Sunday, 26 August 2012

I've grown accustomed to your farce

No time to proof-read this. Anything could happen up to and including paragraphs that end abruptly and spelling so disgraceful that my school teachers would throw themselves out of a window. May re-read and correct errors during the off-season, may just look back in shame in five years time

Another week, another milestone, another retirement of a champion, another shithouse crowd and another thumping loss. Business as usual then, and a great way to pay tribute to a guy who (let's remember this for the 500th time) could very easily have gone to Collingwood and probably played in a flag for the benefit of millions rather than slopping around in front of 18,000 of us and winning STUFF ALL.

His in the end foolish decision to remain in the jungle a'la Colonel Kurtz rather than go for widespread public acclaim and lobster thermidor with Eddie McGuire already makes him a legend in book without even referring to the 254 games and 350 goals. It didn't seem a big deal that he'd played the 6th most games for us, after all we have only have one 300 game player, but the same figure would leave him 8th at Collingwood, 11th at Carlton and 13th at Essendon so notwithstanding our god awful record for producing long careers it still puts him in pretty rare company.

We've had some pretty good times in those 254 games too. Having played THAT final against Carlton in his 18th game set the bar pretty high for exciting moments, and from being belted repeatedly in the Grand Final onwards he was never involved in such remarkable scenes again - but what he gave us was 12 more seasons of solid, dependable football in which he played the vast majority of 10 of them.

I was unnecessarily down on him for a few years after that first season, which is odd considering he kicked 72 goals combined in our bottom of the harbour '01 and '03 seasons. No idea why, but unfortunately there's an archive on my outdated, wonky, Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome influenced views on this club dating back to 2005 which is there for everybody to see and as late as the 2005 pre-season I was refusing to rate him. It seems the tide had turned come Round 7 at which point I had done an abrupt about-face and by the end of the season he'd achieved to the point of running 3rd in the inaugural Allen Jakovich Medal.

Also in a post from that 2005 pre-season I declared Paul Gardner a great man just because he said "Let's pump the Bombers. I'm sick to death of the Bombers. Let's get rid of the Bombers" to a crowd of supporters AND ended up getting mentioned in The Australian for doing a spectacular flip/flop on the Byron Pickett 'fat porky or tortured genius?' question so it's fair to say that in my mid 20's I was well mental. But you should have seen the early 20's.. Double mental.

I came to really like Brad at that point, but it wasn't until 2007 and the wheels fell off like a Yugoslavian hire car (yes kids, there WAS a time where we were shocked at being no good) that I underwent total conversion and really appreciating him, to the point where last year I spent considerable amounts of time (well, two calls but I was on hold for ages) calling talkback radio like a nutbar to defend him against other nutbars who seemed to think that every time we had a bad loss that it was somehow his fault.

It was the day that we finally broke through for a win that year, after weeks where I went insane like never before or after (Port anyone? Junior McDonald? Handball? Deliberate? GET FUCKED) then finally broke through for a win against Adelaide. He had what would ultimately be his career high 37 touches and basically dragged us over the line single handedly after taking 18 marks, then got rolled for three Brownlow Votes by Daniel Bell of all people who must have done something statistically insigificant but good because I still gave him four votes but nothing compared to Green's game - and not just since Bell became the second least popular DB ever by suing us. 18 marks in a match is still the most by any MFC player since proper records have been kept (which is only 1974, but it's still impressive. And Cale Morton is equal second and equal fourth on the table but it's STILL IMPRESSIVE).

It seems odd that he booted 350 goals but never had more than five in a match, even the next five below him on the all-time list had at least one haul of six, but it's also fitting because he was always solid and dependable without being flashy.

From my perspective he'll leave this year as by far the all-time highest vote getter in the all-time Jakovich votes after finishing 3rd, 5th, 2nd, 2nd, 8th and 1st before dipping to 16th this year and equal 19th with one round to play this year. Sylvia will be the closest active player about nine BOGs behind.

So, as commentators finally pack up their tired Manchester United references we remember the first man to play out a really good MFC career entirely in the 2000's and wonder if anybody could find something negative to say about him. Surely not, you'd have to be a total cu.. oh, look it's olympic-grade shit bloke Aker.

Usually I'd say ignoring this farce of a human was the best course of action, but nobody's reading this so it doesn't count. At first I thought surely it was a fake account and I was going to be #carowhined for reporting some top shelf gimmick as fact but apparently it really is him carrying on like a 15-year-old. What's prickdust got to say now?


Err, yeah. He can't even troll without making as much sense as an SEN talkback caller. My undoubted highlight is the judgement of a man's value by what he's won, because there's no doubt that Aker won a shitload of stuff that most players would team their left plum off for but in the end it only landed him in a one-man travelling circus of regional radio and rural footy hotspots. While Brad Green will be welcomed back to the club at every opportunity until the day he dies the only club that will open their arms for a return will be the Yarrawonga Sea Monkeys.

Even Fev will go down in history as a loveable pisswreck, Aker on the other hand won't even qualify for Warwick Capper/Mark Jackson style Yobbos Up The Guts cult status. He's like somebody who's a miserable turd before they win the lottery and still has no mates afterwards. Also I've never followed him on Twitter but apparently he gets shirty and hits block if you call him names, so I'm not suggesting that you use a carriage service to transmit obscene or offensive material but give him one for me.

Back to the matter at hand, as much fun as it would be to sit down and list the rest of my top ten hated people in footy, we return to the MCG and the MFC's fitting tribute to the solid and dependable career of Brad Green - featuring a solid and dependable loss. How else would you want to leave this club? Not everyone can be lucky like Nathan Brown/Clint Bizzell and go into their last game against a team furiously tanking their way towards a draft table extravaganza.

Our Brad went out the way he played most of his games, having a massive bash and kicking a couple of goals. Of course a'la Russell Robertson trying to take mark of the century in his last game when he could barely get off the ground there was also a fair whack of hungry attempts to kick miracle goals but that's what your last game is all about. It's the footy player's equivalent of spending your last day at a job looking at YouTube clips of skateboarding cats.

They weren't the only footy cliches on offer, there was also that other old favourite which involves Melbourne starting the game well and ending it respectably but getting murdered in the middle. Special 2012 cliche bonus for conceding two goals in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter too. That's 18.15.123 to 8.7.55 from 0.00 to 5.00 of Q3 now this year - a figure which has actually, believe it or not, improved in the last month. Last year we won the same stat 12.14.86 to 12.10.82, so there's a freebie for the Mark Neeld statistical whiteboard and Reality Bus Driving School. Fix that next year. Even during 186 we only conceded one. Shame about the end of the quarter and most of the other three.

Stereotypical third quarter capsizing aside the day didn't start all that badly. Mind you expectations were low and damage control was very much the order of the day so anything less than conceding a ten goal first quarter would have looked good (didn't have long to wait). It would have been even better if I'd have gone through with my original idea to have one last fruitless first goalkicker bet and put my money on Green for sentimental value. Then on approach to the mobile TAB van outside the Olympic Stand I was momentarily distracted by Mitch Clark being mobbed by fans in front of an Opel 4WD and then proceeded to talk myself out of it by reasoning that we'd lucky to kick a goal let alone the first one.

So hoorah for him kicking goals, but boo for me being too poxy to waste another measly tenner after years betting fruitlessly on scrubs like Emo Maric doing it. Strangely enough the only player I've ever won a first goalkicker bets on are Will Minson and Tom Lonergan.

It certainly helped us get off to a good start, but the goal was the product of a good start already underway. I know players always come out firing when there's a big milestone or a retirement so I was on guard for a massive reversal, but clearly Adelaide weren't up for it at the start. Then they answered goal one with goals one, two and three and it looked like they'd finally decided to take things seriously and we were about to get stuffed like a turkey.

Against all odds the rollover was briefly averted, and when Green's second began to prompt thoughts of a Fred Fanning style last game assault on the record books we were back to within a goal. I'm sure somewhere somebody was screaming for us to drop dead so that we didn't wind up above Footscray on the ladder, but just like that last game of 2009 against St Kilda that the Herald Sun is convinced we threw everyone knew class was going to win out in the end - it was just a matter of how much it would win out by.

It was easy to compare to the last time we played them at the MCG and wail about how unfair life is, but only 25 of the 44 players were the same this time - and we were lacking Moloney and Jamar who put on one of THE all time ruck/midfield combination performances that day. Other than those two you might pick Bartram and Gysberts but the rest were pretty disposable and/or Emo Maric having the game of his life en route to 31 touches. That match was just tinged with weirdness, the two don't even deserve to be compared. It should, however, be noted that we set up our win with a slashing third quarter performance - which should give Neil Craig nightmares after being on the end of two in a row in these games.

'Luckily' for those of you running Excel spreadsheets on how we can get ten first round picks and Jack Viney as part exchange for a Daihatsu Charade as soon as we got close the shutters went up, they kicked the last two goals of the first quarter and it was all but over. It might have been closer if Green hadn't missed the two shots at the start of the second, but you can't blame him for getting nervous given the occasion. He should have made it easier for himself by pretending nobody was there. Because nobody was.

Down the other end we were being treated to a showcase of exactly what the Crows were lacking last time, Taylor Walker showing interest and Kurt Tippett full stop. Other than the obvious have you ever seen our backline so badly dominated by so few? Even in games we've been thrashed in over the last few years the defence has generally held out alright under a torrent of attack caused by the inability of anybody to keep it away from them, but this was just terrible. Even the Jack Watts defensive experiment went so horribly wrong after he declined to pick a ball up and gave them a goal that Neeld had to cave in and finally move him back to the forward line again.

Between the two beast like forwards (is Cloke cheap enough to consider yet?) and cameo players like Callinan they scored 40 times from 51 inside 50's which is an absolutely absurd ratio. Thankfully we kept the number of I50's down by not shanking the ball out on the full every ten seconds when kicking along the boundary line or it would have been much uglier.

What's even more ludicrous than their spectacular scoring strike rate is that we had exactly the same amount of inside 50's despite being flayed in the middle of the ground. That goes to show the difference between a real forward line and a made in Taiwan knockoff consisting of ruckmen, defenders and at times nobody. Also showed the value of taking your chances - I really liked Sellar's game in the end, and he was taking some quality contested marks but the sprayed shot which missed everything from almost directly in front was nearly criminal. Still deserves another season.

If it wasn't for our wafer thin forward stocks we could have done with him down back. Garland was wandering around looking stoned, Macdonald was giving away stupid free kicks that a man who is potentially a week away from getting the arse should not be giving away (secretly I loved it, angry angry man) and if Frawley was fit then I'm not here. He looked like he could barely moved last week against a team made up of abducted orphans, so it was always going to end in tragedy against a decent side. As long as he's not going to slap in a trade request and then go on to have kids who are the greatest players of all time I'm not sure what harm it would have done leaving him on 99 games until next year. He tried hard, and was pretty much the only defender who could hit a target when he actually got it, but it was not the day to be playing against two key forwards who were running riot. Also not the day to be botching handballs at the top of the goalsquare. Apart from Grimes and to a lesser extent McDonald (not one showreel clanger this week!) the rest weren't much chop either, permanently a step behind, and unable to stop anything that came near them.

At least for Dunn's sake Walker continued to be rampant after that seemingly ill-advised match-up was cancelled after quarter time. He survived to play another decent match and further boosted his chances of scoring another year in the job. Very reminiscent of another ill-advised late season Dunn clash - with either Goldstein or Riewoldt (you choose) - in 2009. One which according to the Herald Sun is evidence that we were throwing the game, so just wait for the tape of this one to be wheeled out in evidence as well.

There was a bit of life in it until midway through the second quarter, but after Rivers kicked his second (and secretly I like Rivers as a forward, but I do wonder why they prefer him to Garland who started this racket in the first place) it was time to man the lifeboats and get ready to do our usual imitation of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The last four goals of the quarter in the space of ten minutes, including the Frawley goal-line handball debacle, and it went from probable loss to possible ugly beating.

The inability to stop teams when they get a run on has killed us all season, so why not deliver the goods one last time in front of the loyal fans? Another three to open the third quarter before we briefly made it a little bit more respectable... before copping the last five goals of the quarter again. It's infuriating, and it's been going on for too long. Most people probably look at it the other way around but I can understand kicks going off the side of the boot or doing ten handballs too many out of panic but I can't understand how this happens to a side so often. If it was once or twice a year ok, but this happens every week.

Incidentally I've pretty much finished the new Jim Stynes book, and if you want to skip straight to the brutal end of the Baileyball era open to page 289 and listen to the great man's own words about the Round 2, 2011 match against Hawthorn. "What was most disturbing was that we had led the Hawks by three goals in the second quarter, only to allow them to score the next sixty-three points unanswered. Good teams, with good on-field leaders and good coaches, simply do not allow that to happy". Two pages later he's ringing up Bailey to give him the arse.

Now in the space of just over a year it's happened to three different coaches, including Todd Viney against Carlton, so let's put it at the feet of the players for once. GRIMGOVE are young and they're developing themselves as leaders and footballers at the same time but any chance the rest might stand up and give them a hand? It's hard to tell from the outside though, as much as we try to analyse everything, I loved Green still directing traffic and telling people what to do 28 minutes into the last quarter of his last match but another shock revelation from the book is that at one point last year the team didn't fancy a time trial so they declared it cancelled - and you would have to think that wouldn't happen without the captain's endorsement. No wonder the entire leadership group got the bullet if that was the sort of shenanigans that were going on. I challenge any of them to go in and tell Neeld they're too busy smashing parmas and playing FIFA to do a session - he'd probably headbutt them.

I've said it before, our 2011/12 seasons would make a cracking ESPN 30 for 30 style documentary. There are just so many incredible moments of farce and shambles that you could do two hours on it. Please promise me if you make it I can come on and give my views on $cully.

The only good thing about the third quarter was Rohan Bail suplexing Doughty into the fence and it making a satisfying thud as he hit it. He was quite good too Bail, I still wouldn't go out on a hunger strike if they delisted him but at least he is a trier and you can tell that's the sort of thing Neeld would be well horny for so chances are he's not going anywhere.

Other than Bail's audition for the WWE it was all pretty much disaster central. Thank god we managed to capitalise on rubbish kicking and total disinterest in Crows players getting injured to keep the final margin respectable. We even got to see The Spencil kick another goal, which is almost worthy of a line of merchandise in the Demonblog Megastore.

Another underrated moment which was almost up there alongside the fence fiasco was Sylvia absolutely giving it to Watts for not leading at him in the last quarter. At least it shows he cares. Also that Jack has forgotten how to play as a forward after spending so long in the backline. Insert your own joke in the space provided below:



It was nice of the Crows to form the guard of honour for Green at the end, but what a bloody shambles the whole thing turned out to be. Mind you it was very fitting for anything honouring a modern MFC champion to end in disaster. First he had to delay his exit so that the AWFUL new Adelaide theme song could go through its horrendous second verse, then just as it ends he decides to take off down the other end and meet with the cheersquad at the Punt Road end.

Just as this point the guy doing the sound realises that he's giving everyone the shits and cuts the song off halfway, but by now Brad is off past the middle of the ground so the sound guy thinks "geez, we don't like silence do we, I'd better play a track" and for some reason hits the 12" of the Crows theme again when he surely meant to roll the video tribute that played once Brad was well and truly gone down the tunnel.

All of this is happening while the poor Crows are standing there trying to show respect but having the piss taken like when we made St Kilda wait around for 15 minutes while Robbo high fived everybody in the crowd after his last game.

So as he approaches the cheer squad and the edge of the centre circle Brad, being the consumate good guy he is, realises he can't leave Adelaide standing out there all night so he turns back towards them but by then the extended version of the Crows song is only halfway through so it takes until he's halfway off the ground, hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates for the guy in the sound booth to realise what he's doing and cut the song halfway through.

High farce all round. Would probably have been better if they'd chaired him off so the Adelaide players could have gone and done their thing while Brad ran back out onto the ground to take his well deserved bows, but why would anything that we're involved with work smoothly? Then to add insult to injury GRIMGOVE carried him off in a way that almost tore his clacker in two:


No wonder he was grimacing, what a way to go out. How apt to have plum distress as your last memory of being an MFC player.

2012 Allen Jakovich Medal
5 - Colin Sylvia
4 - Jack Grimes
3 - Nathan Jones
2 - Jeremy Howe
1 - Rohan Bail

Apologies to Green, McKenzie, Spencer, Dunn and Sellar.

As Jones continues to further push out the all-time Jakovich record to a point where nobody has any chance of ever beating, I'm officially handing the Seecamp over to Grimes. You could argue that Watts deserves to remain in the running, but I'm DQing him for playing forward for the first five weeks.

55 - Nathan Jones (RAMPANT WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
27 - Jeremy Howe
23 - Jack Grimes (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
20 - Jack Watts
17 - Mitch Clark
16 - Stefan Martin (DEFAULT WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
15 - Jordie McKenzie
13 - James Magner (CO-LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), Tom McDonald (CO-LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), Colin Sylvia
12 - Jared Rivers
11 - James Frawley
10 - Sam Blease
9 - Brent Moloney, Daniel Nicholson
8 - Matthew Bate, Joel Macdonald
6 - Lynden Dunn
5 - Clint Bartram, Brad Green
4 - Neville Jetta, Jack Trengove
3 - Mark Jamar, Luke Tapscott
2 - Rohan Bail, Colin Garland
1 - James Sellar

Crowd Watch
On a day where absolutely nobody bothers to turn up and we only just beat our crowd against Gold Coast despite a large amount of Crows fans coming over for the guaranteed victory you'd think that there would be a lack of highlights amongst the people who did turn up. Thank god then for the Adelaide cheersquad. Not only did they have a guy who stood up and did a jig whenever they showed fans on the big screen, presumably so they'd choose him next (they never did), but they also had this guy:


He sat there all day with that glove puppet on, waving it around whenever they kicked a goal and at one point engaging a bemused security guard in 'conversation' with it. Oh to know what 'it' was saying to this poor, yellow jacketed fool who was being paid to stand there and face the crowd.

He continued to thrust it around for the rest of the match as if it was talking, even mouthing the *Adelaide* in [team name] *clap* *clap* *clap*. It left South Australians as the second easiest comedy target of the week, after LL Cool J who was caught knocking somebody out.

Next Week
I'm aware that the Casey Scorpions have qualified for the finals, and that they represent the only chance of any Melbourne Football Club related organisation to win anything in the near future, but they're our feeder club and not the other way around so bad luck they've got a second chance if they get beaten, let's do something for our own future.

IN: Gysberts, Fitzpatrick, Moloney, Tynan, Jamar
OUT: Green (ret), Frawley, Rivers (inj), Jetta, Spencer (omit)

Not much point giving Beamer a farewell game on the other side of the country if he wasn't going to get one at the MCG but I'd give him another go just for sentimental purposes - and to reunite the Psychic Friends Connection one last time. Who knows, maybe there will be no decent suitors, he'll go around in 2013 free of whatever wrecked him and we'll all remember this season as a cruel joke while he's pocketing a second B&F? More likely if picked he'll say "I'll be right" and stay home or 'accidentally' miss the plane.

Thanks to Freo being a certainty for the top eight we should be ok for a foot off the gas non-massacre IF Geelong beat Sydney at home, which is by no means a certainty. Otherwise North and Freo will be in arms race to see who can poleaxe GWS/us by a bigger margin to claim the home final. So quite frankly up the Cats or up North by a slender margin.

Of course if Hawthorn beat West Coast on Friday night Freo can achieve the dream scenario of a home final against the Eagles by stealth if they lose to us. As novel a scenario as it is to have a team throwing a game to improve their position for the finals a'la Olympic badminton there's no way they could get away with it without being called up to the Tankquiry with the rest of us.

Would certainly be an interesting way to snap our 12 game losing streak at Subiaco, but it's not going to happen. Hooray then for ending the year on a 43 game losing streak in Perth, Adelaide and Docklands combined. Can we get to 50? My god yes we can.

If anybody wants me next Saturday night I'll be on my couch hurling abuse at the television one last time before that Tim Rogers fronted September exhibition match rubbish starts.

Final Thoughts
The only legitimate upside to the day was seeing the thinking man's Nic Nat, Stef Martin loitering around one of the other Opel promotion stands before the match. It's almost my highlight of the season that he was clearly surprised to see me go past wearing his number. Hopefully the fact that he was hanging around with Petterd and Moloney doesn't mean he's in the departure lounge with them. I did feel bad after letting out a "See you next year Stef" when he saw the number then realising 30 seconds later that by giving Ricky and Beamer NOTHING that it implied they wouldn't be seen next year. Possibly true, but still rude on my behalf

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Everything looks better in slow motion

What a day of football - shock wins, gutsy performances, premiership fancies dropping likes flies. Apparently there was some sort of match on in Canberra as well, and it was about as good as any match in Canberra has the right to be.

At least we won, and you can never say no to that but who'd have thought that the Gold Coast game's title as the worst win in history would only last a fortnight. We didn't even get one properly decent quarter this time, but at least the sparkling, youthful ineptitude of the opposition meant that it didn't matter. They had their version of Harley Bennell in Toby Greene (fake name?) but no Ablett to provide him with any help - and certainly nothing even remotely looking like a forward line after the first quarter. It like watching us play against Port again, and nobody wanted to do that.

We were always going to win of course. With figures like Sheedy (hates Melbourne) and $cully (hates Melbourne, loves gigantic wads of cash) involved you had to be a bit wary of them going rogue and helping to stuff up an absolutely certain #1 pick just to stick it up us, but realistically you could have had your house and your first born on us at $1.19 and the bookies may as well have paid out before the first bounce.

Even if there wasn't the top pick in a draft at stake how could an allegedly fully functioning league side not beat a team who packed away their two future superstar forwards and replaced them with a clearly confused (but well paid) NRL player who had kicked 1.7 in 11 games? No doubt the players were going at it 100% but fruity team selections were the order of the day (nothing suss mind) and even we couldn't fall over before crossing the line in this one. Not that I wasn't still sweating nervously until at least halfway through the second quarter.

It was hardly convincing. In a way there was something to be said for the performance because we had a billion shots on goal and kept them to a point in the third quarter, but on the other hand is there any moderate danger that we might take the hint and smash one of these teams eventually? It's magnificent kicking eight of the junkiest junktime goals in history against St Kilda when the game is buggered but that's three times now that we've gone into the last quarter against one of the teams below us with a handy lead and broken even (Carnival of Hate) or gone backwards (GC and this).

That's not healthy, and nor is the fact that we've won only three final quarters all season, which is two behind Port and Footscray and one behind each of the franchises. Is it lacking the fitness to run games out, spectacular mental illness on behalf of our players or a healthy combination of the two? I know they're young and all that wank but three from 20 is satanic. We've got two weeks to get one more and avoid sharing the worst record of the last 25 years with Carlton '07 and Richmond '93. Even your friend and mine the 1997 fiasco side powered by Robert Pyman and Craig Nettelbeck managed four.

Mind you that stat might not mean anything considering we only won six last year (worst in the league), which according to premiership coach and media pest Robert Walls was a dead set glory era only moderately affected by an unfortunate, gutsy defeat at Kardinia Park in Round 19. Also in 2008 we were 9-13 at it while simultaneously being rancid the rest of the year - and only one of those nine came in a win. Work that out.

So that's our wins for 2012 (presumably) wrapped up, and somehow pending the result of Sunday's Footscray game we've ended up only one game worse off and with a superior percentage. That's just so you know that we're not entirely alone when it comes to Victorian sides being down amongst the dead men. At least now the papers will be happy that we won't want to win again, because somehow fluking victory over Adelaide or Freo and the Dogs losing would see us jump then and throw another potential Jack Viney troublemaker into the mix. I think we can handle losing the next two games without trying to, but just in case keep this guy's phone number handy.

The problem in 2013 will be if we're not getting any better, and neither are the Bulldogs or Port then are we all going to be swallowed by the rampaging corporate beast as GWS and Gold Coast start to make use of their draft picks, extra concessions, mini drafts, unsigned players and zone selections? How much longer can you go into these games almost certain (but guarded, always guarded) of victory? I'd say these two will start to pose a regularly decent and credible challenge to 10-18 placed sides very soon and unless something remarkable happens next year we've had our fun and can justifiably go into matches against them contemplating defeat with an open mind.

For all our other disasters since the start of last year at least we've managed to get through two seasons without disgracing ourselves against either of them. We're 3-0 against Gold Coast and 2-0 against GWS and it won't last, but at least we didn't give them a humiliating bonus leg up to the future like Port Adelaide and Richmond did.

That's not such a bad thing in the end, I've enjoyed the free wins over kids era but it's got to come to an end eventually so let them rack up a few more wins against other clubs to take the curse off us then we can take our medicine like everyone else. There were terrible teams before 2011 (usually us) and there will be terrible teams after (hopefully not us), but THE FEAR of going into games against teams who have been tonked by the whole league and knowing that a loss will heap even more humiliation on what has already been a poverty stricken few years is no good for your mental health.

It's all well and good for the teams that are in the ascendacy at the moment and can guarantee huge wins to the degree where bookies won't even let you back them at $1.01, but you'll be waiting a couple more years before either of the new sides are beating a Hawthorn or Collingwood. They've done Richmond and they've done Port, that just leaves us and the Bulldogs watching to see which of the other will crack first and look like dickheads.

With any luck neither of them will ever win anything. There's no doubt that with the leg up they've had they'll play finals somewhere in the next five years, but fingers crossed they'll both stall sort of Grand Finals. Usually I would wish for any interstate team to win a premiership so that no Victorian team does and I don't have to hear about it, but that doesn't count for these two. Not for at least a decade after they've been back on the level playing field with no draft rorts, no extended lists, no rugby league players paid by the league etc.. then I'll be back on their side. Especially if it marks $cully never having won anything in his career.

So, with our perfect record against the new clubs teetering on the brink from here on in the prospect of a free win against GWS at Manuka Oval should have been a cause for celebration, but like every other match against one of these clubs (and other clubs must feel like this when they play us) we had nothing to gain unless we ran away with a belting win. After all we beat them by 78 last time didn't we? Should have been 108 if we'd played out the last quarter but who's getting snippy about an 80-point win? Certainly not in comparison to this win.

Sadly this week offered the MFC model seven weeks on from that great, loathing fuelled afternoon sans Clark, Jamar, Moloney, Watts for the majority and even Bate who took the piss en route to 28 touches last time around - then we took the slightly more battered, plenty more jaded variety and put them in a soulless environment with a bugger of a wind. And despite all that we still had 29 scoring shots, so I'll take that even if we were generally bemused by the breeze and kicked for goal accordingly.

Truth be told the match was so incredibly awful that it's difficult to write much about it, so I won't bother. Apart from the goals and a few highlights here and there the whole thing blends into one long sequence of stoppages. One after the other, after the other and another until the siren mercifully ended it all.

As far as advertisements for our 'great sport' (in theory) it was about as useful a promotional tool to interstate types as a Queanbeyan vs Sydney University NEAFL game. Everything you needed to know about the way the game was played was revealed when they cut to the GWS coaches box late in the match and found Sheeds gone and everyone sitting around looking bored to death, including comic genius Choco Williams who was absent mindedly playing with a hand fan despite the fact that it was about 5 degrees. That's a real dead rubber match.

At the risk of being cut off by the legal department I'm not saying that GWS had collectively said "I'll get me coat", checked out of season 2012 and ordered the maid to make up Lachie Whitfield's bed at Breakfast Point but the last time they played a 'home' game Choco was grabbing players by their collars and screaming in their face to fire up, now he was reduced to piss farting around with some cut price electrical equipment he'd bought from a $2 shop at Tuggeranong Hyperdome. Meanwhile Sheeds was presumably down on the boundary talking into his headset still unaware that nobody has been listening on the other end all year.

Ineptitude was the order of the day in the first quarter, yet it was still the best one of the game. Highlights included Sellar being the first goalkicker for the second time this year (see you at the TAB next Sunday afternoon) and The Spencil unleashing two of the worst kicks in history - one of which cost us a goal. It's one thing to have Joel Mac and Dunn being first quarter specialists, but that's because much of the time they can get the ball to at least go within 2km of the target.

Spencer had six kicks for the day and may I be one of the many to ask that he doesn't do that again until he can hit a target without looking down at the ball coming off his boot? There's a good reason Jamar didn't have six kicks in a game until his 72nd match - because he knew he couldn't kick for shit and handballed all the time. Take notes Jake. Also take note teammates who might want to stand right next to him whenever he takes a mark or gets a free. He's grown on me due to size, speed and effort but in an ideal world he's fourth in the ruck pecking order and he'll stay there if he can't either kick properly or find something else to do with it. A+ for effort, D for execution. Even if he survives into next year, which I suspect he will, I wouldn't expect to see him outside of Casey Fields unless there's another injury plague or Max Gawn turns into a pumpkin.

When Spencer's fiasco cost us a goal the game was beginning to look decidedly ropey, with them sensibly kicking goals from ten metres out while we finally started kicking to leads five months too late and thus ended up having shots that were in perfect positions for a still day but were being completely stuffed by the wind.

What we really needed was for some Giants nuffy to turn a half chance into an absolute certainty - so step forth $cully who betrayed his 'legendary' professionalism by yelling "DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?" at the umpire after a free and giving away 50 so that Howe could kick a goal from the line. Anyone who did have legendary professionalism would know that Howe is a dodgy set shot kick from anywhere more than 20m out and would shut their mouth. Hopefully he's upset because he found out Phil invested his money in the Pyramid Building Society.

That was the settler we needed, though he did his best to miss it, and via twenty million more stoppages that was it for the first quarter. I enjoyed Dunn playing his best game since he kicked five against Richmond (coincidence that it happened when he removed the mo? No, more likely the opposition) by tormenting some children. He really is an angry, hate filled individual. Could do with a bit of work on his attempted cheating to win free kicks but amusingly it worked once. I dare say if we're good he's not playing in our backline but I'm re-warming to him just because he's a decent kick and provides our only real opportunity to develop a pantomime style villain for opposition fans and media scumbags to concentrate on and take the heat off all the easy targets.

Joel Mac was good again too, which made up for Frawley and Garland doing nothing and McDonald blotting an otherwise decent performance with a couple of his customary howlers. Still, when the opposing key forward is Folau then what does it matter if half the defence clock off and other key parts of it are either up front or wearing a silly green vest? Yes, apparently Watts is a now an integral part of this backline. I was hoping he's be ressurected as a forward again but sadly not. They're obviously putting a LOT of faith in Mitch Clark's foot and the Jurrahcane's defence team.

After his rank performance last week I was pleased with Sylvia's game. Still more than willing to let him go if we get a good deal though, we can't go in every week wondering which Colin is going to show up anymore. He'd star elsewhere so rort picks and/or players out of a top eight contender and let them enjoy his 'unique' take on life instead. I won't be upset if he stays because he's always good for a few good games every year, and breaking his back in pre-season certainly didn't help him this season, but he's just going to tease us forever and not even deliver that one killer season that Travis Johnstone did. Set him free, it's all part of the 20-year-plan.

Speaking of people born on another planet it was unfortunate to see Blease become the latest to fall victim to the MFC Media Curse. Didn't get anywhere near it in play but at least he managed to get involved in a wrestling match where he dedicated his performance to all his fans by doing it with a weird, vague look on his face. Other than that, one wild snap which missed and getting done for holding the ball by the other half of Miami Vice he did nothing. No drama, last week showed us what he can do but he probably should have rolled in and signed a contract on Monday morning to get the optimal price because we'll be lucky to kick five goals total for the rest of the season let alone via one player.

GWS were basically stuffed from quarter time on. $cully managed to put another one of his shithouse kicks through for a goal in the first couple of minutes of the second, then they got another to make us all a bit nervy about a disaster but from there it was wall-to-wall MFC set shot disasters. No wonder too considering they were all coming from 40m out and getting caught by the wind. The willingness to lead and kick to it will serve us well in the future but it was no day to be debuting it. Just watch, next week they'll be back to kicking to Tom Couch with two defenders on him 50m out on his wrong side.

With all these kicks going just left, just right or just straight into the bloody post thanks then to old mate from the Giants who made the kicking of Spencer and McDonald look brilliant by turning around in the forward pocket and delivering a pinpoint pass to Jeremy Howe at the top of the goalsquare - on an angle that even he couldn't miss. Including that we went on a 5.7 to 0.1 run from halfway through the second quarter to late in the third and anybody who had put their house on us winning to make some pitiful amount could finally relax.

You'd like to say that it's disappointing we only got three goals for our domination in the third quarter but really they weren't all that bad around the ground it's just that they had an even more outrageously bad forward structure than some of the ones we've put out this season. Sadly we rushed one behind for them and destroyed the potential for a rare - if not unprecedented - double of keeping the same side scoreless in the same quarter twice in the same season. Either way at least we can say they've ever scored a point off their own boot against us in the third. Until they kick 12.1 in our first clash next year.

With Watts coming on for Couch halfway through the third, in what constitutes an early sub this season, and mopping up everything that GWS tried en route to nine touches for the quarter it seemed possible that we might run away with it and restrict them to a criminally low score. Apparently Neeld demanded that they do just that in the three quarter time huddle and not play like superstars, then they proceeded to go out and show precious little interest and let the Giants make it respectable (although to be fair losing by 90 is respectable the way they've gone this year) by playing like superstars. Know your role, you're not superstars.

I thought when Sellar got that first goal that yes, we were going to live the dream and run away to an easy victory but then the golden dumpster rolled onto the Manuka turf and we lost interest. Three goals in the last five minutes got them back to under 30 points as our lot blatantly started looking for the finish line and going into self preservation mode. The Junior McDonald goal I'll cop because he is now and forever will be a great man, the others were rubbish and symptomatic of a team dying to get to the end of the season.

All well and good if this was Round 23, but they've got to get through two more matches without suffering mentally distressing beatings. Then they can do what footy players do after the season ends (e.g get drunk and punch Ben Holland in the head) and get on with the business of preparing for 2013 or playing for Aberfeldie. For now you've got at least a quarter of the membership who still care about not getting tonked, so keep going for another fortnight then you can all go to Club Tropicana and we'll try to forget this year ever happened.

To his credit Neeld cracked the shits at them after the final siren and dragged them into a team meeting before letting them do a surprisingly non-pedestrian rendition of the song. Shouldn't have really bothered, but I suppose they had to be kind to Tom Couch and give him the now customary starring role inside the circle. You can't afford to deny the guy, god knows when the next win is going to come around.

Bonus upside - no Dwayne Russell OR Tony Shaw on the commentary. Maybe I'm missing him after all these weeks, or maybe I need something else to get me through to the end of the season, but I could almost have done with a bit of #shootdwayne magic trying to ridiculously hype the 200th consecutive bounce or boundary throw in. May you be forced to listen to him next week if you don't turn up as punishment for not coming out to honour the great man.

Stat My Bitch Up
The good news is that we're up to 208.211.1459 and only need 19 more points to pass the dreaded '97 mark of futility and avoid our lowest scoring 22 game season ever. Mind you it's not looking positive for going any higher than that.

We have pushed clear of the ten worst seasons on percentage at the moment (to the lofty heights of 11th) - but don't hold your breath waiting for them to defend the 0.67% gap on tenth against a wounded Adelaide playing for top spot and Freo looking for a spot in the eight.

1 - 207.235.1477 ('97)
2 - 234.225.1629 ('08)
3 - 238.277.1705 ('70)
4 - 253.225.1743 ('96)
5 - 268.216.1824 ('81)

Hopefully somebody rushes on the ground in celebration if when the score hits 19 on Sunday night. But don't look at me to help pay the fine if you do.

I've done a conservative ladder predictor and if Carlton beat Gold Coast by 'only' 60 and Freo don't beat North next week it will require them to pick up 4.5% in the last round to qualify.

Fat chance surely, but at least our game is on second so we'll know if St Kilda have won Freo will just need to win by anything and they'll pull out MFC style once the margin is comfortable. Otherwise if Carlton win by 12 and Freo by 100 they're in by 0.3. So yeah, don't celebrate being outside the 10 worst seasons for percentage for too long - we could be number 7 or 8 with a bullet soon.

2012 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Lynden Dunn (spiteful individual)
4 - Jeremy Howe (even regulation marks are now being talked up like Mark of the Year contenders. He has achieved Nic Nat status)
3 - Joel Macdonald (FETISH)
2 - Jack Grimes (Continues to be a solid contributor every week)
1 - Colin Sylvia (He's fooling us all)

Apologies to Jones, McKenzie, McDonald, Rivers and Sellar in order.

Congratulations to the SME who wins one of the worst battles for an award in MFC history by taking the Jakovich care of three good games despite not even playing. The only thing that can possibly match it is when Magner wins the official Best First Year Player against Couch (three games, no impact) and Tynan (one game).

Back to our awards, Grimes will wrap up at least a share of the Seecamp next week unless Tom McDonald can outscores him by three, and will win it outright if outscored by two or less. Then it's just down to whether McDonald or Magner can break free of the tie for the Hilton or whether we'll have our first tie since Carroll and Ferguson couldn't be split in the 2005 Seecamp. No countbacks here, everyone gets a medal whether they deserve it or not.

52 - Nathan Jones (RAMPANT WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
25 - Jeremy Howe
20 - Jack Watts
19 - Jack Grimes (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
17 - Mitch Clark
16 - Stefan Martin (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
15 - Jordie McKenzie
13 - James Magner (CO-LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), Tom McDonald (CO-LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
12 - Jared Rivers
11 - James Frawley
10 - Sam Blease
9 - Brent Moloney, Daniel Nicholson
8 - Matthew Bate, Joel Macdonald, Colin Sylvia
6 - Lynden Dunn
5 - Clint Bartram, Brad Green
4 - Neville Jetta, Jack Trengove
3 - Mark Jamar, Luke Tapscott
2 - Colin Garland
1 - Rohan Bail, James Sellar

Crowd Watch
There seemed to be plenty of orange clad splitters in attendance (proportionally anyway), but they must have been educated at the Luke Darcy School of Being Depressed because there was barely a peep heard from them all day. In fact the loudest reaction any of their players had all day was when Junior McDonald kicked a junk time goal and our fans applauded warmly (come home Junior, we've killed the guy who sacked you). The only thing that came close was the bronx cheer when Folau got a kick, but I think that was a joint effort by the whole crowd and everyone watching at home.

Other than that it was just our lot doing [team name] *clap* *clap* *clap* and hearty boos for the $2m Turd whenever he touched it, which was enough to make any MFC fan who hasn't necked themselves by now swell with pride.

Doubt we'll be invited back again to be honest. Considering the crowd GWS probably shouldn't be either despite writing CANBERRA on the back of their jumper and adopting a strange variety of it with a sort of Catholic cross on the front when they play games there. Weird club. Probably run by the Illuminati and/or the CIA. Let's hope old mate holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy decides to do something useful with his upcoming decade of virtual house arrest by cracking into the AFL's emails and exposing all of GWS' secrets.

Tankquiry update
Another week of trial-by-media shenanigans, culminating in the Herald Sun trying to hang us based on our last match in Canberra. You remember the one, it was such an awful game in front of such a rubbish crowd that the Chief Minister of the ACT himself (power roughly equivalent to the Mayor of Stonnington) practically ran us out of town single handedly.

Highlights from that game seem to include me declaring that the "tanking shutters" were up and that Dwayne Russell was in the "bottom 5% of humans", which means I was well ahead of public opinion on that one. Other than that it was just quite obviously one of the worst matches ever put on. Also Cale Morton got five votes, so if we could use some of the investigation budget to work out what the hell happened to him since that would be great too.

Hold on, I've just been handed an envelope with the news that the attendance today was only 250 higher for a team that is allegedly half based in Canberra. What's the ACT Government got to say about that? Maybe they're getting this for free now instead of having to fork out a fortune for the rights to show the give the rest of the nation an opportunity to gaze upon the Jack Fingleton Scoreboard. At one point today Joel Mac was incensed by a decision and turned around to look at the real scoreboard before he realised there wasn't one. We may as well play games at Optus Oval at this rate. At least you could do your washing there at the same time.

So the Herald have 'sources' who claim they 'heard' a conversation where 'somebody' said we wouldn't win because we'd made eight 'changes'. Which is like when New Weekly says that they have 'sources' who 'heard' Angelina Jolie say 'somebody' was going to steal Brad Pitt unless she makes significant 'changes' to the size of her 'cans'. Bollocks that either somebody made up or that can't be substantiated. You'd never say something like that now because every muppet has a mobile phone and might be recording it, so let's hope everyone involved with the club was still using the Nokia 3310 at that point and if it did happen there's no evidence.

Other than that all they've got on us is that we made a shitload of team changes and didn't use the interchange much. Well really, if you had put out a team like this would you let half of them on the field? It would have saved everyone the time if we'd just forfeited and handed the ACT their money back.

But fair enough the league should investigate everything that comes up. Every piece of testimony from every sacked hack and ex-dickhead is very important. What's telling is that Junior McDonald told them to get stuffed (maybe not in those words), so at least he'll still be welcome back any time he's ready. BUT if the league are keen to go in-depth on anything that may have affected integrity may I suggest they start with the following list and then get back to us later.

1999 - Round 22, Fremantle quite happily lose at Kardinia Park and pocket Paul Haselby
2004 - Round 22, Richmond lead at quarter time before losing and therefore securing last place
2004 - Round 22, Western Bulldogs win in Round 21 then drop five goal hero Matthew Croft, lose the last game and get a priority pick
2005 - Round 22, Carlton lead at quarter time and lose to finish last.
2005 - Collingwood get to five wins in Round 14, then lose the rest of their matches and get a priority pick
2007 - Richmond have the chance to win and jump over Carlton into second last - then blow a three quarter time lead, lose and finish last
2007 - Carlton get their fourth win in Round 11, pack away Fev and lose the next 11 including R22 when they didn't both to tag anyone.
2008 - Paul Roos tells Jarrad McVeigh "go forward, just don't kick a goal" in a NAB Cup thriller and gets away with it because he said it was a joke.
2010 - Fremantle rest 11 players and lose to Hawthorn by 116 points
2012 - GWS openly rest players before they play Gold Coast, going on to lose and take bottom place on the ladder.

Go in depth on all of those too. If not get stuffed. Touch our picks and there will be what passes for murder amongst Melbourne fans - i.e we'll complain about you on the internet.

Next Week
Looks like another day at Casey when the actual Scorpions players did the heavy lifting. Everyone knows 'best' lists are utter tosh (for example, see votes above) but it's still telling that the only one of ours to make it in a win was Bate who is absolutely gorn in a fortnight's time.

I was going to say bring back Moloney for one last game at the MCG before he 'tests the market' all the way to another club, but rumour has it he won't even be in the country so that's him done with. No issues with him trundling off, will show him the appropriate level of respect in the future. Not happy with the way he all but announced he'd be off when we were on our knees but that's free agency for you - it's a far cry from certain other scabs who legitimately dogged on us. We had a good few years (when he wasn't injured), and we'll always remember the Psychic Friends Connection for the two weeks (non consecutive) when they were the best combination in the history of football, time to go for that elusive flag. Hopefully of the AFL variety.

Apparently the Stefan Martin Experience is suffering from the same strain of death that Watts was after his 'minor' injury so I won't hold my breath waiting for him to come back even though he was listed as a test this week. With him excluded due to flesh eating virus I'll settle for:

IN: Gysberts, Tynan, Fitzpatrick
OUT: Bail, Couch (omit), Frawley (unfit - lock him away for the year. Fat chance though considering he's on 99 games)

Here's to picking two players just so they'll play more than one game in a season. At least Tynan kicked two goals, and Fitz can form a double duo of shambles and shame with The Spencil while Sellar goes forward permanently and tries to take the heat off Green so he can get a few goals in what will probably be his last game.

Wouldn't surprise me if they pre-machine gun a few more this week, but it's easier to be frivolous in sacking everyone when you've got players banging the door down to come in. We haven't. Remember when Lucas Cook and Troy Davis were on the verge a few weeks back? All of a sudden Cook is achieving a Luke Molan-esque mythology (without the shattered leg) and Davis might be playing for Kerang again.

Would be nice to give Bate one last game for us at the MCG (even though I'm obviously the only person who likes him), and I'm not sure what Daniel Nicholson's status is considering he doesn't appear on the injury list but there's not much else going. Magner? What's the point at this stage, he'll be there next year - I'd much rather see somebody like Jetta who is playing for their life even if he's now 1-3 for good games against bad this year.

Either way it's going to be shit and if there's even the slightest hint of rain nobody will be there. You'd like to think a few would turn up just for Green but don't bet your life on it, it'll be strictly for fanatics only. I'm going to eat Kaiser's Sausage until it comes out of my ears safe in the knowledge that I won't be going to the finals or any variety of cricket and will therefore be unable to have one again until April.

Next Year
I'm starting to feel that Dunn and Macdonald might duck and survive the execution squad just for being angry, hateful individuals on the footy field (and perhaps off it). I could live without Dunn, but I'll be almost as glum when Joel Mac goes as I was when another great 28 got the boot (clue: not Weetra).

Jetta, on the other hand, must be in trouble now. One good game and three ordinary ones is no way to end a season when there's a massacre brewing. Suspension probably didn't help him either. Michael Evans must also be in enormous trouble despite his random Robert Campbell-esque promotion to the senior list last week, if they haven't played him yet time is very much running out.

By my estimation that leaves us with four senior players and two rookies who are either gone or would be a shock survivor (Bate, Green, Moloney, Petterd + Lawrence, Evans) but I suspect there will be at least two more senior list players on the way out - one to cover for Nicholson being promoted from the rookies. Personally I'd delist the Spencil and re-draft him as a rookie, and wouldn't be in a hurry to re-sign Bail either but it's pretty clear to me that neither of those things is going to happen so I won't even bother considering them.

I'd say as of this week the VERY UNSAFE category consists of Bennell, Davis, Jetta, and Morton. Also not ruling out the possibility of a shock Sylvia trade, though I'm more confident that Blease will stay now.

As for the ins you can be fairly sure that unless Sheeds hijacks the phone during the father/son bidding that GWS won't be risking the #1 pick for Viney, so that just leaves Gold Coast to come from the clouds and roll us into paying pick 3 for him. Which they probably will, but bad luck that's their prerogative - god knows we've benefited from enough poorly written AFL rules in the last few years that we might as well pay the price for once.

Trade-wise I doubt we'll rope anybody half decent in this time, I'm sure I know what Mitch Clark would have agreed to if he'd known we were going to be solid gold garbage. The only hope of a big name turning up (unless we draft Rochford Devenish-Meares) is that somebody with mercenary qualities decides that enormous piles of cash are more important than success or a happy life. So, it's Travis Cloke or nothing. I'd like to say I prefer nothing based on his recent form but hell, why not. Let's just pay him the same amount that it would cost to buy Trinidad & Tobago and hope for the best.

Final Thoughts
One day you'll look back upon this season and laugh. Hopefully not because it was as good as it got for the decade.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Landfill football

Remember a not too distant past when it was us who would start favourite against shit teams and spend the whole day being dragged down to their level? In retrospect that was quite the glory era, because now that we're six years into the Dark Ages the best we can hope for most weeks is beating up on franchises, avoiding losing by ten goals every other week and occasionally pestering top eight contenders into playing badly.

Walking out of a game and saying that it's a good thing you only lost by four goals when you only kept the margin down because the match was a cheap Taiwanese imitation of a league football match is not in any way ideal, but it's a damn sight better than coming out crying about being utterly flogged again. It's too late in the year to get upset about 'only' losing by four goals so I'm willing to completely ignore the 20 minutes of the first and third quarters when we played like Devon Welshpool-Won Wron Woodside and concentrate on the positive points. Like not losing by 150.

Thanks to St Kilda for being today's co-sponsors of the destruction of footy as a spectacle, a potential finals team dragged down into our cesspit to the point where even legitimately good players like Dal Santo and Goddard were acting like the Cockatoo-Collins brothers. Didn't stop them from flogging us for half the game mind you, but despite the fact that they looked almost as bad as us - if not worse - for the other half at least they got to go home with the consolation prize of four points and another life in the finals race. That's a level of mediocrity that I aspire to achieve one day.

Not that the Saints deserved anything better after their pre-match team selection shenanigans. They didn't even bother to assign a mystery injury to Clint Jones and openly admitting he was out for 'team balance'. If a shit team did that etc etc. Good to see our midfield is so non-threatening that other teams can afford to rest taggers when we come to town. Says it all sadly.

Regardless of how little interest they had in the match, knowing that a win was a near certainty, it didn't stop them from treating us like peasants for most of the first quarter. Thank god Riewoldt went off because it looked like he was going to tear us apart single handedly, and after he went we actually started to look ok. Of course this meant that for the second time this season we were destined to be torn apart by Beau Wilkes, but that's fine - because if he kicked five Riewoldt would have had 15.

I know everyone was a huge fan of the Bailey Quarter (0 or 1 goals in Q1), so I've done the math and Neeld is up to seven in his first season, which at the moment is still under Bailey's nine - so for now he doesn't have the indignity of getting shit first quarters named after him - but there's more than enough time to catch up over the next few weeks. If he wants to match Bailey he'll have to make up those extra two as well as five in season 2, six in season 3 and four in season four. No bloody wonder he's (allegedly) gagging to sign Travis Cloke. If only six behinds equalled a goal he'd be the answer to all our problems.

We weren't actually all that bad once Riewoldt went off, it was just that we had bugger all and nothing inside 50. Poor Brad Green announces his retirement after hinting towards it last week with a series of interpretive dances, and then a week later he's standing around getting flogged to death by an entire defence on his own while the midfield (the ones who can get a kick anyway) continually boot it at his feet or directly to the loose man in defence who is doing as he pleases. No wonder he got so excited about smacking Gold Coast, he must have known what was coming this week.

We weren't scoring, but at least neither were they. It all made for a game which was so bad it would make eternal optimists like Kevin Bartlett gouge their eyes out with a spoon. It didn't even have being a grim defensive struggle to hang its hat on, it was just two teams who were absolutely no good having an extra special double shocker while play pinballed around between the two 50m lines, with only the odd shit kick on goal (arise J. Trengove) to liven things up.

It was so bad that at the start of the second quarter both the big screen and the scoreboards shut down. Considering the garbage juice that was being served up on field I'm sure I wasn't the only person who was concentrating more on their technical shenanigans than the footy, but first the small score only boards went off so they put the score on the big screen. Then the big screen picture went off, leaving only the score, then both of them went off and nobody knew what the hell the score was (or particularly cared I'll bet), then the score alone came back on the big screen, then both of them shut down altogether again. Sadly both of them came back on, let's have that happen in the dying minutes of a game where it really matters and watch the chaotic scenes in the stands as rogue fans start killing each other in the stands.

I must admit that I paid absolutely no attention to the first ten minutes of the second quarter. First there was the debacle with the scoreboard, then somebody rang me from an unlisted number and I was so bored that I broke one of my cardinal rules and answered a non-emergency phone call in the middle of the match. The quality of the line was so awful that I couldn't concentrate on what was being said and the game at the same time, and apparently completely missed the customary Jeremy Howe screamer and a shot on goal while yelling "WHAT?" and "I CAN'T HEAR YOU" into a mobile at the back of the Ponsford Stand. Assuming nothing else of any value was missed.

Managed to get out of the phone conversation just in time to see our first goal, and thank god for that too because it was starting to look as if we were going to match the feats of Fremantle when they booted one solitary goal at Football Park a few years ago. After that goal the game then fell into another deep dark hole for a while before we got another, and all of a sudden against the odds things were starting to look interesting.

He did nothing in the second half, and I readily admit to having a soft spot for him, but I like Matthew Bate's first two quarters. Shame that he's about as quick as I am then, because that's what will end him very soon. If he's keen he's got a career set dominating shit competitions where he'll be a step above everyone, but I can't see him surviving here for another season. Respectfully I'm not sure why he was even playing considering where he's at - given that we had no interest in winning anyway I'd much rather have played Gysberts just to get another game into him. Even Michael Evans would have been worth another go, assuming they promoted from the rookie list to play him in the seniors - although that theory failed miserably when applied to Robert Campbell last season. Having said all that I'd still play Bate next week, take no chances against GWS and make sure all the mature bodies are out there to guard against humiliation.

We really did start dominating them during the second, and this without Moloney or Sylvia getting within two postcodes of it, but yet again the lack of any sort of proper forward targets stuffed us. It was one of those days where I could almost convince myself that paying millions for Travis Cloke wouldn't be the worst thing to do, but assuming we don't land the overpriced fish they've got to find another option somewhere. Imagine if Clark got hurt next year and Jurrah's court case didn't go well - with Green retired we'd be back to Garland and Rivers (if still there), and while we were all happy with a bit of experimentation this year I think I speak for everyone in saying that if that has to happen again next season we will riot.

We eventually broke through after all that grim struggle for two (TWO) goals in a row, but in classic Melbourne tradition then just when things started to look up we allowed a set shot to fall short but still land straight in the arms of an opposition player five metres in front of goal. Big thumbs up for that. Forget the 50 pulled straight out of the umpire's choc box which made the probable goal an absolute certainty because they shouldn't have even had the opportunity in the first place. How many times has that happened this year? Once is too many.

So come half time it wasn't actually too bad a margin, and good on us (in a totally patronising way) for making a go of it early in the third quarter via an arsey goal from Dunn and another from a clearly delighted Blease. Suddenly the margin was under a goal and the prospect of an earth shattering upset victory was on the cards. It didn't hurt that their best players were either being shit or in the hospital having their knee scanned - but if you were interested in beauty or aesthetics you'd hardly be watching Melbourne would you?

Sadly if it was completely unexpected that we'd come from four goals down to get within six points during the third quarter (and not concede any goals in the first five minutes stats fans), then it was a true return to form that we ended the term 50 points behind. How I'm not entirely sure, but it was just your typical Melbourne performance - totally unable to stem the onrushing tide and throwing away a match in the space of 20 minutes.

At least for the sake of neutrals somebody had finally started to take the match seriously AND were good enough for it to be apparent. No doubt we were going 100% from minute one, we're just rubbish. The Saints, on the other hand, were a decent team gone bad and from the moment Blease involved himself in his NQR Scenario of the Week and snapped out of bounds from ten metres in front the pressure came and a white flag was duly hoisted while the Saints did as they pleased.

All of a sudden from a position of at least making it look interesting we were staring down the barrel of a 100 point loss and Beau Wilkes kicking 11. That guy should send us a card at the end of the year for making him look good - 11 career goals and eight of them against us. He, Brad Dick and Kent Kingsley should get together sometime and talk about all the days then persecuted us and thought everything was going to be fine before they stunk it up for the rest of their lives. At least he was kind enough to keep it down to five for the day.

Speaking of five goal hauls you can forget everything else, including what turned out to be a most enjoyable last quarter due to St Kilda going to sleep, the storyline of the afternoon was undoubtedly Blease kicking the most unexpected bag of five since Brent Heaver in 1990. He's still on and off like a tap, and remains most likely to parlay his sporting fame into doing bizarre interviews about the Illuminati a'la David Icke, but at the same time he's threatening to become a huge cult figure if he keeps going like this. In retrospect I'll even pay high-fiving the crowd when we were losing just because it all adds up to contribute to his mystique.

It's one thing to go wild for The Spencil because he's a giraffe sized gentleman stretching himself to the limit and having a go, but Blease mixes excitement and sheer, good old fashioned, wide-eyed lunacy like nobody else on our list. Witness, for instance, Neeld's comments about him in this article. Proof yet again that bizarre scenarios follow him around wherever he goes. Not to mention his post-match interview which nearly had me on the floor. What a legend, whatever planet he's on I want to live there.

At this rate, heading towards being our second highest goalkicker, it's no surprise that he's one of the four we're allegedly 'in talks' with (though why in god's name is Bail also on that list?) but the quicker they get his name on a contract the better. At least if he does want to dick us to re-form Miami Vice then it's running up his trade value - or not as the case may be considering their 'surprising loss' today (ten changes, Folau involved) also means they'll have Pick 1 in the pre-season draft too, so they'll be able to snatch him for nowt if he's interested. How very Melbourne it will be for us to be teased for the last month of the season before he tells us to get stuffed.

As for the rest of that list I'm not either not concerned if they don't do a deal or can live without them, but christ knows what they're doing not trying to lock Rivers away. Back in his natural environment today he was really good, and until McDonald learns how to kick properly we can't afford to lose too many defenders - especially considering that there's really not much in reserve other than Frawley. Davis is unproven and possibly about to get the bullet and other than that you're down to pinch hitters like Sellar, Watts and The SME.

As much as I have a fetish for Joel Macdonald - and he has now moved in front of Moloney for average possessions per match this year I'll have you know (18 to 17.06) - if you can only keep one of them do you take him or Rivers? Hard choice for me but I know which one the footy club would pick. No way do both Joel Mac and Dunn go - we can't lose our only two foul mouthed filth merchants simultaneously.

The most bizarre aspect of that Age article was the suggestion that we might be flogging Gysberts to Geelong. No idea how he gets dropped completely (not even just to sub) after waiting so long to play one game this season, but surely whatever we'd get for him is not going to match what we paid in the first place so why bother just to roll the dice on another kid? Unless they've realised he's destined for permanent injury and have decided to cut their losses or he's declared that he hates the place because Max Gawn spewed on him. Alternatively it could all be early Trade Week Radio style idle speculation and waffle, after all the article also forgot Lucas Cook - but so have most of the rest of us.

Speaking of it being that time of the year when we all play our own special list management version of Snog/Marry/Avoid I've forgotten who I was getting rid of and keeping a month ago, but my weekly unpredictable change of heart goes to Lynden Dunn. He's a bit part player and desperately needs to realise the joke's over when it comes to that mo, but the fact that he appears to be an all-round shit bloke on the footy field makes me want him to go around again next year. For where we're at right now I'm willing to keep one of the many 'superstars' we have coming through the ranks (thousands of them) out of the side in favour of somebody who is openly an arsehole.

For instance witness his technique whilst standing the mark to defend a set shot. Where others who won't be named do a poncy little side-to-side hop while waving their arms in the air like Auskick kids, our Lynden rips a bunch of grass out of the ground and hurls it as his opponent during the run-in while screaming what we can only assume is foul abuse - and who's going to do that if we give him the arse?

He could be our Stephen Milne (albeit without the don't even think about it - legal department) and operating at about a 500 career goal deficit, so for that reason I was thrilled to see them operating in the same vicinity early in the match. St Kilda's well know master of diplomacy kicked the first goal as usual before proceeding to do nothing the rest of the day, but for a brief few tantalising moments there was the chance of he and Dunn ending up having Shitblokeocalypse 2012 and ending up punching buggery out of each other. Sadly not to be, but I still think Dunn did a good job. At least he's progressed past being the sub every week.

In the end thanks to some incredible junk time racking up of goals we managed to make it respectable, and thank god for that. More importantly 12.10 takes us to 197.193.1375 and we're just 102 points away passing that famous 1997 mark. Percentage is up to 67.70 too, so we're edging away from the brink on that front as well. Slop for all.

Rules Committee Corner
After the very peculiar bonanza of deliberate out of bounds decisions in Perth on Friday night (15x the season average if you don't mind), one could have expected a similar overreaction in this game, but at the same time nobody should be any more surprised that there turned out to be nil.

Credit then to the umpire whose technique of calling for a throw-in made it look like he was going to pay deliberate every time before he ran the right arm right up from the bowling action to meet the left on his chest. At least he was dedicated to injecting some interest into an otherwise vile, pus dripping slopfest of a game.

To prove that for once both teams had gotten lucky from the umpires I walked in to Demonblog Towers, turned on the TV and saw them paying one in the GWS/Gold Coast game. Not that it wasn't utterly deliberate, but you know they wouldn't have given it in the first quarter last week. Rules on the run as usual, which makes no sense considering they're trying to flog this game to new markets in NSW and Queensland. How are they supposed to rewrite the rulebooks that are handed out at the merchandise stands every week?

Here's one for conspiracy theory fans that I just made up. The AFL are dying to keep the number of stoppages down and want to get their shitty NAB Cup "everything is deliberate" rule in BUT they know everyone has realised it's a shit rule, so what they want people to do now is say "I don't care what happens as long the decisions are consistent". Then they change the rules and declare they're doing it to improve consistency. Then it becomes just as much of a shambolic lottery as it already was but means teams are too scared to go near the boundary line. I'm not saying this is necessarily what they're up to, but if it happens you heard it here first.

Mystery Injury Corner
Last week it was McKenzie two hours before the bounce, this week it was Frawley on Friday and the week before that it was the Stef Martin Experience on Thursday. At least if they keep going back through the week we'll eventually get one we explain before the end of the season, but for now it's a bizarre player crisis on the same level as that which befell the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team in the early 90's.

For those of you playing along at home Jack Watts is Mike Scoscia, Liam Jurrah is Steve Sax, Lynden Dunn is Ken Griffey Jr and everybody else is Ozzie Smith.

2012 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
In all fairness nobody really deserved anything, and at the end of the third quarter I might have given all 15 to Jakovich himself and walked out BUT for the purpose of statistical accuracy here we are.

5 - Jack Grimes
4 - Sam Blease
3 - Joel Macdonald
2 - Jared Rivers
1 - Lynden Dunn

Apologies to Spencer (almost, ALMOST got a vote. Would have brought the house down), McDonald (please learn to kick), Garland, Jones, Bate and Trengove.

Grimes takes the outright lead in the Seecamp as Tom McDonald necks himself out of votes by undoing all his good work by kicking like a double amputee. Should at least take home a share of the Hilton based on Magner violently hitting the wall and assuming the position of perennial sub/VFL player. Elsewhere the SME should capture his second straight Ruckman of the Year next week even if he doesn't play, congratulations on a short and sharp preparation and campaign that Bart Cummings would be proud of.

52 - Nathan Jones (RAMPANT WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
21 - Jeremy Howe
20 - Jack Watts
17 - Mitch Clark, Jack Grimes (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
16 - Stefan Martin (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
15 - Jordie McKenzie
13 - James Magner (CO-LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), Tom McDonald (CO-LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
12 - Jared Rivers
11 - James Frawley
10 - Sam Blease
9 - Brent Moloney, Daniel Nicholson
8 - Matthew Bate
7 - Colin Sylvia
5 - Clint Bartram, Brad Green, Joel Macdonald
4 - Neville Jetta, Jack Trengove
3 - Mark Jamar, Luke Tapscott
2 - Colin Garland
1 - Rohan Bail, Lynden Dunn, James Sellar

Crowd Watch
Now, St Kilda fans - I know playing us holds about as much excitement value as leaping into a meat mincer but any danger of turning up? Chances are they take similar offence to playing home games at the MCG as we do at Docklands but for an all but guaranteed victory in the midst of a grim struggle for the finals you'd think you'd finish more than 4k above our crowd against Gold Coast.

Next Week
Let's not get too ahead of ourselves, but a GWS win next week would see them avoid the spoon. Do you see where I'm coming from? Either way we should be right, especially considering that they'll have done their math and realised Gold Coast are no chance of winning any of their remaining matches and giving them the breathing space to have a proper crack. Still, you can't write anything off when Sheedy is involved - what does he care for pick 1 when he's got the chance to further push his grudge against us for not rolling over for him to coach us. Then there's $cully who will presumably be very keen to stick it up us for the Carnival of Hate a few weeks ago.

Before seeing Casey play reading Casey match reports, I'll make the following alterations.

IN: Cook (come on, we're playing thin kids surely he'll feel right at home), Evans (one roll of the dice to save his career), Gysberts, Watts (cloned after his death a'la Ripley in Alien Resurrection) and Frawley (+ SME any danger?)
OUT: Magner, Bail, Sylvia, ? and whoever has Wednesday's mystery injury.

Next Season
All indications are that there will be a violent clear-out at the end of the year, and the closer we get to the last game the more obvious it becomes that some are trade/delist/free agent certainties, some might survive for another go and others are going to get caught in the crossfire.

So far I'm taking three off the senior list and one rookie, but no doubt it will run deeper than that - especially if they're intending to sign free agents. Budget for one of them and throw in a promotion to the senior list for Nicholson and you already need to get rid of another two minimum to fit draft picks in - not to mention any picks received from trades. We'll see who moves in/out of the unsafe group in the next few weeks.

Clark, Frawley, Garland, Grimes, Howe, Jamar, Jones, McDonald, McKenzie, Trengove

Gysberts, Martin, Nicholson, Strauss, Tapscott, Watts

Blease, Rivers

Cook, Couch, Davey, Gawn, Magner, Sheahan, Sylvia, Taggert, Tynan, Williams

Bail, Bartram (due to injury), Dunn, Fitzpatrick, Jetta, Jurrah (legal issues), Macdonald, Sellar, Spencer

Bate, Bennell, Davis, Evans, Morton

Green (retired), Lawrence (delisted), Moloney (free agent), Petterd (trade)

Apparently Lawrence has already 'walked out', which I'm sure will be used as evidence of a club in crisis despite nobody in the media other than Phil Cleary ever having heard of him. Complete non-story, dead man walking rookie who had originally walked out and gone home straight after being drafted sees another rookie upgraded to the last spot for the season and decides to take the short cut and avoid having to be sacked. I can't see us missing him any more than Trent Zomer or Cameron Johnston. Opening the sluices for the blood letting might be the first and last notable moment he was ever involved with at this club.

Final Thoughts: End of Season pictorial special
Saturday 8 September

Sunday 9 September

Monday 10 September

Tuesday 11 September

Monday, 6 August 2012

You take it where you can get it

Welcome to the end of another 'exciting', scandal tinged week of your life supporting the Melbourne Football Club. For once it ended with a win, and thank god for that too because I can't imagine the wild scenes that would have taken place if we'd contrived to lose to Gold Coast in the same week where our dirty 'secrets' were the talk of the town.

It wasn't much of a win, and I'm fairly confident in saying despite the margin it pushes ahead of our previous victory over the Suns as the worst in recent memory, but this isn't the Uneven Parallel Bars (OBLIGATORY OLYMPIC REFERENCE #3) and you don't get marked down for precision, degree of difficulty or execution. In our case there would have been a lot of people literally been marked down for execution had they lost this, but thankfully the firing squad were not required at AAMI Park and were free to head to a much higher profile engagement at Alberton Oval instead.

You'd never turn back a win (well, you might if it was 2009 and SNIP - legal department) but a victory of this variety was a bit like on-screen nudity before the internet came along. Back in say 1992 you didn't know when you were going to see norgs again so anything looked good.

For instance causing the upset of the season in beating the 9-1 Essendon in a thriller was today's equivalent of Erika Eleniak bursting out of a cake in Under Siege, while struggling for three quarters to beat a team now proudly sporting a record of 4-36 based solely was the modern equivalent of watching a whole episode of Silk Stalkings just in case they alluded to hot action. In both cases if you squinted closely enough and used your imagination you might find something exciting, but generally it was a disappointing experience.

But enough of football as early 90's softcore metaphors for now, the brief flash of silhouetted sideboob we were provided in the first quarter and the three quarters of tripe following it were just the culmination of a bizarre week, kicked off in spectacular fashion on Monday night by our old friend, and 2006 Allen Jakovich Medallist, Brock McLean. Just when you thought it was safe to write off season 2012 as a bad dream and assumed that all the focus would turn to the wide open premiership race the MFC Wheel of Farce was spun again, and this time it landed firmly on TANKING ALLEGATIONS.

Did I step into a time machine and wind up going back three years? Did we not deal with this then, or at the very least when Dean Bailey got the heave-ho and alluded strongly to it in his farewell press conference only for the AFL to provide the all-clear with a straight face and flaming trousers? You'd have thought so wouldn't you, but our very good friend gets invited On The Couch as part of his victory lap after kicking the winning goal last Saturday night, blabs that he left because he thought we were on the dodge in late '09 and suddenly MFC Farce Bingo card holders all over the country rush off to Officeworks to buy A2 sheets of paper to fit all the new squares on.

It's easy to laugh at the league for pretending - Iraqi Information Minister style - that absolutely nothing dubious has ever happened when half the league has had a go at 'experimenting' at some point in recent history, but their refusal to admit that they implemented a system that was incredibly easy to manipulate might be our saving grace. It's not like they have to punish anybody else if they don't want to so don't think if we go down we're necessarily taking anyone else with us so let's hope the whole thing is packed away and never spoken about again. Don't be fooled into thinking that if they do us in for the McMahon game that they're bound by any rules of justice to include Carlton for letting Jace Bode kick two goals in Round 22, 2007.

Besides, who needs a draft lottery anyway - they solved the problem for a few years by introducing two teams with a combined fanbase less than the population of Nauru, giving them every pick under the sun. Great result if you're the owner of GWS (i.e the AFL), not much chop for the rest of us but at least it encourages teams to play properly. Look at Port last year, dodging the spoon (naturally by beating us) because instead of being the difference between picks 1 and 2 it was the difference between 4 and 6. It might not have ended well for them this season (though having said that they've already won two games more than they did in 2011 so I'm not entirely sure what Matthew Primus was expected to do other than beat GWS) but it shows that clubs will put winning before picks if there's not a huge amount to be gained by finishing one or two spots higher.

I have almost zero interest in the NBA other than occasionally making sure the Atlanta Hawks are still no good so I don't have to pretend I'm a real fan but I'm right on board their lottery system. Throw 8-18 in the hat, with it progressively weighted so that 8th has almost no chance, and 18th have about one in four and just draw it. Clubs will always play kids before they're ready at the end of the season, and NBA teams still try and rort their way into having a better chance of 'winning' the number one pick but at least it will stop the perception of teams being automatically better off by losing.

However, we're talking about the people who brought you the Video Review System ten minutes before the start of the season so don't hold your breath for any sort of lottery to be implemented in a way that isn't a complete shambles. Also not that it should matter this year, but in future could the draw be conducted under Oz Lotto style government supervision to ensure that GWS and Gold Coast don't always get the top pick care of bendy envelopes a'la Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks.

So, flash back to late 2009 and our vigorous embracing of 'experimentation' which conveniently landed us on exactly four wins and a priority selection. I'm on record as having hated every minute of it, but I see where they were coming from. It was sordid, it was sadly the right thing for them to do and we've been duly rewarded by having three wins in a season - only one of them against a real club - three years later. Karmic punishment enough for whatever happened during the Tom McNamara era I'd have thought, but no we've been through enough off-field drama this year so why not throw a league 'investigation' into the mix as well.

So Brock's comments weren't particularly helpful to our cause, but what do you expect coming from the guy who delivered a put-down to a Twitter oaf which also insinuated he himself had AIDS then had to pay $5000 for the privilege. There's clearly no filter between brain and mouth. I'm sure he wasn't really trying to dump us in it, especially because he'd no doubt be implicated for taking part in other alleged fixes that season, but he said what he felt, it reflected badly on us and three years later we get to be run through the media blender for it.

He could have danced around the issue a bit, but he's never been known for remarkable agility has he? You'd like to think that when the AFL's investigator sits down with him he'll say it was all a misunderstanding, that he has no real allegations to make and that there is no evidence anything dodgy took place and that will be that but the air of farce hangs heavy over us at the moment so who knows what left-field decision they'll come up with.

Of course having said all that he did have a point. By all account there were some outrageously experimental positional moves in the second half of that Richmond game, but other than that all I saw was us losing a bunch of games we'd have lost anyway even if we had played everyone where it is presumed by the media that they should have been playing.

At this point I'd like to reiterate, before the AFL try to subpoena me to testify at the Tankquiry that I didn't then, nor have ever seen any footage of the second half of the great Richmond match other than the final kick which is worth watching over and over again just for Jordan McMahon's "I am severely constipated" facial expressions after he kicks it.

Let's assume for a second that the loss to Richmond, which once again I have never seen in its entirety (first half was good though), was pre-planned. What a remarkable stroke of luck to end up with them finding a target inside 50 with seconds to go and having a non-notable goalkicker slot the clutch kick (his 45th in 144 games). No matter what wacky shenanigans took place before then that's the fact of the matter, they won the game off their own boot and it didn't involve one of our defenders turning around and kicking the ball straight to him (which happens every week anyway) so stick that in your M1 Abrams Battle Tank and smoke it.

I have no doubt what they were up to at the end of that season, but without concrete proof of a conspiracy how can anybody tell between a 'carefully' crafted ploy to manipulate the draft, and just plain shit football/tremendously awful luck. We can speculate on motive and intention until the cows come home, but the fact of the matter is not only did Richmond win that game off their own boot but also that winning it would not have affected our chances of getting a priority pick - it would have left us on four wins and we'd still have gotten Trengove and some other prick. Whether or not we'd have forfeited the extra pick by beating Freo comfortably a fortnight later is another matter, but it's irrelevant because thanks to McMahon the match was never played under those circumstances.

Obviously no player turning out for us in any game that season deliberately played to lose, so case closed. If Matthew Warnock goes to full forward then misses five shots in a row from the goalsquare then let's talk about conspiracies and sanctions (maybe at the time, not three years later), but does that mean The Spencil then gets investigated for dropping the ball on his run in against North or we have to produce a doctor's report proving Rohan Bail really did blow his hammy 30 seconds into his debut? No, because shit happens, and if all they've got on Bailey is that he coached a game badly then I've got a big fat dossier of other games I'd like to discuss with them. Where does playing a clearly unwell Moloney in 186 fit in? In fact we could do about three weeks of investigations into that if they're keen.

Why did they play Whelan and Wheatley in Round 22 when they could hardly move? Was it because we were always going to lose to St Kilda no matter what? Of course it was. Why did Dunn go to Riewoldt and get slaughtered? No idea, why did he do the same against Goldstein two weeks earlier? Is wacky experimentation only evil in the last month of the season or is Neeld under investigation for the Watts vs J. Brown matchup against Brisbane? Why did Brock McLean himself have 27 touches when we beat Fremantle in foul conditions three weeks from the end of the year but only 16 and 17 the next two - is he going to put his hand up and say he chucked it as well, or do we put that down to being well held by far superior teams? I'd say the latter, much like every other game apart from Richmond which we could easily have won anyway despite the coco bananas coaching.

It's all a bit of a non-story (so much so that I've just spent half the post talking about it) but it was as good an excuse as any for a media frenzy, and an open invitation was put out to anybody who had anything to do with the club that year to make their way down to the Double Cross Ranch and pretend to unburden themselves of a deep dark secret which they've been holding deep inside all these years. One which they didn't think to report to anybody until a journalist asked them about it.

First cab off the rank was, bizarrely, Paul Gardner who had been run out of town on a rail a year before Warnock did his Tony Lockett impersonation. So with nothing constructive to say about the events actually in question, presumably because he was busy climbing a mountain for charity while they were occurring, he instead helpfully joined in just for the sake of it and claimed that we'd been at it for years. And indeed we had - just witness the second half fadeout in Round 22, 2003 which ultimately led to us drafting *drumroll please* Brock McLean.

Gardner was claiming that he walked out of a match in 2008 because we "weren't trying to win", but considering he resigned as President in June I'm not sure what more credibility he has about our performances at the end of that year than any of us who sat in the stands and simply watched them play a dog vomit season. His opinion is invalid, and when he says that introducing relegation would cut out tanking he proves himself to be not even worth talking to. Congratulations on achieving relevancy for five minutes, maybe next time try helping the club you allegedly support by keeping your mouth shut.

Next off the bench for his free hit was Shane Valenti, which should be no surprise to anybody considering what happened to him at the end of that year, before John Meesen of all people hobbled his way to the witness stand to testify that there was definitely something suspicious going on because "Forwards were down back, the backs were in the midfield and the midfielders were up forward." As opposed to say, Colin Garland going forward against Essendon and kicking the winning goal or Jack Watts racking up 30 possessions in the backline. If I'd known our woes this year were due to simple match fixing I'd have been much more comfortable about it and not on the verge of a heart attack for most of the first 10 weeks.

Wisely most people must have stopped returning calls because the last word from ex-players went to Paul Johnson who stopped short of raising any allegations lest somebody ask him what he thought his one game for Hawthorn against Gold Coast in the final home and away game of 2011 was equally as 'experimental' as anything he did that fateful day at the MCG. Then the papers joined in the carnival atmosphere by verballing him with a headline which made it look like he was making direct accusations.

So far nobody has had the balls to come out and say "I was told to chuck it", because nobody was - and until it can be conclusively proven otherwise then everyone can stick it and we'll get back to performing bizarre satantic rituals in the hope that at least one of the Scumbag $cully compo picks and/or Jack Viney will be the star this club so desperately needs to drag it of the floor.

Hopefully no insane bastard ever committed Operation Priority to paper and the league don't end up finding it in a Swiss Bank vault, because then we really would be in trouble - but until they do it's in exactly the same league as so many other 'dodgy' decisions before it. Carlton rocketing to four wins then packing away Fev and dropping the entire second half of a season, Freo losing by 110 points because they've rested 15 players before the finals, Collingwood having four 'injuries' before they play GWS and then all four players coming back fit and firing the next week etc.. etc.. etc.. Not to mention chief On The Couch inquisitor Paul Roos being caught on camera telling a player not to kick a goal during a NAB Cup game. When do we get to press play on footage of that? He claimed it was all an innocent joke and it was all ok. We should claim the comedy defence as well.

So, in summary everyone can get stuffed because they've all done exactly what we did and no matter how odious it may seem nothing can be proven. It would surprise nobody if the AFL were selective in their investigations and reverse course on their previous claims that nothing dodgy has ever happened (EVER) just for the sake of stealing our early picks and giving them to Gold Coast and GWS but I think we'll be fine. If I'm called at the enquiry I'll be removed from the courtroom screaming obscenities at everyone.

At least none of our players have ever been accused of changing lanes without indicating in a group sex scenario gone wrong. That's one thing we've got going for us. Hopefully the Jurrah case goes tits up and we can keep taking the moral high ground on off-field matters to make up for what went on that year.

After another 'week from hell' (CLICHE) I'm not sure how the people would have survived dropping his game. We started favourites but there were plenty of people willing to tip against, and not without some justification, especially once the Stefan Martin Experience was revealed as this week's mystery injury sufferer and we were left with the prospect of a Spencil/Sellar rucking extravaganza. At least we still had Jordie McKenzie to curtail Ablett's domination and.. well, he was out too, but at least he was replaced with Magner who can play as a tagger and.. oh he was the sub. Neutral fans probably can't see why this was so nerve wracking, unless they follow Richmond and then they've probably got some idea.

When the McKenzie news came through I can only imagine the 'humorous wags' (aka crunts), future talkback callers and 'quality journalists' like Greg Denham all frantically started pre-preparing gags and 'comic' lines to 'spontaneously' do about us. That CHICKEN STOCK/BEEF STOCK/LAUGHING STOCK picture which has had almost every club logo attached to it over the years must have been sitting in a few outboxes waiting to be sent if we cocked this up.

There was something to be said for McKenzie not being around to harass Ablett, it seems that when he runs riot they usually lose by plenty but when he's well held or doesn't play they often look like winning. It's an inexplicable phenomenon, but you wonder if that's exactly what Neeld and Co had in mind when they left late replacement Magner on the bench and gave Morton the job of following him around instead?

And follow him around he did, on a long leash. I suspect they were trying to teach him how a champion plays in the vain hope that some of the magic may rub off, but it didn't do much for his future prospects. Neither did blowing his shoulder out in season ending fashion during the second quarter, allowing Magner his long awaited crack at the job. Like neck tatts equaling a shit bloke the theory held up again, he was hardly blanketed but Ablett certainly quietened down after Morton went off - only for the rest of his team to pull their finger out and make a game of it.

We should have started with Magner on him from the first bounce but *gasp* they tried something different and it didn't work - get the integrity officer down there quickly before somebody destroys the evidence. Or maybe the Morton plan was a fiendish plan designed to take the rest of the Suns players out of the game? We'll never know now.

Maybe it helps when the entire team isn't looking for him with every possession? The worrying thing is that the by the time he retires to his large pile of money in three or four years time they won't need one man amongst 22 doing all the hard work because they'll have an enviable selection of midfield options to share the load amongst. See, for instance, Harley Bennell playing a jaw droppingly good game where he was best on ground by a million miles. This is the sort of kid who other clubs draft with high picks, while we're going around being permanently cursed because somebody shagged a witch in the home changerooms before the 1965 season.

Ablett and Bennell aside the rest of them were utter balls in the first quarter. Having seen a lot of quarters like that in the last few years I think I know an absolute stinker when I see one - and that was ripe. At 14-1 ten minutes in it didn't look too bad, but then they just fell to pieces in classic MFC fashion and the game was all but over. No doubt your highlight was the same as mine, The Spencil managing to hold the ball on his run up and kick truly.

The successes of the quarter had to balanced out against the horrible performance of the opposition, but there were still pleasing signs of quick ball movement and getting the ball inside 50 where we all hope at some point a forward line will be located. Even Sellar briefly looked like he was Mitch Clark, not to mention Blease running around as if he were Jeff Farmer snapping goals out of his arse again. All that and our backline dominating their even more makeshift forwards. Were you, as I was, praying that they'd recognise we had nobody other than Green and suddenly play Warnock in the forward line as a Party Like It's 2009 tribute? Boo to Guy McKenna for not indulging that whim.

What a great quarter it was, and with Sylvia scammed some child into giving away a 50 for first goal of the second within a minute of the bounce we were on the Chris Sullivan Line almost two quarters too soon and I was briefly roped into the idea of it turning out to be a four quarter, pisstaking rampage. Ok so us having a big win over Gold Coast would be like a deaf man mugging a blind man but it doesn't make the idea any less desirable.

Sadly then even as Gold Coast suffered such a spectacular run of injuries that they were down to no fully fit players on the bench by half time and had a 'full forward' who couldn't leave the goal square the survivors decided to start playing properly and they all but beat us for the rest of the game.

Usually I scream abuse at my television/radio/family when somebody starts waffling on about the 'brave' efforts of the Franchises when they're getting thrashed but for once in this case it was actually valid. Other than showing no interest for most of the first quarter and kicking for goal like the Earl Spalding All-Stars they actually outplayed us for the majority of the day. Note with bitterness than it was the first time they had won either the Inside 50 or Contested Possession count all season.

So take the win and flog it off to Cash Converters for whatever you can get because there wasn't a great deal else that it told us about the future. No doubt there were some good signs - Howe playing his second good game in a row since I suggested he'd lost it (oops) and Tapscott easily his best since early in his debut year - but considering who it was against I'm not going to start declaring the rebirth is in full effect just yet. Show me similar against St Kilda and then let's talk.

What you can take out of Sunday was that Howe and Jones have re-signed, and on top of Garland, McDonald and McKenzie a few weeks ago that gives us all the chance to face "everyone will leave" Gerard Healy and tell him to whack it up his chocbox.
There's still work to do on a handful of others but the mooted abandonment of ship has been reduced to Moloney trying to win a flag and GWS using $cully to 'persuade' Blease to defect north.

At the other end of the career spectrum it was good to see Green getting amongst the goals again. His over the top celebrations were a bit much, but good on him for trying to inject some life and excitement into the usually drab MFC match day experience. The first one made sense, but by the time he was kicking his 5th and dancing around like Michael Flatley I thought something dubious was afoot and that he was going to announce his retirement after the match. My conspiracy sense was tingling even more when somebody ignored a perfectly good option to try and find him inside 50 in the last quarter when he was already on five. Then the match ended and he's not going anywhere, so what do I know? He needs to play on.

I'll admit that I was getting nervous in the second quarter when they kicked three in a row, and was starting to wonder if we were being set up for the screwjob of the century. The umpires were certainly keen on giving the Suns every possible opportunity (in a completely fair and balanced way OF COURSE) so it was important that we didn't let them back into the game by half time. Thank god for getting the last two goals and providing some breathing space.

The balance had well and truly tipped in the third term, and they spent most of it battering our defence but being too inept to convert. Brandon Matera was the chief offender, missing three easy set shots in a row - but for once the luck was going our way as rare inside 50's were leading to goals, including two for Dancin' Brad Green who celebrated by doing his impression of Michigan J Frog after kicking a 4th. Meanwhile down the other end Rischitelli was forced to try and kick what would have been the greatest aerial goal since Jakovich against North Melbourne because he couldn't move more than about two metres.

As our midfield started to be overwhelmed and the defenders began their tradition fumbling and bumbling we could be thankful that Gold Coast haven't yet discovered any decent forward targets. So far so much like us, but at least we've got Clark and (hopefully) Jurrah to come back - they are a team in drastic need of any type of decent full forward. Here's hoping they either never get one or steal both from GWS and force the Giants to go into liquidation.

The last quarter was just mince. We started it one point above the CS Line so I knew we were safe, and taking the margin out over 50 points in the first minute helped calm the nerves before self doubt and loathing started to creep in when they booted three in a row and our lot stopped to a crawl. Our lot who had lost one player, while a side who were a mobile casualty ward ran around like it was the first quarter.

Shufflin' Brad Green steadied it, and Howe got another one after the siren to 'win' the last three quarters but it was hardly inspiring stuff. If it wasn't for Howe taking hangers and Tapscott flattening somebody with an almighty bump there would have been absolutely nothing to recommend it for future viewing. Take the points, burn the tapes, and let's move on.

Just when you thought this match had tortured you enough, wait until Brownlow night where one of our handful of wins for the year comes up and we don't even get the top two votes for the match. That's got to be a rarity for a team winning by seven goals, but it's hard to argue against the Bennell/Ablett show. Good thing the rest of them are good enough to get the job done yet, but don't be fooled by their abysmal win/loss record they're not going to be this easy to walk over for long.

Stat My Bitch Up
It's head in the oven time for poor old Mal Owens who was within striking distance of handing the most unwanted record in MFC history over to Jake Spencer before this victory. The Spencil rockets to a career win/loss record of 1-12, and Mal is left to wear the record setting 0-16 mark for another few years.

The latest news on percentage watch is that we're up to 67.20, and bracing for some massive debacles in the next few weeks, we're pushing away from the bottom 10 seasons of all time. Well that's something. Total score for the year is now 185.183.1293, so we should (SHOULD) avoid the record low of 207.235.1477 by the time we get to Round 24. Keep watching the stars.

2012 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Jeremy Howe
4 - Nathan Jones
3 - Luke Tapscott
2 - Brad Green
1 - Brent Moloney

Apologies to Bail, Blease, Dunn, Frawley, Grimes, Macdonald, Magner, McDonald, The Spencil (!!!!!), Strauss, Sylvia and Trengove - many of whom could have snuck in for the last vote. I wasn't as keen on Sylvia's game as most, he was good but he should be slicing and dicing sides like this for fun.

Jones continues to take the piss. Status of all other awards unchanged. Anybody who debuts from next week onwards is eligible for the 2013 Hilton.

52 - Nathan Jones (WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year)
21 - Jeremy Howe
20 - Jack Watts
17 - Mitch Clark
16 - Stefan Martin (LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
15 - Jordie McKenzie
13 - Jack Grimes (CO-LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), James Magner (CO-LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), Tom McDonald (CO-LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year and Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
11 - James Frawley
10 - Jared Rivers
9 - Brent Moloney, Daniel Nicholson
8 - Matthew Bate
7 - Colin Sylvia
6 - Sam Blease
5 - Clint Bartram, Brad Green
4 - Neville Jetta, Jack Trengove
3 - Mark Jamar, Luke Tapscott
2 - Colin Garland, Joel Macdonald
1 - Rohan Bail, James Sellar

Crowd Watch
Posted figure of 18,097 seemed highly dubious, but who am I to question the integrity of 'official' crowd numbers? Certainly more than I expected, but tellingly 3500 less than for the same fixture last year - probably because there was still some sort of feelgood factor around the place then despite 186 whereas now people are having to be physically restrained from self harming.

So how then, in a near empty stadium, do I end up sitting directly behind a guy who was up for a chat on every topic under the sun, even though I was clearly not interested in conversation? You can't blame somebody for being chatty, after all not everyone is an anti-social monster like I am, BUT what part of having two headphones in and a jacket pulled up to the point where it was covering my mouth indicated that I was keen to get into a discussion.

It's alright if somebody turns around for one comment, realises you're only being polite by responding and then gives up but he kept doing it for the whole quarter. We're rumbling our way to our largest first quarter lead since Round 2, 1994 and old mate is showing more interest in banal conversation than the gore taking place in front of it. He even turned around to say something during one of our set shots. As a Melbourne fan I would argue that goals are so precious that you should be paying full attention to every single shot in case you don't see another one ever again.

I was already plotting my escape to one of the other 90,000 empty seats in the stadium when the quarter time siren went and he clambered over the seats to sit down right next to me. Again, there's no harm in being civil but take the hint that somebody isn't keen already. I'm alone, you're alone, we're all bloody alone but it's no excuse for chumming up with other lone nutters.

So with Level 2 of the Ponsford now permanently off limits, and having been driven from the reserved seat area by Chatty McChatterton I decided to experiment with the Southern Stand. My knowledge of said stand is an absolute disgrace, having watched about two MFC matches anywhere higher than level 2 since the mid 90's. What confuses me about it is that some of the ramps go to L3 and some don't, so if you're a hapless amateur like me good luck ever finding your way back to the same place twice.

I somehow found myself on Level 3 in the second quarter, which was perfectly fine but absolutely freezing thanks to the wind, and made the terrible mistake of going to buy some $8 food at half time without dropping a trail of crumbs so I could find my way back. After become disoriented after standing in line for five minutes to buy some floppy chicken thing I try to take another ramp to get back to L3 and find that it's an express one which goes all the way to to the top.

By this time I'm completely confused and in need of a YOU ARE HERE map, but the quest to find my spot again was far more interesting than anything going on at half time (did they do AFL 9's again in honour of a franchise club?) so I pressed on.

Eventually after going back downstairs and trying a different ramp I came to a level where there was nothing but a set of unattended glass doors which, much to my surprise, were unlocked. By this point the third quarter was about to start and I was clutching a rapidly cooling toxic chicken product so I was ready to sit anywhere. I walk up the first set of stairs on offer, turn left and realise that I've wound up in the AFL Members, which nobody is policing because frankly at this game nobody working at the ground could care less and they were all enjoying getting paid for marshalling nobody.

Turned out that I'd become hopelessly lost and ended up at almost the other end of the Southern Stand from where I was trying to go. Not surprisingly it was as lightly patronised as the rest of the ground, so with the prospect of nobody talking to me and the rare opportunity to watch an MFC game from somewhere new I decided to stay there with just two other lone nutters for company. One was creepily taking pictures of the crowd when the ball wasn't anywhere nearby, and one was a lone Suns fan who despite being an adult male took it up on himself to get up and wave a flag whenever they kicked a goal. It was sad, individual male central and I was right at home.

The second half may have been crap but at least I had a cracking view. Not that I'll be rushing out to sign up to become an AFL Member just for the facilities. To me joining them would be like signing up to a political party I hate just because they throw nice functions.

MFC Facebook Comment of the Week
No chance, not getting roped into the nutter factory just because we've had a win.

For now I've given up on almost every online channel other to see Casey match reports and re-read all 30 pages of the Big Footy MS Paint Thread from start to finish every week.

If I stray outside of any thread that is not a VFL report or a comic goldmine it's just page after page of tormented souls digitally kicking the shit out of each other and trying to nut out solutions to all our problems - most of which involve sacking somebody. I'm aware that after all these years - and the length of this post - that it's incredible hypocrisy for me to suggest anybody else needs an intervention before they have a heart attack, but my god some people take it to an incredible new level on forums.

Especially when it comes to posting about the administration. It's not that people don't have a right to dislike Schwab, McLardy, the tea lady etc.. for whatever reason but the fact remains that off-field is one of the few places where you, the random otherwise powerless member can have a go at them and make whatever sort of difference you like. And nobody ever does. You don't have to sleep under a cardboard cutout of the board, but the clock's ticking for anyone who wants to have a serious go at them so if somebody wants to have a crack then let's do it and let the first expensive, divisive public brawl since Gutnick vs Szondy 'sort it out'.

I'll give the "sack everybody" faction the benefit of the doubt for the next couple of months, but if AGM season rolls around with the board unchallenged and nothing more than a couple of furious people clutching microphones at the meeting then they've squibbed it en masse and can fuck right off.

As for the great Cameron Schwab debate it's about to be irrelevant, so whatever it is that he's supposed to have done to make various people hate him so much can remain the stuff of internet legend.

Next Week
Casey were thrashed by the 12th placed Carlton Jr, so based solely on the bests in the match report where only Bate and Williams featured I'll suggest nobody is absolutely screaming to get a game. After our recent record with late withdrawals and minor injuries I wouldn't be surprised if none of Martin, McKenzie or Watts are still alive so let's not get too overly excited about getting them back just yet.

There's one certain out, possibly for good, but unless one or more of the mystery injury crowd are good to go then I'll forgive Nifty Nev Jetta's pox game against North and give him credit for not being tainted by Casey's flogging.

IN: McKenzie (if fit) or Jetta
OUT: Morton (inj)

Have we blown our rookie quota yet or is there some chance Williams might get a game before the end of the year? Looks like he's taken up on Cook's now ended hot streak, so if available he'd be worth having a look at in a completely legitimate, non-tank fashion. I suspect, though, if they've got the chance to play another rookie they'll give Michael Evans a chance to save his career instead, safe in the knowledge that Williams has another year on the rookie list to impress.

Other than the injured players plus Jetta and Williams we're down to Bate, Cook, Davis, Evans, Fitzpatrick, Petterd, Sheahan and Tynan. Bate/Petterd are gorn, Cook and Davis aren't in form, Evans is a rookie, Sheahan is barely in the Casey 1's and Fitzpatrick/Tynan have played three games between them. The last two might get a run in the next few weeks, but other than that there's not a great deal to look forward to on Thursday nights.

On the off chance that all three of the mystery injury crowd turn out to be fit it'll make it a bit harder, but there's fat chance that'll happen so why waste time thinking about it?

Final Thoughts
Just keep the Wheel Of Farce from landing on this spot for a few more weeks and we should get through to Round 24 without anyone having to enter the Witness Protection Program.