#34 - Break even for the best part of three quarters with a decidedly better opponent but fail due to dismal kicking into the forward line.
And thus, as it was spoken it happened. It's been a long, long time since we've seen the boys live in action against real opposition and those who braved the half demolished, and completely filthy House "That Corruption Built" at Princes Park this afternoon probably wished in equal measure that this game had come sooner or had never happened at all.
Today we saw both the best and the worst of what Melbourne have to offer at the moment. We have a few strengths, and we have massive limitations and in four quarters today both of these were exposed for the world - all 2500 of them who were there - to see.
In a moment to make panting internet fanboys and forum users all over the world rise to applaud Meesen started in the ruck, and while he won everything early the Swans controlled around the ground. However, even with Hall looking dangerous they didn't have anything else going for them up front and within a few minutes we took over. Grimes, McDonald and Petterd were particuarly impressive earlier and "The man who nearly died" (TM - the media) set up the first goal wit a running intercept and laser like pass into the waiting arms of either Newton or Miller (one of the above). Ricky was easily our BOG in the first quarter. We went into the quarter time break a couple of goals to the good and looking ok.
A word, if I may about Newton. I know we've all had a crack at him, and I'm still waiting to see if he can get into the AFL Hall of Fame for being the one person whose sole lifetime contested possession was the mark of the year, but he has gone absolutely nuts in the defensive intensity stakes this year. He's chasing, tackling, bumping and generally making a nuisance of himself to the opposition Sure, it's one thing being a defensive cougar if you're an offensive kitten but he's getting there. At least if it doesn't work out for him in footy he can join the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Then there's the ruckmen. Now, I don't want you to think that the next thing I write is purely for shock value, to be controversial or to incite hatred amongst the internet community but Meesen was actually good today. He really was. I'm well aware that the Swans had a rugby player rotating through the ruck today, but Meese held his own against both Pyke and Jolly and even got a few decent touches around the ground. Spencer, on the other hand, might have beaten Pyke but got smashed like a guitar when he took on Jolly. He gets a bit of it around the ground but still looks incredibly unco and will do better for his experience against AFL ruckmen in the pre-season and at least another few weeks at least in the 2's.
I'm not sure what they're thinking about with Johnson but the first time he went into the ruck was in the 4th quarter and he was left up front for the rest of the time he was on. I think I'd still rather Jamar/Johnson as the R1 combination, but it's going to be interesting to see what they do if, in the absence of Robertson, Watts etc.., they sacrifice Johnson to the forward line full time. Is it Meese time? Tell you what, there will be partying in the street when he runs out onto the ground for the first time. Don't burn your Luke Williams #26 jumpers yet, there's still time to get some value out of them.
Err, anyway. The game. It's hard to write in much detail because we had barely any standout players in the second and third quarters - though Grimes was good - and the game was largely played in the centre. It was the same sort of scrappy shit that you expect from Sydney, but we simply didn't have the tools to combat it. McLean, Green, Moloney, Sylvia, Jones and McDonald (after quarter time) barely saw the thing. Bruce and Morton were getting it and doing nothing with it and while the likes of Strauss, Bennell, Bail and Jetta were getting touches they're not experienced enough to be relied on to deliver every time.
And delivery was the issue. The Johnson/Miller/Newton forward line were rarely given real chances to shine due to the pathetic quality of delivery they were recieving. I know the days of kicking to contests are gone, but is it really so bad to do it if you're kicking to the goal square? There's too much marking the ball 60m out and trying pissy little lateral passes that we're simply not good enough to pull off. This usually ends in Miller marking the ball 45m out on the boundary line where he is simply NOT SUITED to kicking goals from. I don't pretend to know anything about football but would he not be better suited playing from the square and having it kicked long to him? I'd love to throw Davey back in that forward line but he'd just be wasted by the fact that most of our inside 50's consist of spearing 19m kicks to somebody's feet.
Speaking of Davey - Jetta may very well be the 2.0 version. Some of his sidesteps today were great to watch. THE CELEBRATOR is going to be a handy goalkicker, but Jetta is the man most likely to deliver the goods when it comes to flair manoevures. Bennell also showed a bit today, especially when he gave it to Goodes in the 3rd quarter.
Another piece of tactical mastery that I couldn't understand was Bruce getting the ball 55m out 24 minutes into a shortened quarter and motioning to slow it down before going backwards to the wing. What school of tactical genius says that you don't at least put the ball deep into your forward line in the last few seconds and try to get a score. Would have been bloody handy at the end in the context of the game, and if you're so shit that the other side can rebound and kick a goal within the last 20 seconds of the quarter well then maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board anyway. This is the problem I have with the introduction of a countdown clock - sure everyone knows that the players get told how much time there is left, but it's fine to tell somebody there's a minute left but when they know there's precisely 12 seconds to go then that's the kind of shit we're going to get served up. Anyway, god forbid we managed not to turn it over whilst playing that intricate piece of footballing chess and went into half time a couple of behind.
This was mainly thanks to the work in the backline of Warnock, Martin and to a lesser extent Garland. Martin played a great defensive quarter, and on more than one occasion a certain Sydney mark was spoilt by one of his massive octupus like arms dropping it and punching. All three of these guys can punch, mark and dispose of a ball properly. Contrast that with your Nicholsons and Carrolls of the world who could win a body on body contest or stick a mitt in to spoil but were fairly well rooted when the ball landed in their hands. The winner of the "2009 Peter Walsh Lookalike Competition", Kyle Cheney also looks impressive, and when you throw Whelan and (god forbid) Rivers back into the mix our backline is easily our best asset.
The 2nd quarter also featured Brad Green's WORST EVER kick for goal. It was indescribably rank and missed the lot from 40m. The guy behind me declared "oh this is a certain goal" shortly before he kicked it. Well, I suppose the odds were in his favour. Green was everywhere again in the first half today but was off most of the second half.
Speaking of the 3rd quarter I suppose you want to know something about it? I hate these games where I can't just assume that you were either there or saw the replay and spend 4000 words make obscure Sylvia Plath references instead. The Swans dominated early on and it looked like they were going to turn us over handily, but as Sylvia got into the game and kicked a nice goal we started to wrest back the momentum and keep ourselves in it. We were destroyed in the clearances, but that was sadly the story of the day. Spencer was murdered by Jolly in the ruck early on but whenever Pyke came back into it we got back on top.
Interesting moment in the 3rd when Barry Hall started losing the plot and trying to slap people like the Ivan Milat-esque nutbag he is. Absolutely nobody stood up to him. Not one person ran over and gave him a nudge. Very interesting, and a bit disappointing. I'm not suggesting that somebody Stakerizes him and stands over the lifeless corpse yelling "HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?" but a bit of physicality would have been nice. Even Morton, who he had almost lifted off the ground without any trouble, just walked away.
So, the 4th quarter. Johnson into the ruck, Valenti into the centre for the first time and Hall off the ground having been taken to the cleaners by Warnock. We continued to get murdered out of the middle and the Swans kicked away. Even the Canadian bloke managed to kick a goal to great acclaim - which made up for the fact that the poor bastard was a mile out of his depth for the rest of the quarter. For us Sylvia suddenly came alive and was everywhere. On the strength of his first half my notes say "does not deserve to play Round 1" but he showed exactly what he can do in the last quarter and - not that my opinion counts for anything - saved his spot in my best 22. He is still to #3 draft picks what the Spruce Goose was to aviation. Cheney also continued to show promises.
The highlight of the fourth was undoubtedly Davey's full length smother in our forward line late, which could very well have been rewarded with a free after 12 people jumped on top of him. We got nothing out of it in the end but it was a great effort for a meaningless pre-season friendly. Shortly afterwards, with the margin three points, Johnson had a wild snap from 40m out that rolled across the face of goal for a point. They went up the other end, goalled and it was pretty much over. Then it really was over and we'd lost another tight one.
I'm not nearly as upset as I was last week. Sure we were playing another second string lineup, and we could have won it again but it doesn't feel like we deserved to win it like we did last week. We broke even with the Swans for most of the game, but we never dominated them like we did Hawthorn. As I said earlier our forward line isn't good enough to deal with the substandard delivery that they are getting. Fevola might have been served up crap on a plate for years at Carlton but he rose above it because he's a quality that the likes of Miller - sadly - will never be.
A big hand to Miller today for his talk through. He was just going nuts at every centre bounce. Maybe you just hear it more because there are less people there. Even the guys constructing the new
I hammered Miller for years but I can see now that he wants to do well, and actually cares so I'm right behind him. Let's just not start having any sick fantasies about him winning a Coleman anytime soon.
Pen and Paper Corner
You can't take notes at a game you're at with other people without them thinking you're a lunatic. Thankfully my family were having a 'gathering' elsewhere today that I refused to go to because of this and was able to write whatever I wanted. Unfortunately I then proceded to forget to take a notepad and was forced to write on the back of an old Telstra bill I found in my car. Undoubtedly the most useful thing those pricks have done for Australia in years.
The Tactical Analysis Centre
Usually I don't give a stuff about tactics, trends or what 15 of the clubs in the competition are doing but it seems that all of a sudden low scores have become the in thing in the AFL. People seem to be blaming Hawthorn for this, but I'm not sure exactly how a side that had two guys kick 170 goals between them in a season can be said to have turned the game into a defensive stalemate.
Now, I'm sure the clowns running the AFL will - in their infinate drug induced wisdom - come up with rules to encourage open and attacking play soon enough but it looks to me like this new trend will actually benefit us in some ways if it continues into the new season.
We have a decent backline. We saw that again today. However on the other hand we have a below average forward line which is hampered by abysmal service from the forwards and a game plan that is starting to mystify. Therefore - low scores suit us down to the ground don't they? At least if we're going to get thrashed all over the park and lose by 10 goals we know that it would have been 20 goals any other time.
The guy sitting next to me in the first half was one of those people who says everything that happens and effectively talks to themselves in rhetorical questions for the entire game. As the exact opposite - somebody who shuts the fark up and just goes nuts once in a while - I couldn't stand it and moved for the 2nd half to a much more civilised spot where the two guys behind me spent the 3rd quarter talking about getting blind tonight and cracking onto chicks.
Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance Votes
From what I've seen the following differs wildly from what everyone else thought, so take it with a grain of salt.
5 - Warnock
4 - Grimes
3 - Sylvia
2 - Martin
1 - Petterd
5 - Green, Warnock
4 - Bate, Grimes
3 - Whelan, Sylvia
2 - McLean, Martin
1 - Frawley, Petterd
Well, that didn't sort much out.
No idea, but I hope we don't end up playing North because I'd rather choose to believe that we're a chance against them in Round 1 instead of having that notion blown out of the water three weeks before the season actually starts
UPDATE - Brisbane in Cairns apparently. Suffice to say that unless there's some sort of collection taken up I will NOT be there. PPPfPPP votes will either be taken from eye witness correspondant reports, or god forbid, the papers. Cue five votes to the only five players they know.
UPDATE 2 - This post will be updated further when I have more time to proof read it and/or remember things that actually happened.