Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Remembering the 1999 Football Feedback Summit

Younger readers may scoff, but there was a time when the Internet was still total shite. And that time was 1999. Everything loaded slowly, your connection was still at the mercy of somebody picking up the phone in another room, people still used phrases like "surf the web" and "information superhighway" without a hint of irony, old people who tried to use it were fleeced by a Nigerian scammer within 25 seconds of logging on and the AFL's website looked something like this.

So what does the early days of widespread online pornography have to do with a program hosted by Robert Walls? Surprisingly little, but the point is that sometime around 2006 the second head was chiselled into my personal online Mt. Rushmore when YouTube came along (Wikipedia was first, Twitter would follow, the fourth spot is open for the future).

Had it only been cats doing funny things, people singing ear splitting covers of pop songs and neckbeards filming themselves taking things out of boxes for the first time I might not have given it any more time than, Ask Jeeves or the Lemon Party but a small group of geniuses saw the real potential for YouTube and have been exploiting it ever since. They are the uploaders of minority interest random shit found on a VHS.

From endless clips of a usually pissed Molly Meldrum on Countdown to 1981 pro wrestling from New Zealandads from your childhoodMelbourne vs Collingwood in Round 6, 1986 and the Robelinda archive which even makes cricket seem interesting until the dickheads who run the game finally succeed in having it torn down - there is something for every taste.

It was in one of these sad, late night slop binges that I came across Jaroosa. Amongst a bunch of Carlton clips (which are as interesting as any other from a historical perspective) I found the four part epic that is C7 Sport's 1999 Football Feedback Summit (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Now a) who would have thought to tape this at the time?, b) who'd have kept it for 15 years if they were on it? and c) who'd take the time to upload it to the internet? If you represent A, B and C then you're somebody that I'd like to meet.

His (come on let's be serious it's always men) videos even include one of the great banners ever hoisted in the crowd at a footy game. One to even rival the great RECEIVES HEAD shown at the SCG in the early 90's.

Anyway, back to the summit. Where the great, the good and some randoms who have never been heard of since joined together on the evening of Monday May 31 1999 to discuss crucial issues pertaining to the national sport on the cusp of a new century. I started watching just to see if anybody started crying about the game not being as good as it used to be, but in the words of famous director Marty Di Bergi "I got more... A lot more."

The cast
We join in progress as the panellists who will be fielding questions are introduced over the sort of cosmic backing track you usually only hear in corporate videos record in the late 80's.

First it's The Chief that time forgot. This is mainly because the Internet was too young to gather the troops and kick the living bejesus out of everything he did. He is also notable amongst the last three heads of the league for not overtly trying to send any teams to their grave, though as you will see he was clearly very keen to assist in frog-marching at least one long standing Victorian side to Sydney.

A commissioner, who apparently said in 1995 that Port Adelaide should join the league, Fitzroy should merge with Brisbane, Footscray would leave the Western Oval and each club should have a minimum salary cap. This means he was either a fantastic judge of the future or was actually running the league as a puppet regime the whole time.

The soon to be premiership CEO, who brings an attitude to the panel that is so casual if he was any more relaxed he would be dead. Greg (or somebody purporting to be him) would later heartlessly thwart my attempts to be picked for Channel 7's reality show The Club.

Parko apparently used to almost go the vom during close games (not sure why they don't use the spare line in his bio to mention this) which at least gives us one thing in common.

Richard apparently tipped $1 million of his own money in to get the West Coast Eagles off the ground, so I'm not going to say anything suspect about him because he's got enough money to have me killed.

The future CEO, wearing his AFL Players Association hat and trading under the far less corporate name "Andy". Apparently chaired "The Ruthinium Group", which sounds the front organisation for a Bond movie villain.


We open with Robert Walls sitting in front of an old school test pattern and telling us, in the most wooden voice imaginable, that "not.. a lot.. will go on.. in the new millennium.. without those guys knowing about it."

Rob's difficulties with the autocue explain why he never made it past special comments to a lucrative hosting role on network television.

The panel

Robert promises us respected journalists and faces familiar to Football Feedback viewers. We'll have to take his word on the second one. The panel ends up consisting of people who are still going now and some you've probably not heard of since the year 2000.

John Gardiner/Hawthorn Secondary College's second greatest export (#1 Justin Murphy, #3 me) RoCo, is shown looking exasperated. Have I ever told you about the time he came to speak at our assembly and five minutes later two girls in the audience punched on? Oh I have? Several times you say? Let's move on.

This looks like the opening credits of a sitcom when they're introducing the uncle who says offensive things at the table and tries to touch everyone up. To the best of our knowledge Patrick has never done either of those things.

What panel (except the Match Review) would be complete without Mike doing his best to hide the fact that he loves the Dees?

Caro on the phone getting another leak from a Melbourne board member

Uncle Monty from Withnail and I portraying some bloke from the agents association

A 17-year-old Anthony Hudson ducks out of his high school prom to join us

"3LO special comments person Joyce Brown" who I have absolutely no memory of - and Google is no help with just 15 completely irrelevant results for "Joyce Brown" + 3LO.

And some other people. If Joyce or her fans feel slighted that I don't remember her they can take comfort that I've got NFI who Michael Davis is either.

The summit

Robert raises my hopes for an hour of "yeah the game is shit, we should go back to how it was in 1976" by explaining how by the end of the night we'll know more about the game, where it and we the footy fans are headed. 

I dare say at this point the odds of all the Victorian clubs surviving for 15 more years in a relatively untouched fashion would have been about 5000-1 so there is almost no doubt that at some point during the evening the panel will attempt to cull every side in Melbourne not called Carlton, Collingwood or Essendon (NB: This does not actually end up happening. What a glory era).

"Let's get into it!" says Robert, with the most conviction that he'll have all night, and we cut to a low shot of him striding through the slowly opening Studio 7 door. The cost this shot alone probably sent Optus Vision broke. In a piece of classic television bullshit he then walks into the studio as if the previous shot was live, saunters past the inquisitors and takes up a position on the Football Feedback Summit throne where he will proceed to do little all night other than read awkwardly.

The first outlandish claim of the evening is that this show was going to "just under 500 thousand homes" (and in case you missed the enormity of that fact Robert repeats it) via Optus Vision and the Austar satellite. Which presumably implied every single set in their broadcast universe was turned on and switched to the station at the time, which is absolute cobblers. This was also broadcast live on 3AW's Sports Today "So welcome.. to all of.. 3AW's.. listeners" says Robert nervously clutching his clipboard in the same way that Damien Barrett does an iPad. The difference being you feel sorry for Robert but want to smash that bloody device over Ballbag Barrett's head.

Before proceedings could kick off we're introduced to home viewer Henry Monkus who has won a competition to be on the panel tonight. It's never made clear if he won via luck, skill or deathsports but his claim that he always watches Footy Feedback and "every other show we tape" clearly startle somebody in the control room and they temporarily promote him to CEO of the competition.

It's then revealed that Henry is a Melbourne fan (hooray!) but that his kids have decided that they're St Kilda fans (boo!) so where he has achieved as a human he clearly failed as a parent. Sucked in to his kids when we were knocking the Saints out of the finals the year before, and sucked in to the entire household for going another 15 years and counting without ever seeing a flag. No doubt Henry, or somebody who knows him, is out there so get in contact at the usual address.

Topic 1 - State of Origin
What a topical time to recap this, in the same week that every single AFL player decides they'd love it to come back knowing secretly that they'd all "do a hammy" if it did.

Walls asks: "When do you think we might see State of Origin live again?" Which is odd because is he implying that we might have games played in the middle of the night and replayed in prime time?

Wayne, sadly given his own name on the bottom of the screen and not that of Henry Monkus, takes a deep breath as if he's trying to come up with a popular answer then decides to tell the truth. "If we see it again.." he says ominously, and for better or worse we never have. He suggests that in the off-chance that Origin returns it won't be until 2003 or 2004 because we've got a four year deal with the Irish to get through first - implying that the game of Australian rules would be far better served by our boys beat up amateurs from another country than playing against each other.

After that probing dissection of origin Robert throws to the panel and we begin an evening of some poor boom-mic operator being driven insane trying to keep up with 10 people butting in on each other and making random, pointless statements.

Rohan is the first cab off the rank, asking if the shithouse 26k crowd for the Victoria/South Australia game the previous weekend (albeit on a day where it pissed down non-stop for the entire match) will count against the concept in the future. Wayne denies it and says that one of the reasons he wants to play origin is to reward players and to 'develop' the game in other markets. He betrays the thinking of 1999 by alluding to Sydney in every second line then suggests that the Irish series will keep players happy (only for the away trips where they get a free holiday and the chance to urinate on a window in a different country) and cites Todd Viney's claims that the highlight of his career was playing for Australia as if it's proof the concept is the next big thing.

Mike then floats his first silly theory for the night by asking if we could have a carnival featuring all states on a four year basis, a suggestion which to his credit Wayne humours.

Huddo Jr chimes in with the suggestion of an All-Star game, which is fair enough, before ruining it by going off piste by passing on one of the worst suggestions in the history of football. Some peanut 3AW caller has decided we should divide the 16 teams into two groups of eight and then have the All-Star game played for premiership points. By the end Wayne is giving him such a withering look, and not even bothering to humour him, that Huddo concedes it's a silly idea.

Caro, losing her voice already after a hard day on the phones, asks Parko what he thinks about the possibility of losing his players to injury in a state game and he looks as if he's about to go postal.

Fortunately that's just the way a four-time premiership coach takes in a question, and he resists the temptation to tear the set apart. He does the usual company line about how happy he was to see his boys get picked but simultaneously admits that he had his "head under the pillow" for the whole game waiting for one of them to get crocked.

The game must have been going fairly well if State of Origin was the most important topic in the game so thank god Patrick Smith's here to cut somebody else off mid-question and spin the wheel for our first random change of topic for the evening.

Topic 2 - 17-year-olds in the draft
"For it or against it?" he asks Parko, pointing his pen around in a manner that would thrill Sigmund Freud. Was he taking notes? I know nobody reads The Australian but surely even then they paid him enough to buy a VCR and tape the summit to watch back later.

There's far too much sensible talk here, with Parkin saying that he thinks there's plenty of 16 and 17 year olds who can play but getting an education first is important in case they don't make it. Rohan then risks a backhander from Smith (fortunately they're at opposite ends of the panel) by cutting off his follow up question and going back to Topic 1, asking Andy D if we should make it more financially attractive for players to show up to origin games. Andrew's not available so instead the question goes to The Count from Sesame Street:

Apparently 88% of players were pro-Origin at the time, but he suggests that nobody's "come up with the right formula" - which eventually included himself for all times other than that bollocks Victoria vs All-Stars game that was played the night I put an IKEA couch together.

Patrick then confuses the issue even further by going back to the bloody 17-year-olds again (which I'm sure was not on any running sheet). He accuses the AFLPA of doing a "360 degree turn" on this matter, which Count Andy flat out denies before using the term "carte blanche" and saying that of course 18-year-olds should be drafted - which sadly runs counter to some tremendously boring modern thinking.

Topic 3 - Collective Bargaining Agreement

Caro decides she's had enough of Patrick's bullshit and throws a related topic to Andy. "When is it going to be signed?" she asks. He goes into the sleazy politician mode that we're all familiar with and does a bit of dancing around before admitting it's going to be signed on Wednesday. The bloke up the back who I'd never heard of manages to get involved by yelling a question out, but he's too far away from the boom-mic and in the spirit of a post-match press conference you barely hear it.

Topic 4 - Player managers

Flushed with success Michael Davis - apparently the Chief Football writer of The Australian before Patrick knifed him - spins the wheel again after that brief, boring CBA interlude and asks about Ron Joseph not joining the Player Manager's Association - which is only marginally less tedious than a CBA question, and I'm sure even less relevant to the average fan.

Smith then chips in (of course), leading to Michael cracking a bit of a gag and tragically getting absolutely no reaction. Not the time or place mate, we're discussing the future of the game here.

16m, 45s into the show we finally get to see Greg Miller for the first time as part of this discussion and he's exhibiting all the traditional body language of somebody who quite frankly can't be stuffed.

The phrase 'restraint of trade' is then used, which when it comes to sports is usually enough to put any reasonable person to sleep and almost does so for Greg.

Joyce then makes her first appearance, introduced by Wallsy because clearly she's the only person (other than the home viewer who is just sitting there looking terrified and waiting for his scripted questions to come up) who has the manners to put her hand up and wait to be called instead of barging in to the discussion uninvited. She then throws it all away by going all the way back to Topic 2 which she'd obviously been stewing on for minutes, asking why if players can go to the Institute of Sport before 17 why they can't go to a footy club. Parkin points out that "his bitch is about" education (a line I think was later sampled by Jay Z), as Joyce demands clubs set up similar programs. How much money does the pre-Brayshaw JB think clubs had to throw around? Why don't we just set up MFC High in the parking lot at Casey Fields?

Topic 5 - The Shirtfront

Nearly 20 minutes in and Mike Sheahan is the voice of reason to take us "inside the fence" and finally ask about an on-field matter. Does Parko think you should be able to murder unsuspecting players in the style of Byron Pickett vs Brendan Krummel? Surprisingly he doesn't invoke the "good old days" in a way that mentalist like Mal Brown would and instead, mentioning that he's been on the end of plenty, describes the shirtfront as "a disgrace".

Casual Greg Miller, treading a fine line as the CEO of Pickett's club, agrees that we need to "look at the grey areas" then risks censure by saying that the big hit was "good for our team at the time, but I'm not all that concerned about Brendan Krummel". It takes Joyce about three minutes to finally barge her way in and complain about his comments as if he'd admitted tipping Brendan off the stretcher. Greg responds to this salvo by opening his legs so far you can see his Shinboner spirit:

Even Wayne Jackson has to chip in to try and explain that Greg wasn't being serious, before pointing out that Parko is one of the 'few people who can get the rules changed' and that any rule can be changed by "a mechanism" involving various levels of football. This was clearly before the Laws of the Game Committee was formed with the goal of stuffing the game up on a yearly basis.

Before Moral Patrol Joyce chipped in Patrick asked Parko "How is it different from a player running back into the play and being collected?", knowing full well what the answer would be but just wanting to get his head on TV again. The Carlton man, in outstanding form, then turns the tables on the journos suggesting that the only reason the shirtfront hasn't yet been banned is because they write articles lauding it as a great part of the game.

Robert then reintroduces some sanity to proceedings by throwing to a break. Sadly we're not treated to the C7 Sport commercials because I'm sure they would have been on a par for quality with the ones you get on SEN.

Topic 6 - Sydney's future and the game in New South Wales

A full 26 minutes in Richard Colless finally gets a word in, but soon becomes an integral part of the discussion as we toss around ideas to ram the game down the throat of Sydneysiders who couldn't give a shit. Much like today.

Richard does a bit of a gag and gets slightly more laughs than Michael did earlier, then attempts to balance his position as Swans chairman with his role at the NSW Commission. He suggests that he doesn't care if there's a second Sydney team or a third one (don't give them any ideas) but that's it's done "correctly" and doesn't put at risk the years of work they've put into getting the Swans established.

He doesn't think there's anything 'magical' about having a second team ("or a tenth") in Sydney unless there's some rationale for it. We're then treated to the same rationale that we copped a decade later where the best they can come up is trying to rope people from the western suburbs in whether they like it or not.

Good luck to the Kangaroos with "what they're doing" he says, that being shifting several home games to the city in an attempt to cash in on this allegedly untapped pot 'o gold market (result: idea abandoned), but Colless does alludes to some tension with between the clubs. This tension will later be denied by Wayne J who blames the journalists for beating up the issue but is swiftly contradicted several seconds later by Miller. Mark Davis tries to further position himself as the jester of the panel by doing a joke about having had a bad experience with a kangaroo at the zoo as a kid but sadly he fails miserably again. During this show he also had several bad experiences with crickets after trying to crack a gag.

Graeme Samuel finally gets called up at the 28 minute mark to try and explain to us why it's so necessary to go north, then turn west. He does the basic maths and splits up the 4 million population of Sydney, suggesting that if we played one game a week through the season that we'd be "servicing" the city a lot better than we are now. He then floats an absurd theory of shifting Victorian club home games to the SCG as one option, possibly just to make us think that North relocating isn't such a bad idea because it doesn't mess with our clubs.

RoCo lobs a quality hand grenade at this point, pointing out that Sydney's crowds were actually down in 1999 so (to paraphrase) WTF are we worrying about a second team for? The expansionists aren't interested in such things as 'facts' and shoot him down quickly before Sheahan tries to win back some cred with the league by pointing out they haven't played any of the big Victorian teams at the SCG yet. Connolly is soon back on form by asking Jackson if crowds being down three years in a row is a trend, which the CEO rejects outright even though it quite obviously does represent one. Instead he claims it represents a "be wary" sign, which is management speak bullshit that David Brent would rise to applaud.

Smelling blood Caro leaps in, describing the league's strategy as "ad hoc" and refusing to stick to the AFL's agreed script by describing the move of South Melbourne to Sydney as "pretty disgraceful". She then accuses the league of trying to force North into relocating, which a fired up Wayne declares is "nonsense." This leads to Caro adopting Greg Miller-esque negative body language and adopting that withering glance we're so used to seeing on Footy Classified when she's faking being angry with Garry Lyon.

Under the laser eyed stare of the future first lady of football (presumably Joyce was the titleholder at the time) Wayne almost slips up, saying North have not "at this time" agreed to relocate. Oops.

Apparently North had picked up 3000 new members in Sydney from their four home game a year venture, which seems absolutely absurd but was probably just people buying four game memberships to get into the SCG matches on the cheap. Colless then reveals that he doesn't care because the Swans had to cap their membership that year. He's got no problem with the Kangaroos or anybody else being there, but "gets twitchy" that the league don't have a proper gameplan.

For the purposes of mockery he returns to to Huddo's ridiculous plan for an all-star game (attributing it to poor Huddo himself) and points out that the Melbourne media are insane for thinking that anybody in Sydney gives a rats about watching the game itself rather than a team. He reveals that the Swans need 50,000 crowds to break even at "Homebush" then gets narky when Rohan tries to cut him off.

Legs Akimbo Miller is given the chance to lay the groundwork for North's eventual move to Sydney by saying he's "very concerned" about the amount of support they've got in Melbourne and suggests that the club needs to find "new markets" while they're successful on field - accurately portraying the vast majority of his new constituents as bandwagon jumping filth. He refuses to guarantee that the club won't relocate and is saved by Colless who dives in to change the subject. Rohan's not falling for it though, showing all the street fighting skills he learnt on the mean streets of Burgess Street, Hawthorn to force Miller into answering the original question. Greg denies all unconvincingly, but it never actually happened so who am I to question him?

Him from the Agents Association realises that he hasn't said anything for a while and decides to chip in with a question about the "social engineering" aspects of relocating players to Sydney as if they're being asked to go to Moscow. Wayne points out that players are receiving an average of $110k a year (in an era before the average payments were skewed by giving stupid money to hacks like Hunt, Folau and $cully) so we shouldn't have too much trouble convincing them to move. So the Cost of Living Allowance wasn't actually required? That's good to know. He then all but condemns North to the gas chamber by suggesting that we've got 16 teams in the competition and two of them should be playing in Sydney.

Damien Agent harks back to the Swans and the problems they had 18 years previously and is zinged by Miller who points out that the players were on $30 a game at the time. Samuel then chips in with a few kicks at Damien's lifeless corpse before opening the AFL maths portfolio again by telling us how many people live in Sydney and explaining how we haven't "tapped the west" in a significant fashion.

"Many sports before you have tried to tap the west of Sydney and failed" interjects Caro twice because the boom-mic didn't get to her the first time, to which Graeme claims that options include the Swans moving west or a 'new' team (i.e North) basing themselves at the Olympic Stadium. The Sydney Showgrounds are surprisingly absent in this discussion.

Damien asks if it has to be a relocation or could it be a new team, to which the panel to a man decide on relocation. Samuel suggests creating a team afresh is too difficult - imagine if you also totally stuffed the draft and salary cup up to get them going as well? He then joins in the 'bury North' fun by all but suggesting they'll be off to Sydney soon.

Remarkably not one person tried to change the topic, so as Wallsy explains that "we're almost at half time" (because it's a footy summit you see) we go to our second break.

Generic elevator rock music brings us back for Robert to read a joke off the auto-cue and finally throw to the home viewer for...

Topic 7 - Docklands: Are footy fans getting the shaft?

Henry suggests that he's got two questions, and does a far better job at remembering them without having to consult a card than the idiots you see on Q and A. The first is the increase in cost for going to the footy at Docklands. He's heard a hot rumour that you won't be able to bring your own food into the ground. Wayne Jackson denies it, but somewhere stadium management were taking notes ready to implement the exact same policy a few years later.

Mike Sheahan then butts in on poor Henry, trying to ask his own question and is rightfully abused by the rest of the panel for his bare faced cheek. The much maligned Mark Davis finally comes into his own by telling Mike off in no uncertain terms for this outrageous behaviour.

Once he finally manages to get a word in Henry is concerned that the letter he's received from the league about his AFL membership states that conditions will "change slightly" and he's worried that this will mean you only get access to the ground if you're in the "gold medallion club". In not so many words Henry asks whether this is a screwjob for AFL members who originally supported the concept of selling Waverley and building the Corporate Dome - but as Henry is a diplomat he says "misinformed". 

Wayne brings up the fact that the ground while be theirs in 25 years, which must have sounded like tremendous bullshit back then but doesn't seem so far away now but what he should have said was "Henry, your family is half Melbourne/half St Kilda, how often do you think you won't be able to just walk in, scan your membership and have your pick of half the stadium?"

We're then treated to Walls attempting to deliver a zinger on Sheahan but failing due to the most deadpan delivery this side of Elliot Goblet. It does get more laughs than most of the attempted jokes throughout the evening, but people always find things so much more amusing when it's belittling someone else.

Mike's got more questions about Colonial Stadium, including how much it's going to cost to get in, to which Wayne quite rightly points out that it's May 31 so how in god's name do you want him to answer. Trevor Grant's not taking that well and is demanding answers but the CEO points out again that they don't set the prices until August and that people should be able to walk up for around $13.50 (!) most weeks.

Topic 7a - Reserved seating (but they go back to talking about Docklands five seconds later)

Following on the time honoured "are fans getting the shaft?" question we have the debate about reserved seats at Optus Oval and Kardinia Park. Apparently an "18-year-old girl and her boyfriend" (why did we need to know that much detail?) went to Princes Park and got told they could either stand for $13.50 or sit for $27. They went home and talkback outrage ensued. Wayne admits that the league needs to have some control over seating prices (as opposed to general admission) but refuses to be drawn on a potential maximum price for seating.

Graeme wants to ensure that if somebody shows up minutes before the game and there are 15,000 seats free that they can buy a ticket and walk in - Graeme obviously didn't pass this wish on to the management of Docklands in its first year where getting to the front of a ticket line was like climbing Mt Everest.

Michael tries another gag with similar results and we've not heard from Joyce for a while.

Trevor is worried about car parking. Waverley's got shitloads, the MCG has got a bit, Docklands has stuff all and the average punter won't be able to get in. The future head of the ACCC Samuel decides that the amount of parking spots at Waverley is actually a bad thing because it causes traffic snarls (perhaps do a redesign once or twice a decade?), suggests that people will be able to park their car in the city and practically does an ad for Yarra Trams by listing all the ways you can get there to the stadium on one. In response to the suggestion that these parks will cost a fortune he claims that the market will dictate lower prices on weekends and at nights when they are otherwise empty. Huddo, fresh from getting his L's, challenges this assertion and suggests that it'll be $7 or $8 minimum in the city on a Friday night.

IT'S JOYCE! Wallsy has to play her in again, and she comes out flying with the "family viewpoint", asking how "friendly" the Docklands area is and whether "ordinary people" can feel safe there. I don't remember much of Docklands pre-2000 but I'm sure it wasn't the epicentre of gang warfare in Melbourne. Samuel tries to take her off on a tangent about it being a "user friendly stadium" but Joyce is having none of it and demands to know about "the surrounds" and "where women will have to go." The irony being that most of the time you're probably better off hanging around violent criminals than footy fans. Graeme soothes her terror by painting a picture of the ground like it's the most fantastic place on earth and will cure cancer before she gives herself away as an ideologue by pointing out how much she loves Waverley.

Change averse Joyce feels bad for the people of the east who will have to battle their way across town, clearly showing no interest in the feelings of people in Geelong and the west who must have been loving the fact that they no longer had to do a 400km round trip to Mulgrave.

Another gag from Michael falls flat because the microphone's elsewhere but we can reasonably assume based on past evidence that it wouldn't have been funny anyway.

Back from a break Robert reads out that "it's... harder managing this group.. than the Victorian team on Saturday" and Caro fakes a smile so hard that she later required re-constructive surgery.

Topic 8 - Women's issues in footy

The source of Caro's glee becomes clear as she's given the next question and uses it to fireball the league's executive for not marketing the game to women. She says her six-year-old son isn't going to be as tough as Joyce's son, which is weird, and suggests she won't let him play a game where he can be shirtfronted. This somehow segues into the fact that the AFL has a five or six person marketing department before she realises she's asked about nine questions in one and asks them to focus on the one about women.

Not surprisingly Wayne denies these charges and harks back for the 5000th time tonight to New South Wales, quoting research that says parents are encouraging their kids to play AFL because it's "safe" like soccer. "And safe it is" says Wayne, not 40 minutes after we discussed Byron Pickett hitting somebody so hard they're still picking bits of him out of Waverley Park.

Joyce calls bullshit on Wayne's research, suggesting that even though it's not what he was actually talking about that injuries are "as high as rugby", and then turns the clock back to take another shot at Miller for his ill-fated gag earlier in the evening. Greg hasn't been heard from since the North to Sydney discussions, which is not surprising as he appears to have been placed in a straight jacket

Parko's lost interest too, but both of them might have perked up immediately after as Caro complains that the only woman in the league's own I'd Like To See That campaign (which looking back is the most 90's thing this side of Kriss Kross) is talking "ABOUT SEX!" Sadly Richard Colless manages to neatly sidestep the question and not turn it into a Footy Show style festival of sexism and misogyny.

Topic 9 - The national competition

Damien Agent is sick to death of hearing about Victoria and New South Wales, and he wants to know if these same issues are valid everywhere else. He obviously wasn't paying much attention in 1999 if he thinks the AFL give a rats about any place in the world other than Sydney.

Topic 10 - How the competition is run

That comes to a swift halt as we get back to the journos. After some playful banter between Connolly and Walls the man from The Age suggests the league doesn't have any credibility due to having five different finals systems in 11 years and bags the draw for being unequal. "Why hasn't the AFL paid closer attention to these issues?" he demands.

Not surprisingly puppet-master Samuel doesn't accept that the game is being run badly, before Wayne chips in with some 'poor me' style comments about how "we're just a group of people trying our best to run a national competition" - which is significantly more humility than Andrew D (who hasn't been heard from for 30+ minutes) ever showed.

Parko's having none of it either, suggesting that the AFL has "brilliantly" engineered an even competition. Huddo also chips in with a swing at Rohan, pointing out that the league has expanded three times in 11 years so of course they've changed the finals system. He quite sensibly refuses to accept Rohan's position that luck plays too large a part in winning premierships and calls on the league to shorten the length of the game and asks to increase the interchange.

If Parko wasn't having any of Rohan, Joyce isn't having any of Parko, abusing him for his claims of equality. He gives her nothing and she turns on Wayne instead, suggesting that even in "the back blocks of Woolamakanka" each team plays each other twice. I think this is the reason why I never listened to the footy on 3LO.

Thankfully Collo is here to inject some sense into the debate (note: we've got 15 minutes left and not one person has potted the playing style) by pointing out that Melburnians don't know how good we've got it (in 1999 at least) and that it's the only sport that has developed a true national competition. What about the NBL? They even had a team in Hobart.

Topic 11 - Wallsy spins the wheel

Out of nowhere he goes for a host's question, asking what a 15 or 16 year old coming into league football needs these days even though the start of the show was spent pointing out that 15 and 16 year olds aren't allowed to play. Parkin is polite enough not to point that out and suggests that as expected the demands are much larger than they were 20 years previous. He then takes a wide-ranging pot shot by suggesting that "half the people who watch, and half the people who write about it don't understand" what goes into getting a team up - a suggestion that doesn't go down well in some sections of the audience:

He then decries the elimination of the "natural footballer" who would have gotten a game for every team in his day but now doesn't because the game is strictly for athletes. He then responds to a question from Patrick Smith, who has just woken up, with a science lesson about why players should be doing 'other' things outside of footy. The director gets confused and during the response cuts to the camera on the player agent guy who is doing nothing because he didn't ask it in the first place.

Topic 12 - TV rights

Patrick's all-fired up now, asking how significant the TV rights will be and bringing up talk of splitting up the rights. "What can we expect from the new TV deal?" he asks, then interrupts Wayne with another question before the CEO can answer. "It's not about dollars" says Wayne, sitting down so his pants can't catch fire.

Topic 13 - Wayne Carey's contract

Mike asks Greg if The King will get $1m a year in his next contract. Greg would be happy to answer that if he wasn't under such heavy sedation.

He's awake enough to point out to Mike that he himself has voted Carey the #1 player in the competition four years in a row so of course he deserves a significant contract. Remember the days when you actually had to be good to be amongst the best paid players in the league?

Chief Footy Writer Michael Davis then asks how long Wayne can play for due to his chronic groin injuries, but this may be another barely detectable joke as Greg points out it's the first soft tissue injury Carey has ever had.

Parko cracks the best gag of the night in response to a bullshit hypothetical from Trevor about being at Docklands in R22 2000 when he harks back to the earlier discussion and says: "I hope I'll get a seat." The question ends up pre-invoking the spirit of Brad Scott and asking about whether the roof should be closed or not. Wayne says the policy on the roof is like the ticket prices and he hasn't come up with it yet.

Wallsy throws to the final break and thank christ because this post has taken me about five times longer than write than it would have to just watch the show.

Topic 14 - What will be the most significant achievement in the next 12 months in football or what will be the biggest issue

That one was pure Walls. He then proceeds to confuse the issue by asking Wayne Jackson about the "last 12 months" instead.

Wayne: TV rights

Graeme: Selling Waverley and the roof at Docklands. Somebody (possibly Rohan) heckles him for the second one, unaware it would still be a hot issue 15 years later.

Richard: Consolidation of the game in its heartland and genuine growth in NSW/Queensland

Greg: Whether North gets to play the first home game at Homebush or the Swans.

Andrew: How players and the public perceive Docklands and the TV rights.

David: That the media will acknowledge that we have the greatest game in the world and won't be writing it down (YES! FOR GOD'S SAKE PLEASE IMPORTANT '99 PARKIN INTO 2014) and that we'll have done something about players jumping on the ball while it's on the ground (finally - with five minutes to go the game has finally copped it)

In a completely unplanned switch Walls then goes to the panel of experts, and thank god it means we're going to hear from the home viewer again:

Patrick: Development up north and the development of the northern stand at the MCG

Mike: Brisbane establishing itself as a power. Then he pisses around with the format and asks Colless a question about Tony Lockett. If this means we don't get to hear from Monkus...

Caro: TV rights and if Parko will coach in 2001. She asks him a question as well. There's 3.30 left and it's not looking good for Monkus.

Trevor: How much it costs to get into Docklands and that coaches should start telling the truth to the media

Rohan: First non-Victorian Grand Final and "Football Feedback emerging as a top rating program" (which implies nobody was watching it at the time)

MONKUS!: What Melbourne's penalty will be for breaching the cap and has he recovered from us winning the flag. Good work Henry, tell your kids to get stuffed.

Huddo: Docklands and Geelong winning the flag

Joyce: Banning the shirtfront and reviving football in the metropolitan and country areas

Damien: No shirtfront and Brisbane winning the flag

Michael: Opens with a gag (which fails) then suggests Eddie McGuire steps down as president of Collingwood because they've only one two gags and Ross Oakley takes over. Not sure if this was a gag too but he gets his biggest laughs of the night so I hope it was.

We're then told "there's a lot coming up on C7", which gives us the chance to enjoy their program line-up in its entirety:

Apparently Stan will be back, which highlights the fact that they gave him the arse for the summit. And.. oh that was it. Due to the fact that they don't have anything else to fill the last 30 seconds Robert identifies the one guy amongst the journos who can talk shit for Australia and asks Patrick what we've got out of tonight. Surprise surprise Sydney got a mention...

And that's it. Time for the votes

Lou Richards Medal for Best on Ground
5 -  David Parkin (educated, incisive, sensible)
4 - Wayne Jackson (took the brunt of the hard stuff)
3 - Caroline Wilson (decidedly brutal)
2 - Greg Miller (laconic performance did not go unnoticed)
1 - Joyce Brown (strident)

Thanks for your time, normal programming will resume on the weekend (unlike the late C7 Sport). And remember - if you have a truckload of VHS cassettes in your garage and you're not scouring them for the best content you can find to upload to YouTube you need to have a good hard look at yourself.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The sweet sound of mid-table mediocrity

How's the tension sports fans? Three close games in a row for two wins. What in god's name is going on? I don't know about you but my blood pressure is approaching the record levels set in 2007 and 2013 - and this time it's for the right reasons. It's joy and terror alternating several times a game and it's magnificent.

Do you think it's possible to ever get sick of winning? Even if it does involve opposition sides committing astounding acts of footballing suicide to facilitate the victory I'd like to think that for me the answer is no, but. of course you could, I've seen the way Hawthorn, Geelong, Collingwood etc.. fans react to beating us. Recent success will do that to you. On the other hand constant batterings by all and sundry only make the heart grow fonder.

The sense of wonder over success in a stupid sport played under increasingly bizarre rules by 24 men all younger than me is still there. Ever since the Carlton win the emotions I've felt are what I imagine it would be like to become a born again Christian - whatever that actually is. I feel the spirit of Paul Roos running through my veins.

Before launching into a lengthy celebration of all things MFC we may as well get the obvious out of the way, Richmond totally stuffed themselves by kicking for goal like drunken sailors on shore leave. If they'd taken their chances better they would probably have beaten us comfortably but if we'd taken advantage of 5000 inside 50s last week we'd have won too. What the fickle finger of footy fate takes one week they might just give back the next. Richmond fans, it's not like we didn't give you dozens of chances to get it right by continually turning it over from kick-ins or failing to clear it outside of defensive 50. In the end we probably ended up supplying more than half of their goals from the sort of pure, white-hot cock-up football that we've specialised in since Round 19 2011 and still managed to register our highest score of the year with a mixture of goals between forwards and midfielders.

When you consider how we murdered them in the centre clearances (us, murder somebody in centre clearances), dominated in hit-outs to advantage (again, us?) went forward so many times and played them a man down for the last quarter and a half with a fresh sub it would have been shattering to lose - but this is the third week in a row we've either had a man advantage in the second half or an opposition player has been injured (though it didn't stop Tom Williams from kicking three goals) and we've failed to run away with the game once. We can't have this sort of luck every week, so let's see what happens when our opposition manage to keep everyone out of the casualty ward for four quarters.

Sure poor David Astbury's knee was hardly the result of anything more brutal than a neat Jack Viney sidestep, but I can see how our newly manic approach to tackling and willingness to crack in and have a crack might be causing sore bodies amongst opposition players. They don't stick every tackle (who does?) but when they do they're hitting like a train wreck. It wasn't even left solely to the usual suspects like Viney and Jones this time, both Dawes and Pedersen had eight tackles each. On a day where he didn't have a great personal game it was further proof that picking up Dawes was one of the great moments of Mark Neeld's tenure. As was - potentially - one C. Pedo, whose famous three year contract has been held up as an example of all that was wrong with the previous administration (e.g - wouldn't two have done for a guy who hadn't played a game the year before?) but now looks like a stroke of genius as he runs around playing like Matthew Pavlich.

Who knows, maybe Neeld got it all right and if he hadn't done his knee David Rodan would have gone ballistic this year as well? Alternatively you could give all the credit to Roos (and to Cam himself of course), because after that first fortnight when he toiled for no reward up front I'd have said there was no chance in hell that he'd ever look like a decent forward. Now he's taking pack marks the length of the ground, tackling like a man possessed and slotting goals from the boundary line like a pro. For a year and a half the North fan in our office who insisted that we'd done well in getting him has been the subject of countless abusive emails from Melbourne fans, but now we're all forced to admit that he may very well have been right. I'm so impressed by the redemptive qualities of Roos that I'd almost have Morton and Gysberts back on the rookie list to see if he can rebuild them from the ground up.

With apologies to Pedo's greatest game ever there's no point even trying to avoid spoilers in the votes, because Tyson is one of the biggest shoe-ins for a maximum in Jakovich history. What a guy. After a great debut he had a slight dip early in the season but is now playing out of his skin. He 'only' had 23 touches today, but go back and look at some of his running into space - even in the times when he wasn't used. He just keeps trying his guts out all day, and was still going strong in the last quarter when others were starting to fall apart. Six weeks ago the Herald Sun was running articles about what a horrific blunder we made in trading pick 2 for him (and Salem, but no need to mention that), now they've realised that it might not have been such a bad idea after all and the author of the original article will be begging to have his name removed and replaced with 'staff writers.'

Nathan Jones will still get the most Brownlow votes for us at the end of the year because the umpires will just give them to the guy they know (and god knows he could be in the top 10 overall at this point), and he'll probably still win the Best and Fairest because it rewards consistency even when we're wank overall but have your house on Dom finishing right behind him. The return of Jamar has also been a boost to the mids, and unlike Herald Sun journalists I'll admit that I was wrong when I suggested we should be playing him forward to concentrate on a Maximum Pedo ruck combination for now. Max was really good today and is definitely the future, but with Jamar looking like it's 2010 and Pedo defying all logic with his All-Australian form (only half kidding based on today) there's a spot for all three of them at the moment - and the Russian has shown plenty in the middle of the ground in the last couple of weeks.

Outstanding performances by Tyson, Pedo and several others aside we could very well still have lost in traumatic fashion today. The umpiring is going to cop hell from everybody, but you could tell how it was going to go in the first few minutes when first Dawes laid a perfect tackle which should have been holding the ball and got nothing, then almost straight after Terlich got caught in front of goal, dropped the ball and got away with it. I know people go on about consistency, but I'd rather they put filthy mistakes in the first few minutes behind them and get on with umpiring properly for the rest of the game instead of 'putting the whistle away' to the point where nothing's getting paid - because that makes it even more obvious what they've been doing when the game is on the line in the last quarter and they start paying anything out of their arse.

I blame the football consumer (myself included) who got excited at the first scent of competitive football and went wild about the umpires 'letting the game go' across the elongated first round. Suddenly the AFL's media monitoring department are presenting the umpiring department with line graphs and pie charts showing how much we all love it when players can be spun around five times and tossed to the turf, or be decapitated in front of umpires without winning a free. Then just to keep you on your toes they rip some ridiculous free out of nowhere which makes absolutely no sense and causes both sets of players to stop and wait to find out which way it's going to go.

Disinterest in doing the job you're paid to do aside (see Melbourne Football Club 2013), as much as Richmond fans are queuing up to piff themselves over a cliff there were aspects where they were still far superior to us. How many times - and this is an age old story - did their kick-ins get to the middle of the ground via two or three players while down the other end we were labouring away bombing the ball long hoping for one of Jamar, Maximum or Pedo to get on the end of it? At one point Jamar was standing right next to Dunn for the kickout and he still did the frantic roost to the Members' Stand play just because. The Tigers were good enough to stuff it up in the middle of the ground often enough, but we were certainly was living on the edge.

There was a couple of times when we either short first, or somebody led hard to the 40, got the ball and started us on our way but considering how many times the Tigers kicked a point you'd have thought we'd have consistently gotten it right eventually. There was also one kick (possibly Dunn to Tyson) which was so ridiculously pin point that I feel it must have been accidental. You can't do that more than once a week without it end up costing you goals - I understand why they just hoof it out towards the boundary when trying to hit passes like that is an alternative option, but after the two seconds when it looked like the worst kick ever it turned out to be the best. I don't need that sort of threading the eye of the needle six times a game but something other than 'roost it long' needs to be in the playbook.

Inside 50 we might have pulled off a ton of contested marks, but when they got the ball forward they were much better at getting players loose. It was just that they couldn't kick for goal to save themselves. At one point in the second quarter they were 3.3, and if we converted like they did for the rest of the game I'd be half pleased that we had that many opportunities but absolutely shattered that they were all pissed away. Though having said that if I were a Richmond fan I'd also be my kicking my fence over and sending the kids to bed without dinner at the thought of all the horrible skill errors. Believe it or not (and I missed the whole thing due to a migraine) this team played finals last year.

We gave them more goals via heinous turnovers, but they stuffed up plenty of good chances via dropped marks, missed handballs and shonky kicking. It was glorious, but a lot of it came down to the pressure they were under. Would have been nice if the pressure had occasionally been rewarded with a free kick but you can't have everything. Having whinged at length about the umpires not giving frees where appropriate I went to see where this game total (24 frees) stood in the all-time record list. It's nowhere near the top 20, and it turns out that 2003/04 was truly the era of paying absolutely nothing.

I don't care how many are paid as long as when reasonable and the umpire's not blindsided/lying on the turf they're there. Fans will always pretend that their team gets rorted and that there's a giant conspiracy against them (because it's fun) but even allowing for the difficulties of being an umpire etc.. etc.. etc.. both teams could have had another 10 frees today for blatantly obvious infractions. Instead we're going to end up with the game being stretched to buggery to try and force more attractive play. Good luck with that when you still can't ping a guy who does so many rotations in a tackle that he almost goes the vom after being let go or players can just hand the ball to each other.

We also had fantastic luck on some of our goals, the first one (and as it turned out only one in the first quarter, which is very MFC) from Nathan Jones could easily have run into the post, and Tyson got that ridiculous bounce later - but in two weeks time the ball will probably be going against us in every possible way so take it where you can get it. Also too often when there wasn't a tall target to kick to they tried to bomb it onto the head of somebody like Salem or Bail with disappointing results. It's partially on them for not leading so it can be kicked to their chest but you've got to play to your strengths, and while Jeremy Howe is taking screamers every five seconds in the backline (and holding them this week) it's unlikely that pressure king Bail will suddenly replace him as a noted aerialist down the other end.

Overall I thought it was hard to fault too many players. Matt Jones (who was otherwise good at getting the ball, played a blistering third quarter and removed some of the monkey off his back from last week by kicking a goal on the run), Terlich and Jack Grimes will be wincing when they see their abysmal kicks which led to opposition goals and The King of Sizzle continues to polarise the community by being brilliant in one-on-ones then turning the ball over by attempting a bounce. They were all pretty good otherwise, and even though his disposal was suspect sometimes of the time McDonald did as good a job on Riewoldt as Frawley usually does.

If Dawes could have held a few marks, and Gawn had the same luck taking grabs inside 50 as he did around the ground we could have kicked an even better score, but up bobbed Watts as a forward again and he was great. I know I've been on and off his bandwagon on a weekly basis this year, but I do remember saying that if you can get him free inside 50 to mark on the lead he is a great set shot and can kick goals. Give him space, let him run at the ball or kick it to him running back into space and reap the rewards like we did tonight. At 12 points down in the second quarter that goal he kicked after a pass from Toumpas (who Sandy Roberts appears to have been calling ToumpAss for some reason) was a perfect example. There are plenty of players who would have botched that but he is almost worth putting your life on from 30m out on any slight angle. Sure most players should kick accurately from there but you know as well as I that they don't.

Once Jetta succumbed to the green apple splatters during the warm-up I was surprised that JFK didn't get a late reprieve and start with Toumpas as sub, but maybe the withdrawal came so late that you can't alter who your sub is at that point? If so it seems an absurd rule, because as long as teams aren't faking injury/illness then they're forced to start a player who they didn't even want in the team over one they did. All's well that ends well though, Toumpas played one of his better games, Jay kicked the sealer with a clutch goal and Jetta got to do whatever he needed to do instead of giving us his impression of Robert De Castella in the 1982 Commonwealth Games Marathon.

For the second week in a row we were involved in a game that would have annoyed 'football purists' (most of whom don't actually know what they want as long as it's not what they're getting right now) and which had more than its fair share of stoppages, but was in itself a beautiful, back and forth contest where goals were so important because they were rare. People are up in arms that no game has had both teams score +100 yet this season, and I can understand that but imagine if they cracked the game open to the point where matches were being won 140-130 every week. It would be interesting for the first six weeks then somebody would decide that there's too much scoring and that we need to make changes to bring it back down again. You can't win so we may as well just get on with it and enjoy.

Given that we haven't reached the Chris Sullivan Line before three-quarter-time for about four years I'm not sure I let myself believe we were going to win until Kennedy-Harris kicked the sealer, but the bit where I started thinking that we might have actually been a chance at holding on was the Viney goal when Astbury got hurt. It wasn't because the injury left them a player down just after they'd made their sub, but because of the fantastic sight of a Richmond player winning the ball then falling on his arse and handing it to Viney for the fatal side-step and goal. That's when even though I don't believe in fate I thought it was surely going to be our day. The problem was that with Melbourne you should never dare to dream, because then after Matt J's shithouse kick gifted them a goal the momentum completely flipped around and they were all over us for the rest of the quarter. Thank god then for bad kicking, because we really should have gone into the last quarter behind.

The belief that surely they were going to start kicking properly eventually and run over us if we gave them enough chances seemed to be coming true when they got the first of the last quarter courtesy of yet another free player inside 50. I was changing my distress setting to 'maritime' and getting ready to rip a flare in preparation for a classic MFC capsize where emotion would sweep the Tigers to a popular win, but enter the Gawn/Vince combination for a perfect tap and a goal on the run from outside 50 to steady things a little bit.

Still plenty of time to go though. It made the margin 10 points again but what is 10 points but one goal from potential disaster, and when the umpire finally decided to pay a holding the ball for the second or third time all day when he pinched Terlich directly in front they cut the gap back to four. Sure he'd had the ball for half a second, and sure both sides had gotten away with far worse all day but what better time to start plucking line-ball (at best) decisions out than halfway through the last quarter directly in front of goal?

Thankfully Watts got his second to open the gap up again, but we then went into shutdown mode 15 minutes into the quarter with everyone flapping their arms like a bird after taking a mark then waiting until every single player was matched up before kicking. What could possibly go wrong? Well Richmond could go from one end of the field to the other in seconds, find Cotchin in his own time zone straight in front of goal and watch him do what his teammates couldn't and convert. Might not have happened if we'd kept playing our natural game and tried to get another goal. I'd almost started to get confident after the Watts goal, thinking that 10 points was nothing but it was beyond the Tigers - now they were threatening to pinch it in heartbreaking fashion. Who didn't see the script ending with the much maligned Tyrone Vickery with ball in hand 50m out on the boundary line when the siren goes. Ball hits boot, Ty throws arms up in celebration, freeze frame, fade to sepia, roll credits.

Bless his natural forward's heart Watts then turned up again, doing what nobody else could all day and crumbing inside 50 to kick a goal. Now I felt confident, but still guarded, and when JFK took the mark with three minutes left I thought that even if he missed he could at least wasted enough time to make sure Richmond didn't get two in a row. Then he kicked it and I almost fell out of my seat. What a feeling. Stuff the fans for once, we can make our own fun but what a positive for all the coaching staff and players. Hard work is starting to pay off, and while there are still areas that are wobbly we've at least reduced them to the minority - admittedly without testing against a really good side since we kicked five goals against Sydney. There were also several times where two players would run to one opponent, who would handball over the top to the guy who had been left all on his own. These are minor issues against other teams who are no good but try that sort of thing against Hawthorn and they'll pop the balloon by kicking 30 goals.

We're moving the ball so much better. Kick-ins and occasion jaw-dropping fiascos aside we're moving the ball really well out of defence, with hard running midfielders looking to get on the end of long kicks - and a willingness to go into the middle of the ground where possible. There's still an issue with the half-forward line unless Dawes is taking marks, but at least if they can get the ball to the ground we're winning significantly more there than we were last year. There are still times when we kick to a 2-on-1 out of necessity but even though it's obvious Toumpas isn't going to take a huge contested mark nobody gets over there to help him out if the ball lands on the ground.

Elsewhere Salem continued to look good when he gets the ball but goes missing for long periods (can and will only get better with experience). The Pornographer (NSFW) was handy, took a nice mark before his goal, received an appropriately liquid reception in the circle at the end of the game, and will be a handy option to have around in the future. How many clubs can you go to and still get the Gatorade shower? If that sort of nonsense was around the 80's and 90's Dale Kickett would probably have lost his sight.

Am I losing the plot? (Part 72)
Speaking of the fourth quarter could somebody please confirm that I'm not going completely insane and that at one point Bernie Vince was the centre-bounce ruckman with Jay Kennedy-Harris as one of the midfielders. If so and it's not just psychotic delusions then what in god's name was happening? Luckily we got away with it.

(Update: Thanks to anonymous in the comments and the replay for confirming that it did actually happen. No need for intervention from the authorities, and we somehow managed to get a goal out of it. Somewhere Malcolm Blight is standing to applaud.)

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal
5 - Dom Tyson
4 - Cameron Pedersen
3 - Jeremy Howe
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Jack Watts

Significant apologies to Cross, Viney, Vince, Garland, Gawn, Terlich, M Jones (sans calamities), Dawes, Dunn and Jamar.

Important news for fans of the minors as Jeremy Howe is officially now eligible for the Seecamp. He's giving Dunn a substantial head-start but if he keeps taking ludicrous grabs to get us out of jail then who knows what's going to happen? With Pedo ineligible for the Stynes the battle remains between Jamar and the Spencil with Gawn threatening to run over the top of both of them.

28 - Nathan Jones
19 - Dom Tyson
13 - Lynden Dunn (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
12 - Daniel Cross
9 - Jack Viney
8 - Chris Dawes, James Frawley, Cameron Pedersen
5 - Jeremy Howe, Bernie Vince, Jack Watts
3 - Matt Jones, Tom McDonald, Dean Terlich
2 - Jay Kennedy-Harris
1 - Jack Grimes, Mark Jamar (Co-Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Neville Jetta, Jake Spencer (Co-Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Pedo reigns supreme, with his nomination for this august award (instituted: 2014) in the Carlton game proving the spark that he needed to rebuild his career and become one of the unlikeliest fan favourites in recent times. The weekly winner, pocketing a coupon for three ballroom dancing lessons with Darren Jolly, is former clubhouse leader Bernard Vince. He's nominated for the second time this season for a powerful long-bomb from outside 50. Now that we're actually kicking more than four goals a match (hopefully not speaking too soon) it's becoming harder than ever to decide on a weekly nominee. Apologies to Dom Tyson's wacky bounce goal which almost won extra points for the supporting cast because of the look of glee on Max Gawn's face as it went in.

I'd love to get into the spirit of things and give the points to Richmond for their Tom Hafey tribute banner. It was full of nice sentiment, had a little cartoon picture of the great man, and improved significantly from the abortion of a banner they served up in the first game of the season, but font is such an important part of the process they let themselves down badly. Even Fitzroy managed to come out with nice looking, clear, block letters when their club was going down the tubes.

I was also let down by the fact that they came out spruiking some amazing display and ended up delivering something that was functional but at best on a par with the sort of stuff our team delivers every second week. I'd like to take the moral highground and complain that the other side of their banner was an ad for tiles, but ours was for batteries.

Twitterist @CJPelican neatly sums up our performance:

So that's 9-0 Demons going into the bye, with apologies to today's opposition who tried hard in difficult circumstances. Richmond might have suffered defeat, but at least they're not in total disarray like North's lot who put this crepe out then tried to distance themselves from it almost immediately. I take it that the 'outrage' is mostly about the top line and the bottom line, even though they're clearly not related but a more accurate reason for disgust is a) the use of a cultural reference so outdated even I'm not into it and b) blatant disregard for the idea of centering text.

Speaking of cheersquads I don't know what was going on with those weird hand gesture things that were being waved about in ours but I'm saddened that nobody thought to create one in the shape of a fist.

Crowd Watch
After walking to the ground for the first time all season in a tribute to.. the fact that I didn't have anything better to do this morning I intended to hide in what I've since discovered is Row MM not LL and spend the afternoon being anti-social. Then people I know (and who may very well be reading, so hello and didn't we have a lovely time?) randomly showed up to sit amongst the humanoids around Row AA, so I joined them instead. In the end it was nice to share the win with likeminded individuals.

A run down of my personal affairs is absolutely fascinating I'm sure, but the point I'm getting to is that it was the first time all year I'd sat amongst any large number of 'people' and there was a strange vibe in the Ponsford. I'm not sure whether it was because there was a lot of disengaged Richmond fans who had turned up just because of the Hafey stuff - and the guy in front of me with his two kids basically sat there in silence all day giving their side nothing before walking out after JFK's goal - or because I was convinced a group of hipsters further in front were there undercover before breaking out into a public protest like on Q&A. Nobody pulled out a banner and started yelling about Tony Abbott being a shit bloke, but it's odd that just as everyone else pulls the pin on live footy hipsters suddenly decide to get into it.

Pre-match entertainment is a mixed bag, because you're probably forced to do something by the AFL and are never going to appeal to anyone BUT how pissweak was the Richmond version of that segment we have where people risk breaking their collarbone by taking a screamer over Russell Robertson? Theirs was exactly the same except the contestants were just trying to catch the ball without any special skills required. Absolutely riveting stuff there which really had the crowd on the edge of its seat. They're also persisting with the furious John Bonham style mass drumming before the match which is only a step above our now thankfully retired Trumpeteer.

As for the 'match day hosts' it was nice that Richmond had somebody of their 'own' as well as rent-a-crowd James Sherry but it might have been her first day on the job - in the 'classic goals' segment she described Michael Roach receiving a 'free goal' which brought up his '100th career goal". I'm assuming that as thousands of people ran onto the ground after he kicked it that it might have been his 100th of that particular season. Thank god nobody's got any footage (or at least I hope they haven't) of my disastrous two game stint doing a similar job at another Melbourne sporting club.

There was another ridiculous gimmick at half time where instead of a little league game (or whatever it's called now they can't keep score) in the area around the Ponsford Stand goals they had the 'winners' of some Mars Bar 'competition' having 'a kick'. There was no competitive element to it (if it's good enough for the kids and Jack Riewoldt..) and nobody was playing to win anything, they were quite literally just booting the ball back and forth because they'd won some lottery where suspiciously all the winning tickets were between 0001 and 0040. Rotten.

Once all the usual pre-match rubbish was wrapped up and they moved on to the reason 15,000 of 57,000 were there for - the tribute to Hafey. It was all very nicely done, none of it seen by Neville Jetta who was presumably confined to the can throughout but will hopefully be able to catch it on YouTube, and I thought the minute's applause instead of silence fit nicely with his reputation for vitality and a positive outlook on life. You're not going to do the same for Ross Lyon or Paul Roos are you? A minute's silence will fit them just fine. In true AFL fashion it lasted about 35 seconds, but at least with clapping instead of silence you couldn't hear generic iPhone ringtones going off or dickheads yelling things out. Under the circumstances it was hard for the crowd not to properly observe the occasion, but at the risk of coming off as the oldest 32-year-old ever should people not remove their hats for a tribute even if it wasn't a silence? I have no idea why this is the case, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Despite being vastly outnumbered by Richmond fans there was surprisingly little nark where we were - even after Dawes biffed Rance, even when it got tense in the last quarter. Apparently there was some potential for biff on Brunton Avenue after Dees fans broke into a mass chorus of the GOF but I didn't see it. I think the ones around us were all just feeling the fear of knowing that even a win would just delay the inevitable slide back towards the bottom of the ladder. This may come across as patronising or as mockery but it's not, I genuinely felt bad for them. Somewhere else in the stadium there was probably some filth who I'd have loved to have seen spontaneously combust, but the ones around us were just slowly deflating and losing the will to live. We've all been there, see you at the support group meetings.

On the way out at the end of the game it looked like somebody had fallen head first into a stereotype trap and thrown his Richmond membership to the ground in anger, but sadly when he was alerted to it we discovered that he'd dropped it accidentally and was pleased to get it back. One day I'd like to see some merry pranksters go to ridiculous lengths to smuggle a microwave into the ground/liberate one from a food outlet then wave it around over the race as the players come off after a shambolic defeat. Extra points if they can connect it to a power source and get the coveted light on/spinning turntable combination.

Next Week
Not only were the AFL kind enough to prop us up last year with a major cash injection, but they've also delivered a piece of scheduling genius by giving us the bye on the exact weekend of my wedding anniversary. Andrew Demetriou and team, like Jack Watts I never doubted you for a second no matter what the archives say.

For this reason footy can do one next weekend. I don't know what games are on and I don't care to find out. It's not even the right time to contemplate a mid-season 'review' which just degenerates into "oh my god", "how much better than 2012/13 is this?" and "boy was I wrong about [any of seventeen different things]" One will be forthcoming after Queen's Birthday (featuring all your favourite mid-season segments like Buy/Sell/Hold, early delisting predictions and waffle) whether or not we've plummeted to earth with a violent thud or not.

The Week After
Port in Alice Springs and speaking of coming back to earth forcefully that should put us in our place. Stranger things have happened, but it's not like Traegar Park is the north face of Mount Kilimanjaro so I'm not sure if the experience of playing one pre-season match there is going help us all that much. As long as we do as we did in that game against Geelong and stick with a better team most of the night I'll be happy.

As for changes it's hard to project this far out, but you would think Jetta comes back in for Toumpas - with no ill will towards Jimmy T  and Frawley would replace somebody (not entirely sure who though thanks to Pedo running riot as a forward). It might be Dawes after his 'crude' 'shepherd' in the first quarter, but I feel like he'll be ok. It doesn't help that nobody seems to have a database of carry-over points, but what I can work out from hamfisted research involving Google and nothing else all his points should have expired and while I have no doubt he's going to get cited for what he did I suspect it will be extremely low-grade, discounted to buggery with an early plea and he'll be free to play. In searching for information I did find this Facebook link which will hopefully not become relevant again.

If he doesn't go then I have absolutely no idea who to drop to bring Chip back. You certainly can't get rid of Gawn after today. What a situation to suddenly find ourselves in, with too many players fighting for spots. More will get their chance - we're on 33 players used for the season now which is just above the lowest figure since 1987. Last year we had 39 in a sad attempt to find some sort of decent combination, and with all of Blease, Clisby, Hogan (god forbid), Nicholson, Strauss and Tapscott likely to feature at some point before the end of the year we could be in line to match that but with the club in so much better shape. So, so, so, so much better shape. All of 2013 covered in the first nine weeks, superb stuff.

Stat My Bitch Up
After two consecutive season high scores our average points-per-game is up to 63.22. Remember, the total we're aiming for to beat last year's worst ever 22 game season result is 66.13 so there's still work to be done. We've won one more game than last year already and are still 2.9 points a game worse off. There'd be something wrong about that if it wasn't for the way we've cut opposition scores. There's no point even comparing the points against across the two years because we're so far ahead that it would make your head spin.

On a more local level I loved the stat Roos pulled out in his press conference where we only conceded 0.1 from 15 defensive stoppages. Finally we're playing with pride again. Also good to hear Roos throw political correctness out the window and refer to Pedersen as Pedo. He did do a lightning run out the door at the end of the press conference though, maybe he'd had dinner with Nifty Nev the night before?

Was it worth it?
There's obviously less suspense in this section when we win, but quite obviously yes it was. To the day I die I will never tire of seeing beaming smiles on the faces of MFC fans or having random strangers patting backs, shaking hands and generally going right off their nut about something so simple as a home and away victory.

Final Thoughts
We're only a game and (a lot of) percentage out of the eight you know. Forget #deesforthe17 let's have #deesforseptember then #deesfortheflag. Better buy your Queen's Birthday tickets now, because the queues will be 75 deep with all the bandwagoners who are going to climb back on board (and 150 deep for the queue of social rejects wanting to do 'empty ski fields' gags). A small part of me wants to get angry with these people, but the rational part of my brain says climb on the MFC rocket one-and-all as we set the controls for the heart of the sun.