It goes without saying that had we somehow contrived to lose today that there would have been absolute murder. Maybe not at the ground where interest in going embarassingly off chops is usually reserved for a handful of nutters (and to those people, we salute you) but in the media, on talkback radio and - god forbid - the internet it would have been slaughter. Imagine the nutters on the Facebook page, there would have been enough bizarre comments to keep you going until next season.
But thankfully by virtue of the fact that we were playing a team with an average age of 15, who featured a second game full back with absolutely no idea what he was doing, a rugby player who has half an idea and a full forward who was there as a favour to his brother we got over the line. This despite them fumbling and bumbling around for four quarters and giving us every opportunity to smash them. Somehow despite all this, and the fact that we would have smashed them three months ago with eight minutes left we were still a chance of throwing away a five goal lead at three quarter time.
In true MFC fashion it couldn't just be a simple, comfortable run away drought breaking win against the 16th best side in the competition. Like that guy in the Hawaiian Ironman who lost the ability to run and wobbled over the line like a jellyfish we couldn't have been any less convincing if we tried.
It was always going to be dangerous, they've got kids not only playing for a spot in the team but a spot on the list - and nobody expected them to win so they could afford to play fearlessly. We were suddenly thrust into the unfamiliar role of red hot favourites after two months of being belted by all and sundry with only a battling win against notorious slappers Port Adelaide to show for it. Disaster loomed. If the enthusiasm of 3/4 of their team playing on the MCG for the first time carried too long we were every chance of dropping our bundle and having a nervous breakdown.
Now here's where it gets truly tragic. Forget the result, the chance of being the worst Victorian team or the possibility of dropping back to the foot of the Laughing Stock League for the third time this season, I wasted $10 on one last crack at my five year odyssey to finally correctly bet on the first goalkicker in an MFC match. This was no time to start mucking around and having Tom McNamara at 250-1 so I plumped for the favourite for the first time ever. Jurrah @9's it was. Hey big spender.
Green did his bit to keep it interesting by kicking off with a captain's point before some Gold Coast idiot missed a sitter to keep it alive. Eventually after ten minutes of garbage that you'd be shattered to watch at a suburban game we went from one end to the other in 2010 Baileyball-esque swashbuckle fashion and Watts hit the Jurrahcane with a pass to leave him with a shot that he'd kick nine times out of 10. And of course this was the one he missed.
Another glorious failure, and so we enter the 2012 season with the closest I've ever got being an "Any Other Player" (Lynden Dunn pre-shambolic mo) at $3.20 in 2008 before they started ripping off idiots like me and putting all the players on the board. Remember when I said that I'd given up gambling? Of course that didn't happen because I've got no will power, but you'll be pleased to know it's contained to the footy only and I'm not spending nights playing obscure Asian games involving dice and dominoes in sleazy gambling dens.
Despite the fact that we were continuing the theme of the season in being bashed to death in centre clearances we still managed to kick the first three. So far so good but how many dropped marks did we have in the forward line in the first quarter? Made a mockery of my theory that as long as we could get the ball forward that we'd be right. Cue the Fev bandwagon exploding all over the shop. Probably didn't help that Howe was the sub and they lost their nerve on having Tapscott down there after ten minutes. At least ol' bucket hands Howe can be reliably expected to hold a mark over his head which is more than you can say for any of our other forwards today. May he never wear a silly green vest again.
I'll be the last person to refuse an invitation to climb aboard the Brad Green Caravan of Character Assassination, but no doubt he had an absolute mare of a first quarter and 28 minutes of the second. Before he kicked that goal at the end of the first half I was thinking "oh god, here we go again". Despite my irrational (at times) support it did look odd when he was trying to lead for Bartram's set shot despite being about 11 metres away. We all know Clint can't kick a set shot to save himself but I would have thought expecting him to squeeze a pass to the top of the square with that degree of accuracy was probably the lesser option. He missed of course, but at least he scored which is I'm sure more than we would have got if he'd tried a dinky little pass. No doubt the umpires would have called play-on anyway.
Ahh the umpires. It's late enough in the year that I can ignore my own principles and whinge about them. I wasn't aware that in addition to ripping off every second pick in the 2010 draft and being allowed an uncontracted player from each club that they were also entitled to a truckload of mystifying decisions during their first visit to the MCG. What about the one where the Suns guy jumped into the SME in the ruck contest and pushed him out of the way with the ball nowhere near either of them and still somehow managed to end up getting the free himself? Or any of the 57 baffling ruck infringements, 55 of them which went the other way. I'm surprised Jamar didn't belt one of the umpires a'la Phil Carmen by the end it was such a farce. It evened out a bit in the end but my god feel free to have half a crack at getting it right sometime. Realistically I don't even blame the umpires most of the time, the league keeps asking them to make interpretations based on rules that change every two weeks it's no wonder that they're inconsistent and we look down on them.
I did enjoy McNamara getting away with kicking Harley Bennell in the shins and dropping a fist on him a'la Macho Man Randy Savage in the last quarter. Made up for some of the rorts we were on the end of earlier, especially considering we were right on the verge of cocking it up when he did it. Best inadvertent attack on a sports ground since Zola Budd took Mary Decker out in the 1984 Olympics 3000m Steeplechase final.
After ten minutes of stalemate and another ten of our natural hackery not allowing us to capitalise on their youthful ineptitude we finally got away in the last few minutes. It really was almost the worst game you've ever seen in your life. The guys from the Chinese AFL International Cup side who were watching on must have fancied themselves to be the next Yao Ming and get drafted by us if that was the sort of competition they had - and I think they finished behind Vatican City and Ray's Tent City in that competition.
To be fair we weren't all that bad when we got our hands on the ball, other than the usual slop that we've been serving up for years, and they even appear to have devised the most likely looking system for kickouts that we've had in a decade. The problem was that when the ball went the other way they had players spread out everywhere, running around on their own. It was like we had 18 x Daniel Ward out there, running around 30m off their opponents trying to pick up cheap kicks. The only person who was going anywhere near an opponent was Bartram who was doing a half decent job on Ablett, but good luck stopping that guy without the aid of heavy sedatives or pepper spray.
Run out of the backline was good courtesy of the super impressive, and bloody quick, Blease plus Garland, Frawley and McDonald (good debut, more against real teams please) and for once we were getting it inside 50 more than the opposition but good luck finding a target in a one-on-one, and good luck not having it haemorrhage straight out the middle after every centre bounce. Get the second one right next year or don't even bother showing up for Round 1.
Until Green turned his opponent inside out and marked for his first goal to end a horror half - and springboard himself into a good performance in the end - it was starting to look potentially very, very ugly. For all their failings as a nursery club for talented children Gold Coast have been a good contested possession and good clearance side all year and they killed us on both fronts.
Needless to say there was more than a hint of nervousness amongst the assembled faithful - and the middle deck of the Ponsford was the most overwhelming MFC landslide I've ever seen apart from the guy behind me cheering Gary Ablett on for Supercoach purposes - but the most startling announcement came from my mum who stood up at half time, announced that she'd had enough of football and was leaving. Poor woman managed to make it through almost five years of garbage before finally snapping. That's one less member in 2012 then... "If I don't come next year they'll probably be good" she said as I went in the other direction to stuff my face with the Kaiser's Sausage at half. Interestingly the third quarter almost proved her right at the first available opportunity so maybe I won't try to convince her to come back.
Speaking of the greatest food outlet in footy history I spoke to the Kaiser himself (not, sadly, Franz Beckenbauer) and he said they "should" be there next season. I must admit that in the presence of the great man himself I became a bit of a sweating fanboy. To be in the presence of the greatest caterer in footy history was slightly overwhelming. It crossed my mind to try and steer him towards this page to try and set up a potential sponsorship deal. But when am I going to eat the freebies before 2012? If they could roll their van up outside the Casino at least I could go over the road for a Classic Hot Krainer special sometimes. If you're going to a finals game do youself a favour and lash out $7 for one, I can confidently predict that you will not be disappointed. Unless you're a vegetarian, then you'll get bugger all out of the experience.
Anyway, enough of the Kaiser. Until he Googles himself and we cut a deal anyway. Or we draft a player with a German name and he instantly acquires the nickname. The ok thing about today was that we had players who could have contributed more. Get Watts, Trengove and god forbid Morton into the game, find somebody for Jamar to direct his 39 hits at and play Howe from the first bounce and it's (on paper) instantly better. Still, that's the Melbourne Football Club experience for you - when it all clicks it's glorious, the other 97% of the time it's bloody awful but it always looks good on paper. If you hold it up to a mirror upside down and squint.
The third quarter was certainly worthy. Green got his second in a row and the Experience took the piss out of Bock to kick his second (though I had horrible visions of his dinky little kick crashing straight into the post) and GC couldn't get their hands on it. All of a sudden we were winning out of the middle, using it well and the advantage they had when they got the ball and had 17 spare players wasn't there. So basically as long as we don't let the other team get the ball we'll win. Not exactly the tactical basis to lay an assault at the finals on.
The only downside was Jurrah killing himself in a marking contest - but still taking the shot despite clearly having just stuffed his shoulder, which is the dictionary definition of hungry - but he's got plenty of time to get better. If there's any upside to it at least Howe will get to play four quarters next week and maybe, just maybe my triple threat ruck fiesta might get a run.
Possibly my favourite bit of the quarter, with apologies to Garland bombing a goal from 50m out, was Nifty Nev Jetta running at Harbrow, telling him to piss off and pushing straight through to kick a goal. He wasn't near our best today but I loved seeing him in the middle, I might have a Nev fetish but I'm dying to see him cement a spot in the team. Only 11 touches, but six tackles and things just seem to happen when he's around. Now that I've supported him he will now almost certainly either get traded or never play another good game again.
It looked like the natural order of the world had been restored when we went into the last quarter five goals in front but nothing comes simply to this club. Sad thing is that the side we were playing today, a corporate creation of the league pitched to unborn children and filthy turncoats who change teams in adulthood, will almost certainly win the flag before we will. Everyone will. Gold Coast, GWS, New Zealand, Fitzroy, Ray's Tent City.
No surprises either considering they've been given every advantage just on the off chance that a few thousand people in Queensland and a few Victorians who are trying to be wacky will support the game. Here's hoping that they shed a few players off the list when they're forced to return to normal numbers and that a few of the kids who fall off the back of the truck with AFL experience turn out to be good and that we may nab some decent ones. The other option is to hang around Collingwood on hard rubbish collection night and grab anything they put out on the nature strip as unwanted. The only problem there is that you'll either end up with a Nathan Djekerra who is no good without being surrounded by superstars or Simon Buckley who wasn't much chop to start with.
Before the game I had a feeling that it would end up too close for comfort, and in the last quarter the premonition came true. Just when you thought we'd run away from them, and despite the fact that we kicked the sealer about three times in 30 minutes, the little bastards kept coming at us and with absolutely no ability to lock the ball in the middle of the ground it was only inexperienced bumbling that stopped them from running right over the top of us.
First Ablett did the Ponsford Takeaway when he pickpocketed Rivers to gave Nathan a charity goal. Not so bad. Then Howe comes on and kicks a goal and we seal it for the first time. Cue four in a row by the Suns, absolute hysteria from the kids and turncoats in their cheersquad and collectively tightened sphincters of the other 21,000 people in the ground.
I refused to let myself believe we could possibly cock it up from there, but when the fourth one went in I started clearing a space in my mental horrors wing for a spot alongside the Chris Sullivan Line game and Geelong. They went forward again when it was 17 points the difference, and thank god the umpiring rorts swung around and let McNamara get away with his unprecedented attack on Bennell 40m out as good as directly in front, because if that had gotten back to under two goals there could have been an utter tragedy on the cards.
Thank god then for Jeremy Howe, the man who must never be the substitute again, who booted the second sealer and Moloney who got the third. Talk about relief, the prospect of another low moment avoided and the knowledge that we don't have to leave the house to watch this crap again before next February/March. Some people might take an interest in the annual September exhibition series which other teams play in but I'll be turning my interest to the really important things like getting a new coach, flogging some players at trade week and ruining some more athletic young men's careers by drafting them.
I've never celebrated a win less, and the match did throw up as many questions as it did solutions but looking at it rationally a few hours after the fact I think as long as we beat Port next week then we've done as well as possible out of the fortnight and can go into the off-season conning ourselves that happiness is just around the corner.
What I loved today was Sam Blease and Tom McDonald playing fearlessly with five games total experience. Do it again against good teams and I'll get properly excited but when you compare them to a Cale Morton who just looks terrified every time he runs out on the field, it furthers my theory that the Sad Panda is a mentalist who needs to go onto Prozac. He did have ten touches at 90% efficiency today, but he did it all with a look on his face like he was on his way to get a lethal injection. Cheer up son, you're living the dream.
Blease is just so quick through the ground and uses it really well by foot. I love the way he takes people on and runs through the middle of the ground. Who knows where he fits into our Best 21+1 next year against Tapscott and Grimes but I'm thrilled with the start of his career. Took long enough to get him out there, but well worth the wait.
Also pleasantly surprised by Bennell's last fortnight. Yet again, do it against some good teams and we'll be off to the races but there's no doubt he can do a job storming out of the backline and through the middle of the ground. Probably hasn't helped him that he's been sub three times and has been thrown forward at times but at least he's done enough to show he might provide something of quality next season.
McNamara wasn't in the best, but I was thrilled to see him get another name. Also really happy to see him in the middle at times as well. He looked wonky in the first half but when he settled into the game and calmed his nerves he used the ball quite well by foot. Deserves another run at it next week. Never going to be a superstar but could be handy as a depth player in the future.
So, for those of us not going to the Adelaide Oval next Sunday that's the difficult part of season 2011 over. For those of you who are going feel free to throw a 600ml bottle of coke at the umpires for me.
Somehow I managed to achieve the dubious achivement of seeing every minute of every game in Victoria (+ one in Brisbane to really make a mockery of the year) this year. Didn't that sound like a good idea in February? Will go for it next year but there's no way that three years in a row I can somehow manage to avoid any absolutely critical engagements at the same time that there's a game on.
Sooner rather than later some bastard is going to get married or worse at 1.10 on a Sunday, and the worst thing is that it will almost certainly be somebody with a connection to the other half because most of my family stopped inviting me to things after I ditched the family reunion to go to a practice match at Princes Park.
For god's sake can you all please encourage your friends and family to have weddings, funerals and birthday parties outside of footy season? Some of us don't want to be the one huddled in a corner checking scores or in the car listening to the radio - we just don't want to be there at all.
Anyway, season nearly over. Have the penultimate votes. While we're on the topic I was at the loosest end ever on Friday and did something I've been meaning to do for about three years, going back through the old Demonblog reports to make sure that the end of season leaderboards tallied with the actual week by week votes. To nobody's surprise they didn't and this year was the only one that didn't have at least some minor error. 2005 was an absolute disgrace, clearly because I didn't expect Demonblog to live very long. The only major change that came out of it was that Ricky Petterd lost his half share of the 2007 Hilton Medal because I'd given him one vote too many. Poor guy. In case you care a full run down of the year by year votes are in a spreadsheet here. Stats nerds go off your nut. The rest of you shake your heads in dismay.
2011 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Sam Blease
4 - Colin Garland
3 - Nathan Jones
2 - Brent Moloney
1 - Tom McDonald
Apologies to Green, Jamar, Frawley, Bartram, Trengove, Bennell and Howe (per capita).
So, we're a little clearer about the destination of some of the awards. Moloney draws to within striking distance of the big win, the Experience delivers one of the biggest upsets in history to capture his first Stynes medal, Garland stays within touch of Frawley in the Seecamp and Blease temporarily delays Jeremy Howe's Hilton Medal victory lap by ensuring he can at least tie for it if he scores maximum votes next week.
32 - Colin Sylvia
30 - Brent Moloney
24 - Stefan Martin (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jack Watts
23 - Jordie McKenzie
18 - James Frawley (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
16 - Mark Jamar
15 - Colin Garland
14 - Joel Macdonald
13 - Jack Trengove
11 - Ricky Petterd, Jared Rivers, Jeremy Howe (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
10 - Jordan Gysberts, Nathan Jones
8 - Brad Green
6 - Luke Tapscott, Lynden Dunn, Sam Blease
5 - Rohan Bail
4 - Michael Evans, Tom Scully
3 - Clint Bartram, Jack Grimes, Liam Jurrah
2 - Neville Jetta
1 - Addam Maric, Matthew Bate, Tom McDonald
21,000? If that was 100% correct and unaltered I'll eat my "I saw Mark Jamar kick five goals" hat. Where were they keeping the other 6,000? Won't complain considering it probably saved us from paying a "shit crowd" fine but come on, save the rorts for Metricon Stadium where they'll believe anything.
No interest whatsoever from the people sitting around me. A worrying sign was the kid of 7 or 8 sitting in front of me in a Melbourne jumper who when the Suns theme song came on he started belting it out in full voice. Ours came on and he sit there looking disgruntled. There's a kid who has been railroaded into following us by the parents, doesn't enjoy losing and will almost certainly chuck us for the Suns if we don't start winning before they do. Hope the parents refuse to let him watch them on TV for being stupid.
I wouldn't be surprised if Fox Sports decide to show International Cheese Rolling instead, but just in the case the game doesn't get cancelled my changes would be;
IN: Fitzpatrick, Bail
OUT: Jurrah (inj), Scully (out of courtesy to his future employers)
Of course we're still enjoying the Cloud Cuckoo Land fantasy that Scully is going to stay so maybe Morton instead? I'm happy to keep the Panda next year based on the fact that not signing a contract mid-season will see us get him at a rock bottom price if he doesn't walk out. Still, he needs therapy.
I see no need to bring back Davey based on the Richmond game, but I suppose they will just to keep the peace. Let's just hope he turns up to have a crack instead of getting sooky la la and belting somebody if it doesn't go well. I'll be filthy if they ditch any of Bennell, McNamara or Jetta to fit him in. Bennell has had his best two games of the year in the last two weeks, T.Mac deserves a second go and I'm gagging to see Jetta in the middle again.
Hopefully Port go even further off the rails after throwing away a near certain win against Essendon. Unfortunately for us if they'd won they'd have almost certainly avoided the spoon (unless Gold Coast beat Hawthorn anyway..) and might have totally given up and played every kid with a name like a porn star (Mitch Banner! Jarrod Redden!) on their list + Dean Brogan. Now they'll probably try and beat us. Here's hoping the South Australia curse ends at Football Park and doesn't extend to the Adelaide Oval.
Based on what I saw today I don't see how we possibly challenge the top eight next year, but consider that Sylvia, Davey, Bail, Grimes and Petterd will be back and that there's a lot of time for psychotherapy between now and next March and you never know what could happen. Don't cite West Coast as an example though, it's madness to try and compare us to where they were at.
What I want them to go out and get is a brute midfielder who can take the heat off Moloney (and to a lesser degree Jones, McKenzie, Trengove, Sylvia,
You've got to be realistic about how many players can be traded/delisted/walk out for big bucks in one year but I'm fairly certain we've seen the last of Warnock, Bate, Maric, Scully and Newton. I have no idea whether Campbell and McNamara automatically get a second year on the rookie list and then there's question marks over THE CELEBRATOR, Dunn, Morton and Sylvia (who we all hope is putting pen to paper as we speak).
That's ten players with AFL experience - five of whom are almost certain to be elsewhere next year - and the only reason I'm not throwing The Spencil in is that I know he's contracted next year. I wouldn't be surprised if we delisted Newton and Campbell, lost Scully to the V>Lines and traded Warnock/Bate/Maric for whatever we can get. Perhaps then THE CELEBRATOR and The Spencil get delisted and redrafted as rookies? As long as we don't neck ourselves and miss out on some decent players in the rookie draft just to clear two spaces on our senior list.
Green and the Stefan Martin Experience are also out of contract and haven't signed up yet. Who knows what happens if a new coach rocks up and Green gets the arse as captain? He might just tell us to piss off and walk out. Then there's the Experience who Richmond would be off their nut not to try and convince to join them for free. I don't want him to go, mainly because it will absolutely confirm that anyone who is my favourite player will never have a great career with this club, but with Jamar and Gawn signed, sealed and delivered we're never going to be able to fit all three of them in so something's going to have to give, if not this year then next year.
Is it too controversial to say that I'd rather try and rip Richmond off into paying over the odds for Jamar and keep the other two? I love The Russian but he's had one great season and two half decent seasons - the other two could be a ruck combo for years, he's got two or three years left in him and might never reach the same heights as last year ever again. Fitzpatrick and The Spencil as the backups. Wouldn't be a popular decision but I'd rather not lose Martin - who lets be fair has only had one good season in the ruck himself - and then have to find a replacement for Jamar in two years time.
Apparently Viney has done a Gillard and softened on his "I'll never put my hand up for the top job" pledge. No thanks. I want him there, and I want him to be a big part of whatever the new coaching team is but other than busting out a killer kick-in routine which worked once what's he done so far to make you think he's the man? Hopefully he was misquoted because I'd hate for him to go for it and not get it.
I think we're getting closer and closer to ending up with another untried coach, and subsequently killing the Demonblog/Farceblog cosponsored Choco Williams #chokeyourselfwithatie hashtag dream, which is fine as long as it's somebody who has worked under the best. If we're not going to get Malthouse, and Buckley doesn't want to pull the Victoria Park Screwjob on Eddie and walk out to join us and leave Mick in charge, then I'll take Neeld or Watters without argument.
Somebody give me a run down of who the other next big thing assistants are. Brenton Sanderson? Simon Goodwin? Who else. Whoever it is they'll have to bring a brand new lineup of assistants, because Scott West will go back to Footscray and if Royal/Mahoney are there next year we're collectively on drugs as a club.
Problem is that trade week is about two weeks after the Grand Final, so unless they either get an under the table assurance from Malthouse that he's found a clause in his contract to get out of Collingwood and coach elsewhere, we really have to have somebody in place by then don't we? Even the James Hird hatchet job on Matthew Knights was done by the end of September last season.
So when do we start interviewing? We wouldn't be the first team to snatch an assistant coach during the finals series (remember Bailey managing to miss Port's '07 Grand Final farce by being appointed our coach? Last good thing that ever happened to him) but if we leave it until Collingwood play in the Grand Final and find out we can't get Mick then it'll be a death race to try and get somebody in there before trade week. It's not like we're going into the week with no interest, we're players in it this time no matter how small fry the goods on offer are. Does Viney just show up and start wheeling and dealing in the hope that what he does will fit into a new coach's plans?
So unless there's been a secret nod/wink/handshake deal done somewhere that will deliver Malthouse to Melbourne under the "False Messiah" plan then give up and try to nick one of his assistants instead. See also Ross Lyon. No bloody danger Paul Roos sadly. I wouldn't neck myself if Eade walked through the door but I'd hardly be ripping party poppers and getting his name tattooed down my arm.
Whoever it is I hope they're ready to yell at people. Hopefully including journalists, fans and opposition players. If they could possibly do a bit of this too that would be great.
Seems that by the time the accursed 2012 season starts I'll have shifted homes again, and so it's farewell to that casual walk along the Yarra from Southbank and the furious trudge home responding to abusive tweets from insane North supporters.
And so we put the Southbank season in the same basket as the Camberwell season (2007), the Richmond seasons (2008/09) and the Cheltenham season (2010) and let's agree that not only do I move houses too much but that it's time we fired up and started winning again. Absurdly the next move after that is already lined up, so the Lower Plenty season has one shot to get it right before the 2013 shift to St Kilda and what will be the eighth - and we hope final - home of Demonblog Towers.
Disclaimer: This constant shifting is not in any way due to legal reasons or due to having grassed on a major crime syndicate. It's just staggering mismanagement of my own life.
Was it worth it?
For the (potentially misguided) belief that Blease will be a star yes. For Tom McDonald, for Jeremy Howe and for Nifty Nev being played in the middle yes.
For creating encouraging thoughts about the future maybe not.
Also worth it because I saw somebody play wearing #55, which is by my count the highest number I've seen anyone wear in a game I've been at since the heyday of Ashley McIntosh rocking #53 for the Eagles and Jamie Elliot wore #54 for Fitzroy. Congratulations Nathan Ablett, you won a premiership to end the first phase of your career and gave me a statistical oddity to end the second.
Port can dodge the spoon if they win next week. Have your FARCE placards ready in front of the TV on Sunday. If you don't boot the screen in first.
What time does 2012 start?