Sunday, 12 April 2015

Division required

In affectionate remembrance of The Feelgood Factor
Which died at Manuka Oval on 11 April 2015
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances
N.B - The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Brunton Avenue

Melbourne fans, welcome back to your comfort zone. Cling once more to our warm and familiar status as a doormat of the competition. Find your productivity at work improved by not having every second person stop you to talk footy, and confirm your travel plans for September. Our week long respectability bender has come to a screaming half and all that's left are the memories and a crushing hangover.

Given that we've not won two games in a row since the afternoon when we became the next big thing both the rational and irrational parts of my brain were in agreement that there would be some kind of embarrassing reverse in Canberra. Nothing conclusive had been proven from a single victory, other than the fact that nobody parties like us over a regulation win, and as much as I desperately wanted to win again there was also the crippling anxiety of knowing we'd be exposed as frauds before long.

We've been through the boom and bust cycle enough over the last few years, so the only thing putting me in a worse mood is that as part of the AFL's conspiracy to get the franchises a win early in the season came at the hands of my most hated club. It's far more fashionable to despise Collingwood or to grapple with an Essendon fan in line outside Richmond Station but I hate everything about the Giants except a) when they gave Junior McDonald a game, b) any player we get from them later and c) their Moscow, Moscow style song. The rest makes me violently ill even before you-know-who gets involved.

So given the opposition and our toxic performance in the second half you'd think I'd have gone completely off my rocker and ended up in a psychiatric hospital yesterday afternoon... but no, against the odds I crashed through the anger phase by kicking a chair over after the 7th or 8th effortless goal during the third quarter and on the highly relevant five stages of grief scale it was de(e)pression early in the last term and acceptance by the next ad break. This is our role, to have nothing better than one night stands with glory before everything goes tits up again shortly after.

You can wheel in as many players from other clubs and draftees as possible but the club is still mental. They have donation options to give money to taking kids to games, to boost our recruiting or to buy the latest and greatest in equipment but where's the option to put money towards bringing the world's greatest sports psychologists in to sort this joint out. In the meantime I implore you to continue treating any sort of victory like a grand final or you'll lose the plot and do something stupid like take up rugby union.

Having seen the disaster rapidly unfold from the comfort of my own loungeroom (now with one less chair) it's clear that I was right to spend the week expecting the rug to be yanked from under us, but there was still enough winning glee hanging around for me to waste a vital tip in the hotly contested Footy Maths Tipping Institute League suggesting we'd win by 10.

During the first quarter when the Giants were playing like they'd swapped Leon Cameron for Leon Klinghoffer it seemed like a reasonable tip. The Melbourne Football Club was in its sixth consecutive quarter of looking like a proper team, and I started to wonder "is this how Hawthorn fans feel?" Up until the bit where our dreams were dropped into a vat of acid the answer was "yes".

For the second week in a row we'd opened up the sort of lead that is simultaneously comfortable and terrifying. The Giants couldn't have been playing any worse at the start so it was unlikely that we were going to run away with it but from five goals in front my negativity only stretched as far as losing a thriller. Then darkness. The same sort of lifeless, pride-free performance that you've seen time and time again over the last decade - an inability to put up even token resistance as the opposition piles on goal after goal. Last week we got away with it, this time we.. err.. didn't - and in spectacular fashion.

Finally the Giants had their revenge for that magical day when we kicked 12 in the last quarter and Max Gawn (remember him?) killed a novelty wig wanker, and an entire commentary box climaxed as one while pretending that a side running riot around a group of witches hats had some sort of implications on the finals race.

Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all or would you rather we'd started badly and slowly ebbed away to a 55 point loss over the afternoon? I suppose that as a Melbourne fan you'd have to be objective and say that at least we got to see a taste of slashing football but that hardly detracts from the nightmare which followed.

We'd ended last week running away with victory after turning back a furious charge by the Suns (who as it now turns out are complete wank) and the first quarter yesterday was more of the same. The Giants were so badly bamboozled that they reverted to the rudderless side we knew, loved and were once capable of beating. I'm not sure it's ever been said before on these pages but our four goal lead at quarter time didn't nearly tell the full story of how we'd dominated them.

In the good times the star of the show was undoubtedly the previously much maligned King of Sizzle, Tom McDonald who not only managed to find himself on the end of a chain of accurate, penetrating (cliche) kicks to boot the first goal and bring his tally up to three in three games after none in the first 60 but then went down the other end and executed the best spoil of modern times - including Grimes in Adelaide last year - to deny Jeremy Cameron. He'd continue to comfortably beat Cameron throughout the afternoon, unfortunately when they got a run on the Giants had goalkickers coming out the yin yang and we didn't have enough in us to stop them all.

Mr. Spoil bounced back after giving away a questionable free kick (the first of many, but let's not get into umpiring conspiracies here they didn't stop us getting five goals in front and were barely in a factor in our demise) which gifted them the first shot for the day only for Rhys Palmer to give everyone a boost by shanking it out on the full in spectacular fashion. How we laughed as it sliced into crowd, setting up one of several Giants who would have the last laugh on us a couple of hours later.

We laughed even harder when $cully fell flat on his arse later in the quarter. Even if we'd won (hah) he'd still have the last laugh as an average player making millions for being in the right place at the right time, but are TV commentators really blind enough not to understand why fans still hate his guts? "Will Sam Frost get the same reaction?" said the usually sensible Anthony Hudson. Well obviously he won't considering a) Giants fans probably don't know who he is anyway and b) fair trades between clubs are far removed from cowardly midnight escapes to chase filthy money.

Sadly when it all went wrong he got an actual rather than financial free kick and stuck it right up us by adding a goal in the carnage followed by his most beaming smile since the day he went to 'check the facilities' at GWS and came out with a few million in the bank. Neutral and journalists who think we'll forgive and forget any time soon are on one. Until trade week 2017 when in the last five minutes we swap pick 56 for him and everyone will be expected to pretend he's a good bloke again. Not me, I'll put together league tables which exclude any score he's involved with.

Of the numerous players who went missing when it turned ugly in the second half Dean Kent may have had the most spectacular fall. He was everywhere during the good times, kicking a fantastic goal on an astute tap down from Dawes (not as good as Watts to Garlett last week though), contributing around the ground and doing what he does best by missing set shots. Then near on bugger all after that. At first I was regretting that I'd opted for JFK over him in my proposed changes, by the end.. well by the end it wouldn't have mattered one way or the other because 18 players went overboard in the third quarter so how much difference could one small forward have made?

Much of the early dominance came via rebounding out of defence, and looking back there were plenty of worrying signs in the middle of the ground even as we were joyously kicking away to what has is no longer anywhere near a match-winning lead. I'll excuse Vince for looking rusty in his first proper game of the season, and Jones for getting squashed once after carrying the club on his shoulders for three years but there was very little else going on and seemingly no interest in changing the mix while we were winning. As it turns out there was equally no interest in altering things when we started losing but that's another story.

When the ball was pinging through the middle at a million miles an hour as Giants players stood around looking confused everyone seemed to be a winner, but at stoppages the only winners in the early going were Viney and Jamar. Jack continued his excellent tagging work and was threatening to snap somebody into two with a tackle but seemed much more careful with the ball this time - as the day went on he reverted back to throw ball at foot and hope for the best but so did everyone else. Jamar was also important early, and was on top of Mumford in the battle of men built like blocks of flats but didn't have anywhere near enough support. Eventually he had to take matters into his own hands and nab a goal straight out of the ruck in one of the largest pieces of crumb we've seen in recent years.

That didn't last either, but at least he was vital in getting us to the point where we could stuff it up in spectacular fashion. It should come as no surprise to anybody who begrudgingly sat through our last nightmare against the Giants that things started to turn in their favour when they had a player go off injured. In this case it was their back-up ruckman, and as much as the commentators tried to tell us how it would be horrible for Mumford to have to go on his own for the rest of the day all Melbourne fans must have said "oh shit, here we go again". Next time we play them they'll sub somebody off after a minute and flog us anyway.

Down back you'd have been hard pressed to know Jeremy Howe was even playing - and he went on to do absolutely nothing for the day except drop a few marks because the degree of difficulty was too low. Fortunately he didn't take advantage of everybody's rock hard state to sign a massive contract extension during the week as we - or more accurately another club - can probably get him for half the price now. Mind you it's not like we did anything to get him into the game, but going merrily to the grave without question seemed to be a key feature of the performance.

It wasn't necessarily that everything was going right for us, it's that everything was going wrong for them so there was always a danger of a comeback once they regrouped. It would have been good to put a side away for the first time in god knows how long considering we'd faded out to a certain degree in the second half of all four competitive games played so far this year but when you've spent a years lucky to kick 10 goals in a game one week of scoring 117 doesn't mean you've suddenly learnt to kill sides off.

Usually I'd put these fade-outs down to psychological illnesses caused by playing in a losing cause for so long but considering so many players are now is it a fitness issue? I know most of them played all three practice matches but if they're exhausted after that we might as well shut the place down. They bounced back in the last quarter against the Suns when challenged but I'm many of them looked fried in the third and were probably running on winning adrenaline alone by that point. Take the easy way out and blame the Paleo diet even if like me you've no bloody idea what it is.

Though it seemed we should have led by even more at quarter time and that the reverse was going tt come at any moment even I lifted an eyebrow in excitement when Hogan got the first goal of the second term. Ignore the umpire guessing he'd marked it when it may very well have hit the ground because in true Melbourne fashion we allowed them to kick a goal straight out of the middle to make it for it. After grafting away to keep them to a goalless quarter it was proven that the most reliable attacking option for a team playing us is to get to a centre bounce and watch magic unfold.

Once we conceded that goal the tide began turning rapidly against us and it was only rancid kicking for goal which stopped them from catching us even earlier. Between Garlett's arsey snap and Newton's goal right at the end we put on a great trial of what was to come after half time by barely getting our hands on the ball.

Unfortunately by the time I'd adjusted to Fox Footy's long distance camera work we only had two goals left in us. The game in Ballarat that Hutchy filmed on his mobile phone looked better than this. Do we get blamed for the (presumably) horrible TV ratings due to the handful of neutrals who gave it a chance before turning off when they found it was being shot on a long lens from Queanbeyan. To contribute to the carnival atmosphere there was one point where they momentarily went to a break while Neville Jetta was having a kick. During the third quarter I was wishing they'd stuck with the Sam Querrey vs Feliciano Lopez clay court tennis match that had been turfed off Fox Sports at 3-2 in the first set so our game would come on. No idea how Sam and Feliciano got on, but in tennis parlance I think we lost 6-1, 7-5, 0-6, 0-6, 0-6.

When their 15 minute spell of pressure came to nowt due to Kent/Garlett-esque set shot kicking and Newton kicked his goal against the run of play it seemed like the tide was running so strongly in our favour that it was ok to believe again. When the behind-the-goal replay showed a quarter of the GWS cheersquad (one person) having a tantrum as the ball went through that confirmed it. She probably found out that she was the only person in the ground who had actually paid for their ticket. How I mocked her at the time (while simultaneously trying to weld the MFC lid down) but ultimately there's another figure related to the Giants who had the last laugh - I expect even Sheedy was sitting at home laughing manically while we went the way of Leon.

A hard fought goal that should have set us up perfectly going into half time was rendered useless thirty seconds later when we gifted them another goal straight out of the middle in the time honoured tradition. It's easily said after the disaster but in retrospect I wish we'd gone into full Classic Roos defensive mode after the goal considering how they'd been well on top before it.

Of course being ultra-defensive doesn't usually work when the opposition clear from the centre in four seconds unless you relocate the forwards into the defensive 50, and no coach is going to do that unless there's 20 seconds left in the game, but even just holding it in the middle for a repeat stoppage would have been preferable to watching them sweep forward and kick the goal which ultimately tilted the game in their direction. Unfortunately none of this could have been considered as about 20 minutes later we discovered that the Plan B envelope was still going around in circles on the baggage carousel at Canberra Airport.

The only thing worse than needlessly conceding that goal going into half time was that it fell to one of the most unpleasant looking characters of recent years. Cameron McCarthy certainly appears to be a reasonable player who worked hard to give the Giants a forward target while Tom Mc was flogging Cameron, and he ultimately took full advantage of the avalanche to kick three goals so good luck to him but he has a face likely to scare children. He's taken the despised Lynden Dunn moustache look to frightening new levels of depravity by also introducing a Michael Hurley style taxi driver basher haircut and having the mo droop at either end.

If he moved into your neighbourhood you'd definitely consult a particular register of previously convicted offenders to make sure he wasn't on it. Our legal department would like to point out you most certainly won't find him on there, but you will probably see a few familiar names from the various football codes. He will probably go on to kick more goals than Jesse Hogan in the end, because we are destined never to have nice things.

Still, even after conceding a goal to a guy who looks like the teenagers awkwardly loitering around the Magistrates Court we had a handy lead. It would take a lead of about 15 goals to make me comfortable at half time but it was better than being 27 behind. It was a reasonable insurance policy to keep us in the game until the end as long as we didn't do anything stupid like concede nine goals to one in the third quarter.

They had been much better in the second quarter, but then again we had Tyson, Jones and Howe barely getting a touch and Vince still running himself back into form so it's not like there wasn't potential for improvement at our end. It just didn't happen, and while we stood back and enjoyed the fireworks the Giants trotted around unchallenged doing whatever they wanted.

At the time I didn't know that we hadn't torched such a half-time margin since being 34 up against the Bulldogs at half time in Round 12, 2000 then losing by 25 (I was there but have obviously wiped it from my memory) but it still seemed like a rarity. Turns out to be only the 12th time we've ever done it. By way of comparison this was more like Round 17, 1997 when we were inexplicably 30 points in front of the Pies at half time then lost by 52. I remember that one better, for I was listening to it on the radio at home and threw things - 18 years later nothing has changed.

Given that I am only concerned when we're getting the football or stopping the other team getting it there's not a great deal to say about the third quarter. What angered me was that for 30 minutes we seemingly continued to do exactly the same thing while they tore us to shreds. I don't know if there were tactical shifts made which didn't pay off because we'd lost the plot or the Giants were too rampant but it didn't look that way. Considering that they were breaking out of the centre with the greatest of ease I never saw anything more adventurous than a low-key Harry O appearance. Any chance of throwing Dawes, Watts or even Hogan through there to knock a few people around and reassert our dominance? Might not have worked but it was an much chance at Jamar battling manfully with Mumford only for the ball to fall into the hands of an on-rushing opponent every time.

Realistically they were on such a high that it would't have helped if we had all 18 players take up religion and sing the chorus of Dropkick Me Jesus Through The Goalposts Of Life in the centre square but from the perspective of somebody who barely cares for footy tactics until the point where we'd conceding goals hand-over-fist was anybody put behind the ball to try and stem the tide? I know last week I was demanding that we stop messing around with Jack Watts and play him one position but in the event of an emergency why not send him down back for a few minutes to play as a loose man and calm things down? It's never a role he should play for four quarters but after the fifth goal in rapid succession trying anything would have been preferable.

No idea what Howe was supposed to be doing yesterday (and not sure if he did either) but even though he was having a mare what better man to have roaming free in the event of a non-stop aerial bombardment? Instead he gets left wandering around on a half-back flank unable to get a kick and by the time he did have a simple marking opportunity he was so surprised that he dropped it. Perhaps the coaches thought that we did such a good job answering challenges last week without doing anything drastic that we might as well adopt the same tactics. Which was fine after 1, 2, 3 and 4 goals and questionable after 5, 6 and 7 but a total bust from there.

We're well used to debacles by now so seeing a side run riot against us is hardly surprising but seeing us roll over and die no matter how many new players are introduced is disheartening. Speaking of new players the fizz on the ones who were so good last week was spectacular. The fizz on the new players who were so good last week was spectacular. Brayshaw is excused as the sub, Hogan is excused for being good, vandenBerg was ok at getting it but not so bad at disposing of it, Newton average at best considering goals and time off ground, Lumumba ordinary, Frost rubbish and Garlett a total bomb except for his crumb deluxe goal - admittedly that's what we pay him for but The Big Steal doesn't seem so immense this week.

If Hogan had kicked his goal at the start of the last quarter it might have made things interesting but realistically we'd necked ourselves in the last few minutes of the third quarter when they kicked the last three goals to not a sliver of resistance. We managed to get another goal and only lose the second half by 72 but all the confidence gained a week ago was now undone and most of the team looked like they were going through the motions only because we weren't allowed to officially concede and catch an earlier flight home.

The real winners are the AFL and their plan to get GWS off to a great start by fixturing them against the bottom two teams. What an amazing coincidence that Gold Coast ended up with exactly the same start - at least we momentarily interfered with the plot last week. What another remarkable stroke of luck it is that they'd managed to get the Giants 2-0 going into a Sydney derby next weekend. Remarkable. People who are into conspiracy theories are often dickheads, but when it's my theory everything about it is sound. I usually avoid Victorian teams like the plague but good on St Kilda for fighting the power last night and at least ruining half the plot.

If nothing else has come from the Giants whacking us at every opportunity at least games against them have joined the rivalry against Collingwood as being built on one-sided hatred (from us) and one-sided football (from them). The Footscray and Essendon games might give us more exciting outcomes but footy is much spicier when there are personal issues - even if only one side cares.

Burn the tapes and move on.

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Tom McDonald
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Jesse Hogan
2 - Christian Salem
1 - Mark Jamar

Apologies to Cross who was narrowly tipped out for the last vote. At half time I would have had 10 in here, by the end it was down to one and even then neither of them probably deserved it.

Remarkable scenes at the top of the leaderboard as possibly the first key defender ever to lead extends the gap to over one full BOG performance. At the same time remember James Magner was on 10 after his first two games and what happened to him. Look out for Tom to be recommissioned as a defensive forward by Round 10 and a VFL player by 2017.

10 - Tom McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
4 - Jack Viney, Jack Watts
3 - Jeff Garlett, Jesse Hogan (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
2 - Nathan Jones, Christian Salem
1 - Mark Jamar (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Ben Newton

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Somebody must have read my comments about there being too many goals to choose from last week and thought I was suggesting this was a bad thing.

Considering we returned to scoring bugger again there were a few reasonable contenders this week. Special consideration to Dawes-to-Kent-Alley Oop, Garlett from the pocket and Newton causing pandemonium amongst the orange clad club shifters but I can't go past the wonderful simplicity of Jamar's super size crumb. He judged the flight of a wonky throw-in better, grabbed it out of mid air hoofed it through and momentarily life couldn't have been any better.

Last week's nominee (Dom Tyson with many assists) still the overall leader though.

Amazingly the GWS cheersquad (Chairman: Gil) have reverted to using O's instead of 0's in line with the rest of the English speaking world. It was still a disappointing effort considering the sort of money they've got available to them - it should be dripping with gold. Better that they don't spend it all I suppose, that's AFL money which could be be better spent bailing us out again in a couple of years. We still won on font and a reasonable slogan which quite correctly pointed out that you should watch out for a team with a point to prove. Unfortunately that was the other lot. 2-0 Dees.

Crowd Watch
It seemed unlikely that on any fair count the crowd would top the 7311 we got there against Sydney before the then Chief Minister of the ACT threw our contract in the bin, but in accordance with the GWS Crowd Manipulation Act of 2012 it was inflated in line with official Treasury Department projections and they managed to get it up to 7700. Maybe they won't be relocating to the ACT permanently any time soon.

It sounded like there were significantly more Melbourne fans there, because obviously most of the neutrals in the crowd realise that cheering GWS is like declaring your loyalty to Vichy France but by the end even they'd turned on us too. I don't blame them, if I saw a side put in that sort of limp performance against a hated franchise I'd treat them with contempt as well.

Capital Corner (formerly Matchday Experience Watch)
Would you even bother putting on spectacle for the transient audience of local neutrals, visitors who were still (briefly) high on victory and a handful of franchise customers? Whatever it was it didn't qualify for the television broadcast because we were busy being treated to the Home Matchday Experience of Tony Shaw guffawing away to himself and talking less sense than Dwayne Russell.

A few weeks ago I was in Canberra and being a politics nerd went to watch Question Time. When people say they follow football but not any team in particular I think they're generally weirdos but that's how I feel about politics, most of them are bent at right angles but I love watching people yell at each other in an environment where you can be sure nobody's going to get glassed.

As I sat in the Senate gallery watching Penny Wong do her best Nathan Jones impersonation with a heroic captains performance while leading a team full of duds and has-beens I was thinking that if you could find 499 voters willing to put their name to a party with a nice generic name like the Football Fans Party you might very well get elected. With an apathetic electorate willing to throw our vote away on anything these days it would attract support from fans of all codes, and if the Motoring Enthusiastis Party can get in with 17,122 votes I'm sure you could do even better than that even if you just called yourself the Collingwood Party. Sign a few sweet preference deals and start looking for an electorate office.

The prize package for anyone who can pull this scam off is at least six years as your own boss on a base rate of $195,130 plus expenses. You'll probably become a national hate figure for gaming the system like nobody ever has before (the "Sports Party" nearly got elected in WA last time but that's far too generic, I only want to vote for ball sports) but you'll also be enjoying a minimum $1.17m before-tax salary over your stint plus any outrageous pay rises you vote for yourself in the future. Give me a mention in your maiden speech.

Next Week
We're on a tour of the entertainment hotspots of the world. Canberra one week, Adelaide the next, can Atlantic City be far behind? Now that the good times have been well and truly proven a flash in the pan we can admit that the Crows will probably mangle us. They weren't nearly as impressive against Collingwood as they were against North but I'd fall off my couch if we got anywhere near them next Saturday.

As for the team I'm usually one to call in an airstrike on everyone in the wake of performances like this but given that it's only Round 3 I feel like we should exercise some caution and stick with a settled side. There's plenty of time left for slashing changes which leave Casey having to field 13-year-olds. So barring injuries, suspensions or surprise defections to ISIS I'm opting for the very simple...

IN: Pedersen
OUT: Frost

You may feel we need to massacre most of the list and bring in some of those fill-ins that Essendon had behind "break in case of emergency" glass, and I've got some sympathy for your position but you're never going to drop Tyson, Vince, Howe or Jones so it will help immensely if any or all of them get back to their best form next week. This was not a capitulation caused by the bottom four or five players.

The reviews on Dawes' performance seem to vary between uncomplimentary and murderous, and while he went under with everyone else in the end I thought he was very good early on. The argument is that we looked so much better without him that he go and join Jack Grimes in trying to win back his position through the VFL but personally I feel he's still important enough to persist with at least for a few weeks before we bring Puttin' On The Fitz back for another go. We're not going to win so let's just put what we think is the best 22 in and try to get the tactical side of things right instead of panicking.

I have a horrible feeling that Brayshaw is going to get dropped when what should happen is that he's reinstated to the starting lineup. I've got no problems using him as the sub this time because we had a reasonably strong (on paper) lineup but he was a wrecking ball against Gold Coast and we're going to need anti-social brutality by the truck-load to have any chance next week so I want him in there doing suplexes on Dangerfield and Sloane from the first bounce.

The merchandise table
On the left, a present received during the week from my cousin-in-law. Clearly a garage production rather than official AFL licenced merchandised but they could have at least deadened the eyes a bit to make it look like him instead of working off a Steven Stretch sketch from 1989. I'd like to think there are 9999 of these still slowly rotting away in boxes on a dock in Hong Kong. Here's to both manufacturer and subject going bankrupt.

By the fourth quarter I was tempted to start drinking cleaning fluids out of it, but that's what he ($cully, not the giver of the gift) would want me to do. Any word yet of where he's invested his ill-gotten millions and what we can do to make sure the stock price of those companies plunge to record lows?

* Please note, the above picture has been presented in thumbnail format deliberately as I know many of you have small children and I don't want them to become distressed. Speak of the devil and he shall appear.

Final Thoughts
I'm not surprised people are upset after watching that gash, but we play Adelaide, Footscray (resurgent), Richmond (still dangerous), Fremantle, Port (contenders), Hawthorn (imperious) before Queen's Birthday so don't use up all your despair yet. Save some cyanide for me.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Reclaim Round 1

What a remarkable situation we find ourselves in where a win over a plastic franchise nearly brings a tear to the eye, but here we are. In the end the opposition was irrelevant, after nine seasons of having our summer dreams violently snuffed out by half time of the first meaningful game the victims might as well have been Peel Thunder for all it mattered - another weight has been lifted and we are free to go into Round 2 on a high for the first time in a decade.

How long has it been since we've won in Round 1? Well, it was the first home and away match I ever 'reviewed', and Ryan Ferguson was adjudged second best on ground. It has been a while. That night I was so keyed up on the emotion of the Troy Broadbridge tribute and the electricity of our performance that after the game I went home, got in my car and drove to Geelong for no apparent reason, arrived at about 2am, turned around immediately, got home and chucked a sickie from work the next day - which didn't make the report for obvious reasons.

Since then Round 1 has usually been a downer. Other than the draw that opened that ice addict of a season in 2011 we've seen defeat (2007, 2009, 2010) and disgrace (2006, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014), all while never getting closer than 21 points other than the draw. After going through what often seemed like the best time of the year to be a Melbourne fan - trade, draft and time trials, Round 1 has more often than not been the sporting equivalent of fatal free-fall caused by malfunctioning helicopter blades.

The problem in the last three years has been that every time we've gone in thinking we were going to win or (at least be a red hot chance) only for it to blow up in our faces. Last year there were excuses about injuries to key players, but losing to St Kilda was still a uppercut squarely to the jaw. This time, with conventional wisdom suggesting that if Ablett never did his shoulder the Suns would have played in the finals and poor old Guy McKenna would still have a job, nobody was tipping us and almost every Melbourne fan I know was thinking of nothing more than bedding in the recruits and fighting out a battling loss to give us a much needed rev up for the rest of the year.

Instead something wonderful happened, the sort of thing that will cause you sit through the buffoonery of any footy panel show (unless you're me and missed the Sunday ones while writing this) just to hear them heap faint praise on us after six months of paying not even the slightest attention. The game won't go down as a classic based on quality alone, but all of a sudden I've got renewed hope in my dark, distressed heart that it could be a turning point for us to look back on in a few years. If not at least it'll go down alongside games like Carlton 2014 as enjoyable wins, but not as enjoyable as knocking over Essendon with 19 seconds left.

It just went to show how much better a surprise is when you've drastically lowered your expectations. See also Watts, Jack - the people who lay in wait for him behind a hedge with a artillery battalion will never be happy but for the rest of us who have stopped expecting him to be a Jonathan Brown (or indeed Jesse Hogan) style military strongman or a Lynden Dunn-esque angry defender yesterday was a revelation. Or more accurately a welcome throw-back to 2011 when he was just starting to find his feet as a forward and had enough confidence to blind turn nobody like he was pressing buttons on a Playstation controller. Amazing what happens when you play somebody to their strength (runs quickly, leads well, generally an accurate shot on goal) instead of trying to ram the square peg into the round hole. Hopefully the temptation is resisted to move him from one spot to another just when he's finding some form, but no doubt with Dawes back next week he'll be shifted to a half-back flank again and it'll be back to square one.

During 2012 putting him down back and letting him mop up cheap touches briefly seemed like a stroke of genius thanks to the fact that he's a great field kick, but even though it looked good while the side was having a rare positive day out it fell apart badly all the other times when we were being flogged - and having both and a coach and supporters calling him every name under the sun can't have helped his confidence. I gave up on judging him against his draft position long ago, and while confidence fluctuated wildly throughout last year resolve is strong to just enjoy the ride of a 200 game player who generally appears to be a nice guy despite all the shit that's been hurled at him and who doesn't beat up taxi drivers or abuse women. Near best on ground performances in wins are a bonus.

Of course there are still people dying for excuses to hate him, and they'll have their time to shine. Witness the reaction from some sections when he dropped an easy chest mark, but then contrast that the reception he got running off after kicking a goal straight after. It didn't have the same force of the good guy turn that Heritier Lumumba has undergone when our fans realised he was a valuable addition but it was nice to see that either the majority of people are fair about this sort of thing or have been battered so much over the years that they can be bought off by a goal.

There were so many magnificent storylines in this game that I don't know where to start. It's easy enough to come on here and moan about how poor we've been in defeat but what am I supposed to do now? Usually the timing of our goals is my marker to remember what happened in the game but - and I can't believe I'm saying this - this week there were too many. This is a situation I'd like to be in every week if at all possible. It was a modest score by anybody else's standards, but our highest since the fourth quarter avalanche against GWS in 2013. If you'd rather a game where we didn't just feast in carcass then go back to the $cully game in 2012. And if you refuse to accept that GWS exist - and I don't blame you - then set your clock way back to Round 14, 2011, where we kicked 17.16.118 to beat Richmond in front of 61,000 people (!!!) and leave ourselves half a game inside the eight with bright lights on the horizon - which as it turned out were from an oncoming train.

Indeed it was a four quarter performance against a finals contender - the ladder is generally the only thing I ever get close to predicting correctly and I had them finishing seventh - and while we got some help from the Suns kicking for goal like muppets and subbing off their only decent key forward for reasons unknown (was there an injury or was Rocket on the gas?) let that not detract from the way we played like the gameplan and psychological shackles had been thrown off. There was a bit of corridor work last year, but the few times we slashed through the middle stood out like dogs' balls after two years of hugging the boundary - this was different. It was like new moves had been added to the arsenal in the two weeks since the Essendon game. There'd been hints of this happening - especially against the Bulldogs - but yesterday the plan operated at high efficiency with pleasing results. No idea whether it'll last or whether 16 coaches are now preparing man-traps for us in the centre of the ground but at least we enjoyed one afternoon of free-flowing and at times wonderfully reckless football (at least to the untrained eye, it probably all made perfect sense to the people involved) that made me understand what the fans of other clubs are on about when they talk about footy being exciting.

It also helped that we did a great job of keeping Ablett out of the game for three quarters. No doubt he'll eventually get three Brownlow votes on name value alone, but even allowing for the fact that he's about 25% fit we squashed him. Much of the credit goes to Jack Viney, who like a luxury Jordie McKenzie could tag for Australia but fills me with terror every time he kicks. Everyone likes to point out that his dad wasn't a great kick and that turned ok, and I'm sure it will but at the very least we've got ourself a player who can pay for his wonky disposals by doing bang-up jobs on the best players in the competition with a hint of scrag. At least unlike 2013 Gaz took his beating like a man instead of running off to the umpires demanding free kicks.

Whether or not a fit Ablett would have delivered victory is questionable, I'd say the way he was being sat on and his cameo performance up front in the last quarter they'd have been better off conceding defeat at half time and sending him forward to help sort of the slurry that their alleged goalkickers were serving up. But they didn't and we won, so sucked in to all 13 Suns fans.

The added bonus was that in the end we did it comfortably enough as not to cause heart attacks. Our membership has an average age of about 72 so thrillers aren't good for anybody's business except the person who runs the bequest program. In fact it got to the point where I even started to enjoy that unfamiliar feeling when you're sick in the stomach at being so far in front that it would be embarrassing to lose but you're not confident your side can hold on. I thought I felt it in Ballarat a few weeks ago but this was about 500% more brutal because the eyes of the footballing world were on us.

There were certainly times when it was looking dicey, but where we'd have keeled over and died in the last couple of years (if we had managed to get that far in front to begin with) there was new-found resilience. When they kicked the first three goals of the last quarter my heart sank because it seemed that that half our side were spent. Jamar had already been cramping up like a mofo late in the third quarter after playing 80% of the game in the ruck, and now more of his teammates were walking around with hands on hips so it was all set for disaster. But no, enter Lumumba with the intercept, the goal and the Broadway style high stepping celebration and the ship was steadied long enough to crush Gold Coast's fragile spirit and send everyone who mattered home levitating about two foot off the ground. What a day out it ended up being - a carnival atmosphere for the whole family, and especially the kids who really needed this one so they could go back to school with some strut for once.

After months of nerves it was much as expected early in the game - we were clearly brimming with enthusiasm but untidy and unfocused. It took the Suns scoring two behinds before Dean Kent lifted spirits when his brave marking attempt was foiled by some idiot with disco hair cleaning him up. Kent's courage was one thing, but consider that he was leading (*swoon*) to a fantastic kick (*double swoon*) from Hogan (*religious experience*) and dream of a Red and Blue Planet at some point in your lifetime. After he got cleaned up it was heart-warming to see Frost and Harry O first in for the light-hearted shoving/fake biff but everyone kept their head, Tyson was gifted the first goal of the year from the square and was an easy start to the season for everyone unless you were the one wearing the crimson mask and having to be temporarily subbed out for concussion testing.

One of the most pleasing aspects of the first half was the performance of the backline as they continued their good work from the practice games in making the Suns look like us (circa 2012-14). Admittedly Sam Day may as well have had Dame Edna up there for all the help he were getting from teammates, but we still looked difficult to breach. The best of the lot was McDonald, who made us forget (hopefully permanently) about Frawley with a magnificent key defensive performance that ended with him having 10 marks and leading the disposals (!). You still wouldn't have him kick for your life, but what MFC defender of recent times would you choose if you were on the gallows? He flubbed at least one in spectacular style, and his habit of running around his opponent is always on the verge of disaster but it's a good start. Let's see how he goes against a forward line with more than one option, but the early signs are great.

Other than a steel-trap backline the most noticeable thing right from the start was the tackling pressure. All the usual suspects like Jones, Jetta, Viney and Cross were in there but so too were the recruits - especially Brayshaw who made it clear why we hid him in VFL games for the last few weeks when he spent the first three quarters poleaxing people before being subbed off. I also highly enjoyed vandenBerg's performance in this field, he was sold to us as possession machine and showed aspects of that but nobody told me he was such a physical beast as well. No bloody wonder he was getting 56 touches in the NEAFL if he was just walking through semi-professionals like he did to some highly paid AFL players yesterday. He's instantly shot past Matt Jones and Rohan Bail in my pecking order, and the longer we can go without relying on the second tier midfielders like them the better.

I know a lot of people only turned up because it was Round 1, but there was serious buzz amongst our fans when the game started tilting in our direction. As Jamar got the second (caressing the ball through in a way that suggests he is a gentle and patient lover) suddenly 25,000 people realised that we were not only staying in touch with the favourites but actually had a chance of winning, which caused the energy levels to go through the roof. By midway through the second quarter the crowd was so excited that they even went right off when the big screen showed a close up of somebody eating a meat pie. Mitch Clark and James Frawley will probably line up next to each other tomorrow with 90,000 people looking on and each agree that it's the greatest thing ever, but our fans must make more noise per capita than anyone - which is probably because every goal could be the last.

And now a word for my new favourite minority ground - the recruits. It was the most club debutantes we've have in a Round 1 win since Round 1, 1907 when we reacted to a 1-16 season in 1906 by blooding six first gamers and four recruits from other clubs before rumbling South Melbourne at the Lake Oval. Bet they didn't have same the impact our lot did yesterday - even if they were more than half the team. Compared to the seven new players we put out in the first game 2013 and six last year this was a golden generation.

Brayshaw looked like he'd already played about 50 games, tackled everyone that went near him and used the ball nearly flawlessly when he got it. Frost was probably the least effective of the lot but is a significant upgrade on The Spencil as far as field play goes without losing much on the ruck front. vandenBerg is, as previously discussed, a man who looks capable of killing an animal with his bare hands and you can see exactly why Port were so keen to keep Ben Newton but also why he was keen to go elsewhere and play every week instead of pottering around in the SANFL.

Garlett's game was a joy - he plays like somebody driving at 200km/h on a wet road with the same mix of near disaster and thrilling edge-of-your-seat moments. He looked nervous early on, and that first set shot was a shambles, but as he started to chill out and enjoy himself The Big Steal from Carlton started to look even more like the deal of the 21st century. How good was his goal straight out of the middle after we'd just conceded one? It's usually us who have an almighty struggle to get one goal on the board then hand it back 13 seconds later - what divine glory it was to see it happen the other way for once.

We waited long enough for Hogan, and while I would have obviously preferred to see him without the 12 month delay it was well worth it in the end. He kicked goals, he roamed the field like a outlaw biker looking for somebody to beat up and he took contested marks - the best of which saw him dismissing his opponent with a perfectly timed and legal shove before marking. He was in everything and I think I am in love with him. He could be the first genuinely physically scary forward we've had since Neitz.

But of all the good times courtesy of the new players my personal highlight was the rock star reception afforded to Harry O, probably from the very same people who were threatening to throw their membership into the sea when we recruited him. He was better held in the second half, but it was the performance of a man with something to prove and if he's going to have to settle his feud with Buckley by playing out of his skin then we'll all be winners. The positive reaction just goes to show the idiocy of the people who were going to walk because we recruited him. You can't blame people for being antsy about it given the circumstances of his exit at Collingwood but to grandstand about withdrawing support is wacky considering some of the on and off-field thugs we've employed over the years - and some of the administrative decisions that would should have torched AAMI Park over.

The focus on the new players is not to downplay those who have done it all before but usually without the support - Nathan Jones was immense around the ball as always, Tyson solid as usual with additional goalkicking, Daniel Cross acting like he's five years young and Garland returning to something approaching 2013 form. It was just good clean fun with very few things to go home sore about. Had we contrived to completely throw away our leads in the third or fourth quarter then maybe more cracks would have appeared, but for now it looked like the only person who was out of place was Toumpas - who it would be fair to say is not low on confidence because he doesn't have any to start with. I'm not completely writing off that experiment yet, but can't see what he did in the practice games to justify a Round 1 start and he needs to go back to the VFL and smash it before we give him another run.

When we finished the first quarter both in front on the scoreboard and 10-3 in front on the free kick count I was expecting that the inevitable umpiring square-ups would come back to haunt us in the second quarter, and while there was a fair share of weird decisions (how about the guy being allowed to play on from an OOF free while standing against the fence?) the umpires resisted the temptation to try and make it come out even in the end - probably because they know nobody will call talkback radio to defend the Suns in any state of the Commonwealth. I can say this because we won the count in the end but the idea of free kicks having to be close at the end is one of the worst things about footy fans - sometimes your club just infringes a ridiculous amount of times.

Even though we were in front it was a typical MFC quarter time score of two goals to one, with no indication of the magic that was to follow - before a hint of luck going our way came early in the second quarter as Ablett added yet another goal assist to his career tally by handballing under furious pressure from Dom Tyson.. straight to Colin Garland who turned around and kicked a rare goal before he even knew what was going on. Then Watts marked on the line and goalled to make it clear something was stirring only for the lid to be blown into outer space courtesy of the goal by Howe, Garland, Kennedy-Harris and Tyson which was second only to Salem against Essendon for great modern MFC team goals.

It was then that the Suns clearly realised that they were letting the game slip away and decided to fire up before Rodney Eade decided to make an example of one of his players at half time by killing them. At this point it could have been Ablett up the against the wall, before he did what good players do and created a goal with one of the few opportunities he had to get off Viney's leash. Thankfully this came to naught about 30 seconds later when Garlett stormed through the middle from the centre bounce and realigned himself with a goal.

I loved both the variety in rotations at centre bounces and the way Hogan would start a run-up from inside 50 and storm into the centre square the moment the ball hit the ground. There was just a freedom and openness about us that I can't remember since either that last quarter against the Giants where they carked it or the day we tonked Freo in 2011. Then seconds later Garlett started another chain (CLICHE) which ended in Brayshaw handballing to Jones for another and there was a match day experience in my pants with everyone invited. I'm down for the Robert Flower Wing, but if Nathan Jones doesn't turn out to my generation's version of Tulip then somebody else will have had to come in with a Hall of Fame career to knock him out.

It had been beautiful to that point, but speaking as a fan of a depressed club there was still plenty of time to lose it. 25 points in front at half time is nothing, Carlton were that far in front of Richmond on Thursday night and still never looked capable of holding on (should have picked Garlett and.. oh that's right). But when we got the first goal of the third quarter courtesy of that man Jeff (never, ever Jeffy) standing 30m in the clear on his own and Hogan turning his man inside out to mark we got what ultimately turned out to be the sealer via a few nervous moments. In a return to traditional values, we then gave the goal straight back at the other end - probably because the defenders had blown themselves up running halfway down the ground to leap on Hogan. Lucky we got most of that palaver out of the way in the first round but I'm of the old fashioned opinion that after somebody kicks any goal other than their 100th for the season or a game winner you get back in your position as soon as possible - if you're close enough for a hug, a grab on the buttocks or a bit of a dry root then good luck to you but there's no need for key defenders to motor in from 100m away. Jesse was not going to sit down for the replay and realise that Garland hadn't flown in for a head rub from 10 deep and instantly sign a contract with West Coast.

That goal began a storming comeback, which unlike the second quarter was backed up with scoring, and while the defence was still holding firm we were suddenly getting done over by speculative snap shots from the boundary and crumb from a throw-in. Fortunately as the quarter progressed we took the blows and got back on top to kick three of the last four goals - including what turned out to be a super crucial one to Newton in the last minute. My favourite was the Watts-to-Garlett alley oop where Jack put his basketball background to good use by slapping the ball down on the goal-line for the Man That Carlton Forgot to smash home into an empty goal. We were still miles from the Chris Sullivan Line but surely this time we were home.

Apparently not, because another blistering comeback was on the cards. It was always going to be too much to ask to kick away in the first few minutes and leave us with a peaceful 20 minutes to end the game. Ablett finally showed up and kicked two in a row to cut the margin to eight points and that sinking feeling was back in vogue. We'd battered them around the ball so much during the day and put on so much forward pressure that it just felt like we were about to be carved in two. Shows what I know, but the sickness I felt when they had a shot soon after this leads me to believe if we were ever five goals in front in a Grand Final I would lose control of my bodily functions the first time the opposition went inside 50.

Fortunately the Suns - not for the first time that day - attempted a short pass inside 50 instead of having a shot and cocked it up. We might have had our own game-changing blunder when Toumpas didn't get his handball away to Newton with an open goal beckoning, but your friend and mine Heritier Lumumba was on hand to relieve the pressure with his intercept and goal. They had another pair of chances which went nowhere before we were gifted a lucky free inside 50 courtesy of the ball bouncing off one of their feet and out of bounds (the sort of thing that usually happens to us), and Watts converted from a satanic angle to heap further humiliation on the people who had written him off earlier for the dropped mark.

I still wasn't entirely sure we could keep them out, but at least there was now a reasonable buffer to defend with time ticking away rapidly. If Ablett hadn't capped off his worst game in years by dropping a sitter in the square we might have had more dramas before Hogan and Newton kicked a sealer each and we went - as the kids would say - right off.

The best bit - other than the pressure, the adventurous ball movement, a rock-solid defence and having forward targets - was the spread of goals. Not just the variety of players kicking them, but the way they teased us with two in the first quarter before kicking five each in the next three. Even nearly a day later it's hard to fault the feeling. It was like watching the first half of 2011 without so much reliance on first year players - and for all our sakes other than the sickos who just come on here to see me skirt close to a breakdown let's hope there's more to come. I still can't see us being any better than the bottom four, but that in no way precludes us from winning six or seven games and having a thoroughly good time while we do it.

Random thoughts
Lynden Dunn has become such a prominent verbal abuser that even when he's giving his teammates goalkicking advice it looks like he's screaming vile hate speech towards them. I desperately want him to become a figure of hate for opposition fans this season.

(In the original version of this post I neglected to mention another Dunn classic - the bit in the first half where he did a fake headbutt towards an opponent with a maniacal look on his face then trotted away greatly enjoying what he'd just done. Not sure if this was captured by the TV cameras, but if not the MCG should cut it from the scoreboard tapes and provide it to the National Museum for Sport as part of an exhibition highlighting the best in footballing insanity. He won't get a statue like Jones but everything he's been involved with since shaving that stupid moustache off will be fondly remembered in these parts long after he's gone).

2015 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
An early triumph for defenders, the much maligned and players tossed away by Carlton for a packet of chips. The four time champion also gets off to good start. Congratulations to those who have registered their first ever AJM votes - now Garlett has as many in his career as Emo Maric and The Spencil while Newton joins Viv Michie, Guy Rigoni and James Sellar on one.

5 - Tom McDonald (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
4 - Jack Watts
3 - Jeff Garlett
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Ben Newton

Apologies to Viney, Howe, vandenBerg, Dunn and Cross - but that's not to take away from about 10 others who were good and/or did exactly what was expected of them.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I have a deep fondness for the Watts to Garlett NBL/A-League mash-up in the third, but I feel that there would be rioting in the streets if this week's nomination didn't go to the clean-as-a-whistle second quarter coast-to-coast (CLICHE) goal finished off by Tyson. It started with Howe (just sign for god's sake) delivering a pin-point kick under pressure on his own line, Garland taking a strong contested mark and JFK running his guts out on the wing to be the next player in the chain. He goes into the middle for Tyson who walks around his opponent with something approaching contempt and kicks a goal on the run to open up a 27 point lead barely halfway through the quarter. Real life was temporarily put on hold. At this point can we get another airing of Sam Edmund's sneering article about ignoring Josh Kelly for Tyson/Salem. Sam, ring your unnamed recruiter and tell them to bash it up their ginger.

Crowd Watch
It would appear that scheduling our Round 1 home game against one of the lowest drawing interstate clubs was fixturing genius by the AFL. After all there's no way 27,000 would turn up for the same game without it having the opening round hope/hype and and an attractive timeslot for neturals. Then you realise that it's all a scam, that GWS are also playing an away game against a bottom two side from 2014 and the whole thing was a way to try and get the two league operated sides into home games next week (Canberra in the case of GWS, and why not because that's where they'll end up eventually) with a first up win to help boost attendances in 'markets' where nobody gives a rats.

If it guarantees us nearly 30,000 against a side who contribute 500 then I'm happy to participate again next year but I'm not being roped into thinking it was done for our benefit. At least we drew a bigger crowd than the big racists vs lefties match at Federation Square.

The crowd was helped by a thumping turn-out in the MCC Members, because the top level of the Ponsford was as relaxingly empty as any game against an interstate club. I only had to go to row P to get three rows to myself in either direction. The only sour note came from the old couple about four rows in front who showed up in the second half and exaggeratedly barracked for the Suns as if they were doing it just to annoy Melbourne fans. No idea what their circumstances were, they might have been Trent McKenzie's godparents for all I know but in the heat of the moment I just assumed that they were turncoats who had switched teams at some point in the last four seasons and took an instant dislike to them. Please note - this does not apply if you choose to follow Melbourne as an adult. Give us your money and you'll go straight to football heaven.

There's something that offends me greatly about fans of the two new teams that I don't get with Fremantle and to a lesser extent Port. It's not about following an interstate team, god knows I follow enough in other sports, but it's about people making a conscious decision to ditch a club and start again. They can't all have come from the Gold Coast or surrounding regions so the only possible explanation is that they know the league will bend over backwards to give the Suns/Giants good times in the near future so are jumping on accordingly because they're either bored with winning flags with their original clubs (poor people) or more likely follow a train wreck like us, St Kilda or the Bulldogs and have decided to go for gold - while probably reserving the right to switch back at a moment's notice if their 'other' side ever starts winning.

By the end I was so excited that as I came out onto the concourse I thought I saw somebody I knew, and with nobody else around decided to run up and leap on him out of celebration. After getting up a reasonable pace I was within about two metres before realising it wasn't who I thought it was, and with no time to think I just kept running - which could have ended up like Bluey Adams vs Des Healey in the 1955 Grand Final if somebody had been coming the other way.

To celebrate surviving I decided to take advantage of the perfectly timed "20% off at the Demon Shop" ad which I'd seen on the big screen and ended up excitedly dropping $100 on merch like a sailor visiting a Tijuana whorehouse. I was not alone, the crush was like the opening minutes of the Boxing Day sales. They talk about wins being good for the bottom line and you go "yeah, obviously" but here it was demonstrated like never before. I've never gone in there after a match before win, lose or draw but I expect the staff are usually sat around a table playing cards before shutting up shop half an hour early. Yesterday there was more trading than the floor of the Australian Stock Exchange, and I loved seeing it.

Need to ring up and change the credit card that my membership is paid on but might wait a few days because for the next few days all operators will be busy flogging premium packages to callers from around the world. If you haven't signed up yet then may I suggest you skip the 240 minute call waiting time and input your credit card details directly here.

Matchday Experience Watch
Now there's a phrase that's been inducted into the Cliche Hall of Fame in the last few weeks, and it seems that so far we're the ones who have missed out. Other clubs get a mascot tooling around in a hovercraft (Carlton) and dancing mascots (Footscray/St Kilda) and we had to settle for a solemn and dignified tribute to a legend of the game. What a shame that it is.

By the next home game we'll probably have been forced at gunpoint by the AFL to include some sort of allegedly family friendly bullshit, but really is there any point in trying to top the segment which features rank amateurs risking a broken collarbone trying to take a screamer? Especially now that we've shacked up with Haymes Paint and they also have to do it while wearing Super Mario Brothers style overalls. Save your money on the gimmicks and put it aside for the first person who sues us when we forget to have them sign a waiver and they land on their head.

Another new feature at the MCG is the digital advertising screens, and after seeing a torrent of negative feedback on Thursday night I was looking forward to getting a taste of the Las Vegas Strip excitement just for another chance to whine on an 'against modern football' topic but in the end they were a non-factor. Not sure if it's worse at night or whether we were using a more tasteful colour palette than Carlton but I barely noticed them during play. Though of course something that shows pro-home team propaganda all day isn't going to seem offensive if you are the home team, wait until it's pumping out pro-Tigers slogans in a few weeks and we'll probably all be all over the internet decrying them as the worse thing since the Bubonic Plague.

As for the people complaining about the effect it'll have on the players it's not like the old ones stopped rotating when somebody was having a shot on goal or that there's not 25,000 people or Lynden Dunn yelling abuse at them during play. Football Park had them for years and nobody seemed to care (except perhaps us, and that's why we never won there) so give it six weeks and you won't even notice or sit at home and listen to Dwayne. While the AFL's claim that it was done to improve 'fan experience' is obviously bollocks because we all know the main purpose is to flog more advertising space it's no more offensive than having a marquee outside where people can stop and sign up to an online betting agency.

Winning games is a matchday experience that'll get people dancing in the aisles but I will give a thumbs up to two other gimmicks. The idea of a pre-theme theme is still a bit weird because they only ever get about 30 seconds of it out between players running down the race and going through the banner but if you're going to try and force any hype song into such a small space then Hells Bells is probably the track for the job. In fact it was going so well that whoever was running the audio forgot to switch to the theme song until the players hit the banner, and while the Grand Old Flag should be sacrosanct I actually thought it would be a sick tune to use as a theme.

If I may be so bold as to make a suggestion to any MFC staffers who may be violating company IT policies by reading this and ask that if allowed under whatever rules the league have got around this sort of thing that it comes on earlier so we get the full menace of it's intro then segue into the theme as the players form up to crash the banner?

Speaking of hype songs I've always thought that this would bring the house down, especially if there were additional pyro effects going off. Shame you can't turn the lights out for this sort of thing at night games but I guess that's the downside to playing at a stadium with giant light pylons and not some glorified suburban indoor soccer centre like Docklands.

It could be accompanied by a hype video of our players doing horrible things to the opposition, like Dunn screaming in some munter's face and the time Neville Jetta did what appeared to be a Tornado DDT on Ash McGrath and got away with it. Fire it up, and for god's sake the next time Kane comes here on a WWE tour can we get a photo opp with him wearing an MFC jumper - there has never been a better crossover opportunity. The character has even got a backstory tragic enough for him to fit in as a Melbourne fan.

More importantly somebody, somewhere at the MFC came up with the idea of not only using the new found home team scoreboard freedom to highlight victory with the mascot doing a jaunty dance but based it on the fondly remembered 1980's Channel 7 animation that played after wins, and even had the little dude doing the same entrance and exit moves. Whoever it was that include that touch I salute you. Again, when some diseased Collingwood bird is swooping across the screen in Round 18 it will seem like the worst thing ever, but for now it is the best innovation in footy since digital scoreboards.

There was such a carnival atmosphere that even the trumpeteer was wheeled out of the morgue to play during the last quarter. They must have found a cure for 10,000 stab wounds to the back. Is it the same guy who used to wear the velvet jacket and once hit an amazing bum note during the music from Star Wars which provided the perfect metaphor for the Schwab years? Is it also possible that he was sitting there for four quarters at every home game in 2014 waiting to get a run only for us to win nowt but away games?

They've got a far bigger and louder cheersquad than the Bears used to (mainly because grown adults who switched clubs in those days were burnt at the stake) but it would still be nearly impossible for any Victorian club to lose to Gold Coast in a banner-making competition due to their limited resources - but having said that I thought our effort would have taken care of most Victorian clubs. It was bold to focus the front entirely on Lumumba's 200 games even though 199 were with some fly-by-night outfit but it worked a treat. Nobody does graphics on the banner better than our lot, and the picture of H was another winner. 1-0 Dees.

Next Week
As much as I'd love to advocate recognising a win by sending the same team to play Scumbag Scully and his Franchise Friends it's impossible not to recall Bernie Vince, and we could probably do with Dawes up front as well. The complication, and what a great problem it is, comes with Frost having done a more than convincing job as a centre-bounce ruckman alongside a not terrible performance in the forward line. I'd feel a right bastard dropping him now, and everyone should get the opportunity to stuff their old side as soon as possible, so somebody else is going to have to go. I'm going to split the difference on Kent and JFK having both been serviceable and give Kent the travelling emergency rest care of his big bump.

Where Frost's form leaves Pedersen and Gawn I'm not entirely sure. Pedo is a better forward, Maximum is a better ruckman but neither can go into defence if required. The fact that I'm even having this debate (with myself) is a grand step forward - I don't think Gawn can be completely discounted because when Jamar goes he's straight in at #1 on the ARIA Ruckman charts so for god's sake don't do anything that will cause him to demand a trade to Collingwood.


IN: Vince, Dawes
OUT: Toumpas (omit), Kent (omit with so many apologies)

... and if you're going to Manuka Oval please dedicate some of your abuse towards you know who from me.

Was It Worth It?
If any further proof of the effect winning has on the community was required (it isn't) then it came while I was carting my shopping from the club shop back to Jolimont Station (PS - am now 1-0 while living on the Hurstbridge Line) through the traditional death from above kick-to-kick session on the outside concourse. As a little kid no older than three or four roved his dad's kick he was shouting "JONESY! JONESY!" That kid will be there for the unveiling of the statue, hopefully Jonesy goes long enough that he can help fund the Kickstarter campaign to pay for it.

What a time to be alive. Scarves out windows, car horns blaring and people on the train who asked about the result getting the answer I wanted to hear for once. The glee on the face of our fans was in total contrast to that on the club shifters who were starting to wonder whether they'd made the right decision scabbing on their old teams for the promise of one piece of silverware.

The good times might not last so for now you have my express written permission to get your walk on and do a lap of honour at your place of business/school/other flicking lit cigarettes at the three game members of successful clubs who try to make you feel bad about supporting Melbourne. We'll rip the piss out of ourselves thanks and the rest can burn while we clap our hands.

Final Thoughts
That's Round 1 dealt with AND a score of over 100 on the same day. Good god. Now to tackle the other lengthy droughts. Return to this post through the year and check them off as they go down:

- Docklands (2795)
- Collingwood (2856)
- St Kilda (3132)
- North Melbourne (3151)
- Hawthorn (3244)
- Geelong (3258)
- SCG (3270)
- Kardinia Park (3523)
- Subiaco (3956 - and we better get on with it before they shutter the joint and leave us unable to make amends a'la Football Park)

I'd be happy to knock off about six of them this season then pick up the spare as part of our 2016 premiership year.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Updated 2015 betting markets

For the purposes of illegal side-betting here's an update to the markets framed (as it were) in the season preview. If you're experiencing problems with gambling spend all your money on MFC memberships instead - it has the same return on investment but at least your cash is going to a good cause.

Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year
$4 - Nathan Jones
$6.50 - Dom Tyson
$7 - Bernie Vince
$11 - Lynden Dunn, Heritier Lumumba
$13 - Daniel Cross
$15 - Jeremy Howe, Jack Viney, Jack Watts
$18 - Neville Jetta
$22 - Jeff Garlett
$25 - Christian Salem
$28 - Chris Dawes
$35 - Jack Grimes, Tom McDonald
$38 - Jesse Hogan, Dean Kent
$44 - Colin Garland, Cameron Pedersen
$50 - Ben Newton
$60 - Angus Brayshaw, Mark Jamar, Jay Kennedy-Harris
$70 - Rohan Bail, Matt Jones, Jimmy Toumpas
$75 - Sam Frost
$80 - Viv Michie
$100 - Max Gawn, Alex Neal-Bullen, Aidan Riley, Billy Stretch
$110 - Jordie McKenzie, Dean Terlich
$125 - Jack Fitzpatrick
$150 - Oscar McDonald, Jake Spencer
$250 - Jack Trengove
$500 - Aaron vandenBerg
$750 - James Harmes, Jayden Hunt
$2000 - Max King, Christian Petracca

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year
$4.50 - Lynden Dunn, Heritier Lumumba
$10 - Neville Jetta
$12 - Christian Salem
$14 - Tom McDonald
$15 - Jack Grimes
$18 - Colin Garland
$20 - Sam Frost, Jeremy Howe
$22 - Cameron Pedersen, Dean Terlich
$30 - Oscar McDonald
$60 - 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
$13 - Aaron vandenBerg
$20 - Billy Stretch
$25 - Alex Neal-Bullen
$40 - Oscar McDonald
$110 - Jayden Hunt
$125 - James Harmes
$200 - Mitchell White
$350 - Max King, Christian Petracca

Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year
$2.75 - Mark Jamar
$10 - Max Gawn
$20 - Jack Fitzpatrick
$25 - Jake Spencer
$40 - Sam Frost, Cameron Pedersen
$100 - Max King, ANY OTHER PLAYER

Have at it punters, lose your house.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The big top is back in town

After years of misery it was about time that a down-on-their-luck side with depressed supporters finally got an opportunity to take their frustrations out on an overwhelmed group of VFL standard players, and congratulations to the Essendon Football Club for embracing their opportunity.

It was another in a long line of disappointments for us, but what's the point in wasting the mental energy in getting upset about this result when there's 22 games left for us all to lose the will to live. After all, it was always going to end in disaster wasn't it? From the moment the Bombers replaced half their squad with off-cuts last night was a danger game. Much like last week had Footscray completed their comeback nobody would remember it in two months time, but as it's happening right in front of you it feels like death.

As I left the office on Friday afternoon for the short walk past Demonblog Towers II and into the most evil place on earth (via standing at the lights with Dwayne Russell and opting not to heckle in person because I'm ultimately a keyboard koward) an Essendon supporter started telling me about how easily we'd win. Oh really? After pointing out that Melbourne fans never take any win for granted it rapidly devolved into a "my team is worse than yours" competition. Neutrals take note, this is a game you should never contemplate taking a Melbourne fan on in because you won't win. Eventually the (good-natured I should point out) conversation took in several other Essendon fans who adamantly told the fellow office Demon and I that there was no possible way that they could win this game. In the end I had to drop the nuclear option and ask the room to raise their hand if they'd ever seen their side lose by 31 goals. Game over.

Having said all that I confidentially thought we were going to win, which was an odd position for me to be in and one I shant be repeating any time soon, Apparently it was the shortest price favourite we'd been for a game since 2000, and just to prove that even in a Grand Final season we could find a way to shame ourselves that day we almost cocked that up against the bottom of the table Saints.

Without appearing to be making excuses it should be noted that Essendon did have a significantly better side in than when they lost to St Kilda a couple of weeks ago. Sadly out went Magner and Clisby alongside most of the other nobodies, and they were left with just two players with numbers over 70. No doubt numbers 75-99 still have an open invitation to return in a few weeks if shit hits the fan at the doping tribunal, but I think we all know that's not going to be necessary once the penalties are tailored to suit all parties involved. Either way it was arguably a better side than we fielded at times during 2013 but one that should still not have gotten past 'brave in defeat'.

However, and it's a big however, while they were less reliant on ring-ins from Ringwood it's not like the players they'd got from Coates Hire were being replaced with the superstars of the competition either - whereas we were playing close to our top side, missing Vince, Howe, Kent, JFK and Pedersen at best and even then only the top two could be considered crucial. The question was whether our best side was better than a top eight side's reserves, and the answer is 'apparently not'. Though it doesn't help when the extended pre-season team allows you to field several players who have no business being near the Round 1 side just for the sake of it. Is there anybody who can honestly make a case for M. Jones, Bail or Toumpas being in that side, but here we were lured into playing them for four quarters each because somebody had to fill the extended bench. At least we're still waiting for the Toump to come of age, the other two are running up and down on the spot as others stream past them.

The good was in the first few minutes was that it seemed were going to do exactly as the bookmakers expected. We were dominant up and down the ground, kicked the first two goals, moved the ball well, were hitting targets and Essendon didn't look like they were a hope of scoring. God almighty we were even kicking to leads inside 50. They were all on the boundary line and came to nothing but it was a start. Sadly while good sides would have used their 15 minutes of domination to bang on five goals and crush the fragile spirit of a team with a player called Freezer who might have been recruited from Ganmain-Grong Grong Matong FC on Thursday afternoon we opted to waste chances liberally and let them get themselves back into the game.

We were getting the ball forward enough but the marks inside 50 usually led to a torturous process where whoever got it had to stuff their first instinct of having shot deep inside and instead try to work the ball to the goal square-by-square as if playing a dice game from the early 90's where we were continually rolling a one. At least at that point the midfield was on top and the backline was absolutely taking the piss out of Essendon's forwards. For a solid quarter of an hour the prospect of keeping a side to an MFC-esque score at the first break for a second week in a row was alive and well. You could tell we weren't going to get the morale boosting 105 point win that we'd dreamed of in our weaker moments, but it still seemed like we were a step ahead. Then in the blink of an eye Essendon were level and all that good work had gone to waste.

The Gentlemania trend of trying to give your teammates a goal would continue throughout the first half where they'd pick up the ball from a pack inside 50 and instead of just having a blind shot on goal they'd try and handball their way to somebody in a 'better' position who turned out to a worse option entirely when no score was recorded. There's team play, there's an understanding that they can't always just 'kick it' but this was ridiculous - team orders probably trump all but somebody just have a ping. If only Marcus Bontempelli had looked up from the Etihad Stadium pocket deep in the last quarter of that Bulldogs game last year and thought "shit, I'd better try and find Jarrad Grant in the interests of team play". Of course if your only option was actually Grant you would try and kick goal of the year from the pocket instead.

It's not like Essendon were playing that badly, but we certainly had an advantage and you felt that one well-timed Michael Hurley vs Taxi Driver style blow might have killed them off. A portent of the evil to come with the score at 15-0 when a small child on level one (let the historical record show that level three was closed or that's where I would have been) was practically carried up the stairs by two adults looking like he had no chance of getting past me let alone to a safe area before unleashing an all-time power spew. I missed Essendon's first goal because I was too busy concentrating on them getting him past me before he heaved, and that was the point the tide turned. The kid was later carried back to his seat to resume watching the game, which I feel was exceedingly cruel. I won't judge until I've taken my own kid to a game and turned a blind eye to Chicken Pox until the final siren but they could have sat up the back out of what remained of the sun and nearer to a bathroom if the NAB Challenge meant so much to them that they had to be there.

By half time I felt sick too, because it had become blindingly obvious that not only was a thrashing off the table but that we would struggle to beat a side would be in the battle for 17th if it played during the regular season. Then again we lost to St Kilda in Round 1 last year and they turned out to be marginally worse than us, so if you were a fair and reasonable fan you'd put it down as a bump in the road and blame Docklands for the evil hold it has over us. Unfortunately I'm not a fair and reasonable fan, I'm a member of the Internet Melbourne Community and it's either deepression or an insurance job on the MCG. Hold fire (literally) on the second one and I'll tell you if we need it in a few weeks.

It's not all bad news though, our recruits continue to be in the best - Frost is a tackling and chasing machine, and while I'm still not convinced he's going anywhere as a forward at least it's a throw back to the glory days of the Stefan Martin Experience being able to fill three roles in an emergency. Newton was handy without being flashy again, and Jeff Garlett is officially the crumber of my dreams. Throw in his chasing, tackling and handball-intercepting and on a cost/benefit analysis giving up picks 61 (Clem Smith?) and 79 (PASS) for him could be the greatest get since we turned Troy Longmuir into pick 19 (20th century Freo were total crackpots) which delivered us 254 games and 350 goals of Brad Green. Tyson/Salem vs Kelly could be up there as well, but that will be a win for everyone instead of a side necking themselves with culpable trading.

Up and down the wing the Harry O Show kept rolling on, despite the efforts of Ballbag Barrett to harpoon his Buckley free start with pissweak 'scandal' involving him hanging out with people who like to wake up with a breakfast bong for religious purposes. You know an article's a winner when they even italicise the weasel words like 'it is understood' and includes a paragraph that includes a dictionary definition. The only thing that stopped it from achieving the Denham Award for Landfill Journalism was the lack of "Fans have taken to Twitter to voice their frustration" and some embedded whinging by Pies fans. At least it was the perfect game to play immediately post-'scandal', because no Essendon fan's going to hang shit on somebody for being inadvertently caught up in drug use are they? Personally I have similar views about him (Lumumba, not Barrett) to David Brent's views about Ian Botham.

Of the non-recycled players vandenBerg - the most thrillingly spelt Demon since Yze - all but sealed his Round 1 start by kicking goals as well as being a big bastard, and while Hogan's overall performance fell somewhere between Daniel Hughes and Juice Newton on the MFC key-forward scale at least he worked hard for the whole game and we didn't have to sub him off as a precaution against a mystery injury. I will not be held responsible if he slips on a banana peel in the next two weeks but I'm confident that we can at least get him on the ground for Round 1 before he's buried under the weight of our expectations.

Those who expected a fade-out in the second half were disappointed - Essendon and Melbourne fans alike - and even though the standard was completely toxic the eight or nine neutrals in the undisclosed crowd that the AFL won't even admit to (no more than 10,000 without massive rorts) would have enjoyed it. Not sure flashing LED lights and TV screens that go GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! whenever anyone kicks one would convince them to come back but at least it stayed close. For our games they should also load up one that goes LOL! LOL! LOL!

After Essendon looked like they were going to be the ones running away early in the third quarter while we resorted to dinky little 11 metre kicks to forwards 60 metres out hard on the boundary line, we rescued the situation late in the third quarter but even when we got back to two goals in front midway through the last quarter it still seemed like it was going to go horribly wrong at some point. It was another opportunity to put them away but impotent as ever that was the end of the scoring at our end.

By this stage Essendon were plodding around without much spark themselves and we might have held on, but just when you thought you'd seen the last humiliating defeat masterminded by a coaches box containing Mark Neeld and Neil Craig up pops Jack Viney with an incredible howler to gift them the winning goal. Easy enough for people to complain about how you never kick across goal but you might want to have a closer look at what we've done 72 times a game in the last three weeks if you think the coach subscribes to that philosophy. In stark contrast to both Jamar (who was actually kicking rather than handballing and having some success) and McDonald who have looked much better by foot in the last couple of games this was just flat out ugly. Certainly not the type of guy I want doing tricky stuff in the backline. He'll be fine, and I know being a average kick didn't hold his dad back but if his name was Jack McGee he'd cop a lot more shit for his wonky accuracy than he does now

At the risk of another round of excuses I'm not entirely convinced that Roos cares about winning these games. Gawn came on at three quarter time but Frost spent as much time as him in the ruck, and in another moment of MFC innovation Jordie McKenzie became the first unused substitute/interchange player since about 1978. I know it was a meaningless match but what's the point of picking a tagger as the sub if you're not going to give him a decent run? It looks as if they were saving him for a full game at Casey the next day, but surely a half in a nothing AFL game at a real stadium is about as good as a full VFL match on the frozen tundra of Casey Fields? The question is whether they never intended to play him and only had him trotting up and down the boundary line at the 22 minute mark of the last quarter so we wouldn't get investigated for match fixing.

Aside from the chance for him to lose for Casey instead of Melbourne (which naturally he did), why not start him then bring on somebody like Michie (Kennedy-Harris apparently injured at training. Of course he was) who can add a bit of jazz to the side. It's like when they used Riley as the sub last year, any danger of the proverbial impact player getting a go? We've now officially been abysmal at using the sub for impact across five different senior coaches. It's a shit rule but it's not going anywhere, no need to launch a dirty protest by bringing on taggers when we're six goals behind. Speaking of useless rules I note that North Melbourne kicked three 'Supergoals' in the first quarter the next day while we've kicked none in two years. I'm happy enough when we kick three regulation goals in a first quarter.

You can tell yourself that the game meant nothing until the cows come home, and I can make Tankquiry style assumptions about what the coaching staff really wanted out of the match, but the fact remains that it's growing increasingly difficult to imagine a time where we're not a national joke. I just want one week where somebody doesn't have a suggested addition to the #fistedforever list.

So good luck to Essendon. Their fans who aren't so insane that they want to ransack the contents of James Hird's toilet bowl for their own personal use deserve some good times no matter how pointless the match is in the grand scheme of things. Much like the Bulldogs last week it also continues a run of good close games between the sides (with the unfortunate exception of one cricket score on a Saturday night in 2013) and gives us something to look forward to when we play them in Round 15 when they're peaking (not like that) because 90% of their squad only started playing two months before and we're doing our traditional second half of the year impersonation of a floating goldfish.

I'm usually fairly openly to ridicule (well you'd have to be wouldn't you?), but now that I've retired from being a half-kit wanker due to old age and public outrage (from the same people who think nothing of 80% of a soccer crowd wearing the shirt) it was easy to casually slip the scarf off at the final siren and slide into anonymity. As I sat down on the train the girl opposite asked "who won?" and when I said "not Melbourne" she was unable to work out what that meant for the result and sat there like a dog being shown a card trick. I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she didn't know who was playing and said Essendon only to get the old fist pump and "yeah go the Bombers!" back. Always great to see loyal fans rewarded with victory.

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance
5 - Jeff Garlett
4 - Heritier Lumumba
3 - Aaron vandenBerg
2 - Ben Newton
1 - Dom Tyson

Apologies to Dawes, Salem, Jamar, Dunn, Watts, Jetta and N Jones.


Congratulations to H. Lumumba - winning gongs, not ripping bongs - for etching his name on to the lengthy Demonblog honour roll as the first award winner of our 11th season.

13 - Heritier Lumumba
11 - Jeff Garlett
8 - Christian Salem
5 - Daniel Cross, Jesse Hogan
4 - Nathan Jones, Dom Tyson
3 - Aaron vandenBerg
2 - Sam Frost, Ben Newton,
1 - Dean Kent, Tom McDonald, Billy Stretch

Crowd watch
There didn't seem to be all that many Essendon fans present (though they'll all claim they were there now), but the ones who did show up seemed to have an absurd level of love for Paul Chapman. You'd almost think he'd won three premierships for them instead of nipping in at the death of his career to sneak a few more games in. Admittedly I will probably provide either Lumumba or Garlett with the same rockstar reception if we start winning, but poor old Brendan Goddard is the guy that's wheeled out every second week to pretend that everything is ok and he's happy to have chosen Essendon so maybe give him something even if he did almost get rubbed out for six weeks when an elbow swipe missed Viney's head by about 1mm.

Best on ground was the guy I sat behind during the third quarter who was threatening to go absolutely insane every time we did something stupid. There's a man with more fire left in his belly than me. A lone Bombers fan sitting within close proximity threatened to escalate the situation by celebrating every good thing they did in an inappropriately loud fashion because he had the biggest pair of headphones you'll ever see on and obviously had no idea what volume he was blathering on at. Can't confirm if he was the same person who spent the entire first quarter walking back and forth along the level one concourse yelling "ESS-E-DON" as if the letter N had never been invented.

Was it worth it?
Not bloody likely, but at least members didn't have to pay for it. I did, however, risk grievous bodily harm by foolishly paying $6 for what probably ranks as the #1 worst 'hot dog' I've ever had at a footy game. There's a lot of contenders (e.g. every single one I've ever had that wasn't made by the Kaiser), but while the following anecdote may as well be archived by the National Library under "first world problems" I'm going to put it on the record anyway.

Not only did the 'hot dog' go down like swallowing like a lump of cement but as part of their continued  commitment to 'fan experience' they won't even give you little packets of condiments now and you're expected to get your sauces from a giant pump action dispenser. Which has been done before, and wouldn't be so bad if it were located in the concourse outside but being the people moving experts that Etihad Stadium management are they've decided to put it in the middle of the queuing area, leaving people to filter around some poor bastard (me) desperately trying to sauce their ropey hot dog while simultaneously hating themselves for buying it in the first place.

I should have put it back and walked out at this point but when it comes to unhealthy food I am a weak, weak individual who will wind up having a weak, weak heart. While people attempted to get around me to the register I ended up having to practically elbow drop the bloody thing just to get a sliver of tomato sauce out, then a slight tap of the 'mustard' caused it to carpet bomb half my hand with a substance that ended up tasting more like Mustard Gas. You can connect to free wi-fi at the stadium if you're keen, but stiff shit if you want to apply sauce with dignity.

At this point I still hadn't even got my wallet out to pay, and when I did - precariously balancing this oversauced 'dog' on its flimsy packaging - the guy on the counter excused himself and went off to do something or other in the drinks cabinet. If I wasn't such a law-abiding citizen who still harboured ambitions to become prime minister I'd have just wandered off.

What a horrible place it is in all aspects, and I am entering a self-exclusion program to ensure that I never spend another cent than is absolutely necessary inside it. At least the MCG has recognised that they sell gutter slop and have slashed prices accordingly. Take me home.

Next week
Nothing for the senior side but Howe and Vince are supposedly going to play in a VFL practice match to try and make it for Round 1. Good, we can use them both. Still not going to help us make the top 15 though.

The week after
Rumour has it half the Gold Coast side are either injured or recovering from surgery. Lucky we've got a demonstrated track record of taking care of weakened sides eh? Based on the practice matches, and availability for Round 1 of those who didn't get rubbed out needlessly in the last game of 2014 here's what I want against the Suns. I have a feeling the only time I got close to my preferred side last year we were thrashed so take it as a serving suggestion only. Actual positions are - as always - a guide only because no team ever lines up like this these days.

B: Dunn, Garland, Jetta
HB: Lumumba, McDonald, Salem
C: Tyson, Jones, Vince
HF: Howe, Pedersen, Watts
F: Garlett, Hogan, Kennedy-Harris
Foll: Jamar, Cross, Viney
Int: Grimes, Frost, vandenBerg, Newton

Apologies to Kent who only drops behind JFK because he missed the last two games. Newton or vandenBerg can be the sub.

Final thoughts
It's 1-0 Neeld, but at least he was classy enough not to do a lap of the boundary making offensive gestures towards us.