Tuesday, 24 February 2015

These are the breaks - 2015 season preview

In the last generation to grow up before the internet came along and made life worth living you had to make your own fun. With what we know now about the joy of watching ads from 1985 on YouTube this sounds hideous, but it kept us well out of the clutches of perverts on the internet and back where we belonged within arm's reach of perverts on the street.

Long before my digital Mt. Rushmore arrived (Trove, Twitter, Wikipedia and YouTube with apologies to AFL Tables since you asked), and in the dead years before the introduction of the Sega Megadrive destroyed any interest I had in official education my favourite hobby was reading compilations of Peanuts cartoons. There's a lot of phases in my life where I'd like to go back now, apply a tight headlock and demand changes but this would not be one of them - they were ace then and by god I'd gleefully read them all again today.

Of all the great running gags in the series my favourite was Linus' annual attempt to lure The Great Pumpkin into his pumpkin patch on Halloween only for it to end in disaster and utter humiliation. There has perhaps never been a greater portrayal of #farceshambles in history than the moment Charlie Brown loses a bowling tournament by accidentally rolling his shot out the door where it skittles Linus as he waits in the pumpkin patch, but I digress.

The point is that no matter how many times he was left looking like a total buffoon his faith never wavered. He always had a good excuse as to why the Great Pumpkin had failed to judge his pumpkin patch as ‘the most sincere’ and would do it all again the next seas.. err year. Comrades, we are Linus, the MCG is our pumpkin patch and good times are the elusive Great Pumpkin.

There is no group more sincere than the modern Melbourne supporter, and so just over a week from the first competitive (albeit ultimately meaningless) match of the year we kick the dirt from our patch, rearrange the pumpkins and ask - in the words of professional miserablist Lloyd Cole - "are you ready to be heartbroken?" Technically as there's only one thing to win in the AFL these days (unless you recognise the Transfield Services Shield as a major trophy) the fans of 17 clubs are destined to be 'heartbroken' but it would be nice to at least be involved in the conversation again, even if it's just yelling from the end of the driveway,

Waiting patiently for sustainable success is one thing, but what I'm in a hurry to experience is that simultaneous light-bulb moment for somewhere between 15 and 40,000 fans inside the MCG when they realise we've hit the point where we can start hanging shit on other clubs again. It'll be the modern version of that fantastic day when we tonked Sydney and everyone there yelled "Jesus H Christ!" in surprise, only this time hopefully without it all going to buggery shortly after.

It's rinse and repeat year after year but I still can't visualise a time where we're legitimate contenders. Doesn't mean it can't happen, and if I try hard enough I can imagine us making the eight, but after the false starts and surprise fistings of the last few years I've just forgotten what it feels like to be in the mix. The other night I saw the post-match of the Essendon game on Fox Footy (surely their highest rating program of the summer) for the first time, and considering the way we quite rightfully went off our collective faces for a Round 13 thriller there is the very real prospect of casualties if we even qualified for the finals let alone won one. And if we won the whole thing? Well, you can celebrate for me because it's almost certain that I'll have keeled over and died from tension five minutes into the first quarter.

A full recap isn't necessary thank god, but you know as well as I do that following Melbourne since Round 1 2007 has been a unique experience. Of course sides have had it worse in the past, Fitzroy fans watched their team burn to cinders while the AFL stood by gleefully throwing logs on the fire, but we've had practically everything but the white screen/shotgun combination thrown at us since then. Every day above ground is a good day, but since Brock McLean's foot exploded that night we've been spat at, slapped, kneed in the knackers, Mike Brady wrote a We Are The World style charity song for us and let's be frank - technicalities aside - at times watched our own club try to avoid winning if at all possible.

A book I recently read had a chapter which touched on the wild scenes when South Melbourne snuck into the finals on the last day of the 1977 season after being gash for the best part of 30 years. It's unlikely anything could match the scenes at the Western Oval in the last round 10 years later, but the description of grown men weeping and strangers leaping into each other’s arms is what I expect it would be like if we did the same now. A few pages later a filthy turncoat who admits to jumping off the Dees and adopting Essendon describes a mid 1980's win against Carlton as “particularly beautiful, but not worthy of hugging strangers over. That’s premiership stuff” and there – if you didn't already know the feeling – is the ultimate demonstration of what it’s like to be one of the haves or the have-nots.

Here's a good way to spend an hour if your health fund counts following Melbourne as a psychological disorder, go to a hypnotist and ask them to make you think you're a Hawthorn fan. There was an article recently where they were asked if they were comfortable with an extended half-time break in a night grand final, and it didn't infuriate me because of the presumption that they'd be involved in the next one (because they probably will be) but because it's impossible to imagine being in the position of ultimate, balls-out power that they are now.I suppose it could happen, but for now I'd treat 11th like a flag. In the meantime I'm sure our media manager's phone rings hot when the press wants comment on 1.10 Sunday games held in front of friends and family.

As rough as it's been we should never forget the brief period of lucidity from Round 4 2010 into early 2011, but a look back through the archives shows I was trying to topple the coach 13 weeks before 186 so it's hard to claim now that it was all good times even when we were making a mockery of Adelaide and Freo. What great afternoons they were, treating somebody else like they were second rate. Since those fantastic afternoons they've both nearly won flags, the furthest we've been is the Northern Territory.

If after a lengthy reading of the various misfortunes that have befallen us in the last few years and the tendering into evidence of our record over the same period most people wouldn't be able to say under oath that they recommend anybody start following this club without committing perjury, but I'm here to tell you there are still several fantastic reasons to get involved. One is the amazing online support group of fellow travellers who you'll undoubtedly meet along the way, one is the promise that one day we will proudly stand tall atop a pile of our enemies' bodies but it's mostly about being able to use the MCG whizzers without having to queue for 10 minutes. And that the train carriages are half empty. And being able to buy a pack of soggy chips for $6 without self-loathing in the line for five minutes first. It is the opportunity to stand up at your seat during play if you really want, or to move to one of the 40,000 empty places in general admission if you wind up sitting next to a total poon. It is, in the end, glorious no matter what psychological dramas are inflicted between the sirens. I went to a Grand Final once, it was horrible.

Urinary convenience aside I understand that the more members and numbers on the gate the better so I'd gladly go three-deep in the hot dog queue if it meant another 10,000 on our average gate and hundreds of thousands on our end of season profit. Market forces (there's your opening CLICHE of the season) also dictate that the more popular your club is the more suckers you can convince to open their wallets and give you money for practically anything. While Collingwood fans pay three times what we do to sit in the exact same seats I can afford 16 games, a reserved seat I use once a season and a guaranteed Grand Final ticket (hah, yes I know) for less than what some otherwise reasonable people stuff down the g-string of a stripper after a few drinks on a Friday night.

And it still feels as if the club appreciates our business. They certainly need our money, so they'd want to show us the love but while there's only so much a club can do to keep spirits buoyant and no way of pleasing everyone without on-field results to back it up I'm the experience is less like being a customer at a ruthless corporation. Somebody close to me once floated the idea of moving an amendment to the constitution at an AGM and Peter Jackson himself invited him down to the club to patiently explain why it was a dud idea. Magnificent.

Perhaps the chance to waste the time of a highly paid executive doesn't make up for it always being the Year of the Twat on our Chinese astrological calendar but if following Collingwood or Essendon is the equivalent of being the customer of a corporation playing out of Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge following Melbourne is like turning up at Ashton Gate to watch Bristol City. If one season ticket holder at Highbury or White Hart Lane (but never both) throws his hands up in the air and stomps off to join the rugby league there'll be another customer eager to take his spot, but when lowly clubs lose fans they have to fight like hell to fill the spot. That's why the club chases you down vigorously if you 'forget' to renew your membership,

I'm sure all clubs wheel players in to try and lean on the uncommitted, wavering or flat out suddenly disinterested (like when Chris Dawes' dad rang my mum and dropped the name only to find out she had NFI who Chris Dawes was) but at Collingwood the players probably let the phone ring once, say nobody answered and duck out the side door for a 30 minute ciggy break. Deep down everyone wants to be the super successful club that plays in front of 80,000 four times a year but unfortunately at this particular time (e.g about September 1964 to the present) it's not our lot. If there was a way to stay comfortably afloat with just the few nutters we've got now I'd gladly take it but there probably isn't so come one, come all and why not buy a membership for your World Vision sponsor child too.

So sure there are off-field benefits like ground attendants who can't even be bothered checking tickets in premium membership areas and Docklands crowds so small that you don't feel like a deadly stampede is going to break out on the way to Southern Cross Station but believe it or not I actually feel like we should have a bit more fun with what happens on-field as well. This is after all the core reason we're actually involved, scarfing kransky and enjoying a short queue at the TAB are just added benefits.

What right do I, as somebody who has probably done more than anyone to permeate the atmosphere of dread, have to suddenly start waving around lofty goals like finishing 16th in an 18 team competition. Well there is concrete evidence that points (and I must stress POINTS – the legal department wants me to make it clear that this does not constitute a binding guarantee of good times and that no refunds will be offered) to further improvement. But I'm not going to tell you what they are until we stop sooking about the distant past and sook about the near past for a bit instead.

It was the most average of times, it was the not quite worst of times....

2014 - Look back in anger
When the name of the sacred Great Pumpkin was first invoked on these pages in July 2013 it was in regard to the prospect of luring Paul Roos as coach. At the height of my bad-news induced hysteria I was convinced the AFL were going to change the locks on us at any minute so it seemed a bit rich to be wheeling in Million Dollar Saviour shortly after going to the league cap-in-hand. The last thing I wanted was to gamble everything on one last throw of the dice and end up having to hock our gaming venues/boxes to pay the accumulated debt by misadventure a few years later.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody it seems I was wrong. I plead not guilty on the grounds of temporary insanity caused by excessive consumption of siege mentality. Whatever we ended up paying (including contributions from headquarters that we'll eventually be forced to work off with degrading deeds) proved as worthwhile off-field as on in the early stages of the experiment. When virtual reality simulators really hit their stride I'll go back and prove that anybody could have improved that side compared to how it looked during 2013, but what I didn't factor in while mixing a Molotov Cocktails in my basement was how Roos would help the club to go about our business with something approaching quiet dignity for the first time in a couple of years.

Having an experienced, respected figure in the chair also provided some cover against journalists, 'commentators' and "commentators" who lock-in on easy targets like heat-seeking missiles. Imagine if Mark Neeld had come out with that nonsense about tanking causing us to cark it in the last 20 minutes against the Lions, he'd have been howled out of the press conference only to then have to run through Docklands while axe-wielding supporters pursued him. When Roos did some of us (mainly me) briefly cracked the shits that got on with our business because who are we to argue with a premiership coach?

In the end the entire club found a great way to ensure everyone forgot about the Brisbane capitulation by putting on the muntiest performance of the year against GWS a few weeks later. If we hadn't rolled over and carked it in spectacular fashion on that fateful afternoon at the MCG then the entire season would be looked upon about as fondly as you can when it finishes with 10 straight losses. Even the comically tiny scores we put up throughout the year could have been easily excused due to occasionally dragging a good side like Sydney or Collingwood down with us, but that GWS result was like a return to the days where you were as likely to be under the early train than on it.

Expectations weren't high going in but it wasn't so bad, even if it started with us as beaten favourites against the eventual wooden spooner and ended with 22 North players trotting about desperately trying not to get hurt before the finals. With the benefit of time having wiped most of the minor details from memory a lot of what happened between rounds 4 and 14 was - other than our shithouse scoring rate - Perfectly Acceptable Football. Good for any 9th to 14th team at least, and at this point if we can drag that out across a season while kicking a few more goals I'd be delighted.

Without re-reading last year's preview I seem to remember that considerable length was given to claiming that we must stop wallowing in the misery of the past and start looking forward with optimism. My own adherence to this philosophy survived a disappointing Round 1, spluttered through the next two weeks, briefly came to life when we had three (3!) wins and peaked on that glorious night when the Bombers imploded and allowed us to steal one of the most unlikely victories of my lifetime. By the end of the year I was grimly trying to make the case for priority picks.

As the air in our balloon slowly deflated over the following weeks, The Fear began to creep back in with a vengeance and the question became "what if that is all there is?" What if our fate is to be a chopping block for the rest of the league until the end of time? Of course with the draft and salary caps rigged in favour of dud teams it's nigh on impossible to be horrible for as long we were from the mid 60's to 80's, but you often get the sense that if any organisation is capable of having a go we're it. These are the sort of psychological crises that crop up when you emotionally over-invest in stuff like this, in reality while there's absolutely no guarantee of improvement by the time we got to about Round 15 the best thing to do was forget about 2014, shepherd everyone through to the end of the year unscathed and begin List Rebuild III: Rebuild Hard With A Vengeance.

By the time it was all over you could sense many of the players had hit the wall and were desperately looking for the finish line, but perhaps with an eye to the future many of the fringe players who were on the way out were either lightly used in the last few weeks or left to wither away on the frozen tundra of Casey Fields. As much as I'd have liked to have given Blease more of a go and players like Clisby or Strauss any sort of go at all I suppose in retrospect it was better to get games into the players of the future rather than wasting our time with ones who were about to get the chop. Still don't know why we bothered continuing to play Frawley in the last few weeks, but they were probably worried about another Tankquiry breaking out. What constitutes genius list management for an 11th placed team equals call a lawyer you cheating filth for 17th.

While the last few weeks were hard to sit through, and I couldn't have paid less attention to that Hawthorn game if I'd sat at home on the couch injecting heroin into my eyeball for four quarters, deep down I still secretly love being there. The buzz before a game is unbeatable, and no matter how quickly I go through the stages of grief once the match starts at least I had rush of absurd excitement between waking up and tits up. Even having lived through the worst era of our lifetimes I guarantee that you'll still remember Jeremy Howe's screamers and Nathan Jones carrying an entire club on his back for the rest of your life - and if it was gone you'd have a hole in your heart as deep as a well so fight like hell to make sure it lives on in its current form forever. From my cold dead hands etc..

Now, for the future. Put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip, and come onto the mothership...

2015 - Look forward in anger

Oh, you want to know about the signs? Well whatever they are they're not going to necessarily translate into a spectacular rise in our ladder position, but what we should hopefully see is a further levelling of the playing field, more close games where we hold on to win, more creditable performances against top four sides and for god's sake let's beat a couple of shit teams this year while we're at it.

I've felt this way the last couple of seasons and we've ended up having neither good times or a rise on the ladder so why not third time lucky? Remember that year I felt guilty picking us to come 13th, that would seem optimistic by today's standards but I'm reasonably confident that we can end the season with our heads held high. But before this section gets so positive that people think somebody else has taken over writing it let's remove any suggestion that I think we're going to finish anywhere near the top eight by using my patented bracket prediction system, showing groups in which teams could finish anywhere. And wow, look at those bold predictions for the top two.

1 - Sydney
2 - Hawthorn
3 - Port Adelaide
4 - North Melbourne
5 - Geelong
6 - Fremantle
7 - Gold Coast
8 - Collingwood
9 - West Coast
10 - Richmond
11 - Essendon (obviously lower if half their side is replaced by James Magner, though maybe this time Neeld won't try and turn him into a defensive forward 10 weeks in)
12 - Brisbane
13 - Adelaide
14 - GWS
15 - Carlton
16 - Melbourne
17 - Footscray
18 - St Kilda

It seems perverse to aspire to be GWS but other than their lost fortnight when they were tonked by 250 points and let Jack Riewoldt kick 12 their record in finishing third last in 2014 would probably suit me. Six wins and 76.6% would be two wins and eight percent better than us last year so I'll call that my personal pass mark and vigorously celebrate anything beyond it. Your acceptable level of performance may vary, and that's fine but I absolutely refuse to be roped into the annual "if everything goes right we could slip into the eight" conversation. Considering the last week we've had we'd be lucky in anything went right from this point on let alone everything, I'd love an amazing 1998 style run to the finals even more than I did that year (and it is my favourite season ever) but let's aim for at least one season of mid-table obscurity before getting overly excited thanks.

A key reason why I feel like we can contend (for 14th to 15th) is that while we crashed on final approach last year we at least demonstrated an ability to stick with a lot of top sides for the first time since quite frankly Round 1, 2011. Of course this was achieved courtesy of hit-and-run guerrilla defensive tactics which unravelled badly when fatigue set in but we've had more players do the full pre-season, have added more experience and nobody's run off to join a death cult so that's a good start. Not a great start considering important players like Watts (up your jumper, I'm standing by him. Until rounds 3, 12 and 19 when I'll be jumping off again) and Vince are still recovering from off-season work or minor injuries but better. If only a dodgy paleo curry had gone through Christian Petracca like a freight train the night before that fateful training session the feelgood factor would be off the charts right now.

The news that the kid had done his knee was shattering. Not for any immediate on-field reason, I'm fairly sure he wasn't going to have a John Coleman style rookie season, but because it just reminded us again that there is no end to the bad luck one club can have. I felt bad that I felt so bad about it, because it ultimately means nothing to me compared to him having to rehab for a whole year and then wonder if/when it'll go again but while a lot of our woes have been self-inflicted this was just fate kicking our lifeless corpse. He'll be back so if it's the worst thing to happen to us all year I suppose we might have come out at the other end pretty well but what I will say is that he took it bloody well, watching him smiling in an interview afterwards actually made me emotional. Maybe that mental strength explains why he's an elite sportsman and I am pretty much the polar opposite.

We will go on but it was the moment where our Farce Bingo card went beyond billboard size and to the point where it was so large that it became the first document which can be read from outer space. If it were MFC: The TV Series this is the point where they'd have to throw in an uplifting storyline to stop the viewers from necking a slab of Hemlock Gatorade, but in real life the only standing thing between us an another world's best practice debacle is dumb luck. "Garlett forgets to go to court" is a minor annoyance in comparison but I'm patiently awaiting the 4 Corners investigation which reveals the entire 1970's were spent using the club as a front to smuggle arms to the South African apartheid government.

Watching a kid with the world at his feet go under the knife was an enormous downer, but before it's suggested that Mark Neeld attempted live-baiting in a last ditch attempt to save Cale Morton's career take a deep breath because there are signs (nobody's saying they're providing accurate wayfinding information though) why we can at least become a respectable side in 2015. It would be ignoring the lessons learnt between 2012 and 2013 to suggest that it has to get better but there's a plausible case to argue it will.

It starts with the results of the last rebuild. Apart from Vince coming back from shoulder surgery the recruits who were so successfully rolled in from other clubs last year don't look like taking a step back. Even Bernard is experienced enough that he'll probably slip straight back in without batting an eyelid, and more good players going in around him will obviously help. If any of them are going to go backwards it'll probably be Cross due to age, but he was still so good late last year that I think he'll get through the season comfortably then probably give it away.

Vince was good, but it was Tyson - he of the world famous luscious locks - who shot to the front of the queue faster than anyone had expected. We've been roped in by single seasons before but I wouldn't be surprised if he goes one step better in the best and fairest this year (note: not my fault if he gets injured now). As for the others neither Viv Michie or Aidan Riley set the world alight but both showed they were worth persisting with - and based on the price paid for each of them I'd say there wasn't a miss amongst the lot. You cannot in any way have too much depth, and that's what players like them are offering - not everyone needs to be in Brownlow contention to be useful.

So Tyson, Vince, Cross alone are a reasonable group to start with. Add Jones and Howe who you know will have a good game most weeks, assume at least two of the 2014 surprise packets Dunn, Jetta and Pedersen will go on with it, assume players like Garland who took a step backward last year due to injury will get back into it and factor in better times for enigmas like Watts or Dawes who can go from end of the scale to the other several times in a single game and you've got something approaching an AFL standard side.

None of the the draftees stood out in 2014 (as shown by the criminally low score to win last year's Jeff Hilton Rising Star) but Salem and Kennedy-Harris did more than enough for first year players and after previous experiences it's probably better at this point if we're not teased and just enjoy the ride. Suspend your disbelief based on previous screwjobs and assume 2-3 year players like Toumpas, Viney and Kent will improve and we could just go alright. By our standards.

Then of course there's Hogan, possibly the greatest white hype ever at this club in my time. Before Petracca went down I was convinced he was pretty much going to go around like this all season...

... but now I just want to see him play one senior game. I'm scared of another mystery back injury, I'm scared of any sort of injury. I don't think I've been as nervous about watching a player with the threat of him being seriously hurt since Schwarz came back from his last knee injury. I'm not saying there's any pressure on him to generate some goals but our currently reigning top forward combination is Dean Kent/Tom McDonald and nobody's kicked four in a match since Fitzpatrick vs Brisbane in Round 17, 2013. It's the football equivalent of starting a new job where you replace somebody who was completely shithouse, you cannot possibly look bad as long as you make it through the front door to clock on in the morning.

It probably contributed to him being cursed but Petracca was the only one of the draftees I had anywhere near my Round 1 side, so now that he's gone I'm not expecting anything massive from the rest. Brayshaw will undoubtedly play this year but there's no need to rush him into it, while all of Stretch, Neal-Bullen and Sizzle Jr can take their time at Casey under no pressure for the first half of the year then get a taste later on as their teammates start to drop like flies/lose interest in life. Besides, now that the Scorpions coach is officially on our payroll and as I understand picked by us at least we can be sure that they'll be doing the right thing and developing our kids instead of playing Fev 2015 at full forward.

There are also two spots on the senior list to be had, and assuming a ruckman crisis won't necessitate the introduction of Max King just yet that leaves Harmes, Vandenberg and White battling to get the call up. Having never seen any of them in my life I'll back a Harmes/Vandenberg combo based on second year rookie/subject of pre-season 'training the house down' style chatter. The good news is that all of them should play in the NAB Challenge so we'll be able to make our judgement on who's worthy of a promotion then asked surprised when highly paid football coaches have a different opinion.

The key is going to be this year's 'recycled' recruits, and even though he and his manager clearly haven't learned how to set calendar reminders on their phones I have the feeling Garlett for pick 600 is going to look like the bargain of the century at the end of the year as long as they don't try and get smart by playing him as a half-back flanker or something stupid so we can finally see some much needed crumb up forward. Remember, if all goes well we're going to have an enormous figure down there crashing packs and taking grabs - having somebody with pace at his feet will be massive. More options up front means more chances to kick inside 50 instead of dinking around with it in the middle of the ground before turning it over.

Ben Newton comes on board as midfield depth without much AFL experience to point to it going one way or the other yet and Sam Frost likewise as a key defender - we ended paying more for Frost than we otherwise might have had to if St Kilda didn't psyche us out on the last day of the trade period but it wasn't a huge price in the end anyway and it means depth, the sort of wonderful depth which we've been missing for so long.

The wildcard option - in more ways than one - is Lumumba. This could go anywhere, but I actually think he'll work a treat. As I've said before until he grabs the MCG house microphone and gives us an update on Karl Marx then judge him solely on the question "Is he better than the person he's replacing?" and with respect to Dean Terlich's first season at the club the answer is good god yes he is. I'm not sure he'll turn out to be a Paul Hopgood style prankster, and he's not going to single handedly lift us out of the mire but he's a good solid player going into a spot where we've had all sorts of trouble over the years and again we basically paid nothing considering Clark was going to be gone for nowt anyway. He's a tripper but now he's our tripper so I'm on his side.

The best thing I can say about the side that I'm predicting runs out for Round 1 is that fill-ins like Terlich and Matt Jones are no longer required starters just to be a mature body in the side. They're hanging around if required but thank god we've gone beyond the point where two battlers can finish in the top five of our Best and Fairest and people treat it as a heartwarming underdog story instead of an enormous, glowing red DANGER button.

Demonblog's 22+1
B: Jetta, T. McDonald, Dunn
HB: Lumumba, Garland, Howe
C: Tyson, Jones, Vince
HF: Watts, Hogan, Kent
F: Gawn, Fitzpatrick, Garlett
FOLL: Jamar, Cross, Viney
INT: Grimes, Pedersen, Bail
Sub: Salem

Dawes would be at full-forward if he hadn't gone out and needlessly got himself suspended by 'flying the flag' in that meaningless North game. Also I refuse to recognise the substitute as a legitimate position but everyone else has given up the fight now so I guess we're stuck with it. I'd prefer Howe taking screamers on the HFF and Gawn as the #1 ruckman but I'm also realistic enough to know that's not going to happen. Chances of all of these players making it to Round 1? Again, not my fault if anything goes askew.

The fun starts in earnest next Thursday when the Fremantle Oval joins world famous sporting venues such as The Oval in London, the Hitcham Air Force Base in Honolulu and Bulleen Park in hosting an MFC practice match. The glee when I discovered it was one of the games Foxtel is broadcasting was not worthy of an actual - not even glorified - practice match but it means as long as there's no mystery fourth NAB Challenge game scheduled for Port Lincoln that I'll get to see every game we play this year either in person or on TV.

Next stop is Ballarat for the Bulldogs, and I'm planning to make a day of it by dropping it at Kryal Kastle on the way to find out if the village idiot is in fact a Dees man, before it's back to the city for the first classic pre-season banana skin game since the days when the night series featured horribly overmatched interstate teams being put to the sword by the entire VFL. It's at Docklands so that's a bad start, but the fact that it's against the Essendon Seconds with a skeleton staff of AFL players, suburban ring-ins and two ex-Demons probably keen to stitch us right up is where it could all go horribly wrong.

The potential complication to this storyline is that on the 18th of February the AFL claimed it would take a month to go through the evidence before delivering a verdict on their case (which sounds suspect to me, you'd get a verdict on a murder case in half the time) and we play them on the 20th of March. I can only imagine the scenes if their players actually do get wiped out - we might finally see Docklands destroyed without having to do it ourselves, but in the more likely scenario that the whole thing is finally wrapped up without anybody doing hard time the Bombers could unleash their full squad on us with great vengeance and furious anger. If that happens the game will have to be put back 10 minutes so their fans can throw rose petals on the ground in front of James Hird as he walks out, but as we're accustomed to fiascos let's just assume for now a glorified VFL team is going to be involved. And they'll be playing Essendon. The scene is set perfectly for a loss which will have people beating the panic button until it breaks in half or a win so unconvincing that they just hover their hand over it in readiness for Round 1.

What a glorious first fortnight of the regular season it'll be too, games against Gold Coast and GWS in quick succession. Ask me again when I'm climbing the steps of a Light Tower 2 with a sniper rife but at the moment it feels like moderation is the best course of action no matter what (within reason) happens in the first two games. I can't rule out some red-faced screaming over the race by a few people who haven't realised that Gold Coast have gone past us by a mile, beat us the last three times and weren't all that bad in the two before that either but we're not playing for a flag here so let's not completely lose our mind over failing to take advantage of yet another 'favourable' draw in the first round. People were about to tool up and form gangs after Round 1 last year, and as shithouse as the opening fortnight was our best footy of the season came in the next few weeks.

There's still a stigma about losing to the expansion teams, but there won't be 21 weeks later. Let's at least try (and this will come back to haunt me when I flip out with white line fever) to concentrate on the bigger picture and the fact that we're far more likely to be jostling for position at the foot of the table with Victorian clubs than these two. Alternatively we could win, which would be nice in Round 1 for the first time in 11 years and/or any time we play $cully. I won't get ahead of myself but if there's positive results I'll be throwing a premiership party at the all new northern suburbs location of Demonblog Towers.

On the other hand if like me you don't think we can get out of the bottom five is that some sick freaks are already talking draft, and I expect to be reading that thread no later than Round 5.

Off-field antics
Right up until the AGM things it looked like we were experiencing our most prolonged period of combined political and financial stability since.. well, pretty much any time in living memory. We’d even reversed a deficit that would make the Greek government shift nervously in their seat (courtesy, funnily enough of whatever the exact opposite of austerity measures are PLUS a big fat bailout from the central bank) and made a modest profit.

Good times. But even before the Petracca Disaster the dream that we'd get to Round 1 without any famous traditional #fistedforever moments was shattered when this story blew up. More accurately like a dud hand grenade it smashed through the window, caused everyone to hit the floor in panic then failed to ignite. It’s not to say that there isn't some truth in it – because why would you think positively as a Melbourne fan? – but usually all the big time journos (and enthusiastic amateurs like Greg Denham) pounce on negative stories about us like a pack of wild dogs devouring raw meat. Weeks later we've heard nothing else. Admittedly it was sprinkled with more “it is believed” style disclaimers than a Women’s Day celebrity hatchet job, but even then you'd expect some follow-up.

For the sake of my own sanity I choose to believe that it’s either a stitch up or the President has been verballed again like his Yankees debacle before Queen's Birthday last year, but as no doubt it will turn out to be 100% correct let's acknowledge that the idea of going out and getting the best CEO in the game is a noble one. However it’s not like you’re replacing a 60-year-old with some hot-shot 40-year-old who has the golden touch and will reign gloriously for many years to come.

If the idea is that Jackson is going to retire at some point in the near future anyway so we may as well have a pop at the best option available then the logic is sound, but as somebody who has never sat on a board and at times should be restricted to using plastic cutlery it feels like if this were true that we'd be getting a bit cute for our own good. Instead of gambling on another messiah at what is reported to be a significantly higher cost than the current option maybe we should be swiping the next big thing from another club (if there is such a person) and having them work in a succession plan with Jackson. If the idea is good enough for a coach why not for an administrator?

Without knowing what’s going on behind the scenes I’d certainly much rather stick with the guy who is doing a good job now than spend an alleged fortune upgrading in the hope of getting a better result out of what is currently the worst side of the 21st century. The gaming venues are practically keeping us afloat, so unless there's a mystery strategy to roping more people into pumping their life savings through the pokies at the Bentleigh Club I'm not sure how much more the turd can be polished without on-field success to drive even more revenue.

It seems to me that given the rubbish he inherited and the position we're in now that the incumbent has done pretty well considering, so if he wants to go on and he’s not doing weird things behind the scenes that seem to point to looming insanity then let him get on with it. Anyway, knowing our luck we’d have Jackson marched out the door by security guards then Cook would get hit by a bus crossing Brunton Avenue for his first day on the job.

Who knows how CEO and President get along, but I know which position is more important for a footy club in 2014 and if it turns into a brawl in Yarra Park I'll be swinging a chain around for PJ. Not that members can do much these days, for all the talk about toppling presidents that goes around it’s almost impossible to do – and believe me every second person was considering having a go in June 2013 – but there shouldn't be any need for toppling, let’s hire and fire on performance and not the off chance that we'll finally land on the SAVIOUR section of the wheel of fortune. If we miss Cook and he's at the helm when Footscray win nine premierships in a row then that's more bad luck and I'll probably be on hypocritically lamenting us not getting him, but after the debacle of Schwab’s unnecessary and in retrospect quite offensive contract extension during 2012 how about we just do the obvious, safe thing and stick with a top administrator while we've got him rather than trying to indulge in Machiavellian antics like we’re a powerhouse club and not one a step above Woodville-West Torrens.

Peter, please keep sending the cheques to the usual address.

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance
Regular readers will recognise this as our award for performance in all pre-season matches, and to keep it interesting intra-club games are included. God knows how anyone gives votes under the circumstances, but @demonsbeth was kind enough to dish out the first arbitrary judgements of the season live our seasonal residence in Cranbourne. The three NAB Challenge games and any other pre-season matches will help sort of the winner, and it's no pressure Jesse just win this, the Coleman and a Brownlow thanks.

5 - Jesse Hogan
4 - Christian Salem
3 - Jeff Garlett
2 - Sam Frost
1 - Billy Stretch

Actually if he could just make to the MCG in playing condition on Saturday April 4 that would be great.

Final thoughts
I'm too old to spread myself across several teams in different countries in the hope that one of them will deliver something as meaningful as an AFL premiership. I'm just going to have to go all-in on this dream. 

2015 betting markets
And for those of you who are into this sort of thing, but buried at the bottom in case you're trying to beat a ruinous gambling addiction, it's our annual look at who's most likely to win some fictional awards. Addiction or not we encourage you to enter side bets with your friends and family in an attempt to win a motza.

A rising tide supposedly lifts all boats but the blocked bilge pipes in the second half of last year allowed Nathan Jones to stand head and shoulders above everyone again. Let's not forget we were on board first when he was awarded the 2007 edition of the Allen Jakovich Medal and he richly deserved his fourth last year. Admittedly I went off him for a couple of years when Moloney was fit and firing but while he was never 'bad' by any means he's come better than good in the last three seasons. Signing a contract to effectively stay with us forever - or at least until he's on the other side of his prime - despite having a win/loss record like the Washington Generals further solidifies his spot as the 21st century's greatest MFC figure so far.

So given that there should be absolutely no surprises about who starts favourite for the big one, but while I will remind you that votes are handed out with absolute integrity and no attempts at setting up grandstand finishes I feel like somebody might get him this year. Updated markets will be provided before Round 1 to allow you to have an informed conversation with your bookie or chosen sports gambling provider.

Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year

$3.50 - Nathan Jones
$5 - Bernie Vince
$6 - Dom Tyson
$9 - Lynden Dunn
$12 - Jack Viney, Jack Watts
$15 - Daniel Cross, Jeremy Howe
$ 18 - Neville Jetta, Heritier Lumumba
$28 - Chris Dawes
$35 - Jack Grimes, Jesse Hogan
$38 - Jeff Garlett, Dean Kent, Christian Salem
$40 - Tom McDonald
$44 - Colin Garland, Cameron Pedersen
$50 - Rohan Bail
$ 60 - Angus Brayshaw, Jimmy Toumpas
$75 - Matt Jones, Viv Michie, Ben Newton
$80 - Mark Jamar, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Billy Stretch
$90 - Alex Neal-Bullen, Aidan Riley, Dean Terlich
$100 - Max Gawn, Jordie McKenzie
$125 - Jack Fitzpatrick, Sam Frost, Oscar McDonald
$150 - Jake Spencer
$ 200 - Jack Trengove
$750 - James Harmes, Jayden Hunt
$1000 - Christian Petracca, Aaron Vandenberg
$1500 - Mitchell White
$2000 - Max King

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year
$3.50 - Lynden Dunn
$ 6 - Heritier Lumumba
$8.50 - Neville Jetta
$10 - Tom McDonald
$12 - Jack Grimes
$15 - Colin Garland
$20 - Jeremy Howe
$22 - Dean Terlich
$25 - Oscar McDonald
$ 30 - Sam Frost, Cameron Pedersen
$40 - Jack Watts

Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal
All players with zero games are eligible regardless of time spent on the list. Nobody who played senior games in 2014 remained eligible by debuting in the last four weeks of the season.

$4.50 - Jesse Hogan
$ 9 - Angus Brayshaw
$17 - Billy Stretch
$18 - Alex Neal-Bullen
$38 - Oscar McDonald
$110 - Jayden Hunt
$ 125 - James Harmes
$150 - Aaron Vandenberg
$200 - Christian Petracca, Mitchell White
$350 - Max King

Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year
Thrown into disarray the year Fitzpatrick won it for his forward performances. As usual the loose criteria will be adapted by the awards committee as the season progresses.

$3 - Mark Jamar
$ 8 - Max Gawn
$20 - Jack Fitzpatrick
$22 - Jake Spencer
$ 50 - Cameron Pedersen
$100 - Max King, ANY OTHER PLAYER

Monday, 26 January 2015

Demonbracket 2015 - Your full voting guide

The time is nearly upon us, it's almost time for the talking to stop and the action to commence. But before then, some more talking. If you've made it here I assume you know what's going on, but if not this year's preview or the 2012, 2013 or 2014 voting guides may help.

A quick recap of the rules:
  • Voting is conducted based on whichever player you prefer from the matchup on offer. Your reasons for preferring one over the other are your own and can range from playing skill to cooking skill to mad social media 'game'. Vote how you like and tell anybody who complains to stuff it up their jumper.
  • Unless otherwise noted as part of the preliminary rounds voting shall be conducted between 7am and 7pm AEDST with winners announced as soon as practicable after the closing time. Early voting shall be allowed at the discretion of the commission
  • You have to pick a winner in every match on the day for your votes to count. No splitting your vote, no "I can't decide"
  • In the event of a tie both players advance to the next round (even if this creates matches of more than two players). If the Grand Final is dawn a replay will be held on Wednesday 18 February.
  • If there's a three/four/more-way match with a tie for first place all other players will be eliminated and those on the equal first score will proceed except in the case of the Grand Final which shall be replayed.
  • Players, officials and non-MFC fans are welcome to vote as long as all other rules are followed. Social media campaigns are encouraged, but a dim view will be taken of any "vote for me and I'll XYZ" shenanigans
  • You may vote via Twitter, BigFooty, email, Reddit, Facebook, internal mail (you know who you are), verbally after stopping me in the street, via phone or any other carriage service.
The seeds
Top eight based on the highest placed players from last year's Best and Fairest who are still at the club. The remaining players have been entered in either the first round or preliminary round based on their total number of MFC games.

1. Nathan Jones
2. Dom Tyson
3. Bernie Vince
4. Lynden Dunn
5. Daniel Cross
6. Jeremy Howe
7. Tom McDonald
8. Neville Jetta

Earlier today the draw was conducted in the foyer of the Burvale Hotel with the aid of random.org in the presence of both presence of both government supervisors and Rodney Rude who was about to do a set in the beer garden. It provided the following matches for you to cast you deemocratic verdict on:

Preliminary Round

Monday 2 February (7am to 1pm)

Jay Kennedy-Harris d. Viv Michie 53-10
Christian Salem d. Sam Frost 53-10
Billy Stretch d. James Harmes 50-13

Monday 2 February (1pm to 7pm)

Jimmy Toumpas d. Aaron Vandenberg 58-6
Aidan Riley d. Mitchell White 53-11
Oscar McDonald d. Ben Newton 36-28

Tuesday 3 February (7am to 1pm)

Dean Kent d. Max King 66-6
Max Gawn d. Jake Spencer 66-6
Jack Fitzpatrick d. Alex Neal-Bullen 50-22

Tuesday 3 February (1pm to 7pm)

Jesse Hogan d. Angus Brayshaw 66-7
Christian Petracca d. Jayden Hunt 71-2
Heritier Lumumba d. Jeff Garlett 43-30

Round 1

Wednesday 4 February

1. Nathan Jones d. Jimmy Toumpas 86-9
Mark Jamar d. Rohan Bail 77-18
Max Gawn d. Billy Stretch 85-10
Colin Garland d. 8. Neville Jetta 48-47

Thursday 5 February

5. Daniel Cross d. Chris Dawes 52-35
Jack Viney d. Dean Kent 73-14
Jack Watts vs Jesse Hogan 46-41 
4. Lynden Dunn d. Matt Jones 84-3

Friday 6 February

3. Bernie Vince d. Jack Fitzpatrick 78-8
Jordie McKenzie d. Aidan Riley 53-33
Heritier Lumumba d. Oscar McDonald 55-31 
6. Jeremy Howe d. Jack Trengove 52-34

Monday 9 February

7. Tom McDonald d. Christian Petracca 76-19
Jack Grimes d. Cameron Pedersen 64-31
Christian Salem d. Dean Terlich 93-2
2. Dom Tyson d. Jay Kennedy-Harris 85-10

Round 2

Tuesday 10 February

1. Nathan Jones d. Mark Jamar 75-7
Max Gawn d. Colin Garland 55-27
Jack Viney d. 5. Daniel Cross 55-27
4. Lynden Dunn d. Jack Watts 44-38

Wednesday 11 February

3. Bernie Vince d. Jordie McKenzie 86-4
6. Jeremy Howe d. Heritier Lumumba 75-15
7. Tom McDonald d. Jack Grimes 61-29
2. Dom Tyson d. Christian Salem 73-17 

Quarter Finals

Thursday 12 February

1. Nathan Jones d. Max Gawn 66-34
Jack Viney d. 4. Lynden Dunn 54-46

Friday 13 February

3. Bernie Vince d. 6. Jeremy Howe 63-40
2. Dom Tyson d. 7. Tom McDonald 79-24

Semi Final

Monday 16 February

1. Nathan Jones d. Jack Viney 76-27
2. Dom Tyson d. 3. Bernie Vince 68-35


Tuesday 17 February

1. Nathan Jones d. 2. Dom Tyson 56-48

Monday, 29 December 2014

Demonbracket 2015 - Preview

As 2014 draws to a close the world turns its focus to the first big event on the year's football calendar, the first leg in a Grand Slam program which involves the Brownlow, the Best and Fairest and some other award that we haven't identified yet. It's a February tradition sweeter than Valentine's Day and less likely to leave you clutching crumpled flowers in the rain while tearfully listening to Against All Odds by Phil Collins. 

This is Demonbracket, and once again we welcome competitors from across the globe (OUT: New Zealand, IN: Brazil) to a cauldron of competition centered on the new Demonblog Towers. A wonderful world where you, the online Melbourne Football Club community and associated sympathisers, decide which fan favourite will be shaking hands and kissing babies as the Bracket Champion for the next 12 months.

For those of you who can't be bothered reading all the way down this year's competition will be run between Monday 2 and Tuesday 17 February 2015, with the first round draw revealed in a glittering ceremony live from the cabin of a China Southern Airlines jet/the boot of an AHG.com.au car (depending on who gets in with a sponsorship deal first) on the evening of Australia Day - Monday 26 January.

As always your reasons for selecting one player over another are yours alone, and need not have anything to do with footballing skills unless you want it to. Maybe A. Rookie waved you into traffic on Punt Road, maybe A. Superstar whizzed on your shoes in a nightclub toilet - you vote as you see fit and if anyone comments adversely on your selection tell them to do one. And now, on with the opening ceremony:

Honour Roll

Last year midfielders finally broke through after two years of defender domination. Nathan Jones will start an outrageously short priced favourite to defend his title, but as always the final decision will be made by the people. 

We've also lost a previous champion and grand finalist so maybe we should take a minute to pause and remember them? Maybe not, but it should be noted that all three previous winners have seen their financial and media profile go through the roof since they won and we're taking credit.

2012 - James Frawley d. Nathan Jones
2013 - Tom McDonald d. Mitch Clark

2014 - Nathan Jones d. Jack Watts


  • The voting criteria for each match-up is your personal business. We won't ask questions, and nor should anyone else
  • Voting will be conducted between 7am and 7pm AEDST unless otherwise noted
  • You must cast a valid vote for every match that day or none of your votes on that day's matches will count (I'll try and remind you where possible by there are no guarantees).
  • You must pick a winner in every match up. No half votes, no "I can't split them". Yes you can, and you must or your vote won't count (again, I will try to coerce you into a snap decision where possible)
  • Non-MFC fans are more than welcome to vote on as many days as you like as long as you follow all other rules
  • Players are more than welcome to use social media, real media or paid advertising to promote themselves. Outright bribery, however, is not permitted.
  • Players may vote for themselves as long as they also vote in the other matchups of the day as per the above rules
  • In the event of a tie both players will advance to the next round, except in the case of the Grand Final where a replay will be held the following day.
  • If a match features three or more players and two or more tie for the most votes they will advance with all other players eliminated
  • We reserve the right to refuse votes if they're clearly from the same person using multiple accounts
  • Voting will once again be conducted in an open format (mainly Twitter, BigFooty. Reddit if I can bothered. Maybe on the long defunct Facebook page?) to keep it interesting but if you're really keen on your privacy or have an intense hatred of social media you can email me daily via demonblogger AT gmail.com
  • The decision of the Demonbracket Organising Committee is final. We're using the same lawyers as James Hird so nothing can possibly go wrong.
The combatants

As per last year the top eight seeds are based on the finishing order of last year's Best and Fairest.

1. Nathan Jones

2. Dom Tyson
3. Bernie Vince
4. Lynden Dunn
5. Daniel Cross
6. Jeremy Howe
7. Tom McDonald
8. Neville Jetta

Non-seeded players with a bye to Round 1

This year there is no free pass for leadership group members past or present, the 12 byes are based solely on MFC games played.

9. Mark Jamar

10. Colin Garland
11. Jack Watts
12. Jack Grimes
13. Jack Trengove
14. Jordie McKenzie
15. Rohan Bail
16. Matt Jones
17. Dean Terlich
18. Jack Viney
19. Chris Dawes
20. Cameron Pedersen

Players entered in the Preliminary Round (12 matches)

21. Jesse Hogan

22. Christian Salem
23. Jimmy Toumpas
24. Heritier Lumumba
25. Angus Brayshaw
26. Max Gawn
27. Billy Stretch
28. Dean Kent
29. Sam Frost
30. Ben Newton
31. Viv Michie
32. Jay Kennedy-Harris
33. Christian Petracca
34. Aidan Riley
35. Oscar McDonald
36. Jayden Hunt
37. Alex Neal-Bullen
38. Jeff Garlett
39. Jake Spencer
40. Jack Fitzpatrick
41. Aaron Vandenberg
42. Mitchell White
43. James Harmes
44. Max King

The Draw

Preliminary Round

Monday 2 February (7am to 1pm)

[1] vs
[2] vs
[3] vs

Monday 2 February (1pm to 7pm)

[4] vs
[5] vs
[6] vs

Tuesday 3 February (7am to 1pm)

[7] vs
[8] vs
[9] vs

Tuesday 3 February (1pm to 7pm)

[10] vs
[11] vs
[12] vs

Round 1

Wednesday 4 February

1. Nathan Jones vs

vs 8. Neville Jetta

Thursday 5 February

5. Daniel Cross vs

vs 4. Lynden Dunn

Friday 6 February

3. Bernie Vince vs

vs 6. Jeremy Howe

Monday 9 February

7. Tom McDonald vs

vs 2. Dom Tyson

Round 2

Tuesday 10 February



Wednesday 11 February



Quarter Finals

Thursday 12 February



Friday 13 February



Semi Final

Monday 16 February




Tuesday 17 February


Monday, 8 December 2014

TL:DR's Digest - September to December 2014

Bring a packed lunch, there's a lot to get through. A warning to new players, what follows consists entirely of half baked opinion and not one actual insight into the Melbourne Football Club will follow.

As you'd know from last year there's no such thing as an off-season in these parts, just a few brief rest periods amidst the delistings, trades and drafts - also known as the best time of the year to be a Melbourne fan. Then comes training the house down, the inevitable serious pre-season injury to a key player and it's off we go for another round of what hope this time won't involve industrial strength levels of pain, blues or agony.

I'm not expecting anybody else to adhere to these ridiculous timeframes, you might wish to actually take a break, but I'm hopelessly addicted so bugger it let the good times roll until the last hapless (but no doubt appreciative) player is added to rookie list, then after an appropriate break the next season starts about two minutes later. Whisper it quietly but I don't even really enjoy this competition anymore, I'm just fully invested in being there when the Melbourne Football Club finally jams it right down the throat of its numerous critics.

It wasn't always this way, until the mid 2000's I could take or leave footy in the off-season. When they televised the drafts I'd get into it, but you'd be lucky to know who the projected top pick was let alone who you were in the mix at selection #72. The year Nathan Jones got drafted I was listening on the radio while driving to Albury (!?) and was deliberately going slow so the signal wouldn't drop out before our pick, even though I had no idea who he was. Thank god those days are over, now even print newspapers claw at relevancy by going in balls-and-all on phantom drafts and aimless speculation about who's "in the mix" to go to Fremantle at section #68.

Having said all that if we pick up the story after the North Melbourne game there has rarely been a better time to take a break from thinking about your team. The season really did end with a whimper, and unlike last year when the final game was followed by RoosNews and that exciting period after a new coach comes in where anything can happen. This time all we had to ponder before the trading started was at what time Frawley would slip out the press release announcing he was joining [insert name of premiership contender here].

After a brief flourish in the first half of the season we limped over the line, and while my usual response to suggestions about shortening the season is to send Anthrax in the mail if there's ever been three seasons in a row where a team could have done with a euthanasia four weeks out from the end then we've just seen them with our own eyes. Unless you've already gouged them out. I don't have to go back to my posts in the last few weeks (and thank god for that) to remember that burnout had well and truly set in by late August. It wasn't just the players who had hit the wall. I could have rotated myself out or retired with hurt feelings but where’s the fun in that? This is the blog that shows up to work even when violently ill and proceeds to spread toxicity to all in its vicinity. Luckily it's a very small workplace.

So what's happened since Saturday 30 August 2014? Other than the sad and sudden loss of Robbie Flower not much that has shaken the foundations of the place. It's not been without its storylines though - after all this is the Melbourne Football Club we're discussing here, the only time things get boring are between the first and last sirens on any given Sunday.

From that point until the moment I hit publish on this post the 2014 off-season went something like this:

The Mad Monday debacle
It's been a while, so in case you've forgotten there was some minor controversy over the costumes worn by Alex Georgiou and Dean Terlich. It was the sort of 'scandal' that sets 'social media' alight for about 36 hours with people taking the moral highground as if they they've never done anything stupid in their life but which only actually insults about 5% of the general community before being completely forgotten. And forgotten it was, unless you subscribe to the conspiracy theory (which I most certainly do not) that it contributed to Georgiou getting the boot and would have done the same for Terlich if he hadn't just signed a new deal.

It's hard to believe that two professional sportsmen would have a conversation which ultimately ended with one of them dressing as a recently convicted child sex offender and the other as a young girl. At first I thought Terlich was supposed to be Colonel Sanders and Georgiou the bird from The Wizard Of Oz, but they obviously thought nobody was going to buy that line and admitted guilt instead.

What an odd concept the Mad Monday dress-up extravaganza is. If this shambles didn't kill the idea stone dead then surely the footage of Trent Cotchin conducting a supposedly serious interview dressed neck to toe like Ace Frehley two days after the greatest run to the finals in modern times had ended badly must have been the final blow to the concept. I know your traditional drinkin', fightin' and rootin' footy trips of old are now out of fashion because some glory-hunting arsehole will have their camera out posting it all on their Tumblr page but the concept seems odd to me.

There really aren't that many things you can dress as that would get you into trouble but the fact that footy players manage to achieve the feat just goes to prove that (much like the royals) they're living on a different planet. It's not even the idea that neither of them thought the costumes would cause offence, but that they were also fine with everyone posting photos on Instagram. Insanity, and it's not like Georgiou at least (I can't vouch for Terlich) was a stupid guy, he was and probably is once again an engineer who apparently got 1st class honours at university. That's what being in a footy environment will do to you.

The Exhibition Series
Given the difference in effort expended during the preliminary finals and used to a reasonable run of close grand finals I went into the final match of the year expecting Hawthorn to win in a thriller, but but the ferocity of the way they put the Swans to the sword reminded me of the knife through hot-butter way teams have picked us apart over the last few years. Sydney had enough dignity to keep it from blowing out in a total annihilation, but it was still a stunning display of power.

In a competition where being the best side over the first 23 rounds ultimately means nothing there's no guarantee that they're going to win against next season, but considering the hardships they went through this season it's almost impossible to come up with a scenario that doesn't have them going into prelim week next year as red-hot premiership favourites.

Somebody might get lucky and knock them off that week - or at least go close like Port did - but they've just got too much quality from top to bottom. And forget premierships, any outfit who can rise above the handicap of playing in brown to sell $3.7m of merchandise in one calendar year is to be feared.

The List
This was well received, mainly by people pissing themselves laughing at us. I know there's been a few things worth adding since but I'll do an update when I've got 100 to add sometime around April. Sadly it didn't end up delivering us a priority pick but you can't say I didn't give them enough material to work with.

Admittedly originally calling it the LOLMFC list then getting on a tragedy roll and including people's deaths was a bit NQR, but sadly the person who pointed it out in the comments also came off like a real whiny SOB so I didn't actually think to change it until more people had read that post than all the others from this year combined. Nobody else seemed to care mind you, and quite frankly I enjoyed being 'notable' (not even relatively, but it's been 10 years so give me something here) for about 18 hours before normal service resumed.

Best and Fairest
He's won more fictional awards from me than he can fit in an imaginary cabinet so there should be no surprise that I think Nathan Jones was a worthy winner of his third straight Bluey. Best and Fairests take place in an alternative universe where votes are cast under an arcane system understood by nobody except the coaches themselves, and are the only award in footy other than Demonbracket that defenders have any hope in, but any reasonable analysis of our season would have to come out with Jones on top.

So if he started the night as an unbackable favourite and did as expected all the interest was in the minor placings - and almost more notable than Jones' victory was Tyson finishing second aged just 21. Despite drastic improvement our midfield was still garbage compared to most others last year, but with all due respect to Matt Jones I feel far more comfortable seeing Dom named our second best mid this year. More help is on the way, and the more AFL standard midfielders we roll in and give these guys a hand the more likely one of them is going to go hog wild and win a Brownlow sometime in the next few years.

Rounding out the top five were Vince - a rare hands-down, grandslam victory for this club in the trade/draft period as we effectively swapped him for Sylvia who did nowt for the Dockers - Dunn, who hit the wall late in the season with almost everyone else but must have been in All-Australian contention after he kicked the shit out of Essendon's entire forward line single handedly on that glorious Sunday night at the MCG and Cross who didn't cost us anything and will presumably do great work teaching the kids again this year before hanging up the boots.

Back to Jones, should I be concerned that contract negotiations are reported to have been opened with him on September 11 but despite us having about $7 million in the salary cap he hasn't signed on yet? There's plenty of time, and I'm certainly not expecting anything before the new year now we can use any signing to boost memberships, but if the words "putting off contract negotiations" are used people are going to self-harm and if he walks out as a free agent thousands will flock en masse to The People's Ground and despairingly jam their own heads in a folding seat.

Nicholson and Clisby delisted
The first two victims of the continued Rebuild of a Rebuild of a Rebuild came shortly after the season finished, implying that absolutely no thought had been given to retaining them. I can't say I was surprised on Nicholson, he'd done extremely well to play 32 games considering we found him in the amateurs but other than 2012 when he was zipping around playing reasonably well in a rancid team he wasn't much more than spare parts. He offered nothing in one game this year, and Roos was understandably keen to machine-gun anybody who was there when he arrived but didn't represent a reasonable prospect of being 'best 22' (as if any team ever has its entire best 22 available to play) in the future.

Clisby, on the other hand, surprised me. Not so much that they got rid of him, I can make a case for that, but that they didn't think twice about it. As usual I have no idea what happened behind the scenes, but he was more than reasonable in a few appearances as a rookie in his first season and emergency a few times at the start of this year before getting injured. I could have done with him as a rookie, but even though he was alleged to have "attracted some interest" from other clubs he'll be back at North Adelaide next year.

Peter Jackson signs a contract extension
And hoorah for that, he's a great man. Being bailed out like nobody's business by the AFL last year clearly helped our overall position, but making a small profit this year considering how everything eventually went tits up is a great achievement. The amusing part of it is that St Kilda has lost more over two years than we have but haven't received anywhere near the same assistance. Maybe they didn't ask for it, but then again maybe they didn't have this guy operating the levers...

Mitch Clark goes for a fresh start
Now this was another king-sized fist from left-field. From late in the season rumours started going around that he was back in training and that a triumphant comeback was on the cards. Was the man who briefly shone brighter than pretty much everyone on our list for the last five years going to storm back and fulfil the thrilling potential he'd teased us with before his foot starting falling apart like a leprosy victim? Was it fuck. Not with us anyway.

In the end I'm not entirely convinced that we were trying all that hard to keep him because of (insert rumour here), but nevertheless the best forward and arguably best ruckman (based on a handful of appearances) we've had for years is gone, and in the end he cost us about $60k a goal. But at least most of them were nice goals.

I suspect that after three full seasons of teetering on the brink of $cully taking my house in a defamation action you’re expecting similar treatment of Mitch but I'm afraid I've got some bad news. Your views my vary and you may already be spraypainting a bedsheet to take down to Kardinia Park as part of a carnival of hate. I support your right to do whatever you damn well please on this occasion, but I won't be participating.

You could save yourself the time and send him an abusive tweet instead, it does seem like he reads them all. Seems like an odd thing to do for somebody on doctors orders to get a 'fresh start' for his recovery, but recover however works for you. Maybe he's holding his response to the nasty stuff for when he's accepting the Norm Smith Medal after booting eight goals in a grand final.

If it seems like an incredible double standard to go to the ends of the earth to hammer one player for scumming on us but giving another what amounts to a free pass then bad luck. Having spent 10+ years into my mid 20's absolutely clinically bonkers I don't feel comfortable launching a public campaign against somebody who has - for whatever reason fair or foul - hit rock bottom. It's a bit different to Turncoat Tom not even having the balls to say he was leaving until he'd "gone to tour the facilities" and come out with a multi-million dollar contract.

I hope he plays reasonably well mid into his 30's without dominating, makes enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his life and never wins a flag - at least until after we've done it first.

Billy Stretch nominated
Given that Chris Johnson and Chris Sullivan currently rank as two of the best three Father/Son draft picks we've ever had I'll take almost anybody's offspring at this point. In the never ending quest to rebuild the shattered fragments of our midfield so much the better that he's a 'winger' (whatever that means these days) with allegedly "elite endurance" and has already played SANFL seniors. Good start, and we ended up getting him for a reasonable price so no issues there.

Ironically he finds himself coming to the club at the worst possible time to be a midfielder given we've drafted two in front of him and also have the likes of Toumpas and Salem in the mix as well, but there's no pressure on Billy to play round 1 next year so he's got plenty of time to get it right. I expect he'll play seniors at some point next year unless we're intent on committing football suicide by running Petracca and Brayshaw into the ground by making them play 22 matches - which seems like a real MFC thing to do so don't rule it out.

If you need any further convincing that this signing - for the price of an inconsequential draft pick - is a good thing let's cross to Billy himself: "I grew up barracking for the Dees — and I always wanted to play for them; it is awesome to fulfil that dream". All together now... awww.

Blease agrees to 'part ways'
I still don't know why you can't have a few attacking wildcards in your side, and I wish he'd been given a better run this year but then again I'm not a tactical mastermind like Paul Roos just somebody who is desperate to see some exciting football for the first time in years. If the coach wants defence he gets it, and Slamming Sam's zero best and fairest votes from two appearances shows you how interested Roos was in him.

Once he was on his way it seemed natural that he'd be off to GWS to reunite Miami Vice, but upon
closer inspection he's probably the last sort of player they need right now - never mind the fact that everyone's probably stopped listening to what his mate's got to say until he plays more than one good game in a row. Blease is a much better fit (cliche) for the Cats, who can enjoy the best traits of his game (running fast, kicking goals) but with enough cover to ensure that his utter disinterest in defending doesn't cause issues.

We'll always have the memories. May he crack in and have a crack liberally down at Kardinia Park.

Simon Goodwin signs on
Two years as an assistant under Roos then 'three years' as senior coach seems like a good deal to me - and we've got at least two years and one round to dream about him being our next premiership coach before we all turn on him and start lobbying the board to give him the sack.

A dab hand at the trade in his playing days he gets good reviews as a midfield coach, which is handy considering we've drafted 250 of them in the last few years. He's also been praised for his work as a senior assistant at Essendon while they were knee deep in controversy, but you wouldn't be a modern day Bombers identity without some whiff of scandal following you around.

The best bit about signing him is the suggestion that Adelaide sacked their coach in order to install Goodwin, only for him to say "I'll be right thanks" and join us instead. Whether that's true or not I have no idea, but it felt good to seemingly get one over somebody else for once. Now watch the absolute nobody the Crows installed in the job instead lead them into a glory era.

No priority pick
Considering what we were (rightfully under the rules of the day) going to get for Frawley there was never a doubt in the world that the AFL would turn us down for a priority pick. Not because we weren't shit enough for one (10 wins in three seasons if you've forgotten), but because everyone else in the country would have jumped up and down so much Australia would have tilted two or three degrees to the east.

The fact that they could have given us any pick between #1 and #122 didn't seem to come into the argument, as everyone focused on us getting something between #1 and #3 and we ended up going home for - in the words of noted philosopher Chris Finch - a pot noodle and a wank. Ultimately it was no big deal to miss out, it would have been nice to have somebody acknowledge that we've been a total shambles on field for the last three seasons by doing more than writing smarmy newspaper articles mocking our drafting, but in the end our revenge will be one less handout sweeter.

Dangerfield and the Star Search
What a complete shambles this was, almost as if the whole thing was designed by evil geniuses at the AFL to keep us interested across the otherwise ridiculously drawn out trade period. With two top picks to deal with, Roos' well known aversion to the draft and salary cap room in and out of the yin yang it seemed certain that we'd at the very least pull off another Tyson 2013 style high pick for player + lower pick heist. Despite suffering premature mockery in the name of landfill journalism that worked out pretty well for everyone (because - note to aspiring journalists - not every trade needs to have a winner and a loser) so why not?

Then before you knew it we were being linked with everyone except Lance Franklin, the people were jumping at bullshit forum rumours from somebody who knows somebody's cousin and if you're insane enough to involve yourself in forums (guilty as charged) you could enjoy the carnival atmosphere of a desperate fanbase losing their mind trying to solve riddles which promised to unlock the secrets of where picks 2 and 3 were going. The answer in the end was 'nowhere', but it was quite a ride to end up in exactly the same place.

There's a chance that the whole thing was a massive swizz, but riddles aside I did have a sense that something big was going on behind the scenes even before the Conspiracy-O-Metre blew an o-ring
when late on an otherwise boring Friday afternoon it was revealed that we'd all but agreed to flog Jack Trengove to Richmond. Initially it seemed like either it was going to be one of the two picks + the pick 12 we got from the Tigers to somebody for (Dangerfield/Kennedy/god knows who else) OR all three of them for the mother of all deals.

My first instinct was that it represented one of the greatest back-stabbings of our time considering what we've put Trengove through in the last couple of years, and when I found out I was ready to turn around and go throw a brick through the wall of the Demon Shop. But as the weekend on I started to wonder whether it perhaps wasn't best for all parties involved. We get Player X and one of the top picks, Jack gets a fresh start away from the place that made him captain well before his time only for the ship to smash into rocks and capsize about 20 minutes later, Richmond get a player who at his best has looked bloody good.

If we'd swapped both picks 2 and 3 for Dangerfield, Kennedy or almost any other individual player who could do a knee tomorrow I'd have been shattered, but keeping one of them and getting the acknowledged superstar would have probably allowed me to turn a blind eye to my gut feeling that we were doing the wrong thing by Trengove.

Then on the morning when the deal was supposed to go down pop went the megatrade and pop, unfortunately, went Jack's foot taking his career away in the short time if not forever. At this point it's projected that he'll miss all of next season and there's no guarantees he'll be back in 2016. Which is quite depressing. The question will forever remain whether we knew what was going on (but perhaps not that it was as serious as it turned out to be) and tried to cynically sell Richmond a pup, whether our system failed to spot the issues or whether it was just shocking luck for all involved.

The last thwarted storyline of the trade period was not revealed until after it was all over, that GWS had offered us pick seven for Jeremy Howe. On any fair analysis he's probably not worth that much, but I'm glad we told them to get stuffed. How often do we get anybody who is even remotely marketable, not to mention somebody who can play equally well both forward or back? Perhaps if we'd flogged pick whatever + pick whatever for A+ player whoever it might have been nice to get another top pick - but it would still have been hard to swallow. In the end given that we were keeping 2/3 it would have been white hot insanity to lose another 78 games of experience and guaranteed money in the bank to roll the dice on yet another kid.

What a fortnight it was. You'd like to say we'll never see the likes of it again but it'll probably all happen again with a different cast.

Enter Lumumba
Speaking of divisive trades, here's one that broke the internet well before whichever Kardashian posed for a photo with an oiled up kan. The artist formerly known as Harry O to Melbourne had been on the cards ever since the least subtle meeting of all time took place featuring him openly having a chinwag with Roos and Dawes in a suburban shopping strip. It was as good as done well before before the Trengove 'deal' came and went in drastic circumstances, but the but the complication of Clark choosing to go to Geelong instead of Collingwood meant it dragged out for most of the trade period - via a brief suggestion that he was going to go to North instead - before we finally managed to arrange a hot three-way to get bring him in.

I've watched 10 wins in our last 66 games for premiership points, I don't give the proverbial fat rat's clacker about his political views or outside activities. I've reached the point where I'd take players with almost any baggage if it meant improvement, and getting Lumumba seems like a good result to me considering if Mitch had done what we thought he was going to we'd have got squat. Consider this a bonus and strap yourself in for the ride.

Messy exit from the Pies aside four top five finishes in the best and fairest of a finals (or near enough to) team will do me quite nicely thanks. I understand concerns about 'team harmony' (because having a side wherever everyone seems to be best mates has worked a treat for us over the last few years hasn't it?) and that people think he's going to show up and demand the office Christmas party is cancelled for not being inclusive enough but at least wait until it happens before losing your mind. He's already done the right thing and effectively media banned himself, so what else do you want?

Ask yourself the simple question "Is Heritier Lumumba a better player than Dean Terlich?" and I think you'll find the answer is yes. I couldn't care less if he high-fived the Dalai Lama at a Socialist Alliance meeting while draped in the flag of the German Democratic Republic as long as he plays a decent standard of football. Makes a change to have a player who's not all about smashing parmas, playing FIFA and scoring free haircuts. You don't have to join him at meetings about the indigenous people of the Gobi Desert, but don't use it as an excuse to write him off before he's played a game. As a Melbourne fan you're better than that, at least wait until half time of Round 1.

It shouldn't surprise anybody that I'd find myself drawn to an eccentric thinker even if I probably wouldn't agree with 90% of his political agenda, but even more than the obvious football reasons I want to see him succeed here just to stick it up all the sooks who were going around threatening to withdraw support if we recruited him. They're probably the same people who slaughter Jack Watts every week (semi-guilty as charged) but secretly hope he fails so they can say "I told you so!" (not I your honour), and are probably looking for any excuse to give the game away until there's a bandwagon worth jumping on.

As long as this generation of fans doesn't stuff up and kill the club it will live a lot longer than any of the players who wear the jumper. Remember that before rushing to conclusions that one player is going to bring the whole enterprise to its knees.

Frawley exercises the option...
... and not a single person was surprised. Choosing to go to the premiers is probably the least courageous decision that any player has ever made in his life, but I can't get too upset about this either. At least players who ditch you as a free agent have given it a decent go and signed a couple of contracts before they walk out. He could have gone to Gold Coast for free a few years back and has been rewarded by playing in a cesspool ever since - even when he came out with the fanciful "I'll sign when I see signs of improvement" and then neglected to do so it just seemed like the kind of thing footballers do these days.

Eventually claims like that and "I'm putting off negotiations to the end of the season" will become such an amazing cliche that players will have to stop using it. It'll be interesting to see what communications strategy the AFLPA come up with next to allow players to get through the season without being bottled off the field. The way we were going between the Brisbane game and the end of the season Frawley might have got that treatment, but by then nobody could care less any more because we all knew he was going to a better place to win flags while we all wither on the vine.

Of course he was never going to admit it and had to play the game all year. If the alternative is an NRL style fiasco where players are signing contracts with other clubs at the end of Round 1 then I think I'd rather be lied to. Wouldn't it be better if a player would come out and say "I'm going at the end of the year, it's been emotional" without having actually signed then bow out with a couple of rounds left to give somebody else a go.

People argue that the rugby league system is more 'honest' but I hate the idea of a player (or a coach - what in god's name are these people doing?) signing elsewhere halfway through the year and not giving the club the chance to win them over via success or writing fake letters from 'kids' with their 'pocket money' sticky taped to it. At least if they have 'discussions' with other clubs without actually signing they can pull out later.

Sadly this unpleasant business is the new world order of football, get used to it. You can't complain too much because one day we'll turn the tables and swipe somebody else's players instead. Personally I'd rather they added more rookies to lists and paid them better money than they'd get working the deep-fryer at KFC than inflating the salaries of players who have already had long, well paid careers but that's obviously never going to happen because for top players it would like turkeys voting for Christmas.

Anyway, like Clark I hope Frawley does well but doesn't win anything either. So that's both Hawthorn and Geelong on the banned list, which fits in well with my policy of keeping premierships away from Victorian clubs. If only they'd actually stop winning them (unless they're playing GWS) that would be dandy..

Meanwhile SEN had the gall to use Frawley's announcement that he was leaving in a promo as an example of how they're first with the breaking news, even though the actual live on-air announcement was followed by the hosts guffawing about how it wasn't actually news.

Robert Flower passes away
What a sad story this was, unexpectedly coming out of nowhere on your typical otherwise-boring weeknight. I never saw the man play but the reverence people of that era speak about him with says it all. It's not the ironic "that was fun for five minutes" way we speak about an Allen Jakovich, or the way my generation are still amazed at Jim Stynes going from from a having to have an escort around the field in practice games to becoming the best player in the land within a few short years - this was on another level where both on and off-field he struck a chord with everyone who had ever known him.

It's difficult to speak about his career having only seen highlights and read his autobiography, but the fact that on the night he died I had two phone calls from men in their late 40's and 50's almost in tears says it all. Where do I contribute to the fund to build that statue outside the MCG with LOYALTY written underneath?

Compensation elation
There's no way in a fair market that James Frawley was worth pick three, but stiff shit that's the system we're operating under. Hawthorn fans who moan while comparing what they got for Franklin are welcome to relinquish their claim to two premierships and come live with us on a cardboard box under a freeway. I'd much rather have finished 9th and got compensation pick 10 but instead we got to watch 11 weeks of junktime and the twin abortions against Brisbane and GWS. It's a lifestyle choice.

Garlett joins

What a joy it was to get our hands on a player who can actually be described as a 'small forward' without your pants erupting into flames. Not to mention a 25-year-old who has kicked 183 goals in 107 games (fun fact - we only kicked 190 as a team in 2014), with a proven track record of success playing for mediocre sides.

In the end we got him ludicrously cheap thanks to his falling out with Malthouse (who seems like he'd be easy to fall-out with) and some late night street violence shenanigans with Mitch Robinson but it was such a good deal for us that I'm not even going to call it a risk worth taking because I'm convinced that there is 0% risk involved.

The only downside is having people call him "Jeffy" in a non-ironic fashion, but I'll soon forget that when he starts kicking goals out of his arse left, right and centre.

The failure of ruthless capitalism
In an attempt to fill in the slow parts of the off-season and hopefully cash in on footy/pay for the hosting of Demonwiki out of somebody else's pockets I finally started a project I'd been sitting on for a year - a site dedicated to keeping an up-to-date list of player contract statuses across the league. I maintain it's a good idea, and you're welcome to the domain names at cost price, but the idea quickly foundered when I realise that I do not in any way actually care about what is happening at 17 other clubs and have no interest in starting now.

In addition to complete apathy for the non-MFC football industry the romantic notion of people finding it (laden with ads of course) while Googling for “Elliot Yeo contract status” was hampered by the fact that I’ve got no time to actually keep up with all the changes. Site deleted, domains redirected to my one true love Demonwiki, dot-com bubble 2.0 without the inflation. So that experience was a downer, but I should have known how it was going to end based on all the ‘special features’ on here that have been left unfinished over the years. Never again.

Sam Frost 
A former rookie list defender lightly played across his first two seasons with the Giants when they were getting beaten to the bejesus belt every other week who became a regular this year as they achieved some semblance of respectability. Hardly a back-story likely to get kids rushing out to buy jumpers with his number on the back, but from what little I know of him (come on, as if I'm watching GWS games that don't involve us. I'd rather drink lye) I can see him getting a start in Round 1.

The big question is whether St Kilda stitched us up royally by walking past our table on the last day of the trade period and dropping hints that they were going to inject some life into the otherwise moribund pre-season draft by picking him gratis with selection one, thwarting us like Fremantle did with Jack Hannath a few years ago. Either way we paid up in the end, so while it would be foolish to say "and he'd better be worth it" he had actually better be worth it because The People (i.e me) will be clamouring for an all-Sizzle Brothers backline by about round 4.

Finally, if you believe a three year old highlight video he has also played forward, so the more the merrier in case we need to do another Rivers/Frawley switcheroo before he leaves us to join a premiership contender.

Strauss delisted
Never really got going before the broken leg and rarely looked like doing anything spectacular after returning from it. Having followed the Dees for so long I'm not sure what constitutes "it" anymore but sadly he didn't have "it". Had he started his career in a less dysfunctional club somebody might have gotten 'it' out of him, but alas he can be marked down as another victim for The Career Killers.

Let the record show that sadly he never managed a single vote in the Jakovich across his 24 games. I haven't checked the AHG.com.au Futility Honour Board but that could possibly be the record for most games without a cracker in the votes. I'm sure I put him in the apologies once, which is probably scant consolation at this point in his career.

Georgiou delisted
The full story of this has yet to be told but I wouldn't be surprised if he did the maths then voluntarily lobbed himself off the cliff after realising he could make heaps more money than as an AFL rookie by playing every week in the SANFL and holding down a full-time job. But thank god we're auctioning experienced players to the highest bidder under free agency right?

You'd have thought he'd prove handy cover for the defence while Oscar McDonald bulks up and gets into the swing of things, but obviously they decided that cover from Pedersen, Watts, Howe etc.. was good enough to either let him go or to not vigorously try and talk him out of leaving. 

I doubt his Mad Monday antics cost him, after all he was the victim, but it will still go down as the oddest final act as a listed player since Nathan Carroll biffed Ben Holland in the taxi rank.

McCartney joins
This was a good result, he had his detractors at the Bulldogs but it seems that on the balance of things he was unlucky to get the sack (for god's sake the man won 20 from 66 - he would be carried on shoulders if he'd coached us to that record) so I'm going to go with this being a positive. I'm aware that Footscray fans were sharply divided on him, but whenever somebody called the radio and complained about him they sounded like a member of the Chris From Camberwell style lunatic fringe so I choose not to believe them.

The idea of having a succession plan for mentoring the future coach almost blows my mind, but he's spent time in charge of a far more successful club than ours and left with at least some of his dignity still attached so I'm as chuffed to sign him as I would be for any other assistant coach.

On top of a far superior record to anything we've done recently he clearly had developed some good young players, so if he's got NFI how to actually coach a game then that's hardly our issue between now and whenever he takes over as caretaker after Goodwin gets the boot.

Tapscott delisted
Now this one really does make me gloomy. Remember back to those heady days of early 2011 when he had a belter of a first three games running off half-back and clearing out of defence with long kicks. His first kick was so delightful (including the potentially shambolic running from the goalsquare) that they made a YouTube video out of it

This was clearly the start of something big. Or not as the case may be. He never got more disposals in a game than in his first two, and the next thing he was on the downward spiral with Tim Land inadvertently abusing him. From there he excelled mainly in having a wide-eyed, insane look in his eye during fights and provoking Collingwood fans into whining about him belting people.

Nevertheless he had a reasonable first season down back, but then for some unknown bloody reason, possibly from the same geniuses who decided that James Magner should be converted into a forward, we decided to make him a forward. All the while our defence was being used as target practice for the rest of the league, and we could very well have done with a long-kicking, large individual somewhere around half-back. But no, he was either down the other end kicking grass or in the VFL swearing under his breath as a hurricane strength cold breeze blew across the bad part of Cranbourne.

Who knows, he might not have made it anyway but I can't help but feel we buried him a bit in the end. Which seems to be a common theme around this parts.

Ben Newton
Couldn't get a game at Port Adelaide, Port almost made the grand final, therefore he must be good. It's a philosophy that has slaughtered almost every club in the competition at some point or another so let's hope we're not the latest victim. He certainly has reasonable reviews behind him in the SANFL, and Port did want to keep him but that's no surprise given that they spent three injury riddled years trying to get him on the park in the first place.

Reports suggest we'd been gagging for him all year, so with far more chance of getting a run in our midfield than theirs I'm happy to give him a go. He probably didn't know we were going to go out and draft two more midfielders straight away, but even if he's only played four senior games at least he's got four seasons on them. Another one who will definitely play next year and be given a chance to stake his claim (FURIOUS CLICHE!) to bigger and better things.

I'd never heard of him until he joined us.

Barry quits
From a football perspective this didn't particularly concern me, and at least he was polite enough to pull the pin before the final list lodgement, but November did seem like an early start for bad news stories. Luckily we all got over it about 15 minutes later and everyone at Demonblog wishes him well in his future endeavours.

It turned out that he'd lost interest and hadn't even bothered to go for a run since the end of the season (which finally gave me something in common with an AFL listed player), so given that he'd down nxt to nowt in five games over two years I'm fairly comfortable with him chasing the dream in central Australia if that’s what works for him. Out he goes and in comes pick 53 - one speculative chance for another...

Evans delists himself
... though it would have only been in comes pick 40 had Michael Evans not taken the long walk shortly after. Rumour has it that he'd blazed a trail for Barry but losing interest during the season and was always set to get the chop but that we were planning to redraft him as a rookie. Apparently he wasn't into it ($55k base? I can't understand why) and will instead be appearing in a suburb near you instead next season.

I'm up in the air about whether this makes me sad or not. He definitely showed a bit at times - like in his debut and the GWS 12 goal fourth quarter demolition job where Max Gawn aimed at a comedy wig wanker - but was he ever going to be anything more than a fringe player? I doubt it. Every team has to have some players on the outskirts, but if being paid starvation wages on the rookie list wasn't for him then it’s not the biggest loss in the world.

With scant inside information I'm not entirely sure why Evans was preferred to Tapscott as a delist/re-rookie candidate, but in the end he saved us the trouble by making his own decision despite Trengove's injury probably assuring him a season-long promotion back to the main list. Like (I am assuming) Georgiou I wouldn't be surprised if he did the maths and realised he could make more money playing in the WAFL and working a real job than getting paid chump change by us for playing three senior games and spending the rest of the year scrabbling around on VFL grounds resembling en tout cas tennis courts where somebody has stolen the sweeper.

The logo and clash jumpers
I haven't got the same white-hot hatred for the current logo as some (though if briefly leaked figures are to believed a slim majority of people actually preferred it), but am in favour of chopping it just to make a clean break as it represents the era where we'd lost by 20 goals once a month. The good news for shield-skeptics and anti-Schwab commandos alike is that it appears to be on the brink of retirement.

We'll play this season under it, after all let's have another season of financial stability or near to it before we go splashing cash changing all the letterheads, but it seems the monogram logo is creeping up behind it with an axe in hand. Fair enough too, we tried fancy and it didn't work let's give timeless simplicity a go. Personally I'd prefer a demon to be involved somehow, but as other 'modern' logos demonstrate (Adelaide, Brisbane, Hawthorn) it would probably end up looking terrible. I used to think a demon would help with attracting/retaining young fans, but let's face it if there are any left the best way to get to them would be to win a few games so they can walk the halls of education like a boss instead of having the piss taken out of them by bandwagoners who have turned on their own family to shack up with Hawthorn.

What's going to get the monogram logo over more than anything else is its appearance on a red clash jumper. Hooray for all involved at our end in getting that approved, and to the league for dramatically exercising common sense for the first time since they wrote us a large compo cheque for pick three. Were I not retiring as a half-kit wanker I'd buy one and immediately curse somebody's career by putting their number on thr back. There's a white one as well, which will presumably be worn against the likes of Essendon, which looks far less thrilling but is unfortunately a necessity. At least it's not offensive like the silver monstrosity of a few years back.

The diet
I don't give a rats about the science behind it, as long as the players don't turn into fat porkies who can barely get around the field without having to stop for a breather. Let's face it, with the condition we're in a 'revolutionary' diet is a drop in the ocean compared to all the other things we have to get right. If it helps 1% that's one more than most of the things we've tried recently. Eat anything between twigs and burgers made out of horsemeat if you think it helps.

The National Draft
Some of us still believe that romance has a place in football, and for that reason more than any (well, having the two top picks helped) I was thrilled with our result on draft night - or as it's more commonly referred to around these parts "our grand final". Like a drawn grand final we'll have to wait to find out whether we win in the end, but for the sake of brief heart-warming moments before everyone involved is sullied by the ruthless world of professional football you can't go past two supposed 'friends' being drafted together, picking up the son of a former player, the confirmed very good friend of that son and our first brother combination since Anthony McDonald retired.

Can any of them play? I don't know, ask one of the hundreds of people who are suddenly draft experts at this time of the year. The first two have great write-ups, the other three have good write-ups but there were 1500 players nominated (some of them presumably for comedy value only) so obviously they're not complete suburban plodders. Whether or not any of them are going to be the player we need to grab the rest of the club by the collar and drag it to its feet won't be known for a couple of seasons yet but no doubt they'll have fun trying even if we continue to be an impediment to the competition. I can't see how we don't also get another pick in the top four next season, so start working on your phantom drafts now.

Fox Footy were nice enough to break their schedule of non-stop repeats of games involving us kicking three goals to give us live draft coverage, and while they aspire to be ESPN covering the NFL Draft and more often than not come across like Channel 31 covering the Moonee Valley trots at least unlike a few years back it's actually shown. Whether or not it's worth watching is another matter entirely, and I can understand the people whose default attitude is "what's the point?" then either find out what happened in the papers the next day or wait and see who runs out in round 1. It just feels right to me to watch, but it's like being the person who has to own every bit of vinyl some obscure band has ever released or - more appropriately - being off your mind on gear you don't know why you do it but you just do.

Neitz joins Hawthorn
Fair enough too, there was a brief outpouring of angst when it was announced but aren't we the same people who rebelled against the "jobs for the boys" culture of automatically hiring ex-players? I've no doubt he could have shown Jesse Hogan a thing or two, but let's no be overly dramatic about this - he can get his coaching experience with the Hawks like most of our other mid 2000's list and then we'll bring him back to cut a swathe in the future. Or the next thing you'll see he'll be wearing a brown polo shirt and running around the MCG with a premiership cup in hand.

Grimes gives up captaincy
And rightly so too. His appointment made more sense than Trengove's at the time, but in retrospect it was still lunacy to have him as the senior captaincy partner at 22-years-old. He's had a reasonably good run with injury over the last three seasons (other than one caused by a tackle, and you can't blame his body for that) but has noticeably gone backwards as a player. At least now he can focus on that instead of trying to help prop up the shattered morale of 40 teammates.

Hopefully we end the experiment with multiple captains and just go with Jones on his own as long as the rest of the 'leadership group' (and have I ever told you how much I hate leadership groups) do their bit filling in during the traditional Monday morning soul-destroying "sorry we lost by 20 goals, we'll try harder next week" press conferences instead of wheeling Jones out to face the music every week.

The pre-season draft

The rookie draft
God knows when this post will actually be published, but at the time of writing this section I know nothing more about Aaron Vandenberg and Mitchell White (not the 41-year-old ex-West Coast player apparently) than what's easily accessible via Google. The first one is yet another midfielder (we'll get it right one day) and the latter a rebounding defender, which you can never have enough of. 

Vandenberg's 'Brad Green at Manchester United' fact is his 56 touches in a game for Ainslie, but while a professional recruiting outfit would obviously have done far more research on him than that there's no telling if that figure stands up or was just him taking advantage of shithouse opposition a'la Max Gawn's 80 hitouts against Bendigo this year when the opposition ruckman was apparently about two foot shorter than Maximum. He has a reasonably interesting back-story for the purposes of TV profile pieces if he does hit the big time, and you never know who'll shoot through the ranks in the pre-season but considering all the midfielders we've got on the senior list I suspect he'll be returning to his country roots by spending a lot of time at Casey Fields.

As for Mitchell White I wouldn't know who he was if I had to pick him out of a police lineup. Apparently had a bad run with injuries (will fit in well) but came back to win Dandenong's best and fairest this year. If you want to be reassured that any speculative draft selection is the next coming of Gary Ablett there's always a forum thread for you.

So all good on paper, but don't hold your breath waiting for a new superstar to emerge. In the dark years our 'new' rookies to play senior games have been McKenzie (78*), Nicholson (32), Wonaeamirri (31), Spencer (29*), Magner (19), Valenti (15), Clisby (8), Georgiou (7), Couch (3), Hughes (2) and McNamara (2). The first three all had brief periods where it looked like they were going to be good players but long gone are the days when we were turning up Aaron Daveys and James McDonalds.

I'm a bit glum that we didn't give Tapscott another go, especially considering there was a spot open for recycling after Evans pulled the pin, but I'll see how these two go before I get high and mighty. If they're any good we've done the right thing, if they're not then Tapscott was only moments away from bursting out and winning the Brownlow. Either way I'll be pretending that I thought it was the right decision all along.

We're in the money

At least we are compared to last year where we ended up begging for money to 'stay afloat'. In reality there was no way last year was going to put us away, and as far as I can tell we would have gotten away with a similar result this year too but it would have left us halfway through the deadly downward spiral towards relocation/merger/just plain being told to piss off.

The good first half of the season would have had a huge hand in the $161k operating profit, because once we lost the plot all the memberships and sponsorships had been locked away, but it's still a great effort to get us back in the black instead of representing a giant sucking sound along Brunton Avenue.

What now?
Last year I made a big deal about putting the past behind us and moving towards a glorious future, but as deepression set in when the year began to unravel that was practically all I talked about. It ended with me trying to make a case for us getting a charity draft pick so let's admit that until such time which we play in a final the events of 2007 onwards remain highly relevant.

But having said that let's try and concentrate on the future instead of the past. I fail to see anybody other than perhaps Footscray, hopefully Carlton and Essendon if everyone gets banned for half the year falling below us but I think we can once again improve our competitiveness and win at least six games, kick some reasonable scores and go home with a decent percentage even if that leaves us in the bottom three again. It's a long road back to the top, and while we're currently somewhere outside of Coober Pedy without a functioning GPS system I think we're finally heading in the right direction instead of going around in circles.

Next stop Demonbracket IV in late January and early February, then onto the pre-season and back into battle. Have at it sports fans.