Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Tankquiry Update (Day 512 - Halloween Havoc)

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A sleazy wink from Stringer Bell is where the good news ends for now, because the barbarians are at the gates and if the media show trial is anything to go by the next month can't possibly end well. Caro broke the story, so she's also taken the opportunity to declare that we're guilty as charged - despite not having been charged with anything yet. The media bandwagon is rolling and eventually the Herald Sun will join in too and then, once a paper people actually read gets involved, we'll really be stuffed.

The media never blow a story in one day when they can string it out to three our four, so I don't doubt that there's at least one more day - and one more set of accusations - in this one. By Friday we'll have been accused of having hidden Osama Bin Laden in our secret Pakistani training base - and by Monday the famous Demetriou denial of tanking will have been laughed at by so many people that he'll be absolutely bursting to play his part in fucking us right up. Instead of each our picks at the next two drafts the cameras will cut to him giving one of these:

You can't get done for defaming an organisation, so without properly accusing anyone of being involved she's going as far as possible with outright accusations that we did it, so there's got to be at least something going down because what there is now is a bit too pissweak to be putting her reputation on the line by declaring it a done deal. Mind you according to her other story in yesterday's paper Adelaide will be kicked out of this year's draft. Maybe they will, but it's either a red hot guess or somebody inside the AFL is prejudicing their own enquiries by leaking information to the press before they're actually completed.

So how did she get the details of what allegedly happened at this meeting? Either somebody working on the investigation is leaking details or somebody who is being investigated is - and if you'd spent the last week being waterboarded until you provided the appropriate information to the investigator would you think that turn the investigation into a media frenzy would actually help your cause? If we get done watch and see who of the supposed attendees either mysteriously gets off scot free or appears at another club under a fake name wearing an unconvincing wig and you'll know who cut a deal to lag us out.

That's if there is anything to lag us out on. What you've got right now, pending whatever tomorrow's revelations or secret audio recordings prove, is claims that it the idea of losing to maximise draft picks was discussed in 'a meeting' and a bunch of theories surrounding a few games at the end of the season.

Despite having still never seen the second of the Richmond game (other than the winning goal, and that will do me) I've just always gone along with the list of supposedly dodgy moves we were supposed to have pulled off during that day. In a game that we were winning at the final siren, and a game that - let this not be forgotten in any way - DID NOT IN ANY WAY AFFECT OUR DRAFT POSITION. If McMahon had missed they might have done something dodgy against Fremantle instead of winning by ten goals, but he didn't so we'll never know, and you can do a lot of things in a show trial but you can't take us apart for something that might have happened under different circumstances.

I don't doubt for a minute that the desire of various people within the club late that year was to finish dead on four wins and get the priority pick, but that's my theory and I've not got a shred of proof to prove it. Other than the game which we lost off another player's boot would we have won any of those other games? Probably not. So show me the evidence or go and get stuffed. If the papers don't deliver the smoking gun evidence by the end of the week I'm prepared to believe that it doesn't exist and the whole thing is based on what people reckon they heard in a meeting.

As I said yesterday if they do uncover 'the truth' I'll put my hand up and say that we deserve everything and that there should be a bloodbath, but if the evidence is based on some sort of list management meeting where somebody said "We'll pick $cully with 1 and Trengove with 2 if we get the priority pick for not winning another game" then they can cram it because that was a statement of fact, not a suspicious plot. If a senior or assistant coach who could have made a difference (as much as any coach can) is proven to have agreed that they had to lose then fine, ban everyone involved and wreck us as is necessary but if it was a list manager or CEO and the coaches aren't on record as agreeing then how can they be said to have influenced the result? That's like going into the 2009 Big Footy archives and tabling a bunch of posts where people say we should throw it - because the two have roughly the same amount of influence.

Where does it end? If everything which happened off-field in losses at the end of that year why isn't the on-field activity also in question? Ricky Petterd was nice enough to go on the radio yesterday and make it clear, despite us having just sacked him, that there was no directive to the players to chuck it. But then again he would say that having played a cracking game. Was part of Brock McLean's interview with the investigators a question about why he had 26 touches and two goals in a win in Round 20 and 'only' 16 the next week in a win. How far do you go without proper evidence from people who had the ways and means to make the directions of others come true. I'd love to know what Bailey said, because if he pulls the "I was only following orders" defence and gets away with it I'll chuck shit.

If he, any of the assistants or a player wants to come out, put his hand up and say that he deliberately manipulated the result and cop the subsequent life ban then ok but if you're going to talk about us playing forwards back and backs forward as actual evidence then you might be right about we were up to that day but you're officially putting every late season 'list management' manoeuvre, experimentation or close loss into question until the draft is abolished. Was it ok to do that against Essendon in the middle of this year, but not late in the season if draft position is on the line? They've have to find, unless there's real evidence, that coaches can do whatever they like with their team selections and positional moves or from that date onwards every last month of a season should be a non-stop investigation into what any team outside of finals contention is up to.

Ok, they dumped priority picks but there's still plenty of incentive for teams not to win. Going into Round 21, 2009 against Carlton at Docklands we could still have avoided finishing last with a win, so even if the priority pick was off the table why wouldn't they have played Jamar at full forward (the glorious five goal day) anyway and damn the result? Taking advantage of the system is no defence if it can be proven, but otherwise you're going to have to legislate about what coaches can and can't do - and that would be the pissiest rule change of them all.

You know what the worst thing about all this has been? When our (supposed) own people decide to pile on to get themselves a headline. You hear nothing from Neil Mitchell for about five years and then all of a sudden he's doing editorials about what a disgrace it all is based on what he's read in an article by his fellow 3AW presenter Wilson. Thanks for the help Neil, you wouldn't by any chance be lining yourself up for a crack at the presidency if things really go tits up with this inquest?

Then out rolls Paul f'ing Gardner to stick the boots into the same administration who forced him out of the club because it was stuffed and about to go under. Either you're helping the club or you're not, and there's no doubt that this guy is not helping whenever he opens his mouth and does his 'wounded fan' act. The worst part of his interview with fellow depressed supporter Mitchell (on the link above) is that he talks about a game that he's convinced we tanked in but doesn't make it clear that the game in question took place in 2003  even though he's previously said it. Once again, not helpful but a fine 'fuck you' to the people who helped get rid of him.

No matter where this goes from here brace for the worst and you'll either be right or pleasantly surprised. Just don't be the dickhead who rings up and blasts the poor receptionist or tweets/Facebooks at the club like it's Schwab and McLardy sitting there and reading every message. Win, lose or draw there'll be plenty of time for burning effigies on Brunton Avenue or driving offensive moving billboards past AAMI Park - just make sure you're aiming at the right people.

Also if we get busted for it don't act like you weren't cheering for it at the time, the only thing 90% of our fanbase (sadly including myself) will have any reason to get upset about is that we were shit at cheating because you, me and pretty much everyone wanted them to get those picks at the time and most people would have gone off their nut if we hadn't done it. Now the same people are acting like they've somehow been dudded and hated it all along, what a load of rubbish.

One thing to remember is that the club will go on no matter what happens here. It's bigger than any individual or group of, and as long as our members get behind the club itself and don't try and vote us out of existence again we'll live. There might be pain, and whatever they do to us might put the brakes on the 'revival' but at least that gives us an excuse for being shit for once. It will be painful, it will get bloody but don't throw everything away and walk off because if this goes wrong the club needs you more than ever before.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The longest month (part two)

(Relive the 'magic' of part one)

In honour of the longest month I did the longest post. For once it was thoughtfully split into two instead of being presented as one gigantic slab o' text. Instead enjoy the second mid sized slab.

Chapter Three - Return of the Tankquiry 

Thanks to Caroline Wilson for ruining my day. Not only did her article throw everything I wrote below about the draft into even more disarray than it was already in, but now apparently we're going down in spectacular fashion for dubious misdemeanors and suspicious behaviour.

That's what it looks like anyway, but don't pop the cyanide pill and end it all just yet because it's not over yet. It doesn't read well but there's no need to panic right now even though all sorts of investigators are involved - including a former 'tactical intelligence operative for the Victoria Police sexual crimes squad' if you don't mind - and the media are queuing up to beat up on an easy target.

We'll find out the 'true' story soon enough, so save kicking holes in your wall for now. There'll be plenty of time for fear, loathing, rage and hatred towards whoever you like - inside or outside the club - in the event of a future guilty verdict. Don't burn yourself out just yet.

The best case scenario is that the evidence of people who might very well have a grudge based on the fact that they were sacked or demoted isn't taken seriously and that nobody else was dumb enough to make or keep documentary evidence that they were on the shonk (If they were your honour). In that case how do you prove anything - idle waffle between coaches is one thing, but unless they can show that players were told not to kick goals (like, you know, Paul Roos did) then how can they prove anything beyond reasonable doubt?

Nevertheless let's brace for the worst. They're already in a bad mood because of the Adelaide/Tippett debacle, and Demetriou will be filthy if he's making to look stupid after coming out and saying no such thing as tanking existed so there's every possible chance that they'll try and roll two controversies into one to lessen the media impact and do us over at the same time they get the Crows.

I have no doubt that if we go down in any meaningful way (i.e - if we get offered a plea bargain for pick 88 I'm sure a confession would appear in seconds) that there will be all sorts of legal action and appeals both to the league and in the courts, which would further complicate the situation considering the draft is two weeks away it will presumably be a 'live' case in a court (normal or kangaroo) somewhere by then.

Even if, as the article says, we 'could' be hauled before the AFL Commission in the next couple of weeks could the draft even take place with an appeal on the table? What if they take pick four off us and then we win the case? Either way if it gets to that point it's not going to end well for us. Imagine we got an injunction on the entire draft? That would cause a spectacular amount of chaos, but just like beating the league in the courts you could see us getting the picks back and then being cut off from AFL assistance payments forever and forced to play five home games a year in East Timor.

Let's take a worst case scenario and say strip pick four off us this year, there's a brutal legal battle and we lose it. The club will go on regardless but things will get very nasty off-field and the chances of a boardroom challenge at the AGM rise from unlikely to almost certain. Either way anybody who was involved in an off-field capacity pre-Neeld would be nervously looking on Seek at the moment because the only way most of them are going to survive is if we get an absolutely 100% not guilty verdict - and the way it's looking there's fat chance of that happening.

Even though it would be remarkable for a professional competition to level draft penalties this season after they've just spent a whole month encouraging teams to exchange picks I'm not ruling anything out. We're not working with a democracy here, and if they want to hammer us (and presumably Adelaide) there's no moral obligation to take everyone out as well. Everyone knows everyone else did it, but unless we can somehow convince a court to take into account Travis Johnstone running riot in the Kruezer Cup then there's no obligation to investigate any of that if they don't want to. If the league wants to stitch us up (and if they've ever read this page they probably will just to annoy me) they will and there's precious little you or I can do about it.

What we can do is scream bloody murder if we go down based on half-hearted evidence and leave a trail of blood from here to Timbuktu. Ok, if they find secret audio recordings of Bailey, Schwab and Connolly talking tank in a supermarket carpark at 3.30am then I'll cop everything we're given but until then get stuffed, I'm not accepting anything and when the siren went in the Richmond game we were winning.

Start the defence now. Memorise this list and quote it long and loud. Everyone must know what a farce any penalty would be considering that half the other sides in the competition have done it - and none of them were in front at the final siren. At least you'll have a smug sense of moral superiority when we're starting with pick 124 in a few weeks.

Alternatively they could realise that bringing down any penalty now will throw this year's draft into disarray, do us over for the 2013 draft and we can fill in those boring summer months following a legal battle instead of, say, cricket. It'd make more sense considering that there's been so much turnover since 2009 that it doesn't matter whether the punishment comes now or in five years time it's no longer got any more than a tenuous connection to what happened that year except as an excuse to knife fans who have stuck by a club delivering pretty much nothing for six seasons firmly in the back.

Until we know more my only advice is to everyone involved DENY EVERYTHING. Even if the investigator starts hitting you with the Yellow Pages this is no time to crumble and stuff everything up.

Now after writing that there's no doubt in the world that tomorrow's hot exclusive will be audio tapes dug up personally by Caro from the carpark at Casey Fields - and at that point I'll give up, burn Demonblog Towers a'la New Jack City and merge for good with The Farce Blog.

Chapter Four - Despatches, despatches and despatches

I take it nobody was really floored when the news about the delistings came on Saturday morning, and even if you didn't see the bullet coming for some of them you've got to accept that when the ruthless cull that everyone had been calling for finally occurred there was every possible chance that somebody you liked, or at least could have lived with us keeping, was going to get caught in the crossfire.

The rookie list is shrinking by two from next season (unless you live the AFL's dream and either recruit somebody from the Belgian Congo or lure a professional croquet player), so that's probably what did Jai Sheahan in despite him looking half decent in some Casey games towards the end of the year. He goes along with Kelvin Lawrence, who started delisting season before the actual footy season had finished, and Chris From Camberwell favourite Leigh Williams who showed a bit in the VFL but was severely forced back down the pecking order by the arrival of Dawes and Pedersen.

This article seems to suggest that it's reducing to four, but on matters like this I'm prepared to take the league's official word. Unless they had an unpredictable change of heart and made something up on the spot like the video ref all over again. We had seven, so it's down to five now and with the almost certain Nicholson promotion that will let us pick two this year if we want the new maximum (badminton players from the Canary Islands aside), but maybe they'll just pick one and go with less than the maximum again. I'll freely put my hand up and say I've got no idea how they think when they recruit these guys, so watch this space and see how many they wheel in for pre-season training after the draft as an indication of how much interest there is.

As for the senior list there were three that were written large well before the axe came down. Bate, Cook and most unfortunately The Jurrahcance had been holed up in the Last Chance Hotel for about three months. They held out longer than expected but the MFC List Management SWAT team finally cleaned them up sometime before 12pm Saturday.

If those three were near $1.01 certainties the other two weren't any great surprise either. Everyone liked Ricky Petterd and wanted him to do well (or in my case whined when he didn't get a game) but when it came down to it he offered absolutely nothing this year, and other than a few random bursts of quality in the past he's paid for the price for not playing any role in particular and having a rotten year just when the Howitzer was being rolled into position. He kicked more than a goal a game, but so did Juice Newton and I didn't see a protest march down Bourke Street when he got the boot.

I was surprised by us dropping Bennell only because I thought we'd puss out rather than looking like heartless bastards for delisting a one legged man, but thank god for the new era of ruthlessness. Personally I'd rather we didn't but I could see a case for waiting out the Delisted Free Agent period and then picking him up again in the rookie draft if they have enough selections OR didn't like the kids on offer. Can't see it happening though, there's always more than one kid who misses the main draft that they'd have their eye on over somebody who will miss pre-season at a minimum. Mind you that's how we got Sheahan and look how that's turned out for him.

Out of that five the one that pains me the most is Jurrah, but it's a unique situation that we can't really manage so it's better not admit defeat for once. He doesn't want to be in Melbourne, and he might be doing time halfway through next year so we've got to remember the good times and move on. I know there's some wacky proposal by Port Adelaide to rookie list him just in case he gets off (presumably to kick 500, mostly against us) but you've got to wonder what would have happened if he'd gotten off at the committal hearing a few months ago. Even if he'd put in the request to go back to SA then we'd have at least got some trade action out of him instead of having to do a straight out delisting which leaves us with nada.

I wouldn't object to having him back in 2014 if he sorts out whatever he has to off-field and gets off the charges (or, morality be damned, does a short stint and comes out ok) but here's hoping that as much as we enjoyed his traction engine style foot and big leap that we don't need him anymore due to our sudden acquisition of tall forwards out the yin yang. Still, he would have been handy as a mid-sized forward because we still don't have a great deal of them - even less since Green quit and Cook/Petterd got the boot - and still even less small forwards despite the promise of cameo crumb from Davey, Byrnes and/or Rodan.

No doubt some of this - hopefully the bit about crumb - will be addressed via the various drafts, but as the list stands if you've got a fetish for mid-size forwards you'll be going home empty handed (in all senses of the word) with the Dees in 2013. Cook might have helped, but barring a remarkable turnaround at a new club he's heading straight towards a list of all-time great draft busts. Even Luke Molan can point to breaking his leg at ludicrous angles as to why never played a game, Cook's only got crippling MFC Player Depression (for other examples see Morton. C, and Maric. A) and his future Coleman Medal winning campaign to comfort him.

If I'm a bit glum about the end of the LJ era, and totally unmoved by Cook's demise then I'm firmly down the  middle with Bate. Ok, he was slow, he wasn't the best kick (but less kicks aside he still had a better DE% than any of Trengove, Sylvia or Howe) and was well past the point of justifying his relatively high draft position but I still think he still offered something.

At least he knew how to get the ball and where to go to get it - in less games this year he had more marks than Macdonald, Bail, Green, Magner, Sellar, Jones, Blease, McKenzie, Jamar and Moloney. What he also did was provide a big(ish) body in reserve just in case. Not to replace Moloney, but to give some insurance against Jones getting injured or losing form before Viney/Pick 4 are ready to carry a midfield. Bate is no Jones or Trengove, but he's at least in the same postcode as Magner and well ahead of Couch with the added benefit of having played 80-100 more games than either of them.

Notwithstanding the fact that we could have and should have taken pick 40 and ran when Footscray were offering it last year he could have filled a hole on our list. Obviously three years of not being an automatic first choice isn't going to enhance anybody's credentials for a new contract but while we've obviously learnt that you can't play kids everywhere and started flogging most of our draft picks in trades we're not exactly spoilt for choice on midfielders so it would have been nice to have a backup who wasn't 18 or straight out of the state leagues.

Unless of course he's on a promise elsewhere (first rumour says Hawthorn, which is odd) and we're doing the community thing by setting him free. Even if the good sides aren't keen and Footscray have subsequently realised that they're too stuffed to be topping up with mid 20's players I don't see why he wouldn't be a handy pick-up for one of the franchises while they're playing 80% of kids and expecting to get flogged anyway. He's not rake thin and can get a kick, that's good to be good enough for Crazy Sheeds and his half-hearted interest in short time success.

Anyway, not our problem now. As with all ex-MFC players (except $cully) we wish him well in the future. The good news is that if you want to support our old players you've got the choice of the entire league except for Essendon, Footscray, Freo, GWS (because Junior is gone and you wouldn't support the other one), Richmond (vale the Miller/Emo era), St Kilda and Sydney. Hopefully some of them pick up our scraps just to ensure some sort of tenuous MFC connection to the premiership next year.

Chapter Five - The search for a superstar

Back to the wide world of trades, and after four glorious years the SME era is over. The two time reigning Jim Stynes Medallist is taking off to Brisbane to form the New Psychic Friends Connection with Moloney and we're left with two shitbox picks and a hole in our heart as deep as a well.

But, as those 'side splitting' pictures featuring tilted deckchairs that everyone sends out after every pissweak natural disaster say WE WILL REBUILD. And the first step to recovery is to name a replacement to join the likes of Jakovich, Read, Shanahan and, err, Darren Kowal in the long - usually tragic - list of players that I've given support to over the years. And this is where, for the first time in sporting history you the viewing audience can play a part.

While recognising that there's something slightly sinister about grown men having favourite players and wearing numbered jumpers it's nevertheless time to pick one, and this time I don't want the blood on my hands if it all goes horribly wrong so I'm throwing the vote open to Demonblog readers, MFC fans in general and anyone within the football public who gives a toss. No preferences, no proportional representation, no modified D'Hondt or electoral college, just straight out first past the post where the winner - err - wins.

Luckily the Americans have come to the party with an Election Day on Wednesday 7 November our time. So on that day you'll have the chance to cast your ballot via a poll hosted on this page. At 12am on Thursday 8 November one man will become my favourite player elect, and at 12.05am he'll look at the fate of all the others who have held that honour and start planning for his career outside football.

The only house rules are that to ensure some value for my money you can't vote for anybody who will be over 28 by Round 1 (e.g Byrnes, Davey, Rodan). Otherwise go for your life. Run an electoral rort in favour of your chosen candidates, stuff the ballot box, whatever you like. When their career goes tits up it will be partly your fault for participating even if you didn't select the winner.

Note: all results are provisional until approximately 11.20am on Tuesday 11 December when the Rookie Draft will finalise our playing list for 2013. I agree to be bound by the votes of the community except in the unlikely event of us drafting somebody with an outright ludicrous name like Freddie Clutterbuck, Alroy Gilligan or:

Chapter Six - Draft

(NB: This was written before Chapter Three and all assumes best case scenario at the show trial)

Now that the last drips have been wrung out of the 2012 season (at least the ones that the wider community may care about) we can concentrate on the draft, and what a thrilling night that promises to be for us. You know the draft, that basket in which we poured near on every single one of our eggs into only to emerge with a handful of shattered shells and footballing dreams.

One day history might show Team Neeld has gone too far in the other direction, but at least we're not balancing our future on banking a thousand picks and getting them all right Flogged off pick 12 last year has been a winner so far, and we'll see in a couple of years if pick three for Hogan/Barry and half of Dawes was equally as good. If it all goes right we get three good players for the price of one, but even if they don't all deliver the goods at least we'd have to be desperately unlucky for all of them to be shit. At least we used pick 20 to try and bring in an experienced player rather than packing it away to use on another toss of the coin kid.

Instead we get pick four (don't be subconsciously biased on the basis of the quick burn and slow fizz of the Morton experiment), Viney Jr as a confirmed bargain, a couple of spins of the draft roulette wheel and a rookie upgrade or two. I believe, without reference to the rulebook - which might be like the rules of professional wrestling and not actually exist - that the inevitable rookie upgrade of Daniel Nicholson counts will count as our last pick, so that means there's going to be a lot of time for putting the kettle on between pick four and 49.

Presumably they're going to subject the 50 of us who bother to watch the draft to their ludicrous count back from ten gimmick again - even though GWS hold the first three and have no fans to care - so instead of skipping through the top two who everyone will know a month before (but some idiot from the Giants will still come out and announce they "don't know which one they'll pick first". Which would be offensive if we hadn't done exactly the same thing with Trengove and some shitbag) and seeing who we're left with at pick four we'll go through the teeth clenching spectacle of picks 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5 being paraded on stage like they're on sale in a Bangkok nightclub before we ruin some poor kid's career and then try and work out if we got a good deal or not five minutes later when GWS make their 'first' pick. Which is actually their third pick. Is there anybody in the world who thinks this is a good idea and is not employed by the AFL?

Our picks are 4, 27 (Viney) 49, 53, 70, 73, 74 and 88. So chances are we'll use up to 53, promote Nicholson with 70 and pass on the rest. If they really wanted to cut enough space on the list they could also promote Magner if they think he'd provide more value on the senior list than somebody else and want to clear another space on the rookie list.

To be honest I'm not entirely sure that a second rookie upgrade is even legal, but if Terry Wallace can rebrand himself as "The List Manager" and pretend that he know what he's on about then so can I.

Suffice to say they would want to deliver on pick four this time. You can be sure whoever it is that he's going to be a midfielder, but if the fate of Morton/Gysberts is anything to go by then he won't have a big floppy haircut. Safe in the knowledge that anybody pretending they know what they're doing can probably get at least the top four right I turned to the Big Footy Phantom Drafts board and pulled the following names out for special attention on the night.- Grundy (ruckman, but Jamar can't go on forever), O'Rourke (is his first name really spelt Jonothan? I don't think I can support that), Wines and Toumpas so if it's not one of those you can take it up with Big Footy.

When it comes down to it I don't give a monkeys as long as they can play. It's all well and good to spend hours trying to decide who'll be left by pick four and who they should take but the fact of the matter is that anyone we draft will either come down with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Ricketts and the whole exercise will end in a massive outbreak of terminal Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome.

Part Seven - Waiting for the great leap forward
Training will obviously take place very soon, but once we've got the full list confirmed come midday 11 December then we can really concentrate on getting through the summer and into the pre-season proper.

From there all sorts of time honoured traditions will be followed. The modern day John Meesen will train the house down, we'll have a mass outpouring of grief over somebody doing their knee in training, everyone who said they were going to roll up to the AGM and lose the plot will squib it (unless the Tankquiry rolls us, then it will be a massacre), a surprise win against a good team playing their thirds in the NAB Cup will cause an outbreak of moistness among the entire supporter base then the expected massive win against Port in Round 1 will be derailed by The Jurrahcane doing a run in and kicking eight goals as any pre-season togetherness and comradeship will disolve into furious online brawls about who we should sack first.

Pending a total implosion of the club and civil war based on the aforementioned enquiry I'm looking forward to it.

The Tankquiry - Your guide to key evidence

As the investigation into dubious behaviours in AFL matches gathers steam (if you believe this), never be caught short in a discussion about teams which should be hauled over the coals for their non-commitment to winning without reference to this handy list.

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.

Spread that list far and wide friends. And there's probably heaps more that hasn't even been considered, so add that too if needs be. My favourite bit from the article is:

It is believed that recently a handful of club personnel have corroborated versions of discussions that took place leading up to some of Melbourne's strange losses that year - culminating in the Richmond loss, which saw Melbourne fans cheering when Tiger Jordan McMahon goaled after the siren.

If the Richmond game was the 'culmination' of 'strange losses' then can somebody explain to me how winning two games in the preceding month fits in? Two losses then came at the hands of Geelong at Kardinia Park (no change of policy there) and a Sydney side fighting for a spot in the eight. 
Journos, if you're going to try and bury us just to sell a few papers at least get together in the AFL Media Association Hot Tub and get your story straight first.

Monday, 29 October 2012

The longest month (part one)

Though it may have seemed like it lasted longer than the war in Afghanistan (all of them combined), you may be surprised to find out that there were only 27 days between Sunday 30 September and last Friday's finish to the end of the AFL Trade/Free Agent/Wacky Drafts/Franchise Club Rorts and Compo Period.

Would you like a review of the off-season so far in tiny, bite-sized pieces? Well you've come to the wrong place because in true Demonblog tradition there's so much waffle I've had to split this over two posts - the next one will turn up sometime tomorrow night.

Chapter 1 - Wearing tinfoil hats and going through the recycling at AFL House

You can blame the league for the first edition of what they'd like you to believe is a 'brave new era' going at least one week, if not two, longer than was absolutely necessary. Not that they'll admit it mind you, and if their own media department has already declared it a success on their website, so that's nice because you can always accept the word of a journalist dangled off the Bolte Bridge with A. League Executive holding his ankles until he agreed to write fulsome praise about the league's remarkable vision and foresight.

Nobody's really that concerned though, because stretching the off-season past credibility doesn't smash the fabric of the game and confuse buggery out of players, umpires and fans alike as much as - say - changing the rules of the bloody game every year. Not that anybody really does anything about the constant rule changes either, but that's because 'stakeholders' and 'consultation' are the only management speak phrases that the AFL haven't printed out in six foot high letters and stuck up on their office wall.

Having said that you can be sure that even if there was a groundswell of anger from the last few people left who think the league isn't a total dictatorship and voices were raised about another round of pointless changes that the people who implement them will do what they always do when they want to justify introducing something shonky to the game and drag out stats massaged to prove their point and justify another year of enormous salaries just for encouraging a captive audience to turn up or watch on TV.

Any explanations they do come up with will be exposed as utter cobblers, because every person with half an interest in sport in Australia knows they were trying to smash soccer, cricket, horse racing and all the other minority sports and keep them out of the papers for as long as possible.

The month of trades (which actually worked out to about three days in real time) tactic worked for a while, but there's only so far you can drag something out which used to take place relatively comfortably within a week or nine days before everyone realises what you're up to. By the middle of the third week you didn't even have to be the sort of person who will believe any conspiracy theory about the league (i.e me) to realise what they were up to. Even the 'mainstream media', who would usually kill each other for the chance to slurp the AFL's royal plums were calling them on it and started to risk being kicked out of the press box next year by reporting on other sports.

Safe in the knowledge that they couldn't string second rate player trades out for a month and keep it interesting they also had a few other crackers on hand to fill the dull times (i.e week three and most of week four). There was drip-fed 'hints' about next year's fixture, and of course some rule changes because we couldn't possibly go one full season leaving the sport to do what it does best without tinkering to try and engineer the game based on decisions made in boardrooms.

The worst bit about this year's rule changes isn't what they put in (i.e ruck changes invented so that shoehorning Nic Nat into the All Australian Team every season for the next decade won't look so obviously cynical) but what they left out. Does anyone really believe that the 'refusal' of the league to implement 2/2 interchange as recommended by the Rules Committee for this year isn't just a softener so that we're 'used to it' when they cave in and agree to 2/2 in 2014?

Kevin Bartlett and Adrian Anderson can pretend they're unhappy with each other about it all they like, but their 'feud' had acting that would be laughed out of a pro wrestling ring. No doubt they'll have a tearful reunion in the centre of the ring next year - telling us that they've got spreadsheets with stats to prove why the 'continuing trial' in the NAB Cup has been such a spectacular success, and that from 2014 onwards we'll be forced to watch a product where the players run themselves into the ground with fatigue while two teammates ponce about the boundary line in fluro vests. It will be shit, but if you want to keep following your club you'll have to bend over and cop it.

They've got us by the collective grapefruits (incorporating the lady grapefruits) and until the fans from all sides mob up and do something about it we'll keep getting treated with contempt. Anyway, enough of violent sporting revolution and a people's storming of AFL HQ. Let's get back to MFC related issues.

Chapter Two - [Sponsor Name] Trade Period

Wait, I haven't quite finished on the league's cavalcade of scumbag moves just yet. Is here anything they haven't or won't sell the naming rights to? Next thing Kurt Tippett and the Adelaide Crows will be appearing at the Slater & Gordon League Tribunal and he'll be deregistered for six Red Rooster weeks before he makes a triumphant comeback (presumably playing for GWS against his will) by driving down the race in a  new Toyota Hilux.

I'm all for rampant capitalism and the making of money, but taking any interest in footy is starting to become like listening to a match on SEN where everything they can get their hands on has some kind of sponsor. You think the sums aren't being done on how much more they'll get for selling the rights to the substitutions when there are four a match instead of two? SEN has an excuse for putting a sponsor's name on anything they can get their hands on, they're a struggling radio station making its money from some of the worst sponsors going around. The AFL, on the other hand, is worth billions and paying its executives million dollar plus salaries - do we really need to flog the naming rights to a minority interest part of the season just to get a few thousands bucks extra? If you can prove to me it's going directly the clubs I'll shut up. Otherwise cram it.

Ok, I promise no more conspiracy theories from now on... Back to the Malev Hungarian Airlines Trade Period which seemed like it started about six months ago, and for us it pretty much did thanks to Moloney and his agent using the Herald Sun to brag about how he was going to 'explore free agency' (which is second only to 'make a play for' in the list of hot new footy cliches). Forget there still being half a season to go, it was off to the races from that point on.

Despite his heroics in 2011 nobody really seemed that concerned if Beamer left, including the football department it seems, so despite his half-hearted "Oh yes, of course I want to stay" interview about five weeks later we all moved on to other hot topics, including whether we'd get away with picking Jack Viney in Round 2 (We did. Hoorah!) and whether or not we'd pay zillions to sign Travis Cloke as a free agent (We didn't. Hoorah I think, but am not entirely sure).

With pretty much everyone coming to the same conclusion about it being better for Moloney to be anywhere but Melbourne with Neeld in charge the Cloke saga was the one that really fired up 'the fans' and threatened to end in somebody getting punched in the face.

It was a wild ride for a few weeks when we were being spoken about as top contenders for his services. As it turns out given what we paid for his chum Dawes both in draft picks and financially we might as well have taken the main event for nothing and paid him a fortune instead, but it wasn't to happen and we all hope that we'll be better off for it. As for Cloke we had already declared ourselves out of the race (though whose choice that was is up for debate) by the time he held the Pies ransom long enough to rort them out of big money to do whatever else it was that he does (take marks, miss sitters) then we were looking elsewhere anyway.

So it was left to Moloney and Rivers to provide "where will they go?" drama, and at least in Riv's case the slighest hint of "will he go at all?" By the time Beamer was subbed out of the St Kilda game at three-quarter time most people assumed he was off anyway, so it was no surprise when he confirmed that he was off about ten minutes after the season finished.

No hard feelings from me I must say. His speech about McLean at the Best and Fairest that year was from a different era, and personally I'd rather somebody go than hang around when unhappy - or not fully committed - just to live up to an off the cuff comment made to a partisan audience. But at the same time while I wish him nothing but the best in Brisbane his quest to find a new home had the stench of desperation hanging around by the end. When his famous manager came out to tell us he'd been in talks with ALL 17 CLUBS it might have been true, but "in talks" obviously didn't mean the other parties were showing a great deal of interest. Does leaving a voicemail and sitting by the phone waiting for somebody to call count as 'in talks' in the brave new era?

It seemed that bombing out from being the best player in a mediocre team to a mile off the pace in a rancid one, then whoring yourself halfway through the year out to the entire competition via the pages of a popular daily newspaper surprisingly didn't cause those 17 clubs to fall over themselves in a bidding war to sign him. Just as it looked like he might have to come crawling back to Neeld with flowers and chocolates his dreams were saved by Crazy Vossy - the man with a fetish for mature age players second to none (though Neeld is rapidly catching up to him it must be said) and a strike rate with them almost opposite to the Swans - who signed him as a last desperate attempt to avoid starting 2013 as the red hot favourite to be first coach sacked.

Not withstanding the fact that if you're over 15 years old you should never boo a player when you've got the chance to verbally abuse him I can't see myself joining in any anti-Moloney sentiment when he plays against us. $cully has set the bar has been set so high for treachery that even if he does a Woewodin and gives one to the crowd after kicking a goal against us or grabs the MCG mic and calls us all SOBs I don't think I'd be all that concerned.

So farewell then to the 2011 Allen Jakovich Medallist. We had some good times 2005-2011 when he wasn't injured, I'm not going to let his stunt with the Herald Sun, apparent disinterest in his last few matches and fallout with the coach taint the good memories. We'll always have the Psychic Friends Connection's day of days against the Crows when our Neil Craig didn't bother to realise that we were beating his side to the bejesus belt and that he should do something to stop them. Sadly their finest hour was also the beginning of the end. Russian got hurt, but even before the extent of his injury became apparent they had done such a comprehensive demolition job on Adelaide that other clubs couldn't fail to notice. It was never the same for them again.

Far more personally distressing was the loss of Rivers to Geelong. I don't pretend to know what the guy was thinking when the two offers were on the table but surely the fact that it took so long for him to decide to leave us means he was wavering on whether to go or not? In the end it seems that he decided he's only got two or three years left and that he's more chance of at least playing finals with Geelong if not winning flags and that's what made his decision.

He's right too, on paper and by any objective measure he is far more likely to be a winner at Kardinia Park than he is staying with us, and if we don't fire up and stop being shithouse soon this won't be the last time this will happen to us. I think we're ok next year with Sylvia and Davey as potential UFAs (also Bartram if he signs a one year contract extension) but the fear that grips me in the night is that if we're no better in a couple of years that we're going to lose Frawley for practically nothing, and with our luck probably in the year they abolish compensation picks.

That's the reason you'll probably never see another 'strategy' like we had in the Baileyball era of bombing out deliberately and hoarding 500 draft picks just to select kids, because clubs will recognise that they don't have the power to emotionally blackmail their 'stars' into staying anymore or force them to take their chances in the draft. Loyalty isn't dead yet but the paramedics are thumping furiously on its chest.

With the exception of Gold Coast and GWS who have a few years before they have anybody free agent eligible, every team right down to 18th will at least need to be 'competitive' when this brave new era of player movements gets going. If you're a team like we are now, or like the Bulldogs are threatening to become, you'll have two ways to convince your 'stars' to stay when they can go wherever they like absolutely gratis. One will be to lean heavily on loyalty, one will be to pay ridiculous sums of money on lengthy contracts that they probably don't deserve - then when the player suddenly hits the wall halfway into a four year deal you're stuck with them.

That's why maybe, deeply held cynicism aside, this could turn out to be a good thing. Forget Moloney, let's look at Rivers. If we'd convinced him to stay by throwing a shitload of cash around (even though we can afford it now) and next year it turns out that he'd gone as far as he possibly could and plunges straight off the cliff we'd have been forced to keep playing him at least semi-regularly for the next two or three years to justify it. Now that he's gone the spot opens for a kid who wouldn't have had the opportunity otherwise. Whether said kid is good enough or not is another matter, but at least they'll get a chance now and it's up to the experienced players to cover for them until they either get it right or are proven to be rubbish, at which point we'll chop them and start against for the 50th time.

So if it turns out to be a blessing in disguise I'll be even more keen to welcome Riv back as an all-round nice guy who gave us 150 games of good service, but either way he'll get nothing but good will from me. Anybody who has served in our backline for the vast majority of the last six years deserves a bloody medal and a ceremony, not to be booed by dickheads.

Still, at the same time with all the love in the world it would obviously be better for the common good if he became this decade's Nathan Brown (the Footscray/Richmond one - and don't panic I'm not talking about his injury here so cancel the obscene emails) and did the big swap to play finals only to find that his new team has become shithouse overnight while the old one goes on to play finals by the truckload.

Coming back the other way from Geelong was Shannon Byrnes, who we're assured is good even though he couldn't get a game for them this year and has only played 13+ games in a season three times out of nine. I'll take their word for it because a) he's free and b) clearly they're trying to add players who have come from clubs with decent cultures. I'm a bit concerned that he's 28 and we're banking on his speed, but even if that goes by Round 1 and he plays three games what have we lost? It's a free hit, we're presumably not paying all that much and if he knows when to put his hand up and step aside for a younger man in a couple of years he'll have done his job.

Of far more long term interest are (most of) our trade selections. I know this is where people start getting clammy hands and sweat begins running down the forehead as they think about what we've done, but let's start with the ones that were fairly popular before moving into those that have caused angst and consternation.

I'm tying the Jack Viney coup into the trading section, because it was the franchise vs franchise 'mini-draft' deal which took Gold Coast out of the running for pick 2 and allowed us to get him for the same price that has previously been paid for huge names like Sam Kerridge, Kieran Harper, Callum Bartlett and Sam Wright. And thank god for that too, because it opened the door do using pick three to all but lock away Hogan who would have ALLEGEDLY been a top pick next year, as well as Barry who was SUPPOSEDLY worth a second rounder this year and Pick 20 which would come in handy later.

Are any of these players good? Well I'm buggered if I know, but no doubt that even if both Hogan and our #4 pick are both 'good' that #3 will be the greatest player in the history of the game. That's just the way we do things around here. I'm happy with the idea of locking Hogan away now though, especially considering that for the first and last time this year it was us who got the cherry on top, because at least he can go to Casey and do whatever he has to do as part of the real club rather than playing against juniors for another year then having to start his development from scratch.

After that triumphant day everything went quiet for a while. We were supposed to be getting the much maligned Chris Dawes (worrying described to me more than once as "Collingwood's Brad Miller") and the not maligned but seemingly unwanted Cameron Pedersen from North. While the Pedersen deal dragged on for about ten years, to the point where I was starting to get sick of him even before he belonged to us, the Dawes swap was the only moment of any interest for the whole third week of this wretched shambles.

There's plenty of people who are nervous about this one, and I don't blame them, but let's take what he's being paid personally off the table when discussing whether the whole thing is a good idea or not. Fact of the matter is that the total amount of the salary cap that you have to pay is at least 95% (and I can't find the source but I'm sure it's going even higher), Rivers and Moloney would have been on very good money and who else do you think really deserves an enormous pay rise after the year you've just seen? So they pay Dawes enormously above what he's worth this year - and maybe next year - to help with that, it all balances out in the end to paying over but not enormously so and hopefully exactly like Mitch Clark we're back here in a year praising it as a great deal.

If he continues on like he did at Collingwood this year we might be in some trouble, but it's not like we've given up all that much in the draft to get him anyway. No doubt pick 20 is good and all, but once you get to that point anything could happen - AND you have to wait a couple of years to find out if you've stuffed up. This is intended to take the heat off Clark - who otherwise everyone would have known we were kicking at EVERY TIME, with a semi-experienced player who already knows Neeld and has come out of a place where they put a premium on professionalism. He's also got something to prove, which admittedly could go either way.

So generally I'm ok with that one. It's a gamble, but how many trades aren't? Mitch Clark for pick 12 outright was three times the gamble this was, so if he turns out to be Melbourne's Brad Miller Pt. 2 we'll live. Comparing draft picks in different years is really stupid and pointless but let's do it anyway - Pick 20 = Tony Notte (no), Tom Swift (no, but good hairdo), Nat Fyfe (yes), Jayden Pitt (who?) and Hayden Crozier (Is this some sort of WA zone selection pick?) so by applying Footy Maths again you've got a one in five chances of landing a top shelf player (and a 100% chance of getting a Western Australian). I'm well prepared to take the chance.

If pick 20 for Dawes with some minor sweeteners represented a mid-range gamble then pick 88 for David Rodan was as close to a freebie as you could have gotten without waiting for the delisted free agent period.. Supposedly did the throwaway pick deal to Port because somebody else wanted him as well, which seems odd but hell why not. To the naked eye it seems bizarre but Neeld is all about average games experience, and with Green/Moloney/Rivers (526 games) out of the 'best 22' he's got to find somebody to at least plug some of that drain.

My early prediction is that he's footy's first pinch hitter who starts as sub every single week. You can't apply the same theory about coming from a super-professional outfit to somebody out of Port as opposed to Geelong or Collingwood, but they must have something in prospect for a guy who has never had more than 30 disposals in a game or kicked more than 28 goals in a season and has a knee held together by polyester fibres. Again, if it doesn't work what have we lost?

Whether it turns out to be a worthwhile surprise mature player pickup (J. Shanahan) or not (C. Turley) I'm just thankful they've realised the "He won't be in our next premiership team" theory is absolute bollocks. What we need to realise from the pre-Neeld era is that hoarding draft picks by the thousands and picking kids, kids and more kids is fine but it all goes tits up ten minutes later when they play in a million losses. They're not picking him to hang around for two years playing mediocre games and keeping a kid out of the side, he would know full well that if some draftee or rookie bursts onto the scene in a similar role that he might get the boot for a few weeks at a time - and I suspect having just been saved from unemployment that he won't be too concerned about that.

Here's where it started to get a little bit controversial. Having had three weeks of the Club X Trade Period to finish everything off, or the option to do a Carlton and just put the feet up from the start, we managed to go into the last five hours with three unresolved storylines.

The first was the long delayed Pedersen deal. Obviously we wanted the guy, we'd spent the entire month reading about it after all, but the idea of a straight swap for a pick in the 30's after we got our compensation for Rivers/Moloney was squashed after the AFL's Random Number Generator spat out #49 instead. Obviously there's not a great deal of poker face work going on at the Dees, because somehow instead of a mid-range draft pick we ended up not only giving them two-time rising star nominee and former #12 pick Jordan Gysberts BUT also ended up giving THEM the cherry on top by handing over pick 63 for 74.

Why in god's name we needed to add a sweetner to swapping a kid who played some belting games early in his career but was unlucky with injury for a 25-year-old who has played 16 games and barely played seniors all year is a mystery to me but there you go. Somebody obviously walked into the meeting with a rampant horn and all the North representatives spotted it, turned to each other and nodded knowingly.

In the grand scheme of things losing pick 63 (Guy O'Keefe! Luke Lowden! Tom Derickx!) isn't anything to panic about, but let's try to not look like horny teenagers on the verge of getting the leg over when we're publicly pursuing players in the future shall we?

As for Pedersen his form outside the AFL stacks up, but when it comes down to it what does that really mean? We've seen the likes of Bate, Newton and this year Couch dominate the VFL and not be able to translate it to the big leagues. Also not entirely sure what is role is going to be with Clark and Dawes up forward - is he the new second ruckman? North fans assure me that even though they think they've ripped us off blind by getting Gysberts AND a pick upgrade that he's still a good player. That's still to be decided, but one thing we can be sure of is that he's bringing a quality nickname to the table.

Gysberts is a strange case. Apparently Team Neeld had little interest in keeping him but were prepared to wait it out if no suitable offers came, which is probably why he got thrown into this deal at the last minute just to seal the deal and ensure we didn't get a case of trade period droop by missing out on Pedersen after the frantic month long chase. No doubt he can play, as his stats indicate, and as late as Round 11 last year he was racking up 30 touches and two Brownlow votes as we beat Essendon. This year he got injured, came back, got injured again, came back again, played a stinker against the Gold Coast and got dropped never to be seen again.

You do not get dropped after one game back from injury in a win unless there's something seriously wrong behind the scenes so let's see how he goes at North before deciding we've been totally ripped off. I suspect Brad Scott is no less insane/intense than Neeld, so if the Gys suddenly finds himself wallowing in one of North's reserves teams next year then you'll know it was him not us. Either that or he'll win the Brownlow and it'll be proven that we can't/couldn't develop players for shit.

Speaking of fast starts which eventually petered out to nothing our second last deal involved the people's favourite Cale Morton. The first trade exclusive ever to be broken on Twitter from inside Wagamama spread like wildfire into the mainstream and by Thursday morning we were supposedly off-loading him to the Eagles for pick 61. Again, we know the guy can play but it would have been precious for anybody to start crying about a net loss of 57 picks on him considering we've all spent the last three years whipping him to death every time he touched the ball.

Still, I couldn't help but feel moderately cheated when the paperwork went through and we'd flogged him for our own original pick 88 which the Eagles had got from Port in their own chump change deal. Again somebody must have walked into the meeting with a raging boner which was quickly spotted by the other side who ducked out into the corridor to alter their deal accordingly.

Again it's not the picks that I have an issue with (61 = James Craig, Jarryd Lyons, Alex Brown etc.. etc..) but the way that we were so eager to get rid of these players that we allowed other people to get good deals on us. Are they trying to lull everyone into thinking we're easybeats so we can come out of nowhere and trade pick 45 for Pendlebury next year? Newsflash - nobody else is falling for it.

Now watch him turn out to be good in Perth. It's not like he was never any good for us, but like Gysberts all the major action came in a burst at the start of his career and it was all downhill from there. Unlike Gysberts he got 70+ games to try and recapture the magic but from his last really good game, when he had 36 touches against St Kilda on the last day of 2009 when we were supposedly tanking furiously, is was 32 straight mediocre performances and out. Not for the first time we thought we were about to unleash a superstar, then he hurt his knee in a pre-season match at Princes Park, didn't play until R9 2010 and that was it. We can't be accused of not trying though.

This is a guy who has taken 17 and 16 marks in a game - ironically both against West Coast, which may have helped them to decide to give him a chance - and there's every possible chance that his mid-career mental turn may cure instantly when surrounded by quality players. For him I hope it does, but for the sake of not adding yet another embarrassing chapter to our dark ages let's hope he's nothing more than a good ordinary player for them. Will probably sneak his way into a flag now. If Mitch can do it etc.. etc.. Sadly for him nobody will remember the 17 mark or 36 disposal games, but they will remember this. I'll remember Queen's Birthday 2011 when he didn't go up for a mark in the backline and Joel Macdonald gave him a fearsome spray.

Finally, with just 50 minutes to go, we off-loaded the Stefan Martin Experience to Brisbane for two slop  basically throwaway picks. Out went a mobile ruckman who can kick goals or play in defence for Pick 53 (formerly occupied by Tom McDonald, which at least seems to have worked out) and 73 (PASS, Matt Spangher and rookie promotions). Apparently we wanted pick 33, which the Lions scoffed out and offered 53 instead. After days of heavy negotiations, and with the clock obviously ticking towards the last few moments, we caved in and if you ask me (who is obviously well biased) the Lions got a cracking deal. They stared us down, threw in a dinky pick that we might use on a rookie promotion and got a decent player out of it. I mourned, but more on that later. At least he was proven to be worth heaps more than Morton, which was something for the thousands of SME fans out there.

And after a month of trying to wring some interest out of nothing happening for days in a row it thankfully ended shortly after the end of the SME era. Do you think the sponsor secretly wished that trade period had been rammed into five days of helter-skelter trade drama finishing with Heath Black missing out because nobody could work the fax machine at 1.59pm on the Friday? By the third week the only people acknowledging the sponsor were the AFL, and the rest of the country had given up to the point where the only people who still cared were Kurt Tippett and Koby Stevens. And despite all of this to nobody's surprise not a solitary shit was given in New South Wales about any of it.

To be continued