sort of epoch-making victories that I’ll go to my grave regretting having to watch on TV, but it’s still one more than I saw in person across 2013 and 2014. Never mind, as long as Melbourne wins it doesn’t matter if I see it, you see it, or 100,000 empty seats see it. Like our Premiership Cup, I don’t need to hold it in my hands, just knowing it’s a thing is enough.Finally everything lined up this week, and I was not only able to get to the MCG but stay for four quarters. What a luxury. Somehow, despite all our recent wins my last full game was when we laid an egg against the Giants midway through 2021. Plenty has changed since then, but not the freedom to sit wherever you want. Like last year, this is the bit where you can skip ahead if you’re not interested in moaning about my niche seating interests. Otherwise, join me in lustily booing the cheapskates at the MCC for embracing their inner Docklands and closing most of the top level. First they sell the catering contract to Fawlty Towers, now this. People’s ground my arse.”You can sit on Level 1!” said the Ponsford Stand attendant who dived in front of me like a presidential bodyguard, as if somebody trying to get to the top level of an otherwise empty ground would be interested in such a thing. Even in a friends and family crowd scenario I wasn’t going to cope well with sitting amongst people. It’s happened plenty of times before, and I am paying for the Redlegs seat that is proving about as useful as my Grand Final ticket guarantee, but after two years of avoiding human contact I don’t want to share anything short of a premiership with other fans. It’s not you, it really is me.  Just as I was considering chucking a tantrum in lieu of sending in an actual complaint, it was revealed that they had some consideration for the anti-social and nervous, leaving the top of the Olympic Stand open. Cue a night of ducking while seagulls flew low over me like the 9th Cavalry Regiment in Apocalypse Now. How I avoided being shat on is a minor miracle.God knows where everyone was, but get used to it. After two years of people getting comfortable watching on TV live attendance is now optional. Maybe our posh fans were at the holiday house, maybe people were scared that we’d shit the bed against the Giants again. Or maybe the AFL just doesn’t give a shit, which explains why they conveniently picked this week to schedule games in Melbourne featuring Gold Coast, GWS, Port and Freo.The small audience set up ‘comedy material’ for the sort of tedious people who make snow jokes. Neutrals, don’t be like that. It’s more fun to point out that this game was outdrawn by the day we gathered to watch a three month old replay of the Grand Final. Mainly because it will help jog your memory about who won that game.Anyway, before we make any judgements about crowds on special occasions, let’s see what happens to the losers who are scheduled for the early game on Mother’s Day. Ahhh shit.It might have been a disappointing attendance for us, but after playing Gold Coast in front of 4000 people, Giants players would have felt like they were at the 1950 World Cup Final. Attendance figures play no part in my enjoyment of a game. I was back at a place that made me happy even when the team didn’t, and we won in a canter. What more could you want?For the second consecutive week, our attempts to beat an interstate team were aided by them attacking as if heavily impaired. I know you can’t just chip side-to-side for four quarters waiting for our steel-trap backline to lose shape, but there’s enough evidence from the last couple of years that just terror bombing the ball out of the middle is a very bad idea. At least when you do it high in the air, as Hawthorn discovered when they nearly beat us with a cavalcade of bullshit, scrubby kicks along the ground. Certainly seems worth a try when you watch a side aimlessly thumping it into a nest of May, Lever and the returning Petty, who got his eye in by pulling down a contested mark in the opening minutes and never looked back.They’re all good, but the star of the show is May. He’s so good I want to go back to when he got in trouble for having a drink and punch on to defend him. Maybe that shizen first season, also featuring unnecessary suspension, crippling injury and personal drama, was crucial in getting him to where he is now? If so, the nosey prick who shared the picture of him sinking pints should go into our Premiership Hall of Fame alongside Queensland’s Chief Health Officer. Though, I suppose if you go to those lengths that means Mark Neeld gets in for overseeing the disaster that allowed us to draft Jesse Hogan, who was later traded for May.Speaking of Hogan, in his second go at playing against us for the first time, he probably expected to see more people. Instead, he got the familiar experience of struggling to find opportunities in front of 85% empty stands while his team was thrashed. I’ll assume the boos for his first shot were related to umpiring, because otherwise it would be like an abusive family who got later got rich yelling at a kid whose life they’d ruined. He only got one goal (and even that came in questionable circumstances), but was otherwise slaughtered by a) the greatest backline ever to breathe air, b) dreadful delivery from teammates, and c) his ongoing demands to have the ball kicked over the top no matter what. I hope he does well for himself against any other opposition, but it pains me to compare the current model to the one that made Alex Rance look like Alex Rank Amateur a few years ago.The Peter Wright experience (and Harry McKay/Taylor Walker last year) showed that we’re not completely impervious to key forwards, but things must be going well when you haven’t conceded the ton in about 50 games. To be fair, half of those were either shortened quarters, or played in the lowest scoring era since The Beatles, but any casual observer can see that this is a group eating opposition forward lines for breakfast. I’m still conditioned to panic whenever the opposition go forward, but with a backline at the absolute peak of its powers any forward thrust is just asking to be whisked down the other end for a goal. This will all come to an end eventually, but the good times won’t be forgotten. I’ll be writhing on my deathbed talking about it.It took a while to be sure we weren’t being lulled into a false sense of security, but we should have known things were going to turn out alright after the first goal. They enjoyed their only lead of the night for about 25 seconds, before the kick-in was instantly transferred down the other end for a goal. Even when you’re the confirmed best team in the world, there’s still an element of luck to it all. Fritsch’s kick couldn’t have sat up better for Petracca to rifle home. Half the time the novelty shaped ball would have pitched the wrong way and rolled through for a point. When you’re hot, you’re hot. See also Pickett and Fritsch converting from difficult angles to make it three goals to nil, while down the other end Hogan was hitting the post from directly in front.I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about how we were doing at the contest, and the random journeyman who replaced Preuss in the middle (sadly denying us a reunion by elbowing somebody in the head) was holding his own against Gawn. Maximum soon demonstrated the importance of ruckmen doing something other than getting first hand to a ball by taking contested marks at both ends, kicking goals, and generally acting like the world’s biggest midfielder.The Giants had plenty of opportunities, they just either blundered them straight into the hands of a defender or missed gettable shots. Even at three goals to nil in front, it felt like we’d wasted an opportunity to take further advantage before they came up with a new plan. How was I supposed to know that, like Port last week, there was no alternative on the way.Even when Gawn opened the second quarter with a goal, I was convinced there was a comeback on the cards. The Giants obviously hadn’t bothered to watch the tape of his goal against Port, or any of the other ones where he’s opened the angle to the right and thumped the ball through from distance. One of them put on a half-arsed attempt at running towards Max when he played on, but was still well outside smothering range. And would you want to be in the way of a ball coming off his boot in those circumstances? It could rip your head off Mortal Kombat style.It doesn’t take much to convince me that we’re going to throw away a lead, and yes, when we conceded two goals in a row I did actually say “here we go” to the empty seats around me. That the first was gifted to them from a 50, probably for time wasting under the Harrison Petty Rule, but after the second it really felt like we’d blown 40 minutes on top and were about to be dragged back into a contest. It wasn’t like the explosive outburst where the Dogs reeled in their four goal deficit and built one of their own (before falling in a hole), but things were close enough that I started to get prematurely sad about Jake Bowey losing his all-time great winning streak. Never fear, he’s still the undefeated champion of the world. The last person to go 12-0 in such a short time was Mike Tyson. Hopefully similarities end there.We weren’t playing particularly well, but got the perfect cover up from a serious of contentious umpiring decisions. Spare a thought for Christian Petracca, losing a Goal of the Week contender due to Ed Langdon jostling a player out of the way on the line. It was not Ed’s finest few minutes, having just missed two set shots. Should have tried reverse banana kicks from the boundary line instead.At the time I was ready to punch on, but a replay clearly indicates he did a big old shove right in the numbers. Nobody would have argued if they’d paid it but you can’t whinge about decisions all day then say things should be ignored for the sake of spectacle. Good thing the same people weren’t in charge during the Grand Final, because Tom McDonald pushing the Bulldogs defender off the line like a cardboard cutout was almost as criminal. A lot of people were moved to specifically point out their disappointment with the female umpire, as if they’ve been thrilled with the performance of male umps over the years.Worse was the Hogan goal at the end of the quarter, where Petty did well to make up ground on him, punched the ball out Jesse’s hands about 0.1 seconds after it hit them, and was either pinched for front-on contact (of the ball?) or it was deemed the mark had been held. This fits into my theory that if you make enough contests in the forward line you’ll get a fair number of goals from bullshit frees, which is why I get so upset whenever our attacks are ended with uncontested defensive marks. Even if it ends in a free against, I just want somebody to jump at it and hope for the best. It’s like when the soccer goalkeeper is allowed to pissfart around with the ball endlessly and nobody runs at him – look what happened to the Manchester City bloke on the weekend and tell me it’s not better to give them something to think about.The umpires may have disrespected spectacle, and the Petty/Hogan decision was clearly made up, but the outrage provided misdirection from a midfield that was plodding along and a tall forward department that had five touches combined. Turned out alright, but at the time it looked like going tits up at any moment. We didn’t have to wait long to sweep the doubts away with one of the great quarters, 10 goals, 10 individual goalkickers, and as serious a party atmosphere as you can generate with the ground a fifth full.The fun started when the goal was cancelled out almost immediately. Sure there was a half time break in the middle, but as far as game time elapsed it brought up warm memories of when we used to waste Hogan’s hard work as soon as was humanely possible. The move was so deeply embedded in our psyche that even when McSizzle took over at full forward we’d still try to let the other team score ASAP every time he kicked one.No matter how ordinary we were for most of Hogan’s stay, I don’t remember any of his wasted goals provoking the same total collapse the Giants had here. We went on to our highest scoring quarter in many years (falling just short of the all-time top 10) via an orgy of violence that left stunned Giants players looking as if a UFO had just landed in the middle of the ground. It was two goals short of that NQR 2013 game for our best quarter against the Giants, but was better when adjusted for the game being between premier and finalist, not a pair of losers who should have been liquidated.A few years ago I’d have given a testicle for us to kick 10 goals in any quarter (and many entire games), but times have changed to the point where it doesn’t seem so incredible now. In fact, I pretty much sat there with a wide smile on my face enjoying the experience, rather than being astounded at what was happening. Because somehow we’ve risen above 60 years of Melbourning ourselves to be really, really, good, and it seems conceivable that we would pile goals on at warp speed. Obviously there’s going to be a loss somewhere, and history suggests a troubling dip in form at some point, but overall everything’s marvellous.There’s still work to be done, we didn’t need to gift them their second goal from a 50 after Oliver did a drive-by sledge on the umpire, but otherwise it was full steam ahead. Kicking the first two proved that we had plenty of improvement in us from the first half, the rest was just laying the boots into opposition that had lost the will to live.For fans of the Grand Final, which must be every person on the face of earth other than the Footscray lot, there was even a budget version of the Mad Minute. The first goal was almost as good as Petracca in Perth, with Pickett kicking to a contest, then roving the spoil without breaking stride and charging inside 50 to finish on the run. The next one was more of an administrative freebie, coming straight from a 6-6-6 free. Who’d be a coach? Sitting up there with a camera stuck in your face trying to do all sorts of tricky shit to unpick the reigning premier, then your players not only give away a centre clearance because they can’t count but it turns into a second consecutive goal.The discount equivalent of the third bang in “bang, bang, bang” came from McDonald, before Gawn threw in a Preliminary Final flashback for good measure by snatching the ball out of the ruck and snapping from the pocket. It was getting a bit silly, but did go some way to repaying Channel 7’s lost ad revenue after we failed to take the hint and demolish Port. I’d like to apologise to anyone who had to sit through multiple showings of that shithouse Landcruiser commercial. Blame the 45.45% percent of our team who kicked goals and the rest who set them up.It was relatively heartwarming that the Weid got one at the end, because he’d been having a big go all night. A single goal isn’t much, but you couldn’t fault his effort in covering ground and crashing packs. The problem for selectors is that McSizzle was much the same, other than one howler turnover on the wing where he was perfectly placed to turn around and run straight off. We’d now played one good, one average, and one golden quarter, but you gauge the overall commitment of those involved on May continuing to defend like a man possessed after we’d already kicked nine goals for the quarter. Between him, Lever, and Petty you’ll be lucky if we ever field a better backline than this in your lifetime. The rest of them are pretty good too, and Tomlinson didn’t do anything wrong before being squeezed out, but these three are ace. I’m still worried that there will be weeks where the forward line fails and their good work will be wasted, but surely no team has been better at defending inside 50s since they drew the line in the first place.After last week, I didn’t expect a foot on the throat demolition job in the last quarter, and a tepid opening few minutes suggested more of the same. I was just happy that the backmen continued to take personal pride in tormenting now clearly depressed opponents, but there were a few more goals in our future. After Fritsch’s third and fourth, a nice haul on a night where he was hardly dominant but kept finding himself in the right spot, we benefited from one of the great efforts. Nobody outside our bubble cares about, or has probably heard of, Tom Sparrow until now, but this footage should be shown to every player in the competition to show the meaning of desire. Here we are 10 goals up in the last quarter and he’s pelting halfway down the ground at maximum pace, then diving at full extension like Wayne Harmes to set up a teammate. Tom Sparrow providing the perfect example of team selflessness. 👏Full Goodwin press conference. 👇🎥 | https://t.co/GVigdlMdAI pic.twitter.com/L9qte2hTsG— Melbourne Demons (@melbournefc) April 17, 2022 Fans of the Shit Melbourne era will remember a similar incident at the same end involving Ricky Petterd and Matthew Bate against Richmond in 2010. The difference was Petterd hadn’t burst a lung getting there in the first place, and that the guy who kicked the goals probably won’t dive headfirst into the world of conspiracy theory. Also, it’s right on brand that the only comment on that 11 year old YouTube video is me hanging shit on Dwayne Russell.That goal tipped the margin just past the Carnival of Hate for what would have been our biggest win against the Giants. Alas we couldn’t hold on, and the original remains the best. They survived despite giving away a second 6-6-6 free, which would have had Neon Leon Klinghoffer tearing puffy clumps of his hair out. For the second week in a row it was polite of us not to do anything that might lead to a coach being handed his marching orders, and the quest to get somebody sacked for the first time since Grant Thomas goes on. Makes a change from when we did so many delistings it affected national unemployment figures.Some abject cruelty would have been nice, but considering what we’d seen in the third quarter it would be rude to complain about a couple of consolation goals. When a first gamer got one his teammates could barely muster up the enthusiasm to celebrate. We’ve all been there.The cover version of 2021 continues. It’s a year to the round since we shook off a good but not great first month by thrashing Hawthorn – back when a 5-0 start was a source of wonder and not the bare minimum expectation. The difference is that this time we dropped the bomb immediately after half time, instead of dicing with death until early in the last quarter. This was a more comfortable way of doing it. Hopefully this year we don’t wait until Round 20 before dishing out the next thumping in front of an empty stadium. Mind you, if it sets off the same run as the 2021 edition…2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes5 – Steven May4 – Christian Petracca3 – Max Gawn2 – Clayton Oliver1 – Charlie SpargoTremendous apologies to Viney. Significant apologies to Bowey, Fritsch, Harmes and Pickett.Leaderboard12 – Christian Petracca10 – Clayton Oliver8 – Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)7 – Jake Bowey (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Ed Langdon, Steven May (JOINT LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)4 – Angus Brayshaw, Luke Jackson, James Jordon3 – Ben Brown, James Harmes2 – Alex Neal-Bullen1 – Charlie Spargo, Jack Viney, Sam WeidemanAaron Davey Medal for Goal of the YearNo championship contenders this week, but a lot of worthy weekly nominees. I thought either of the Pickett or Fritsch set shots at the start were good, but they were soon wiped out. With respect to Gawn’s snatch from the ruck, Sparrow’s best supporting actor nomination or Bowey’s interception, the obvious choice is Pickett kicking to a contest, scooping the footy up on the rebound like it was the size of a basketball and thumping it home on the run. I enjoyed it so much it replaces himself for Gold Coast in third place for the year. This right here is pure Kozzy talent. 😤#DemonSpirit | #AFLDeesGiants pic.twitter.com/rVuxxqJuhf— Melbourne Demons (@melbournefc) April 16, 2022 For the weekly prize, he wins a one year scholarship to the Austin Wonaeamirri School of Celebration.Current podium: 1st – Langdon vs Essendon2nd – Petracca vs Essendon3rd – Pickett vs GWS Matchday Experience WatchEven Russell Robertson didn’t turn up. At first I thought he might have the ‘cron, then that somebody must have urgently needed The Gambler to be played in a country pub. Turns out he was busy appearing on some shitbox Fox Footy variety show. The replacement was as nervous as fuck, but should be retained as he didn’t ditch us to pluck guitar next to Kate Cebrano’s brother for the enjoyment of Mark Howard.Next WeekA down-on-their-luck Richmond get one last chance to recapture their glory days by knocking over the New Big Thing. On paper, this should be even better than the night 12 months ago when we confirmed being a good side but I’m still well within my rights to clench buttock in concern. To be fair I wouldn’t have been convinced of victory if we’d played West Coast the week they had to draft the WAFL All-Stars but am happy to continue being pleasantly surprised.In Brown’s absence, neither the Weid or McSizzle delivered the knockout blow that would have ensured they kept their spot. They’re going to pick all three at the same time aren’t they? If Brown wasn’t so important I’d be inclined to give him an extra week off for needlessly walloping somebody in a reserves game that he didn’t need to get a kick in to be selected in the seniors at the first opportunity. With regrets I’m giving McDonald the week off. He didn’t do much less than Weideman in the second half, and should be commended for regularly trying to kick to the man whose success would likely force him out of the side, but with Lever and Petty back there’s less need for a break in case of emergency defensive option and he has only just been going. He’s welcome back at any time but I’d rather try and give Weid a run for a few weeks to see if he can get some consistency.Otherwise, what’s the point in making changes when we’ve got an eight day break? Hunt will go when Hibberd returns, but can’t see a reason to chuck him now. Neither Spargo or Pickett had been firing on all cylinders but we stuck with them and they had their best games of the year so trust the process. The VFL fixture might finally fix up Toby Bedford’s job as the permanent sub, he’s had a great run of being able to sit on the bench for four quarters, bank a career game and a match payment, then still play Reserves the next day, but next week the Casey game comes first so it’s probably time for somebody else to don the tracksuit and do a few tentative runs along the boundary.We should win, but beware complacency and/or Dustin Martin rappelling down the face of the Olympic Stand four minutes before the bounce to dramatically take his place in the side, have 63 touches and kick seven. Or, alternatively, somebody from the starting lineup that you’ve never heard of to do the same. IN: B. BrownOUT: McDonald (omit)LUCKY: Hunt, WeidemanUNLUCKY: SmithFinal thoughtsDidn’t miss listening to dickheads talk nonsense on the train home, but otherwise it was great to be back. I’m more comfortable with watching on TV then ever before, but there’s still a buzz to seeing a win in person. Maybe when we start losing again I’ll find dodgy reasons to miss every game. Mind you, by then I’ll be retired so will need something to do. Can’t go next week (because why would I ever be free two weekends in a row?), but don’t pull up and wait for me lads, carry on humiliating people and pushing coaches to the brink of disaster.

Read More »

Operation successful. Patient dead.

So, this is what it feels like to lose a Grand Final? Probably better here than 25/09/2021 or I’d have been carted out in a pine box. This is not intended to play down the respect I’ve got for our women’s team, it’s just that we’re about 25 years of gloom, despair, and agony away from what I’d been through before that enchanted evening. I love this team, and we’ve had such a good season that the result still hit me right in the feels. So much that I chickened out and turned off with 30 seconds left to avoid seeing Adelaide players celebrate. It’s no shame that the lead-up couldn’t cause the same sort of psychological trauma and near loss of plot as the last one. Everyone else should get a refresher course in the sanctity of Grand Finals, even if you don’t go for the competing clubs, everybody leaves you alone when the men were playing, in this case everyone in Australia tried to call me or knock on the door from 12:30 AEST.Another good reason for not going off the deep end was that this time we were massive underdogs, against opposition that regularly treats us with contempt. This helped in not getting my hopes up. I was desperate to snatch every flag on offer in the world of AFL, but it would require a colossal upset to beat the South Australian All-Stars in their last start before Port come in six seasons late and ruin it for them again. I still held out hope of springing an all-time surprise. I’d even looked at the picture of the premiership men hanging above my desk and wondered if they’d bring out a women’s version too, they would have complimented each other nicely. The problem, apparently, is that while the men have discovered a love for playing in Adelaide, it’s becoming a dead-set graveyard for our women. Whether at Norwood, or now twice at the main ground, we’ve never gotten close to them in South Australia. Doesn’t help that they’re the best club ever to play the women’s game. The stat that we were only one win behind them all time floored me, but I’m sure they’ll cope with the sadness of going 2-4 in 2020 by drying their eyes on any of three flags.As unlikely as it was to happen, it’s not in our nature to storm out of the blocks and put the game away before the other team know what’s happening. That would have calmed the nerves. Instead, it was an instant dry-weather replay of the Prelim. Maybe the weather wasn’t to blame against the Lions, even in the sunniest of sun we couldn’t craft an effective kick inside 50 if our lives depended on it. Hooray then, that the Crows did their best Brisbane impersonation, blowing us away in every aspect other than actually kicking goals. Like last week, if the opposition can’t/won’t take advantage of our slow start, we only need a few minutes to get on a run and turn the game around. I’ll admit to having serious doubts about our chances of pulling that move off again, as Adelaide squashed us with their pressure. There was talk on the commentary of us struggling to play on a bigger ground, but the highly authoritative Google.com says that Casey is longer and wider than Adelaide Oval, so that seems a convenient excuse. Mind you, the non-St. Jason Bennett commentator didn’t know who half our players were so you can’t believe everything you’re told.Last week we were saved from the opening goal by an umpire missing the most blatant free kick since 1858, but they got us this time. Birch kicked off her worst game for the year (and one not befitting the only premiership player in our side) by unnecessarily knocking an opponent on her arse. The resulting kick fell short, but right into the hands of a completely unmarked player. After our horrendous attempts to go forward, this sort of bad luck/poor defending convinced me it wouldn’t be our day.The backline was just holding on, despite filling their shorts every time the ball came near. Sinead Goldrick was the exception, galloping around like she’d been playing the game all her life. Probably didn’t hurt that she’s played a metric shitload of high-pressure Gaelic finals. I change my favourite AFLW player every week, but she’s currently a contender. How long that will last is anyone’s guess, it’s a fair commitment to come here for seven months a year on average money. Even if she never comes back, Sinead’s progress of learning the game from her late 20s onwards has been outrageous. She obviously gets it, so if she stays in Ireland we should keep her on the payroll to scout both male and female players. It was a day for Irish runners-up, with Lauren Magee running second in a half-arsed Grand Final sprint shown on delay at quarter time.It not only felt like last week’s, and our two previous meetings with the Crows, but a lot like the reverse of last Thursday. Then, Port held on gamely against misfiring forwards for as long as possible before being swamped. This time it was our turn, and when they got the second goal I was ready to surrender. The atmosphere of disappointment was not helped by inviting my mum over for the occasion (of course we’ve never seen any other Grand Finals together your honour), and after never seeing an AFLW game in her life she spent from midway through the first quarter until our first behind commenting on how terrible it would be if we didn’t score. Yes, thank you, I was aware of the enormous potential for embarrassment. Lucky we’d been through similar in the 2021 Prelim so I knew how to cope.We looked so unlikely to score that Daisy was relieved of her duties in the forward line and sent up the ground. And rightly so, imagine it was her last game and we’d left her to rot inside 50 while the ball was constantly at the other end. She had a bash at getting things moving but it couldn’t have been any less our day. Eventually we got a point, which was something, before Bannan injected some life into the contest with our first goal. Of course, this happened at just the moment I ducked my head around the corner to pick something up. Sums up the day really.Regardless of whether I saw the goal or not, it happened. And when we resisted our natural urges to give it straight back out of the centre, we got to half time just 10 points down. Which was 10 points worse than what we’d toiled to in the first half against Brisbane, but within comeback range. Still felt unlikely, but if the tables had been turned I certainly wouldn’t have been reaching for the silver polish yet.Considering only 16,000 people showed up, the half time show felt like it was trying a bit hard, but it was nice to finally see one, after missing the September version while having a stress-related medical episode. Not sure I’ve ever heard a longer intro for a musical act at a sporting event. Poor old Jessica Maubouy is standing there in 26 degree weather, wearing the sort of raincoat people take off to reveal nothing underneath in adult movies, and the announcer gave every fun fact other than her mother’s maiden name and credit card PIN. Obviously, I’d never heard any of the songs before, but that’s consistent with the 2019 men’s Grand Final when I had to ask who Tone On The Phone was, only to find out she’d been at number one for about 12 weeks.Any hopes of a comeback were briefly (and as it turns out, permanently) dashed when the Crows got the first after the break. We weren’t dead yet, and after doing next to nowt for weeks, Kate Hore got a goal at the most important time, putting us back within two kicks. For the last few minutes of the quarter we looked half a chance of unexpectedly storming over the top for a funny/piss funny premiership. But that’s where the goals stopped, unable to make things interesting by taking half-chances. We didn’t get another one for the rest of the game, which was an appropriately tragic way for it to end. I was deflated, but spare a thought for Tayla Harris. She battled all day to get a kick against multiple opponents and was left with the unique record of losing three Grand Finals to the same opposition for different clubs. The third might not have happened if she’d done something different after marking 40 metres out, directly in front, with the chance to cut the margin to less than a goal. It should have been “cometh the hour, cometh the woman”, so god only knows why she thought a 10 metre forward/20 metre towards the boundary dink to Paxman was the right thing to do. There’s a time to be selfless, and there’s a time to walk back and wallop through a post high kick that blows the game wide open. To nobody’s surprise, Paxy from an angle was not the better option, and she missed. We got to three quarter time without any further damage, but it was a golden chance missed to send them into the last break with pulsating nerves.Usually, speculating over the importance of the next goal is only for dickheads like Brian Taylor. In this case I knew we were cooked if Adelaide got it. Our only hope was them running out of gas while we created a couple of goals via brute force before holding on like grim death. Alternatively, get the first early, and hold off on the second until after the siren when the ball is in Daisy’s hands 20 metres out. Alas, the dream finish was thwarted. The Crows had plenty left in the tank, our Plan B envelope was circling the baggage carousel at Adelaide Airport, and after a few early minutes of thumping the door down for no reward, they went the other way and finished us off. It is, as always, the hope that gets you.Ash Woodland didn’t do much (though five tackles as a forward probably helped disrupt our malfunctioning forward line), but there was still a bit of the Curb Your Enthusiasm music about the league’s leading goalscorer winning a premiership against us three years after we delisted her. By my count that makes her the first ex-Melbourne player ever to beat us in a Grand Final.I was gloomy for the rest of the afternoon, and the atmosphere was not helped by Kayo suggesting I watched the replay no matter what part of their website I clicked on. Could have tried to watch Micronesian Premier League volleyball and it would have still tried to lure me into either the full game or mini replay. How about no, no, no, fuck off, and die.And… that was it. If we’d lost the other game by any margin the SWAT team would have had to knock me off my roof with rubber bullets but this just left me in a state of misery. I wanted the premiership for myself first, the players second and the fans third, but I’m still proud of everyone involved. This side never hit any amazing heights (even the rogering of Freo B carries a COVID asterisk), but you don’t go 9-1 and win a Prelim without being a good side that plays with a shitload of heart. Alas, family-friendly values and general loveability will not deliver premierships. Time to recruit our hearts out and come back next time ready to rip somebody’s head off and shit down their neck. 2022 Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Sinead Goldrick4 – Karen Paxman3 – Lily Mithen2 – Daisy Pearce1 – Alyssa BannanLeaderboardProbably should have done a vote audit earlier, turns out I’d given Hanks an extra two votes somewhere, and Paxman was in fact right behind her. Lucky people aren’t betting on this or there’d be unrest. That means that Paxmania has come from the clouds to claim another title. I’d also undercounted a shitload of Mithen votes after apparently losing the ability to do maths around the start of 2022. Speech and bladder control expected to follow shortly after.That’s five in a row for Paxman, not nearly as dominant as she used to be but a picture of consistency across the season. Congratulations to minor award winners Libby Birch, pocketing her second defender of the year trophy, and this year’s Rising Star, Eliza West.  28 – Karen Paxman26 – Tyla Hanks22 – Lily Mithen15 – Lauren Pearce12 – Daisy Pearce11 – Libby Birch (WINNER: Defender of the Year),10 – Sinead Goldrick, Eliza McNamara, Eden Zanker9 – Tayla Harris8 – Alyssa Bannan7 – Eliza West (WINNER: Rookie of the Year)3 – Maddie Gay, Shelley Heath, Sarah Lampard2 – Casey Sherriff1 – Kate HoreNext yearThree years ago Adelaide walloped us in the last round and I was sure our premiership window had slammed shut so hard the frame would pop out. COVID came just in time to save us from fading out in 2020, but the recruitment of Birch and later Harris, plus drafting Bannan and McNamara, and Daisy’s late career revival helped keep us afloat. This carried us to a Prelim last year, where our pretty good side was rumbled by a very good one. And here we are in 2022, one game further into the season, same result.Pending departures to the four expansion clubs, and whatever wacky format the AFL uses to cram an 18 team competition into 10 (?) weeks, I think we’ve got enough quality to stay near the top. I presume we’ll be without Daisy and Shelley Scott at a minimum. Otherwise, Paxman, Goldrick and Colvin are the only over 30s and they all seem to have a bit left in the tank. The rest of our side is somewhere between relatively and actually young, so they should keep us near the top for a few more years.The forward line needs work. If Daisy isn’t around that’s one less experienced option, and the last few weeks showed what happens when everyone realises Harris is our only long kicking option. Wouldn’t mind finding a crumber, some good old fashioned front and centre goals would compliment Tayla bulldozing through packs. We’ve never really had it, Newman barely kicked any goals and they’ve obviously got no interest in Petrevski. At this point I’d take a chance on a speculative rookie who’s handy at kicking goals over her head from 10 metres out.Explosive midfielders would also help, it’s clear that West and Purcell are more your get ball/kick ball players. This is fine, but we could do with some balance. I’m not expecting the female Christian Petracca to walk through the door but quicker transition inside 50 would stop the opposition sending four defenders to Harris when ball leaves boot. The defence is ok but not impenetrable, so we’ve got needs in all parts of the ground. Not all of them can be solved in one off-season, but you can’t just hope that Adelaide will lose half their squad to Port and that we’ll naturally take their spot at the head of the table. The good news, if you’re into that sort of thing, is that the next season is apparently going to start in August. Spare a thought for me having to work out how to make the difference between summer and winter 2022 seasons on Demonwiki. I don’t think a summer season answers any of the competition’s big problems, but what do I know? Maybe the idea is for it to pop up just as interest is flagging late in the men’s season, and for the later rounds to fill gaps in the schedule while finals are on but I can’t see how it’s supposed to compete for publicity. Do the AFL care? Probably not, I think they’re just happy to tick the social inclusion box and get on with their lives. I reserve the right to take it very seriously, even if the games are playing at 6am on a Tuesday.Final thoughtsGrisly ending aside, this competition is good fun. Let’s do it again in a few months.

Read More »

The Aristocrats

This season is giving me the same sort of stress as if I’d won the lottery. Sure, I’d enjoy having $52 million in the bank but I’d also be too terrified to cross the street in case I was run over by some pisshead driving the wrong way. Now I’m watching the best Melbourne team of my generation with 51% shiny-eyed wonder, and 49% fear of a letdown. It’s a thrilling ride, and I’d like to stay on it for as long as possible. It’s scarcely believable that since chucking it away in Cairns at the end of 2020 we’re 26-1-4. Bloody hell. It would take you 13 repeats of 2013 to get to that and you’d still be short the draw. That’s why you won’t catch me whinging about a flat ending on Thursday. We’re living in a glory era, and if I’m going to be stressed in advance about it eventually coming to an end I won’t waste any of the enjoyment by demanding perfection.Like Gold Coast and Essendon, and to some extent Round 1, this was another re-run from 2021. We smothered the opposition into submission but lacked the scoring power to win in a satisfying, brutal landslide. Don’t forget it took us 20 rounds to club somebody last year, and 12 of our home and away wins came with a score under 100 – if you’re expecting us to go postal like it’s September in Perth you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. As much you can during an 11 game winning streak that includes a flag.File this in the bulging folder of ‘professional wins’, and don’t read too much into the future. Last year showed that we could win ugly against bad sides and still beat quality, as well as struggle gamely to overcome top eight contenders before falling flat on our face against filth. Like science, I don’t really understand what’s going on but am willing to accept that it’s a good thing.Somehow, after losing every meaningful game in Adelaide from 2002 to 2013 (no, the 2011 NAB Cup doesn’t count), we’ve got the best record of any Victorian club at Adelaide Oval. Our worst loss there is by 25 points. This compares favourably to Football Park, where across three finals seasons from 2004 to 2006 we lost there by 72, 73, 62, 54 and 58 points. It only got worse after that. Surely we’d have won there again eventually, but it’s still thumbs up to whoever decided to put a wrecking ball through the place, because the replacement suits us perfectly.I’ll admit to entering this game in a state of terror. We’ve discussed my inability to lie back and enjoy success, but I was shitting bricks against an 0-3 team playing for their season at home. Part of this was my ongoing refusal to pay attention to other teams, not realising that the fairly important quarter of Aliir, Dixon, Duursma and Grey were all absent. In their place came the biggest parade of randoms since early GWS – and Steven Motlop, who I was genuinely surprised to discover is still playing.The nerves were calmed as much as possible by Fritsch kicking the opener (not least because I don’t think he had one in a first half yet this year). The ease of it suggested we’d find Grand Canyon style gaps in their homebrand backline. Alas no, as we did heaps more attacking in the opening term for no further reward. The good news is they were blowing chances at an industrial rate. It wasn’t just the behinds, but the numerous times they turned one of our ordinary forward thrusts back, and didn’t get two possessions into the chain before handing it back. It was a hilariously inept performance, as they tried their best to keep the ball away from us despite a) kicking like they were drunk, b) playing so slowly it gave us all the time in the world to fill space. To try this in the week that Lever returned wasn’t just ill-advised, it was dead-set suicidal. Any team who don’t think they can beat us the traditional way should get the tapes of the Hawthorn draw, where they just sludged the ball forward, often rolling along the ground, and it completely negated our advantage in the air.If we’d taken advantage of their bonkers kicking, the game could have been over by quarter time. I’ve never missed Ben Brown more, his Go Go Gadget arms would have been plucking marks over the top of hapless defenders until they curled up in a ball and started crying. Instead, with Weid and McSizzle unable to find any space, and a couple of reasonable chances missed, it looked like we’d have to win it 1.7.13 to 0.10.10. Things got so dire that even Steven May wandered forward for a shot.It was an enjoyable 30 minutes of tormenting the piss out of Port, but the fact that we were only six points ahead didn’t leave much margin for them to discover Plan B. Who knows what would have happened if they’d got their confidence up. Certainly not Ken Hinkley, who carried on the same plan and was rewarded in points. I suppose it’s not his fault players can’t kick straight. We still looked vulnerable, but it didn’t help them to hold Oliver and Petracca collectively better than anyone else in ages because even when they won the ball it would soon be booted back to us.A one goal first quarter in what is allegedly a marquee timeslot must have had Channel 7 executives cursing us. Not like we haven’t done it before, but the other side usually kicked six. It’s not our fault they failed to recognise that our 2021 success was built on the greatest defence known to man rather than the sort of free-scoring antics that erupted during September. Enthusiasts would have been marvelling over how well we made it impossible for them to find decent targets, the people who send out invoices for ads would have been slashing their wristsThere followed an extended quarter time break. Not for anyone smart enough to have a clear schedule, but for idiots who needed an hour to drive home. This required an extended communication blackout, including no radio, phone on ‘do not disturb’, and looking away when driving past houses with TVs on in case I saw spoilers. I hate doing this, but if I listened to us play on the radio it would end in the biggest car crash since The French Connection. It’s safer for everybody this way.By the time I picked the delayed telecast up Port probably still didn’t have a goal in real life. I’d have been a lot more comfortable if I’d known that, because it took us an inordinately long time to take the hint and lay the boots into them. Our best chance early in the second quarter was from a Gawn mark. For the second week in a row, commentators opted not to make a big deal about his previous kicking mishaps and he responded by missing. Reports of Max’s death at the hands of Luke Jackson were premature, he was fantastic. It wasn’t a flawless performance, witness one of the worst attempts at a snap ever, and the handball in the middle of the ground straight into a Port player’s guts, but his presence in all parts of the ground scared the shit out of the opposition. Admittedly, their ruckman going down with a shoulder injury helped, but it was still classic Maximum. He’s been so good for so long now you nearly forgot how close things came to disaster before 2015.Their ruckman might have had a sore shoulder, but at least he didn’t cop one in the Lou Rawls like Steven May. Thank god that’s all it was, because he hit the ground looking like he’d been elbowed in the face by Tom Hawkins again. “That’s a knee into the belly or thigh”, said Hamish McLachlan kindly, opting not to raise the serious topic of plum distress in PG time.After a quarter and a half of footy that would have made Paul Roos bar up, the life of Channel Seven’s Chief Financial Officer was saved by Grand Final hero Bayley Fritsch, who ran around from a mark and whomped it through from 50. Crates of cocaine were opened in the Andrew O’Keefe Room at Seven HQ when we plowed straight out of the middle for another. This chance came directly from a horrible bounce that dropped right to the Port ruckman’s advantage, furthering my theory that uncontested ruck duals backfire more often than not.At last Port were sagging, and a few TV executives might have switched to the glass barbeque if Petracca had converted the next chance. They didn’t have to wait long to celebrate, with Viney and Harmes tossing another pair of logs on the bonfire, leaving the Adelaide Oval eerily silent. The sort of people who complain about the 1907 SANFL premiership not being counted next to real flags would have been kicking their screens in at the revelation that this was their first ever goalless half. Regardless of how you measure the history of Port Adelaide/Port Power and the relationship between the VFL/AFL to the minor leagues, think about how much rubbish they’ve put out since 1997 and appreciate that achievement. We lost one game by 186 and will never hear the end of it, they lost two in a row by 300 combined and still managed first half goals from somewhere. Sure, they got three and Collingwood/Hawthorn combined for 27 so they’d probably prefer this result, but it was still a welcome achievement.The record that nobody will ever speak about again had to withstand a final test, with Port kicking for goal after the siren. Or not as the case may be, due to some nuffy grappling with Bowey behind the goal and causing a reversal. The unashamed JOY of our players in having sucked them into this mistake was wonderful. Now I know what premiership arrogance really looks like.And Kayo, yes the play logo ethereally hovering over Clayton Oliver demonstrates that I stole this image by pressing ‘print screen’, but I’ve done more to promote you than that cockhead in the ad who only just discovered the site exists five years late. Having said that, if the “SBOX_FATAL_MEMORY_EXCEEDED” error that booted me out 20 seconds after the final siren ever happens during a thriller I’ll be at your office at 9am Monday morning.The big benefit to watching on delay is that you don’t have to sit through half time. Jeff Kennett’s fashion advice might be controversial, but he was right that the long break could stand to be a few minutes shorter. In this case, it was only as long as it took me to scan to the start of the third term. Things were going so well that I was nearly scared to do it. For once I could have done with some reflection time. When the wee little fellow who gave the free away at the end of the second nearly made amends I was worried, and like the first quarter they had plenty of chances that were wasted by attacking like arseholes. Next thing we’re down the other end, Pickett is turning multiple Port players into the turf and Harmes made it seven goals to nil. Still wouldn’t have had money on it, even with Oliver (never Ollie) Wines DQed with the unique description of ‘nausea’. He ended up having heart scans, and unlike many of his teammates they actually found one.Port were in such disarray that they managed to stuff up several of the easiest chances at goal you’ll ever get, all in the same play. Even after being allowed to run about 50 metres without bouncing they stuffed up so many times in short succession that the very good James Jordon flew in for a late smother. There’s never been a better time for this music: Bang! Bonus ending😎💙❤️🏆 pic.twitter.com/SKrpdGYSgZ— Dwayne McClain (@MachoFlockaLean) April 7, 2022 These slapstick shenanigans led to a goal. Unfortunately for the Port fans watching their hopes and dreams slip away, it went to Max Gawn, who did one of his trademark runs to open the angle, followed by a kick that had more power than an intercontinental ballistic missile. You’d be mad not to have somebody stand as close as legal on his right flank whenever he’s holding the ball 50 metres out. Anyone else who lets him kick one from the same spot is just negligent.The locals were so gloomy that they didn’t even riot when Langdon was gifted a 50 and goal for being held after disposing of the ball. There’s a rule they brought in and promptly forgot about for a few years. Nuffy Cam might have been retired, but Sad Fan Cam was in its element. They’ll have to be shit for a few years before any of these shots qualify for an MFC 2018/2021 style ‘remember when?’ montage.By now, the real action was in how few points we could keep them to. We got within four minutes of the first goalless three quarters since 1992 before they gave up on their half-baked efforts at crafting a goal and just thumped one from distance. I’ve seen bad forward lines in my time (some from teams not called Melbourne) and I can’t remember much worse play between the 50s. Their defenders did a decent job stopping us scoring, but their escape attempts had worse endings than Ronald Ryan. And I probably wouldn’t have been as concerned about their forwards if I’d known S. May would be playing on S. Mayes and his eight goals in five years. Just the sort of player who’d usually have the day of his life against us.Regardless of what we’d scored, keeping a side to 1.8 at three quarter time was a novelty. We’d reached the Chris Sullivan Line by the barest margin so I was forced to accept there was no way to lose. Now we needed to pile on goals that would either cause Adeladians to storm the exits like a fire alarm had gone off, or make them stay behind to try and crucify Ken. I still counted down the first few minutes as extra insurance against a new record comeback. This proved that at its lowest point, the Line is not as comforting as I’ve always claimed. Happily, the continuing saga of their awful inside 50s helped take a few minutes off, long enough for McDonald to find Fritsch on his own in Umpire Squib Pocket for a sealer even I couldn’t deny.It would have been nice if the score had gotten perverse. Even if nobody scored for the quarter and they ended on one goal it would have been fun. One of the highlights had been our pressure, featuring an unusual number of handball smothers, and we could have provoked civil disorder by adding a few exclamation mark goals. I don’t think their fans were up for chaos, so god knows why else they were still there. Maybe it was to bronx cheer Jordon for kicking out on the full, when their side had 1.10 in the last quarter of a game that was about to leave them 0-4. That showed him. At one point the director hit the wrong button and reactivated Nuffy Cam, proving that people won’t stop sooking about umpires, even when their side is guilty of every sporting crime in the book. Talk about how we hadn’t kept anybody under 30 since the 1970s was good, but less impressive when you consider that we left Gold Coast on exactly that 11 games ago. It’s a shame we fell two points short of winning by the ton that day, because there’s never been a more perfect game played in front of nobody. Jake Bowey probably went out that day thinking he’d be in the side for a couple of weeks then depart before finals, now he’s closing on our all-time club record winning start (14-0 by Bryan Keneally, fact fans), with a flag and two Rising Star nominations. That’s the AFL equivalent of winning Powerball, and I bet he’s not looking over his shoulder waiting for it to go tits up.Sadly our manic pressure didn’t stretch the full four quarters, and much to the wholesome delight of the crowd Port got the last three goals. Considering how we’d squeezed the life out of them off a six day break I wasn’t mad. The people pictured were so happy at these consolation goals that I felt bad about wanting to transfer some of the misery from the days when we struggled to reach double figures. 2014 is actually a very long time ago now, but remember scoring under 40 six times and still being happy because we didn’t lose by a thousand every week?In the end, a 33 point margin didn’t flatter us, but I’m not going to complain. We’re building up to a September style assault on somebody, it didn’t need to happen here. Consider it a favour to Port, if we’d piled on too many goals they might have had to pay the coach out. Now they can spend the money on the rest of The Best of INXS and carry on community singing. Speaking of Ke(r)n, remember when this Twitter account lit up the internet for about 15 minutes in 2013? Merk Nieled an me pic.twitter.com/POWCG9KBJH— Kern Hinkely (@Kernpls) April 29, 2013 You had to be there, and if you were you probably remember us being pulverised every week. We’re not handing out regular pulverisations (?) yet, but we do win a hell of lot by comparison. I love this shit.2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes5 – Max Gawn4 – James Jordon3 – James Harmes2 – Steven May1 – Jack VineyApologies to Brayshaw, Jackson, Langdon and Neal-Bullen.Leaderboard’Team effort’ season continues, with four of the five vote-getters featuring for the first time in 2022. With 14 men already on the board, we’ll see if it settles into the familiar pattern of around 20 player polling, or whether everyone down to a mid-season draftee gets a chance to score. 8 – Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca7 – Jake Bowey (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Ed Langdon5 – Max Gawn (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)4 – Angus Brayshaw, Luke Jackson, James Jordon3 – Ben Brown, James Harmes2 – Steven May, Alex Neal-Bullen1 – Jack Viney, Sam WeidemanSimpsons Crossover CornerTravis Boak has done a lot of excellent things in his career, but I can’t hear his name without thinking:Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the YearAfter a big run of sizzlers last week, it was back to meat ‘n veg stuff here. They all count for six. With respect to Gawn’s big bomb, I have to go for the excitement of Fritsch trotting merrily around dispirited opposition for the goal that opened – relatively speaking – the floodgates. Fritta’s got another 🔥#AFLPowerDees pic.twitter.com/umtqPA9ipr— AFL (@AFL) April 7, 2022For the weekly prize, Bayley wins two tickets to Schnitz ‘n Fritz.  No change to the top three for the season: 1 – Langdon vs Essendon2 – Petracca vs Essendon3 – Pickett vs Gold Coast Next WeekIt’s the Giants on Saturday night, and as it stands I will be able to go to the MCG and stay for four quarters without having to leave or watch any of the game hours later. So obviously we’ll lose, probably to Hogan and Preuss kicking 12 each.Alas, the Weid missed his chance to knock McSizzle out of the running for our second tall forward job. Which is a shame, because he’s probably a better long term option. For the love of god nobody get the idea of playing them both with Brown, it’s not sustainable. I wouldn’t slash my wrists if they backed Weideman in and ‘rested’ McDonald, but if you can’t see all three in the side in September they shouldn’t be there now. The forward line isn’t going at full pelt, but with Jackson and Gawn wandering around down there it’s not for lack of talls.At the other end, I’ve not been crazy about Hunt this year but not sure what alternatives we’ve got until Hibberd or Salem are fit. Joel Smith did the job (for a few weeks) when Mr. Owl Energy was hurt at the end of last year, but I’m not sure that’s his best use. May as well hold and wait for Hibberd or A. Rookie, while Smith goes back into the chasing pack, waiting for one of May, Lever, Tomlinson or Petty to fall over. The good news for Toby Bedford is that our fixture keeps allowing him to play in the VFL as well as be an unused sub, so we may as well just keep handing him Chandler-esque free games until there’s a schedule clash.I think we’ll win, but I thought that the last time I watched four quarters at the MCG, against the Giants last year. That day our forward line had a touch of the Port Adelaides and/or Ebola Virus and we couldn’t kick a big enough score to cover the measly total our backline held GWS to. You hope for better, but it could happen again.IN: B. BrownOUT: Weideman (omit)LUCKY: HuntUNLUCKY: SmithFinal thoughtsMore wins please, by any means necessary. Eight more for finals will be a good start. And in the short term, now that one half of Adelaide has been conquered it’s time for the women to tip the Crows over on Saturday afternoon, leaving Melbourne holding every bit of team silverware offered by the Australian Football League.

Read More »

One Step Beyond

It’s official, as if you didn’t already know, there has never been a better time to follow Melbourne in 60 years. The men are the best team in the country, and after six years of battling away at the top of the ladder, the women finally get their chance at a flag. We – some of us from very much afar – have been on a wild AFLW ride since 2017. When our women’s team graduated from an occasional collection of exhibition game players to an actual club, the men were still a bit shit, and had recently said goodbye, farewell, and amen to Paul Roos’ storied coaching career with a 111 point loss. The idea that they’d play finals a year later much less win the bloody comp not long after was still ludicrous. After losing their first game (appropriately enough in the rain, against Brisbane), this version of Melbourne FC Women has given good value ever since. They only missed finals the first two years because there was no reward for finishing third, and otherwise have done no worse than a 4-3 season in 2019. Now, in their third consecutive finals appearance, they’ve finally got an opportunity to win it all before being scattered to the winds as the league props up a ludicrously optimistic set of expansion clubs. It’s not quite ‘now or never’, but there seems to have been an appropriate build to this moment. Adelaide and Brisbane have both won flags, and our fellow Class of 2013 chums Footscray also managed to nick one before turning into perennial disappointments. Here we are effectively in the same boat as Carlton, who have done nothing more than occupy a spot for six years. They did use the failed conference to blag their way into a Grand Final… where they were thrashed by Adelaide. I’m not certain we’ll fare any better, but it’s a great leap forward just to have the chance. A short nine years after the first one, the league had some ordinary luck with scheduling a game at the MCG. It landed on a day with pissing rain, and even with live attendance severely necked by COVID the 6436 attendance would have been a letdown. Mind you, last time we played the Lions at Casey a massive 743 turned up, so it wasn’t that bad. Also outdrew the GWS vs Gold Coast men’s game by 2000, but that’s more their shame than anything else.Regardless of how many people were there, playing in a stadium should have suited us well. You can’t judge anything from thrashing Freo after losing a third of the team to the ‘cron, but comparing our ball movement at its best to the usual slopping around Casey in unplayable winds suggested anywhere with half-decent structures around the ground should work in our favour. Unless the day coincides with shit weather, making it hard to string together any decent chain of possessions and all but wiping out our most dominant forward. Eventually we found other avenues to score, but not without a tremendous struggle – and a stroke of good luck at the other end. Channel 7’s lead in program featured unlikeable motorcycle cops letting an Irishman off for using his mobile while driving, partly because he “had a good attitude” and because they enjoyed his accent. This was followed by narration featuring the phrase “to be sure, to be sure” and background music from Riverdance. Even more offensive, them believing his BULLSHIT claim that in Ireland you can hold your phone as long as you’re looking for directions. The umpires must have been watching 7 during their warmup, because about 45 minutes later they took a similarly pro-Irish stance and ignored Goldrick hanging off the back of her opponent’s jumper like she was abseiling. It saved a certain goal, though the Brisbane player didn’t do herself any favours by distracting from the contact by dramatically throwing her arms around like a windmill. Still, it was a big let-off when we looked a chance to end the afternoon on 0.0. Despite totally outplaying us, it was Brisbane’s only score of the quarter – and indeed the only score full stop. As the sides slugged to that solitary point I could almost hear the whinging of people who were upset that the game had been given its own timeslot, denying them the chance to watch the Suns/Giants shitebuster. It wasn’t a great game, but the high-pitched, womanly noise of excitement from the crowd whenever something exciting happened was a reminder that defeated middle-aged men were not the target market.Finishing the quarter a point behind felt like – and turned out to be – an all-time great let-off. The backline held up well, with an assist to some suicidal attacking by the Lions, but we just didn’t seem to have any hope of kicking a big score. They didn’t look likely to romp to victory either, but I was confident if the final score was 15-10 they’d be the one ahead. So it was flat-out, Ronald Biggs level theft when we kicked the opening goal. I’ve got NFI who got the last one in the exhibition games, but let the record show Alyssa Bannan did it first when it counted. She paid tribute to the milestone with elite, Wonaeamirri level celebrations.Regrettably, this goal against the run of play didn’t cause the Lions to withdraw in shame. In fact, they were soon back in front and we only got to the half level courtesy of a missed shot after the siren. We’d done well to hold them up long enough to get into the break on level terms, but I was still convinced they were going to romp by us in the end. When they got the first goal after half time I’d have almost had my house on it, because if we’d learnt nothing else from several hundred match reviews over the years I’m a coward who will wave the white flag under any duress. I was just cutting out fabric to create my instrument of surrender as they went forward again, but soon to be two time premiership player Birch saved the day, opening the door for the lightning burst that ultimately won the game.First Bannan (who I will stop instinctively typing as ‘banana’ by the end of her career) ran onto a loose ball to put us back in front, then Lauren Pearce snatched one out of a ruck contest an thumped it through a minute later to give us extra breathing room. From the first quarter, when it was clear Harris would be well held in the conditions, I thought crumb was our path to glory. Enter Eliza McNamara, knocked into next week in her previous Preliminary Final start, beating three opponents in the pocket, then rolling a snap past three more – stitching up almost half of Brisbane’s team in one moment. It was so Langdonesquely unexpected that considering the occasion it’s almost the greatest AFLW goal we’ve ever kicked. When it went in I was walking through a car park and the excitement caused me to thrust my phone in the air and yelled “YES!” to the confusion and fear and a pair of matrons walking the other way. Even if I’d tried to explain they wouldn’t have understood.. The trademark Eliza ✨energy✨Rewatch all the best moments from yesterday’s prelim win. 👇🎥 | https://t.co/wI5moM1cgh pic.twitter.com/hKUuvRd9A8— Melbourne AFLW (@MelbourneAFLW) April 3, 2022 I’ll never be comfortable with any sort of realistic lead, but when Bannan got her third at the start of the last quarter it looked time to put the feet up and go on a victory lap. And based on how the rest of the game had gone, that should have been it. But this is Melbourne, there’s always got to be some spanner in the works to keep things interesting. We couldn’t just throw another couple on and win in a canter, it had to get uncomfortably close.Their first goal was bad enough, but things got EXTRAORDINARILY nervous when they got another one with 30 seconds remaining. Even worse is that it came after we’d won the AFLW equivalent of a 6-6-6 free (6-6-4? 4-6-6?, 6-4-6, 13 11 66 Pizza Hut delivery?) after Daisy flapped her arms like a mad woman to alert the umpires to Brisbane being out of position. We might have used this opportunity to dink the ball around, run the clock and look towards next week. Instead the kick was botched and it was straight down the other end to face 30 seconds of terror.Appropriately, the job fell to our old chum Greta Bodey, bouncing back from twice missing kicks after the siren to convert this time. It would have been ironic, in a rude way, if this ended in somebody else sinking us with a kick after time ran out. Clearly knowing that there was stuff all time left she was quick to kick it, sadly not rushing her routine and landing it in Row Z of the Warne Stand.Somehow we acted more like modern Melbourne than the classic version and held on. I hadn’t taken a breath for so long that I might have started to turn purple by the siren. Making a Grand Final is all well and good for the fans, but it’s the veteran players I would have been shattered for if we’d thrown it away. Original recipe players like Lampard, Mithen and Lauren Pearce have time for another crack, and Paxmania looks likely to go on longer than Dustin Fletcher, but I was particularly invested on behalf of Shelley Scott and Daisy Pearce.After 3.5 quarters of wondering if Scott had gone a year too far, she put in a couple of superb defensive efforts when the game was on the line. And obviously, everyone wants to win for Daisy, who has not been through the same trials as Nathan Jones but has been the female face of our club for nine years and deserved a shot at glory. There’s never been a player so beloved that you can double the value of your baby simply by handing her a texta. Why did I never think of that?Daisy Pearce signing a baby at the G’ 👶 pic.twitter.com/SJDUbzEUaz— 7AFL (@7AFL) April 2, 20222022 Daisy Pearce Medal votes5 – Karen Paxman4 – Alyssa Bannan3 – Eliza McNamara2 – Shelley Heath1 – Lauren PearceApologies to Birch, Gay, Goldrick, Hanks, Mithen and PurcellLeaderboardJust when you thought it was safe to write Paxy off, she’s roared back to within one BOG of pinching the lot. And if it’s a BOG in a Grand Final that carries us over the line her trophy should be delivered on a golden throne held aloft by peasants. With one to play it’s congratulations to Birch and West, who have sealed victory in their respective categories. 28 – Tyla Hanks24 – Karen Paxman14 – Lauren Pearce13 – Lily Mithen11 – Libby Birch (WINNER: Defender of the Year),10 – Eliza McNamara, Daisy Pearce, Eden Zanker9 – Tayla Harris7 – Alyssa Bannan, Eliza West (WINNER: Rookie of the Year)5 – Sinead Goldrick3 – Maddie Gay, Shelley Heath, Sarah Lampard2 – Casey Sherriff1 – Kate HoreNext weekThere was one last part of the equation, crossing our fingers that Freo would topple Adelaide so the Grand Final would be played here. It was unlikely before the bounce, and looked even less so when the Crows jumped to a lead. Freo kept it interesting until about three quarter time, but a missed shot that would have cut the lead to less than a kick was their final gasp. Adelaide went straight down the other end to kill them off and it was no MCG Grand Final for us – for the next five months anyway.If we’re going to do this it will come the hard way. So, all roads lead to Football Park at 12:30 on Saturday. As a believer in games starting as early as possible there’s never been a better time for a Grand Final. A decade ago I’d have paid to fly to Adelaide and get my live Grand Final one way or the other. No chance these days so best of luck to those of you who are going to step into the abyss and try to punt us home the double. Why not go for the Thursday night game as well and make it a treble? If you’ve got time for all that I’m so envious it causes me physical pain.Based on our last two starts against the Crows, this isn’t going to turn out well. Both times they’ve stopped us kicking a decent score – and in the case of last year’s Prelim almost any score at all. Bannan coming into form is a good insurance policy against Harris being well held. Still, we’re not going to win this 15-10, it’s not enough to save it in defence we’ll have to go on the attack. A good start will help, I wouldn’t fancy trying to chase them down. But we can do this. In the middle of last season we upset them – albeit at Fortress Casey – and it could happen again. It’ll be ironic if I survived my near death experience on 25/09 and this is the game that kills me.Final thoughtsGut feeling says they’ll beat us, but I’m still full of hope. Either way, this time next week we could own all the AFL premierships. Preposterous.

Read More »

Last man standing

I had one perfectly good reason for not going on Friday night, but didn’t expect it to be superseded by the Wide World of Illness. All available testing confirmed it wasn’t COVID19, but I may have accidentally discovered COVID22. There was cold, there was flu, there was a slapstick faint on the bathroom floor. Without ever registering an official temperature – probably due to a cheap and cheerful thermometer that just spat out random numbers – my internal heat settings veered from red hot to Arctic Park at the drop of a hat, and at one point it got so bad I think all my DNAs shifted across by one. I’ve had more enjoyable times. Some of them, in recent years, have even involved watching footy.Because everything that’s happened to me during footy season since 1998 can be tied to a particular game, I know that Port 2005 was the last time I watched footy in such a state of sickness misery. One positive was that by Friday night I was at the end of the doom cycle, that Football Park debacle may as well have been seen under the effect of mind-altering drugs. The only thing I remember is being thrashed, and having to employ a guest reporter due to not remembering a second of what happened.While I might have been over the worst of Random Fever by Friday, I could still have done with the game being postponed until about 4.40pm Sunday. All my physical and mental life force had been drained away, and I was half-tempted to go to bed and watch as if live on Saturday morning. Against all odds I was back to normal by the end of the first quarter, swearing like a trooper as we missed every set shot under the sun. By the third quarter I was dealing with reality again, lying sideways and desperately wanting to go to sleep. So, while I survived in one way or the other until the final siren you will forgive me if I miss anything obvious.The good news is that we won, which is never a bad thing. Even better, we still nearly kicked 100 points with Ben Brown sitting on his couch after a savage protocoling. The average news is that it wasn’t terrifically convincing. The excellent news is that the payback for 2019 is complete, and we’ve dropped Essendon to 0-3 for only the second time since 1897. It’s offensive that they’ve had such a good run while we’ve done it 11 times since I was born. This is almost as bad as Geelong winning at least seven games in every season since 1974. There are winners and losers in every field, and until recently we were very much in the second category. Now things couldn’t be much better, so who cares what manner the wins come in? Annoying Essendon fans is an added bonus.This is all easy to say when you know the result, but I was ready to climb off my deathbed and stomp around like Godzilla in Tokyo as we spent the first quarter doing everything but registering a huge score. Losing the Inspector Gadget armed focal point of the forward line didn’t help, but early in the piece it felt like Essendon were waiting for somebody to put them out of their misery. Sure, they had the first shot of the night but other than that we were blatantly the better side.When Weideman, resurrected as a late replacement for Brown, took a nice mark practically dead in front I thought things were about to get started for 1) the evening, and 2) his career. His miss was a bit tragic, but he made up for it shortly after, and was on the way to one of his most productive nights yet. There was a brief intermission after the goal when, after his best few minutes since mid-2020, he was needlessly benched. At the risk of sounding like a crusty ‘back in my day’ style commentator, what was the point of this? He surely didn’t need a rest, and the extent of the feedback from the coach was a quick word of congratulations as he went past. I’m not saying to play him 100% of the game Langdon/May style, but any danger of applying the ‘when you’re hot, you’re hot’ rule in these circumstances?It’s revisionist history to pretend Weid hasn’t had a kick since the 2018 finals, but even factoring in some pretty good games early in the original COVID roadtrip season this was undoubtedly his finest performance since that final against Geelong. Maybe Friday nights at the MCG are his thing? I’m just happy that he’s still the only person in Australia with bigger bags under his eyes than me.We need to see if he can do it regularly, but now I feel guilty about my crisis of faith when Sam was announced as our late replacement. At the time I was upset that they didn’t keep it in the Browns and replace Ben with Mitch. Part of that was a misguided sense of protection, I want Sam to do well and feared him stressing out under the pressure, having two kicks and going back to the seconds looking like a failure. Stuff my feelings, it was undoubtedly the right choice. Mitch might have just kicked seven in the VFL, but it would be extreme extraction of piss to convince Weid to re-sign with us, then prefer a journeyman, country squire looking forward when our first choice was exposed to the big one. If we hadn’t picked him Weid would probably have been outside Fair Work Australia at 8am Monday trying to get his contract annulled. The Weid was not flawless, balancing one cracking goal from the boundary line by missing a sitter, and he lacked the presence of a Brown or McDonald at his first half of 2021 best, but it was a start. I’m worried about McSizzle, who gave away an odd 50 by jumping all over the guy who’d just taken the mark and claiming he heard some mystery play on call. No doubt if he’d been in Dallas on 22 November 1963 he’d have seen several puffs of smoke from behind the Grassy Knoll. Tom proceeded to test the umpire’s attitudes towards dissent with a response best described as ‘animated’. Fortunately, like holding the ball, nobody gives two shits about Brad Scott’s big ideas anymore and he got away with it. Disappointed at failing to be gifted a goal, the Essendon player missed and things continued to go our way.Our wayward kicking carried on the trend from the end of the Gold Coast game. We’d gone from 10.1 to 12.10 and were 1.5 here before two late goals that – not for the last time – seemed to indicate we’d decided to win quickly then have a quiet night. I’m not expecting 12 goal wins every week but it would be nice to show somebody premiership contempt eventually. First McDonald, then Petracca merrily bouncing out of a tackle to set up Viney. It was far from Trac’s best night, and after his last three performances he was due a night off, but when he gets his hands on it something wonderful usually happens.If you remember when when our midfield consisted of journeymen, plumbers and journeymen plumbers while Nathan Jones tried to hold it all together you’ll be as astonished as me at the idea that you can turn the tap off on Petracca and that just encourages Oliver to go nuts instead. He’s definitely over any holding the ball hesitancy from Round 1, and is back to Classic Clayts wandering through packs like The Matrix. At one point he even did the sort of flick pass that would have gone down a treat in the VFA in the 1940s. Your regulation boring player just throws it, Clarence goes out of his way to use an antiquated method of disposal. He might knife you for saying it, but coupled with his zany moustache – far worse than anything Lynden Dunn ever had – he’s practically a footy hipster.Speaking of midfielders, Angus Brayshaw used to be one. Here I was pre-season thinking they were playing him in defence as punishment for not signing a new contract, but he’s doing a fantastic job. Sure, a couple of times he was left isolated against Jake Stringer and beaten but no hard feelings, we’ve got other players who should have been watching him. When you’ve been conditioned to kill for contested football, there’s a natural bias against players racking up a shitload of touches uncontested but I was still gaga for Gus on the mop inside 50. You’ve still got to do something right to get 20 marks, the second most for us since records have been kept, and the most since Round 6, 1970.Almost as good, two time Rising Star nominee, one time premiership player and zero time loser Jake Bowey. His undefeated streak is now beyond James Jordon’s 9-0, with his eyes firmly on the all-time list. Makes you wonder what damage we did to Jimmy Toumpas by dumping him into a team that won one of his first 16 games. As much as I think the Toump was affected by the worst environment for young men since the Russian army, he didn’t have the ice cool calm of Bowey. This guy carries out his business with zero emotion or concern for the feelings of others like a serial killer. I just hope he’s not on the Ronda Rousey career path, where he looks unstoppable until the first loss and is never the same again. Unless Steven King is involved his downfall won’t start with a kick to the head. For now I love him so much there’s a chance of crossing out all the other bozos and voting 1 Bowey at the Federal Election. The problem with not putting a side away was demonstrated midway through the second quarter, when after spraying everything like an F1 driver with a bottle of champagne, the Bombers discovered that the ball is meant to go through the big posts. We’re absolutely generous in giving suckers even breaks, so their first goal was quickly followed by a second, as 35 minutes of dominance sailed out the window. Worryingly, after threatening to take a record number of contested marks last week Peter Wright started to get into it. None of their other forwards even worried me, but even though I’d trust May to defend for my life I was shitscared of Wright. I reckon Gold Coast should look at recruiting two players like that.Just after they got back on the board we blew another two chances. I knew that the one time commentators didn’t crap on about Gawn’s suspect goalkicking would be when he’d miss. They won’t make that mistake again. Given his record against Essendon, Maximum must have been missing the sweet sound of one of their fans having a sook over the fence. No matter who they go for, there are few people in society I have more contempt for (other than actual criminals, perverts etc…) than the sort of humanoid who sits in the front row and talks to players while they’re lining up for goal. At one point an Essendon player was having a shot and one of our fans was showing off to a woman by yelling in such a smug, self-satisfied way that she should have dumped him live on air. I’m not auditioning to be a Behavioural Awareness Officer, but have some self-respect. Imagine your friends, family and colleagues seeing you acting like a peanut on national television? I’d never go out in public again.Just when we looked doomed to going behind at half time, enter Tom Sparrow – still a better lookalike for Todd than his own son – to kick a lovely set shot. He’s got a record from that distance/angle so I was strangely calm about his chances. That would have been good enough for a respectable half time lead if we hadn’t led one in at the end. Like the Suns, Essendon was the second best team but doing a fine job of staying in it. This week we won by more but it was significantly more stressful.Who knows what sort of nonsense went on at the breaks, but like the second quarter we opened the third by conceding two quick goals – and with them the lead. Now I was boiling, and only partially due to the recent collapse of my immune system. This week’s version of “I’ll lose, just not to them” was partially down to wanting to repay the favour from 2019, but mostly because for all my efforts to be diplomatic, and unavoidable in-law connections, I just don’t like Essendon.It was one thing going behind, but when they got another I was in full panic mode. A bit ridiculous considering our demonstrable form for wild mood swings. The problem was it felt like now they’d worked out how to convert that we wouldn’t have the scoring power to go with them. My Ben Brown fetish is well-known, but this was overrating his contribution a bit. A rational analysis shows we’ve still got plenty of other scoring options. Thank you then to the Essendon defender who must have sensed that I was getting a bit squeamish and gifted us a goal with an old fashioned howler of a kick. This begat a Harmes goal, before Weideman showed that it should have been him and not Dom Sheed kicking to win the 2018 Grand Final by slotting one from the exact same spot.Now, you foolishly thought, we had them again. Petracca had barely touched it all quarter, Spargo and Pickett haven’t fired a shot all year, Neal-Bullen was way down on his hot form, and Jackson was just good rather than superhuman but we’d still found a way to run them off. Enter Jake Stringer, potent lover, and according to some unhinged sources the ‘best player in the game’. For a few minutes he was, kicking two in a row to make things interesting again. I didn’t want interesting, I wanted a calm last quarter that wasn’t physically or mentally taxing. And that’s where it should have gone, because anything Stringer could do Weideman and Petracca could cancel it out. After being squashed to within an inch of his life all quarter, Trac kicked a ripper from the boundary to give us a respectable margin going into the last quarter. For about 30 minutes it had the clubhouse lead for our goal of the year, even if he’d desperately tried to give it back by indicating it had been touched. Good thing it’s not cricket and they don’t just take your word for it, and the rigorous review process (?) didn’t find anything wrong with the kick. Thank god for that.It wasn’t like I was comfortable with our three quarter time lead, but when we wasted 10 minutes of both sides kicking for goal like they’d just gone blind it looked like Spargo’s first was going to be enough. Even better when Fritsch kicked what should have been the sealer a few minutes later. It almost backfired on us, quickly turning into two goals at the other end, and almost a third. In the end it cost us -7 points and I was left wishing he hadn’t got it in the first place – it’s a horribly cynical, joyless way to look at the game but we’d probably have been better off if the ball had just been stuck at the other end for the next few minutes while the clock ran down.Enter Ed Langdon, who after nearly 120 minutes of non-stop careering up and down what can be referred to for the first time as the Shane Warne Stand side, snuck forward to kick one of the most outrageous goals you’ll ever see. Five minutes to go, 11 points in front (a one point loss waiting to happen), and he does an inside-out, reverse banana type thing with three defenders converging on him. I didn’t believe it had gone through until they cut to the shot of him looking absolutely BAFFLED at what he’d done. The goal was certainly worth celebrating, but given how often we’d been beaten out of the centre I was more concerned at the time about them getting back in the middle, standing in the correct formation to avoid an administrative free kick, and running the clock down effectively. Then we lost straight out of the middle, and if that goal had been wasted straight away I’d have cracked the shits as much as it’s humanely possible to do when your side won a flag four competitive games ago. In a scenario almost as bad as the bit where we somehow turned a 6-6-6 free into an Essendon attack, we cracked like an egg at the bounce and they got it forward. Thank god we didn’t concede or I might have expired. For zany, irregular moments in the middle of the ground please also see the bit where Essendon failed to contest the bounce so Jackson tapped it straight to one of them. There can’t be any team in the league who is worse at taking advantage of uncontested bounces than us, I don’t think we’ve ever had it to our advantage.To their credit, Essendon withdrew in shame at having let Ed kick goal of the year through them, and at last that counted as the sealer. Second half specialist Fritsch chucked another one in to make sure of it, then Oliver’s 666th gained metre set up the Weid on his own in the square for a fourth and it had turned out a lot more comfortable than expected. Last week I wanted to stuff the premiership points in an overhead compartment, this week they went in the boot of the car. I’m not taking anything for granted but we’re one step closer to our title defence.2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes5 – Clayton Oliver4 – Angus Brayshaw3 – Ed Langdon2 – Jake Bowey1 – Sam WeidemanApologies to Harmes, Jackson, Jordon, Sparrow and VineyLeaderboardSometimes I think the votes are so predictable that I may as well be running the Brownlow, but here we have joint leaders, a 10-0 player in second, the other ruckman and random forwards. And this is only Round 3, anyone could finish this year with a vote.8 – Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca7 – Jake Bowey (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Ed Langdon4 – Angus Brayshaw, Luke Jackson (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)3 – Ben Brown2 – Alex Neal-Bullen1 – Steven May, Sam Weideman Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the YearThere’s no way he 100% meant this, because you’d be carted off to a funny farm for trying, but whether Ed was trying to centre it to the top of the square, or just throwing it on the boot and hoping for the best, this is one of the wildest goals I’ve ever seen. His “what have I just done?” reaction is priceless.GET OUT OF TOWN!That is actually outrageous Ed Langdon 🤯#AFLDeesDons pic.twitter.com/csQfrAk6f5— AFL (@AFL) April 1, 2022I’ve forgotten to give out weekly prizes so far, and even though that gag wore out its welcome a couple of years ago I’d still like to offer Ed a $100 gift voucher for the International House of Headbands.Current top three goals for the season: 1 – Langdon vs Essendon2 – Petracca vs Essendon3 – Pickett vs Gold Coast  I think it was as sensible a call as you’re ever going to get with BT involved. So, for once, the point of this segment is not to hang shit on the commentary but to ask if Channel 7 has retired dear old Nuffy Cam. In the last few years you couldn’t watch one of their games without the camera switching to some mutant in the stands doing their block over every contentious umpiring decision. Unless I missed something crucial, there’s no way we just got through four quarters of a game against people who live and breathe conspiracy without NuffyCam being activated at least once. I never understood why the AFL allowed its product to be shown like that, and presume it’s been dialled down in conjunction with the anti-dissent crackdown, but we will miss it (for about three weeks before the heat dies down).  #nuffycam pic.twitter.com/wWr9uZUA6e— Adam 1.0 (@Demonblog) July 26, 2020 Next weekFrom Essendon in a bit of crisis, it’s on to Port knee deep in it. Ken Hinkley’s never done anything to me, but an 0-4 start could get him the sack. About time I got a new ‘Melbourne causes unemployment’ reference newer than Stan Alves or Grant Thomas. It’s no certainty though, having just suffered their own version of our Adelaide Oval 2021 debacle (albeit without a dead set ROOTING by the umpire at the end), they’ll come out like their lives depend on it. I would be lying if I said their forward line didn’t worry me. We’ve done reasonably well in defence for the first three weeks, but the Naughton/Wright experiences suggests we’re super-vulnerable to talls – and they’ve got a lot of them.I should have more faith, but this still feels like a flashing red light danger game. I’d feel a lot better if we could get one of our flag defenders back – Hibberd and Lever have been on the verge for weeks so either will do. Apparently Petty isn’t far behind, which by our standards this year should have him back in the side by Queen’s Birthday. I’m hot for the way our system has held up so far but still feels like we’re relying on kicking a decent score rather than knowing the other side is going to be held to bugger all – there’s probably a 7.10.52 in our future somewhere. Probably the first time I’m able to go to a full game at the ‘G.If available, the defensive inclusions are obvious. The action is all going to be at the other end of the ground, newly complicated by Weidemania. My initial feeling was that if they didn’t rush Ben Brown straight back into the team I’d burn AAMI Park down, but after discovering that this is a bullshit Thursday night game and realising he’ll only be free of COVID jail that day I’ll concede it might be a bit risky to rush him back. We’re much better for having him in, but it save us making a decision between Weid and McDonald. The Sizzle isn’t doing a lot forward but he still works his coight off for four quarters, and can be used in defence if there’s an emergency. On the other hand, Weid is desperate for some confidence so it would be a stitch sending him back to the VFL straight away. It’s a shithouse choice to make, so I’ll squib it and assume Brown doesn’t get picked anyway. Bit rough to lose two games because somebody you know catches a stroke of the ‘cron, but just be thankful we’re not West Coast, forced to rely on the WAFL All-Stars just to field a team.Should Lever or Hibberd not make it, I’m not sure if there’s any value in changes. Hunt has been ordinary but looking at the Casey backline for this week I’m not sure any of Smith, Baker, Rosman or McVee are going to do better. Didn’t think Baker or Rosman were defenders in the first place, which may indicate a thinness in our defensive stocks.I think we’ll win via another terrific struggle, and that if Nuffy Cam is ever going to come back it’ll be Port fans faced with the prospect of their season swirling down the S-Bend.IN: LeverOUT: Hunt (omit)LUCKY: McDonaldUNLUCKY: Bedford, Chandler, any fit defender.Final thoughtsThere’s never been a good reason to complain about a 3-0 start, but if you’re struggling to cope with us not winning by 74 swashbuckling points every week remember than the Prelim/Grand Final were twice in a lifetime outbursts that didn’t represent much of what got us to the finals in the first place. There was a lot of slog – and that’s not necessary a bad thing because we seem to be quite good at it. This was like many of the games from last year that you’ll never watch again – the first three quarters of Hawthorn 1, North, Essendon, Carlton, Sydney, Hawthorn 2, or either of the Adelaide games. There were plenty of times in that glorious campaign where even Brock McLean’s mate Blind Freddy could tell we were the better team, but the door was left wide open for the outsiders to have a crack. More often than not we got away with it, but don’t be surprised if we randomly spin up a slurry performance at some point. Extra MFC points if we get through the games against respectable teams then go tits up against some rubbish.

Read More »

Love Over Gold

I suspect more opposition fans read this than Melbournians, so for those who follow successful clubs, please outline the exact point where you started going into games expecting to win. I don’t feel like I could ever get there, but there’s got to be a point – and it used to be when you played us – where you know there is no chance of losing. I’m not there yet, but hoping there’s a stage where the feet can go up from the first bounce against anybody, even COVID-ravaged West Coast sides with seven players called A. Random plucked from the WAFL. Having not activated the famous (?) Demonblog Towers Megawall since the night of the Preliminary Final, it was a bit stupid to try and dive in at 7.55pm for an 8pm bounce. First the sound didn’t work, then when my laptop was plugged in the screen went a psychedelic green colour that made me think I was having a seizure. My fault for not using pre-season – or any time during Saturday afternoon – to make sure the system was working.God knows why we had to wait until 7pm their time/8pm Eastern to watch in the first place. Did they run down the beach dishing out free tickets a couple of hours earlier and thoughtfully give people time to stash their surfboard away? That was another unqualified success, with about half of the heaving 8400 crowd going for us. I’d been up since 2.30am, I just wanted to go to bed, Perth people have been putting up with 5pm games for the benefit of eastern viewers since 1987, now we’re bending over backwards for people who don’t give a toss. The real enemy is Queenslanders who won’t do daylight savings in case the curtains fade. I thrive in miserable conditions so could do with it getting dark earlier, but let’s get all the major cities on the same coast aligned instead of acting like some banana republic where everyone goes with whatever time suits them.  I sorted out the technology issues at quarter time (turns out I the plug that runs the sound system was connected to itself instead of the wall), and got a good quarter out of the main setup before the computer shit itself again and left me watching on a desktop. All I needed was for that to fail as well so I could go down the sliding scale of watching via mobile, tablet, internet-connected toaster, smartwatch, and through somebody’s window like a good old fashioned pervert.For now, it was onto the couch with a backup laptop, hardly conditions to watch a reigning premier. Good thing, then, that for the first 20 minutes we didn’t play like one. There’s still a tremendous stigma in losing to the Suns, and probably will be even when the cavalcade of handouts finally deliver them a winning side, so while I knew there was no need to panic at two goals down, there was still an element of “I know we have to lose eventually, just not this week”. Which is how I felt for different reasons last week, and will against crisis clubs Essendon and/or Port. I’ll get back you when an appropriate week for losing has been identified.My situation wasn’t the only one not befitting the contest, Fox Sports ‘sent’ (to their office to watch it on TV) a commentary team that was practically detrimental to the broadcasting industry. Usually, we like to give commentator chat its own section at the end, but the freestyle madness on offer was so intertwined with the story of the game that it’s impossible not to talk about it now. I know Dwayne, Derm and Turncoat Healy were flat that Rankine Wankin’ had been cancelled by his late withdrawal, but that was no excuse for upping the drivel content to near record levels. There’s no doubting their sincerity, but I almost missed Eddie McGuire’s forced references to nightclubs and Pants: The Darren Millane Story. There’s never been a better argument for every game having a minimum of one non ex-player on the call. Doctors around the country would have been ringing Fox Footy HQ offering free CTE testing. Unconvincing attempts to pretend they were at the ground didn’t fool anyone, but at least they didn’t just proudly own up to watching on TV like Triple M.I can’t decide if the lack of travelling gave them more or less time to come up with phrases to shoehorn into the call at every opportunity, but could the Commentary Review Officer please determine how many times somebody was described as a ‘bull’, or as part of a collective of ‘bulls’. It must have approached 50 by the end. I know Foxtel is so broke they’ll probably lose the next broadcast rights to Channel Nicaragua, but taking cash for comment bungs from the cattle industry is a step too far. That might explain the bull talk, but doesn’t account for Dwayne’s multiple attempts to get his ‘Rivers to cross’ gag over.Nobody except the Bowey family is going to watch this game again, but for the love of all that is holy please leave the tortured puns to amateurs on the internet and stop ruining the historical record of these games. I’m holding out hope that a sporting version of The Terminator will be sent back from the future with a mission to divert some of the chief offenders away from commentary roles and into jobs that better suit them – which in the case of Dwayne and BT is the guy who yells about cantaloupe outside a fruit shop. Healy will be an opposition leader, and ‘Derm’ will be relocated back to his home planet.You can only imagine their glee if, as it seemed in the opening minutes, we were sunk by a career best performance by Levi Casboult. If he kicked 8.6 that would have been 14 opportunities to be snide about his goalkicking accuracy, and they’d have been dead-set flogging themselves over the ‘recycled player redemption story sinks premier’ storyline. A browse through the archives suggests almost every mention of Levi in the history of this blog has been in relation to his ‘much maligned’ status, but we’ve never assessed his potential as a Kingsley nominee. Probably because he’s only previously kicked eight goals in seven starts against us – three in one day in 2019. I’d have thought a key forward who has barely averaged a goal a game across his career would have stuffed six past us at some stage.Whether a player who has kicked four goals in a game six times can ever be a Kingsley is a philosophical discussion for another day, but when he found himself in a one-on-one marking contest with Jayden Hunt and converted from close range I’d have signed the nomination papers on the spot. This was part of an ordinary night for Mr. Owl Energy. It wasn’t all his fault, their first shot on goal came after he was the victim of the greatest trip since the glory days of Dustin Fletcher. A rugby player couldn’t have brought an opponent down with a better ankle tap but he was going so fast that the umpires obviously just thought he’d taken a comedy pratfall. It was not the last time they made it up as they went, with holding the ball and dissent both reverting to the 2021 model.If you’re ever vulnerable to an upset loss against the Suns it’s in the first half of the season. Every year they do their impression of the Russian army, coming out all guns blazing before being blown into stringy bits a few weeks later. They won in Round 1, but it’s hard to take beating the injury/illness ravaged Eagles seriously. This was going to be far more challenging than when we kicked off the two months of our lives by roasting them in front of an empty Fortress Docklands. Maybe this is the sort of challenge we’d have got that day if the game was played at Carrara as scheduled, instead of Suns players finding out at short notice that they’d have to go interstate for three weeks and losing the will to live accordingly. Thank god it wasn’t, and much love as always to Queensland’s Chief Health Officer for making that fine day happen.In a boon for “haw haw, that’s good from you knackers” style commentary, our first goal came from a Gawn set shot. You’ll never believe what they talked about during his run up. That steadied the ship after we were beaten in the early midfield battles. Turned out all they had was midfielders. And so they should, having had more young men drafted to them than the Vietnam War. What Gold Coast doesn’t have is a Luke Jackson, who will become the greatest draft steal since Brad Green at pick 19 if he resists the mining trucks full of Western Australian Dollars currently circling his house. During the first half he ran riot like it was the second half of a Grand Final, Jackson set up Gawn’s goal, and collected touches up and down the ground like he was the slightest of midfielders. Now that we’d weathered the early storm, things were looking promising. Even more so when Brown rose above the challenge of our own fans talking rubbish to him over the fence and hoofed through a long range shot from the boundary. Other than being gifted a free for a hold three kilometres off the ball, we didn’t see much else of him throughout the night. It’s no drama, like Fritsch (who did even less) last week, two goals and taking the heat off other players will do me for a contribution.In a crowded field, Jackson’s best moment was the goal that put us ahead at quarter time, snatching the ball from a boundary throw in, running a few steps away from goal, then snapping around the corner and taking off in “did I just do that?” celebration? Yes you did sir, and I’m sure there’s plenty more where that came from. If Nic Nat had done similar the front of his pants would have shot off at interstellar speed and landed in the middle of the stadium.For an otherwise blah match, that was the first of three world class goals. Next was Petracca sticking two fingers up at the Dispose or Die rule, breaking five tackles in five seconds before setting up Viney. On our fourth goal in a row I thought we’d finally broken them and the rest of the night would be a comfortable descent to premiership points. And then we ruined it by conceding one straight out of the middle. It was that kind of night, every time you thought the Gold Coast Nugget had been flushed it came back to swirl around the bowl.This year, the life expectancy of our backline has been worse than a rat handler in the 14th century, so it looked grim when the just returned Rivers seemed to have done himself a tremendous mischief. I was about to start scouring our top-up player list for replacements (even if it meant one of our lesser players faking a spot of the ‘cron) when it turned out he was teetering on the edge of the boundary line because he wasn’t sure if they wanted to him to come off, not because of a paralysing injury that made walking almost impossible. Rivers returned without further complication, a rare bit of good news for our defenders this year. They might be subject to crippling at a minutes’ notice, but are still playing well. Christian Salem is (temporarily) dead, but until he comes back can I interest you in the unbeaten world champion of football Jake Bowey? I know as much about football structures as building skyscrapers, so can’t comment on what he was doing in relation to an opponent but by christ when he got the ball it was an experience. At 19 I was struggling to get out of bed (and often didn’t bother), he’s mopping up play and delivering the ball to teammates on an antique silver platter like he’s played 200 games. By the time he reaches that mark unbeaten we’ll probably throw a game just to give somebody else a go.There was another false alarm when we kicked two in a row, only to concede the next two and end up back in the same spot, with a slender lead that was in danger of being overhauled in a couple of minutes like last week. This time we’d been forced to fight from behind instead of dominating from the bounce, so at least we’re playing with variety.The Wheel of Footy Momentum swung back our way at the end of the quarter, with the last two goals. First lovely Luke Jackson running into an open goal, then Petracca dropping a peach of a kick on the otherwise anonymous Tom McSizzle directly in front. By now Christian was in full accumulation mode, racking up disposals by the dozen. He was going so well that ‘Derm’ promoted him to Brownlow Medallist. Either he was confusing it with the Norm Smith or he knows something we don’t about the eight players who finished ahead of him. Might be speaking in advance, he’ll get three votes hands down in Round 1, and this was the sort of possession-heavy game that umpires love. It may have been his record possession count, but spoiler alert I preferred Jackson and Bowey. As neither is a pure midfielder, and therefore ineligible for the Brownlow, they may as well give the votes to Trac. If the Suns did the honorable thing and just went away we could have had a relaxing second half. Instead, they looked as good as they have since the year their unstoppable march to finals fell apart with Gary Ablett’s shoulder. We could have stood to put the foot down a bit harder, but given the steamy weather there was a bit of ‘beat [team name] first, then worry about the good sides’ going on. It was all a bit too reminiscent of Adelaide last year, where we continually threatened to put a lesser team away but kept them in it long enough to bang on a couple of quick goals and win. Cowardly deliberate decision optional. This was not a game for decisive breaks, but a trademark Pickett ripper at the end of the quarter insulated us against last quarter fatigue. It lacked the light-footed movement in a confined space of the one against St Kilda last year, but the way he scooped it up, turbo-powered through two wank-handed tacklers and snapped it around the corner would have caused more moistness in the stadium than the humidity.That should have been it, and ultimately way, but not before a last quarter of low-level toil and struggle. After Petracca and Pickett both missed chances to put them away, we were reintroduced to an old friend when Noah Anderson made things interesting with a goal (yes, I know he also kicked one earlier but this bit fits better here so pretend he didn’t). Remember when we were all but certain to draft him before the AFL gave the Suns a charity pick? Seems like a reasonable player, and might turn out to be very good but if you’re pox long enough you’ll gather a collection of midfielders, Jacksons rarely turn up. I hope Suns fans are happy with their man, I’m ready to send Gil a ham to thank him for accidentally steering us towards ours.Every week this season will be a reminder that I can still be stressed about footy post-premiership. A dangerously elevated heart rate during the last quarter was further proof that it’s still real to me. See also open swearing and basically pleading for somebody to convert a bloody chance. We never did, with players up and down the ground rapidly losing the will to live in the tropical conditions, but the other lot weren’t good enough to take advantage. We sandbagged for long enough that one measly goal would be have been enough to make sure of victory. Enter more misses, including an old school Petracca shocker from 25 metres out. He should have sprinted into the pocket and rolled it through from an NQR angle or invited contact from half a dozen defenders, thrown them all off like the Ultimate Warrior, then snapped through over his head. Our field kicking was still alright (for example, see Bowey, Jake xoxoxo) but the finishing was putrid, from 10.1 we ended on 12.10. We will pulverise a rubbish team somewhere on the way this year, but I’m concerned that we might also suffer a slapstick loss against one if we don’t take chances. Apparently, it’s no longer a game against the Suns unless Jack Viney is involved in controversy. Unlike our last meeting where he did something indefensibly stupid and was rightly suspended (possibly carrying him through the flag before his foot fell off again), this was a collision. In an unfortunate result for the Gold Coast player, he was left pissing blood and still gave away the free.If nothing else, and by this stage there was not much else, the misses pushed the margin from 17 points (a one point loss waiting to happen), to 19 (unlikely to be overcome, but not impossible). A better forward line, playing against a less organised defence might have been a chance. They had less firepower than the Mongolian navy, and even though our players were practically scanning the boarding pass to see if they had an aisle seat on the way home, it took them several minutes more to kick another goal. By then it was too late, and once we made sure a Mad Minute wasn’t going to break out the result was safe. It was far from our best win but they all count. You couldn’t argue the endeavour, especially considering the carnage in our backline, so I’m prepared to tick it off as a job well done and move on. I’m still so frightened of being disappointed that I’m not extending my ambitions beyond thinking of it as the second of 13 wins that will make sure we play finals.  At the same time expect that our next loss in a competitive match will send me into a week long depression. Never mind, by that time I’ll be 65 and will have better things to worry about.2022 Allen Jakovich Medal votes5 – Jake Bowey4 – Luke Jackson3 – Christian Petracca2 – Clayton Oliver1 – Steven MayMajor apologies to Neal-Bullen. Other apologies to Gawn, Tomlinson, Jordon and Viney.Leaderboard8 – Christian Petracca5 – Jake Bowey (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)4 – Luke Jackson (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Ed Langdon3 – Ben Brown, Clayton Oliver 2 – Alex Neal-Bullen1 – Steven MayAaron Davey Medal for Goal of the WeekForget Rankine Wankin’, I’m signing up for the first international Pickett Flick’it: KOZZY!!!!This guy is unreal.#YokayiFooty | #AFLSunsDees pic.twitter.com/0XTe1tEQQE— AFL (@AFL) March 26, 2022 No surprises, it’s into the clubhouse lead. Jackson second, Viney (c/o Petracca) third.Next weekIt’s a Friday night banana skin against popular crisis club Essendon. Can’t go to that. Then a Saturday AFLW Prelim at the MCG. Can’t go to that either. If we can reschedule a game for 11am Wednesday I’ll be quids in. Regardless of these now traditional scheduling conflicts, I’ll be working around all important commitments to make sure both games are seen in their entirety.You won’t be surprised to discover that I’m SHITSCARED about the Bombers. Because nobody in a sensible timezone cares about Port Adelaide, their rancid 0-2 start will be all the talk this week, and they’ll presumably come out firing. Any sensible analysis says they’ve been beaten by a pair of Preliminary Finalists so don’t order a tombstone just yet, but hopefully this will prove that they’re heading towards Melbourne 2019 style post-finals darkness. Appropriately, they were responsible for the third of our 0-3 that year, it would be nice to repay the favour.I reserve the right to be scared. In general, but in this case more specifically about coming off a six day break after playing in Plum Sweat City. We stuck with the same side so often last year – and fair enough – that it’s hard to imagine mass rotation after opening the season with a pair of wins. Still, as well as the defence has held up I’d very much like Hibberd and Lever back pronto. We’ve had two weeks of playing against one-dimensional or less forward lines, that’s not going to happen every week. Stopping the other side scoring is one thing, the faster we get the ball going effectively out of defence, the more likely Brown, Fritsch et al will have acres of space to run rampant in.Speaking of forwards, I have grave concerns over McSizzle. He hasn’t been terrible, just very ordinary. Chips in with a goal here and there but nothing like the impact from the start of last year. I’ve got about 5% faith in the Weid fulfilling his potential, but Tom wouldn’t have wanted to see him kick seven in the seconds. Instead, Mitch Brown did. At some stage we should go for novelty value and try him in a Brown O’Clock forward line with Ben. But not yet.From what I saw of the VFL game, it’s hard to judge how good we were vs St Kilda seconds that lost several players to their travelling party to Perth. The ones that stayed weren’t much good, which might explain the tremendous margin. I don’t know if there’s any other major changes to come out of that, and given that Bedford was able to get back to play we may as well keep him in the Kade Chandler free games SuperSub role. … and if Viney gets the boot (via a few days of appeals and recriminations), I expect we’d prefer to pick Dunstan than play Brayshaw in the middle.IN: Hibberd, LeverOUT: Hunt (obvious omission), Smith (unlucky omission)LUCKY: McDonaldUNLUCKY: Weideman if he does anything for Casey.Final thoughtsConsidering how bad the tenants have been for the last 10 years, we don’t seem to win well at Carrara very often. Other than that grand night in 2016 where James Harmes out Gary Abletted Gary Ablett, you have to go back to the 1990 Brisbane Bears for a solid, effortless victory. So take the four points, stow them safely in the overhead compartment, and let this game never be spoken of again.

Read More »