Sunday, 17 March 2013

Once more with feeling - 2013 season preview

*Promotional consideration* - Buy the shirt quickly, because there's not many left and order to either cease, desist or both can't be far away. Never mind, they're all gone! And now, on with the show.

Does it feel a bit like the rock has rolled all the way back down the hill and we're about to start hauling it up there again? It certainly does to me, but if there's any upside to a scenario like that it means that everyone pushing together is better than the bloody thing getting halfway up then cannonballing out of control down the hill and killing everybody in its path a'la Round 18 2011 to Round 23 2012.

As much as analysing, then over analysing all the debacles that we've been through in that time (and indeed since the second quarter of Round 1, 2007) has become a national sport that we (not so subtly aided by bored journalists) have all set gold medal standards in it's time to stop and hit the reset button instead of spending the rest of our lives searching through the rubble for the black box recorder which will explain it all. We exploded on takeoff, investigatiors still can't work it out, move on.

Sure we'll look back on days like 186 with the same sort of horrified fondness that war veterans look back on the day half their unit stepped on landmines, and yes every time Jeremy Howe's Mark of the Year award winning hanger is shown we'll be reminded that we were losing by A LOT at the time and would go on to lose by A LOT MORE but this is now officially the past. It might wind up as an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary but the moment the Tankquiry verdict landed (not guilty!) the book was finally and officially closed on the Dean Bailey era.

As far as I'm concerned this is Mark Neeld's first season. He graciously held back on ordering the firing squad to show up and kill everyone when he first walked through the door - quite fairly deducing that what wasn't a bad team at times in 2011 could possibly be massaged towards similar, if not better, performances in 2012. They couldn't, and the long awaited spree of executions couldn't be held back any longer.

So, it's farewell to so many of the classic whipping boys and enigmas of our side and welcome to the 'recycled player' recruiting spree of the new millenium. Note that when we do it it's a "scattergun approach" and when Richmond do it it's "OMG, TIGERS 4 THA FLAG!" (Herald Sun 01/11/12), but that's because despite on most measurements actually being worse than us over the last decade they've managed to develop some exciting players to wheel in the Troy Chaplin's and Ricky Petterd's of the world next to as complimentary figures, whereas we've got a lot of good AFL players, who are sometimes not injured and might be very good one day.

In refusing to compare the two the journos do have a point, they may find a way to cock it up royally at some point in the future but right now they do have a better team to add experienced players to in a push for the finals. Whereas a few hundred metres up Brunton Avenue we're trying to cope with integrating a million draft picks from the last few years into a side which has just lost five of the nine on our list who have played more than a hundred games - and even of the ones remaining there are big questions over the top two. It's not "scattergun", it's a rescue mission on a failed football experiment.

So, with that in mind and the well documented disinterest in some of our players to do what was asked of them under successive coaching regimes I'm happy with what we've done. Ask me again in five years if swapping Jordan Gysberts for Cameron Pedersen was a good idea (watch out for initial impressions, remember how we thought we'd hosed Carlton on the original Gysberts deal?) or effectively trading ex-pick four Cale Morton for dodgy kneed veteran David Rodan and I'll give you a solid answer but if it means floppy haired fancy boys (including, regrettably, the SME and his Morrissey quiff) who couldn't give a rats get the boot and hardened professionals are introduced then I'm all for it. So Moloney has gone to Brisbane and is all of a sudden partying like it's 2011 again? Good for him, was he going to do it for us again? Not if last year was anything to go by, so best of luck but I'm not going to slash my wrists if he takes them into the finals. Maybe one day we'll get the karmic payback and use free agency to sign somebody who had no interest at their old club then fires up once they're set free.

My expectations are set back to rock bottom (though I picked us to finish 13th last year so I'm not sure how high they are), so forgive me for not taking up pitchfork and molotov cocktail if we're not all of a sudden contending for the top eight this year. With a little luck I can see how we could be hanging around on the edge of it come Round 8 but no doubt we're losing at least three in a row when we play Freo in Perth, Hawthorn and Collingwood going into the bye and then it's up and down for the rest of the year.

Nobody wants to go back to the start again after we've been slopping around in the undercard for years, but even though I'm sure if I went back and read last year's pre-season post I was probably saying the same things sometimes you've got to do an insurance job and rebuild. Last time we did it we got some shoddy builders in and the whole thing fell down again, and there's no guarantee it won't happen this time but at least this off-season we haven't (yet)...

  • been scabbed on by a top draft pick
  • had half the senior squad not bother to follow the assigned training program of a new regime
  • had somebody do their knee
  • had anybody die
  • had anybody arrested
  • signed a sponsor who turns out to be a shit bloke
  • had an AFL employee accuse our coach of racism
... and christ knows what else we went through last year which I've pushed out of my memory. Sure there was that little matter of a 500k fine but that represented closure (and a not guilty verdict let's not forget) more than anything else. Other than that the worst we've had to contend with is Slamming Sam Blease doing his ankle (serves YOU right for voting him my favourite player) and Rohan Bail knocking himself out every two seconds. That's a win as far as I'm concerned.

Whether or not this carnival atmosphere (compared to last season anyway) will translate to Sunday 31 March and beyond is anybody's guess. It's been much of the same in the pre-season, brief flashes of good fortune followed by the lights going out for 20 minutes at a time. It cost us the first NAB Cup game, it almost cost us the Port Adelaide game and it certainly cost us the St Kilda and Gold Coast games. None of them were real matches, but for all the things you can ignore due to altered team lineups and pointless experimental rules you can't say we haven't been warned about this. It hurt us last year too and has to be fixed.

The Gold Coast game in particular has struck a chord with the self-harm community. I can understand some stress considering that once again it seems like we were flogged to death out of the midfield and that's what caused our issues but really, if it hadn't been Gold Coast and we hadn't all just assumed we were going to win then everyone would be saying "more of the same" and getting on with their life. We played half a reserves side against their full strength team so you've got every right to raise an eyebrow in concern but it's not got the point where the fact that Port have beaten West Coast and Sydney while we've lost to Gold Coast and beaten the Power reserves means that we're necessarily going down in Round 1. Gives them something pretty major to work on before then but having a proper 'best' 22 on the park will be a nice change to the bits and pieces lineups we've put out so far.

Putting the brakes on opposition sides when they get a run on starts with the midfield, which other than a few cameos here and there from hard working, industrial types like McKenzie and Magner has been a one man Nathan Jones supershow with Fiji's David Rodan as support. The defence has been ok so far, certainly to a standard where if we can avoided being flogged to death out of the midfield every five seconds they might be able to cope with the workload. 

Forwards have been promising in some ways. We do tend to fall apart at half-forward or centimetres inside 50 more often that not, but we've never once played with our proper preferred forward structure (whatever that is it involves Clark and Dawes, and so far they've been seen for a total of about five minutes between them) so let's see what happens when they're back and Hogan is regretfully condemned to a season playing on cow paddocks in the VFL. Unfortunately the first time we're going to see this lineup in action (assuming Clark is fit) is Round 1 in a game where we really, REALLY have to win to get the season off to a positive start. I'd have much preferred that we opened up against a good side to get another free practice match + honourable loss in, but really if we can't beat Port at the MCG then tear all this up and throw yourself out of a window.

Still worried about the ruck if Jamar goes down. Dreamboat Mitch can do it (again, if fit) but where does that leave the forward line? Do we end up bombing aimlessly in there hoping that Dawes and.. err.. Howe/Pedersen/Sellar/other can take marks and kick goals? Maybe Watts could be the reverse Rivers and go back to where he belongs? There's still a scarcity of crumb which fills me with dread if the ball hits the ground so somebody's going to have to grasp ball in hands and kick said ball at goal if we're going to register any sort of decent total score for the year.

Not to harp on the past again, but remember last year's 224.236.1580 was our second worst 22 game season EVER (only 1997 was worse) so while it's hardly likely to get worse it's going to need to get a lot better. Excluding 2011 for being a spaz year which made no sense we kicked 272.231.1863 in 2010 and were within touching distance of the finals with a month left so that's the target I want them to aim for - it's only 12.3 goals and 84 total points a game for god's sake. Even Port kicked 243 goals last year, and they won exactly 1.5 games more than us. I'm not even looking at comparisons for our defence across years and other teams, I don't care. Just score more points.

I've picked us to come 14th, which was five wins and a draw in 2012 but given that 13th was 10 wins then god knows how many games a 13th or 14th placed team is supposed to win in the 18th team competition era. I'd take six, be happy with eight, thrilled with ten and would become aroused by anything higher. Given that we play GWS and Gold Coast twice and this might be the last year that they're both no good (i.e banking another 1 and 2 pick before parking the AFL sponsored tank in the garage and going for it) they should (SHOULD) be bankers and god help us all if we go another season without being able to beat Victorian sides other than Richmond or Essendon (but one against each would get us six, so who am I to complain?).

I feel like we can do something this year to set us up for a run at the finals in 2014, but you have to feel some sort of optimism or what's the point of turning up for Round 1? Even if massive depression has set in by Round 2 (see, for instance, 2008) you're trapped by then. Either way I wouldn't get over attached to too many players on our list this year, because I can see another 10+ player turnover after this season via free agency, trading and snapping up delisted players just because they've played a few matches at decent clubs - and if Davey, Sylvia or both leave at the end of their contracts that's more 100+ game players who'll need to replaced from somewhere. Maybe we'll cover all of them in one go by signing Dustin Fletcher?

Blog Administration corner
I'll be away for the Round 10 game vs Hawthorn (Sunday 2 June) and Round 11 game against Collingwood (Monday 10 June) so guest reporters are required. I'll be confirming closer to the date, but if you want to add your name to this list let me know. You can do it however you like as long as you give the votes out in a reasonably sensible fashion. No need for thousands of words of primal scream therapy if you can't be arsed, just some obscure description of the game, the votes and a novelty headline for the record book.

Also a self indulgent reminder that you can support Demonwiki by 'taking an active interest' in the ads on Demonblog. All proceeds go towards hosting the Wiki and its over 6200 pages of MFC information both useful, ridiculously obscure and downright pointless.

Demonblog's favoured 22
(NB: Pay no attention to concepts like the wing and ruck/rovers because nobody else is.)

B: Garland, Frawley, Dunn
HB: Grimes,
McDonald, Watts
C: McKenzie, Jones, Trengove
HF: Howe, Dawes, Davey
F: Byrnes, Clark, Sellar
R: Jamar, Viney, Rodan
Int: Toumpas, Nicholson, Blease, Sylvia

If the injured players don't come up make the following alterations. - Pedersen for Clark, Nicholson for Trengove and Magner onto the bench, Macdonald or Pedersen for Blease (which is not at all a straight swap but bad luck). As for the sub I couldn't care less and am refusing to involve myself in a shit rule.

Final betting markets
To save time if you're new to all this, explanations, rules and history of all the awards can be found hereThe opening price for each player is in brackets if it's changed since the first draft markets of 20 February.

Allen Jakovich Medal

$2.00 - Nathan Jones ($2.50)
$7 - Jack Grimes ($6)
$10 - Jack Watts
$11 - Mitch Clark ($13), James Frawley
$15 - Jeremy Howe ($18), Colin Sylvia,
$18 - Jordie McKenzie, Jack Viney ($15)
$20 - Tom McDonald, Jack Trengove ($15)
$22 - David Rodan ($65), Jimmy Toumpas
$25 - Shannon Byrnes ($30), Chris Dawes ($22), Colin Garland
$27 - Daniel Nicholson ($35)
$30 - Mark Jamar ($35)
$35 - Aaron Davey, Lynden Dunn ($40), James Magner ($80)
$40 - Sam Blease ($30), Joel Macdonald
$50 - Cameron Pedersen ($40), James Sellar ($100), Luke Tapscott ($55)
$60 - James Strauss ($50), Neville Jetta ($80)
$70 - Rohan Bail ($50), Josh Tynan
$100 - Michael Evans,
$110 - Tom Gillies, Jake Spencer
$125 - Tom Couch, Max Gawn, Dean Terlich ($700)
$250 - Jack Fitzpatrick
$300 - Dominic Barry ($250), Matt Jones ($750), Dean Kent ($750)
$500 - Troy Davis, Rory Taggert ($700)
$1000 - Nathan Stark, Mitch Clisby

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year
$2.80 - James Frawley ($2.50)
$3.50 - Jack Grimes ($4)
$8 - Tom McDonald
$10 - Jack Watts ($15)
$12 - Colin Garland
$20 - Lynden Dunn ($30)
$25 - Joel Macdonald ($20)
$30 - Tom Gillies, Luke Tapscott ($25)
$100 - Troy Davis, Cameron Pedersen ($80), Dean Terlich
$120 - James Sellar ($90)
$1000 - NO ELIGIBLE PLAYER (none of the above receive any votes)

Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award
$5 - Jack Viney ($3)
$9 - Jimmy Toumpas ($8)
$20 - Dean Terlich ($50)
$50 - Dean Kent ($80), Matt Jones ($80)
$70 - Troy Davis
$80 - Dominic Barry ($40), Rory Taggert.
$125 - Mitch Clisby, Nathan Stark

Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year
$1.25 - Mark Jamar
$18 - Mitch Clark
$25 - Cameron Pedersen ($18), Jake Spencer ($30)
$45 - Max Gawn
$50 - Jack Fitzpatrick
$250 - Chris Dawes ($100)

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance
As you know Nathan Jones wrapped this up last week, but for the sake of the final leaderboard here are the votes from the Gold Coast game as unwittingly provided by Michael Whiting of

5 - Jack Watts
4 - Jack Grimes
3 - Mark Jamar
2 - Dean Terlich
1 - James Sellar 

Final standings

15 - Nathan Jones (WINNER: 2013 Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance)
9 - Jack Watts

8 - James Magner
7 - James Sellar
5 - Shannon Byrnes, David Rodan
4 - Jack Grimes, Jordie McKenzie
3 - Aaron Davey, Jesse Hogan, Mark Jamar, Dean Terlich, Jimmy Toumpas
2 - Jack Grimes, Josh Tynan
1 - Troy Davis, Lynden Dunn, Jeremy Howe

MFC Power Rankings

Where I rank the standing of the players on our list using a secret formula more closely guarded than that of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Does not necessarily have to follow the order of the Jakovich Medal voting because I say it doesn't. Compare and contrast to the 2012 end of season rankings (last year's final rating in brackets).

1. Nathan Jones (1)
2. Jack Grimes (2)
3. Mitch Clark (3)
4. James Frawley (4)
5. Jack Trengove (9)
6. Jeremy Howe (11)
7. Jack Watts (14)
8. Tom McDonald (5)
9. Jordie McKenzie (6)
10. Colin Garland (7)
11. Jack Viney (NR)
12. Mark Jamar (12)
13. Chris Dawes (NR)
14. Shannon Byrnes (NR)
15. David Rodan (NR)
16. Colin Sylvia (10)
17. Sam Blease (15)
18. Jimmy Toumpas (NR)
19. Aaron Davey (23)
20. Daniel Nicholson (17)
21. Joel Macdonald (19)
22. Lynden Dunn (13)
23. James Sellar (20)
24. James Magner (24)
25. Rohan Bail (16)
26. Cameron Pedersen (NR)
27. Luke Tapscott (25)
28. Neville Jetta (29)
29. Jake Spencer (26)
30. James Strauss (22)
31. Max Gawn (28)
32. Josh Tynan (35)
33. Michael Evans (41)
34. Tom Gillies (NR)
35. Dean Terlich (NR)
36. Tom Couch (32)
37. Jack Fitzpatrick (31)
38. Dominic Barry (NR)
39. Dean Kent (NR)
40. Matt Jones (NR)
41. Troy Davis (38)
42. Rory Taggert (42)
43. Nathan Stark (NR)
44. Mitch Clisby (NR)

Projected final ladder (i.e Made up off the top of my head)

1. Collingwood
2. Hawthorn (but Hawthorn to win the flag, then start to come apart at the seams)
3. West Coast
4. Adelaide
5. Sydney
6. Fremantle
7. Geelong
8. Carlton
9. North Melbourne
10. Richmond
11. Brisbane (I've been moderately sucked in by NAB Cup Grand Final form)
12. Essendon
13. St Kilda
14. Melbourne (Pick five? Too soon?)
15. Footscray
16. Port Adelaide
17. Gold Coast
18 - Greater Western Sydney (more than happy to 'accidentally' pocket another #1 pick I'm sure)

Final thoughts
Isn't the world just a better place during footy season?

Friday, 15 March 2013

Welcome to the Demonblog Megastore

It's here at last. The "I saw Mark Jamar kick five goals" t-shirts and "MEESEN MAGIC" wizard capes were considered to be of far too obscure to justify printing - but now after years of alleged products we've got a real one for you and not only is it legitimate but it's also for a good cause.

See below for more information on how you can score a stylish, modern and frankly Soviet looking t-shirt designed by @somtum

Ebay is being an absolute tart and not letting me put multiple items on there without paying $50 or being a 'power seller' so we're going to have to do this the old country way. Email your name, delivery address, number of shirts and sizes required to and we'll get back to you with details on how to make payment. You can buy under an assumed name if you like, but make sure that there's some way to connect your order to your payment.

Please note - the shirts are currently in production and are expected to be delivered around the 25th of March. You are pre-ordering for delivery ASAP after we receive them - the design on the shirt is exactly as shown below on the same coloured shirt as the display image.

As of 2.45pm Sunday 17 March all shirts in both medium and large are sold out. But feel free to email me and I'll put you on the waiting list in case somebody drops out.

Catalogue item 1: Melbourne FC "Not Guilty World Tour" t-shirts

Price: $20 + $2 postage (free delivery within CBD)

Payment via PayPal only (unless it's being hand delivered within the CBD and then you can pay on delivery)

Do you have a hole in your heart as deep as well now that your football club's name is not being dragged through the mud by all and sundry? Are you pining for the glory days of the Tankquiry when it looked like "Melbourne will be harshly punished. Cameron Schwab and Chris Connolly will be finished at the club." (C. Wilson, The Age 03/11/12). Keen to celebrate that the AFL found the Melbourne Football Club not guilty of tanking (that's NOT guilty)? Then this is the limited edition item for you.

Just 50 of these shirts are being made, and all profits will go towards helping the MFC pay their share of the AFL's $500,000 "Not Guilty of Tanking Tax". If we sell all the shirts we'll be able to donate about $500 to the club to help cover some of the costs of the tax - that's 0.1% of the total fine.. err.. tax.

Buy one for yourself! Give one as a gift! Send one anonymously to Caro at The Age! A million uses, and all of them helping contribute to soothing your own personal guilt at being a little too happy when Jordan McMahon kicked 'that' goal even though the official record shows that Richmond won the game entirely through their own skill and there was no nefarious activities afoot at all apart from a few ill-advised gags cracked here and there.

P.S: This product, the person who is listing it and absolutely everything else about it is not connected to or endorsed by the Melbourne Football Club. But we do love them with all our hearts xoxoxoxox

P.P.S: This is real, and if I have to arrange Darren Kowal to be pictured handing over a giant cheque on our behalf to prove it I will do so.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Hotter Than Hell II: Endless Summer

It takes a special type of self-loathing insanity to say "yes, I would like to go to a remote, shade-free outer suburban park to watch a practice match in 34 degree heat AND pay $20 for the opportunity", so no wonder that with two of the great tragic outfits of modern times on offer there was a relatively large crowd on offer given the venue and the conditions. If only it had been a NAB Cup three-way with Richmond we'd have had all the great self-loathers in the same place at the same time with a free Leonard Cohen concert at half-time.

Going to Casey Fields is a ropey idea at the best of times, even VFL games usually end up with somebody tearing the front off their car in one of the many treacherous ditches and potholes in the 72 different parking lots across the complex. But what else are you going to do, catch the train? Even with the club being nice enough to put on a shuttle bus it would still involve catching a train to Cranbourne Station to get it.

The worst thing about the place - and let's be entirely clear with this, I'm happy that we had a game somewhere near the Melbourne metropolitan area and not in Broome so all whinging is relative - is that driving in usually doesn't leave too many mental scars. Every time you do it you think "that wasn't too bad, I'll be fine getting out" and two hours later, having foolishly stayed to the very end of a Casey vs Frankston slopfest you're stuck 50 cars deep, having to indulge in death defying manouevres to force your way into a line of traffic with people who are acting like they're escaping the Fall of Saigon.

So I saw nothing wrong with it taking five minutes to move 500m an hour before the first bounce (100m a minute would seem a luxury later on), and handing over $5 to be directed towards Carpark 8d next to the long jump pit where a man in an orange vest who had clearly lost the will to live in the conditions directed to me to go down a 'ramp' made out of grass and wedge myself up against a barbed wire fence with a large mound of earth behind it. How could anything go wrong under the circumstances? But we'll return to that later, apparently there was a football match on.

I can quite confidently use the term 'apparently', because even though I stood there for four quarters my mind was more preoccupied with either having conversations that had nothing to do with football (because who's concentrating on a NAB Cup dead rubber as if it means something?) or trying not to topple over from sunstroke due to the dire situation of not owning any shorts which would be acceptable to wear out of the house, even in Cranbourne East.

What I do remember, shortly before entering an altered state of consciousness, was that we were bloody good in the first quarter. Bloody, bloody good. St Kilda were rubbish, but that was partly of our making thanks to the sort of pressure and tackling that you see for one quarter once every month and wonder why they can't play like that all the time. It's never usually our first quarter, where we're more likely to kick one token goal after we're four goals down in tribute to our fallen leader Dean Bailey, so you could have been excused for becoming excited when we opened up a four goal lead featuring both a pisstake banana from Casey Fields specialist Shannon Byrnes AND our first NAB Cup 9pt gimmick goal since Emo Maric in 2011 (if you're into that kind of thing). Had Dwayne Russell been there he would have probably embarassed himself becoming over excited about it.

We were even winning clearances, mainly thanks to Rodan who is already spitting in the face of my conspiracy theory that he was going to play as sub every week due to his allegedly advancing age. It's worrying that in the games I've seen - which is not saying much - he's been the only person other than Jones capable of clearing the ball (maybe McKenzie for some good old fashioned country style hoof) out of the middle. Trengove is around somewhere, and just like ladies everywhere I'm prepared to wait for Jack Viney to come of age, but it's still nerve wracking thinking about what's going to happen if Jones hurts himself. How come when Moloney was good at this in 2010/2011 Jones lost the plot , and then when Jones came back to life last year Moloney moved himself to the scrapheap? Next thing Viney will erupt like Mt. Vesuvius and Jones will end up playing alongside Brad Miller at Heidelberg.

It's a mark of just how dire the situation has got that even when we were four goals up in the first quarter, admittedly kicking with some sort of a breeze, I was thinking "I wonder how we're going to stuff this up". It's got to the point where I can't even imagine us beating non-Victorian teams who aren't Richmond or Essendon now - which conveniently ignores the fact that we did just that against Collingwood at this time last year, and didn't that end well for us?

Admittedly the Saints couldn't have been any worse to start with, so the only way was up for them and hello, what's this it's your friend and mine the Melbourne FC Farcequarter. The official report says that the wind was still going strong in the second quarter, and while I'd dispute that standing down that end the guy who wrote it was being paid to watch and take notice so I'll believe him (though they don't always get it right if the Sellar 'exclusives' in this article are anything to go by). Either way, breeze or not we got the sort of performance that usually comes immediately at the start of a third term, with the opposition having the time of their lives in the middle of the ground, winning clearance after clearance, after clearance and going forward with what was once referred to as gay abandon while our poor defence stands there being butchered through no fault of their own.

Taking anything out of this game is nearly suicidal considering the weather, the not entirely serious team selections and the rules devised via the use of a blindfold and a dartboard but it would be nice to stop a team at two or three goals in a row once or twice instead of letting them kick seven. I'd love to tell you what happened during the quarter, but as my interest lies solely with what our players do there's not a great deal to say considering they barely touched it for just over 20 minutes. Jamar sure got a lot of hitouts but christ knows who they were going to, because whoever it was they weren't wearing red and blue.

The one St Kilda player I couldn't miss was Beau Wilkes, because yet again he decided that despite being unbelievably mediocre against 16 other sides in the competition he'd save up a dominant performance for the day he plays us. Apparently he's changed his name, and obviously that fooled us because surely having the shit kicked out of you by Beau Wilkes/Meister once can be considered unlucky and twice foolish, but three times is just rude. If he can keep his AFL career alive that long without playing us I'll see you at the MCG at 4.40pm on Saturday 22 June for the day he kicks 14 against us.

Byrnes was fairly good again without setting the world on fire, and Gillies looks solid down back (without the thousand yard stare of somebody who has been there for a few years) but I'm not sold on Pedersen yet. He did nowt in the ruck, dropped a couple of sitters via both kick and handball and missed his only shot on goal. If he's supposed to be replacing the SME I don't see it yet, but am prepared to give it time.

If he's not to be the ruckman/forward that we're all dreaming of (though he is clearly popular with the ladies, which should be good for memberships) for Round 1 then surely Sellar's surprise goalkicking exploits of the last fortnight have won him that gig. It might not last, and Port won't make the same mistake twice and let him run riot in R1 unless he's set to be their Beau Wilkes style random kryptonite player, but at the moment I'd rather Sellar up front and The Spencil to either of them in the ruck - and when did you think I'd ever say that? Credit too to Sellar for providing the only highlight of the second quarter when he mastered the elements in spectacular fashion by starting a shot for goal from 20m out in Williamstown and managing to have it come back on the breeze for a goal. Not only has he started kicking goals, he's also started controlling the weather.

We got back into it in the third quarter (i.e stemmed the bleeding) but the damage had already been done. Just like our last game against them we were great in one quarter, dire in another and average in the remainder. Yet again one quarter out of four had completely killed us as happened so many times last year. In a stat frighteningly similar to plenty of games last year we actually won the inside 50's (and won them well too, 44-38) but too often it was just hoof and hope stuff which either ended up straight into the hands of a defender or out in the pocket where it could do no harm. Just give me one day where we kick to a lead and it's not a complete accident where somebody just happens to be running forward when a shanked kick lands in their arms.

If we are going to bomb it long to the square every time a'la 2012 somebody's going to have to crumb. As much as Australia can unite in our hatred for Stephen Milne the stuff he and Milera were doing today almost gave me the horn. There was one moment where a kick was going through for a point, so Milera jumped and instead of trying some ridiculous overhead mark that he wasn't capable of in a million years he just batted it down to his teammate running past. Whoever it was managed to miss but it was magic. Down the other end (though it was actually down the same end) we had one crumbed goal snapped out of a pack by.. Sellar. Why is it always left to our talls? Last year Mitch Clark was our best crumber in the first half of the year before Blease turned up and now Sellar is having to do it. If we're not careful we'll have more matches like the second Brisbane game where we win the inside 50's and lose by ten goals.

As usual there were signs, but I'm sick of signs I want a big fuck off billboard. With Dawes and Clark back in there maybe we can get the forward structure required to not have to rely on crumb but at the moment it seems to me like we get it out of defence ok (with the odd massive cockup), and get it into the midfield but that's where it goes horribly wrong and we end up belting it inside 50 because there's nobody left on the half-forward line. Easy enough to say from here but fix the centre clearances and the half-forward line issue and we might actually be half decent.

There was a bit of life in us during the last quarter but we were already too far behind, and everyone who hadn't done a runner to beat the traffic was more interested in laughing at Kosi than anything going on in the other 99% of the field. Highlights included Riewoldt doing a grand captains gesture and slamming on the brakes so he could 'overtake him' and kick an easy confidence boosting goal, then using his new found confidence to run through Colin Garland after a mark in almost reportable fashion. It seemed that there was an even split amongst St Kilda fans of men who wanted to throttle him and woman who were being creepily overprotective of him. Long live the classic novelty players.

With the alleged crowd of 5000 (seemed pretty accurate) having thinned out noticably by the final siren, as the more sensible members of society fled to their cars to avoid being dragged into total Lord of the Flies style anarchy, I fooled myself into thinking that maybe - just maybe - a swift exit could be possible. After all they've clearly upgraded the parking since I was last there a year and a half ago, so how hard could it be?

Unfortunately the Casey Fields complex has been set out as if created by a five-year-old playing SimCity, with random shit dropped everywhere. A car park here, an athletics track there, another car park next to some tennis courts and a bunch of houses for 'working families' or people who are growing shitloads of covert dope (available in the Sim City: South East Suburbs expansion pack). It all adds up to an experience that must resemble what it was like to drive out of Waverley Park when there were 80,000 people there.

By the time I made it to my car it was clear that there was no way I was going to get out of there in under half an hour without driving like a tremendous arsehole so I just gave up and sat in my car looking at the mound of earth through the barbed wire fence, sweating like a German hooker and no closer to working out whether we're going to be average, ordinary, the same as last year or utterly 186. Maybe we're 'not a hot weather team' and the moment it gets chilly we'll come good, or maybe our 'controversial' (BUT OFFICIALLY NOT ILLEGAL) antics in 2009 mean we're forever condemned to the 14th to 18th circle of Dante's Inferno. Bring on the stuff that matters and we'll decide just how depressed we're going to be when we wake up on (somewhat appropriately) Monday April 1.

Generic umpire bashing segment
They were shit

Call 555-TOUMPAS

I didn't see him deliver any Gentlemania style handshakes today, but it's fair to say that whatever he did he did it with a broad grin. Civilisations will rise and fall waiting for him to take set shots on goal, but so far he appears to be very good at so who cares. It also gives us somebody with a ludicrous set shot style to replace Dunn, who is now marooned in the backline doing the torp kickouts gimmick which will be like the 'boot it to Jamar' tactic, huge for the first two months until everyone realises what we're up to and puts a stop to it.

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance votes
Based on where I was standing and the condition I was in by the final quarter these votes could be the biggest farce in history. If you were there and you disagree there's every possible chance that you're right. Not much between any of the top ten really but the Demonblog computer has shot out the following.

5 - Nathan Jones
4 - James Magner
3 - David Rodan
2 - Dean Terlich
1 - James Sellar

Half-hearted apologies to Garland, Grimes, Hogan, Howe, Jamar and Nicholson

Even adding live votes from Renmark courtesy of @lockhartbeth where Jones didn't play he's still opened an unassailable lead in this contest (assuming we only play one more practice game or late votes from the intra-club trickle in) and can clear a space on his mantlepiece for another Prymke Plate to go along with his two Jakovich Medals.

15 - Nathan Jones
8 - James Magner
6 - James Sellar
5 - Shannon Byrnes, David Rodan
4 - Jordie McKenzie, Jack Watts
3 - Aaron Davey, Jesse Hogan, Jimmy Toumpas
2 - Jack Grimes, Dean Terlich, Josh Tynan
1 - Troy Davis, Lynden Dunn, Jeremy Howe

Crowd Watch
My advice to opposition fans playing us this year is to pre-prepare your tanking gags or risk ending up like the guy behind us who just yelled out "where are your tanks?" despite that a) containing no discernable gag and b) not resembling a proper sentence (and god knows if anybody can judge what consistitutes a correct sentence it's somebody who went almost seven years without spell-checking a post). I'm sure in the hands of a skilled craftsman something comic could be said, but it's likely that we're going to be subject to more of the same from the sort of guy who yells "YOU ORANGE/YELLOW/GREEN MAGGOT" and then laughs at his own 'gag'.

In an otherwise carnival atmosphere where either people didn't care, had more fun abusing the umpires or were too busy concentrating on working out what was going on 150m away across the ground to bother sledging their fellow victims of the Casey Killing Fields our friend was also heard to yell in the general direction of some Melbourne fans (possibly us) "Where did you finish last year?", to which the obvious answer would have been "not in the top eight either". I'll take shit from fans of most clubs about being rubbish, even Port, but if you follow St Kilda, Footscray, Fremantle, GWS or Gold Coast then start winning flags or stick it because you're in the same leaky boat we are.

Meanwhile to prove that shit tatts are for everyone, not just footy players, this bird was seen standing next to the woman who had some sort of weird scarf/sign thing that you put your hands in as if it was a pair of oven gloves and then held up in the air.

I think it's a peacock, but it could be the same diseased chicken that Hawthorn based the logo on their jumper from. Either way whatever creature it's supposed to be this thing is either half complete and waiting for some colour or was NOT done under normal tattoo parlour conditions if you know what I mean.

Next Week
Given the choice I'd have played a top eight side, expected an honourable loss and hoped secretly that we had a win to set us up for Round 1. Instead we play Gold Coast in Southport and - publicly at least - either win and gain nothing or lose and look like dickheads. Having said that the coaches probably don't give a rats who we play and will just carry on with their plan regardless. That's why they're highly paid football professionals and I'm some plonker with a keyboard.

Either way Port are playing Sydney, so as well as the string of minor injuries and suspensions we all hope they suffer let's hope that the Swans utter disinterest in the pre-season (though they did just beat Gold Coast) lulls them into a false sense of security before 31/03 because if we lose to them the internet will explode and by Monday morning you won't be able to walk down any street in the city without one of our fans plummeting out of a window above you.

In other news it's good to see Moloney and Martin reaping the benefits of changing clubs by not only playing in a Grand Final (plastic competition notwithstanding) but also winning at Docklands. Let's hope nobody else gets any ideas at the end of the season.

Final Thoughts
The moment I got out of the car park my petrol gauge went up one notch and stayed like that all the way back to Demonblog Towers VIII. It's a secret, undocumented feature of the Toyota Yaris where your car thanks you for not smashing it into a barbed wire fence near Cranbourne.