Sunday, 29 August 2010

Here Endeth The Sizzle

(This is the result of a rushed write-up on Sunday night and some fearsome alt-tab style writing at my desk during work on Monday morning. Feel free to check back on Monday night or Tuesday morning because there's every possible chance that I'll have to go back and do a rewrite and/or finish a paragraph that I left hanging halfway)

If I were more of an unscrupulous character I'd probably delve back into the post from after the Richmond game and do a subtle edit of any mention of how we could still sneak into the eight if we were lucky. Amazing to think that we almost knocked off the Hawks to keep The Impossible Dream™ alive, because even if you give me Bartram kicking that goal on the run, somebody actually manning up on Burgoyne to stop him from kicking a simple goal and Watts managing to kick the goal from the square and not contrive to hit the post there is no doubt that we were a million miles from being legitimate finals contenders this season. Sure we MIGHT have fallen in like Essendon last year, and don't get me wrong I'd have loved it (not to mention how we'd have done a far better job than they did) but look deep down and ask yourself if we didn't end up exactly where you thought we would. Don't forget that before the Bombers game we were 14th and only being kept out of another wooden spoon race by the putrid Tigers and even more putrid Eagles, who managed to beat us at the MCG.

So despite that "not as good in retrospect" win against Essendon and a slashing, almost unreal decapitation of Sydney that made everyone sit up and take notice we found ourselves out of the race again for the fourth straight year and the AFL ended up being right for once in putting us in the 4.40pm Sunday "also ran" game alongside a North side who had exceeded all expectations but necked themselves by getting continually massacred by good sides, leaving them needing to beat us by about 450 points to sneak in. What had suddenly come from nowhere to be a potential Elimination Final because a Round 22, dead-rubber slopfest.

There should be something calming about being involved in a Round 22 dead-rubber slopfest, but I certainly wasn't feeling it. We've seen too many losses in the last four years for me to sit back, put the feet up and not care about the result now. Besides, it would be nice to have some sort of success - no matter how minor - to think about over the next few months rather than thoughts of three straight losses, the second one in incredibly limp fashion.

At least this year we were legitimate about the match. All week there was a manic "We must win this for Junior" thread throughout every conversation about the game online or, god forbid, in real life. It was the complete reverse of last year's (let's be honest) shameful "heads will roll if we win" 'tribute' to Robbo, Wheatley and Wheels. Sure, all came good in the end - the Jurrahcane gave us highlights, the cue went in the rack so that we got beaten handily but not thrashed and even I had to admit about halfway through the third quarter that we'd done the right thing in throwing a month of football to rig the draft in our favour.

Today though we were supposed to win. I'm not entirely sure why considering North were higher on the ladder, but for some reason they started $2 outsiders which would seem like me to be an invitation to mortgage your house and put the proceeds on sportsbet.com.au for a big collect. When Terry Wallace tipped us from the SEN commentary box I knew we were really stuffed and considered putting my own house on the Kangas. Let's not forget that they'd already beaten us comfortably once this year when we'd been expected to beat them (after the "also not as good in retrospect" Brisbane rampage) and that the last time we actually beat them they were still called The Kangaroos and Neita kicked eight. Add to that our pissweak performance against Port last round and remind me again why the bookies and failed coaches were so enthusiastic about our chances.

Not suggesting we weren't every possible chance, but $1.85 favourites just seemed a bit over the top. Maybe it had something to do with North giving a charity last game to Corey Jones who has spent the whole season training part-time, playing for North Ballarat and working as a carpenter (or something). We tried the same with Miller but he told us to stick it which was nice. Not only because it meant he wanted to go for a premiership with Casey, but also because it meant we didn't have to watch him play again. Everybody wins. Fellow casualty Daniel Bell was, on the other hand, offered nothing the poor bastard. He might have done absolutely bugger all since Ben Johnson knocked the football out of him in Neita's 300th, but if we're going to do the R22 slopfest let's do it right. If Newton can keep getting games then how about setting up a deckchair in the goalsquare and letting Meese have one last game? He could have sat there sipping Pina Coladas, sticking his arms out in the hope that a ball might land on him perfectly and he could jump up to dribble it through with his non fracture-prone foot. Either way all three of them were at Port Melbourne, two on the field and Meese as ruck coach par excellence, helping Casey get thrashed by North Ballarat and Juice was, somehow, playing senior football in the middle of the MCG so work that out. No wonder Bradforth told them to cram it with walnuts if that's who he's behind in the pecking order.

For some reason North fans seem to flock to the Ponsford Stand and take over the place, which is a bloody nightmare for Ponsford loyalists such as myself. At least when our club gives the place away to interstate sides and bars you from sitting in there you can get away with them, I somehow managed to end up in a section absolutely jam packed with 99% North fans like every other game we've played there since the day Carey kicked eight and they got seven behinds in a row to come from a goal down and win by a point. Unfortunately the 1% of MFC support happened to be some goose who, clearly rejected by his own, decided to try and engage us in conversation on everything. "Did you know Matthew Knights got sacked?" he asked, hours after the rest of the world knew. "How about the Tigers comeback?" just as Port shot out to a match winning lead. "It feels like being at the soccer eh?" when the flare went off. Unfortunately for him he gave me the last one directly after the people I was with who had been tolerating him had gone to the bar and got completely ignored. There's nothing I want to do less at a game than hear what some guy I've never met in my life before thinks about how our zone looks. It's bad enough having to be surrounded by people without them trying to engage you like a long lost mate. Suffice to say numbers were not exchanged and we shifted to get away from him at half-time. I blamed the others for indulging it, but it turns out that means I'm a sociopath.

Tragically Swallow kicking the first goal led to reminiscing about the last time I sat with the same people in the MCG and saw him boot one to the Ponsford Stand end, which caused us to go 0-9 and caused me to have a nervous breakdown of epic proportions. I certainly wasn't reminiscing, in fact I'd rather everybody I know in real life completely forgets it ever happened. You can know all about my shameful behaviour because the chances are we'll never meet, but I'd not have to hear the words "Hey, do you remember the time you..." ever again. Then, before I'd even managed to turn the conversation away from my embarrasing over the top reactions to football matches, we were three goals down and North were going inside 50 with ease. So far, so like every other game when we make a big focus of winning for some reason. At least last year when we went out with two totally unfit players they at least gave us a first quarter of entertainment before the tank stormed onto the field and started doing laps.

Cue the arrival of The Jurrahcane, a man who has only injury stand between him and absolute supernova star status next season. Much like the tankfest last year he was the undoubted highlight of the first term, booting two goals and generally strutting around like the football genius that he is. Today helped him shoot right to the top of the "get your number on my jumper" sweepstakes. The #28 Philthy Phil Primus/finals era number has been retired for the 4th and last time today, and the less said about destroying the Stefan Martin Experience's career by getting his number on a Kaspersky/Hankook jumper last year the better, so somebody has got to step up next season. Brad Green is an undoubted legend but he's more a ladies man, and Frawley was in the mix at one point but I'd prefer two numbers so LJ is right in the frame. In reality Jamar should be a contender but it'd be far too hypocritical after my attitude from 2003 to 2008, and I'd love to get a good old fashioned 46 or 50 but what's the point when players get excited by this obsession with low numbers and change after a couple of seasons? If we get some kid in the rookie draft and his first act is to say that he wants a number in the 50's and will wear it for the rest of the career then he shall be anointed the new chosen one.

Speaking of Ladies Man and potential All-Australian Green he was the only other forward fit and firing for us early on. Not only that but the next thing he'd be wandering around the back pocket picking up marks. After Moloney had another balls game today the decision is now completely clear for me, there's no need for joint captaincy shenanigans or any of this surely drug induced talk about shoehorning Grimes into the gig after 26 games. The future is Green. He completely stuffed up his first kick at goal and missed the lot, presumably leading to commentators everywhere falling off their seat after waffling on about his startling accuracy during his run-in, but got the second one right and just looked like he was going to have a big one.

Somehow we managed to get back in the game after being completely outplayed for the first ten minutes. When the stats came up and we'd only had two less inside 50's and had actually won the clearances it was nearly me falling off my seat. No need to mention that most of the inside 50's were hit and hope kicks that went nowhere, and that most of the clearances were the same, we'd once again - see the Hawthorn game - weathered opposition dominance and come out within striking distance. For the fourth week in a row it was most certainly NOT the performance of a finals aspirant but we'd done enough to remain a chance of taking the four points. Didn't hurt that Rivers and Garland were either marking or spoiling everything that came near them. Shame Riv's disposal was so shit or he'd have been right up there in the votes today. Garland, though, bounced back from a terrible couple of weeks to play a bloody good game - the sort that should ensure he starts next year in front of Warnock and McNamara (spot on the list TBC, but every possible chance of a Newton/Meesen style downgrade to the rookie list if he's not keep in the seniors) in the tall defender stakes.

Apart from Harvey burning off Jones, a man about 25 years his junior, and nearly kicking what the North muppet behind us assured himself "would have been goal of the year", another centre clearance fuckup and Rivers' botched kick in the backline the start of the second quarter was all Green in a way that would have made Senator Bob Brown moderately firm up. He missed the first one just to be dramatic then got two on either side of Bate's sole contribution to the match, the second coming from a bullet Jurrah pass which proved that the great man can do more than take hangers or kick both arsey goals and set shots. The 'cane then won a free and booted one towards porno mo Dunn who, making amends for doing absolutely nothing in the first quarter, booted one out of mid-air from 40m out for the highlight reel goal. Now, had I been the crunt behind me I'd probably have stood up and told everyone how it was the goal of the year/century/millenium/history of human existence when in reality it's a contender for the weekly prize but was, in fact, the biggest triumph of luck over skill since Isaac Weetra playing two games in a row. What Captain Bollocks behind me did get to do was go off his nut when Firrito smacked Dunn in the head, threw him on the ground and copped a free kick before the ball went back into the centre. Probably the most obvious free in the history of the game, even if LD did almost certainly suggest that he'd just starred in "Stewardesses In Heat 43" with Michael's mum, but apparently it was "soft" and had something to do with McLaren despite the fact that he was nowhere near the play. Luckily for old mate's blood pressure Dunn missed.

As for Scott McLaren what are you all going to do now that he's retired? Hopefully learn the name of a few more umpires so that you can join the 15 (or 16 if you will) other sets of fans who are convinced that there's a massive conspiracy against their club from him personally because he's the only umpire you know the name of. I'd love to pretend that our fans don't involve themselves in it, but sadly the facts are there. Nothing as classy as the "You will not be missed McLaren" banner in the North cheersquad though. Sheeplike behaviour from the masses. First it was Darren Goldspink, then McLaren. Who next? Can't we just stick to abusing umpires as a group and not start identifying them individually? Especially when the main charge against these guys is that they "think they're bigger stars than the players". Well what the fark do you expect when they've got 30,000 people referring to them by name?

Despite Dunn missing the second shot at goal we were suddenly a far different team from the one that had served up a bucket of raw offal in the first quarter. The man Ron Jeremy described as looking "too much of a porn star" had another chance a few minutes later from the exact same spot and got it right this time. We were in front somehow, but of course it didn't last long. North got the last three and we were back to pretty much exactly where we'd started before the start of the term. A particular highlight was Matt Campbell taking a mark despite Bartram trying to lock him in a paralysing armbar submission only for about three people behind me to yell "GARLLLLLLLETTTTTTTTT" who was nowhere near the bloody thing at the time. It was also at this time that I only realised Newton was actually playing when he started doing stretches. Get a touch first. Did he even do any ruckwork in the first half? What purpose does he serve? Please tell me that we're not going to put PJ up against the wall for the Ceaucescu-esque end of year machine gunning only to keep Juice instead. Let's not quibble over this, in a completely metaphorical football only way, both of them deserve to be put before a show trial and shot. Sadly the lack of credible alternatives means one might keep their job in 2011 and I fear that it's not going to be the guy who was running around at Port Melbourne today. I wonder what Nick Smith is doing?

Thanks to the lady at half time who decided to stop and give her opinion, completely uninvited, that Choco Williams has already been sounded out to take over as Essendon coach next year. When I suggested that Matthew Knights must be the happiest person on earth to have been paid out two years and never have to put up with Essendon fans ever again she just looked blankly at me. Obviously Round 22 is "Awkward Conversations With Strangers" round. I'll cop that if next year Rounds 1 through 21 are called "Shut the fuck up unless you know me personally Round". Unless you read this and want to heckle from distance, then go right ahead - distance being the important word in that.

New seats for the second half and instead of pig ignorant North peasants and overly friendly randoms we got the ultimate alternative - old people who are so out of touch with modern football that they hate everything and think switching the play is a bigger crime than bombing Pearl Harbour. Two full quarters later I still couldn't work out who they were supporting, but one thing I could tell is that they absolutely loathed Jack Watts with an intense passion. No doubt that he had a shit game, has had a very ordinary month where he's certainly not in the team on form, and has barely answered any questions in two years of senior football but really is pure white-hot hatred really necessary? The old tart directly behind me was even chiding people for kicking it within 30 metres of him by the end. Obviously there's no such thing as "wait a while" when you're every possible chance of dropping off before next pre-season. How about a bit of constructive criticism (for what it's worth when you're delivering it 100m from the player and they can't hear it) such as "try looking like you're interested son" and "any danger of defensive pressure before the end of the year?" Club definitely did the right thing in having him play out the year but he hardly repayed the faith - still, next year is where it counts not during the Slops Challenge Cup. Call me if we're getting the same in Round 22 next year and I might join your "Watts is the new Kosi" Facebook group, but until then I'm staying out of the rush to tee off on him like it's the first hole of the US Masters.

For the first time we looked quite good in the third quarter and even managed to sneak in front at three-quarter time. The Jurrahcane had five, and could have had six if they'd bothered to pay advantage after THE CELEBRATOR (sans celebrations today sadly) got the free. Witness also Newton botching a shot on goal that would have had us further in front. Was it just me or was there a sort of murmur everytime he touched the ball that seemed to indicate half the crowd were abusing him under their breath? Not without some justification may I add.

You could tell what was going to happen when we dominated the first five minutes of the last quarter but couldn't put them away. Suddenly Corey Jones decided to go out on a high and started to cut us to shreds at the other end, and all of a sudden we were three goals down and finished. At least Thank God For Brad Green got the last goal of the season, via the shambles when Trengove spoiled him and he sat on the ground looking baffled with his hands held up as if to say "how much more can I do for this club"? I suggest building a statue of him somewhere. And that was it. Another day, another loss, another season over without any reason to cancel your September holidays.

What I should be most annoyed about is the lost chance to use a forced, awkward "9 1/2 Wins" headline (you know, like 9 1/2 Weeks?? Ahh fuck it, that was never going to get over) for the only time in history but who's got time to get upset at minor things like that when terrible things are happening all over the world we've just lost our seventh straight match to North. At least it wasn't by a point like it usually is.

Goodbye, Farewell and Amen
Classy end to Junior's career, trying to pull noted carpentry expert Corey Jones down the guard of honour line with him. Says everything about the guy that he didn't go around the boundary line for a tearful round of high fives (though it would have been justified), and that when it should have been his moment alone he tried to involve somebody from another side.

I'm not sure we did the right thing in giving him the white screen at Moonee Valley style 'retirement', but I'm willing to go along with them on it. Still, any danger that this new rule they're bringing in about being able to add a mature aged rookie to your list during pre-season might be used to give him another run in 2011? At least then you're only taking a spot off the rookie list, probably paying him rock bottom money (which is a bit rude I suppose) and if it doesn't work out he shakes hands with everyone and leaves with his head held high. Don't suppose it'll happen but I can always dream.

Jazz Odyssey
Speaking of dreams, I have a recurring one that we will never see the trumpet player and his velvet jacket ever again. It was barely acceptable, through gritted teeth, when he did the theme song at the start of games in his smoking jacket and cravat but the introduction of the "Velvet Sledgehammer plays hits from your favourite movies" segment at three-quarter time is enough to make me go the top deck of the Ponsford style big vom. Let's take our lead from Windy Hill, pay out his $1.1m contract and pretend it never happened. I might be the only fan who would like to steer our public image at least a few degrees away from being a bunch of stuck up, Range Rover driving twats but there's nothing he could do that would reinforce every stereotype about us more without waving two ski poles at the audience afterwards and yelling "come on number nine" into the microphone. I'm not suggesting he should be hung from a goalpost by the jacket/scarf combo and pelted with cans yet, but it's almost worth starting a ticket to run for the board just to get rid of him.

At least if we have to go through the John Williams songbook experience next year can he at least learn to play the Superman theme properly? This is the second time this year that 30,000 people have pissed themselves laughing when he's botched the exact same note.

Crowd Watch
Dear football fans of all persuasions,

Shouting BALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL when a player is tackled a millisecond after getting the ball and is tackled, or after they've handballed it or kicked it away is fast becoming old. Please cease and desist. File alongside "amusing" comments describing the umpire as "[whatever colour they're wearing] maggots".

Votes
5 - Brad Green
4 - James McDonald
3 - Liam Jurrah
2 - Tom Scully
1 - Mark Jamar

Apologies to Sylvia, Dunn, Frawley, Garland, Bruce, Macdonald and Rivers

2010 Allen Jakovich Medal final tally
43 - Brad Green (WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
37 - James Frawley (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
30 - James McDonald
28 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
27 - Colin Sylvia
17 - Tom Scully (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
15 - Aaron Davey
14 - Matthew Bate
12 - Jack Grimes, Cameron Bruce
11 - Jack Trengove, Jordie McKenzie
10 - Brent Moloney, Lynden Dunn
8 - Liam Jurrah, Jordan Gysberts
7 - Joel Macdonald
5 - Ricky Petterd, Jamie Bennell
3 - Matthew Warnock, Brad Miller, Colin Garland
2 - Neville Jetta, Clint Bartram, Jack Watts
1 - Jared Rivers, Nathan Jones, Austin Wonaeamirri, Rohan Bail

Next Week
Apparently some sort of exhibition series starts on Friday night. Do we care? Not particuarly. As long as none of Collingwood, St Kilda or Carlton win it then let whatever needs to happen occur and roll on delistings/trade week/draft/pre-season/NAB Cup/getting tonked in Round One.

Next Year
Bails is probably taking a sideways glance at the Centrelink-bound Matthew Knights and thinking about what happens when expectations are raised prematurely. Personally I've seen very little this year which indicates that we're a walk-up start for the top eight next year as everyone else seems to think, but it looks like I'm the only one. Doesn't help that the media keeps fuelling it with talk of dynasties and 2013 premiership sides. I distinctly remember a Riewoldt/Ball etc.. powered St Kilda side being labelled the juggernaut of the future in the early 2000's and what have they done since other than stuff up a winnable Grand Final?

Either way it sets next year up to go one of two ways, either we improve further and make the eight/just miss out in more legitimate fashion than this year or we stuff it up and Bails is out the door halfway through the year as the internet melts down with people trying to get rid of him. What's the bet we get Gold Coast in the first round and Miller kicks seven?

Let's all get sentimental and shit
Thanks for another year sports fans. One of the reasons for continuing to do this, other than the stroke-resisting stress relief that it provides is all the feedback - good, bad and litigious that comes through every week. I'll be back with a better rundown of the awards and an end-of-season State of the Union address but after that Demonblog will switch to its default summer setting of one post every three months. Make sure to follow on Twitter @demonblog if you can't get enough of this garbage until next year.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Ding dong, the witch is... alive and kicking

I'm not going to waste your time and mental health by going into another lengthy dissection of the Football Park curse and why everything has been rooted since R2, 2001 but what I will say is that I'm calling upon Andrew Leoncelli to go to Adelaide, whip it out and take a slash in all four pockets of the ground. That's the only way we can lift the malaise that descends every time we enter South Australia. Chell, if you're reading we can pitch this to Fox Sports as a LeBron James style hour-long primetime special before next season - will rate its arse off.

As usual I got sucked right into the idea that we might finally win a game there. Ever since Mark Williams got the boot Port have been up down like a bride's nightie, and last week we were at least serviceable despite the fact that Hawthorn probably should have beaten us up in the same way that they slapped buggery out of the Freo B-team yesterday. Despite the fact that the Dockers doing the biggest tank since us circa 2009 firmly shut the door on any wafer thin hope we had of making a thoroughly undeserved appearance in September, you'd have thought that everyone would have been ready to do it for Junior McDonald on the week that he played his 250th and we knifed him in the back.

First have I ever told you how much I loathe Dwayne Russell? Are you aware how I'd nearly rather put the TV on mute and listen to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music album at maximum volume on AM Radio played down a long distance phone line on a call made from the bottom of a Congolese copper mine? No commentator makes me want to gouge my eardrums out more. Managing to confuse Jack and Jackson Trengove five times in the first five minutes was one thing, until he gave up and started just calling them both Jack, but when he said we had chosen Jurrah over Cousins in the pre-season draft I nearly kicked the television in. In the spirit of the election it was a statement which may have been technically correct but was completely misleading. In what alternative universe was the prospect of us drafting Cousins ever raised anywhere other than an internet forum? And what about when the dickheads started whinging about why we didn't rush a ball through that eventually led to Port kicking a goal. Was nobody watching last week when Joel Mac got pinged for running one through? Why do you think they're slightly sheepish about openly rushing them now? No bastard knows what the umpires are going to call at any time, so when the commentators sit there going "well that wouldn't have been paid because XYZ" then what credibility do they have? Give Dwayne a whistle and a white/green uniform and let him give us the obvious decisions. Then throw a housebrick at him.

If you packed me into a time machine and ordered me to return to 1939 and kill Hitler I'd get to Germany, do a runner and take out somebody in Dwayne's family tree instead to stop him appearing forty years later. Going too far? Wouldn't have thought so. You'd thank me even if it did lead to a rip in the time space continuum which caused us to return to a world where Fitzroy are the reigning powerhouses of the league and Luke Williams is in the AFL Hall of Fame as a legend.

The shenanigans started well before the doors of the Fox Sports commentary box swung open and Captain Bollocks walked in. For some unknown bloody reason Rohan Bail was dropped after playing his best game ever for us, and Juice freaking Newton came back from the clouds to get a recall despite not having done much at VFL level. How would you feel to be Brad Miller? Two weeks ago you banged through ten goals, admittedly against a bunch of kids and rugby players, and now you're being overlooked for a man who even he himself must admit has had more than a fair run on the list and never delivered anything more important than a cracking mark in a near-empty Telstra Dome during 2007. At least Brad's got Pia to go home to, because he must be gone at the end of the year if he can't even sneak into a dead rubber match.

Johnson also got the arse after being ordinary but not terrible for the last couple of weeks. The accepted wisdom was that Juice can play a bit in the ruck, and was a fair swap for PJ. Like some sick science experiment it was almost worth a look at, and Juice did get a few hitouts but in the end it turned out to be the most ineffective change since IN: Gillard OUT: Rudd (omitted). Might be a solid VFL player, might end up kicking 300 goals for Sunbury but he's had his time at the top level - 24 games in six years on the list more than enough to know where a career is going. Sadly next month this one ends at Juice browsing seek.com.au.

Wacky selections aside - with Bail coming back in for Sylvia, who was apparently sick, in a move that treated my dreams of a massive Supercoach prelim final upset with contempt - we looked bloody good for the first ten minutes. Trengove got a cheap free and an even cheaper 50 in the first minute but missed the kick, and after that it was five minutes of pure footballing avalanche. Watts slotted the first (gambling fans, this is the second time he has been first goalkicker in a game played in the Australian Central Standard Time Zone - put your house on it next time we're in Darwin, Adelaide or Coober Pedy) and we had Port under siege. In true Melbourne fashion we somehow managed to turn this into a deficit by quarter time. I'm entirely sure how. It was pretty much all downhill after Morton missed an absolute sitter which would have put us a couple of goals in front halfway through the term. Bennell had a shot after the siren to put us back in front but continuing his month long run of doing bugger all he missed it and somehow we'd conspired to dominate them for most of the term but still go in behind. That's Demontainment!

Nice thank you ad about Debt Demolition from Jim Stynes during the first break, but I'm starting to get a bit nervous with all this talk about how we're charging headlong towards the finals next season and the beginning of a new glory era which will see one flag for mum, one flag for dad and one flag for the country. It's bad enough when journos say it, but when we're talking it up in ads ourself it makes me cringe. You've got to be positive and all that shit but how about we win a game in Adelaide first before acting like we're the superstars-in-waiting of the competition? The higher we set the bar the uglier it's going to get if we don't live up to the hype. All I ask is that we 'enjoy' at least 90% less false dawns than Richmond have in the last 30 years. Something tells me Bailey would have been standing there doing the universal hand gesture for "CALM THE FUCK DOWN" while Stynes was doing his voiceover about how we're on the verge of glory.

In other news what's going on with Alipate Carlisle's name? Every time I watch a Port game, which is thankfully not often, it reminds me of two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. I'm not expecting him to do a Liam Jurrah, owner of a frankly unpronounceable 'real' first name, and change it to something 'normal' and boringly Anglo but really, take a good hard look at yourself son you're a living Maccas ad.

From the second quarter on we were well behind the 8-ball. Again we could have nicked it but Port's [BUZZ WORD ALERT] "forward pressure" was killing us. We could barely get the thing outside of the defensive 50 and at the other end Port were taking marks straight in front and kicking ridiculous grubber goals with the greatest of ease. We got three of the last four to make it interesting, including another 55m cannon from Dunn - suddenly the Paul Wheatley of his generation - but the tide just seemed against us. It was all well and good when we were going forward but inside Port's 50 we were all at sea, and can somebody please sit down with Colin Garland and the entire backline and watch the video compilation package that proves the set play of hoofing the ball 60m to the boundary line has been rumbled by the entire competition? In the first half of the year Jamar would wander in from the side and take a massive grab to relieve the pressure, now the moment he aims in that direction 3/4 of the opposition run to the exact spot where the ball lands and either bring it to ground, mark it themselves or force it out of bounds. Next idea please.

Half-time and we were still a chance but we'd dropped off alarmingly since the first 15 minutes of the game. Port had successfully booby trapped the middle of the ground like a WW1 battlefield, we couldn't clear the ball out of our backline to save ourselves and they were killing us in clearances and uncontested possessions. For the second week in a row we hardly deserved to be a chance of winning but were. It's that sort of run of luck that teams can get behind like a Sherman Tank on a battlefield and ride deep into September - if they haven't already stuffed it up and been knocked out like us. Refusing to watching the 'analysis' of Liam Pickering and Danny "Brownless-lite" Frawley I started flicking and landed on Fox8 showing The Rock vs Brock Lesnar from Summerslam 2002 which was far more interesting and entertaining than anything coming from Football Park. Pity the match had to start again, I was having much more fun watching old wrestling than shit new football.

The vibe that we were about to be smashed seemed to be right on the pulse when they got the first two goals of the quarter, but once again we managed to keep within touch by getting the next two. Any chance we had of killing the curse once off and for all, before it becomes really distracting, was on life support but there was still a pulse. No need to pull the plug yet.

Arise young Jack Watts who had the honour of copping the flying teabag from The Jurrahcane as the Mark of the Year elect was hauled in above him. Not exactly Shaun Smith or Jeff Farmer (ROBBED) quality but it's hardly been a year for wild screamers. It might not even get the nod for the week based on Goddard's near identical grab last night, but everyone loves the 'cane so vote early, often and with far more enthusiasm than you did on Saturday when the nominations come out on the website later in the week. How much do you love that guy? As much as I love to see #24 pulling in screamers again like the good old days you can't tell me he wouldn't be the biggest hit since the Beatles if he was doing it in #48 - now THAT is a number I'd plaster on my jumper. One of these days, maybe when we're actually good, he's going to cut sick and kick ten and it will be a crowning moment in footballing history. As long as he can avoid blowing his shoulder out like an exploding truck tire on the freeway again. Was I the only one who cringed when he landed right on the shoulder and went off looking ginger after kicking the goal? Didn't hurt him in the end but it's a worry. His two half seasons so far have been epic so if he can play 20 next year there's every possible chance that it will be utterly immense.

I didn't mind Watts' game today, but he either has the worst luck with bouncing balls in the history of VFL/AFL competition (no sniggering please), or is simply shite at taking any ball that bounces up over his waist. Morton, on the other hand, has completely lost the plot in the last few weeks. Having stuffed up the absolute sitter in the first quarter he marked well within range but was clearly spooked by his earlier rubbish kick, tried to pass it off with an even worse kick and completely stuffed it up. It's no wonder when he's in and out of the side every five minutes, but after losing a points decision against Adam Goodes in the great Sydney massacre a few weeks ago he's been bollocks. Nearing the end of his third season he's got to get himself going for next year or risk being labelled a big fat draft bust. Putting on some weight and not looking like he's about to lift off in a strong wind would be a good start, getting in the middle and getting some real possessions would also be handy.

So after Jurrah won himself a car/TV/hamburger/full body massage/whatever you get for Mark of the Year these days we decided to put the cue in the rack and enjoy a lovely day out in the sunshine. Down the other end Port went to town, including the second goal for the day from a free kick after one of our defenders blatantly and openly infringed on an opposition player in a way that no player has ever actually gotten away with since Queens Birthday '07 when Ben Holland openly cheated for four quarters against Anthony Rocca and was not penalised once. First Warnock had given away a goal by slapping his opponent into an armbar submission as the ball came into the square, then Rivers practically locked a bearhug on and threw the Port idiot to the ground before arguing that he hadn't done anything. For his crimes Warnock eventually ended up in the forward line (!!!!) for the first time since the Jordan McMahon Richmond debacle. I thought the '09 model Tank was going to plow onto the field and start doing laps at any minute. All we needed was for another Lynden Dunn vs Todd Goldstein hilarious mismatch to really make it solid. Not surprisingly for somebody with one career goal Warnock provided absolutely nothing up front, but he wasn't alone. It took Jurrah to walk through the Port defence, who had by this time lost all interest in the match, to kick a goal that kept us under seven goals behind at the last change.

Final quarter was such epic junktime that it may as well have been sponsored by Visy and used as an excuse to put another $2m in Chris Judd's pocket. We outscored them due to a chronic lack of interest on their behalf, Green got his 50th goal for the season, The Jurrahcane tried to kick a goal over his head a'la Robbo at Subiaco and Scully topped off a BOG (for us) performance with a goal on the siren.

Just to make things even worse Russell the utter goose decided to bring up the time honoured "Brad Green tried out for Manchester United" line and Liam Pickering actually sold it like it was an interesting piece of analysis that he'd never heard before never mind that every lazy commentator has mentioned it whenever a ball had been kicked off the ground since Round 2, 2000.

Crowd Watch
I've filled enough columns with my distaste for the Port Adelaide football club before, so let's not go down that path again (putrid theme song, no fans, curtains covering large sections of the stadium, jumper upgraded from hideous to ordinary) but can somebody please do a survey to ascertain whether they have the pound-for-pound highest proportion of insane, knitwear sporting grannies following them? We're all aware that Adelaide is a different place, but every time they cut to the crowd some gummy old tart was doing her block.

At least unlike during the Adelaide game I didn't see some ad about Jesus flash up on the electronic scoreboard. Naturally nobody else could see it, making me wonder if I'd lost the plot and was about to end up perched in a belltower picking off innocent civilians with a sniper rifle.

Election Corner
Both the Green and Jamar for All-Australian campaigns have come to a grinding halt over the last fortnight. The Russian might sneak in as a second ruckman due to the lack of too many other contenders, but Green is sunk now. Never mind he'll have the captaincy to tide him over next season. I expect that at the very least Green, Jamar and Frawley will be on the shortlists for selection but unless one, or more, of them goes absolutely sick next week and puts themselves square in the selectors vision with a blockbusting performance I can't see any of them making it which will make it four straight seasons without anybody getting a guernsey - bold visions of the future there.

Like an idiot I just paid $20 for the novelty of going to All-Australian night. For that price it's fairly obvious that we'll be seated (!?) somewhere to the left of the toilet. Certainly won't be on the floor munching a chicken parma with the Russian that's for sure, but if he gets named in the side then I'm not ruling out leaping off the balcony a'la Otto Skorzeny at Gran Sasso to celebrate with the great man.

2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Tom Scully
4 - Liam Jurrah
3 - James McDonald
2 - Cameron Bruce
1 - Jordie McKenzie

Apologies to Frawley, Moloney and Rivers

Leaderboard
Chip probably unlucky not to sneak in to steal one vote and send the Jakovich into a last round 1 on 1 smackdown, but he'll go in next week against the hardly exciting North forward line one behind. Under s163 of the Allen Jakovich Medal Act there is no tiebreaker or countback in the event of a draw and both men shall be declared joint winners of the award.

In Hilton territory Scully's fiver today all but lands him the award despite Trengove leading most of the year and Gysberts mounting a two match upstart campaign in the middle of the season. Stand by for news on what the new name for the Rookie of the Year will be from 2011 onwards (when I come up with one..)

38 - Brad Green
37 - James Frawley (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
27 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Colin Sylvia
26 - James McDonald
15 - Aaron Davey, Tom Scully (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
14 - Matthew Bate
12 - Jack Grimes, Cameron Bruce
11 - Jack Trengove, Jordie McKenzie
10 - Brent Moloney, Lynden Dunn
8 - Jordan Gysberts
7 - Joel Macdonald
5 - Liam Jurrah, Ricky Petterd, Jamie Bennell
3 - Matthew Warnock, Brad Miller, Colin Garland
2 - Neville Jetta, Clint Bartram, Jack Watts
1 - Jared Rivers, Nathan Jones, Austin Wonaeamirri, Rohan Bail

Encyclopedia Titanica
Demon Wiki is up to 4781 pages. My mission was 5000 by the end of the season so that's a colossal failure, but hopefully in the next few weeks I'll be hitting the State Library to do some thorough research of old newspapers/documents to hopefully add a few more names to the list of old reserves and Under 19's players. If you've got any old Football Records will reserves/U19 teamsheets I would very much like to get my hands on them. Email me at demonblogger@gmail.com if you can send me some scans or, alternatively, lend me them briefly so I can scan them in and/or copy them. As payment I'll organise a night out with this guy for you and 12 close friends.

In other news I'm now paying for hosting DW and it's not cheap, so I've axed all the Google ads and their $0.5 a century payoffs and am looking for a proper sponsor. Proposals on a postcard to the above address please. Could be worse, you could sponsor Demonblog and get called up as a co-defendant when Dwayne Russell sues me.

Next Week
What shaped up a couple of weeks ago as a shock last minutes of the season eliminator to decide who made the finals has instead become the ultimate dead rubber, interesting only for saying goodbye to Junior and speculating about who will be playing their last match for us. After it's September, so feel free to put your feet up and hurl foul abuse at your television screen all month. I might be the only one, and clearly I'll end up regretting saying this if it does happen, but as long as it's not St Kilda (*spit*) then I don't care if the Pies win the flag. Any danger Simon Buckley bursts into the Pies side on a wave of injuries and becomes the latest player to dick us and win a flag after we've given them the flick?

Changes? Alright, given the dead rubber status of the match here goes nothing. This is based on the Casey game where both Bate and Miller kicked five.

IN: Bate, Miller (goodbye, farewell and amen), Maric, McNamara, Johnson (one last chance to impress before obscurity beckons), Tapscott (novelty R22 debut a'la Grimes and Michael Clark)
OUT: Morton, Newton, Jones, Warnock, Bartram, Bennell

I don't for a second think that half of the above will take place - mainly because we haven't got the plums to do a six change bonanza - but for god's sake please give us some sort of interesting angles to this match. If Bate doesn't get a game after kicking five and being named best-on for Casey you can be sure that he's either going to the Gold Coast or has touched up a close relative of Bailey. Similar to Maric but substitute Gold Coast for Paramore and touched up to slashed with a razorblade.

Final Thoughts
One more win will do me nicely. Make sure you get there for a farewell to Junior - for god's sake the man started his career wearing #54, you might never see that happen again.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

RT: @deanbailey footy is shit

(Keen observers may note I edited the title from what I originally posted on Twitter. There's no need for such filth, or a lawsuit from the AFL Umpires Association).

Once again it's a good thing that I'm writing this four hours after the final siren (and in fact as it later turns out also the next day) because had I managed to dictate my thoughts immediately as I trudged through the pouring rain outside the ground, having stormed out after another shameful outburst, this whole enterprise would have been shut down by every internet filter on earth and landed me with an ASIO file. I was absolutely ropeable, having not had time to digest just how lucky we'd been to have even gotten that close given our performance and how two of the run of worst umpiring decisions ever (non-goal umpire category) didn't cost us at all because the Hawks stuffed up the frees. No time yet for it to sink in that we didn't deserve to be in finals calculations in the first place and were punching well above our weight by being included as anything more than a novelty option in September calculations.

No, I was wandering the banks of the Yarra with a mix of rage and aimlessness that even Mark Latham would rise to applaud. Trudging home, soaked about two minutes after leaving the ground, I resolved to tip the first Hawthorn fan that passed and said something 'hilarious' into the drink. Never happened, mainly because I'd stormed out with two minutes on the clock but also because I was wearing the facial expression of a serial killer. At one point some guy asked "Did you win?" and I very politely scowled "no" and kept walking before he could ask anything more (do people not have internet enabled mobiles? It's not 1985 anymore you know).

Rewind a couple of hours to when we were young, dumb and full of hope. Hawthorn started as favourites but there were no end of people willing to put their hand up, or in their pocket, to back us to do the job. They'd been shit for a fortnight, and while we'd hardly set the world on fire in the same timeframe we'd at least managed to put two wins on the board. Also contrary to popular belief we hadn't been that bad against them during the Bailey era, sure we were treated like a prostitute in Round 1 and the less said about the disastrous first game of DB's coaching career the better but the two matches in the middle of that were decent contests that we might have snatched with a bit more experience and poise. Either way when you lose the first of four contests by 104 points it's a long way back to a respectable average losing margin. And who will ever forget The Stefan Martin Experience kicking his first career goal with a snap plucked straight from the far reaches of his arse in our match against them last year? Everyone except the two of us I'll bet.

The first thrust forward from the Hawks, saw the ball bounce over everybody and drop onto the post but after that the next five minutes belonged to us. Jurrah got the first goal and super-mo Dunn the second to make me at least start to perk up and wonder if we might not be on the way to the sort of runaway win that makes the entire football world sit up and think "bloody hell, what's going on here?" a'la the Sydney match. Then the ball went forward for the Hawks again and Franklin got one of his few legitimate scores of the day with the most unorthodox and shit but ultimately successful snaps of all time. Fair enough, no harm done - especially when Green marked and goalled at the other end and then Super Mo managed to cheat the umpire out of a free 50m directly in front before the next bounce. If he'd kicked that we could have been away but finally given a kick at goal from directly in front he muffed it. Bizarrely our three goal kickers then proceeded to completely disappear from the match. Elsewhere it started pissing down and the umpires must have caught a glimpse of how badly they'd been taken for a ride by Dunn's dive because from then on we received pure shaft from them without even the courtesy of a reacharound.

Either way, despite the Hawks dominating around the ground and going inside 50 with ease - compare and contrast to our play which often resembled World War I battlefield style inch-by-inch movement - we got four goals (so often a three-quarter time score) and went in equal. There was something drastically unbalanced about it though, like a boxer hanging on the ropes and desperately counterpunching while his brains are being turned into a milkshake. Still, after the three years we've had I'm willing to accept any first quarter where we're still in the game and have kicked more than one goal as a victory no matter how many portents to evil there are floating around.

For now the only black clouds over us were the ones causing it to piss down in epic fashion, at which point Hawthorn instantly looked better. We needed the sun to come out again, and in true Melbourne fashion it not only did but with such a vengeance that you almost needed sunnies. I tried to make another omen of our forward 50 being completely in the shadows and theirs being half-half between shadow and sun but was clearly reaching for some way to convince myself we could win. As it was there was no point going into depth about the weather because it changed every five seconds anyway, and in between all this fluctuating weather and outright abuse of the Bureau of Meteorology Aaron Davey broke his leg. It was the first time a broken bone had effectively destroyed our season since Brock McLean necked himself in R1, 2007 - let's hope that Flash doesn't come back a shadow of himself and end up playing for Carlton like the other guy.

Without Davey we just lacked polish, somebody who you know is going to hit the target 90% of the time. We hung with them in spite of ourselves but even as we were all but level at half-time it still felt like Hawthorn were going to turn it up a notch and run over the top of us. Other than the first few minutes I never felt we were in control enough to put together a match winning lead, despite Hawthorn doing everything they could to keep us in it. It was a shit quality game between two sides playing for the right to bomb out of September in depressing fashion, but there were still highlights. Long time readers will have noted with some excitement the return of Wonaeamirri's character THE CELEBRATOR when he kicked his goal and followed it up with some sort of wild running windmill punch a'la Mike Tyson's Punch Out on the Nintendo. At the other end of the ground Frawley was smashing Franklin like a guitar and ensuring that if he doesn't at least get mentioned in final considerations for the All-Australian side the selection panel will receive the same sort of reception reserved for serial killers and umpires.

The cheap goals from frees started halfway through the quarter, and other than the Jurrahcane kicking what might very well be our goal of the year we were starting to get cut up around the ground and attempting to switch play needlessly and with no second option. Back to that goal, with apologies to Jamie Bennell who loses out due to the sort of goal he kicked against the Dogs being dime a dozen these days, the reason it was so good was the way Jurrah seemed to slow down and stop for a split second to size up just where he was going to place the thing. Most players would have just hacked it off the ground and it would have either slid left for a point or been intercepted by Gibson flying back on the line to defend it - but this time, making light of the fact that he'd busted his finger by not even bringing his hands into the calculation, LJ picked his spot and slotted it perfectly. Gibson (a man who, lest we forget, gets laid more per capita than any other player in the competition) gave a perfectly good despairing dive, but like a soccer football free kick smashed perfectly into the corner he had no chance to get to it. I'd like to watch that again in isolation without having to see most of the rest of the match.

That goal and one from Bruce got us back in it, but it still felt wrong. Every time it rained they started slicing and dicing us and there was no guarantee that it was going to remain dry for the rest of the day considering how it had changed from sunny to pissing down about 32 times already. Note how many times their players held overhead marks in the conditions. They dropped their fair share of absolute sitters too (see also Trengove, Jack in the goalsquare in the first quarter - thank god it sat for him to kick the goal anyway) but at least they were holding onto it when it mattered and not fumbling it around.

The only upside to the whole first half - other than the fact that we were still in the game despite being murdered in the clearances, contested possessions and inside 50's - was that I was sitting undercover and not having to run back and forth out of the rain like the people on the first row. Surely the first time you get rained on it's time to recognise that Melbourne's weather does not follow any particular logic and to move somewhere undercover? People did that, and then the moment the sun came out again they were off downstairs to get rained on for a second, third and fourth time. It's a footy game, not Man vs Wild - you do not have to sit in pouring rain wearing a garbage bag for protection. Nobody's going to think any less of you if you sit under a roof. After all some teams (*cough* St Kilda *cough*) have made a living out of never playing in the wet, then getting exposed when it rains during a game that really matters. I hope lessons are well and truly learnt from both this and the Bulldogs match on how to play wet weather footy because global warming might be on the way to fuck up the seasons and make it summer all year around but it won't be here to stuff up my dream of seeing a flag for at least a hundred years yet so there's plenty of time for playing games in the rain.

Amused at the wild chorus of boos for Kennett when they showed him on the screen looking emo. It's a bit rich for our fans to be giving it to a President for abusing his coach and team for being shit when that's pretty much all we've done for the last two years. Much like when James Hird got fined for hanging shit on that umpire and was booed by opposition fans the next week it made no sense. Especially bizarre considering that it was probably our fans who kept him office through two elections and that his treasurer was on our board. The MCC Members pavilion could rename itself the Karl Marx Pavilion and fly the hammer and sickle and you still wouldn't fool me that they're not going to line up en masse and vote for the Libs every time. I think it's more a case of recognising what a colossal, cracking meltdown he'd have suffered if they'd lost again and punting it home for comic value. If we'd won his secretary would probably have leapt from an upstairs window rather than have to type out his spray on Monday morning.

Speaking of spazzing out how about the Frawley deliberate? It's a good thing that Franklin felt guilty about it and decided to miss the lot because that was truly criminal. Compare and contrast to the first quarter when some brown and gold idiot slid along the ground and palmed the ball straight at the line on the members side wing. Didn't get paid, but soccer one out at the other end with some hulking great bloke two steps behind you and you get pinged. Just another goofy interpretation that didn't go our way - karmic payback at last for the 50m penalty fiesta we were on the receiving end of in the game against Essendon which started this improbable run towards the eight. Swings and roundabouts.

After having been beaten up in the centre during the second and still somehow managing to kick four goals we repeated the dose in the third, and yet somewhere still managed to be within touch at the last quarter. When we got two in a row through Watts (did nothing, would probably get dropped if he was anybody else. Will still be a gun, roll on 2011) and Jamar it seemed like we were back in with a sniff of a miracle. Shame Johnson got murdered in the centre because if we had a decent second ruckman The Russian would be a killer target in the forward line. For a guy who had racked up 0 kicks before his first shot at goal he's a bloody good set shot and a towering mark. Pity we can't afford to leave him down there too long lest we get ripped to shreds in the centre with Johnson/Spencer/[tall player with no ruck skills thrown in due to desperation] taking the bounces. Didn't really matter yesterday considering that even when he did get the taps we were getting belted out of there but in the interests of long term planning somebody had better fire up and give him a hand.

Now, no matter what else you take out of the third quarter - and god knows I've got a lot to say about Garland and his shitful kicking out of defence - where did the Franklin free against Frawley rate in the most frustrating moments of your life? Might not have been the worst decision ever, nothing can beat that goal umpire farce in the Geelong/Pies match, but it would have to be up there in all-time MFC related officiating debacles. The rudest thing about it was that it was at such a crucial time of the game. If it had happened when we were 50 points down in the last quarter you'd have raised an eyebrow and asked what the hell was going on but it wouldn't have mattered. As it was we were still in the mix and Chip had beaten Franklin in one-on-one duels all day (he still got plenty of ball up the ground, but what are you going to do to stop that other than smash him in the face with a sledgehammer?) but that was a pure and simple dagger in the back from the idiot in the middle. He got a real one just after but the damage was done. We were still close enough to make it interesting but the tide was rapidly turning in their favour, and when it started pouring again you might as well have put your house on the Hawks at $1.20.

Still, once again we managed to turn potential disaster into near glory. First Joel Mac got pinged for our second deliberately rushed behind of the season but luckily they once again felt guilty and completely missed it. It was an interesting call, like the one where Essendon got pinged earlier in the season I thought that to the letter of the law it was probably the right call - after all he did take a couple of steps back and wait for the opposition player to get right on top of him before he went back over the line but after the league came out and declared the first call wrong how can they possibly pay anything else similar? Jamar jumping up and pounding the ball through against St Kilda is one thing but this was a near carbon copy of the Essendon/Hawthorn (there's your common denominator) call and he got done for it. Rancid umpiring at a crucial time.

They got the goal that fairly well sealed it before Thank God It's Brad Green turned up for the first time since the first quarter to kick one on the run to bring it back to under two goals. Bartram could have got it within a goal and made it properly interesting but running inside 50 he clearly wanted to dish it off but decided to take the shot himself and missed, not that I could see shit from where I was standing. The old bird in front of me who had turned around specifically to deliver her thesis on how much she hated him during the third quarter must have had an aneurysm at that point. Hardly the guy I'd want kicking for goal on the run if my life was on the line though, so I'm not going to slaughter him for it. Still, would have helped considering they went down the other end and got the sealer pretty much straight afterwards. First all that stopped the Hawks from a mark in the square that would have killed the match was a desperate last minute spoil from Bail, but then from the throw-in absolutely nobody went near Burgoyne and he kicked the goal that finally and officially ended our season.

But wait, there was more. My blood pressure had already been pushed up to dangerous levels when the Watts kick from the square at the other end that would have opened it up again with enough time for a miracle looked like it had gone through and I almost leapt on top of a stranger only to find out it hit the point. Shameful outburst alert, that's when I lost it. Kicked the fence, knocked a cleaning sign across the bottom deck of the Ponsford and stormed out. Just then the rain decided to return to Hurricane Bertha levels and drench me but I didn't care. When Hodge kicked the last goal I let out a primal scream which scared some kid walking next to me. In retrospect the whole thing feels stupid, we should never have been there and between the second half in Brisbane, the first against Richmond and most of today it should be blatantly obvious to all that we don't belong in the finals yet - but how often does the 8th placed team deserve to be there? But on a grander scale to that round 2 Collingwood debacle I'd had something improbable and beautiful dangled in front of me then snatched away in cruel fashion. I'm an only child, how the hell do you want me to cope with that? It's no wonder I didn't just throw myself to the floor and start crying. Never go to ground anywhere that football fans having been standing for two hours, nothing good can come of it.

Thankfully the AFL in their infinite wisdom are set to increase the amount of sides in the finals so that we can have even more overmatched slop sides creep in and get smashed, so hopefully in a couple of years when we're playing some bizarre eight conference, 15 team finals series on the surface of Mars we might just sneak in.

Conspiracy Corner
We'll all have a red hot whinge about the umpires this week, and everyone will add their own comments about perceived payoffs, sexual favours or teabagging incidents but doesn't it strike you as concerning that some people legitimately believe that there are deliberate conspiracies against their team? Like the AFL and umpires, two of the most incompetent groups in the world today, could actually get it together to deliver a double-secret directive that, as some peanut near me started yelling, Melbourne shall be shafted in order to make way for the Hawks to play finals.

Now, don't you think that if it was a case of rorting the game to get one side into the finals specifically then we'd be a much better story for them to rally behind? Side comes from nowhere with a sick president to pull off a D2: The Mighty Ducks style feelgood story as the young, exciting side crashes into September calculations. Choose either that or a side with a ranting psychopath of a President, 45k three game members and the ongoing worst premiership defence since us 1965 and beyond. In the interests of ratings and general buzz I know which one I'd rather watch as a neutral. Wouldn't surprise me if they somehow managed to stuff up their "get the Demons into the 8" conspiracy due to the complete ineptitude of all involved, up to and including our own side.

Crowd Watch
As viewers of the Demonblog Twitter (now Justin Bieber free) would have seen, in graphic fashion, the residue of last week's big vom on the wall of Ponsford Stand Q33 was still there which is a fair testament to the care and dedication that the cleaning contractors take to looking after this iconic venue. Will probably still be there next season when I, like an idiot, choose to sit near it again.

No kids going the big chunder this week, but one behind us nearly got put into a headlock. Not only did the little prick think that Carl Petersen was Cyril Rioli for the first half (because society has obviously progressed so far that kids still think all people from the same race look the same) but he spent the whole first quarter delivering piercing screams at the top of his voice whenever the Hawks got the ball and smashed me in the back of the head with a bloody flag. I'm a fairly tolerant person (!?) but at point when wooden stick met skull I had to turn around and ask him to take more care, only to receive death glares from his dad. How can you be so insular and stupid to not even notice when your children are annoying the shit out of everyone? (but more importantly me) These are the same sort of people who fawn over their ugly babies as being the most beautiful thing on earth and go on TV to tell the world that their son was "a nice boy who wouldn't hurt anyone" after he's run through Chadstone shopping centre with an AK-47.

On the other end of the age spectrum was the two grannies in front of us, one of whom was the aforementioned president of the "Fuck off Clint Bartram" fan club. The other one was far more placid and barely said a word, possibly because she was scared shitless of her insane friend. Maybe it was the culture of fear that caused her friend to sit there terrified and silent, making the president of the FOCB club turn around and start discussing the game with me instead. I hate it when that happens. If I'd wanted to have random chats with post-middle age women there are (probably) internet sites which cater for that, don't think that because we're sitting in the same vicinity and wearing the same colours that we're going to be mates.

For the last quarter, abandoned by all and sundry who decided on an early afternoon, I went downstairs and made the horrific mistake of going into one of the standing areas at the back of the bottom deck of the Ponsford. Everybody knows that the sort of people who hang around in those areas are usually insane, socially retarded, on parole or worthy of being attached to a washing machine and thrown into Port Phillip Bay but it looked empty and the quarter was about to start so I went in there and stood up the back. Not thirty seconds later seven or eight pure arseholes showed up en masse and stood right in front of, or to the very left of me. All Hawthorn, all clearly amused to have one of them in their midst. Cue barely concealed abuse which I could half hear due to having headphones in.

Then for some reason the section of spazzers I was in started to get into a "chant off" with some MFC fans just to the left of us (where chant ='s shouting *team name* *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAP* like an 8-year-old) and the guy next to me basically started yelling it in my face from the side trying to provoke some reaction. Wasn't going to get anything, but I knew that no matter what happened at the end it was going to be ugly. Either we were going to get done and I'd have to do a walk of shame through them, or we were going to get up and I'd get filled in for celebrating too boisterously. When Green kicked his goal I was out of there. Discretion is the better part of valour when you're prone to verbal gaffes and/or inappropriate outright abuse like I am. There are plenty things worth being punched in the head or having to leap over a fence for and footy is certainly not one of them. Maybe a Grand Final or a prelim?

Went over to where the section of our fans from the chant-off were and the rest was history. Apologies to the guy who was standing behind me when I booted the fence and turned around to walk-off. That was a completely inadvertent shirtfront which I delivered on you, and had you not been the only person other than me in standing room who wasn't drinking beer like a total pisshead it might have been ugly for all concerned.

2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Cameron Bruce
4 - James Frawley
3 - Colin Sylvia
2 - Jordie McKenzie
1 - Rohan Bail

Apologies to Scully, McDonald, Macdonald, Jamar and Rivers.

Leaderboard
38 - Brad Green
37 - James Frawley (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
27 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Colin Sylvia
23 - James McDonald
15 - Aaron Davey
14 - Matthew Bate
12 - Jack Grimes
11 - Jack Trengove (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
10 - Tom Scully, Cameron Bruce, Brent Moloney, Lynden Dunn, Jordie McKenzie
8 - Jordan Gysberts
7 - Joel Macdonald
5 - Ricky Petterd, Jamie Bennell
3 - Matthew Warnock, Brad Miller, Colin Garland
2 - Neville Jetta, Clint Bartram, Jack Watts
1 - Jared Rivers, Nathan Jones, Austin Wonaeamirri, Liam Jurrah, Rohan Bail

Next Week
Another blockbusting Port crowd of 102 turn up watch us stuff it up in Adelaide for the ninth consecutive year. During the week the AFL trumpeted that their stupid rule innovations, put to an allegedly 'public' vote had achieved support from a 'quarter of respondents' or as the rest of us know it '3/4 of people hated it. If you want to adopt a similar head-in-sand look at Season 2010 there is still a possibility that we can make the 8. What's the point though? The season has been a success by anybody's measure, there's really no point pumping ridiculous scenarios into ladder predictors to try and force our way in (I just spent the last ten minutes doing just that though I must admit..)

If something outrageous happens in the next two weeks - and just wait for Hawthorn to beat the Collingwood reserves in R22 when top spot is sewn up - then rip out the champers bottles and let's get trashed/line up for finals tickets but otherwise just ride out the next couple of weeks and hope we can at least put some platform down for next year by winning a bloody game at Football Park. Serves us (me?) right for getting my hopes up anyway. Let this be a lesson to you kids, never be positive about anything.

Was it worth it?
Get to shite. Last few weeks were fun though. In a sick way doesn't it feel good that a loss really hurts again?

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions

Today was always going to be a big fat, giant rolling boulder from Indiana Jones style, danger game on our road to The Impossible Dream. We were lucky to hold on to beat the rancid Lions last week, and the Tigers were coming off their 6th win of the year just a few weeks after it looked like they were going to win none and be relegated to Auskick. Not only were they enjoying what constitutes a winning streak for them (though who are we to talk?) but our record against teams we should beat has been wonky this year. Anyone remember the West Coast debacle? I’m trying not to. It’s almost scandalous to think that game could end up being the difference between us making the finals or not, because when the siren went that day it seemed to me that we were about to be pitched into a neck-and-neck backwards race for the spoon with the Eagles and Richmond, and with no motivation to put the tank in fifth gear and go for it this time. Since then Brisbane have imploded in spectacular fashion to put themselves into the trashcan of history and the other two have both had players who kicked ten or more goals in a match yet still manage to remain the bottom two sides. We, on the other hand, have had no player kick more than five and are knocking down the door of a miracle appearance in September. The world is an amazing place.

Suddenly a match that looked pre-season, and let’s be frank even mid-season, like it would be an end of year training drill played with all the intensity of the Lingerie Football League (no really, it’s even on Foxtel and is just as bad as you’d expect) was suddenly being described by some slightly unhinged commentators as the preview for a future blockbuster between two of the next big things of AFL football. Lovely sentiment, but are there two teams that you can almost certainly rely on more to snatch shambles from the jaws of a glory era than us and Richmond? No offence to the Tiges and their Zigfield Follies inspired theme song but I’m happy to leave them behind as long as we get the glory that’s been promised. Still a long way off that sports fans.

Now, I don’t want to suggest that Richmond fans are starved for success but the reaction from them when ‘their’ kids beat ‘our’ kids in the pre-match tug of war was like the Second World War had just been won again. I hate myself for even taking an interest (well, it was for charity) but it should be pointed out that ‘our’ kiddies had the worst set up in tug ‘o war history (and lest we forget it did used to be an Olympic sport) so it was no wonder they got beaten. There was about five metres of empty rope at the back that nobody was on. Ever heard of an anchor man? It was either shambolic or an inside nod to the 2009 tanking debacle. Inappropriate comment of the day went to the guy next to me who said “and that’s why you’re orphans” when they lost. He was later beaten with the karma stick when a bunch of kids showed up and he had to move seats.

Further pre-match ‘entertainment’ was provided by the MCG with their baffling choice of music. There were the usual staples, that Dropkick Murphy’s shit from the AFL ad and the Coldplay song that they’ve been flogging the life out of for the past two years, but interspersed throughout were a bunch of good time classic hits straight from the Magic 1278 playlist. Who thought footy fans were ready and waiting for a revival of the original Needles ‘n Pins? Thought we were half a chance of hearing Crimson And Clover, which let’s be frank is a cracker, but just as Tommy James and the Shondells fans started to fire up they busted out Coldplay again. Rumour is that Chris Martin has bought Uganda from the royalties he’s received from the MCG for playing that 97 times at every match. If the MCG are reading I’ll put my hand up to make some CD’s for them if they want, and the tracks will bring the freaking house down too.

Speaking of pre-match debacles did anyone else notice what an utter farce the “Injury Report” was? Apparently The Stefan Martin Experience is “back in training” (last week the club acknowledged that he’s been shelved for the season) and Juice Newton, seen yesterday playing a B-Grade version of Brad Green style end-to-end total football in the VFL, is “one week away from returning”. Worksafe should ask for their money back for sponsoring that crap. Also of note was Relton Roberts of Richmond being on the list with a season ending ‘injury’ labelled as ‘personal’. Makes it sound as if he’s got some sort of serious issue with his cruets.

Apparently there was some sort of game on too, and bloody hell didn’t it look a bit dicey early on? Lucky for us that Richmond were incompetent when they went inside 50 because all they did for the first five minutes was get it in there. For obvious reasons we were double/triple teaming their only decent forward, but elsewhere Nason, taking time out from posting on the Support Australian Hip Hop internet forum and graffiting trains (ok, maybe not the second one but he looks like he should be) was looking far too lively for my liking. Amusingly for all their dominance they only managed two points and the first time we went inside 50 The Jurrahcane kicked the first. Just the sort of winning scenario that we’re usually on the end of – at least on the days when we’re not conceding the first goal within the first 15 seconds. Absolute slop of a game early on, allowing me to psychologically adjust to the prospect of losing by convincing myself that we didn’t deserve to be anywhere near the finals anyway. It was all set up for the sporting equivalent of having something taken away from you as a kid and screaming “I didn’t want it anyway!” To be honest on the strength of the first half alone we don’t deserve it, and the second half was hardly an advertisement for a quality run through September, but like a drowning man thrown a penis shaped life preserver I’ll take whatever I can get at the moment.

Number one moment of the first term was undoubtedly Riewoldt trying to kick one of these now standard along the ground goals and totally stuffing it up. Serves him right, unless you’re kicking from Row Z and have no other option – e.g Bennell against Footscray – just kick the bloody thing through properly. An open goal is not something to be taken lightly. Glad he botched it but I know that one of our players is going to do the same at some point so let’s cut it out now. Somebody start a Facebook pressure group a’la Hey Hey It’s Saturday so the Herald Sun will report on it.

Second quarter didn't answer any questions. Richmond snuck in front by a couple of goals, aided by some idiot taking an epic dive against Rivers right in front of goal, but they were never comfortable with the lead. Much like last week it's a good thing that we were playing a side shitter than us because anybody half decent would have put us away. Jamar was killing it at the bounces but we were getting bugger all out of the middle so thank god for their one dimensional forward line not working. It took Dirty Mo Dunn's double strike within a minute to turn the tide. Johnson's abysmal attempt at a snap would have nearly put us far enough in front to start getting comfortable, but straight after that they went up the other end and kicked a goal themselves to make it interesting. Took TGFB Green to goal on the siren to get us back in front, but it still didn't look comfortable. Rubbish game to that point as well, you'd have switched the channel if you were a neutral. Everyone who has come and told me what a great game it was today must have either switched on for the second half or accidentally slipped on the red/blue tinted glasses.

Luckily for the sake of neutrals (and don’t you hate those guys?) the intensity level was cranked up to a ludicrous level in the second half. Suddenly it was all about ten man stacks-on and guys tackling like rabid animals. The pressure didn’t hurt, but more than anything else Richmond lost because they had bugger all forwards other than Riewoldt. The most telling moment was after Jack’s fruitless first half Hardwick was forced to send Will Thursfield inside 50. Thursfield has played 66 games and kicked zero goals. He has still kicked zero goals tonight despite having two shots early in the quarter. That’s just the sort of bullshit scenario that we usually fall victim to - witness Brett bloody Thornton almost doubling his career total against us earlier in the year - but luckily for us both his shots had a Jamie Shanahan-esque touch about them and he never went near it again.

At the other end The Jurrahcane was suffering from the yips and missed two absolutely gettable kicks on either side of a Jones goal. Am I the only one who is concerned that his technique for marking low to the ground is going to come back to haunt him someday? It's hard to explain without photographic evidence but it seems to me like instead of diving forward to take the mark he almost slides into it with his legs underneath him. All good if he's grabbing them, but every time he goes for one I'm waiting for him to come up with his ankle pointing in the opposite direction.

We'd just got our noses in front again when Cousins marked directly in front but sadly for once wasn’t seeing imaginary rats and dragons and managed to slot the goal instead of extracting his own eyeball with a spoon and microwaving it. No really Ben, get well soon because I don’t want to cop the same sort of hate mail as I did after the second best Nathan Brown snapped his leg and a certain idiot shamefully sung an offensive ditty about it on Level 3 of Telstra Dome while wearing a balaclava. Riewoldt finally got his first when everybody in the western world except the guys wearing red and blue knew he was going to run out and kick it from a better angle, but that was pretty much him done for the day. Looked like it was going to be under a goal at the last change before Dirty Dunn marked and just like last week kicked the big roost from outside 50. If you'd given me odds on him being the clutch goalkicker of the week twice in a row I'd have wanted 100-1 after the Freo debacle, now he's booting them from everywhere.

Still, I wasn't confident being just a goal in front at the last break, and when they took the margin from 7 to 0 within the first two minutes the old blood pressure started to creep up. Was nowhere near the season high score of the minute after the siren against Collingwood in R2 - if it was I'd be dead - but it was creeping upwards. Especially when the Morton goal which tied the scores came as a gift when for the second time yesterday the whole world knew he was going to run around but nobody stood there to stop him.

Thankfully for our collective mental and physical health it was all MFC from there. After playing a first half where he looked completely lost, Watts came into some form in the last. He stuffed up an easy bouncing ball which would have made Bradforth J Miller sit up in his loungeroom and think that he was an absolute cert to get a recall next week, but from then on he pretty much took the piss. Just a minute after the ball bouncing debacle he would up on the end of a Bail kick in the square, after Rohan – one of the best stories of our season - had performed some sort of sick Playstation-esque spin move on the Richmond defence (press triangle + square + R1 if you’re playing at home). More underrated was the way he waited on his kick to Dunn after a desperation torp from the kick-in landed in his arms. He just held it up long enough for the useless Tigers defenders to wander off and leave Ron Jeremy on his own in the square for the fifth goal. Equally underrated was the snap which clearly crossed the line but was paid a mark as part of “Goal Umpire Fuck Ups Week”.

It’s all about confidence. You could argue that Miller needs to be rewarded for his domination in the VFL, but unless The Golden Child is showing signs of fatigue then I can’t bring myself to swap them over. We know what we’re getting with Miller, and we know it’s far more likely to occur against a bunch of 17-year-olds and overpaid Rugby players than it is in an AFL match. No change required in this forward line for me, Watts has got to be thrown into what is effectively our biggest match since the ’06 finals and sink or swim let the cards fall where they may.

Bruce did a great job of tagging Shane Tuck to buggery (at least I think it was Shane Tuck. The longer the season goes the less I care about any opposition player), but any danger he might hit a target by foot at some point? He needs to go to the same short course on “how to dispose effectively when you can’t kick straight” which Jamar emerged from as the most powerful force on earth.

I loved the way how our fans suddenly developed a massive sense of arrogance in the last quarter when the game was well and truly won. Didn’t it warm your heart to hear every single Richmond shot on goal in junktime furiously booed? Even poor old Jack Riewoldt, who had done nothing (literally) all day was given the reception of a serial arsonist when he had the audacity to tie up his shoelaces. Then he missed the kick and the crowd went apeshit. Magic moments.

Underrated highlight was Dunn kicking the sealer by smashing one through from the goalsquare for his fifth then leaving Jurrah hanging on a high five so he could look up to see if the ball landed in the top deck or not. Sadly it fell just short. He got jibbed by the siren out of what may very well have been his sixth, but just to keep things light and interesting he whacked it through with a banana off one step anyway. Certainly went down well with those in the ground who were clearly hard of hearing and didn’t know the game was over. No way would he have kicked it like that had he had the opportunity to go back and take a real shot at goal, but the way he finished it effortlessly tells me he should do it more. He’s certainly had a good run of fluky bounces, wild snaps and grandstand finishes ever since the ridiculous facial hair that he originally sported in the pre-season came back onto the scene a couple of months ago. He has been unreal over the last month or so, for somebody who was on the skids bigtime halfway through the year he’s finally found a niche as a defensive forward who kicks goals as well, and he’s an option to do a tagging job if he absolutely must. I put it down to the mo. It scares children and must surely make him the only footy player less likely to bag a root at Motel than Steven Milne but it’s giving him supernatural powers and cannot under any circumstances be allowed to be shaved off before the end of the season. He who weareth the adult industry standard moustache, kicketh thy clutch goals. Put that on a t-shirt. Just to think, a year ago when the Tank Blitzkrieg was rolling its way towards the draft he was being turned over by Todd Goldstein to the tune of five goals in one of the worst (but deliberate) matchups ever recorded.

Stat My Bitch Up
Joel Macdonald also had a shot which he botched and he’s now the proud owner of the longest active playing streak in an MFC jersey without a single goal. This was his 15th match without one, passing Kyle Cheney who is marooned on 14. At least Macdonald has six career goals in Brisbane to reminisce about, all Cheney has is the honour of being the only person ever to get 5 votes from me on debut.

Both of them have got a long way to go to snatch the all-time record of 90 games held by Bernie Massey between 1960 and 1967. Shanahan (37) and Jamie Duursma (33) are the only players of the last 30 years to be in the top twenty so if Macdonald or Cheney manage to rack up those sorts of numbers I’ll be holding a street party to celebrate.

Crowd Watch
Spent the first half in the middle deck of the Ponsford bedazzled by the sheer amount of Richmond branded knitwear on offer (and not all of it homemade by the looks of it), and the Punt Road peanuts in front of us who got up and started dancing when the PA inexplicably fired up Love Is In The Air before the match. Come gametime and everything else was forgotten when the screeching tart behind me commenced screaming at everything Richmond related in a pitch only slightly inside the realm of what humans can understand. And when she wasn’t saying something like “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” she was lambasting the Tiges for kicking the ball too much. Unfortunately most of her wild anti-kicking sideways rants were delivered when they were doing perfectly legitimate switching of the play to free players. At one point the old bint nearly had a coronary but when the ball got over to the Olympic Stand side wing and found four Richmond players on their own she let out another orgasmic “EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Hypocrite. The idiot sitting with her almost had a fit laughing when he saw the “Eat ‘em Alive” banner in the cheersquad. Must have been the first game they’d ever been to given how that slogan has been getting a run since about 1978.

Unable to stand the headache inducing wailing any longer we moved up a level at half-time. Now, I’m talking to the MCG and whoever the idiots that make a fortune out of the catering contract at the ground here when I say how many people do we need to have at a game to get a food outlet open on that level? Is 45k not enough? Still, I suppose anything that saves me from wasting $4.90 on a soggy, pink hot dog of dubious meat quality can’t be argued against.

Crowd Watch supplement – Look away if you’re eating
Somebody who did get a feed was the kid sitting behind us. Unfortunately it appears that he ate something utterly toxic, because just after the start of the third quarter he was being ushered down to the stairs by his father when he unleashed one of the biggest spews in the history of the Western world. It went all down the railing, and by extension the wall of the walkway. “That’s unfortunate” I said, always the master of understatement, before turning around to realise that he’d ralphed all over the row behind us as well. And I mean all over. Not surprisingly a massive runner was done, though I’m not sure why we only went over to the other side of the walkway because the damage was well and truly still visible. A few minutes later a cleaner was called in by the security guards but he walked up there, took one look at refused to do anything about it. Bear in mind there was a footy match going on during all of this, but I couldn’t look away from the intense human drama. At one point it looked like he was going to call a union meeting and take all the cleaners out on strike. He disappeared for a few minutes before returning, obviously having been told that he was on some sort of Workchoices era AWA which meant he had to do whatever they told him for $7 an hour or get the arse and did a half-arsed job of mopping up the damage. He didn’t touch the damage to the wall though, and later on some annoying child in Corey Worthington issue sunglasses and fluffy jacket leant on it. I nearly rose to applaud.

On a similar topic it was like being in the middle of the World War I with all the seagulls during the fourth quarter. Every time I caught a gust of wind it made me think that I’d copped the bullet with my name on it that I’ve been avoiding since that infamous day when the bastards nailed me in 1993 and we won by twenty goals.

Coaches Corner
Admittedly I took the piss out of Bailey jumping on the bandwagon and coaching from the boundary line, but tell me you don’t love seeing him talking to the players when they come off. Might be something of a different look when we’re getting flogged and he’s sitting there with bigger eyes than Mark Harvey screaming at some poor 18-year-old like the Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, but for now I love it. He’s sworn once on TV this year, but wouldn’t it just make your year if Bails started doing FMJ style “what is your major malfunction?” outbursts, screaming in the face of Jack Trengove that “the days fingerbanging Miss Mary Jane Rottencrotch are over”, and threatening to rip Jamie Bennell’s head off and shit down his neck. Glorious.

2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 – James Frawley
4 – Lynden Dunn
3 – Brad Green
2 – Aaron Davey
1 – Liam Jurrah

Apologies to Scully (VERY unlucky), Macdonald, Bruce, Bail, Jones, Jamar, Bartram, McDonald and McKenzie.

Leaderboard
The gap closes to one BOG. Something tells me that if we’re going to win next week it might take Chip picking up a shitload of votes to get us over the line. The question is what will happen at the other end. It’s almost certainly down to two after Jamar missed out this week.

38 - Brad Green
33 - James Frawley (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
27 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
24 - Colin Sylvia
23 - James McDonald
15 - Aaron Davey
14 - Matthew Bate
12 - Jack Grimes
11 - Jack Trengove (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
10 - Brent Moloney, Lynden Dunn
8 - Jordan Gysberts, Tom Scully, Jordie McKenzie
7 - Joel Macdonald
5 - Cameron Bruce, Ricky Petterd, Jamie Bennell
3 - Matthew Warnock, Brad Miller, Colin Garland
2 - Neville Jetta, Clint Bartram, Jack Watts
1 - Jared Rivers, Nathan Jones, Austin Wonaeamirri, Liam Jurrah

Fun With The Ladder Predictor
Is it an omen that the predictor is sponsored by Bailey Ladders? As much as I'd love to present all the scenarios here and try to rank them from “probable” to “tripping on acid” it’s enough of a piss-take to be writing most of this at work as is without having the AFL website up running riot with predictions/desperate attempts at convincing self of finals tilt. Maybe later in the week. Call my internet company and tell them to fire up and connect the bloody thing at home so I can do it there.

What I don’t want to hear again is how much this is like 1987. Clearly I was too young to be involved in that madness, but that was in an era when less than half the sides made the finals and games were being played at the same time. This time if the miracle occurs we’ll be falling in pretty much by default and will know exactly what the equation is at 4.39pm on the last day of the season. There’s no ears pressed to radios waiting to hear Geelong stuff if it up at Kardinia Park this time, and the major difference is that it’s only been four seasons since we played finals – then it had been 24 so that’s a tad more extreme of a situation than what we find ourselves in today. Still, tell me that on a Sunday night in late August when we’ve just booked ourselves the chance to be poked in the crack by Freo at Subi. Why are we even discussing this? What the hell has this season/world come to? And if this really is some sort of 1987 Redux we’re at least going to win the first final by 20 goals, watch out for shenanigans in the last couple of minutes of the prelim though.

Next Week
After doing us no favours against the Swans yesterday we get the chance to say thanks to the Hawks by sticking a dagger in their season on Sunday. Can’t see it happening to be honest, but more insane things have happened – either way it’ll be a fair indication of how fair we’ve come from the round one debacle. I have a vision of the future that involves Chip Frawley treating Lance Franklin with utter contempt and Dunn’s mo detaching from his face and kicking six. Then it’s off to Adelaide to get done over by pissweak Port for the tenth consecutive year.

I’m not too keen to rush into making changes for the sake of it. Moloney is a cert if he’s finally fit, but there’s nobody who really deserves to go to make way. We’ve got to double team the Hawks in the ruck so Johnson survives. The Jurrahcane might have been wobbling last week, but he’s a confirmed starter now so that’s bad news for Bate and Miller. Sorry Bradforth, but at least you’re cracking on to a stunner so I’m sure that’ll be some consolation. I don’t know about Bater’s living arrangements but if he’s not achieving on a similar level to Miller then he’ll just have to console himself with the knowledge that I’m still in his fan club.

Also consigned to the lunar surface of Casey Fields for the foreseeable future is Matthew Warnock. Garland muffed it a few times today, but between him, Rivers and Macdonald who is absolutely killing it at the moment there’s no spot for him despite a near BOG performance on Saturday. Handy sort to have in reserve though.

Final Thoughts
Am I the only one who feels slightly guilty that we’re even involved in finals calculations? Guilty, but kind of horny about it (in a sporting way).

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The night the couch nearly went off the balcony

There’s something sordid about watching games on Fox instead of being there in person. Maybe it’s because the spectre of Tony Shaw/Dwayne Russell style ‘analysis’ hangs over the coverage, maybe it’s because I feel the need to socialise with the other people watching with me instead of just shoving in an earphone at the game and only speaking to people on my terms. It’s hard work being this much of an anti-social bastard.

Either way I’m forced to confess that once again I sat through an entire TV match and have precious little insight (even less than usual) into what took place. What I do know is that the feint heartbeat of the finals miracle which was so comprehensively rubbished in these pages last week now beats a little louder. Sure it’s been upgraded from “nearly flatline” to “trapped coal miner” but wouldn’t you have spat at anyone who even suggested it at the start of the year – or even a few weeks ago. Still truly unlikely but at least we’ve got something to play for over the next few weeks instead of seeing the whole season slide straight into the junktime trashcan.

Step one was to get a win in Brisbane for the first time since 2006. That was the last time they were truly shite and even then we only just fell over the line so given that we have a worse travelling record than Air Congo it was certainly no gimme that we’d repeat the dose this time. Standing in the way were the biggest footballing fall from grace of the modern era, who would have thought that the night we touched them up earlier in the season would set off one of the most immense crashes in the history of league football. This is a side who were 4-0 and now could win the spoon – that’s got to be a rarity. But just to keep things nice and confusing the one side they beat was the one currently sitting comfortably, and well out in front on the top of the ladder.

You could tell from the first bounce that we were going to get the current model slopfest Lions and not the one that somehow managed to beat the Pies. Maybe it was an omen that when I went to South Melbourne Market yesterday (hello stalkers) somebody was selling Brisbane Bears scarves, because they barely managed to be better than some of the classic Carrara sides of the past. Still, despite Sylvia and Scully running around like men possessed and Jamar massacring anybody the Lions put up against him in the ruck we only snuck in front at the first change thanks to THE CELEBRATOR (sadly no gang symbols flashed last night) goalling at the end after yet another Brisbane cock-up in the backline.

You (almost) had to feel sorry for Michael Voss. Even early in the game when it was even they’d cut to him in the coaches box and he’d look like a man about to have a massive nervous breakdown. Then, already having copped shit from the entire world for his ‘eccentric’ trading policies in the off-season he watched two of his prized (stop laughing) recruits, Fev and Xavier Clarke go down with game ending injuries before half-time. On the other hand Bailey was hanging around the boundary line looking like he was ready to kick back in a banana lounge and start honking onto a cigar. Something tells me that god forbid we ever win a flag there’s not going to be any Mark Williams style choking with the tie and “Alan Scott you were wrong” outbursts from Bails, he’ll probably just get up there, grab the premiership cup and go “yeah that was pretty good” then walk off.

After his lacklustre performances over the last weeks Fev probably only played because he’s got a storied history of stitching us up when he played for Carlton, but they might as well not have bothered because Garland absolutely smacked him from the first bounce until he was mothballed/exiled to KFC in the second quarter. The other member of the ex-Twin Towers of the forward line Brown did his usual trick of trying to carry the whole side on his shoulders but there’s only so much you can do when you’re surrounded by garbage. Didn’t help that he was on the red hot Frawley who smashed him going the other way as well.

Second quarter was when class started to win out, and there’s not many times in the past few years you’ve been able to say in regards to us. First they bugger one up royally kicking across the face of goal for Green to goal after a Watts handball when he could have taken a shot, then Bennell stuffs up an easy one on the run before the man, the myth, the Sylvia (somebody please go and erase all those posts where I suggested Brock was the best one out of that draft) and Bail both kicked goals to send us clear. Then in what must surely have been the defining highlight of the evening Davey pulled off the save of the year flying through the air to mark a certain goal down to a point. Nothing was going wrong for us and the Lions couldn’t get anything right.. Until they kicked a goal. Never fear though because Dunn had strapped his kicking boots on again (which is a rarity) and got his second before Johnson (barely did anything but played a handy backup to the Russian master) got another a minute later to send us in five goals to the good. Things were going so well that I even managed to tune out the sound of Tony Shaw’s voice and completely ignore his commentary for a whole quarter. Glorious.

So far so good, and on the strength of last week’s third quarter slaughter you’d think we were going to waltz away with this one as well, especially with the Lions down to two players on the bench. Then the tempo of the game changed completely, the Brisbane players - obviously having been on the end of an almighty spray from Voss at half-time – deciding to put in for the first time since the ten minute mark of the first quarter and we started to crack a bit under the pressure. Not only that but the forward line which had looked so deadly in the first half were suddenly all at sea and the ball was continuously being pumped inside 50 and straight to Brisbane players. The only compensation was that they were utterly bollocks as well, and with Mitch Clark unable to hit the side of a barn from the first of numerous set shots during the half we just managed to stay in front. The only spark for the Lions came from Albert Proud who was, I’m sure you’ll agree, sporting the worst haircut in not only the history of the VFL/AFL but maybe the world. If you didn’t see it then there’s nothing I can say that will give you a picture of how bad it looked. It was basically a closely cropped haircut but with a line completely shaved between forehead and top of head. Absolutely ridiculous. Somewhere even Nathan Carroll was sitting at home (or perhaps in a jail cell) shaking his head and wondering what the hell the kid was thinking when he went in and asked for one of those.

Ten minutes without a score and it was a case of “thank god they’re so shit” because we completely lost our rhythm. Eventually the idiot with the bad hair got two goals in two minutes and Brown another to crack the game wide open. Cue much nervous fidgeting and warnings from the people who knew to the non-football fan in the room that they were about to see one of my famous footy spaz outs. Somewhat unfair I thought considering I’d watched the whole thing until then the sense of detatchment that you only get from suddenly thinking that you follow a decent team but not wanting to talk it up too much in case you actually don’t. Mind you this was the people who saw me throw things across a room when we lost that NAB Cup game against Hawthorn in Tasmania after swearing black and blue for four quarters that I wouldn’t get upset no matter what happened, so obviously they knew better than to take my word for it that I’d behave.

Luckily just when it looked like the Lions were going to drag the margin into single digits Rockliff the idiot gave away a cheap free-kick to Thank God For Brad Green for a push in the back and the future captain slotted the goal from row K of the stands. So much manlove for that guy, we might have fallen out briefly in the mid 00’s but it goes right back to the moments after the Farmer-led win against Collingwood in 2000 when I tried to offer him my then girlfriend in joy at the victory. He wisely declined and I was stuck with her. That was also the day that I told Shane Woewodin I’d backed him for the Brownlow and that he was going to win it. And did I get a thanks in the speech when he did? No I bloody did not.

20 points in front at the last change and the general consensus in the room was that we were home and I should stop clutching the side of the couch like I was on a freefalling DC-10. “We’ve lost from better positions than this!” I cried, and not without some justification. One goal quarters aren’t so bad when you’ve done the hard work already, but it doesn’t help against a side desperate to get the monkey off their back in front of a home crowd. When Clark stuffed up his second and third shots of the half to cut the margin to an even three goals it looked even more likely that we were going to suffer the sort of reverse which could cause me to pitch the couch off the balcony onto a car 11 floors below. Then Brown got it right for his second goal and I started to think of what angle I’d have to tilt the thing on to get onto the balcony.

Cue ten minutes of arm wrestle, end to end football with the Lions looking far more likely to score than us. When Banfield – the man so red that he makes Matthew Bate and the Demonblog toaster guy feel good – goalled to cut the margin to five points I could see where it was going and I DID NOT LIKE IT AT ALL. Not that I let on, in a desperate attempt to prove the critics wrong I remained outwardly calm despite the feeling that my internal organs were about to spew out of my body a’la Aliens. This is why I should avoid watching games with neutrals, it’s too embarrassing to lose the plot and make a fool of yourself. At least when you’ve got your own fans there they understand.

Thank god then for Tom Rockcliff who managed to gift us a goal for the second time in the quarter when he gave away a ridiculous 50 on Dunn. Two goals for the whole half, both from his indiscretions – we should send him a card. It was the most obvious free of all time, so if you go to work tomorrow and some Brisbane fan (if you can find one) tries to tell you that it wasn’t then tip their desk over. What a complete tool, the man with the worst facial hair in football takes an easy mark in front of him and Rockliff the spaz pushes him squarely in the back right in front of the umpire. What did he expect to happen? Amazingly Dunn, not exactly the most reliable set shot in the world managed to drill a 50m bomb and we were home. My mask of sanity slipped and I ended up sliding onto the floor and pounding it with both hands in celebration.

Proud and his rubbish haircut missed a shot that would have bought it back to under a goal and we were home. Watts had a flying snap at the other end that would have bought the house down but missed. Didn’t matter, we’d just done enough to keep the dream alive.

Watts played an interesting game. 27 touches but seemed to be playing in the midfield for most of the night. Was pretty good early but towards the end he got rolled under pressure a few times, and a couple of his handballs were pure bollocks. Still, he's getting better and better every week so I expect nothing more than pure superstardom next year. Not to put the pressure on or anything..

Now we’re pitched into a nerve shattering hellride involving us only losing one more this season (presumably to Hawthorn), and everyone around us getting done when they’re supposed to. Never happens that way, but you can always live the dream. Either way how much more fun is football again?

2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 – Colin Sylvia
4 – Mark Jamar
3 – Joel Macdonald
2 – Tom Scully
1 – Jordie McKenzie

Apologies to Bruce, Dunn (stiffer than a honeymooner to miss out), Jones, Garland, Davey, Watts, Frawley, Bartram, Morton, Davey and Green

Leaderboard
So the week after I say that there’s no way Green or Frawley won’t pick up votes in upcoming games both of them are nudged into the apologies (unluckily in Frawley’s case). Four votes for Jamar keeps his hopes alive, but the big two are still the ones to beat. Imagine if this was decided by a finals game? I’d probably have died with joy and somebody else would have to do the honours.

Elsewhere Scully closes the gap on Trengove for the Hilton. I made the rules for eligibility so obtuse that I can't even remember if McKenzie is eligible so we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

35 - Brad Green
28 - James Frawley (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
27 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
24 - Colin Sylvia
23 - James McDonald
14 - Matthew Bate
13 - Aaron Davey
12 - Jack Grimes
11 - Jack Trengove (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
10 - Brent Moloney
8 - Jordan Gysberts, Tom Scully, Jordie McKenzie
7 - Joel Macdonald
6 - Lynden Dunn
5 - Cameron Bruce, Ricky Petterd, Jamie Bennell
3 - Matthew Warnock, Brad Miller, Colin Garland
2 - Neville Jetta, Clint Bartram, Jack Watts
1 - Jared Rivers, Nathan Jones, Austin Wonaeamirri

Next Week
Richmond on Sunday. Bloody nora the pulse rate will start to quicken a bit if we win this one. Either way it’ll be a far cry from that debacle of a match last season, I wouldn’t expect to see a Warnock led forward line this time. Now that their mini-revival has come and gone you’d expect that we’d win comfortably to keep the juggernaut rolling but nothing is for sure. Either way next Sunday night/Monday morning you’re going to read something wild on here – we’ll either have snatched shambles from the jaws of glory or the MFC Miracle will be one step closer.