Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Yes Movement (Formerly "Pain, Blues and agony")


Sorry torture porn enthusiasts, the streak is over and the weekly session of hand-wringing and fear will be temporarily suspended and replaced with both joy AND optimism. The last 288 days of premiership point free football have been shithouse, and I don't care how it was achieved or to what degree the opposition are in crisis it was magnificent. To quote Ron Barassi, as he provided inspiration for the future casual press conferences of Mark Thompson by chowing down on an apple, "a win is a win is a win". But this was better than that.

In a way it's nice when Melbourne win and the footy world grinds to a screeching halt. I can only close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to win a Grand Final, but if general outpouring of public support is anything to go by I suspect it wouldn't be much different to the way my phone went into overdrive yesterday. Except that I'd have blown a blood vessel in my head and wouldn't be reading any of it. For now it was tweets out the yin yang, texts from about 25 different people and general communication carnage. It's often the same people who write in when we have a surprise win, but tellingly the Essendon fans who were quiet on that night in 2012 were right on board today and Carlton fans who were keen on laying the boots into the Bombers for committing football suicide against us then weren't as keen to comment when it was their own side jumping out the window.

On the other hand it's also a bit unfortunate that we're seen as comic relief for the rest of the football world. Winning will never stop being fun, and it's even more entertaining when the entire football world is on your side but it's still a mark of how much tripe we've served up over the last few years that everyone can cheer on Mick Malthouse's nervous breakdown because they know that the MFC threat level hasn't been above 'guarded' since 16 July 2011.

Continuing the spirit of love and openness (has somebody spiked my drink?) I'm prepared to admit the following - Carlton were two men down for most of the second half, they botched easy chances galore, that downfield free kick which got us a goal in the third quarter was rubbish and we will still almost certainly finish last or second last in 2014 BUT I know another struggling side who have had similar rotten luck in winnable games over the last couple of years so at this point in history who gives a rats about any of that? I'm grasping this win with both hands and running around the house hoisting it above my head. Let's temporarily forget the horrors of the past and enjoy the reason we got into this caper in the first place - spending every waking minute of our life until 3.19pm next Sunday enjoying the luxury of the winner's circle.

Apart from my own glee at the result, reward for effort by the players and the rare chance to see broad smiles on our fans walking to the train station after the game (including the two guys who had thrown decorum out the window along with Carlton's finals hopes and were opening whizzing against the railway bridge), I'm so happy for everyone in a non-football role at the club. It must be a far happier place to work when we're not rock bottom in the laughing stock league. Even the receptionist will be answering the phone on Monday morning without flinching in anticipation of some peanut yelling at her.

The odd thing about this game is that I actually thought we were going to win. That's usually the first step to coming out of the weekend disappointed, disillusioned and with my tips in disarray but this time it seemed clear that they were gettable - and gimmick content aside I'm glad that this was the week I got to immortalise my tip as part of the BigFooty Melbourne board unofficial preview.

When I predicted something special to happen at the first bounce I was thinking more of McKenzie hurling Marc Murphy to the turf with furious vengeance, not Spencer giving away a silly free and Cross an even sillier 50m penalty to gift Carlton a goal. When they had two by the time we'd had all of one handball I was wondering whether it was time to finally try and retrieve that Cyanide tablet that I shelved late in 2011. But from there we scared the living bejesus out of the Blues and found out - to quote that old bloke from Dad's Army - "they don't like it up them".

I didn't tip us to win because I thought we'd suddenly start playing champagne football (and let's be fair, apart from a few great moments we didn't) but with this being the 497th post in Demonblog history I think what I've failed to grasp in match and tactical analysis I've more than compensated for in knowing a mentally haunted team when I see one. When Malthouse dropped Waite and Garlett - who had combined to belt the living suitcase out of us last time - it became even clearer that had everyone involved with the club had lost the plot and were ripe for the picking. This wasn't a surprise implosion like Essendon 2012, they were like a ship rapidly taking on water.

Still, after those first two goals they might very well have realised who they were playing and decided to mash us into the ground. As the West Coast game showed we are certainly not capable of mounting comebacks from 40-1 down at quarter time just yet. And admittedly we lost almost every statistical category except botch goalscoring opportunities but the players kept the pressure on, spent the next 100 minutes running their heart out and jumping on Carlton players at every opportunity. And they were rewarded accordingly.

It didn't hurt that our forward line looked 500 times better with Dawes down there and Frawley playing up front in non-Hurricane conditions. There have rarely been better eight possession performances than the one Dawes put in, and that's taking into account that the fact that he was about to keel over and die from exhaustion in the last quarter. Now that we've come to the realisation that he will actually never play alongside Clark I can instead cope with him linking up with Jesse Hogan (should he ever play) or newly minted forward line superstar James Frawley who I would probably have paid 800k a season yesterday I was so randy.

Last week I was insinuating that he was just down there because he's going to chuff off at the end of the year anyway, and that may be correct, but Chip has clearly decided that if Mitch isn't coming back then he'll just play in the same style. While it was a fun experiment in the slop last week, this time in dry weather it was glorious. As far as key defenders mysteriously thrown forward (non-Tankquiry department) it had less goals than Rivers vs GWS in 2012 but better in every other aspect. Hopefully Peter Jackson dressed as a kid and held a long-term contract over the fence at the end of the game disguised as an autograph book.

He was magnificent, but he certainly had a hand from Dawes. Could this finally shut up the delusional people who complained about signing him because they expected 75 goals a season? Players "straightening up" teams is one of the great cliches but if it's ever been relevant it was yesterday. Compare and contrast his performance, as underdone as he was, to the horrible struggles of Cam Pedersen up front in the first two weeks of the season and the difference between the two as forwards is clear. I'm not suggesting he's going to single handedly drag us into the eight or win the Best and Fairest but he runs his guts out up and down the ground and both sets up and kicks goals - twice from outside 50 this week. That will do me nicely thanks. Besides, it's rare that rushing somebody into the side after not playing a game of any variety in months actually works or they don't break down in the middle of it so that should be celebrated as well.

He played his part in the first goal, but it was set up by Jack Viney - who was sensational all day - battling hard to win a ball on the boundary line. He could have just taken it out for a throw-in, but instead he fought it hard, kicked towards Dawes who bumped his hapless opponent out of the way and then dropped a perfect kick on Watts 25m out directly in front. It was easily the best passage of football we'd put together for the whole season. Fun fact - apparently before this week we'd only taken one mark within 30m of goal in three games.

The record for "best passage" didn't last long, and it was topped by the next goal. Bernie Vince was kicking in and was about to do the usual "bomb it long and hope like buggery" thing when he noticed that Jordie McKenzie was all on his own down the middle on defensive 50. At the last minute he changed direction, hit the target perfectly, McKenzie kicked to a hard leading Frawley, he nailed Dawes with a perfect pass and voila we were back in the match and - whisper it quietly - having a good time of it.

Suddenly we looked like we had a reasonable forward line. Dunn is playing out of his skin at the moment, and will probably get picked up as a free agent now just to spite everyone who hung shit on him for his moustache, and with all due respect to Shannon Byrnes and his mate who went spaz in the comments of the unofficial preview for daring to suggest he should be dropped, Jay Kennedy-Harris might have kicked less goals but his chase and pressure was about 100 times better. The run-down tackle to save a near certain goal in the first quarter was something else we've not seen enough this season.

Carlton's struggles aside we even managed to ride out Vince having an ordinary game and Tyson not getting a kick in the first quarter. They won the centre clearances but after some aimless 'throw ball on foot' hoof kicking in the first quarter we spent the rest of the game hitting more targets than at any time in recent years. For the people who like to boo any kicking that doesn't go forward there was also a significant reduction in side-to-side dink, because more often than not there was actually more than one forward down the ground.

It wasn't just the forwards though. Don't discount the contributions of Cross, Viney, McKenzie and out of nowhere Rohan Bail in pressuring the Blues into turning the ball over or making Melbourne-esque skill errors every five seconds. Or The King of Sizzle running riot in the backline. God help us all it was the classic team effort.

It was the mark of a quality day out that not only did we kick - what is for us - a decent amount of goals, but that three of them were genuine contenders for Goal of the Year (read on to find which of the great goalsneaks it's been named after). Usually we struggle to get three sloppy goals, today people were kicking them from all angles. It's hard to believe that last year we kicked as many goals in one quarter as we did Saturday afternoon yet this still seems like a good result, but since that day we've only got to 12 goals five times so there is something meritorious (relatively speaking) about it. And more importantly, admittedly aided by some shocking misses, we managed to stop leaking goals at the other end as well.

The first of the contenders came in the second quarter. Dawes knocking Dale Thomas out of the way to allow Cross to gather the ball on the boundary, he gives it to Tyson who puts a horror first quarter behind him by handballing to Nathan Jones to kick a goal under pressure on the run from the boundary line. If confidence wasn't up Cross would have just taken the ball out of bounds, but this was a new adventurous spirit because they realised they were up to their eyeballs in the match.

You can't argue with five goals in a row for the first time (I assume without looking it up) since that avalanche against GWS last year, but in the interest of demanding higher standards it's a bit of a shame the pressure fell away late in the quarter and we let them get a couple of goals back. They could have had more too if they hadn't kicked like total muppets, but then again we had three shots on goal through Vince, Bail and Frawley. They might all have missed, but there are some games where we don't get three marks inside 50 for an entire half so thank god for small mercies.

Part of the reason for the hot period in the second quarter was Nathan Jones' demolition job on Marc Murphy. For somebody supposedly doing a defensive job he was racking up touches left, right and centre - not to mention kicking the goal out of his arse from the boundary line. He wasn't the only one who fired up though, Dom Tyson had been tagged to buggery in the first quarter before coming good and even The Spencil delivered a highlight with his one armed inspector gadget style tackle on Yarran.

The problem with Spencer is that high profile kicking cock-ups aside he is actually somewhat useful around the ground as a #1 ruckman but completely at sea in the forward line. So what do you know if Jamar/Gawn come back? Use them as the 'forward' who chips-in at centre bounces like Pedersen did yesterday? It's a nice dilemma to have, but god knows what it means for the career of Jack Fitzpatrick.

Our third quarters are legendary so I think everyone was bracing for farce, shambles and disgrace after we'd had a competitive performance dangled tantalisingly above our eyes, but not only did we stay above water we did it courtesy of some sexy football. How about JFK handballing over his head to Dawes who slaps it into the arms of a running Bail to kick a goal on the run? How about Bail full stop in the second half. At half time I was ready to continue my campaign to have him dropped to the Casey Reserves but he came out and put in an absolute belter of a second half a'la that first NAB Cup game. More of that please.

They'd cut the margin back to nine when our second contender for goal of the year came. Dawes played his part again without registering a stat, bring the ball to ground for Kennedy-Harris who snapped around the corner despite being decked in a tackle at the same time and watched the ball almost roll into the post via a novelty bounce. If it had he'd probably be getting slaughtered for not handballing back to Dawes, but as it went through I'm prepared to declare it a magnificent and rare piece of crumb.

Then somehow from Spencer and Warnock lobbing haymakers at each other the umpire reported the man who once failed to fall for our famous Powerpoint presentation, picked a free to us at the other end of the ground and gifted us a goal, which caused every Carlton fan in the ground to lose the plot. It was all going gloriously right for us for once.

There's no doubt that we had the wobbles on in the first few minutes of the last quarter, but bless Carlton's little hearts they kicked about six points in a row instead of piling on a few goals and causing us to pack it in. When we went down the other end and Watts got his second it was like the usual script had been turned around, usually we toil away for 10 minutes for no reward only for the other side to kick one, two or 11 goals in a row to punish us.

I was starting to believe, but Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome (MSDS) is a lifelong affliction so when Michael Evans' snap (how I love a snap. Have you noticed?) took a comical bounce instead of going through and sealing the game with a few minutes to go I just naturally assumed that it was setting the stage for a heartbreaking comeback. When they kicked a goal almost straight after it seemed a near certainty. Then, enter Pedo (not that one), the man whose struggles up forward in the first two weeks are legendary but who has found a new lease of life in the backline since, who suddenly found himself forward, dropped a mark then stood up, gathered the ball and under ludicrous pressure kicked possibly the most glorious sealer since Adem Yze against St Kilda in the 2006 Elimination Final - and good luck to him too, he deserved it after two good performances in a row. It's ironic that he ended up kicking a goal when he wasn't supposed to be down there, but his last two weeks have shown he's a far better defender than forward.

And that was it. Cue the sort of wild scenes that come of shit sides having any sort of win. Fans of Geelong or Hawthorn must shake their head looking at the joy and wonderment that we get from even the least complicated of wins, but believe me outsiders your club might have been pox at some point in its recent history but unless you're a Fitzroy or University fan you may not be able to understand the feelings that follow ANY sort of win in a competitive match.

Good news, we're 15th and it's possible that both Brisbane AND Carlton might be in far deeper crisis than anyone expected. The teams below us might change but suddenly my prediction of 16th seems realistic when a week ago I'd decided we'd go 0-22 and have to hand our licence over to a consortium from Great Keppel Island.

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - James Frawley
4 - Nathan Jones
3 - Tom McDonald
2 - Jack Viney
1 - Jack Grimes

Apologies to ALL even if they don't deserve them - but mainly to Rohan Bail, Daniel Cross and Chris Dawes who might have all snuck in for one.

Leaderboard
The minor awards have never been in so much disarray with Dunn and Frawley flirting openly with disqualification by playing up front so much. It doesn't matter what position they get their votes in (see for instance Fitzpatrick picking up a ruckman award last year) but both of them are teetering on the brink of being kicked out by the Seecamp committee. If they keep taking 25 marks between them every week then the committee can do as they please. Meanwhile Nathan Jones just continues to win at football.

14 - Nathan Jones
9 - Lynden Dunn (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
8 - Daniel Cross, James Frawley
6 - Dom Tyson
4 - Jack Watts
3 - Tom McDonald, Dean Terlich
2 - Jack Viney
1 - Jack Grimes, Jeremy Howe, Jake Spencer (Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)


(Thanks to DemonsBeth for the new graphic, which I think brings a touch of class to this feature)

Having been alerted to potential kerning issues with the MFC banner I was ready to give Carlton's effort a chance but found myself tremendously disappointed. Did they have a lot of sickies at banner preparation night? All it had was "Prove them wrong" on one side (how's that going?) with an upside down W used as an M and something equally asinine on the other. The worst bit was the pre-torn curtain, so large that you could drive a tank through it (too soon?), causing superstitious players to have to reach to their full extension to get a touch of it. They later suffered two shoulder injuries. Coincidence? I think not. 4-0 Dees.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Congratulations to the one time Allen Jakovich Medallist and one time Paul Prymke Plate winner for achieving the honour courtesy of the many goals he pulled out of his proverbial during his career. As alluded to earlier we have a new winner, and while the first two both have their supporters I can't go past Cameron Pedersen from the members boundary line to seal the game.

It wasn't just the fact that he got up after dropping the mark and was almost being throw into the fence when he kicked it BUT that it just fell over the line and into the corner of the goal - close enough to confuse and frustrate both Carlton defenders and fans alike. Congratulations Cam, and commiserations to Bernard Vince whose reign at the top lasted three weeks.

Crowd Watch
Wasn't it glorious to be the ones causing others to slip their moorings and go into full scale panic mode for once? We've done enough 'red faced men over the race' work in the last few years so it was nice to cause some Carlton humanoid to hang over the race waving his membership around. What an empty threat that is, at least throw the thing at them. It would be tremendously amusing if Carlton tracked him down, cancelled his card, sent him a refund and told him to piss off. More likely he'll be co-opted to the board.

Being a Carlton home game we were treated not only to supporter-for-hire Pete Lazar pretending to be a huge Blues man shortly before ducking off to pull on a St Kilda polo shirt but a half-time "dance competition" which was featured on "dance cam". Now, you'd think this is the sort of thing that kids would do and that would be ok I suppose, but my god there were a lot of adults and people of advanced years cutting a rug in the hope of winning whatever poxy prize was on offer. Plenty of Melbourne fans too, clearly not understanding that if it's a Carlton home game you could dance the Tango De La Muerte up and down the steps of the Southern Stand until you dropped dead and they wouldn't give you the prize.

As a promotion it was still better than their gimmick of letting people tweet the scoreboard. It was in the same class as our "send your selfie to the scoreboard" concept, but because of focused on text rather than pictures we were instead allowed us to read the thoughts of the criminally insane and/or 8-year-olds who probably shouldn't have Twitter accounts in the first place. It was hard to miss these intrusions because they kept putting them on the screen in the middle of the game instead of being polite to the 30,000 people who don't give a shit if @lukegriffo enjoyed the dance contest. Sadly the Blues didn't take the opportunity to put the rest of Luke's tweets up on the screen where he was going off his nut like a Melbourne fan and declaring everyone to be pissweak. Which is a shame. People wonder why everyone's stopping going to games, but I can tell you that the answer is not giving them a chance to make a dick of themselves on the scoreboard.

Other than the default setting of fear and loathing amongst opposition supporters the major highlight of the day was a new married couple showing up in the top deck of the Ponsford Stand midway through the last quarter to have their photos taken. I hope they weren't Carlton fans, because they'll have to Photoshop the scoreboard in the background. God only knows why they were there otherwise. Maybe they just wanted shots at the ground and the MCG told them to get stuffed so they decided on guerrilla tactics? In a classic money saving move they even waited until the fourth quarter so they could get in for free - because when you're spending $50,000 on a wedding why not skip paying to get in, then drag your dress worth thousands of dollars through spilt beer and squished mustard packets? The reason I was paying so much attention was that right in front of where they were taking the photos was a Carlton fan in a Manchester United jacket so I was waiting for him to snap from stress on both fronts and start swinging punches at the happy couple.

The lid was well off on the way home, not only was there overt public urination going on outside Richmond Station but some bloke was going up and down the train carriage declaring "Melbourne can beat anyone, I told you" despite the fact that he'd clearly never met anybody else on the train in his life. You have to admire his optimism, but I feel like he might have been getting a little bit ahead of himself. We might be able to beat any of the shit teams on our best day, but if we got within 300 of Hawthorn the way we played I'd be thrilled. At one point between Burnley and Heyington he had to interrupt his Barassi style pep-talk to take a phone call and assure the person on the other end of the line that he definitely was coming home. I'm not sure he was all there,

Next week
It'd be nice if the momentum didn't come to a quick end next Sunday. The pay-off for getting a couple of mil from the league is to play the lowest drawing MCG game of the year on Easter Sunday. It's arguably a better result than playing the same fixture on Mothers' Day, but without consulting the calendar there's no doubt we'll be playing a lunchtime game against Kilsyth that day too. At least being on a one game winning streak should ensure that more than 10,000 people turn up at the odd time of 3.20pm.

Having said that at least we can go into the game on a high for once. Who didn't become slightly excited when the saw Gary Ablett clutching his arm in the Hawks/Suns game? Did no Hawthorn player think to yank on the thing?

I doubt we'll win, but at least there's the tantalising prospect of a bizarre Frawley vs Warnock battle of the full-forwards. Doesn't seem much reason to make changes, but we could very well have a glut of potential ins. Trengove and Toumpas would want to fire up for Casey on Sunday if they want to come back in to a winning side, and Jamar could probably do with another week in the 2s just so we don't tinker with a winning formula too much. We don't find a winning formula often, may as well enjoy it.

Assuming Terlich's hamstring is going to keep him out...

IN: Clisby
OUT: Terlich (inj)

... and may god have mercy on us all. Gold Coast were just pulverised by Hawthorn, but almost everyone's going to cop that from the Hawks this year so it's hard to tell. From half watching it they did appear to be playing reasonable football at times, but the margin of victory probably cost us any chance they'll rest Ablett after his arm/shoulder injury. Sounds like a job for the MFC Armbar Squad.

Was it worth it?



Final thoughts
The doom and misery has lifted slightly courtesy of this week, but never let your guard down for a minute there are still plenty of people trying to shuffle us out the door. At the risk of Kevin Sheedy yelling at me for applying war metaphors to football (which is wrong, except when he does it) I encourage you to climb into the Betta Electrical Foxhole and fight for this club like your life depended on it. If you need any motivation I suggest reading this thread full of hillbillies with modems trying to fold, relocate or merge us. Living well is the best revenge.

Now, what did I do with my login/password to that dodgy footy torrents site?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Unofficial preview - Round 4 vs Carlton - Tuesdays with Mickie

Originally posted on the BigFooty Melbourne board.

Once a week I'm forced to attend an anger management course at AFL Headquarters in Docklands. It's part of the 2012 High Court judgement of Scully vs Lunatic Fringe but that's not important right now.

Every Tuesday I sit in a room full of overheated SEN listeners, the people who they cross to whenever there's a contentious umpiring decision and Garry Lyon (who everyone knows is just there practising how to fake being upset when James Brayshaw does a 'gag' about him being hairy) while the league's psychologist attempts to calm our frayed nerves by playing replays of comedic Mark Thompson press conferences for a couple of hours.

It doesn't always work out, but for most participants the therapy allows us to get on with our lives after another stressful weekend at the footy. At least until the teams come out on a Thursday night and we find ourselves screaming tweeting obscenities to melbournefc when Rohan Bail is named in the forward pocket as if the person who reads the incoming tweets is actually the Chairman of Selectors.

I stepped out of this week's session, filled with a love of life after listening a one hour loop of Bomber saying "Triple M" for no apparent reason. As I walked towards the front door I noticed a new face grappling with the 200 page admission form. I recognised him as that guy who was quite successful coaching Collingwood then gave it all up to yell at people in press conferences. What a coincidence to run into him in this of all weeks. My team is shit, his team is shit, we're playing each other on Saturday, I'm due to write the unofficial preview. It was a remarkable coincidence. I waited until he filled out his Next of Kin as a Mr E. McGuire from Collingwood before interrupting.

"Excuse me Mr. Malthouse" I said, politely trying to get his attention. He spun around and pulled a small knife from his pocket, thrusting it at me and screaming "what do you want THIS WORD IS A BLOCKED SWEAR WORD?".

It could have ended badly, after all we've all heard those rumours about him filleting one of Hutchy's unpaid interns in the carpark of Optus Oval for sneezing during a press conference, but as he looked me up and down he realised that I wasn't wearing media accreditation he quickly apologised. As he stashed the blade back in his pocket he took a small paper bag out of the other.

"Journalist?" he said.

I shook my head.

Mick thrust the small paper bag at me. "No, I mean do you want some journalist? This one was from The Age. He asked if I thought I'd underestimated Carlton's list when I took over. I ate his liver with some Fava beans."

As he scooped his hand into the bag then ravenously chowed down on the still twitching fingers of a cadet sports writer I politely declined. There was a moment of awkward silence while he wiped some blood from the corner of his mouth before I continued.

"How do you think you'll go against the Dees this week?" I asked. There was another moment of silence as he put the bag down on the reception desk. His head bowed slightly and the colour drained from his face.

"Mate, I'm worried" he confessed. "You know my record, you know I've done it all. I've coached more premierships than Footscray and St Kilda have won combined. But I'm in real trouble now".

Carlton's woes are well known, but having watched Melbourne spontaneously combust several times in the last few years I've got little sympathy for them. After all it may have taken a quirk of fate and a major AFL investigation for them to make the finals in 2013, but weren't the Blues in exactly the same position after three rounds last year? Was Mick just feeling the weight of entitlement, and a substantial contract, on his shoulders?

He leaned towards me and admitted that there was something different about 2014. A fear of failure. The chance that his legacy might be tainted by failing miserably with a Blues side who had been quite capably but unspectacularly led by Brett Ratten before his unceremonious execution.

"Now after three rotten weeks to start the season I have to play Melbourne. Melbourne. Can you believe it?"

"What's so bad about that?" I said. "Haven't you been watching the first few weeks of the season? We're neck deep in quicksand and sinking rapidly".

He shook his head and looked at me as if I was stupid.

"Mate, your team can't score in the first quarter and my team can't stop other teams scoring in the first quarter. What does that tell you?"

"It'll be a nil-all draw?" I said, wincing as the last word came out in the expectation that he would garrotte me on the waiting room floor.

"No peasant, it means that the mental cases I'm in charge of are deeply vulnerable to any team who can gather up even the slightest bit of confidence. Your players go into every game expecting to lose. Good god you even had to drop one to the VFL just so he could have an enjoyable week, but mine still think they're finals contenders. And you know how that's working out."

"Yeah, but Mick.. err, Mr Malthouse, it's Melbourne. You were there the Friday night we played for a nil-all draw against Carlton. Remember, you called Addam Maric a cheat. Well, things have got a lot worse for us since then let me tell you"

A lone tear ran down Mick's face. The fear had gripped him. The fear that your side will be the one to finally hand a basketcase its first win of the year. He gripped me by the shoulders.

"I'll tell you what I'm afraid of son. It's that your mentally flattened, joke of a club who were flogged in the tackles by a bunch of 15-year-olds and Heath Shaw last week actually come to play from the first bounce. That they will throw themselves at the ball like maniacs and throw my players into the turf at every opportunity. That this will be the week that they decide to go out and regain their dignity."

After 12 straight losses dating back to June 2013 I wasn't sure how to respond to this claim, so I stayed silent and let him finish.

"Look at a guy like Jordie McKenzie. He's not the most talented player in the competition, but he can tackle, and he can chase, and he can harass. Imagine he pins one of our players with a strong tackle in the first few minutes, and his kick forward is marked by a player actually running to space, and that when his shot on goal falls to the ground after one of your makeshift talls offers a contest that there's a player there to crumb it for a goal. We'll go to pieces. The mental battle will be over. We've got more to lose than you have, don't you forget that mucus."

I didn't doubt that last statement for a second. We're expected to lose, while a Carlton defeat will lead to even more Blues fans openly admitting that like Robert Walls they never liked Mick in the first place, but a piece of play ending with a Melbourne player crumbing a goal did seem highly unlikely.

I had to admit that he did make a good point. All the pressure is on them this week. They're coming off two shocking first quarters, and if any team should know more about how broken spirits in the first few minutes can ruin a team for the rest of the game it should be us. It's never been more vital to get off to a good start than this week (well, it's always vital, but work with me here).

Mick started laughing through the tears. "If you see Paul Roos tell him not to pick McKenzie. We'd rather play against a bunch of fancyboys racking up their attempted tackle stats in the rain. While you're at it rest Jack Viney, Daniel Cross and Nathan Jones too. The last thing my lot need is to run into players who try their guts out every week."

I thought I'd impress the master coach with a stat. I said "Did you know that Jay Kennedy-Harris has had as many tackles for the season as Shannon Byrnes despite playing about 25% of the game time?"

"I don't even know who that is" said Mick.

"Which one?"

"Either of them"

At this point the receptionist interrupted. "Excuse me Mr Malthouse" she said, "Mr. Scott and Mr. Clarkson are here. We can start the session now."

The coach of Carlton bid me farewell with one piece of advice "Watch what happens at the first bounce" he cried before turning his back so that the straight jacket could be applied.

I bade the master coach farewell, pulled my collar up and walked back onto a wind strewn Harbour Esplanade. Maybe the first step up the ladder of respectability will come by stepping on somebody else's throat?

Dees by 28
Once a week I'm forced to attend an anger management course at AFL Headquarters in Docklands. It's part of the 2012 High Court judgement of Scully vs Lunatic Fringe but that's not important right now.

Every Tuesday I sit in a room full of overheated SEN listeners, the people who they cross to whenever there's a contentious umpiring decision and Garry Lyon (who everyone knows is just there practising how to fake being upset when James Brayshaw does a 'gag' about him being hairy) while the league's psychologist attempts to calm our frayed nerves by playing replays of comedic Mark Thompson press conferences for a couple of hours.

It doesn't always work out, but for most participants the therapy allows us to get on with our lives after another stressful weekend at the footy. At least until the teams come out on a Thursday night and we find ourselves screaming tweeting obscenities to [USER=48712]melbournefc[/USER] when Rohan Bail is named in the forward pocket as if the person who reads the incoming tweets is actually the Chairman of Selectors.

I stepped out of this week's session, filled with a love of life after listening a one hour loop of Bomber saying "Triple M" for no apparent reason. As I walked towards the front door I noticed a new face grappling with the 200 page admission form. I recognised him as that guy who was quite successful coaching Collingwood then gave it all up to yell at people in press conferences. What a coincidence to run into him in this of all weeks. My team is shit, his team is shit, we're playing each other on Saturday, I'm due to write the unofficial preview. It was a remarkable coincidence. I waited until he filled out his Next of Kin as a Mr E. McGuire from Collingwood before interrupting.

"Excuse me Mr. Malthouse" I said, politely trying to get his attention. He spun around and pulled a small knife from his pocket, thrusting it at me and screaming "what do you want c**t?".

It could have ended badly, after all we've all heard those rumours about him filleting one of Hutchy's unpaid interns in the carpark of Optus Oval for sneezing during a press conference, but as he looked me up and down he realised that I wasn't wearing media accreditation he quickly apologised. As he stashed the blade back in his pocket he took a small paper bag out of the other.

"Journalist?" he said.

I shook my head.

Mick thrust the small paper bag at me. "No, I mean do you want some journalist? This one was from The Age. He asked if I thought I'd underestimated Carlton's list when I took over. I ate his liver with some Fava beans."

As he scooped his hand into the bag then ravenously chowed down on the still twitching fingers of a cadet sports writer I politely declined. There was a moment of awkward silence while he wiped some blood from the corner of his mouth before I continued.

"How do you think you'll go against the Dees this week?" I asked. There was another moment of silence as he put the bag down on the reception desk. His head bowed slightly and the colour drained from his face.

"Mate, I'm worried" he confessed. "You know my record, you know I've done it all. I've coached more premierships than Footscray and St Kilda have won combined. But I'm in real trouble now".

Carlton's woes are well known, but having watched Melbourne spontaneously combust several times in the last few years I've got little sympathy for them. After all it may have taken a quirk of fate and a major AFL investigation for them to make the finals in 2013, but weren't the Blues in exactly the same position after three rounds last year? Was Mick just feeling the weight of entitlement, and a substantial contract, on his shoulders?

He leaned towards me and admitted that there was something different about 2014. A fear of failure. The chance that his legacy might be tainted by failing miserably with a Blues side who had been quite capably but unspectacularly led by Brett Ratten before his unceremonious execution.

"Now after three rotten weeks to start the season I have to play Melbourne. Melbourne. Can you believe it?"

"What's so bad about that?" I said. "Haven't you been watching the first few weeks of the season? We're neck deep in quicksand and sinking rapidly".

He shook his head and looked at me as if I was stupid.

"Mate, your team can't score in the first quarter and my team can't stop other teams scoring in the first quarter. What does that tell you?"

"It'll be a nil-all draw?" I said, wincing as the last word came out in the expectation that he would garrotte me on the waiting room floor.

"No peasant, it means that the mental cases I'm in charge of are deeply vulnerable to any team who can gather up even the slightest bit of confidence. Your players go into every game expecting to lose. Good god you even had to drop one to the VFL just so he could have an enjoyable week, but mine still think they're finals contenders. And you know how that's working out."

"Yeah, but Mick.. err, Mr Malthouse, it's Melbourne. You were there the Friday night we played for a nil-all draw against Carlton. Remember, you called Addam Maric a cheat. Well, things have got a lot worse for us since then let me tell you"

A lone tear ran down Mick's face. The fear had gripped him. The fear that your side will be the one to finally hand a basketcase its first win of the year. He gripped me by the shoulders.

"I'll tell you what I'm afraid of son. It's that your mentally flattened, joke of a club who were flogged in the tackles by a bunch of 15-year-olds and Heath Shaw last week actually come to play from the first bounce. That they will throw themselves at the ball like maniacs and throw my players into the turf at every opportunity. That this will be the week that they decide to go out and regain their dignity."

After 12 straight losses dating back to June 2013 I wasn't sure how to respond to this claim, so I stayed silent and let him finish.

"Look at a guy like Jordie McKenzie. He's not the most talented player in the competition, but he can tackle, and he can chase, and he can harass. Imagine he pins one of our players with a strong tackle in the first few minutes, and his kick forward is marked by a player actually running to space, and that when his shot on goal falls to the ground after one of your makeshift talls offers a contest that there's a player there to crumb it for a goal. We'll go to pieces. The mental battle will be over. We've got more to lose than you have, don't you forget that mucus."

I didn't doubt that last statement for a second. We're expected to lose, while a Carlton defeat will lead to even more Blues fans openly admitting that like Robert Walls they never liked Mick in the first place, but a piece of play ending with a Melbourne player crumbing a goal did seem highly unlikely.

I had to admit that he did make a good point. All the pressure is on them this week. They're coming off two shocking first quarters, and if any team should know more about how broken spirits in the first few minutes can ruin a team for the rest of the game it should be us. It's never been more vital to get off to a good start than this week (well, it's always vital, but work with me here).

Mick started laughing through the tears. "If you see Paul Roos tell him not to pick McKenzie. We'd rather play against a bunch of fancyboys racking up their attempted tackle stats in the rain. While you're at it rest Jack Viney, Daniel Cross and Nathan Jones too. The last thing my lot need is to run into players who try their guts out every week."

I thought I'd impress the master coach with a stat. I said "Did you know that Jay Kennedy-Harris has had as many tackles for the season as Shannon Byrnes despite playing about 25% of the game time?"

"I don't even know who that is" said Mick.

"Which one?"

"Either of them"

At this point the receptionist interrupted. "Excuse me Mr Malthouse" she said, "Mr. Scott and Mr. Clarkson are here. We can start the session now."

The coach of Carlton bid me farewell with one piece of advice "Watch what happens at the first bounce" he cried before turning his back so that the straight jacket could be applied.

I bade the master coach farewell, pulled my collar up and walked back onto a wind strewn Harbour Esplanade. Maybe the first step up the ladder respectability will come by stepping on somebody else's throat.

Dees by 28
Once a week I'm forced to attend an anger management course at AFL Headquarters in Docklands. It's part of the 2012 High Court judgement of Scully vs Lunatic Fringe but that's not important right now.

Every Tuesday I sit in a room full of overheated SEN listeners, the people who they cross to whenever there's a contentious umpiring decision and Garry Lyon (who everyone knows is just there practising how to fake being upset when James Brayshaw does a 'gag' about him being hairy) while the league's psychologist attempts to calm our frayed nerves by playing replays of comedic Mark Thompson press conferences for a couple of hours.

It doesn't always work out, but for most participants the therapy allows us to get on with our lives after another stressful weekend at the footy. At least until the teams come out on a Thursday night and we find ourselves screaming tweeting obscenities to [USER=48712]melbournefc[/USER] when Rohan Bail is named in the forward pocket as if the person who reads the incoming tweets is actually the Chairman of Selectors.

I stepped out of this week's session, filled with a love of life after listening a one hour loop of Bomber saying "Triple M" for no apparent reason. As I walked towards the front door I noticed a new face grappling with the 200 page admission form. I recognised him as that guy who was quite successful coaching Collingwood then gave it all up to yell at people in press conferences. What a coincidence to run into him in this of all weeks. My team is shit, his team is shit, we're playing each other on Saturday, I'm due to write the unofficial preview. It was a remarkable coincidence. I waited until he filled out his Next of Kin as a Mr E. McGuire from Collingwood before interrupting.

"Excuse me Mr. Malthouse" I said, politely trying to get his attention. He spun around and pulled a small knife from his pocket, thrusting it at me and screaming "what do you want c**t?".

It could have ended badly, after all we've all heard those rumours about him filleting one of Hutchy's unpaid interns in the carpark of Optus Oval for sneezing during a press conference, but as he looked me up and down he realised that I wasn't wearing media accreditation he quickly apologised. As he stashed the blade back in his pocket he took a small paper bag out of the other.

"Journalist?" he said.

I shook my head.

Mick thrust the small paper bag at me. "No, I mean do you want some journalist? This one was from The Age. He asked if I thought I'd underestimated Carlton's list when I took over. I ate his liver with some Fava beans."

As he scooped his hand into the bag then ravenously chowed down on the still twitching fingers of a cadet sports writer I politely declined. There was a moment of awkward silence while he wiped some blood from the corner of his mouth before I continued.

"How do you think you'll go against the Dees this week?" I asked. There was another moment of silence as he put the bag down on the reception desk. His head bowed slightly and the colour drained from his face.

"Mate, I'm worried" he confessed. "You know my record, you know I've done it all. I've coached more premierships than Footscray and St Kilda have won combined. But I'm in real trouble now".

Carlton's woes are well known, but having watched Melbourne spontaneously combust several times in the last few years I've got little sympathy for them. After all it may have taken a quirk of fate and a major AFL investigation for them to make the finals in 2013, but weren't the Blues in exactly the same position after three rounds last year? Was Mick just feeling the weight of entitlement, and a substantial contract, on his shoulders?

He leaned towards me and admitted that there was something different about 2014. A fear of failure. The chance that his legacy might be tainted by failing miserably with a Blues side who had been quite capably but unspectacularly led by Brett Ratten before his unceremonious execution.

"Now after three rotten weeks to start the season I have to play Melbourne. Melbourne. Can you believe it?"

"What's so bad about that?" I said. "Haven't you been watching the first few weeks of the season? We're neck deep in quicksand and sinking rapidly".

He shook his head and looked at me as if I was stupid.

"Mate, your team can't score in the first quarter and my team can't stop other teams scoring in the first quarter. What does that tell you?"

"It'll be a nil-all draw?" I said, wincing as the last word came out in the expectation that he would garrotte me on the waiting room floor.

"No peasant, it means that the mental cases I'm in charge of are deeply vulnerable to any team who can gather up even the slightest bit of confidence. Your players go into every game expecting to lose. Good god you even had to drop one to the VFL just so he could have an enjoyable week, but mine still think they're finals contenders. And you know how that's working out."

"Yeah, but Mick.. err, Mr Malthouse, it's Melbourne. You were there the Friday night we played for a nil-all draw against Carlton. Remember, you called Addam Maric a cheat. Well, things have got a lot worse for us since then let me tell you"

A lone tear ran down Mick's face. The fear had gripped him. The fear that your side will be the one to finally hand a basketcase its first win of the year. He gripped me by the shoulders.

"I'll tell you what I'm afraid of son. It's that your mentally flattened, joke of a club who were flogged in the tackles by a bunch of 15-year-olds and Heath Shaw last week actually come to play from the first bounce. That they will throw themselves at the ball like maniacs and throw my players into the turf at every opportunity. That this will be the week that they decide to go out and regain their dignity."

After 12 straight losses dating back to June 2013 I wasn't sure how to respond to this claim, so I stayed silent and let him finish.

"Look at a guy like Jordie McKenzie. He's not the most talented player in the competition, but he can tackle, and he can chase, and he can harass. Imagine he pins one of our players with a strong tackle in the first few minutes, and his kick forward is marked by a player actually running to space, and that when his shot on goal falls to the ground after one of your makeshift talls offers a contest that there's a player there to crumb it for a goal. We'll go to pieces. The mental battle will be over. We've got more to lose than you have, don't you forget that mucus."

I didn't doubt that last statement for a second. We're expected to lose, while a Carlton defeat will lead to even more Blues fans openly admitting that like Robert Walls they never liked Mick in the first place, but a piece of play ending with a Melbourne player crumbing a goal did seem highly unlikely.

I had to admit that he did make a good point. All the pressure is on them this week. They're coming off two shocking first quarters, and if any team should know more about how broken spirits in the first few minutes can ruin a team for the rest of the game it should be us. It's never been more vital to get off to a good start than this week (well, it's always vital, but work with me here).

Mick started laughing through the tears. "If you see Paul Roos tell him not to pick McKenzie. We'd rather play against a bunch of fancyboys racking up their attempted tackle stats in the rain. While you're at it rest Jack Viney, Daniel Cross and Nathan Jones too. The last thing my lot need is to run into players who try their guts out every week."

I thought I'd impress the master coach with a stat. I said "Did you know that Jay Kennedy-Harris has had as many tackles for the season as Shannon Byrnes despite playing about 25% of the game time?"

"I don't even know who that is" said Mick.

"Which one?"

"Either of them"

At this point the receptionist interrupted. "Excuse me Mr Malthouse" she said, "Mr. Scott and Mr. Clarkson are here. We can start the session now."

The coach of Carlton bid me farewell with one piece of advice "Watch what happens at the first bounce" he cried before turning his back so that the straight jacket could be applied.

I bade the master coach farewell, pulled my collar up and walked back onto a wind strewn Harbour Esplanade. Maybe the first step up the ladder respectability will come by stepping on somebody else's throat.

Dees by 28

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Don't cry for me, I'm already dead


Well that's it for me, I'm done. Goodbye Melbourne FC I can't take any more of this. I'm giving up on this team until approximately 1.45pm next Saturday. Not really, I'll still spend all week thinking about them, but if I wasn't a confirmed fanatic (and not the "oh he's fanatical, that's cute LOL" type, the "oh my god he's filming a martyr video" type) then today might have pushed me over the edge into actual public declarations that I was giving it away. Which usually means "I will be back when we're good again", but should at least buy you another decade of free weekends before you a bandwagon worth jumping on rolls past.

Whisper it quietly but I still have no regrets. What else was I going to do this afternoon, tend my garden or see friends and/or family? It's an addiction, and  I'll either outlive this club or go to my grave being one of those people who voluntarily watch something every week then spend their time whinging about it.

It's not just an addiction, it's supermasochism. I need to watch this documentary again to make me feel better about dedicating so much mental energy to supporting the Dees. Not to give away any crucial moments of this important piece of cinema but the big ending is a close-up shot of the the guy hammering a nail through his flange. That's still marginally more painful and needlessly self-harmful than watching the club continue its transformation into the 'before' version of the Cleveland Indians in Major League ("Here's the pitch... oh shit") without any prospect of a Wesley Snipes inspired happy ending on the horizon.

Most addicts hit rock bottom eventually. Gamblers start pinching money off their grandmother, gamers keel over after 37 consecutive hours of playing and drug addicts eventually find themselves hocking discount sexual favours on a lonely street corner. My 'Carlisle Street at 2am' moment almost came today when I found myself watching a team sitting on 11 points with a minute left in the second half, 'only' eight points behind thinking "geez I hope they don't kick a goal here or we'll be too far behind to win." That's the sort of confidence that this club fills me with, and I'm one of the rusted-on freaks. God knows what 'the kids' are thinking. Actually, I can tell you exactly what they're thinking "Gee I'd like to follow an up and coming team of go-getters like the GWS Giants."

Instead of getting seriously into gambling or drugs I chose football. Which on the whole is better for ones health, but it still feels like it's heading towards rack and/or ruin. Regular readers may remember I deliberately changed jobs shortly after the 2006 finals series to be able to watch every single game. To find out how that's working for me you just need to know that last week's 93 point loss was only our 17th worst performance since Round 1 2008.

For want of anything better to do with my life I've got plenty more interest left to give, even if enthusiasm is running on empty, but the point in your life where you have to admit that something has gone drastically wrong is when you enter a game against the GWS Giants thinking that even the narrowest and ugliest victory would be an all-time great, life affirming moment. I just need to see a win again, it's been 281 days for god's sake and even then we almost lost. If it wasn't for Jack Watts' mark we might be looking at the full year without victory in a couple of weeks.

There's no point comparing ourselves to the Giants any more. They are rapidly pulling away from our league (and to be fair pending Carlton somehow managing to lose to us next week that is currently a league with one team in it), and it was telling that two of the players who stitched us up today weren't even from their cavalcade of quality kids but Shane Mumford and Heath Shaw. Two players practically in the prime of their career brought in to play specific roles and doing so perfectly. Players who wouldn't touch us while wearing a HAZMAT suit these days.

On the other hand one of our best was Daniel Cross, recruited in the twilight of his career in an attempt to drag others up to his level of effort (does he have a track record for performing miracles?) and support 'the kids' - most of whom are now playing for the Casey Scorpions. I've loved his work over the last couple of weeks (not that there's been much else to enjoy), and the fact that he's thrown himself into the cause so recklessly he's sporting an Abdullah The Butcher style wound on his head so large that you could stick a casino chip in, but where are the real impact players? The only one we've managed to get our hands on or develop in recent years has all but given the game away, and we're left with a list that has more holes than Swiss cheese.

Our drafting and development woes are well known, and thus we're left with a side who can't even land a handball on target in perfect conditions let alone in the Sydney Showgrounds hurricane belt. People who talk even half seriously about a promotion/relegation system for the AFL are idiots, but as neatly encapsulated here (in far briefer terms than I could ever manage) we are "off the pace". That's certainly putting it politely. When we're involved this league is like the good old days of the Melbourne Cup before the internationals were let in and rancid 600-1 horses like Sunshine Sally could somehow qualify only to finish 50 lengths last. In 2014 we are in danger of achieving Count Chivas status, so far last that we almost trample Peter Hore as he runs across the track.

Having said all that we were in front early in the last quarter this afternoon, so no doubt had we found some way to hold it together long enough to win instead of rolling over and dying like a mangy dog while your friend and mine Tom $cully did his usual trick of running riot against us before reverting to being the usual sort of mediocre MFC draft pick.

It would have been the most shameful victory of of ALL TIME but my god I'd have taken it. The more astute amongst you may have noticed that I'm basically writing the same thing week after week these days, but it's not easy to come up with fresh and original angles when you're describing the club's worst losing streak since 1982. Such is life as the Chief Football Writer of Demonblog. I bet this never happens to Caroline Wilson. Mainly because she's not written about the game itself since 1981, which makes two of us.

Believe it or not it could have been worse for me. As late as Friday I was sorely tempted to get in my car and drive to Sydney because even though I knew we were going to lose it still felt like I'd be better off seeing it all happen in front of my own eyes. Given that I never even thought of looking at the weather report for Sydney sanity thankfully prevailed without friends and family having to link arms and block access to my car.

Even if actual match description was what I do it would be hard to go into any depth about today's game. Not sure anybody was expecting a classic even if it was sunny, but with half of the game played in pissing rain here's the hapless MFC still trying to link up with handballs and hit precise kicks to a forward line who are at this point reaching John Meesen levels of being fictional. It took until the end of game for us to finally realise that when the ground is soaking wet that you can get more advantage from just hoofing it off the deck instead of trying to pick it up. Maybe there's a team rule that says you're not supposed to, but surely when it starts pouring rain the rulebook is torn up and it becomes survival of the fittest?

How bad was the quality of this game? Well, let me answer that by telling you that the last time a game opened with 10 points or less scored in the first quarter was 1998 when Geelong and West Coast kicked 0.3 apiece at Kardinia Park. I'd like to think that these teams were just defending strongly, rather than both being startlingly inept. It has rained before, and teams (often us) have scored nothing but at least the other side usually has the respect for neutrals to smash through two or three goals minimum.

Did you, like I did, kick your couch or a nearby inanimate object when Nathan Jones went down like a stone at the first bounce? The only place we've not suffered serious injury drama so far this season has been the midfield, so it can't be much longer until he suffers something more serious than a poke in the eye. Apparently having a finger jammed into your cornea isn't worthy of a free kick, but at least the umpires squared the ledger by making up free kicks for the rest of the day. See, for instance, The Spencil winning a free-kick for almost decapitating somebody and Watts getting one for stuffing up an attempt to leap over his opponent.

Speaking of The Spencil he still tries his guts out, even in the most trying conditions. I don't know whether it says more about him or his teammates but has currently racked up the third most tackles for the side behind Nathan Jones and Daniel Cross. That said we've got to get him some help in the ruck, he just got carved to shreds at stoppages. Mumford is obviously operating in a different league to him, but not having a realistic second option doesn't help. Doesn't sound like Jamar or Gawn are coming back next week, and we might get away with it due to Carlton being almost as putrid as us, but the sooner we get another proper ruckman fit and playing the better.

For what's it worth I was into the rotation of players, even if it was a bit deckchairs on the Titanic, I could have left Dunn down back and just swapped Frawley/Howe but he's on fire at either end at the moment. Dunn haters watch your back, he could very well pocket the best and fairest this season. It was reasonable to switch the other two around, Howe got some touches for the first time all year and Frawley got the opportunity to run at the ball instead of watching it fly over his head 20 times a game.

He did quite well too considering that playing in our forward line is practically the most difficult task on the face of the planet, though I did wonder whether it was a bit like when we threw Rivers up there in 2012 because we knew he was going and thought we should concentrate on keeping the defence of the future together.

Despite the fact that we were relatively close at both quarter time and half time (relative to it being a shithouse game), the list of things we couldn't do to a league standard is longer than your arm. It includes but is not limited to kicking-in (so what's new?), getting the ball inside 50, running into space (though they were probably up to their ankles in water), laying tackles, forward pressure and keeping the ball for multiple possessions. Yet despite all this being blatantly obvious in the first quarter we were only a handful of points down at the first change - despite only scoring two points.

I was surprised to find out that we've only had 19 goalless first quarters in the last decade (if you add one goal first quarters, the old Baileyquarter, you need a NASA Supercomputer to tally them all up), but with two in three weeks Roos has already topped Neale Daniher, Mark Riley and Neil Craig and is on world record pace to match the greats of the genre Dean Bailey (eight) and Mark Neeld (six).

UPDATE - If you go from Round 1 2004 to now (so slightly over 10 years) the tally of 0/1 goal first quarters is Daniher - 12 from 83 games (14.4%) , Riley 2 from 9, Bailey 24 from 83 (28.91%), Viney 1 from 5, Neeld 14 from 33 (42.42%), Craig 3 from 11, Roos 2 from 3.

That we've got the same sort of affliction no matter who is in the ejector seat says something about the mental curse hanging over this joint. Three-quarters of the list has been changed over in recent years and we still find ourselves neck-deep in quicksand without anyone seemingly capable on pulling us out. High hopes are held for Jack Viney, but it can't all rest on one person's shoulders. He was well rusty today but still led the team in tackles as many teammates decided they didn't fancy slapping one on, and were instead quite happy to put an arm out and hope that Champion Data noted them down for an 'attempted' tackle.

Shannon Byrnes has laid six tackles in three games, Jay Kennedy-Harris has laid six tackles in three games. The difference is that one of them has been on the field 75% of the time and one of them has been piss-farting around on the bench in a green vest while his teammates allow the ball to be swept out of the attacking 50 at lightspeed. Byrnes is an easy target now that he's stopped kicking goals but he's not alone. GWS certainly didn't seem shy about grabbing somebody and flattening them, and that's why they'll be playing finals soon while we're still racking up top five draft picks.

Despite the ridiculous difference in 'appetite for the contest' (CLICHE) they couldn't put us away. The defence was holding up reasonably well, and despite the fact that they were getting their goals through Patton and Cameron it was hardly the day for tall forwards to tear a side apart. Thank god for that. Not that we had any sort of forward line. Frawley was trying hard to be an option, but the rest of them were just standing still watching the ball get kicked back towards the Giants' forward 50.

I've had enough of this wailing about tall forwards though - it would be nice to have them down there but it's not compulsory to score goals through tall forwards. Look how good Dunn was down there today, give anybody who hold a mark the space and kick it at them and you might just rack up a decent score. Any chance some of our midfielders might chip in? We've got stuff all crumb other than a brief cameo by Dean Kent, no talls, can't kick goals from stoppages in the forward line and a midfield who can't/won't get in positions to have shots - is it any wonder we've scored 17 goals in three weeks? Even when somebody like Fitzpatrick manages to bring the ball to the ground who's there to pick it up? Nobody.

Despite this we hit the lead in the third quarter and looked like a fair chance to keep it going, until we started handing them chances on a platter from our non-stop hit parade of shithouse kick-ins. Obviously Paul Roos is not afraid of doing different things, and thank god for that compared to the last guy, but how many times in a row do you need to cock up in the same way before trying something else? It eventually cost us the lead going into three quarter time.

As an interlude to this in-depth match analysis, I'd be genuinely interested to find out why Toumpas and Trengove were dropped. Not that I'm suggesting they shouldn't have been, but in light of Roos' comments about players who don't do the 'non-negotiables' I suspect neither was dropped purely on form. I've love to know what non-negotiables they didn't do. Maybe Roos just hates the letter T? I thought Toumpas especially had done alright playing the 'hung out to dry on a forward flank' role that Tapscott made famous before disappearing, but he must have done something wrong.

One would suspect that Dean Terlich might be also in trouble considering the spray he copped from Roos after being pinged holding the ball late in the third quarter. It was a great spray, but it's resemblance to Neeld vs Morton 2012 will give extra ammunition to everyone who wants to write him off before he's even started.

As for this week's lot I thought Kent was good. Evans sadly lost all his power by shaving his lovely locks off and was pretty ordinary. Pedersen was much better in defence than he ever has been forward and should certainly stay there for the rest of the years, and the most of the others (other than those who are about to get votes/apologies, and by christ even they were lucky) were going through the motions waiting for their cheque to arrive.

The sad thing about this scenario (if we keep going like this the all-time losing streak record will be equalled on Queen's Birthday - how's that for a promotion to get people to show up?) is watching the life force ebb out of people who I have either known in person or through the massed ranks of the Deepressed on Twitter for several years. People who have been through absolutely everything and now either don't bother watching or duck out for a milkshake the moment it's obvious that we're going to be shite again.

We got the lead back at the start of the last quarter, Frawley finally rewarded for effort, but after that we went missing. There were large periods of the quarter where the ball was going out of bounds or had 15 players sitting on it for a bounce, but we didn't get another goal until the game was completely stuffed. And stuffed it was. The Giants did exactly what they did against Sydney two weeks ago in similar conditions, getting in front in the last quarter then making the opposition look stupid as they ran away to an easy win. So at least we're in solid company.

It's galling to watch Port Adelaide doing so well - even in blowing a lead today they gave their fans full value - and that's nothing against them. Anything that keeps a Victorian team who isn't us out of the finals is good by me, but go back to those insane few weeks from late July to late August 2011 when the footy arms exploded. They were a far worse side than we were - we might have lost by 186 points once, they lost by 138 and 165 in consecutive weeks. If they hadn't beaten us in the last game of the season they'd have finished below Gold Coast in their first year.

If we had that sort of fortnight they'd probably have sent liquidators in. GWS had the draft sewn up, so it was hardly as if pick one was on the cards but no doubt we'd probably have thrown the game just to boost ourselves a couple of spots in the order. They kept their dignity, and it took another year of relatively shit football (better than us anyway) to get it right but their fans are now being rewarded. Meanwhile we're still trapped in the flotsam and jetsam league and the distance between us and the next side up is growing.

We might whinge about equalisation being a crock, but it's just us - even else is close enough now to keep things interesting most weeks. I'm running out of ways to describe this slop. Next week I might just do a cover version of this 1904 classic.




2014 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
It's another one of those days where if votes were optional I may have handed out one, and maybe a second, but instead there's at least three undeserving recipients and nobody is even remotely worthy of five. So don't write in and complain, the votes had to go to somebody and I've never resorted to novelty selections or passing yet.

Already struggling

5 - Lynden Dunn
4 - Daniel Cross
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Had a go

3 - James Frawley
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Half a game is better than no game

2 - Dom Tyson
-----
Nothing to justify it

1 - Jeremy Howe

Apologies to Pedersen (so much better in defence), Tom McDonald and Jack Watts who might have snuck in for one just because. UPDATE - hello from Tuesday morning, I went back and looked at the stats and appears Dunn had nine touches all day and was one of five to get stuff all in the last quarter. God knows how I came up with him as our BOG but it's too late to change now.

Leaderboard
10 - Nathan Jones
9 - Lynden Dunn (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
8 - Daniel Cross 
6 - Dom Tyson
4 - Jack Watts
3 - James Frawley, Dean Terlich
1 - Jeremy Howe, Jake Spencer (Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)

Off-Field Corner
It looks like Mitch Clark is never coming back, and that saddens me greatly. Not just for footballing reasons (though I won't deny that doesn't play a part in it), but because it's abundantly clear from the tone of this article that there's something extremely serious going on in the background. If pulling the plug on his career immediately is what's best for him then good luck with it. I like how the article, in basically admitting that they have no idea what's going to happen, leaves open the tantalising possibility of him coming back - which in honour of Wrestlemania weekend would be the biggest swerve since Hulk Hogan joined the nWo. But it's not going to happen, that lines is just there cover Mark Robinson's arse if the unlikely happens.

The bit that makes me feel bad is the suggestion that Mitch feels like he's letting down the club and his teammates. If you're reading I think I speak for everyone who is at the club, follows the club or even knows the club exists in saying that when the list of people who are to blame for the last couple of years is written the guy whose foot exploded twice, then suffered a serious of soft tissue injuries after kicking 36 goals in 15 games will be a long, LONG way down the list next to the receptionst and below the trumpeteer. Get well soon.

Banner Watch
Another victory to the Demons. and a comfortable one too. I can understand why they stuff all the text in the top half of the banner so it doesn't get obscured by anybody running through it (wait, no I don't actually understand that) but why are they still using zeroes instead of O's? Who are the Dem0ns? Are they any better than the Demons or are they a bunch of 15-year-old hackers? 3-0.

Goal of the Year
No change. Best today probably the casual Matt Jones kick in the last quarter when the game was buggered. Clubhouse leader remains Bernie Vince vs St Kilda - Round 1 (long bomb from outside 50).

Coaching Corner
Stewart Dew must be the happiest man on earth that he dodged the bullet of being on a promise to take this side over. Suffice to say the only people who will be answering calls from Roos or Peter Jackson after the last few weeks will be Mark Neeld, Ken Judge and this guy.

Next Week
Carlton are absolutely terrible this year, but just how bad will be sorted out next weekend. Let's win and get Mick Malthouse sacked for a) not taking the poison chalice at the end of 2011, b) for being a shit bloke in press conferences and c) because it will be fun.

On our side, I swear if Rohan Bail is not omitted at approximately 6.20pm on Thursday night then I will complain on the internet about it. Apparently Clisby was better than Trengove in Casey's narrow win over Essendon so I bet even if they do try and recall Jack that he will make the same claim as a well known retired senior player who said he preferred playing with the Scorpions because at least they won.

IN: Blease, McKenzie, Trengove
OUT: Byrnes, Bail, Evans
LUCKY: Evans, Fitzpatrick, Terlich

Next Season
We may win a game.

Was it worth it?
Those of you who travelled from another state to sit in an empty, drenched stadium and watch that absolute godless slop deserve a handwritten letter of thanks from somebody at the MFC (even if it is the tea lady. The receptionist is unavailable as she's called in sick for tomorrow) and an invitation to high tea with the board.

Shameless self promotion corner
The good people at the Footy Maths Institute nominated us for the Australian Blog Awards. Which is nice of them. There's no point pretending I'm generally unconcerned, because if that was the case I just wouldn't mention it so vote early and vote often. I do feel slightly dirty about being such a populist though, so to take the curse off it I must mention that you should also vote for the Institute, the Bulldog Tragician and any other footy bloggers you can find on the absurdly long 'come one, come all' shortlist.

Final thoughts
Twitterist @jmac says it in pictures...



(At least we scored 40)

Monday, 31 March 2014

Mo Slurry, Mo Problems

Who'd be associated with the Melbourne Football Club? The player who shagged a witch as part of the 1964 premiership celebrations has got a lot to answer for. Imagine a world where almost every player over 6'5" is missing for some reason, Maximum Gawn is seconds away from a comeback then does his hammy, and on the merciful verge of winter we end up having to play West Coast in what is effectively Perth weather.

Not that Maximum on his own or a surprise Sunday hurricane tearing the MCG apart could have saved us, but either of them might have made the afternoon at least slightly more tolerable. The sad thing is that at times while West Coast darted from end to end, capitalising on the most farcical of turnovers, I sat there thinking that despite all that we still looked so much better than last year - which says more about how violently offensive 2013 was rather than any great improvement so far in 2014.

Fleeting moments of reasonable, league standard football and two mighty efforts by Nathan Jones and Daniel Cross aside this was sadly the Melbourne FC that you have come to know and loathe - the one that is legitimately no fun to watch. Slow moving, low scoring and wandering the vast expanses of the MCG aimlessly hoping for the opposition to suffer 22 serious injuries so we could win by forfeit.

I backed myself into a corner by trying to be optimistic last week, and if anything's going to set me off it should be a 93 point loss where we struggle to get four goals, but by this point I'm so deadened to assault and battery that it seems like the opposition are quite literally flogging a dead horse. There's no surprises left, and had we not conceded the two late goals and managed to get out with 'only' an 80 point loss I might have even been 'happy' (relatively speaking) about the last three quarters.

The natural reaction to yesterday should be to take up thy flaming pitchfork and storm AAMI Park, but I'm struggling to maintain the rage. Luckily there are thousands of others who can take my place on the barricades, call for sackings and big note themselves by ringing SEN to announce that they're resigning their membership.

Which is not to say that I enjoyed my Sunday at the home of football in the slightest. For the vast majority of the game we played horrible football, what crowd were there nearly rioted at some of the backwards dink and the prospect of not winning a single match for the season suddenly looms large on the horizon but I'm psychologically broken to the point where just yelling obscenities at the roof of the Ponsford Stand during the game is enough to satisfy me.

Everyone, including many of our players it seems, knew we were going to lose and it was just a case of whether it would be an honourable six goals, a dishonourable 10 goals or yet another criminal ton in our depressing recent history. We might have narrowly avoided triple figures, but any hope of an honourable death went out the window in the first few minutes. They battered us from the first bounce but couldn't take advantage on the scoreboard, which in the real world would have been a great time to either nick one ourselves or do something to slow them down and at least restrict them to a handful of goals in the first quarter if we weren't going to kick one ourselves. Instead we gifted them their first with a horror turnover handball from Nathan Jones (spoiler: he bounced back), they got the second one very quickly after and by quarter time we were 40 points down. 

Why does this happen so often to us? Even in their first few seasons Gold Coast and GWS would often play league standard first quarters and scare the opposition before class won out over enthusiasm and they got flogged. Whereas across several versions of this 'young' but not completely inexperienced list we've been at least four goals down nine times in the last 46 games. Not that four goals is a fatal gap, but it is when you've been playing without a proper forward line for the best part of a year.

We have occasionally put the wind up a superior opponent (i.e any other team). Witness, for instance, last year's game against West Coast - the infamous standing ovation match - where after two massacres to open the season we kept the margin at half time to 10 points courtesy of sheer effort before they wised up and crushed us in the third quarter en route to a 95 point win.

It's easy to blame a lack of competent tall forwards (thought it would help), but you have to get the ball down there first and most of the time we couldn't link up long enough to give the 'forwards' a chance without them having several Eagles defenders in the way. Every once in a while somebody would actually run for a team-mate with the ball, said team-mate would spot them and it looked magnificent. Didn't happen very often though. They were more likely to all stand still then watch as the player with the ball tried to thread the eye of a needle with disappointing results.

At the other end West Coast were demonstrating exactly what you can do with a bunch of tall forwards and a team capable of getting it to them (not to mention an opposition almost going out of their way to turn the ball over every 25 seconds). You could almost hear 15,000 people yell the name Lucas Cook at once when Darling had the first shot at goal for the game. Do you think that in the rare moments when the ball wasn't down there that Darling, Naitanui and Callum Sinclair spent their time expressing relief to each other that we opted out of drafting all three of them in recent years? At quarter time they probably all exchanged high fives with Jamie Bennell, enjoying his greatest ever moment on the MCG courtesy of us giving him the sack.

Strangely enough the only one of their talls who didn't get amongst the goals early was Dean Cox, who started the game matched up by Lynden Dunn who he is about two foot taller than. It looked ridiculous, but was obviously cosmic penance for all the 18-year-olds Lynden's abused (so to speak) over the years. Dunn played another good game, which is often an unpopular opinion to express, but it's not hard to look good in a side like this.

Speaking of talls, it was a bleak day for those of us who have stood firm in the Watts camp during the great "should we have drafted NicNat" debate. I'm fully aware that if we'd picked him that he would have already fled back to Perth anyway, and maintain that he's had the armchair ride of the century by coming in under the wing of a monster like Cox but it's hard to deny that he at least makes things happen. Watts, on the other hand, discovered that it's far harder to take the piss against a proper midfield. He tried, but contrast NicNat tapping the ball down cleverly in the square to create a goalscoring opportunity against Watts dropping the easiest chest mark of all time and it's nervous adjustment of collars all round.
Not that there was a great deal of buzz around the crowd to start with, but by the end of the quarter with the Eagles defenders queuing up to join in the goalkicking party, the place was as flat as a tack. At least there was something to be learnt from their dominance - the tally of three goals from key forwards or ruckmen and three from 'others' shows that you don't have to rely entirely on talls to kick goals. If you feed other players and give them the chance to run at goal you can manufacture scores. Instead we were left trying to move the ball bit by bit like a chess piece to find forwards who didn't exist or were drastically outmatched.

As one shambolic exchange in the second quarter showed, chipping it around to find a target instead of just hoofing it to a contest is fine but it can end in tears. Pedo might not be Kurt Tippett, but he was miles free and on a lead which was ignored. Instead we do five dinky little kicks in a row to barely any ground, turn it over and cop a goal at the other end. The lightning speed at which the ball went down the other end implied that the majority of our players were forward of the ball when we turned it over, so there would have been plenty of players there to contest it.

The moment that said it all about our performance in the first half was when (leading goalkicker) Shannon Byrnes had a one-on-one in front of goal, lost the ball in the sun and ran about five metres away from it. Had the Eagles defender not taken the conservative approach and punched the ball out of bounds Byrnes would have booked his spot on bloopers programs for years to come. Fun fact - until the last quarter Byrnes was right in the running to become the first MFC player to kick all our goals in a goal in a game since 1914 - which would have been quite the feather in his cap, and a moment to go alongside a premiership in his career scrapbook.

Brief moments of lucidity aside we were so badly beaten up in the first half that I felt like I needed to watch 186 again to understand how a team could be beaten any worse. We probably shouldn't have had our goal either, I'm sure Pedo (if I use his name enough times Pete Townsend will miraculously appear) threw it as he was tackled. The sympathy vote obviously came out in our favour when they let Byrnes' goal stand.

At least at the start of the third quarter Roos tried something different, swapping Pedo and Dunn. Last year we'd have just gone merrily to our grave, doing the same thing for four quarters. By the end of the game both of them were in the backline where they're probably both best suited, but it was at least an attempt to change things around. With the hole we'd gotten ourselves into a SWAT team couldn't have bailed us out, but I appreciated the effort. The only thing that I've have done differently would be to make the sub earlier. It was hardly going to get any worse and we weren't actually doing all that badly in getting the ball forward for it to be swept down the other end within 10 seconds.

While we were 'better' in the third quarter - comparing one four goal to one quarter with another - there were still seat kicking moments of farce and shambles during the second half. What about Trengove having a shot from 50 where he was never going to make the distance in a million years and not one MFC player on the line for the ball drop? To nobody's surprise it was easily mopped up by the West Coast defenders, and we probably conceded a goal 30 seconds later if the rest of the game was anything to go by.

To be fair Howe and Pedersen were both off the ground at that point, and Fitzpatrick had been subbed off after being totally blanked by Glass but obviously if you have somebody down there you're a chance of at least bringing the ball to ground. Dunn tried to get there late, but even if he'd managed to halve the contest there wouldn't have been anybody at the fall of the ball. Stuff like this kills me.

They were down a man for the last three quarters, so no wonder that come the last quarter they let us kick a couple of goals to at least keep the margin under the ton for the first time in Round 2 since we 'only' lost to Hawthorn by 45 in 2011. Still, even though it was marginally better than when we played the Eagles here in Round 3 last year it was still shite and should finally convince people that even key forwards can't save us from the bottom three this year - if not the bottom one.

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Nathan Jones
4 - Daniel Cross
3 - Dean Terlich
2 - Dom Tyson
1 - Lynden Dunn

Apologies to Toumpas, who is playing the Tapscott 2013 role of being a half-forward flanker despite not being a half-forward flanker and is doing a half decent job of it given the circumstances.

Leaderboard
10 - Nathan Jones 
4 - Daniel Cross, Lynden Dunn (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Dom Tyson, Jack Watts
3 - Dean Terlich
1 - Jake Spencer (Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)

Crowd Watch
Not sure if it's a permanent new MCG feature, but it didn't seem like the best day to run a 'guess the crowd via Twitter' competition. Somehow the end number didn't turn out too badly, but with the Ponsford Stand sparsely populated I only had to go as far as row AA instead of the usual LL to get well away from humans.

The 'send a selfie to the scoreboard' gimmick was so dramatically undersubscribed that at one point they put a couple of Eagles fans up. Either nobody was interested in outing themselves as a Melbourne fan, the person monitoring the hashtag walked out after being abused 250 times a minute or nobody could connect to the MCG's shithouse 3G connection long enough to upload a photo.

In other scoreboard news, and I really wish that my phone battery hadn't rapidly been dying so I could have done something more useful than take notice of this rubbish, some poor woman was chosen to play in a competition where she had to pick the correct logo. She did, won nothing and got told "we'll be giving out cash prizes in future weeks, so make sure you come back." I can't believe we've become a test market for horrible promotions.

In the end I'm surprised they managed to get 22,000 people - or at least managed to massage the figures vigorously - but is it any surprise that there have been disappointing crowds in several games this year? It's no surprise that people have eventually wised up to the fact that they can watch live for free on television instead of trudging to the ground to pay a fortune for rancid food and be surrounded by freaks. It's not just us, other games are suffering as well, but of course other than the rusted-on freaks like yours truly thousands of people aren't going to bother leaving the house to watch this sort of garbage when even people too cheap to buy Foxtel can see it live.

In other news, the kids were let back on at half time this week instead of middle aged fat men playing AFL 9's, but it soon became clear that in all the games other the main one which ran through the middle of the ground the behind posts had been removed and you could only kick a goal (or nothing). What a load of bollocks. Aren't we allowed to disappoint kids by awarding them minor scores anymore? Surely that's better than getting nothing at all? I also lifted my head from my hands long enough to see one of those shit bloke Auskick umpires who marks the ball when it flies at him just because he wants to get a touch. Should be banned for life.

Banner Watch
2-0 to the Demons here. The Eagles' banner had a nice font, well-spaced letters and nothing outrageous and bizarre but lost points for the curtains which were opened as the players ran out so they could walk through. What's the point? I'd argue that there's no point at all and that we should abolish the idea of the banner, but if you're going to install measures to let you re-use the things at least make the players exert some effort to get through - even a raised arm that pushes the gimmicked section out of the way. This was just lazy.

Goal of the Year
a) The reigning champion will be listed every week.

b) This award needs a player to be named after. Suggestions?
c) No point having a mark version because Howe will eventually win it
d) I totally forgot to introduce this feature last week. Also forgot to mention the woman who was being presented as St Kilda's biggest fan but admitted she only showed up to the match because she'd won the award.

Anyway, nobody should be surprised that the four goals we toiled for this week failed to qualify. The clubhouse leader is Bernard Vince's long bomb against the Saints. If he can hold on until the end of Round 23 he'll win his freedom from the Melbourne Football Club.

Next Week
I'm going to hate losing to these crunts. Not just because of $cully, but because it will leave us two games adrift at the bottom with the possibility that we won't even win two games for the year. Next thing we're playing Kruezer Kup II against Carlton in Round 4 and could be a mile adrift at the bottom. Not that I expected us to be much better, but even if West Coast are significantly better than I rated them (and until they beat somebody good I'm not admitting it) we are burning through yet another favourable draw. Even Sydney, projected as the first 'good' team that we'd play have started poorly. Never fear, we'll get them back in form.


In his post-match comments Roos said the usual "if players don't do the basics they won't play" so you'd think omissions are a certainty but Neeld said that too and it lasted about as long as it took to sit down and realise he wasn't going to be able to field a side if he followed through. Would anyone have noticed?

I can't see them throwing Garland straight in, and assuming that Gawn's never going to play again I can't for the life of me find any meaningful changes amongst the troublesome talls. If Jamar is alright to rush straight back in I'll have him instead of Pedo, but don't expect miracles. I'd be happy if we'd play JFK right from the start and tell Jamar that even if he doesn't mark if that his job is flatten a few GWS players in the hope that we might get some crumb for the first time all year.

IN: Viney, McKenzie
OUT: Michie, Bail
LUCKY: Fitzpatrick, Pedersen

Next Season
I confess that during the week I looked at the Big Footy Drafts and Trading board to get an idea of who we might be picking in seven months. Not that it meant much to me, other than the fact that ironically considering our current predicament it seemed like key position forwards are the flavour of the month. Despite his tremendously generic name I'd have the first guy in this list with the assumption that his bad back would snap in two as he stepped up to the stage on draft night.

Could get more too. If we don't get a priority pick at the end of this - or at least get the option to sell it back to the league for a million - then really, what is the point? I demand the right to slaughter two promising careers a year instead of one. Then there's the compensation for Frawley - which will no doubt turn out to be shite due to us botching his contract and leaving him outside the top 10 highest paid players at the club this year.

What a sad state of affairs to even be considering this stuff before Round 2.

Get Well Reverend

Was it worth it?
Probably not, but at least I only came from Hawthorn to see it. I can't see myself ever giving up, but following this club is doing very little to enhance my lifestyle. The sick part of my brain still enjoys watching us play no matter what, but it would be great to inject some fun back into the weekend.

Now, I'm not going to tell you that you should be front row central every week but at least if you're going to jump off then do it with some dignity. There's no need to call talkback radio, take an ad out in the paper or declare that you're finished to a Twitter account which isn't read by anybody other than a social media team who have stuff all influence over gameplan, team selection or drafting. 

Don't become a Chris from Camberwell style professional miserablist, looking for any opportunity to stick boots into the club publicly. We don't need that, there's enough outsiders trying to send us to an early grave without our own people doing it. We all want to throw our hands up in the air and scream, but at least retain your dignity as you go down the escape slide instead of trying to by the most outraged person.

Final thoughts
The competitive, mid-table, mediocre Melbourne that we all crave is like that bloody plane. It's out there somewhere, but despite several false sightings and conspiracy theories nobody's managed to locate it. At least we're still responsible for Paul Roos' largest coaching loss.