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
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.
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.
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".
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
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.
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.