Sunday, 27 April 2014

Huddled masses yearning to breathe free

If there's not an unwritten rule which bans you from being (relatively) happy about the result a game where your side scores 38 points then there really should be. However, as much as it puts me on the same level as people who slow down to get a good luck at gruesome accidents on the freeway last night that we me. I was  - please direct hate mail and accusations of tanking to the usual address - quite content with our performance.

It should be pointed out that I'm not trying to be wacky here. This isn't an attempt to generate controversy and get people to leave abusive anonymous comments because I've run out of ways to describe a loss and need to do something different. I really do feel, deep in my red and blue pacemaker powered heart that while we've still got problems up and down the yin yang that we did brilliantly to hold a far superior side as well as we did.

Obviously if we had to lose by 31 points (which I'm sure many of us would have taken before the bounce) I'd rather it was 69-100 instead of 38-69, but before we delve into the usual litany of things that are still horribly wrong with our side let's look at some of the positives. Here's one..




That's right. Not once in 2013. NOT ONCE. Not one time in 22 matches of competitive Australian Rules Football did we manage to restrict a team to less than 90 points - and while we were conceding +90 every week we were often putting up scores similar to 5.8.38 so at least we're making progress in one aspect of the game. Eight points isn't much in a game of football, but the gulf in class between the 38 we scored last night and the 30 we scored at Kardinia Park last season is ridiculous.

Reasons to be cheerful #2 - Nathan Jones. I don't think it's much of a spoiler to reveal that he gets five votes again. I may as well just copy and paste 5 - Nathan Jones on every new post, and I'd say it was getting tedious seeing him dominate the votes every week, but watching Jones every week almost makes leaving the house to see the Dees worthwhile. He's got no chance of making the All-Australian team as a midfielder from a bottom four side as his name is not Ablett but if they don't at least humour us and put him on the shortlist then the selection committee should be dropped into the same shark tank as the rules committee.

Meanwhile I'm astonished at how good Dunn has been this year. I often liked the guy against popular opinion (won't claim that I always did in case there's 25 posts in the archives where I'm trying to get him sacked) but his performance has gone through the roof this year. Watch for it to all go horribly wrong now that people are starting to notice OR watch him exercise his right as a free agent to wave us cheerio and take off elsewhere.

Speaking of astonished, was Pedo born again courtesy of that arsey goal of the year candidate against Carlton? He was hardly flawless this week, but compared to most of his other performances since we recruited him he was sensational. I still get nervous whenever he's seen marauding towards the forward line, but he was good around the ground and even held his own in the ruck.

In other good news Vince turned up in style for the first time since Round 1 (28 kicks!), Matt Jones played his best game for a long time, Jamar did fairly well on return even if I'm still desperately waiting for Gawn to come back and snatch the top job, Cross demonstrates that sometimes recruiting older players can work and Salem showed plenty in his quarter and a half even if previous experience shows that he'll probably start as sub again next week and drop off the face of the earth by 2015.

The most important thing for me was keeping them goalless in the second quarter. We looked horrible for the first 10 minutes of the game - and also conceding the cheapest charity goal of all time to the star of Celebrity Culpable Driving - then fought back to look right at home for a few minutes before giving it all away in the last few minutes and going in 20 points behind. It would have been very easy to then show up for the second quarter, cop a few more howling umpiring decisions (Jetta getting done HTB after having the ball for 0.1 seconds, Viney being tackled around the ankles, god knows what else) and gone into half time 45 points behinds. Instead we kept them to three points, and while we only managed one goal ourselves it was still a step up.

It's not as rare a feat as it sounds - we managed to keep sides goalless twice in 2012 - Round 19 vs Gold Coast (Q1) and Round 21  vs GWS (Q3) but with respect to the fact that both sides have streaked past us since they were both effectively junior clubs at the time - so you've got to go back to the third quarter of Round 11, 2011 against Essendon (the night Dean Bailey punched the roof and we thought that we would make the finals) for us doing it against a proper team. Since that night we've been held goalless in quarters ourselves (drum roll please) 22 times! What an outrageous figure. We're lucky they haven't put the shutters up and forced us into a promotion/relegation playoff against Box Hill.

The Swans missed some good chances, but I was thrilled that we managed to drag them into a guerrilla war instead of just flat out getting murdered as we did most weeks during 2013. Bad news for neutrals and Channel 7's ratings but they can all get stuffed. Of course it would be nice to be involved a swashbuckling, high scoring extravaganza but look at we're we've come from and enjoy it for what it is - not getting beaten to a pulp. It was also particularly exciting gradually driving Franklin insane and watching him engage in biff, cost his team with stupid free kicks and give away a 50m penalty. In the end he's got $10 million and was probably driving to $cully's house to roll around in banknotes when he crashed into all the cars but I don't even recall him looking so frustrated against us before - and we've held him relatively well over the years. May he bring the Swans down from the inside like we all hoped he would to GWS.

Congratulations to McDonald for doing well on him (other than the goal from the BS free kick) and Georgiou for punching him in the face and getting away with it (for now) despite the hapless umpire looking right at the incident - which Franklin did play up as if he'd been hit the head with a sledgehammer rather than a limp bitchslap. When he was replaced by Goodes has there even been a substitution with a greater gulf between respected team player and self-obsessed mercenary? It is highly unlikely. Though at the same time if it doesn't work out in Sydney and he wants to take a significant pay cut next year I think I'd probably have him considering Jesse Hogan has apparently died.

I'm sure that after a week of other games that were either of a good viewing standard or at least close the influential "change the rules, everything is stuffed" lobby will have the quarter on rewind at the old folks home, but was it really so bad? Maybe I'm looking at it through rose tinted glasses because a) we were up to our necks in it and b) won it, but surely sometimes an arm-wrestle can be beautiful. People who despise soccer and therefore equate low scoring with tedium will never believe it, but sometimes even a nil-all draw can be beautiful. When the scores are low every goal means so much more, and shite umpiring was doing far more damage to the game on the night than rucks, mauls or whatever the problem of the day is according to Leigh Matthews - a man who has developed far more interest in the rulebook now than when he was going around king hitting people during his playing days.

For all that positivity it's hard to ignore the fact that we did struggle royally to score a measly five goals for the whole game. Yet again our inability to work the ball from one end of the ground to the other without stuffing up a kick or a handball somewhere around the half-back line haunted us, and unlike last week Frawley and Dawes were having rotten games up front so we weren't able to take advantage of limited chances. While we were forced to fight for every opportunity, down the other end our loose as a goose defence was allowing Sydney players to roam free. Twice we fell victim to one of my most hated things in football (and I've got a lot), players about to take a long distance set shot then realising we've let one of their teammates get a million miles clear on a better angle inside 50.

We fall victim to this so often and it makes me want to kick the seat in front of me/my television in. It's one thing if the 'better option' is on the boundary line and they wind up as unlikely to kick the goal, but we are always letting players get 30/40m out on their own and on simple angles and it shits me to tears. Perhaps if we did the same once in a while I'd be ok with it, but whenever we have a shot on goal from 50m on the boundary line we're forced to hoof it hopefully at goal and watch it get punched through because we've forgotten to get talls back on the line.

As noted our general play around the ground was hardly something to write home about and I'm certainly not endorsing some of the slop that was dished up when we had the ball. I fear that in addition to players sent to an unfamiliar position out of necessity (Frawley) and those dipping in and out of form on a weekly basis (Howe) that we've got too many in the side who just aren't good enough. You could get away with one or two of Byrnes, Bail, Jetta, Georgiou and Terlich (Pedersen temporarily promoted to the next division) but it's impossible to carry them all when we're so lacking in superstars to cover for them with their own acts. In addition to kids like Kennedy-Harris who are still trying to come to terms with the senior game we're sorely lacking class players. Not sure where we're going to find them, but at this point we've got to start having a proper look at the likes of Clisby, Toumpas, Blease and Strauss - and it's possibly a last look on the final two before we shuffle them off to Richmond.

Then there's Jack Watts. Oh dear. We might have gone in front in the first quarter if he'd held a simple mark, and in one breath you could hear every Melbournefans in the stadium go from cheering to groaning and openly swearing in front of children. Here's a live graph of the Jack Watts Fan Confidence Index during the game. Spot the point where he missed the mark.

(Melbourne FC there's a free match day promotion for you - hooking fans up to either a lie detector, a heart-rate monitor, or an election debate style worm and showing the results on the big screen during the game. It will be better than that heinous Chemist Warehouse three card monte gimmick. You're welcome.)

It was deflating, and it's not the first time it's happened this year either. It wasn't just the mark though, he just seems to be going through the motions at the moment. It looks like he gets to the right place all the time but can't have any serious impact on the game. What a tease that St Kilda game was, possibly assisted by the Saints bringing a midfield just as poor as ours - now against both good teams and average teams he looks all at sea. Last night he only had five kicks - and that's the one thing that he does at a constantly elite (CLICHE) level.

Can he be fixed? Well it depends what you mean how you define 'fixed'. I'd given up on the idea of him becoming an out-and-out superstar ages ago and was quite content for him to just roll out 200 career games as a solid citizen and subject of endless 'what if?' discussions for the next 50 years, but at this rate he's going to be run out of town on a rail before he even makes 100. The pitchfork wielding masses - a loose alliance of the people who have been waiting for him with a baseball bat since 2007 and those who patiently held on until now - are certainly coming from him after the last couple of weeks and while I have sympathy with them I also don't want to lose faith in my version of the future. Because I'm an idiot.

There's next to no doubt that if he does go elsewhere he end up in a better team where he can look good flouncing around the edges and take advantage of other great players instead of being expected to be one himself, but it's sad to finally come to the realisation that this might not work out. I'm sure I'll fall in and out of love with him seven more times before the end of the year but all of a sudden the question is what we'd get for him in a trade - surely nobody's going higher than pick 20. Wait for him to go to Carlton and dominate after copping exactly the same of foul invective from Malthouse that he crumbled under when it was delivered by the Reject Shop Mick who used to coach us.

What's sad is that if you could take the heart of a Spencer, Pedersen or Bail and merge it with the skills of Watts you'd have a superstar - but instead we're left with half a list who try but aren't AFL standard and players like this who have good physical attributes and natural talent but quite possibly couldn't give a stuff if the stopped playing tomorrow. Look at Jack Viney, he can't kick for shit yet but we still love him because he almost gets killed five times a game - maybe Watts should just try that for one or two weeks and see if he likes it.

In a low scoring game that goal would have helped too, he is a beautifully accurate kick when he marks inside 50 so I'm assuming he'd have given us the lead. Instead, and this is not something I'm laying at his feet because he's got enough to deal with, we get one more goal in the second quarter and two for the half. Nobody is winning a game of football with two goals in the half, but even though we only took two points off the lead with all that effort in the second quarter at least it kept us in the game, which is all you can ask for in our situation.

We didn't stay in touch for long. Franklin came alive briefly before 'hurting his knee', setting up a goal before getting the red vest and a cosy blanket to wrap himself in on the bench, and even though we matched their first goal with one of our own the Swans were clearly not going to get mired in jungle warfare for the rest of the game and let us win 41-40. We only lost the quarter three goals to two, but signs were definitely ominous. It was clear to all but the most irrational dreamer/psychopath that there was no way we were going to rampage home from 24 points down to win, and true to form we didn't - but it would have been nice to keep the fantasy going a bit longer than the 40 seconds it took the Swans to kick the first goal.

A total whitewash it was not, though it threatened to be a few times in the last term, and at least you can go home dreaming of a bright future for Christian Salem until he falls into the same hole as every other prized recruit of the last five years. This was a danger game for another West Coast style massacre, and at least we came out of it relatively unscathed. You don't have to be happy that we only scored 38, and nor should you be, but there will be more than enough time to wail about everything that's wrong with us (possibly as early as next week) so why not pull the wool over your own eyes for a bit and try to look at the positives?

No, that's boring let's go throw a Molotov Cocktail at the Demon Megastore instead.

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Nathan Jones
4 - Lynden Dunn
3 - Matt Jones
2 - Cameron Pedersen
1 - Bernie Vince

Apologies to McDonald, Cross, Jamar and Salem for his cameo.

Leaderboard
The committee has temporarily suspended Frawley from the Seecamp, pending him going back into defence and staying there for the rest of the season. Not that it matters at the moment considering he's not going to win it anyway if Dunn keeps playing out of his skin.

As for Pedersen I've got no idea if he's eligible for any of the minor awards at the moment, the whole process is in total Neeld style disarray other than the near certainty that Jones will have it all wrapped up by Queen's Birthday.

24 - Nathan Jones
13 - Lynden Dunn (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
8 - Daniel Cross, James Frawley
6 - Dom Tyson, Jack Viney
4 - Cameron Pedersen, Jack Watts
3 - Chris Dawes, Matt Jones, Tom McDonald, Dean Terlich
2 - Jeremy Howe
1 - Jack Grimes, Jake Spencer (Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Bernie Vince.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
You have to kick goals to contend for the Flash, and given that we were doing stuff all of that then good luck. So it's still Pedo vs Carlton but we hope Christian Salem enjoys this week's consolation prize of a go-karting session with the Cockatoo-Collins brothers for his follow up from marking contest + snap which lifted spirits everywhere.


A nice traditional battle between two properly constructed banners, with nice fonts, old time motivational messages and no pissweak curtains. Congratulations to the Swans for a strong performance but the Demons go 6-0 on the back of the topical soldier silhouette, ANZAC Day message and a lot less visible sticky tape.

Having said that I was a bit baffled by the "2014-2018" date at the top of our banner which had something to do with a hundred years of the Anzacs. Do the Demon Army know something about an upcoming war that we don't? If total nuclear annihilation has to break out I hope we get one more win first and it breaks out before we play Hawthorn.

Crowd Watch
I can take it or leave it but I find it interesting that the the league/MCG didn't officially acknowledge ANZAC Day. We had it on our banner (see above) but while they were clearly only having one ceremony in every 'market' (*spit*) which is why they went through the whole thing at GWS vs Gold Coast a day late (and will probably do so again in Adelaide today) it seems reasonable to invite some military types along and at least get the crowd to give them a round of applause. Remember that time we played in Darwin while the US Marines watched on? We'd be lucky to get the Naval Reserve to show up and see us at the moment.

Considering there was 24,000 there (surely via furious massaging of figures and creative accountancy) it's frightening how many of them were Sydney fans. Unfortunately as much as slurry football is necessary at times it's is hardly likely to start dragging crowds through the door unless we somehow manage to start winning ugly - and even then I suspect the lure of TV will be too much for most until they're absolutely convinced that they're not being lured into one big con.

Could I also please confirm if the two (!) sets of people sitting in Row LL (I was in row P this time as I was with people, and dragging them to the heavens is downright rude) were inspired by my promotion of what a great place it is to watch footy or whether they were just sampling what it's like to be anti-social. Hopefully Row LL doesn't become the next big thing for football hipsters, there has to be somewhere to go (other than the fact that you're already at an MFC game) if you want peace and quiet at a live sporting event.

Crowd Watch Extra (4.36pm Sunday edition)
Forgot to mention, as if it was crucial, that I ex-Demons Josh Tynan and Rory Taggert were seen enjoying all that the top deck of the Ponsford has to offer. And they were both wearing MFC jumpers like they were regular fans, which is nice considering usually anybody we've delisted goes on Facebook and abuses the club for being a bunch of arseholes.

Blockbuster Corner
Assuming that Channel 7 aren't on the phone to the AFL now threatening all sorts of violence if we're ever featured in a prime-time game again, I'm all for this proposed ANZAC Day eve match against Richmond. The only problem is that I can imagine if Collingwood are against it that the AFL will be successfully strong-armed into turfing the idea. Demetriou isn't for it, but he doesn't like Good Friday either and 12 seconds after he's out of the job a game will be scheduled for that day on 2015 so who gives a rats what he thinks unless he's writing us another cheque?

It's more dangerous for us that McGuire is against it, because marks my words if the AFL ignore his undignified whinging and press ahead he will threaten to pull the Queen's Birthday rug out from under us. Which he can easily do considering it's his rug and they are doing us a favour by letting us have it as a home game every year - but while I'm expecting a negotiated settlement at some point in the next few years which either shifts us out of this game or rotates home/away status it would be nice if we're not just kicked out because Ed's gone beetroot coloured and thrown a tantrum.

Remember when he was going to kick us out of QB just for taking their recruiting manager? Just wait for him to get on the radio and drop a bit of "Well now that they're getting this other blockbuster they don't need Queen's Birthday" if for no other reason than to score some cheap publicity for the show when the comments are replayed everywhere. If Richmond were smart they'd be trying to double their blockbuster by negotiating for the ANZAC eve game against us one line and calling the Pies trying to replace us for QB on the other.

Next Week
Adelaide are neither here nor there this season, but it's reasonable to assume they will spifflicate us anyway. With any luck they give Taylor Walker another week in the seconds so at least we don't have to face that problem, but either way I can't see us getting this close. As for my changes what follows is an absurd wishlist considering barely anybody these days - much less a Zen maestro like Paul Roos - goes for the gigantic chop of +5 players in one go and we might not have the required players to do such a thing anyway but...

IN: Garland, Blease, Gawn, Strauss, Clisby, Toumpas, Riley
OUT: Byrnes, Kennedy-Harris, Terlich, Bail, Watts, Georgiou and Jetta (omit)

I'd like to split that hailstorm of executions up into a few batches - Byrnes, Bail and Jetta I can do without ever seeing in the seniors again, Terlich and Georgiou are useful soldiers but can do with a break or a run in the 2s, JKH is getting better but could also do with a full game at VFL level and I really don't know what to do with Watts. Part of me wants to keep him for one more chance, but I thought that last week as well. Any chance that we'll finally get a sports psychologist down to the club to try and work out what's going on with him before we turn him into another Cale Morton style lost soul?

It's hardly straight swaps on the ins and outs, but that's not going to matter is it? Maybe throw Jamar down forward for most of the game and let Maximum/Pedo (not a tag team name that Vince McMahon will be buying the rights to anytime soon) take the centre bounces. If Toumpas doesn't play for Casey today due to the knock he got last week (and at the time of writing it's 3.32am so god knows if he is or if he's in a nightclub drinking shots out of the belly-button of an 18-year-old floozy) then I'll give Bail a reprieve just because he tries hard and had a half decent game last week before reverting to type - then give him a handshake, say thanks for everything and send him back to Queensland the week after.

Other options are limited. As much as I've been a McKenzie fan over the years I'm prepared to give Riley a shot against his old team. Nicholson is also on my 'never again' list, Kent is out for another week, Hunt is too young, Evans did nothing in the seniors for two weeks (albeit as sub) and could do with a couple of full games, Barry is a total mystery, Tapscott needs match practice, Spencer isn't required with Pedo filling in admirably and I'd rather try Jamar up forward before returning to Fitzpatrick because at least Russian is a better ruckman if Plan A winds up in the toilet with all our other well thought out plans over the years.

Stat My Bitch Up
If ladder position and wins are your guiding light this season then you're in for a disappointing year. Our percentage of 67.3 is 13% above last year, but we've had a bloody good draw to this point so this is where it gets interesting.

Meanwhile as you may remember (how could you forget?) last year we scored our lowest ever points tally in a 22 game season at an average of 66.13ppg. Well this year we're currently on 54.16 so you would think, assuming that there is no possible way for us to only score 1191 in a season (which would further extend the record by 300 points) improvement is going to come from somewhere. God only knows where tjhat will be when we start running into top five sides who will strangle the bejesus out of us.

The crucial difference is that last year we conceded 122.31ppg and this year it's 'only' 80.5 so that's a significant improvement. Still, if the iPad clutching ball-bag is correct and Jesse Hogan's not coming back any time soon we're going to have to do something about our forward line. Rather than blaming Frawley, Dawes and whoever else is down there I'd rather that we instead started to get the ball to them quickly instead of waiting 25 minutes with every kick forward and giving defences enough time to force them to try and take pack marks. I suppose it would also be nice if we managed to string a few kicks together as well, but that's just being overly optimistic.

Was it worth it?
Yeah, why not.

Final Thoughts
I don't know what to think about this season anymore. I was confident that we could finish third last, win four or five games and come out with a percentage of about 70 but I'm not so sure now, and with Brisbane winning yesterday the dreaded spoon is looming large. For once can we retain some dignity in the second half of the year and not punt home finishing in last place? Now watch us finish 16th, receive a standing ovation from me for playing fairly and then spent the next 10 years yelling abuse at #3 while the first two picks become superstars. Hello Melbourne.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Love in the Time of Ineptitude

At times it might be hard to imagine, especially to outsiders, but there are significant benefits to being a Melbourne fan. We've traded respect, success and at some points our integrity for shorter bathroom lines, a 75% empty carpark and quicker access to floppy, overpriced hot-dogs. Which is not a lot to hang your hat on when you've been battered by all and sundry for years, but imagine the horror of going through all that AND having to put up crowds. I went to the Grand Final once and missed half the second quarter waiting to take a whizz, people are overrated.

Supporting a desperately unpopular side also comes in handy when somebody's got a corporate box to fill and nobody else wants to go. Bless your heart anonymous benefactor - you know who you are - for inviting me to live the dream in the only place in the MCG other than the MCC Members Dining Room where you're served non-poisonous food without having to first wait for some idiot to pay by credit card and fumble with the mustard packets.

Not that I'd have been there if it wasn't Gold Coast, I'm a Row ZZ-Grade internet identity not a corporate high-flyer so it's clear that had any Victorian team been the opposition corporate fat-cats would have snapped up the tickets long before I was able to get an invitation. As it was there seemed to be plenty of room for everyone in the world of corporate hospitality yesterday:


At least there was a reasonable (relatively speaking) crowd by the time the game started. We had to get there 90 minutes before the bounce and there were more people in the box than outside it until the last 15 minutes. If we hadn't won last week they might as well have relocated the match to Toorak Park for the 1200 likely to show up. Still, I did my bit - the corporate freebie allowed me to rort the attendance figure by scanning in on both that and my membership card. What a wonderful world.

It was a welcome flashback to my late teens when mum's then boss - another true believer from the era when there more than a couple of hundred left - would book the company box whenever they didn't have anyone else of substance to invite, then stack it with Melbourne fans and/or people who just wanted to drink themselves to a standstill. Who could forget the afternoon in 1998 when we beat Collingwood in 1998 and I achieved both criteria, getting blind on about three beers (well I was 17, and thank god for the lax attitude to liquor licensing laws) then climbed into the windowsill to sing the song after we won.

The gravy train ended after the 2000 season - as it did in so many ways - but not before another drunken escapade after which I tried to offer Brad Green my girlfriend and correctly informed Shane Woewodin that he was about to win the Brownlow. It was a great era for mixing prescription medication with alcohol and I look back fondly on it. The football wasn't bad either.

The only time I'd managed to worm my way into a box during the Demonblog era we won. Looking back on the post from that day I'm not one to blow my own horn but *toot toot* on this bit "We need to get over this obsession we have with recruiting all youth and nothing else." How true. Of course this was said in the context of trying to recruit Barry Hall, BUT he did kick 80 goals the next season. Anyway, there'll be plenty more room for Alan Partridge style "needless to say I had the last laugh" anecdotes in my book, so let's get back to the unpleasant reality of 2014.

Much like last week I honestly felt that we would win this game. Admittedly there was less science to the prediction this time compared to playing Carlton fresh from the psych ward with key players dropped for no apparent reason, but I still duped myself into believing that when the China Southern Airlines rock rolled away from the door of the tomb (as foreseen in Roos 24:2-8) it would reveal a resurrected Melbourne Football Club poised to equal the achievements of 2013 in the space of a fortnight and move into a nice apartment in the 12th to 16th neighbourhood.

Maybe it was better for my health if we didn't win. Last week I managed to ride the highs of victory through to about midday Sunday when I went down with a blockbuster migraines which kept me in bed for most of the next two days. In a nod to that Seinfeld episode where George thinks he's going to get cancer because NBC are making the pilot the next thing you know I was being rolled into an MRI machine to make sure that the headaches weren't being caused by a brain tumour. That would certainly have taken the shine off a rare winning week, but I'm happy to report that the results are in and my only serious illness is an almost obsessive attachment to the Melbourne Football Club.

On the other hand, health be damned. Legitimate fatal illnesses aside if the price I had to pay for a premiership was to spend two days in a darkened room 25 weeks in a row then I'd sign up in an irregular heartbeat. The only problem was that the worst of it hit right in the middle of test driving some bloke's car and I temporarily forgot how to drive around a roundabout so I was probably lucky to even make it to the MCG to watch the latest instalment our shite footballing journey.

It's refreshing to see that increased expectations have led to people losing the plot over this result, but let's first remove all the expansion era prejudices from the discussion - Gold Coast are a far better team than we are so don't lob yourself out a window just yet. Sure they got flogged by Fremantle and Hawthorn but wait until you see what sort of X-rated acts those two are going to commit on us.

Compare to the inquest of epic proportions when they thrashed us last year and Neeld should have been given the golden electric chair instead of sputtering along for a few more weeks. With reasonably similar sides we conceded 10.9 to 1.5 at one end of the ground, lost by 10 goals and appeared to be a club run by and for the benefit of complete buffoons. Yesterday there were outbreaks of buffoonery, but at the moment we're so far in front of 2013 it's not funny. The real test is how this 'form' holds up when we trade matches against fringe dwellers and downhill skiers for games against confirmed contenders.

In all fairness even though I'd convinced myself we were going to win we have got a patchy record against Gold Coast. Yesterday may have levelled the all-time series at 3-3 after we won the first three but those came from malicious assault of kids, uninspired back and forth struggle and one great quarter followed by three of slop. You never turn back a win in our situation, but since our first meeting they've shuffled off the garbage, hid Karmichael Hunt in the sick bay and wheeled in solid gold guns like Jaeger O'Meara while we've sacked two coaches, burnt our list to the ground for insurance purposes and generally been a burden on the competition. Don't confuse the fact that they had 89 fans in the stadium with them not being any good, it's the New World Order, and whether you like it or not get used to it because it's probably going to become the best thing around by next year.

Given the obvious gulf in class and workrate between the two teams it's simultaneously outrageous that we were as close as we were in the last quarter and tragic that we didn't go closer to winning. There's no doubt in the world that Gold Coast played better football, they might have helped keep us in the game in the second quarter with absurd kicking on goal, but we did our bit to repay the favour and could very well have snatched it at the end. It wouldn't have been fair, but every one of us would have gleefully taken it.

Surely nobody expected a footballing classic, but it became obvious soon after the start that it was going to be another fumble heavy, shamblesfest where any targets hit bit foot would receive a round of applause. The difference was that eventually Gold Coast players started to run hard to get free for their teammates while we continued to try and thread the eye of the needle with kicks or just ram the ball onto the boot and hope for the best.

Despite it being clear that they were a much better run and carry side (ENORMOUS CLICHE), and were going to run us off our feet all day it didn't mean we couldn't combat it with pressure. Obviously if somebody's roaming free the best thing to do is have one of your players go near them, then wait until the get the ball and force them vigorously into the turf. Shame then we were both as loose as a goose all over the ground AND committed the cardinal sin of losing the disposal count and the tackles.

The manic intensity of last week was replaced with tepid tackling, half-hearted running and far too many needless free kicks given away. In other areas we were ok, Nathan Jones carried half the team on his back again, Jack Viney was a beast at the centre clearances even if his kicking is still a bit wonky, and when we could work the ball to Dawes, Frawley or Howe (in the second half) our forward line looked half reasonable even if their conversion was almost as bad as Gold Coast's.

The problem with the way we were playing was two-fold, for one we couldn't get the damn ball from the back line past halfway without going through 25 stoppages and secondly whenever Gold Coast got their hands on it they sliced us up and down the ground in ginsu knife fashion. Which wouldn't have been so bad if we'd restricted how often they got it instead of participating in a race to turn the ball over at the earliest available opportunity. Further from the land of the furious cliche they 'wanted it more than we did'.

Neither of these problems was so bad in the first quarter. It helped that they were botching shots all over the place and that we got given that Frawley goal despite everyone on the planet knowing it had been touched except the nutbag operating the review system. Looking at the scoreboard across the ground from the Olympic Stand to my beloved Ponsford I could see the deviation off the Gold Coast player's hand even though the screen was split into the four views - three of which were useless. Last week I was celebrating a dodgy decision finally going our way but this was absolutely criminal. If only we'd won by under a goal Gold Coast fans would have trashed AFL House like when Fitzroy got rorted in Adelaide that time.

Despite Dawes' snap (I express my love for this man) and Pedo running back with the flight of the ball then converting (I express my admiration for the way he has been more than adequate for the last three weeks) the biggest problem for me was the ridiculous amount of space we were giving their forwards. Not only was the King of Sizzle getting flogged to death in every one-on-one contest but they were finding spare players everywhere. At one point the marks inside 50 count was about 12-1, which is telling considering that's one of the aspects we stitched Carlton up on last week despite losing most statistical categories.

Issues which would come back to haunt us later aside we still played a reasonable first quarter, and had a lead of over a goal until the last few minutes when they finally took one of our five consecutive hints and finally took advantage of a another failed kick-in/shithouse attempt at short passing inside defensive 50 to kick a goal.

The significant differences - and when it came to the scoreboard the only difference - came in the second quarter where MFC 2012/13 reappeared with a vengeance.  If it wasn't our inability to clear the ball out of defence or stop them roaming free in numbers, it was the difference in contested marks or marks inside 50. If the Suns had converted half their chances it would have been completely over by half time (but as always must be pointed out if they kicked the first one they would never have had the rest so we might have gone on to win by 300) but instead they left the door ever so slightly ajar. Shame that Dawes missed an absolute sitter, but at least he won the free kick by slapping a strong tackle on. The guy might be getting paid out of proportion to what he's done so far but at least he cares. He missed another easy set shot and stuffed up a snap later by being too hasty but it was hard to fault him otherwise.

Frawley was good again two. Like last week he kicked two goals in the first half then dropped out of the game a bit but is doing an excellent job in an unfamiliar position. Unfortunately with McDonald getting massacred, Georgiou looking shaky and Pedersen often on duties elsewhere we could really have done with Chip in defence at times today. Does anybody know if Jesse Hogan is still alive? If he can free up Frawley to go back and hang out with Garland then with all respect to his enjoyable forward cameos we'll be much better off.

Whatever good moments there were they were rarely seen in the second quarter. As players stuck out an arm and allowed an opponent to jog past it looked like Mark Neeld's famous "attempted tackles" were back in fashion, but there were also brief periods of reasonable football. Too brief. It made me want more, but usually five seconds later somebody was either hoofing the ball out of bounds on the full (OOF) or handballing it to a team-mate at a standstill who would then be mobbed.

Speaking out OOF, congratulations to Dean Terlich on completing one of the worst kicks I've ever seen during the first quarter. Has a ball ever taken such an angle to go out of bounds under no pressure? The last time anything even remotely as bad happened was during one of my very rare attempts at playing the sport when I was foolishly entrusted with a kick-in and managed a kick so bad that it went OOF but only narrowly missed going back through for a point from the top of the square. I challenge anybody from the MFC to top that.

In a continuing reversal of 2012/13 we were good in the third quarter again, but now it was our chance to start stuffing up shots on goal. Gold Coast were still moving the ball far better, and they looked significantly more dangerous whenever they went forward but I guess everyone thinks the other side are more likely to score.

When they got the first goal it was almost time to check the drop height from the box window (answer: not far enough) but we did well from there and if any of the three behinds late in the quarter had gone through I'd have been convinced we were a big chance. As it was I still felt like we were close enough if the Suns fell into a ditch, but that having reverted to the MFC who make scoring goals look more difficult than climbing Mt Everest what chance were we of a) scoring enough to overhaul a 20 point deficit, b) defending well enough to stop them from scoring. As it turns out the answer to both questions was 'nil'.

Still, teams sometimes win games when they've been second best all day - and what better time to do it than against a team just as inexperienced as we are. When Nathan Jones, grand human and the Robbie Flower of his generation, dragged the margin back to 13 points with a long, LONG time to play we were very much a theoretical chance but in all honesty I've never felt so far behind from a 13 point margin in my life.

Had it been the other way around I'd have been 100% convinced that we were going to get overhauled and rolled on the last kick of the day, but when it's us chasing the idea of a grandstand comeback seems stupid. Yet with five minutes to go they were pretty much out on their feet, and after Jack Viney got his goal we could very well have steamrolled them - if we hadn't then conceded a goal straight out of the centre bounce like complete dickheads.

Other than a couple of late consolations that was it, we'd left ourselves too much to do and didn't have enough good players to do it with. It didn't help that Gary Ablett was gifted one of the worst free kicks of all time (presumably his whinging about McKenzie's tag last year and the recent Trent Cotchin scragging debacle were front of mind for the umpires) but then again we did get what was officially the worst ever video review goal earlier so it's hard to point the finger too vigorously, even if we were shafted in several other uncomfortable ways by the umpires throughout the afternoon.

That we got so close was even more amazing considering how many bad players we had. Not necessarily 'bad' full stop, but well under their best. Vince and Tyson played like Byrnes and Rodan, Watts had one of those days where he's not all that concerned, Bail tried hard but was Bail, the King of Sizzle shaved his head and got thrashed accordingly, Spencer barely went near it, Terlich and Georgiou looked more like SANFL players than ever before, McKenzie couldn't get into it offensively or defensively and both Kennedy-Harris and Jetta were horrible in the first half before recovering to be at least reasonable in the second. One of them has the excuse of youth, the other is due to be inducted in the Juice Newton Society of VFL stars who just can't get over the line in the seniors.

Most of the players ran into the brick-wall of their own limitations, but if you accept that Tyson is still young the two without excuses are Vince and Watts. A'la Pedersen vs Gysberts we're still in front on Vince vs Sylvia, but let's be fair even though he had a few touches yesterday he's hardly fired a shot since Round 2. I'm certainly not saying he's in danger of getting dropped, because it's not like we've got enough quality in teh 2nds to put the pressure on, but he can add more. Given that we can't take the ball from centre half-back to centre-forward to save ourselves maybe he can play some role in that?

As for Watts I find it quite ironic than in the weekend where somebody finally admitted than Nic Nat is ridiculously overrated (though it was Tony Shaw so you've got to suspend your disbelief to believe that he's right) that Jack's approval rating has hit levels not seen since he got dropped post-148. Which is a shame because just when you think he's going alright he puts in a stinker where he looks like he's got absolutely no interest and has as much chance of winning a one-on-one contest as I do. Dropping him seems like the easy way out and I'm not into it, but god I'd love to see this again:



There was a hint of it last week, but I just want him to get made. I love the videos of him flipping pancakes for the homeless and visiting sick kids but for god's sake it's time for him to get angry. There's no pressure left to become the best player in the world but surely at some point the desire to ram a fork into the eyeball of your detractors kicks in? Perhaps not.

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Nathan Jones
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Chris Dawes
2 - Cameron Pedersen
1 - Jeremy Howe

Apologies to Cross, Dunn and Frawley who were in the lottery for the last two spots.

Leaderboard
The medal is already at the engraving shop. Make room on your mantelpiece Nathan Jones, a world record fourth Jakovich is almost certainly coming your way. His current total would already be good for fifth in any of the last three years.

19 - Nathan Jones
9 - Lynden Dunn (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
8 - Daniel Cross, James Frawley
6 - Dom Tyson, Jack Viney
4 - Jack Watts
3 - Chris Dawes, Tom McDonald, Dean Terlich
2 - Jeremy Howe, Cameron Pedersen
1 - Jack Grimes, Jake Spencer (Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
No change. Pedo from the boundary in Round 4 reigns supreme. Chris Dawes wins the weekly prize of a night out at the Dromana Drive-In with Tom McNamara for his snap around the corner in the first quarter.


Small in size their creation may be, the Suns cheersquad goes closer than anyone else yet this season to toppling us. Considering they can't have more than a handful of people who scabbed on their team to change sides in 2011 they had a decent crack, and to their credit it was a proper run-through with no Carlton style gigantic slit (insert Bryce Gibbs jokes in the space provided) so players could go through the motions without having to touch crepe paper.

So, just like the Demons they lose narrowly but were always second best on the day. The introduction of a new font and some comedy flames to the non-sponsor side of the banner seal our fifth straight victory and that makes it 5-0 Melbourne.

The Name Game (+ more pissing about the with rules)
The great names on jumpers experiment went off without any total fiascos (unlike, say, the great decision review system experiment) so it's inevitable that they'll bring it in next year. It was a bit rich of the AFL to claim that they were waiting for fan opinion before deciding because it's not like they give half a shit about what the people think at any other time, but at the same time nobody believes that they care if we care so it all balances out.

The concept doesn't exactly enthuse me, and five years ago if I had nothing else to complain about I'd probably be vocally against it but let's be fair about three weeks after they're permanently introduced (i.e by Round 3 2015) nobody will give a second thought to any player who doesn't have a silly or extremely long surname. On that note it seems rude that they went out of their way to give Lewis Roberts-Thompson "LRT" (I'm sorry, is Lewis part of his surname?) but Jay Kennedy-Harris ends up paying tribute to his name with the exceedingly dull "K-Harris". Why doesn't he get JKH? Why doesn't LRT get R-Thompson? Does anyone except me actually care?

Other than the K-Harris fiasco the only change I noticed is that we had to move the MCC logo to the very bottom of the jumper so it was practically sitting above a player's ringpiece. That can't be beneficial for our relationship with them. Not sure how we can't fit it up the top when GWS/Sydney/Brisbane/Footscray can jam CANBERRA/SMFC/BBFFC/FFC and god knows what else above their names.

Either way, it's coming in 2015 and will neatly coincide with my retirement from half-kit wankerdom. Having ruined so many careers just by sporting player numbers (and Sam Blease is getting the treatment as we speak) I'm not adding names to the mix as well. This retirement will last until I'm about 40, have a mid-life crisis and decide that wearing the name of a 20-year-old on my back is a sensible idea.

I'm not sure whose benefit it's for, but in a world where people speak in one breath about limiting interchanges to make players even more fatigued then in another bemoan the fact that there's five thrashings every week (and what do you think is going to happen to shit teams when they're badly overmatched AND crawling along the turf for most of the last quarter?) it's far from the worst thing that's happened to the game in recent years.

On the other hand this could just about put me away. I'm there for the MFC until the shutters come down, but soon you're going to need to carry a guidebook around to understand what's going on in an AFL match. What is this state of footballing nirvana that we're trying to achieve by stuffing the rules around constantly? Can somebody please draw me a diagram of the perfect world that we're striving to journey to? When was football 'good' and how many people were complaining then that it used to be better? Perhaps time to admit that we've got a good game but it's not the greatest thing that's ever been invented and stop waffling on about 'rolling mauls' every five seconds.

No doubt Channel 7 and Fox Footy are on the phone 24/7 begging the AFL to do anything they can to help them boost television ratings, but who doesn't think that whatever brainwaves the boffins in the AFL's Footy Engineering division come up with will backfire 10 seconds later and we'll be left in exactly the same position in two or three years time. And the players want to make free agency even easier to achieve - how about we just pay them half instead (rookies and other minimum wage cases exempted) and if they can find another league to play in then good luck to them.

Crowd Watch
Never before have I heard an MCG crowd of any size flatter than when the 3/4 time siren went. At least last year there was people booing and shouting "off with his head!" This time despite there being 4000 more people in the ground nobody knew what to do.

Meanwhile, as nice as my accommodation for the day was I did find myself looking longingly over at the empty top deck of the Ponsford Stand thinking I could be over there swearing and kicking things to my hearts content with nobody within 20 rows to annoy.

Next Week
Now that Sydney are back in form there is little doubt that they will beat us, but it's important for the morale of everyone involved that we don't get murdered. As pointed out in the post for last year's Gold Coast disaster (one 100x worse than what happened this week) it's extremely rare for teams to win three games or less in a season. So rare that only Fitzroy (RIP) and GWS (unfortunately not RIP) have done it since 1987, and as much as last week showed me that a party can break out unexpectedly I still fear we'll struggle to reach four wins as the year goes on and we're gradually torn apart by (more) injury trouble and (more) confidence issues.

So forget those who have already been tried and failed this season, time to roll in the tried and true. And Mitch Clisby.

IN: Clisby, Garland, Jamar
OUT: Terlich, Jetta, Georgiou (omit)
LUCKY: Bail, Evans
UNLUCKY: Salem (by all accounts ran riot in the VFL but there's no need to throw him under the reality bus just yet), Toumpas (career all but destroyed by us drafting him)

Was it worth it?
As somebody with a sick fetish for watching videos/reading about the death of South Melbourne and Fitzroy yes - every day above ground is a good day.

Final Thoughts
Given that we were exchanging the cold, barren emptiness of the Ponsford Stand Row AA to LL for civilised inside comfort I took my beloved to the game. It was the first time she'd been with me since Round 22, 2010. Halfway through the second quarter she said: "I don't know how you do this every week". It seemed appropriate, but I had to explain that this wasn't even in the bottom 50 performances since that night.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Yes Movement (Formerly "Pain, Blues and agony")


Sorry torture porn enthusiasts, the streak is over and the weekly session of hand-wringing and fear will be temporarily suspended and replaced with both joy AND optimism. The last 288 days of premiership point free football have been shithouse, and I don't care how it was achieved or to what degree the opposition are in crisis it was magnificent. To quote Ron Barassi, as he provided inspiration for the future casual press conferences of Mark Thompson by chowing down on an apple, "a win is a win is a win". But this was better than that.

In a way it's nice when Melbourne win and the footy world grinds to a screeching halt. I can only close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to win a Grand Final, but if general outpouring of public support is anything to go by I suspect it wouldn't be much different to the way my phone went into overdrive yesterday. Except that I'd have blown a blood vessel in my head and wouldn't be reading any of it. For now it was tweets out the yin yang, texts from about 25 different people and general communication carnage. It's often the same people who write in when we have a surprise win, but tellingly the Essendon fans who were quiet on that night in 2012 were right on board today and Carlton fans who were keen on laying the boots into the Bombers for committing football suicide against us then weren't as keen to comment when it was their own side jumping out the window.

On the other hand it's also a bit unfortunate that we're seen as comic relief for the rest of the football world. Winning will never stop being fun, and it's even more entertaining when the entire football world is on your side but it's still a mark of how much tripe we've served up over the last few years that everyone can cheer on Mick Malthouse's nervous breakdown because they know that the MFC threat level hasn't been above 'guarded' since 16 July 2011.

Continuing the spirit of love and openness (has somebody spiked my drink?) I'm prepared to admit the following - Carlton were two men down for most of the second half, they botched easy chances galore, that downfield free kick which got us a goal in the third quarter was rubbish and we will still almost certainly finish last or second last in 2014 BUT I know another struggling side who have had similar rotten luck in winnable games over the last couple of years so at this point in history who gives a rats about any of that? I'm grasping this win with both hands and running around the house hoisting it above my head. Let's temporarily forget the horrors of the past and enjoy the reason we got into this caper in the first place - spending every waking minute of our life until 3.19pm next Sunday enjoying the luxury of the winner's circle.

Apart from my own glee at the result, reward for effort by the players and the rare chance to see broad smiles on our fans walking to the train station after the game (including the two guys who had thrown decorum out the window along with Carlton's finals hopes and were opening whizzing against the railway bridge), I'm so happy for everyone in a non-football role at the club. It must be a far happier place to work when we're not rock bottom in the laughing stock league. Even the receptionist will be answering the phone on Monday morning without flinching in anticipation of some peanut yelling at her.

The odd thing about this game is that I actually thought we were going to win. That's usually the first step to coming out of the weekend disappointed, disillusioned and with my tips in disarray but this time it seemed clear that they were gettable - and gimmick content aside I'm glad that this was the week I got to immortalise my tip as part of the BigFooty Melbourne board unofficial preview.

When I predicted something special to happen at the first bounce I was thinking more of McKenzie hurling Marc Murphy to the turf with furious vengeance, not Spencer giving away a silly free and Cross an even sillier 50m penalty to gift Carlton a goal. When they had two by the time we'd had all of one handball I was wondering whether it was time to finally try and retrieve that Cyanide tablet that I shelved late in 2011. But from there we scared the living bejesus out of the Blues and found out - to quote that old bloke from Dad's Army - "they don't like it up them".

I didn't tip us to win because I thought we'd suddenly start playing champagne football (and let's be fair, apart from a few great moments we didn't) but with this being the 497th post in Demonblog history I think what I've failed to grasp in match and tactical analysis I've more than compensated for in knowing a mentally haunted team when I see one. When Malthouse dropped Waite and Garlett - who had combined to belt the living suitcase out of us last time - it became even clearer that had everyone involved with the club had lost the plot and were ripe for the picking. This wasn't a surprise implosion like Essendon 2012, they were like a ship rapidly taking on water.

Still, after those first two goals they might very well have realised who they were playing and decided to mash us into the ground. As the West Coast game showed we are certainly not capable of mounting comebacks from 40-1 down at quarter time just yet. And admittedly we lost almost every statistical category except botch goalscoring opportunities but the players kept the pressure on, spent the next 100 minutes running their heart out and jumping on Carlton players at every opportunity. And they were rewarded accordingly.

It didn't hurt that our forward line looked 500 times better with Dawes down there and Frawley playing up front in non-Hurricane conditions. There have rarely been better eight possession performances than the one Dawes put in, and that's taking into account that the fact that he was about to keel over and die from exhaustion in the last quarter. Now that we've come to the realisation that he will actually never play alongside Clark I can instead cope with him linking up with Jesse Hogan (should he ever play) or newly minted forward line superstar James Frawley who I would probably have paid 800k a season yesterday I was so randy.

Last week I was insinuating that he was just down there because he's going to chuff off at the end of the year anyway, and that may be correct, but Chip has clearly decided that if Mitch isn't coming back then he'll just play in the same style. While it was a fun experiment in the slop last week, this time in dry weather it was glorious. As far as key defenders mysteriously thrown forward (non-Tankquiry department) it had less goals than Rivers vs GWS in 2012 but better in every other aspect. Hopefully Peter Jackson dressed as a kid and held a long-term contract over the fence at the end of the game disguised as an autograph book.

He was magnificent, but he certainly had a hand from Dawes. Could this finally shut up the delusional people who complained about signing him because they expected 75 goals a season? Players "straightening up" teams is one of the great cliches but if it's ever been relevant it was yesterday. Compare and contrast his performance, as underdone as he was, to the horrible struggles of Cam Pedersen up front in the first two weeks of the season and the difference between the two as forwards is clear. I'm not suggesting he's going to single handedly drag us into the eight or win the Best and Fairest but he runs his guts out up and down the ground and both sets up and kicks goals - twice from outside 50 this week. That will do me nicely thanks. Besides, it's rare that rushing somebody into the side after not playing a game of any variety in months actually works or they don't break down in the middle of it so that should be celebrated as well.

He played his part in the first goal, but it was set up by Jack Viney - who was sensational all day - battling hard to win a ball on the boundary line. He could have just taken it out for a throw-in, but instead he fought it hard, kicked towards Dawes who bumped his hapless opponent out of the way and then dropped a perfect kick on Watts 25m out directly in front. It was easily the best passage of football we'd put together for the whole season. Fun fact - apparently before this week we'd only taken one mark within 30m of goal in three games.

The record for "best passage" didn't last long, and it was topped by the next goal. Bernie Vince was kicking in and was about to do the usual "bomb it long and hope like buggery" thing when he noticed that Jordie McKenzie was all on his own down the middle on defensive 50. At the last minute he changed direction, hit the target perfectly, McKenzie kicked to a hard leading Frawley, he nailed Dawes with a perfect pass and voila we were back in the match and - whisper it quietly - having a good time of it.

Suddenly we looked like we had a reasonable forward line. Dunn is playing out of his skin at the moment, and will probably get picked up as a free agent now just to spite everyone who hung shit on him for his moustache, and with all due respect to Shannon Byrnes and his mate who went spaz in the comments of the unofficial preview for daring to suggest he should be dropped, Jay Kennedy-Harris might have kicked less goals but his chase and pressure was about 100 times better. The run-down tackle to save a near certain goal in the first quarter was something else we've not seen enough this season.

Carlton's struggles aside we even managed to ride out Vince having an ordinary game and Tyson not getting a kick in the first quarter. They won the centre clearances but after some aimless 'throw ball on foot' hoof kicking in the first quarter we spent the rest of the game hitting more targets than at any time in recent years. For the people who like to boo any kicking that doesn't go forward there was also a significant reduction in side-to-side dink, because more often than not there was actually more than one forward down the ground.

It wasn't just the forwards though. Don't discount the contributions of Cross, Viney, McKenzie and out of nowhere Rohan Bail in pressuring the Blues into turning the ball over or making Melbourne-esque skill errors every five seconds. Or The King of Sizzle running riot in the backline. God help us all it was the classic team effort.

It was the mark of a quality day out that not only did we kick - what is for us - a decent amount of goals, but that three of them were genuine contenders for Goal of the Year (read on to find which of the great goalsneaks it's been named after). Usually we struggle to get three sloppy goals, today people were kicking them from all angles. It's hard to believe that last year we kicked as many goals in one quarter as we did Saturday afternoon yet this still seems like a good result, but since that day we've only got to 12 goals five times so there is something meritorious (relatively speaking) about it. And more importantly, admittedly aided by some shocking misses, we managed to stop leaking goals at the other end as well.

The first of the contenders came in the second quarter. Dawes knocking Dale Thomas out of the way to allow Cross to gather the ball on the boundary, he gives it to Tyson who puts a horror first quarter behind him by handballing to Nathan Jones to kick a goal under pressure on the run from the boundary line. If confidence wasn't up Cross would have just taken the ball out of bounds, but this was a new adventurous spirit because they realised they were up to their eyeballs in the match.

You can't argue with five goals in a row for the first time (I assume without looking it up) since that avalanche against GWS last year, but in the interest of demanding higher standards it's a bit of a shame the pressure fell away late in the quarter and we let them get a couple of goals back. They could have had more too if they hadn't kicked like total muppets, but then again we had three shots on goal through Vince, Bail and Frawley. They might all have missed, but there are some games where we don't get three marks inside 50 for an entire half so thank god for small mercies.

Part of the reason for the hot period in the second quarter was Nathan Jones' demolition job on Marc Murphy. For somebody supposedly doing a defensive job he was racking up touches left, right and centre - not to mention kicking the goal out of his arse from the boundary line. He wasn't the only one who fired up though, Dom Tyson had been tagged to buggery in the first quarter before coming good and even The Spencil delivered a highlight with his one armed inspector gadget style tackle on Yarran.

The problem with Spencer is that high profile kicking cock-ups aside he is actually somewhat useful around the ground as a #1 ruckman but completely at sea in the forward line. So what do you know if Jamar/Gawn come back? Use them as the 'forward' who chips-in at centre bounces like Pedersen did yesterday? It's a nice dilemma to have, but god knows what it means for the career of Jack Fitzpatrick.

Our third quarters are legendary so I think everyone was bracing for farce, shambles and disgrace after we'd had a competitive performance dangled tantalisingly above our eyes, but not only did we stay above water we did it courtesy of some sexy football. How about JFK handballing over his head to Dawes who slaps it into the arms of a running Bail to kick a goal on the run? How about Bail full stop in the second half. At half time I was ready to continue my campaign to have him dropped to the Casey Reserves but he came out and put in an absolute belter of a second half a'la that first NAB Cup game. More of that please.

They'd cut the margin back to nine when our second contender for goal of the year came. Dawes played his part again without registering a stat, bring the ball to ground for Kennedy-Harris who snapped around the corner despite being decked in a tackle at the same time and watched the ball almost roll into the post via a novelty bounce. If it had he'd probably be getting slaughtered for not handballing back to Dawes, but as it went through I'm prepared to declare it a magnificent and rare piece of crumb.

Then somehow from Spencer and Warnock lobbing haymakers at each other the umpire reported the man who once failed to fall for our famous Powerpoint presentation, picked a free to us at the other end of the ground and gifted us a goal, which caused every Carlton fan in the ground to lose the plot. It was all going gloriously right for us for once.

There's no doubt that we had the wobbles on in the first few minutes of the last quarter, but bless Carlton's little hearts they kicked about six points in a row instead of piling on a few goals and causing us to pack it in. When we went down the other end and Watts got his second it was like the usual script had been turned around, usually we toil away for 10 minutes for no reward only for the other side to kick one, two or 11 goals in a row to punish us.

I was starting to believe, but Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome (MSDS) is a lifelong affliction so when Michael Evans' snap (how I love a snap. Have you noticed?) took a comical bounce instead of going through and sealing the game with a few minutes to go I just naturally assumed that it was setting the stage for a heartbreaking comeback. When they kicked a goal almost straight after it seemed a near certainty. Then, enter Pedo (not that one), the man whose struggles up forward in the first two weeks are legendary but who has found a new lease of life in the backline since, who suddenly found himself forward, dropped a mark then stood up, gathered the ball and under ludicrous pressure kicked possibly the most glorious sealer since Adem Yze against St Kilda in the 2006 Elimination Final - and good luck to him too, he deserved it after two good performances in a row. It's ironic that he ended up kicking a goal when he wasn't supposed to be down there, but his last two weeks have shown he's a far better defender than forward.

And that was it. Cue the sort of wild scenes that come of shit sides having any sort of win. Fans of Geelong or Hawthorn must shake their head looking at the joy and wonderment that we get from even the least complicated of wins, but believe me outsiders your club might have been pox at some point in its recent history but unless you're a Fitzroy or University fan you may not be able to understand the feelings that follow ANY sort of win in a competitive match.

Good news, we're 15th and it's possible that both Brisbane AND Carlton might be in far deeper crisis than anyone expected. The teams below us might change but suddenly my prediction of 16th seems realistic when a week ago I'd decided we'd go 0-22 and have to hand our licence over to a consortium from Great Keppel Island.

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - James Frawley
4 - Nathan Jones
3 - Tom McDonald
2 - Jack Viney
1 - Jack Grimes

Apologies to ALL even if they don't deserve them - but mainly to Rohan Bail, Daniel Cross and Chris Dawes who might have all snuck in for one.

Leaderboard
The minor awards have never been in so much disarray with Dunn and Frawley flirting openly with disqualification by playing up front so much. It doesn't matter what position they get their votes in (see for instance Fitzpatrick picking up a ruckman award last year) but both of them are teetering on the brink of being kicked out by the Seecamp committee. If they keep taking 25 marks between them every week then the committee can do as they please. Meanwhile Nathan Jones just continues to win at football.

14 - Nathan Jones
9 - Lynden Dunn (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
8 - Daniel Cross, James Frawley
6 - Dom Tyson
4 - Jack Watts
3 - Tom McDonald, Dean Terlich
2 - Jack Viney
1 - Jack Grimes, Jeremy Howe, Jake Spencer (Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)


(Thanks to DemonsBeth for the new graphic, which I think brings a touch of class to this feature)

Having been alerted to potential kerning issues with the MFC banner I was ready to give Carlton's effort a chance but found myself tremendously disappointed. Did they have a lot of sickies at banner preparation night? All it had was "Prove them wrong" on one side (how's that going?) with an upside down W used as an M and something equally asinine on the other. The worst bit was the pre-torn curtain, so large that you could drive a tank through it (too soon?), causing superstitious players to have to reach to their full extension to get a touch of it. They later suffered two shoulder injuries. Coincidence? I think not. 4-0 Dees.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Congratulations to the one time Allen Jakovich Medallist and one time Paul Prymke Plate winner for achieving the honour courtesy of the many goals he pulled out of his proverbial during his career. As alluded to earlier we have a new winner, and while the first two both have their supporters I can't go past Cameron Pedersen from the members boundary line to seal the game.

It wasn't just the fact that he got up after dropping the mark and was almost being throw into the fence when he kicked it BUT that it just fell over the line and into the corner of the goal - close enough to confuse and frustrate both Carlton defenders and fans alike. Congratulations Cam, and commiserations to Bernard Vince whose reign at the top lasted three weeks.

Crowd Watch
Wasn't it glorious to be the ones causing others to slip their moorings and go into full scale panic mode for once? We've done enough 'red faced men over the race' work in the last few years so it was nice to cause some Carlton humanoid to hang over the race waving his membership around. What an empty threat that is, at least throw the thing at them. It would be tremendously amusing if Carlton tracked him down, cancelled his card, sent him a refund and told him to piss off. More likely he'll be co-opted to the board.

Being a Carlton home game we were treated not only to supporter-for-hire Pete Lazar pretending to be a huge Blues man shortly before ducking off to pull on a St Kilda polo shirt but a half-time "dance competition" which was featured on "dance cam". Now, you'd think this is the sort of thing that kids would do and that would be ok I suppose, but my god there were a lot of adults and people of advanced years cutting a rug in the hope of winning whatever poxy prize was on offer. Plenty of Melbourne fans too, clearly not understanding that if it's a Carlton home game you could dance the Tango De La Muerte up and down the steps of the Southern Stand until you dropped dead and they wouldn't give you the prize.

As a promotion it was still better than their gimmick of letting people tweet the scoreboard. It was in the same class as our "send your selfie to the scoreboard" concept, but because of focused on text rather than pictures we were instead allowed us to read the thoughts of the criminally insane and/or 8-year-olds who probably shouldn't have Twitter accounts in the first place. It was hard to miss these intrusions because they kept putting them on the screen in the middle of the game instead of being polite to the 30,000 people who don't give a shit if @lukegriffo enjoyed the dance contest. Sadly the Blues didn't take the opportunity to put the rest of Luke's tweets up on the screen where he was going off his nut like a Melbourne fan and declaring everyone to be pissweak. Which is a shame. People wonder why everyone's stopping going to games, but I can tell you that the answer is not giving them a chance to make a dick of themselves on the scoreboard.

Other than the default setting of fear and loathing amongst opposition supporters the major highlight of the day was a new married couple showing up in the top deck of the Ponsford Stand midway through the last quarter to have their photos taken. I hope they weren't Carlton fans, because they'll have to Photoshop the scoreboard in the background. God only knows why they were there otherwise. Maybe they just wanted shots at the ground and the MCG told them to get stuffed so they decided on guerrilla tactics? In a classic money saving move they even waited until the fourth quarter so they could get in for free - because when you're spending $50,000 on a wedding why not skip paying to get in, then drag your dress worth thousands of dollars through spilt beer and squished mustard packets? The reason I was paying so much attention was that right in front of where they were taking the photos was a Carlton fan in a Manchester United jacket so I was waiting for him to snap from stress on both fronts and start swinging punches at the happy couple.

The lid was well off on the way home, not only was there overt public urination going on outside Richmond Station but some bloke was going up and down the train carriage declaring "Melbourne can beat anyone, I told you" despite the fact that he'd clearly never met anybody else on the train in his life. You have to admire his optimism, but I feel like he might have been getting a little bit ahead of himself. We might be able to beat any of the shit teams on our best day, but if we got within 300 of Hawthorn the way we played I'd be thrilled. At one point between Burnley and Heyington he had to interrupt his Barassi style pep-talk to take a phone call and assure the person on the other end of the line that he definitely was coming home. I'm not sure he was all there,

Next week
It'd be nice if the momentum didn't come to a quick end next Sunday. The pay-off for getting a couple of mil from the league is to play the lowest drawing MCG game of the year on Easter Sunday. It's arguably a better result than playing the same fixture on Mothers' Day, but without consulting the calendar there's no doubt we'll be playing a lunchtime game against Kilsyth that day too. At least being on a one game winning streak should ensure that more than 10,000 people turn up at the odd time of 3.20pm.

Having said that at least we can go into the game on a high for once. Who didn't become slightly excited when the saw Gary Ablett clutching his arm in the Hawks/Suns game? Did no Hawthorn player think to yank on the thing?

I doubt we'll win, but at least there's the tantalising prospect of a bizarre Frawley vs Warnock battle of the full-forwards. Doesn't seem much reason to make changes, but we could very well have a glut of potential ins. Trengove and Toumpas would want to fire up for Casey on Sunday if they want to come back in to a winning side, and Jamar could probably do with another week in the 2s just so we don't tinker with a winning formula too much. We don't find a winning formula often, may as well enjoy it.

Assuming Terlich's hamstring is going to keep him out...

IN: Clisby
OUT: Terlich (inj)

... and may god have mercy on us all. Gold Coast were just pulverised by Hawthorn, but almost everyone's going to cop that from the Hawks this year so it's hard to tell. From half watching it they did appear to be playing reasonable football at times, but the margin of victory probably cost us any chance they'll rest Ablett after his arm/shoulder injury. Sounds like a job for the MFC Armbar Squad.

Was it worth it?



Final thoughts
The doom and misery has lifted slightly courtesy of this week, but never let your guard down for a minute there are still plenty of people trying to shuffle us out the door. At the risk of Kevin Sheedy yelling at me for applying war metaphors to football (which is wrong, except when he does it) I encourage you to climb into the Betta Electrical Foxhole and fight for this club like your life depended on it. If you need any motivation I suggest reading this thread full of hillbillies with modems trying to fold, relocate or merge us. Living well is the best revenge.

Now, what did I do with my login/password to that dodgy footy torrents site?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Unofficial preview - Round 4 vs Carlton - Tuesdays with Mickie

Originally posted on the BigFooty Melbourne board.

Once a week I'm forced to attend an anger management course at AFL Headquarters in Docklands. It's part of the 2012 High Court judgement of Scully vs Lunatic Fringe but that's not important right now.

Every Tuesday I sit in a room full of overheated SEN listeners, the people who they cross to whenever there's a contentious umpiring decision and Garry Lyon (who everyone knows is just there practising how to fake being upset when James Brayshaw does a 'gag' about him being hairy) while the league's psychologist attempts to calm our frayed nerves by playing replays of comedic Mark Thompson press conferences for a couple of hours.

It doesn't always work out, but for most participants the therapy allows us to get on with our lives after another stressful weekend at the footy. At least until the teams come out on a Thursday night and we find ourselves screaming tweeting obscenities to melbournefc when Rohan Bail is named in the forward pocket as if the person who reads the incoming tweets is actually the Chairman of Selectors.

I stepped out of this week's session, filled with a love of life after listening a one hour loop of Bomber saying "Triple M" for no apparent reason. As I walked towards the front door I noticed a new face grappling with the 200 page admission form. I recognised him as that guy who was quite successful coaching Collingwood then gave it all up to yell at people in press conferences. What a coincidence to run into him in this of all weeks. My team is shit, his team is shit, we're playing each other on Saturday, I'm due to write the unofficial preview. It was a remarkable coincidence. I waited until he filled out his Next of Kin as a Mr E. McGuire from Collingwood before interrupting.

"Excuse me Mr. Malthouse" I said, politely trying to get his attention. He spun around and pulled a small knife from his pocket, thrusting it at me and screaming "what do you want you prick?".

It could have ended badly, after all we've all heard those rumours about him filleting one of Hutchy's unpaid interns in the carpark of Optus Oval for sneezing during a press conference, but as he looked me up and down he realised that I wasn't wearing media accreditation he quickly apologised. As he stashed the blade back in his pocket he took a small paper bag out of the other.

"Journalist?" he said.

I shook my head.

Mick thrust the small paper bag at me. "No, I mean do you want some journalist? This one was from The Age. He asked if I thought I'd underestimated Carlton's list when I took over. I ate his liver with some Fava beans."

As he scooped his hand into the bag then ravenously chowed down on the still twitching fingers of a cadet sports writer I politely declined. There was a moment of awkward silence while he wiped some blood from the corner of his mouth before I continued.

"How do you think you'll go against the Dees this week?" I asked. There was another moment of silence as he put the bag down on the reception desk. His head bowed slightly and the colour drained from his face.

"Mate, I'm worried" he confessed. "You know my record, you know I've done it all. I've coached more premierships than Footscray and St Kilda have won combined. But I'm in real trouble now".

Carlton's woes are well known, but having watched Melbourne spontaneously combust several times in the last few years I've got little sympathy for them. After all it may have taken a quirk of fate and a major AFL investigation for them to make the finals in 2013, but weren't the Blues in exactly the same position after three rounds last year? Was Mick just feeling the weight of entitlement, and a substantial contract, on his shoulders?

He leaned towards me and admitted that there was something different about 2014. A fear of failure. The chance that his legacy might be tainted by failing miserably with a Blues side who had been quite capably but unspectacularly led by Brett Ratten before his unceremonious execution.

"Now after three rotten weeks to start the season I have to play Melbourne. Melbourne. Can you believe it?"

"What's so bad about that?" I said. "Haven't you been watching the first few weeks of the season? We're neck deep in quicksand and sinking rapidly".

He shook his head and looked at me as if I was stupid.

"Mate, your team can't score in the first quarter and my team can't stop other teams scoring in the first quarter. What does that tell you?"

"It'll be a nil-all draw?" I said, wincing as the last word came out in the expectation that he would garrotte me on the waiting room floor.

"No peasant, it means that the mental cases I'm in charge of are deeply vulnerable to any team who can gather up even the slightest bit of confidence. Your players go into every game expecting to lose. Good god you even had to drop one to the VFL just so he could have an enjoyable week, but mine still think they're finals contenders. And you know how that's working out."

"Yeah, but Mick.. err, Mr Malthouse, it's Melbourne. You were there the Friday night we played for a nil-all draw against Carlton. Remember, you called Addam Maric a cheat. Well, things have got a lot worse for us since then let me tell you"

A lone tear ran down Mick's face. The fear had gripped him. The fear that your side will be the one to finally hand a basketcase its first win of the year. He gripped me by the shoulders.

"I'll tell you what I'm afraid of son. It's that your mentally flattened, joke of a club who were flogged in the tackles by a bunch of 15-year-olds and Heath Shaw last week actually come to play from the first bounce. That they will throw themselves at the ball like maniacs and throw my players into the turf at every opportunity. That this will be the week that they decide to go out and regain their dignity."

After 12 straight losses dating back to June 2013 I wasn't sure how to respond to this claim, so I stayed silent and let him finish.

"Look at a guy like Jordie McKenzie. He's not the most talented player in the competition, but he can tackle, and he can chase, and he can harass. Imagine he pins one of our players with a strong tackle in the first few minutes, and his kick forward is marked by a player actually running to space, and that when his shot on goal falls to the ground after one of your makeshift talls offers a contest that there's a player there to crumb it for a goal. We'll go to pieces. The mental battle will be over. We've got more to lose than you have, don't you forget that mucus."

I didn't doubt that last statement for a second. We're expected to lose, while a Carlton defeat will lead to even more Blues fans openly admitting that like Robert Walls they never liked Mick in the first place, but a piece of play ending with a Melbourne player crumbing a goal did seem highly unlikely.

I had to admit that he did make a good point. All the pressure is on them this week. They're coming off two shocking first quarters, and if any team should know more about how broken spirits in the first few minutes can ruin a team for the rest of the game it should be us. It's never been more vital to get off to a good start than this week (well, it's always vital, but work with me here).

Mick started laughing through the tears. "If you see Paul Roos tell him not to pick McKenzie. We'd rather play against a bunch of fancyboys racking up their attempted tackle stats in the rain. While you're at it rest Jack Viney, Daniel Cross and Nathan Jones too. The last thing my lot need is to run into players who try their guts out every week."

I thought I'd impress the master coach with a stat. I said "Did you know that Jay Kennedy-Harris has had as many tackles for the season as Shannon Byrnes despite playing about 25% of the game time?"

"I don't even know who that is" said Mick.

"Which one?"

"Either of them"

At this point the receptionist interrupted. "Excuse me Mr Malthouse" she said, "Mr. Scott and Mr. Clarkson are here. We can start the session now."

The coach of Carlton bid me farewell with one piece of advice "Watch what happens at the first bounce" he cried before turning his back so that the straight jacket could be applied.

I bade the master coach farewell, pulled my collar up and walked back onto a wind strewn Harbour Esplanade. Maybe the first step up the ladder of respectability will come by stepping on somebody else's throat?

Dees by 28
Once a week I'm forced to attend an anger management course at AFL Headquarters in Docklands. It's part of the 2012 High Court judgement of Scully vs Lunatic Fringe but that's not important right now.

Every Tuesday I sit in a room full of overheated SEN listeners, the people who they cross to whenever there's a contentious umpiring decision and Garry Lyon (who everyone knows is just there practising how to fake being upset when James Brayshaw does a 'gag' about him being hairy) while the league's psychologist attempts to calm our frayed nerves by playing replays of comedic Mark Thompson press conferences for a couple of hours.

It doesn't always work out, but for most participants the therapy allows us to get on with our lives after another stressful weekend at the footy. At least until the teams come out on a Thursday night and we find ourselves screaming tweeting obscenities to [USER=48712]melbournefc[/USER] when Rohan Bail is named in the forward pocket as if the person who reads the incoming tweets is actually the Chairman of Selectors.

I stepped out of this week's session, filled with a love of life after listening a one hour loop of Bomber saying "Triple M" for no apparent reason. As I walked towards the front door I noticed a new face grappling with the 200 page admission form. I recognised him as that guy who was quite successful coaching Collingwood then gave it all up to yell at people in press conferences. What a coincidence to run into him in this of all weeks. My team is shit, his team is shit, we're playing each other on Saturday, I'm due to write the unofficial preview. It was a remarkable coincidence. I waited until he filled out his Next of Kin as a Mr E. McGuire from Collingwood before interrupting.

"Excuse me Mr. Malthouse" I said, politely trying to get his attention. He spun around and pulled a small knife from his pocket, thrusting it at me and screaming "what do you want c**t?".

It could have ended badly, after all we've all heard those rumours about him filleting one of Hutchy's unpaid interns in the carpark of Optus Oval for sneezing during a press conference, but as he looked me up and down he realised that I wasn't wearing media accreditation he quickly apologised. As he stashed the blade back in his pocket he took a small paper bag out of the other.

"Journalist?" he said.

I shook my head.

Mick thrust the small paper bag at me. "No, I mean do you want some journalist? This one was from The Age. He asked if I thought I'd underestimated Carlton's list when I took over. I ate his liver with some Fava beans."

As he scooped his hand into the bag then ravenously chowed down on the still twitching fingers of a cadet sports writer I politely declined. There was a moment of awkward silence while he wiped some blood from the corner of his mouth before I continued.

"How do you think you'll go against the Dees this week?" I asked. There was another moment of silence as he put the bag down on the reception desk. His head bowed slightly and the colour drained from his face.

"Mate, I'm worried" he confessed. "You know my record, you know I've done it all. I've coached more premierships than Footscray and St Kilda have won combined. But I'm in real trouble now".

Carlton's woes are well known, but having watched Melbourne spontaneously combust several times in the last few years I've got little sympathy for them. After all it may have taken a quirk of fate and a major AFL investigation for them to make the finals in 2013, but weren't the Blues in exactly the same position after three rounds last year? Was Mick just feeling the weight of entitlement, and a substantial contract, on his shoulders?

He leaned towards me and admitted that there was something different about 2014. A fear of failure. The chance that his legacy might be tainted by failing miserably with a Blues side who had been quite capably but unspectacularly led by Brett Ratten before his unceremonious execution.

"Now after three rotten weeks to start the season I have to play Melbourne. Melbourne. Can you believe it?"

"What's so bad about that?" I said. "Haven't you been watching the first few weeks of the season? We're neck deep in quicksand and sinking rapidly".

He shook his head and looked at me as if I was stupid.

"Mate, your team can't score in the first quarter and my team can't stop other teams scoring in the first quarter. What does that tell you?"

"It'll be a nil-all draw?" I said, wincing as the last word came out in the expectation that he would garrotte me on the waiting room floor.

"No peasant, it means that the mental cases I'm in charge of are deeply vulnerable to any team who can gather up even the slightest bit of confidence. Your players go into every game expecting to lose. Good god you even had to drop one to the VFL just so he could have an enjoyable week, but mine still think they're finals contenders. And you know how that's working out."

"Yeah, but Mick.. err, Mr Malthouse, it's Melbourne. You were there the Friday night we played for a nil-all draw against Carlton. Remember, you called Addam Maric a cheat. Well, things have got a lot worse for us since then let me tell you"

A lone tear ran down Mick's face. The fear had gripped him. The fear that your side will be the one to finally hand a basketcase its first win of the year. He gripped me by the shoulders.

"I'll tell you what I'm afraid of son. It's that your mentally flattened, joke of a club who were flogged in the tackles by a bunch of 15-year-olds and Heath Shaw last week actually come to play from the first bounce. That they will throw themselves at the ball like maniacs and throw my players into the turf at every opportunity. That this will be the week that they decide to go out and regain their dignity."

After 12 straight losses dating back to June 2013 I wasn't sure how to respond to this claim, so I stayed silent and let him finish.

"Look at a guy like Jordie McKenzie. He's not the most talented player in the competition, but he can tackle, and he can chase, and he can harass. Imagine he pins one of our players with a strong tackle in the first few minutes, and his kick forward is marked by a player actually running to space, and that when his shot on goal falls to the ground after one of your makeshift talls offers a contest that there's a player there to crumb it for a goal. We'll go to pieces. The mental battle will be over. We've got more to lose than you have, don't you forget that mucus."

I didn't doubt that last statement for a second. We're expected to lose, while a Carlton defeat will lead to even more Blues fans openly admitting that like Robert Walls they never liked Mick in the first place, but a piece of play ending with a Melbourne player crumbing a goal did seem highly unlikely.

I had to admit that he did make a good point. All the pressure is on them this week. They're coming off two shocking first quarters, and if any team should know more about how broken spirits in the first few minutes can ruin a team for the rest of the game it should be us. It's never been more vital to get off to a good start than this week (well, it's always vital, but work with me here).

Mick started laughing through the tears. "If you see Paul Roos tell him not to pick McKenzie. We'd rather play against a bunch of fancyboys racking up their attempted tackle stats in the rain. While you're at it rest Jack Viney, Daniel Cross and Nathan Jones too. The last thing my lot need is to run into players who try their guts out every week."

I thought I'd impress the master coach with a stat. I said "Did you know that Jay Kennedy-Harris has had as many tackles for the season as Shannon Byrnes despite playing about 25% of the game time?"

"I don't even know who that is" said Mick.

"Which one?"

"Either of them"

At this point the receptionist interrupted. "Excuse me Mr Malthouse" she said, "Mr. Scott and Mr. Clarkson are here. We can start the session now."

The coach of Carlton bid me farewell with one piece of advice "Watch what happens at the first bounce" he cried before turning his back so that the straight jacket could be applied.

I bade the master coach farewell, pulled my collar up and walked back onto a wind strewn Harbour Esplanade. Maybe the first step up the ladder respectability will come by stepping on somebody else's throat.

Dees by 28
Once a week I'm forced to attend an anger management course at AFL Headquarters in Docklands. It's part of the 2012 High Court judgement of Scully vs Lunatic Fringe but that's not important right now.

Every Tuesday I sit in a room full of overheated SEN listeners, the people who they cross to whenever there's a contentious umpiring decision and Garry Lyon (who everyone knows is just there practising how to fake being upset when James Brayshaw does a 'gag' about him being hairy) while the league's psychologist attempts to calm our frayed nerves by playing replays of comedic Mark Thompson press conferences for a couple of hours.

It doesn't always work out, but for most participants the therapy allows us to get on with our lives after another stressful weekend at the footy. At least until the teams come out on a Thursday night and we find ourselves screaming tweeting obscenities to [USER=48712]melbournefc[/USER] when Rohan Bail is named in the forward pocket as if the person who reads the incoming tweets is actually the Chairman of Selectors.

I stepped out of this week's session, filled with a love of life after listening a one hour loop of Bomber saying "Triple M" for no apparent reason. As I walked towards the front door I noticed a new face grappling with the 200 page admission form. I recognised him as that guy who was quite successful coaching Collingwood then gave it all up to yell at people in press conferences. What a coincidence to run into him in this of all weeks. My team is shit, his team is shit, we're playing each other on Saturday, I'm due to write the unofficial preview. It was a remarkable coincidence. I waited until he filled out his Next of Kin as a Mr E. McGuire from Collingwood before interrupting.

"Excuse me Mr. Malthouse" I said, politely trying to get his attention. He spun around and pulled a small knife from his pocket, thrusting it at me and screaming "what do you want c**t?".

It could have ended badly, after all we've all heard those rumours about him filleting one of Hutchy's unpaid interns in the carpark of Optus Oval for sneezing during a press conference, but as he looked me up and down he realised that I wasn't wearing media accreditation he quickly apologised. As he stashed the blade back in his pocket he took a small paper bag out of the other.

"Journalist?" he said.

I shook my head.

Mick thrust the small paper bag at me. "No, I mean do you want some journalist? This one was from The Age. He asked if I thought I'd underestimated Carlton's list when I took over. I ate his liver with some Fava beans."

As he scooped his hand into the bag then ravenously chowed down on the still twitching fingers of a cadet sports writer I politely declined. There was a moment of awkward silence while he wiped some blood from the corner of his mouth before I continued.

"How do you think you'll go against the Dees this week?" I asked. There was another moment of silence as he put the bag down on the reception desk. His head bowed slightly and the colour drained from his face.

"Mate, I'm worried" he confessed. "You know my record, you know I've done it all. I've coached more premierships than Footscray and St Kilda have won combined. But I'm in real trouble now".

Carlton's woes are well known, but having watched Melbourne spontaneously combust several times in the last few years I've got little sympathy for them. After all it may have taken a quirk of fate and a major AFL investigation for them to make the finals in 2013, but weren't the Blues in exactly the same position after three rounds last year? Was Mick just feeling the weight of entitlement, and a substantial contract, on his shoulders?

He leaned towards me and admitted that there was something different about 2014. A fear of failure. The chance that his legacy might be tainted by failing miserably with a Blues side who had been quite capably but unspectacularly led by Brett Ratten before his unceremonious execution.

"Now after three rotten weeks to start the season I have to play Melbourne. Melbourne. Can you believe it?"

"What's so bad about that?" I said. "Haven't you been watching the first few weeks of the season? We're neck deep in quicksand and sinking rapidly".

He shook his head and looked at me as if I was stupid.

"Mate, your team can't score in the first quarter and my team can't stop other teams scoring in the first quarter. What does that tell you?"

"It'll be a nil-all draw?" I said, wincing as the last word came out in the expectation that he would garrotte me on the waiting room floor.

"No peasant, it means that the mental cases I'm in charge of are deeply vulnerable to any team who can gather up even the slightest bit of confidence. Your players go into every game expecting to lose. Good god you even had to drop one to the VFL just so he could have an enjoyable week, but mine still think they're finals contenders. And you know how that's working out."

"Yeah, but Mick.. err, Mr Malthouse, it's Melbourne. You were there the Friday night we played for a nil-all draw against Carlton. Remember, you called Addam Maric a cheat. Well, things have got a lot worse for us since then let me tell you"

A lone tear ran down Mick's face. The fear had gripped him. The fear that your side will be the one to finally hand a basketcase its first win of the year. He gripped me by the shoulders.

"I'll tell you what I'm afraid of son. It's that your mentally flattened, joke of a club who were flogged in the tackles by a bunch of 15-year-olds and Heath Shaw last week actually come to play from the first bounce. That they will throw themselves at the ball like maniacs and throw my players into the turf at every opportunity. That this will be the week that they decide to go out and regain their dignity."

After 12 straight losses dating back to June 2013 I wasn't sure how to respond to this claim, so I stayed silent and let him finish.

"Look at a guy like Jordie McKenzie. He's not the most talented player in the competition, but he can tackle, and he can chase, and he can harass. Imagine he pins one of our players with a strong tackle in the first few minutes, and his kick forward is marked by a player actually running to space, and that when his shot on goal falls to the ground after one of your makeshift talls offers a contest that there's a player there to crumb it for a goal. We'll go to pieces. The mental battle will be over. We've got more to lose than you have, don't you forget that mucus."

I didn't doubt that last statement for a second. We're expected to lose, while a Carlton defeat will lead to even more Blues fans openly admitting that like Robert Walls they never liked Mick in the first place, but a piece of play ending with a Melbourne player crumbing a goal did seem highly unlikely.

I had to admit that he did make a good point. All the pressure is on them this week. They're coming off two shocking first quarters, and if any team should know more about how broken spirits in the first few minutes can ruin a team for the rest of the game it should be us. It's never been more vital to get off to a good start than this week (well, it's always vital, but work with me here).

Mick started laughing through the tears. "If you see Paul Roos tell him not to pick McKenzie. We'd rather play against a bunch of fancyboys racking up their attempted tackle stats in the rain. While you're at it rest Jack Viney, Daniel Cross and Nathan Jones too. The last thing my lot need is to run into players who try their guts out every week."

I thought I'd impress the master coach with a stat. I said "Did you know that Jay Kennedy-Harris has had as many tackles for the season as Shannon Byrnes despite playing about 25% of the game time?"

"I don't even know who that is" said Mick.

"Which one?"

"Either of them"

At this point the receptionist interrupted. "Excuse me Mr Malthouse" she said, "Mr. Scott and Mr. Clarkson are here. We can start the session now."

The coach of Carlton bid me farewell with one piece of advice "Watch what happens at the first bounce" he cried before turning his back so that the straight jacket could be applied.

I bade the master coach farewell, pulled my collar up and walked back onto a wind strewn Harbour Esplanade. Maybe the first step up the ladder respectability will come by stepping on somebody else's throat.

Dees by 28