Thursday, 24 February 2011

Keep Feeling (Agitation)

How often has it happened that a few hours before a game I've been completely disinterested and wondering whether there wasn’t something more important I could be doing instead. Then three minutes before the bounce I'm about to go the big David Parkin style vom all over the place. Is it just me? Surely not.

Well, I wasn't planning to go the vom a'la that kid at the Richmond game last year for a pre-season match played under 'experimental' rules anytime soon, but in honour of it being the first proper match in front of our very own eyes this year pre-match angst and anxiety came early and at 3pm just as I crossed the road a bicycle courier nearly bowled me over ploughing through a red light and I found myself hurling uncouth abuse at him. That sort of thing doesn’t happen outside footy season. It certainly hasn't happened on that intersection since last year when an argument with a junkie in a Carlton hat ended with him being told that no Carlton fan was ever going to get a cent from me. Obviously they should all do what J**d does and get a job mopping the floor at Visy for 500k a year.

So, how did we end up at Docklands in the second week proper of the pre-season, and not Mt. Gambier or Cairns like we usually do? For those of you who have spent the last fortnight being shot at by death squads in Libya here's a short recap.

We qualified for the quarter final - and never has the idea of "making the quarters" been as discredited as it is in this tournament - by virtue of rising above the worst new rules ever invented to win not just one, but two games in Adelaide for the first time since It Wasn't Me by Shaggy was number one (no really, and what followed it is even more dated) and Essendon got in by sneaking a draw against St Kilda which they proceeded to celebrate like they'd just won World War II. For the first time in his life Steven Milne was right when he politely informed them that they had in fact actually not won and were making fools of themselves.

With the Bombers also having ruthlessly dispatched the spoon-elect Lions they topped their group and caused every depressed red and black wearing freak in the country to shudder with glee at the prospect of a Hird led revival carrying them to a flag this year.

But you would celebrate a pre-season win of sorts if you were a 'big' side who has done bugger all for the best part of a decade. I'd rather have played St Kilda, because like us they're used to being shit and winning nothing. Nobody is going to run around with their arms aloft like they’d just won the Olympic 100m sprint if we win a meaningless game. Essendon are our sporting equivalent of that fantastic video of Gadaffi giving an interview in his car and talking about the rain. Once feared regional strongmen, capable of great damage, now reduced to sitting in the metaphorical car holding a philosophical umbrella and rambling like sad old bagladies about past, and perceived future, glories.

I expect that after 22 years of winning absolutely nothing there'd be a few mild scenes of joy if we won a pre-season cup, and you'll have to wait another season at least for that, and you’d buy the DVD just to watch it once and stash it away never to be viewed again, but let’s not treat the novelty rules gimmick cup like it means anything in the grand scheme of things. Do I need to show you pictures of Carlton fans/supporters going off their collective norgs after a NAB Cup victory shortly before turning in seasons that would have made the Brisbane Bears go red with shame. That won’t be necessary, especially because one of those years they won 3.5 games and two of them were against us.

The most distressing thing about pre-season games is having to pay to watch them. At least you used to get a discount if you were a club member. Then Docklands came along and it was generosity out, corporate greed and $25 hot dogs in. Hooray then for one of the major sponsors realising that nobody cares and handing out free tickets to anybody who'd have them. If I'd had to pay for what we watched tonight I might very well have taken the Medallion Club approach and started reading a book five minutes in.

What did happen to discounts for club members? I notice AFL Members can walk in the door for free but the people who support the clubs directly get dicked. My theory is that the cut price offers got the boot once they stopped having to bribe people to go and watch this sort of garbage at Waverley. It can't have helped playing the game on a Thursday night but discounts for the 50,000 odd combined members of the two clubs might have helped them pull a crowd slightly bigger than what North get for a match against Freo.

Our fans won't go to Etihad at the best of times (and isn't the home game against the Eagles there going to be an uplifting experience) but even with the "ZOMG! We are back!" factor amongst the Bombers fans there were still less people in the stadium than who have boffed the St Kilda girl. I'm not complaining mind you, 40,000 at Docklands is like 350,000 at any real stadium. More than happy to sit anywhere, not have to wait nineteen hours to do anything and avoid being crushed to death trying to get out of the vile place.

Despite my earlier claims of not ralphing over a pre-season game that's precisely what I spent four quarter almost doing. It was nothing to do with tension mind you, but what it did do was succeed in almost completely taking my attention of the match for the rest of the night while attempting to avoid disgracing myself and causing another rift in the cleaners union when somebody is ordered to clean up after.

Realistically there were two options. Go home and watch the rest of the match live on Fox while lying sideways on my floor trying to keep the beast at bay or give in to the epic power of whatever had poisoned me and spend half an hour with my head in an Etihad Stadium bog. Two problems - one, I would rather stick my head in a public convenience for 30 minutes than listen to Fox Sports commentary when I didn't have to and two anybody who has ever been to a football match in their life knows that football fans treat public bathrooms with sheer contempt and after ten years of the place being cleaned by people who are probably being paid $5 an hour and couldn't be reasonably expected to actually care there's no way I'm putting my head anywhere near that.

Anyway, just talking about it is making me feel ill again - and in a appropriate nod to option one from above I am writing this while lying down on my loungeroom floor - so if I absolutely must let's look at the match itself, what I remember of it anyway and that's that the first quarter was an utter shambles. You know any game is going to be shit when you cop a goal in the first thirty seconds, but when we went from two down to one in front with three in a row I thought the bugs had been ironed out and we were well on the way to a Semi Final for the first time since Adelaide spanked us in '06 and the proto-AFL mobile website spent the whole evening telling me that it was us rampaging to victory only to get home and find out that we'd actually been thumped.

Forget the fact that the midfielders could barely get near it when it hit the deck, Essendon players were running around without an opponent anywhere near them and even when we did manage to get it past half-forward we didn't appear to be playing with a forward line. Bombing it hopefully inside 50 to a two-on-one or a hopelessly outgunned small forward was the theme of the evening.

Meanwhile to nobody's surprise the first time the ball went out of bounds we were treated to half a stadium calling for a free kick in an utter refusal by the public, a'la the people who sat there at the first Grand Final wondering why everybody was leaving before extra time, to follow what the rules are. Not their fault, if the league didn't change them every bloody week there'd be more certainty. And who am I to name and shame people who weren't keeping up, I had to look up who #44 was at one point because I'd forgotten Rohan Bail existed.

I'm well aware that we're going for this swashbucking end-to-end total football stuff, and on the off chance that it actually works properly (once tonight maybe?) it looks magnificent but in scenes as old as time itself we kept winning the ball in the midfield and looking forward to find nobody there. It started early, it kept on going, it makes me want to neck myself. Watts looked good playing out of the square two weeks ago, but tonight he was all at sea further up the ground. Not surprisingly the one time he got a goal was when the ball was on the deck inside 50.

So, just when you thought we'd turned the corner it all went horribly wrong and the Bombers forwards caused our entire backline to shit themselves and turn the ball over at every opportunity. If Hardingham (fake name?) hadn't hit the post after turning Macdonald inside out and making him look stupid we'd have been toast at the first break - and we'd have deserved it to. Criminally after that barrage we almost went into quarter time in a competitive, near healthy, state. First My Chemical Maric joined the hallowed club of MFC 9 point goalkickers (a list which, bizarrely, includes Al Nicholson) then Watts won his free and goalled and the margin was unexpectedly and undeservedly back to within our range.

Of course when you follow Melbourne nothing is so simple as to actually make the comeback, you have to get rorted by the umpires at least once. Cue the poor man's (though clearly better on the night) Davey brother having the goal umpire shepherd his kick through the goals off his plums when it was bang on line to smack into the post for a point. Way to kill the momentum, but bloody hell how many times did we neck ourselves during the quarter?

The obsession with trying to kick nine point goals every farking time when other players were on or they could have run further was one thing, but then to concede one to them which flops over the line with nobody to rush it through was criminal, dumb football. Again we got a late goal to make it respectable via the Jurrahcane but everything already pointed to us either getting done or stealing it in criminal fashion. Our kick-ins were reduced to the same old get out kick to the boundary line 50m out and Essendon players were running around 20m on their own yet somehow managing to outnumber our lot whenever they got the ball.

Yet again they jumped us in the third quarter, and yet again it was only stuffed up chances that kept us in the game. By the time Dunn, looking even more ridiculous than even having dyed his mo darker a'la Hitler/Charlie Chaplin/Ron Mael from Sparks, proved that his run with set shots last year was no fluke we were playing catch up again. And surprise, surprise once again when the quarter ended we were back in the game having dominated the last ten minutes. Emo Maric even gave the slightest hint of a smile when he kicked his third to drag the margin back to ten points. On the strength of his performance so far MCM is straight into my starting 21 + 1 with a bullet. Poor old Aussie Wonaeamirri might never be seen again if Maric keeps going like he has been.

But before football's most depressed player goalled, for about five minutes it was all Jurrah. First he missed an easy snap then made up for it by dancing through half the Bombers defence to kick a goal. His pass to Bate capped off a cracking five minutes, but as he seems to do so often now Old Bate missed and it was all wasted. Given that we were being slaughtered on the inside 50's count, and dare I say it without looking the contested possessions as well, he needed to do better. I've been a long term Bate sympathiser but he's got to do something this year after seven on the list and six since he debuted. I wake in terror during the night after dreaming that he becomes the next Brad Miller and ends his career tortured by unfulfilled promise while kicking Richmond's only goal of a pre-season thrashing.

We should have been able to do ten points in a canter, especially after having an extra week's break, but right from the start Bailey showed a near Paul Roos like level of disinterest in the pre-season by starting the supposedly cutthroat final term with The Spencil at the centre bounce. Apart from one big grab in the back line I will be charitable and just say that it didn't work.

Jamar had been decidedly ordinary around the ground all night, but at least he was winning the taps. I'm all for giving him a rest but surely the first ten minutes of the last term are a good time to play the stars then if it doesn't work you can pack everybody away and start the gruesome experiments. How about when he went up for the contest with Ryder and somehow the Bombers got a goal out of it? I think the ball hit the deck and miraculously bounced right back into Ryder's hands, possibly off somebody's foot, but it still made me pine for the farcical scenes of Sylvia contesting the centre bounce in Darwin last year.

We've got to play him, with the ruck stocks we've got he's always one injury away from being our starter, but I can't be the only one who will be sacrificing live animals to try and get Max Gawn up and going at some point this season. I'm still a bit iffy about them not going out and getting an experienced, big bodied ruckman** in the rookie draft just as cover in case Jamar goes down and nobody else can even get the taps right, but given that Spencer has been promoted to the senior list now - and is presumably here for at least the next two seasons he'd want to give us some sort of signs of life soon. Will we actually live to regret giving Paul Johnson the arse? I never thought I'd say that. Martin looks like next cab off the rank, but he went from end to end tonight and wound up with the grand total of zero kicks.

[** UPDATE - 9.17am. Obviously I forgot that Robert Campbell existed. Look, I was ill ok?]

Also likely to be requesting that the tape of the last quarter is set on fire and thrown off a cliff was Joel Macdonald. He'd been average to ok at best until then but he's prone to playing a shit quarter and my god that was a ripper. The free against him when he ignored Grimes and got pinged trying to dance out of trouble was just the start of it. Then he hit the Clothesline from Hell on somebody, which he'll surely get reported for, then proceeded to get done for another free seconds later.

Nightmare stuff, and considering we'd already been deflated by Mark Williams cheating his way to a mark to get the first goal there would have been MFC stickered 4WD's driving off Central Pier into the water by the thousands had it been a real game. The thing that gave away the fact that he grassed it even before the replay clearly exposed that he was lying through his teeth about having caught it was the guilty way he held the ball up in the air to try and convince the umpire it was legitimate.

Spencer and Macdonald weren't alone though, apart from Jurrah taking mark of the (pre) year, everyone else gave up halfway through the last quarter as well. The only thing that made sitting through that rubbish worthwhile was the rockstar reception that Hird got when they showed him on the screen just before the siren. Yes, a pre-season quarter final win is now worth standing ovations and adulation. I'm sticking with the theory that the first calls to SEN from aggrieved Bombers fans trying to sack him will come by round four.

As tempting as it may be let's not be totally uncomplimentary to Essendon, they certainly deserved it more. When they were cutting us to shreds on either side of our three goal burst early we looked truly awful. Just don't act like you're suddenly the next big thing because you showed a bit. I remember we used to be extremely average (or as the kids say 'shit') in the pre-season even when we were good.

So, I've come home and kicked the metaphorical cat by writing this yet I think I'll be over it tomorrow. Let's talk about panic and drama after Round One when Trent Dennis-Lane kicks nine and Craig Bird has 34 possessions.

The upside tonight is that nobody got hurt, Jones looked good in his first game for the year, all of Strauss/Evans/Howe showed something, there are players to come back, we've been given the necessary short, sharp shock that should help Bailey and co refocus on getting it right for the regular season and that The Spencil is about 200-1 to ever be our starting ruck in the fourth quarter ever again.

Long term readers will know about my feelings on the AFL website. Now, I might be wrong here but have they replaced the play-by-play descriptions on their Match Centre with mindless chat for 15-year-olds?

Thank god, not for the first time, for who despite being a primarily DreamTeam/Supercoach focused site have match logs that put the idiots on millions running the official AFL site to shame.

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre Season Performance votes
The following votes are given with zero confidence, but if I refused to give votes every time I wasn't sure if anybody deserved them there would have been people winning awards on single figure totals over the last four years.

5 - Jack Grimes
4 - Colin Sylvia
3 - Addam Maric
2 - Liam Jurrah
1 - Jack Trengove

Apologies in varying degrees to Bennell, Dunn, Jamar, Jones, Moloney and Rivers.

This is where it starts getting iffy. If we play somewhere sensible next week and either myself or a Demonblog special reporter can do votes the PPPFPSP leaderboard will maintain some integrity. If not the whole thing will be reliant on the almost certainly invented report by some 15-year-old AAP cadet who just named the first five people who he/she could find on the net.

14 – Colin Sylvia
10 - Jack Grimes
5 - Colin Garland
4 - Stefan Martin
4 – Rohan Bail
4 - Liam Jurrah
3 – Tom Scully
3 - Aaron Davey
3 - Mark Jamar
3 - Addam Maric
2 – James Strauss
2 - Neville Jetta
1 – Jared Rivers
1 - Jack Watts
1 - Jack Trengove

Encyclopedia Titanica
Sometime post-draft and pre-Christmas I declared myself sick of football and resolved to take a break. Then I read the Flower, Stynes, Jacko, Barassi, Trish Broadbridge and Schwarz books, a shitload of old newspapers, some 80's records and ancient annual reports. Obsessed? Why yes indeed.

As a result of this furious campaign for historical perspective Demon Wiki is now over 5100 pages and quite frankly most of it is utterly useless unless you're looking for somebody specific or played reserves in 1988 and want to see it acknowledged online.

Is there any point to it all? Not really. Still, feel free to pass the URL onto fellow MFC travellers. I'm comfortable with Demonblog being a deep, dark secret - because let's face it how would you explain this slop to the wider public? - but I'd like more people to know that DW is the comprehensive source of MFC information in the world. Too bloody comprehensive perhaps, but tell that to Keith Goonewardene fans.

Next week
Time to start consulting your set of leather bound touring maps for directions to Omeo and Mt Gambier. Or Princes Park if we're lucky. It wouldn't be the first time a "regional challenge" match has been played in the rural centre of Parkville, but it also wouldn't be the first time they've taken the piss and scheduled it for 4pm on a Thursday.

Keeping watching @demonblog on Twitter for your chance to be a special guest reporter if you haven't got anything better to do than go to a game in the middle of the day. First it helped oust Ben Elton's god awful TV show and now it can make you a special guest reporter. Is there anything Twitter can't do?

Final thoughts
Was it worth it? Of course not, I'd rather give myself third degree burns with a branding iron than sit through four quarters of that garbage again. It's going to be a long, long grind from here to 2.10pm on Sunday 27 March.

Friday, 11 February 2011


So, that was your first taste of football for 2011. How was it for you? Hardly moving stuff that would make you instantly go out and throw ten g’s on us making the eight, but solid, encouraging stuff and a pair of victories. In Adelaide of all places. The experience was soured by the AFL’s attempt to play some sort of rock 'n roll format to get 'the kids' involved which fell flat on its face, but don't think that we’ve seen the last of it.

Also key in ruining any excitement about the start of the season was the Z-List commentary team consisting of 80’s turncoat Healy and present day space cadets Shaw and Russell. Then just when you thought it had gotten so bad in the booth that surely they’d have to do something sensible like throw Leigh Colbert to the bench we get Liam farking Pickering instead. You know full well that when Healy is the top performer on your coverage then you’re in more trouble than the proverbial early settlers.

Wasn't it good to see the punters of Greater Adelaide coming out in their hundreds for the night as well? Offered the choice between a crucial A-League clash at the Adelaide Oval or three hours of Football For Idiots that the AFL can later use dubious research to foist on us in the regular season, it seems the town voted with their feet and chose the other version of football instead.

And why wouldn't you? Apart from, you know actually going to watch the club you purport to be a 'supporter' of. Usually an AFL match losing to an A-League match in the importance stakes would be the cue for various ponytailed marketing types at AFL headquarters to start leaping out of windows but they've introduced such a whored out version of football for first round of this competition that it's no surprise that people get peaky about trekking out to the South Australian equivalent of a stadium opposite Fountain Gate to watch inconsequential crap. "If you were a football fan then you'd be here" said Neil Craig in a pre-match interview. Looked very much to me like nobody in Adelaide actually gave a shit.

How the AFL must be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of the Adelaide Oval makeover delivering them a 50,000 seat stadium in the city proper. I imagine Football Park to be like watching sports in East Germany or Albania, just a structure thrown wherever it would fit with no thought to comfort or amenity. Sort of like Waverley but not thoughtfully demolished at the turn of the century.

I'm just assuming that it was the Adelaide fans who didn't bother to show up, every single Port supporter might have been there and you wouldn't have known. As for our fans I wouldn't be surprised if all MFC supporters west of Horsham hadn't already thrown their hands to the sky in disgust and screamed "ENOUGH" having watched the tripe we've served up over there in the last decade.

So, the format that was going to reinvigorate football as we know it;

* Three teams play each other once. Top team goes through to the quarters along with the two best second placed teams. Anybody know what the tiebreakers are? Anyone actually care?

Basically it's fitting 18 teams into a format which still provides four games in the second round. It's imaginative, I'll give them that, but would have been much easier if they'd taken Gold Coast, West Sydney, West Coast and Brisbane and made them play qualifying games for being so shit last year. Of course that wouldn't give the league the chance to try and workshop a format which they're probably gagging to bring back next year.

Just get all the teams in the same place at the same time, call it the World Sevens, invite Tonga and be done with it. Dreadful.

* Two x 20m halves. It just feels dirty even referring to a half unless it's made up of two quarters. Time on didn't start until the arbitrary mark of 17:30. Do they actually have meetings to discuss this stuff?

* Last player to touch the ball going out of bounds gets a free kick against them. An utter disaster that didn't even look good on paper.

* The usual pre-season garbage rules like nine point goals and three points for a rushed behind.

So, rubbish rules, rubbish commentators and a ground we haven't won at since before Federation. What could possibly go wrong? Well for a start there was the sexy new pink jumper. That'll really get the kids on board and send us straight to the top of the membership table. Still, if Hawthorn can get 50,000 members despite looking like they're wearing an unkempt toilet then I suppose it doesn't really matter does it? Apparently there was some problem at the source and "redder" jumpers are on the way. That's what happens when your playing kit is manufactured by Cambodian slave labour.

Game 1 - Some people call me the Space Cowboy, some people call me Dwayne

So, the first minute of the first game of the first year of our latest era of greatness and the more things change the more they stay the same. Crows kick a point, Grimes picks the ball up to kick in and the poor bastard looks up to find every one of his teammates blanketed by an opponent. In a move torn from the first half of 2010 textbook he went for the get-out kick to Jamar at half-back flank and it would have worked too if it wasn't for that pesky umpire.

Considering we haven't had a free player from a kick-in since 2002 it was the best we could hope for. I calmed myself by believing that if it had been Travis Johnstone he'd have booted it to an Adelaide player 30m out straight in front.

It went back inside 50 from the free and the theme of the night was set as the Crows stuffed up a goal. Rinse and repeat for the next 90 minutes.

The first utter cock-up involving the new rules came when Grimes had the ball slapped into his leg, sending it out of bounds on the full under anybody's rules but the learned umpires came together and couldn't decide whether it was 'decisive or not' and threw it in instead. That's exactly what this game needs, another rule that is completely subjective and up to the umpires to make a split second decision with 40,000 mutants (or 300 if you're at a Port game) screaming obscenities at them. Holding the ball is a necessity but we've got enough problems with deliberate out-of-bounds and latterly deliberate rushed behinds so for god's sake have some thought for the mental health of the umpires before forcing them into making more decisions based on guesswork.

Dear AFL rules committee, marketing department and various other crack smoking freaks. Before introducing 'trial rules' and hiding behind the fact that they're "just trials" stop for a second, put the pipe down and ask yourself "Does this improve the game?" Of course it doesn't, of course you're not going to bring it in for real so why bother? You know, like that substitute rule where they had to sit there in a silly singlet until called to come on. Wasn't that stupid? Wait, what do you mean that's in the regular season this year. What happens if the person being subbed off is carried off on a stretcher with a broken collarbone, do you still get fined if they can't get the red singlet over his compound fracture? I can see hours and hours of these type of shenanigans taking place as they tried to get the singlet on.

In true MFC at Football Park tradition we didn't go across half way for the first five minutes, and even when we did we fucked it up royally. All the while as we fumbled around the half-back flank looking every inch the shit team we've been for four years the Fox Sports effects microphones gave us the sound of somebody, presumably an umpire, panting like he was on the job in a 70's porno. I thought it was just their draft coverage that had the production values of a Channel 31 show but apparently not. If it wasn't for their commitment to showing games that a handful of people care about they'd be for the tip.

I was still screaming obscenities about the new rules at the television in my sordid little grief hole when against all odds the very same rules delivered us our first goal of the year. A shite kick from a Crows defender whose name I do not know nor care to ever learn sliced across the defensive 50 and out of bounds where the Stefan Martin Experience was awarded the free. Last year he might have shanked the ball straight out of bounds and looked a bit of a goose but this time he drilled a pinpoint straight onto Emo Maric's chest and in a shock, unforseen result the most depressed man in league football wheeled around and booted it. He still failed to raise a smile though. I can just see him being awarded his Brownlow and just walking off on Bruce McAvaney to go to the bathroom and cry silently.

The Crows kept missing, and Watts got the second as a gift after the Crows managed their own stuff up of a kick-in after Jurrah's early contender for behind of the year. That's behind as in one point, but if you've been checking out his cheeks feel free to send in a review. The man with the cast iron buttocks then delivered a pinpoint pass onto Green's chest for the third of the day and by christ we actually had a lead of some variety in the state of South Australia.

Could have been even more if Davey hadn't tried a checkside roll through from 20m out when he could have just blasted it, but we got just reward 20 seconds later anyway after the Crows stuffed up kicking inside 50 again - this time putting it out on the full under anybody's rules - and the Jurrahcane slotted one of his casual, half leg lift goals. Was it too good to be true or are the Crows just shit? When you consider that it was Richard Tambling who kicked the thing out on the full in the first place I think the answer is fairly clear.

Given that we'd been battered from pillar to post for the first five minutes of the game and that we usually struggle to score three goals in a real half of football it was a great result to be three in front at the first break. No bloody use if we threw it away in the second half/quarter/chukkah/period/stanza/century AD/whatever though, and you could see how seriously Neil Craig was taking it by playing some 14-year-old that he'd probably drafted from Romania on titans like Green and Jurrah.

The second half started in pretty much exactly the same fashion as the first, with the Crows dominant and keeping the ball locked inside fifty. "This'd be for nine!" shouted Russell as a badly skewed Van Berlo snap landed five metres out of bounds on the full. Then a few seconds later while replaying that shot which they'd been assured by their star commentator had gone so close to scoring maximum points Fox managed to miss a big grab because they were showing a replay. Goal and with the wind against us it was beginning to look a lot like a choke was on the cards.

It took until the second half for the commentary team of idiots to realise how ridiculous and shit the boundary line rule was, even if non-committal Shaw refused to say he hated it and tried to find some benefits just so he wouldn't get taken off the AFL Christmas card list. Get with community standards Tone, I'm going to suggest that without asking one person or reading any forums anywhere that 99.9% of people will hate the rule and will never want to see it again. Now hold your breath for Demetriou to bring out some dodgy research about testicle injuries 1985-2005 to justify bringing it in permanently.

For the second time that night the Crows threw everything at us but couldn't put the game away. Everything they'd battled for was wasted when they stuffed it up in the backline again and My Chemical Maric got his second. There was even hint of smile, but he quickly realised and went back to being stony faced and serious.

With seven minutes left and the Crows 17 points behind Russell delivered another zinger by yelling - and doesn't he just yell a lot for no reason? - "Adelaide still believe they can win here!" What a tedious Big Book O'Cliches thing to say. I think I'd almost rather pay to fly to every interstate game this year than listen to him. Can Fox please provide a commentators roster so I know when he'll be on and can be lobotomised accordingly?

Maric's goal should have ended it all - for the game that is, don't get any ideas son - but we let the filthy bastards back into it and they kicked a goal to cut the margin to ten with just over five minutes left. A cheap free on Garland, pretty much our best until then, gave them a chance but old mate shanked it the margin was nine, which as we were reminded just as many times as we were about the new rules "for those of you who have just tuned in" that it would take just one "supergoal" to level the scores. Many thanks for that detailed explanation, they've only been playing these rules since 2003 you know.

We went forward again but poor Emo Maric tried to chip and chase one down the line and booted it out of bounds only for the Crows to mess up in the backline AGAIN. Jurrah almost kicked the sealer after a huge smother (IS THERE NOTHING THIS MAN CANNOT DO?) but even his miss extended the margin to ten points and we were all but home. This is the point where I started to get nervous for the first time all year. You can (almost) handle losing to a late goal if you were four points in front but copping two is like being knifed in the back and the front as well for good measure.

Set your watch it'll happen to us sometime this year, but tonight mercifully was not the night. Jamar tackled a Crow out of bounds, nobody knew what was going on but somehow we got a free out of it to run the clock down far enough to be assured of the win. We should have had another one inside 50 but of course the umpires confused themselves and couldn't decide who touched it last and called for a throw-in.

Didn't matter, we'd won anyway but it was one of countless examples of why the people who decided that it was a good rule should be shot. Don't give me any of this shit how they used to do it in the 40's either, in the same era in the VFA you could do a rugby style flick pass and I don't see anybody trying to bring that back. (Newsflash - AFL decides to introduced Flick Pass rule but you can only use it in the third quarter between round 3 and 5 if the game is played on a Sunday and you are in the middle of a substitute powerplay or have more than 51% of your club members in the ground at the time and they're wearing officially licensed AFL merchandise as purchased at Rebel Sport).

So, it meant absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things and I refuse to declare the Football Park curse dead yet but somehow we have finally won a game of some variety at the place for the first time in nearly ten years. All well and good but did we really need to hear the theme song for it?


5 - Colin Garland
4 - Stefan Martin
3 - Mark Jamar
2 - Liam Jurrah
1 - Jack Grimes

Apologies to Maric, Trengove, Moloney and god knows who else. Watts was ok, but he's beyond the point where I'm going to spend every week analysing his performances for signs of a future Hall Of Fame induction. If he turns out to be a gun then let the good times roll, otherwise let's just take what we can get. Des Headland was a #1 who won a premiership, and if he can do it then so can anybody other than Clive Waterhouse or Richard Lounder.

As for the rookies Nicholson can clearly get a kick - and don't you just love seeing somebody going around in #49? - but didn't use it well, which you can excuse him for a first run in senior company. Tell you what, if he comes out and announces that he'll wear #49 for life then he'll be my new favourite player. Sorry SME, just as the #34 jumper looks like it might come out of retirement I will boot you out again if somebody declares a lifelong allegience to any number above 45.

Game 2 - Good grief, that was unexpected

So, one win in Adelaide achieved. Surely we were never going to fire up and pull out two in a row. Even if it was against Port who are, frankly, shite.

Our boys were clearly stuffed at the end of the first game so it was hard to tell whether they'd have an advantage coming off a 20 minute break against the Power having already been out there or whether they'd carry on as per the first game and then fall in a gigantic heap late in the piece.

The Spencil started in the ruck after being a sub in the first game but it was far too much to ask for to get some actual indication about who he replaced. I assumed Jamar because the SME somehow wound up at back where the Experience was born in defence but then we went forward and the Russian was there. You work it out. Nevermind, thank god Jamar was there because it was a ball spilt from his attempted mark that gave Trengove the chance to kick the opener. Beautifully taken goal too, and proof that you shouldn't put all your gun young player eggs in the one basket.

I'd forgotten filthy porno mo Dunn was out there given that he didn't get a touch in the first game, but when he bobbed up to kick our second Pickering made sure to feign like he'd never seen it before and talk it up like it was the best thing ever. Fox Sports are clearly your connection for the latest and greatest in AFL news and trends.

Proof that Jack Grimes is a rare genius came when he cut off Daniel Motlop's attempt to roll one through from 40m out. Even before the ball went onto his boot Grimes knew exactly what he was going to do and got down to rush it through. Shame then that about five seconds later Strauss made an idiot of himself by thumping the ball straight out of bounds and copping a free which Port somehow worked into a nine point goal. God knows how they did it, once again the build-up was missed because we were still getting a slow-mo replay of something that didn't need to be seen in slow-mo. I'd like to think he was deliberately resisting the rule because it's stupid but let's be realistic, he just cocked it up.

We were shit in the first half but we had our chances, especially when the Port player to do a Strauss and take the ball out to give Jamar a shot from the pocket - which he proceeded to boot straight out on the full. It was only when Bate kicked the Porno Dunn-esque clutch goal and cut the margin to four after the half-time siren that we actually looked any danger to win. Is it just me or does he always look completely baffled? Same with Garland who doesn't look like he'd change expression if he was dangled over an active volcano.

So, four points down and kicking with an alleged wind in the second half we should have run away with it right? Well no, this is Melbourne we're talking about here. All of a sudden Port are going inside fifty every twenty seconds and if Westhoff, still a dead ringer for the stoner from Scooby Do, had managed to move his floppy hair out of his eyes for two seconds and kick straight we'd have been in all sorts of trouble. They did it again not long after and it was starting to get embarassing. We should have been kicked out of both games but Port were just as inept in front of their own goal as the Crows had been in front of ours.

Despite having the wind our forward line looked a bit naff. Tom McDonald (T-Mac II: Citizens On Patrol) got subbed on but didn't do much other than almost shephard Davey's 9/1pter through. That was the only half decent chance we had for the first ten minutes until Sylvia missed one just on the stroke of ten minutes after some wildman football from The Jurrahcane down the bench where he made a mockery of the boundary line rule by just running down it with no care or attention for the prospect of the ball going out.

It took a Watts pack mark for first set shot of the half, and even though he slotted it to put us in front the lead was still looking highly dubious. Especially considering that he should never have been on the end of the kick in the first place. The Spencil took a free and somehow managed to avoid his quick kick into the middle of the ground being intercepted by about 1mm. He'll claim it as a gun pass but when you kick with an action like that everything that works is a fluke.

Suddenly, as if lifted by The Spencil's touch of magic, we turned the game on its head and were the better team. It all ended in a two on one where Green spilled it only for THE JURRAHCANE to pick up, keep the ball in and snap over his shoulder to put us eight points in front. HIT THE BOUNDARY! Wait, don't.

With time running out and their 19 fans roaring their little hearts out Port were repelled by a magic, possibly game saving, mark by Garland who went back underneath the ball with it swirling around in the wind. A lesser man would have fallen on his arse and conceded the goal. Casual Col says no to such defeatist behaviour.

Somehow Bate and Jetta stuffed up the chance to kick at least a point and completely seal the job but when Port went forward again, with a minute left and still time for another a goal against a bunch as flaky as us, Garland did it again. He's no Frawley but bloody hell he looks in good touch at the moment.

Mission accomplished, hello Quarter Finals without having to worry about what happened in the third game or more importantly having to worry about playing on knee destroying ovals in Morwell.

Against my better judgement I stayed watching for the Port/Adelaide game - on mute - and it was absolutely vile. I thought Port had done a lot better than Adelaide against us and provided a tougher challenge but they just put the cue in the rack and got smashed with no care or concern for the fact that two second place teams go through to the next round. Had a touch of the Paul Roos about it I thought. Let's hope that they're rewarded for their effort by being sent to play in Bunbury next week.

5 - Colin Sylvia
4 - Jack Grimes
3 - Aaron Davey
2 - Neville Jetta
1 - Jack Watts

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance Leaderboard
10 – Colin Sylvia
5 - Jack Grimes
5 - Colin Garland
4 - Stefan Martin
4 – Rohan Bail
3 – Tom Scully
3 - Aaron Davey
3 - Mark Jamar
2 – James Strauss
2 - Liam Jurrah
2 - Neville Jetta
1 – Jared Rivers
1 - Jack Watts

So, what else is happening?
There's a new team in West Sydney next year you know? Watch out with your offensive comments about what a hole in the ground shitbox place it is or you'll end up like Eddie McGuire and have poodle haired, gap teethed housewives from Blacktown calling you names on a poorly put together Channel 10 news story. More on THAT scandal later.

On the injury front I'm shattered that I managed to jinx Morton by mentioning him and his injury free pre-season. After he finally put 6kg's on, making him weigh slightly more than your average supermodel, I was dying to see him out there throwing some South Australian idiots around like rag dolls. Still, at least he's not going to miss half the season this year. If he's back by Round 3 or 4 then he'll be ok. At least he can can keep running and doing everything that doesn't involve a digit. Still, lucky none of his brothers are any good or his position as the leader of the Morton Brotherhood would be in some strife.

Scull and Crossbones
Didn't play tonight, apparently the knee soreness is legit and not just an attempt to take the heat from the vulture media off for a while.

The last thing I want is for Demonblog to become the (virtual) paparazzi sitting outside his door a'la the Warne/Hurley bonkfest waiting for the merest slither of information to come out so I can beat it up into a half-story which causes internet forums everywhere to explode in a shower of sparks. Why steal Hutchy's job when he does it so well? So, pending any further actual and real developments this is my feeling on the scandal so far.

I don't think he's signed already but he'd be insane not to be seriously considering it. You can pontificate until the cows come home about all the reasons why he'd want to stay with us but millions of dollars will be a fairly convincing argument the other way. What there is to keep him with us will have to stack up fairly high to match the lure of being filthy rich at 20-years-old. We can mock West Sydney, and believe me I intend to at some length, and question why somebody would want to live there but the fact of the matter is that if you've got enough money then it doesn't matter where you live. He'll be behind walls in some mansion on the sort of money that's being bandied about, not living in Motel Formule 1 Campbelltown.

So, I think he'll go eventually but it's going to be painful to have to sit through the drama all year. Hopefully now that there's actual football to talk about the media might try that for once. Now, I may be the only person to feel this way but I'd have far more respect for him if he came out and said that he was going but would wait to sign until the end of the year. Then we get a great year out of him and he only leaves as a moderately evil cash crazy figure. On the other hand if we get jerked around all year and lied to Ablett style when everybody knows which way it's going to go only for him to feign "process" and a "big decision" I'll be furious and he'll cop heaps as a J**d style figure of evil.

My feeling is if he doesn't sign by Queen's Birthday then he's never going to and we may as well make him a final, maximum offer, take it or leave it. If the answer is no or "err, I need more time" then don't play him. As a great man once explained politics to me, "fit in or fuck off". It would be a crushing blow to lose him but it's not the end of the world. Plenty of great players have put together magic, award winning careers and won absolutely fark all while Shane Ellen has kicked five in a Grand Final won a flag. BUT if it turns out we're all just being cheated he'll start 2012 as the biggest heel since King Kong Bundy at Wrestlemania II.

Next week
Two weeks time in fact. One of St Kilda, Essendon or Brisbane. Presumably it'll be the Saints and for christ sake if that happens can you please come up with some decent obscenities to hurl at their players? We all know some of them porked a schoolgirl, we've all seen the captain's dodger and one of their forwards may have once been investigated for heinous sex crimes but try to come up with something original.

Final thoughts
It's great to have footy back, but for god's sake can we just play it normally from now?

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

New Gold Dream '11-'12-'13-'14

Friday Night, the gates are low, it's presumably going to rain and of all the places we could have been sent to start the season we're going to Adelaide. Even a match in Wellington a'la 1998 seems like a better proposition, at least we've got a winning record there.

Still, it's only the NAB Cup so does it really matter what happens? Fox Sports didn't even bother to put the right logo in the their promo. You sat through cricket season, you tried to feign an interest in the A-League and/or the NBL for ten minutes, you used the tennis as an excuse to perve on 18-year-old Ukranian girls (female readers, you're better than that) now let's get back to the real stuff and a journey that could very well lead, sometime in the distant future, to the premiership cup being hoisted and tears of joy that should really only be reserved for the conclusion of a world war.

Even I'm starting to get excited about the future, and as you are well aware the only person who is in the same area code as me when it comes to football emo is Maric. Shake the Magic 8-Ball and ask it "will we be good one day?" and it will undoubtedly say "ALL SIGNS POINT TO YES".

But there's no need to go out and pre-purchase your 2011 Grand Final DVD yet, unless you want to watch something crushingly boring and probably involving Collingwood. Despite internet nutbars like Craig Hutchison trying to convince you that we're a legitimate Grand Final contender this year anybody who wasn't dropped on their head as a child can see that we're not quite there yet. But it'll be another decade before I can do the laboured Simple Minds reference in the post title so let's all pretend we're nutbars for now and assume that the year is going to end in glory.

Who knows, maybe the world's foremost ambulance chaser is actually right. If we somehow Bradbury our way to the flag I'll be in hospital recovering a heart attack and will be unable to offer an apology until he leaps out of the bushes with a camera crew and surprises me during a convalescing walk demanding one.

Nothing blander has ever been written, but 2011 could go either way from here. It's seems like a lifetime ago that we lived through the early/mid Daniher era of swinging from one end of the ladder to the other every year like a bunch of bipolar freaks. Now that looks like a magic scenario, anything to get off the bottom at least once every two years and not have to be spoken about in the same breath as Richmond every season.

We've certainly come from worse positions to play finals in the last decade so deep down past the spot where my dark, permanently negative soul would be (sold for $13.50 on Ebay to somebody in Albury during 2001 before they cracked on that sort of thing) and despite fantasies about finding something better to do during winter I desperately want to believe that this year should be all about putting your feet up and drinking cocktails which have been cunningly snuck into the ground inside hollowed out hot-dogs. But for all the 'air hostess smile' fake enthusiasm about the year to come something about us finding a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory still eats away at me. Nurse, the valium please.

I'll be happy with 7th or 8th. Write your own story on acceptable finishes but I'll be more than pleased to play one final. Don't give me any of this shit about Essendon falling to pieces in following years after getting thrashed in one final either. They had a flaky coach, flaky players, and fans that can afford to ring up and abuse the club on SEN every twenty minutes because they work in muddy ditches, fish & chip shops or fish & chip shops in muddy ditches. We're in a much better place and have a coach who might not have proved that he can actually coach yet but has built a team who look like they'd walk through walls for him and who would probably slap a headlock on Matthew Knights and clamp down until his little face turned blue if given half the opportunity.

So, at the moment everything looks good on paper and there are plenty of good news pre-season stories going around about how Tom Scully could win the 3000m Steeplechase at the London Olympics but every side look like world beaters before the first ball of the year is bounced. Pretty soon "John Meesen is training the house down" becomes "John Meesen was never seen again".

Even St Kilda, who have disgraced themselves so many times that they've crossed the Women's Day Line where the media can make up anything they like about them, attribute it "amazed fellow diners" and publish knowing the public will believe it, will tell you that they're fitter, stronger and ready to bore the world shitless with an even more rubbish Temazepam inspired gameplan in 2011.

Then there's the other end of the table, a conversation that mercifully we're no longer involved in and with any luck won't be again for another decade and a half minimum. Everyone knows that West Coast aren't going to win the flag anytime soon but even they'd be looking at their 'form' on the training track and trying to convince themselves that they could sneak into the eight with the proverbial "bit of luck". Unfortunately for them, and for us circa 2008 and 2009, no matter how storming your time trials are, how much somebody can bench-press or how many sleeping pills they can neck before whizzing on a shop window it doesn't meant squat when you spend the next six months landing kick-ins straight on top of opposition forwards or handballing to umpires just because they're wearing pink.

The "any news is good news" pre-season frenzy reached its lowest point when Brisbane came out spruiking the fact that Brett Burton had come on board and helped boost their fitness. Whee, what a wonderful world. Certainly makes up for the fact that you traded your future away for a mountain o' plums. Somewhere even they're trying to justify that the Birdman Factor is going to align with Fev getting out of jail and booting a hundred goals to get them into the finals. Welcome to MFC 2008 territory Lions fans. Where the previous year is written off as an anomaly just long enough for you to get to Round 1 and start losing by a 100 points every third week.

Not to mention that the nature of a league table is, obviously, that somebody has to come first and somebody has to come last. I'm not sure what the actual tiebreakers are in the AFL after match points and percentage (points scored? match record between the tied clubs? Toss a coin? Pub trivia?) but I'm sure there's a massive, arcane rulebook to ensure that there's no way that teams can end up tied for a position at the end of a season. Because, as Tony Abbott once explained to me, that would be communism. So, how would you feel to finish half a game out of the finals and win the spoon? Personally I'd leap out the window.

I don't doubt that we're going to improve, it would be hard not to without a black death style injury crisis or an epic crisis of confidence, but where does that fit with the rest of the competition? The simple, and bloody obvious, equation is that for us to make the eight we need at least one side to drop out. While there might be question marks over Carlton (with any luck soon to become the new Essendon) and Sydney at the very least, Adelaide and North should improve on last year and contend for a spot.

Our best bet is to get down to the TAB and throw a multi on a) the natural improvement of our own young list into b) one of Carlton and the Swans dropping out and c) another 2010 contender suffering the same sort of catastrophic Air Crash Investigation style failure that we had in '07. Then take those winnings down to the cas, slam them on red (+ blue), spin the wheel and hope for the best.

On the off chance that anybody cares/wants to hold it against me at a later date, this is my predicted ladder. It should ensure that not one of the following teams actually finishes in the position which they are listed in. I'm going to stay clear of predicting any major shock failures by last year's contenders but here's hoping that they drop like nine-pins in front of us.

1 - Collingwood (well, how could you not?)
2 - Geelong (one for the road, Chris Scott to be declared a gun shortly before it all falls apart)
3 - St Kilda (only for want of other contenders. Could go as low as 5th, will hopefully get relegated to the Mornington League)
4 - Fremantle (knowing them they could finish last and fail to kick a goal all year. Except when they beat us a'la Carlton 2006)
5 - Hawthorn
6 - Footscray (I under-rate them every year so start polishing the premiership cup)
7 - Melbourne
8 - North Melbourne
9 - Carlton
10 - Adelaide
11 - Sydney (I rate very little between 7th and 11th, could be any combination thereof)
12 - Port Adelaide
13 - Essendon (First talkback callers to turn on Hird - Round 2)
14 - Richmond
15 - Gold Coast
16 - West Coast
17 - Brisbane (Amusingly it CAN get worse for them the following season. Lock in 18th for 2012)

I've plumped for seventh under pressure, but I see us possibly being anywhere between 6th and 11th. Anything outside the 8 would be disappointing, but if it's lower than 11th that will be a major "internet forums go into meltdown" disaster. Similarly fifth or six would be great, but fourth or above a miracle.

There's an air of optimism about the place which hasn't been pierced yet. Could very well happen ten minutes into Round 1 when we're five goals behind the Swans, but nothing has gotten to us yet. The Frawley injury rocked the boat a bit, but the air of mystery about it and his own intense optimism about playing early in the year have clouded the issue so much that is hasn't caused the same sort of widespread panic and looting that it would if [player not named because so I can't be blamed if it does happen] blows his knee to shreds playing a NAB Regional Challenge match in Omeo.

Even the Tom Scully to GWS rumor mill fiesta doesn't seem to be concerning many people. Maybe it's too early in the year for it to seem real, but if we get across Queen's Birthday and he still hasn't signed on the dotted line then we're in big trouble. That might be about the time to get him in for a bit of a "fit in or fark off" talk. Why even bother playing him in the second half of the year if we're not going to win the flag and he won't commit? The last thing I want is to have to go through another Ablett style fiasco where the whole year is conducted under the cloud of "will he/won't he" speculation when everybody knew very well that he very much would and earned a fortune out of it.

Still, that's a drama for later in the year. If we can negotiate our way to Round 1 without losing any more key players it will certainly help the tension. Playing Sydney is a blessing and a curse. It's a more than winnable game but we're going to be judged harshly against the epic beating we put on them at the end of last year. Nobody's expecting another demolition job like but if, god forbid, we lose it will raise a few eyebrows.

It's all about keeping as close to a best 22 as possible out there. Very rarely actually happens, and the 'best' is an evolving beast from week to another but we're still paper thin up forward and in the ruck if injury/suspension starts biting. We looked pretty good early last year (though how badly discredited did the Brisbane win become as the season wore on?) but imagine how much better it would have been if Morton and the Jurrahcane had been involved?

So if Frawley can get back on the track within the first four rounds, everyone avoids serious mystery injuries on gravel country ovals and Sylvia doesn't get sniped behind the play by some talentless hack we should start against the Swans nearly full strength as favourites and beat them. Then what happens for the rest of the year is anybody's guess. Either way it's going to be a long awaited step out of the mundane and into the fast lane. Cross everything you've got no matter how painful it is or if it turns purple.

Demonblog's chosen 21+1
Actual positions are even more discredited than our win over Brisbane so take anything you see here with a pinch of salt. Also I have proven time and time again to have no idea about footy or interest in learning about it so consider that as well when you're packing envelopes full of anthrax and sticking them in the post to Demonblog Towers in sunny downtown Beirut.

The inclusion of Frawley is based on him playing in the first month of the year. Otherwise tag in Warnock.

B: Bartram, Frawley, Garland
HB: Grimes, Rivers, McKenzie
C: Moloney, Scully, Trengove
HF: Sylvia, Bate, Dunn
F: Jurrah, Green, Petterd
Foll: Jamar, Jones, Davey
I/C: Watts, Macdonald, Morton
Sub: Martin
EM: Bail, Gysberts, Spencer

Apologies to Bennell and Bail who are next in line. The only controversial aspects of that are probably Davey as 'rover' but I couldn't find anywhere else for him and we all know naming somebody as a rover actually means fark all in this day and age, and Martin as the substitute but I'm going for somebody versatile who can go forward, back or into the ruck as required.

I'm also going for Jamar one out in the ruck to start the matches with the Experience coming on as a sub in the 3rd quarter and giving him the chance to rest up for a massive crack at the last. Stupid bloody rule but what are we supposed to do? It's not like the league bothered to consult any of the fans about it anyway, not even with one of their rigged polls where every available option ends up giving them the answer they want.

Start picking holes sports fans, but just bear in mind that the chances of anybody's chosen 21 + 1 making it to the first bounce unscathed, unsuspended and unscandaled is about 500-1.

As for Friday night I'm not even going to consider the great Football Park curse in my prediction, but I'm still only going for us to win one of two. On paper we're better off than Port and arguably Adelaide but with the first round of the cup being played in a structure and under rules clearly put together during an acid binge in the Mojave Desert with the Manson Family anything could happen.

Friday night and I just love complaining...

Friday, 4 February 2011

A day at the footy... kinda

There's nothing more exciting than an intra-club game. Apart from pretty much everything other the three hours of power at the AGM which is so boring it would send an ice addict to sleep.

Unfortunately the wacky decision to play the match on a Thursday morning put me out of the running to attend, and despite trying to pull several scams off to reschedule meetings or create fictional ones at AAMI Park it didn't happen, and the mental image of The Spencil dominating the forward line in the first quarter of last year's game will have to remain my fond memory of intra-club games for another year.

At least we didn't do a Hawthorn and play our game in Launceston, that was just taking the piss.

Thanks then to Eskimo from Demonblog's former employer BigFooty (we still love the Chief. In unrelated news he also still owns the .com) for stepping up to do a special guest report on the match and hand out the votes. Eskimo joins a long list of celebrities to provide match reports including Gore Vidal, Thomas Pyncheon, JD Salinger and former Panamanian strongman General Manuel Noriega.

Shall we kick off season 2011 then? - Mercado

Apart from being much earlier than usual, it was much like getting ready for any other game of footy for the year. Only major difference being, I was going there barracking for everyone.

First thing I was given a team sheet, and this is how the teams lined up for the start of the game:

Clint Bartram
Cale Morton
Jordan McKenzie
Lynden Dunn
Jack Grimes
Colin Garland
Lucas Cook
Brent Moloney
Matt Fieldsend (Casey)
Stef Martin
Michael Riseley (Casey)
Neville Jetta
Gus Patti (Casey)
Jake Spencer
Luke McKenna (Casey)
Rohan Bail
Kelvin Lawrence
Sam Blease
Luke Beehugo (Casey)
Jed Costigan (Casey)
Tim Costigan (Casey)
Cameron Johnston

Jack Watts
Matthew Bate
Jack Trengove
Mark Todd (Casey)
Colin Sylvia
Ricky Petterd
Addam Maric
Joel Macdonald
Jared Rivers
Aaron Purves (Casey)
Tom McNamara
Tom Scully
Wade Lees (Casey)
Max Gawn
Jeremy Howe
Mark Jamar
Luke Hill (Casey)
Tom McDonald
James Strauss
Mark Weekes (Casey)
Daniel Nicholson
Michael Evans

A few of the notable omissions from the game were;
Green (flu), Davey/Jurrah/Bennell (All Star Game), Frawley (pectoral injury), Warnock (rolled ankle), Jones (back soreness), Tapscott/Gysberts (managed training loads) and Fitzpatrick (in a moon boot, a few whispers of a stress fracture, nothing certain though) and Austin Wonaeamirri (bit behind in the fitness stakes, after spending time on the Tiwi Islands over the pre-season).

Key Matchups
Garland vs Bate
Bartram vs Petterd
J MacDonald vs Dunn
Grimes vs Watts
Jamar vs Spencer
Sylvia, Trengove, Evans vs McKenzie, Moloney, Jetta

From the start of the game it was pretty clear that the White team had the advantage with more class in the midfield, and better targets forward. The Blue team did however have the better defence, so I think it may very well have been planned that way by the coaching staff.

The game started out very sloppy. Missed targets were a prominent feature, as were fumbles, dropped marks and sloppy handballs. It had been raining a bit that morning, so as soon as the ball went to ground everyone had trouble with it. The player that shone through in this time of the game was Scully. He was cleaner than most, ran with the ball and genuinely looked really good.

The White team came out hard early and didn’t take a backwards step. They were going at the ball as if it were a game against an opposition team. This seemed to almost stun the Blue team who really did look like they didn’t want get hurt or hurt anyone else, and as a result the White team skipped away to an early lead. As the quarter wore on the skill levels picked up, and we started to see a bit of flow to the game. At the end of the first quarter the Blue team had struggled to get the ball past half forward, and were trailing by a couple of goals.

At quarter time the masses that had gathered around the ground crept out to see what the coaches were saying but from my vantage point I couldn't hear a great deal of what was being said. The White team forwards were gathered together, and talking about creating space. They had dominated the ball early in the game, but everyone seemed to lead to the same spot, and it ended up being far too congested.

Jim Stynes was out there with Garry Lyon having a good chat to a few people which was good to see. He is skinny as a rake, but looked in pretty good spirits really.

The breeze had picked up a little in the second quarter and was favouring the Punt Rd end of the ground, where Blue was kicking. Not only did they have the use of the wind, but the blue side came out happy to be a bit more physical and it worked for them. The contest evened up a whole lot in the second quarter, with the Blue team getting back on par, before the White team snuck a late goal. The Blue team made more of their opportunities forward in the second term and the Whites were still slightly ahead with regards to time with the ball, but they overused it a whole lot trying to be a little bit too precise.

At half time, the teams changed around quite a bit. Blue virtually became what was left of our best team, and the White team was mostly rookies and the Casey players. Two notable players for the White team were Bail and Jetta, and the major surprises for the Blue team were James Strauss and Addam Maric. A couple of players didn't resume after half time. Blease and Gawn were rested, whilst Ricky Petterd came of with a minor hamstring complaint.

As the second half got under way it was pretty clear the Blue team was significantly better, but that was to be expected. The disappointing thing was that they only managed to kick four goals for the half despite dominating play. They were rusty using the ball, and didn’t take their opportunities.

Encouraging signs from Jack Watts who slotted a couple of nice goals in the third quarter. The first was a single handed pickup through traffic and snap from 25m out. He looked utterly sublime as he did it, as if he parted the sea in front of him. Unfortunately for young Jack, he tries to do this too often, and doesn’t always get away with it. The second goal was your regular set shot. He missed another set shot not long after, pulling it slightly, and hitting the post.

Rohan Bail was the standout performer for the White team in the second half. He was a class above his team mates. His run and carry was superb, and he was close to, if not best on ground from both teams in the second half. Overall, as I mentioned before, the disappointing thing for the second half was that the Blue team couldn't kick away. The skill levels were certainly down on anything I would expect to see by the time the season starts, but as the first real competitive hit out for the year I can cut them a little bit of slack.

A few players I want to note from the hit out:

Stefan Martin – He has trimmed down and is in absolute top notch condition. He has become very athletic for a man of his height, without losing his frame. He can still hold position in a ruck dual, but is now able to really use his leap to his advantage. He looked more comfortable as a footballer today than I have seen him previously. He ran to the right places, made good body position, and created a contest. His hands were a little sloppy a couple of times, but given his height and the conditions that is to be expected.

Jake Spencer – To me Jake has come on in leaps in bounds. He has put on considerable size, worked on his kicking, worked on his rucking, and has improved out of sight. He still has a bit further to go before he is right up to the level, but he no longer looks out of his depth.

The second ruckman spot is definitely up for grabs between these two. At the moment I currently have Martin slightly in front. His work around the ground is better than Spencer, and he seems to have a much greater aerobic capacity. When he runs around the ground with his leaping bounding style he reminds of Jeff White. If he can turn out half as good as Jeff then we are definitely onto something.

Jack Watts – As I said earlier, he has the ability to do the utterly sublime, but at the moment he still makes too many little mistakes at crucial times. He comes across as though he thinks he needs to impress with every single action, where it is often uncalled for. He is once again a bit bigger through his core, and is definitely more vocal out on the field. A few times today he really demanded the ball when he had made good position which was good to see. Jack certainly knows where to move to, and with a little more confidence he can really step it up this year.

Jack Trengove – Trenners has put on considerable size. He has thickened out, put on a lot of muscle, and looks very strong. A few times throughout the game he broke clear of would be tacklers, where last year he probably wouldn’t have had the strength to do so. His skills are very good, and he creates space very well.

Tom Scully – Tom is just a machine. He runs, and runs, and runs, and... well keeps on running. He is the Energizer bunny. He is explosive off the mark, and can break through lines with ease. He looked more comfortable under pressure today. When someone was chasing him he didn't panic like he did through a lot of last season. He realised he still had the pace and the speed to hit a target.

James Strauss – I was thoroughly impressed with James. After being on the list for 2 years he finally looks as though he is ready to make the jump to AFL level. His kicking would be up there with the best in the competition, and he looked more comfortable against AFL players than last year. He provides good run from the backline, but he has also worked on his defensive side, and effectively shut down most players he played on.

Max Gawn – Only played the first half of the game, but got through it ok, and didn’t look too far out of place. He can hold his body position well, and makes decent position in the contest. From what I saw, he is still a bit of a project player, but has tremendous scope for improvement.

Rohan Bail – When he was left in the White team in the second half, he really shone through. He was a class above most of the players in that team, and I would be very surprised if he isn’t regularly pushing for selection.

Jared Rivers – Was an absolute rock in the back half. Never got out positioned, never got out played, always killed the contest, and provided some good rebounding. He was certainly the General down there.

Now for the not so good:

Addam Maric – After the continually brilliant reviews we have been hearing about Addams pre-season, I went there with intent to keep one eye on him. Whilst he looks incredibly fit, and ran the whole time, in my opinion, he is not ready to be a regular in an AFL side. He lacks awareness, is constantly being rushed, and his disposal is often poor.

Cale Morton – Has put on a fair bit of size, but I wasn’t overly impressed with much else he did today. He had some great defensive efforts, but he looked lost out there half the time when the ball was going forward.

Matthew Bate – Bate spent the last few weeks of last year out of the starting 22, and in my opinion he might find it hard to force his way back in. In the mildly wet conditions yesterday he struggled to take overhead marks, and once the ball went to ground he was too slow to compete. He tries really hard, and you can’t knock him for that, but given our game plan revolves around speed, he may very well struggle.

A close eye on the newbies:

Jeremy Howe – I was pretty impressed with Jeremy. He has very good leading patterns, but it took him a little while to get into the game. Once he got involved he did some very good things, and kicked a goal. He went for mark of the year on the wing at one stage, and copped a bit of a serve from Beamer, but he took it on the chin, went back to position and kept working hard.

Michael Evans – Evans started in the middle of the ground and did a fair bit of nice grunt work. I think he still has a little way to go before being ready for the AFL, but he showed glimpses.

Lucas Cook – Cookie did a few very nice things. A few big runs up and down the ground, even without the ball putting on pressure, and creating a diversion. He knows where to lead to. The only negative with him at this stage is his size. He is too skinny to really compete body-on-body with any AFL defenders, but that is to be expected. There were knocks on his pace prior to the draft, but because he knows where to move to, he certainly doesn’t look slow. He certainly isn’t lightning quick, but his pace isn’t anything to worry about.

Kelvin Lawrence - Kel looked very eager to impress. He has great pace, and uses the ball very well in space, but a few times he tried to do too much. He really tried to take the game on. He started out doing some very good work, and then would try and do a little more and get himself into trouble. He is a promising talent, chases hard, and could be a real weapon roaming the forward 50 in years to come.

Overall impressions:

I was extremely impressed by a few players, namely Sylvia, Scully, and Strauss. Spencer is going in the right direction and Martin is getting there also. The skills at the start were definitely very rusty, but given it was the first really competitive hit out, along with the wet, that is to be expected to some extent. As the game wore on we got a little cleaner, but there was still a bit too much messing around with the ball. Some of that came from the new draftees not having the confidence to take the game on. I think we are a long way in front of where we were this time last year, however we still have a fair way to go before we regularly compete with the best in the league. But if we keep improving I can’t see any reason why we couldn’t sneak a few wins against top sides, and really stake our claim for a position in the top eight.

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance Votes and Leaderboard
5 – Colin Sylvia
4 – Rohan Bail
3 – Tom Scully
2 – James Strauss
1 – Jared Rivers

Bartram unlucky to miss out. Jamar probably deserved votes for his performance, but considering he didn’t have a great deal of opposition I left him out.

Five points to finish on:

1 – We are a long way in front of the same time last year. We still have a way to go, but we are definitely getting there.

2 – Tom Scully is an absolute machine. His aerobic capacity must be absolutely huge.

3 – Contrary to some views I have read, Jared Rivers certainly deserves the Vice-Captaincy. He is the general down back, and from his performance yesterday I expect him to change a few people's minds for the better.

4 – Lucas Cook will be a very good footballer. He needs the time to develop his body, but he has the frame to build it on. He could very well be the final piece of our puzzle in 2 years time.

And finally – 5 – If Colin Sylvia can stay fit for the whole year, I could almost guarantee he will finish top 5 in the Brownlow medal. His style automatically draws your attention. He continually finds the ball, and as we know he uses it so well. He has the ability to be a genuine star of the competition, it’s just up to him now, but he certainly appears to have his head screwed on right.