Tomorrow morning at 9am I'm going to walk in the front door of the Melbourne FC Truth and Reconciliation Commission, solemnly declare that I was well and truly duped by last week's fourth quarter and ask to be excused for my sins.
"They're not all kids! What about Phil Davis, Rhys Palmer and Stephen Gilham" I said, unconvincingly willing myself to believe that those three could have any more influence on a team that's no bloody good (at least they have a reason) than Gillies, Pedersen and Rodan.
No, I was duped. Or more accurately I duped myself based solely on the evidence of one quarter of landslide football against a side that - yes you are correct Patrick Smith as much as it pains me to say it - IS like the Diamond Valley Under 9's at the moment.
Congratulations to all of you who flat out refused to believe that any good came out of last week other than putting us above Fitzroy 1964 (0-18) in the all-time league table of shithouse seasons (even if we haven't quite reached their 59.7 percentage yet). When everyone craps on about the Spirit of '64 as if it's got any relevance to today's club I'm not sure that's what they're referring to.
For fools like I who thought "no Clark, no worries" and dreamed of ending Sunday night by pulling away from the foot of the table and getting somebody else's coached sacked mid-season for once (which would make a change for our players) at least we got one quarter of something approaching AFL standard football. All of which got us five goals for (yay), five goals against (boo) and a false sense of hope that we might get a couple of good quarters in a row.
Considering our forward line had band-aids stuck all over it, with resting ruckmen and defenders all over the place it was never going to suit us to get into some sort of free-wheeling, high scoring exhibition match. Which would have been fine if we'd managed to avoid letting the Lions win every clearance, rebound from one end of the ground to the other with the greatest of ease AND have three free players inside 50 every time no matter how long we'd had to get back there and do whatever it is our defence is supposed to do these days.
For those reading in the future, possibly looking for clues as to why I eventually go postal, it should be pointed out that Brisbane are not all that good themselves. We can't even use the hackneyed excuse about being a young team this time considering they had a side full of teenagers and the most inexperienced player we had was Dean Terlich who looks about 39. Time to just admit we're shit, put ten players in the lifeboat (guaranteed seats for Clark, Grimes, Hogan, Howe, Jones, Trengove (just) and Viney. The rest can fight it out amongst themselves, but I'm going to assume Gawn would win the Battle Royale and I'd be happy to have him on board) and run the HMAS Melbourne FC onto the rocks for the insurance money before reappearing under a new name in 2014.
The sense of having been taken for a ride would have been bad enough if it had been at the MCG and I'd have been able to see it all unfolding terribly in front of my own eyes, but to have to watch that sort of slop on television is the best ad the AFL could ever do for putting your hand in your pocket and paying for a ticket/membership. Though maybe don't buy the one that guarantees you a Grand Final ticket when your team is perennially shit.
It must happen to everybody that you sit through most of the season watching games you don't really care about, abusing Dwayne Russell for making up stupid catchphrases, abusing other commentators for using his bloody catchphrases and remembering when Dennis Cometti seemed half natural doing 'off the cuff gags' during the game but then when your team comes around (and especially when you're always bloody losing) it becomes abundantly clear that these people are total buffoons who must have blagged their way into the job by winning a raffle.
Mind you I can see how fans of 'big clubs' might not feel like this, you just know that while he did his best to keep things upvibe and professional Bruce McAvaney was glancing at his watch every five minutes from the first bounce onwards waiting for next Friday night when he can call a game between sides that anyone other than a handful of fools gives a rats about.
In a way I don't blame Bruce or Cometti and his teleprompter of comedy statements for giving our game nothing. Would you? Surely they'd be sitting there going "how the hell did we end up with this game on free to air?", and realising that about as many people are watching it as a Super Rugby match would treat it accordingly, doing their best impression of the Melbourne Football Club just plodding along until it was all over then hitting the nightclubs as soon as possible. After all Bruce had been roped into doing this game after being in Perth on Friday night so given the circumstances he should almost get an honourable mention in the votes for not just chucking a sickie and leaving Tim Watson to call the match.
It seems rude to complain about TV coverage now that we're living in the admittedly glorious 'watch every game live' era, but it's strictly for games not involving the Dees for me thanks. It's not that radio is all that better, but I'm almost at the point of doing that mute + radio gimmick that I've been mocking all these years. Anything would be better than more Dwayne, more Tony Shaw and god help us hopefully never again more bloody Leigh Matthews.
"Lethal" has taken Malcolm Blight's role as the "elder statesman" of the commentary circuit who is wheeled out every few weeks to sit around and give us wisdom of their glory era by talking to themselves, possibly not even knowing that they're on the air. At least when Paul Roos does a Sydney game and can barely restrain himself from whopping off under the desk he appears to have all of his mental faculties about him. Matthews, on the other hand, is only slightly more with it than I'd expect Kevin Sheedy to be when he's providing this sort of role for GWS games in a couple of years (maybe even next week, it's not like he's actually coaching this year).
Today's Lethal highlight was Blease being flattened after kicking and the 30 seconds of moral outrage about how there's no way it was a late hit and how it was a rubbish decision (coming from somebody who spent half his career crippling Melbourne players) before the replay showed that oh he actually got elbowed in the head and a quick retraction followed a'la Caroline Wilson. Then in classic Channel 7 fashion they missed the goal being kicked while showing the replay. Fox Footy's product is so superior to Seven's that it's almost hard to believe they actually sign cheques for Dwayne and Tony Shaw. Trade them to Seven and we'll be in a Pay TV glory era.
Sadly I've not got the thousands of dollars required to follow this travel circus of mediocrity around the country so at least six more times this year (including the two MCG games I'll be interstate for and the match at Carrara which I'm intending to go to if depression doesn't get me first) I'll have to suck it up and cop watching it on TV. At least next time I'll be going in with such low expectations/white hot hatred of football, that they could probably have Lady Gaga and Pol Pot on commentary and it wouldn't be able to ruin my day any more. If anybody from Foxtel is reading I'd be happy to have a go on the red button channel a'la Eddie, but don't expect me to call any opposition players.
Let's be frank though, if we were a half decent team would I give a shit? Probably not, but we've won 24% of matches in the last seven years and somebody else other than players and coaches has to share the anger and frustration eventually. Next thing I'll be sitting in the middle of opposition cheer squads just to give me some victims to unload my self-loathing on.
It's getting hard to come up with ways to put this, considering the same thing has been said in almost 76% of reports since 2007 (excluding the two draws), but we are still shit and not getting any better. Thrillsville. And for every minor win we have like unearthing Michael Evans from the wilderness we've got ten other players either treading water or going backwards at a million miles an hour. I very much like Michael Evans, don't get me wrong - but is he going to lift the club out of the mire single handedly? No he is not.
Now that Port has managed to break free from the gas chamber and head for surprise salvation a'la Melbourne 1998 and Brisbane has snuck ahead with their supposed free win against GWS yet to come we're left in a neck and neck race to the bottom with Gold Coast (look better than us), Footscray (look better than us) and the Giants (looked better than us for three quarters). Our status as the worst 'real' team in the competition is almost assured for a second successive year and we're no longer safe from winning line honours either.
On one hand I'd like to say draft picks can get stuffed, I'm sick of everything being about draft picks and why don't we just play properly for once but sadly we are - and even more sadly if we were to end up with Pick 4 at the end of this year it would not only be quite a tasty pick to ruin some poor kid's life with but would also mean that we actually managed to finish above three sides on the ladder - and at the moment I'd probably take that.
At least today the first quarter provided some highlights. When Moloney wasn't rampaging out of the centre and their forwards weren't taking the piss out of our defenders (Garland excused, the rest straight onto the Hertz Rentacar Psych Couch) we at least got to see another monster mark and goal by Gawn as he continues to promote himself as our biggest cult figure in years. It was also the first time we'd kicked five goals in a first quarter against a team better than us since Freo at Docklands last year so that was something, but it didn't last then and it didn't last today. You can't go around playing one quarter every week and expect to get anywhere, and how the players let this happen again and again is a mystery to me.
We actually looked half decent whenever we got the ball, but the problem was that firstly we were hardly getting it and when Brisbane had it they looked even better, slashing through us like the famous knife through red and blue butter.
If it's any consolation our tackling was good all day, but of course a team who aren't all that much better than we are will get themselves into situations where they're going to get tackled. There was a lot of headless chicken work going on over the other side as well, on the occasions when they weren't all running free with five men forward of the ball queuing up to go inside 50 and score. Not to mention the times when an opposition player is at half-forward, or out in the boundary line inside 50 kicking from a free kick or a mark and somebody always, ALWAYS gets free for a pass. Roll on a big week of our famous zone defence being the talk of the town. I'm not even sure what a zone defence is supposed to do, but by the looks of it neither are any of our players.
With Brisbane sensibly tagging Nathan Jones to buggery in the knowledge that he's the only weapon we've got of course we got smashed out of the middle. Jamar did a couple of old school novelty perfect taps to our lot (and some Psychic Friends Connection reunion specials straight to Beamer), but he also did plenty that hit the deck and were scraped up by Brisbane players without any of our players in the same area code as them. Not surprisingly, with the Stefan Martin Experience dropped after having done absolutely bugger all so far in his Brisbane career, it was left to Moloney to do the traditional Brent Grgic/Jeff Farmer/Brian Wilson style demolition of us after leaving.
No wonder he did too, was there any danger of trying to put pressure on him in the first half? By the time McKenzie got moved to him in the second half we were already going down the gurgler and much of the damage had been done. For two weeks we (e.g I) have been crying about how we couldn't tag anyone because we didn't have any taggers and then we bring one in - who bless him is relatively limited in doing anything else, and we accept that - and let a side's best midfielder run around unmolested.
Given this I suppose we're going to have to hear all about how stupid we are for "letting him go" etc.. etc.. after he butchered us all day under no actual pressure from anybody. Big whoop, he tonked a rubbish midfield - good luck to him, but it's like what he used to do for us when we had a promising midfield, not the faultiest of all units on offer despite having drafted 7000 'saviours' in the last five years.
Speaking of midfielders can we send Jack Trengove to a (properly accredited and non dodgy) specialist for somebody to work out what's gone wrong with him over the last couple of years? The poor bastard is trying his heart out but can't get near it. To his credit at least he was tackling everything that moves in the first quarter when he couldn't get a touch but for whatever reason he's running around like a shadow on what he was like in his first couple of seasons. If he needs to be rested or give up the captaincy (if that has any bearing on anything, which I'm not sure it does) then do it. We're not playing for 2013 anymore, and if Neeld's trying to save himself - as any of us would - he needs players out there who can do the job. He does always show flashes of brilliance though, how good was the kick to Howe on the lead in the second quarter? Related - how good was Howe's lead? Shame he chose it as the time to blow his perfect goalkicking record for the season, because it was everything kicking to a forward lead should be.
Assuming that you counted breaking even in the first quarter as a 'good' one then the bad news for anybody who thought that we might get two in a row was that we, err, didn't. Not that anybody was kicking goals anywhere, but that was mainly because even though we were going around with a silver platter offering them up Brisbane were too stupid to take them. They kicked points, we gave it back to them, they kicked another point, we tried to bomb the kick-in to Jamar, they kicked another point etc.. etc..
Even when we had the good fortune to win what must have been one of the worst free kicks of all time when Moloney "shepherded" Sylvia (in fact Sylvia was trying to do some sweet UFC style submission move on his head a'la Neville Jetta last week), Col - who I'm pleased to report otherwise showed up and looked interested again, probably with his agent training a sniper rifle on him from the stands - managed to handball it straight into Moloney's hands and stuff it all up. It was good to see MFC players finally linking up under Neeld, it's just a shame that it didn't happen until one of them left the club.
It took 10 minutes of silver service before finally Shannon Byrnes, who I thought was otherwise (spoiler alert) our best of an ordinary bunch, botched a handball and gifted them a goal. Then, just when you thought the inevitable massacre was about to break out we kicked two in a row and took the lead back. Work that out considering we were being belted across the ground, but just because we were being belted everywhere it mattered did it mean that it had to go that way for the rest of the day?
How many times has a team had to hold on for dear life for a half before getting on top and winning? It's a weird game, weird things happen (see the fourth quarter last week) so why couldn't we do it? We weren't playing Geelong there - and I don't give a toss if it was 27 degrees in Brisbane because even if we hadn't been on this magical mystery tour to Darwin in the pre-season a proper side would get the job done instead of running around like an over 40's team. Fitness be stuffed, they run around like they've all got multiple injuries in the first quarter much less the last.
Six points down, from six more scoring shots and Brisbane should have put us away but they didn't and we were given a free life. With Watts going forward at the start of the third quarter I started to fantasise that he'd go down there and boot a bag to drag us over the line and prove why he should never be allowed across the centre of the ground ever again. Sadly, even though he went down there and did a good job (more importantly looked like he was interested) we still managed to do our traditional roll over and die at the start of the third quarter and totally stuff it up. No point having a quality forward if the ball never goes down there.
I respect that we're not capable of being good enough for long enough in games, or to play four decent quarters every week but why does it always have to happen to us in the third quarter? What do they say to them in the rooms? It's not even just the first five minutes anymore, it's the whole quarter. Three goals in the first seven minutes (and it should have been four) before Tapscott fluked one to keep us in it. Then of course after busting our arse to get a goal, as lucky as it was, we turn around and let them have two at the other end with stuff all pressure. Balls to everything.
Yet somehow we almost got back into it in the last quarter. If Bail had kicked an absolute sitter (or passed to Davey a mile free right in front of goal) we'd have been back to 12 points. Next thing you know they're down the other end kicking goals and even Brisbane's version of Juice Newton, Aaron Cornelius, is kicking goals.
Game over, not good enough, players looking like they can't be bothered. At one point Ashley McGrath, who had spent the entire game being mocked by the commentators for being a bit porky, 'ran' through our midfield like he was Gary Ablett and despite Pedersen being somewhere in the general vicinity he managed to set up a goal in slow motion under no pressure. That piece of 'play' (at 5km/h) said everything about the long queue of mediocre players hoping to reinvigorate their careers by belting us throughout the year. We are to the league what GWS were to us, and that's so sad.
With the finish line in sight and most of the team now sorely lacking interest the only person who fired up in the last few minutes was Davey when he pounced on Zorko at the end and probably got himself a reprimand/suspension by jumper punching him repeatedly. Good, I say. As much as I'd like to start Davey instead of sitting him on a plastic chair for three quarters it was good to see somebody fire up for their teammate when most of our players would have just taken the free goal and walked off.
So, put the Coaching Doomsday Clock on again. If Carlton flog us again next week, as they very well might if we play like we did today, then 4.40pm on the following Sunday 12 May against Gold Coast will be GWS Pt. 2, with Neeld teetering on the edge of the cliff and ready to be lobbed off if we lose.
I still don't think that sacking a coach now is going to achieve anything, and I look forward to writing this once more next week before it's no longer relevant due to the coach being axed, but my faith was shaken today. Why pick McKenzie and not use him to tag? Why pick Rodan to start and leave him on all day? Why keep Davey on the bench/plastic seats until we're five goals down instead of throwing him into the mix during the third when we were still in the game? Why take Blease off (unless injured) and leave Pedersen on field after we'd sent Watts forward. I don't know what he's supposed to do in the team, but we're not playing GWS every week.
I don't care if Clark and Dawes are coming back next week, and I welcome both of them in the side, if I see Watts walking alongside Frawley, Garland and the King of Sizzle (who is clearly suffering a curse after winning Demonbracket) towards the backline on Sunday I'm out for this football department. They can all go down there and if we can ever get the ball in that direction they can all play a role. It makes it hard to hide Jamar or Gawn when they're not playing in the centre but I don't give a toss, park them on the bench if you have to. What happens if Watts somehow catches fire up front and wants to stay with Clark, Dawes and Hogan around is anybody's guess but if we're going to lose him then like Sylvia let's get a few good performances out of it first.
2013 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
Nobody was really any good, so please scale your outrage about the following on that basis.
5 - Shannon Byrnes
4 - Colin Sylvia
3 - Michael Evans
2 - Rohan Bail
1 - Colin Garland
Apologies to Howe, Gawn, M. Jones and Watts (second half).
15 - Nathan Jones
9 - Shannon Byrnes, Matt Jones (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Award)
8 - Colin Sylvia
7 - Jack Viney
6 - Michael Evans
5 - Jack Grimes (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
4 - Jeremy Howe
2 - Rohan Bail, Aaron Davey, Max Gawn (JOINT LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Mark Jamar (JOINT LEADER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
1 - Mitch Clark, James Frawley, Colin Garland, Jordie McKenzie
Facebook Comment of the Week
Cancelled due to CBF, but have a video from last year that's come back into relevance after our players were all caught out on the ground grinning broadly and having the time of the life with the opposition at the end of the match. Also features the SME's lovely hair, which is only now being challenged by the magnificent locks of Michael Evans.
Dunn was apparently dominant for Casey but is he going to be there next year? I'd much rather try Strauss now, because we're getting to the point where we have to make a decision on him soon instead of waiting for something to happen by magic one day. Whatever's going to happen with him won't come as a result of beating up on VFL players every week.
As for the outs I was happy with Tapscott's bumping and willingness to get killed for the team but just like Pedersen I'm not entirely sure what his role in the team is supposed to be. Whatever it is he does it better than Pedo, but if I'm sending Watts forward he is not required.
In other selection news Rodan probably needs to put his hand up, go "this isn't working" and concentrate on working with the kids in the VFL. Not that he will, but we need to do it for him because he's not adding enough to make playing him every week worthwhile - especially in the starting lineup rather than as sub. Shannon Byrnes has proven his worth the last couple of weeks, Rodan is yet to do anything to justify his spot.
IN: Clark, Dawes, Strauss, Viney
OUT: Pedersen, Rodan, Tapscott (omit), Trengove (rest)
My patience for football is starting to rapidly evaporate, so it's a good thing that I've got three matches left before fleeing Victoria for the Hawthorn and Collingwood games as well as the bye. Still looking for somebody to write the reports for these two games (you don't have to write one for the bye). I've got an offer from a Collingwood fan to do Queen's Birthday, and I'm quite into this gimmick but definitely first preference to any MFC fans who are keen.
You can do it however you like, either wail thousands of words of impassioned pleas, a video of yourself screaming WHY ME!? or just post a photo of the Goatse man along with some votes but as long as you do the votes sensibly it's up to you. Email, tweet, send a comment etc.. etc.. if interested.