Sunday, 6 July 2014

A return to traditional values

I rarely mix personal business with long-winded waffle about losing football games, but in this case it's continuing a storyline so go with it.

Not that it got a mention at the time, but my first proper date with the now Mrs. Demonblog happened immediately after we thumped Sydney. On the evening of 186 (link to post unfortunately missing) we went to a movie where I took out my frustration by yelling at some hipsters for talking, we got engaged the day after it became clear the 2012 season was going to be shite, and the afternoon of the day following our wedding hunkered down in the honeymoon suite the Dockers waffle us via an iPad.

And so, to continue the tradition of tying ever major event in my life into what was happening in the footy that week (nothing ever happen betweens the start of the finals and the first pre-season game) Saturday night's listless, slopfest watched on TV by just 63,000 masochists will forever be connected with a far happier occasion - a significant addition to the team at Demonblog Towers.

You may have missed it on Twitter, or alternatively you might be one of the smart ones who would rather blend their own head than use Twitter, but a short recap of events on Tuesday...
Born at 12.27pm, became a member of the Melbourne Football Club at 2.30pm, tears my heart out by declaring she's a GWS fan by 1 January 2019. Sections of the above name may be fictional.

This recruiting coup didn't come as a total surprise, I've been quite aware that this was on the cards since November - but the final delivery came a little sooner than expected. The original due date of Saturday 19 July became Thursday 10 July and then at about 1.30pm on Monday it was decided (by professionals I may add, not us because we fancied it) that little Jako was going to have to come out the next day - and in the most fast-tracked debut since Jack Watts on Queen's Birthday the future captain of the MFC women's team arrived less than 24 hours later. I'm pleased to say all involved are doing well, even if certain key players (i.e me and the kid) have no idea what we're doing.

It was a good week. The next day Jesse Hogan signed a contract extension, and had my faltering BLEASE FOR THE 1's campaign finally succeeded on Thursday night everything would have come together nicely, but you can't have everything and a week spent dealing with enormous quantities of excrement was a great warm-up to last night's game.

An underrated aspect of the surprise entrance early in the week was that by Saturday night the situation had stabilised enough that I was able to scuttle away from the hospital and return to my beloved Demonblog Towers to watch the match in the comfort of my own living room. Good thing it wasn't on Channel 7 (as if they're stupid enough), because my new family man gimmick would have been exposed as a fraud by an evening of blue language and abuse of furnishings.

There was a slight sense of guilt in doing a runner to watch this of all games. Having spent 90% of the week living in the medical version of a low security prison it was a good excuse for a change of scenery but the match was never, ever going to end well. If ever there was a game to miss, and by the look of my Twitter feed on the night plenty of our fans had taken the sensible decision to watch Essendon vs Port instead, this was it - but I keep being drawn back. It seems rude to turn back any of this slightly improved season having 'enjoyed' the last couple in their entirety.

So, enough of this brief foray into tedious daddy blogging and back to our core business - tedious sports blogging.


The usual disclaimers about how much better we are off now than in the era spanning 186 and Round 23 2013 obviously apply, but the post-Essendon feelgood factor has almost totally evaporated. Throwing away two games in a row courtesy of a few minutes of madness was painful, but at least we looked semi-capable of kicking decent scores again. What better team than Freo to show up and deliver the ultimate reality (bus) check?

"Top four side beats bottom four side's brains out" is hardly a huge news story, so if you were a neutral and simply looked at the scores you'd probably think it was just natural justice having its way with us. In a way it was - we had a reasonable start to the Ross Lyon at Freo era by kicking 6.4.40 in the first quarter of our first meeting, and despite losing by six goals it was one of several false dawns over the last few years where it looked like we'd turn the corner. In the four games since we've kicked an average of 38 points a game. Wheel out whatever coach you like, Rosco has got us on a leash like we're at a fetish club.

So have we got any right to be as upset about this week's 63 point loss as the 95, 90 or 61 point defeats which preceded it? I'd say yes, and with yet another disclaimer to point out that's despite us probably playing 'better' in Darwin than in any of those other three games. 'Better' is of course subjective when you're involved in an abusive relationship with an opposition coach who would still engineer a 10 goal win if he coached from inside a sensory deprivation tank - but at least this time we can put some of our obscenely low score down to missed opportunities rather than a total stranglehold by the Dockers.

It's (financially) a good thing we signed a contract extension with the Northern Territory during the week, because after delivering the sort of 'entertainment' we did last night they might have been on the phone to Footscray - the only other poor club who hasn't found an interstate venue to flog their games to - to try and replace us. We've already been personally run out of the ACT by their Chief Minister after the 2009 season, but fortunately the NT government has seen fit to keep writing us cheques - and while we're still losing money hand over fist while playing in Victoria we'll have to do something to keep ourselves afloat. Not sure they're getting their money's worth having 63k people nationally watch games played there, but it's their money so keep it coming.

It would be interesting to find out which point of the game the viewing figures were taken from, because there was a few minutes at the start where we actually looked like the better side without getting any reward for it. I seem to recall a similar pattern to our last meeting - we held them out for five minutes and even kicked a goal (just the one, it was an MFC first quarter after all) before punching ourselves out after five minutes then rolling over and dying when the going got too tough.

This time we didn't get a goal (not even one, it was an MFC first quarter after all) but could have had one via Max Gawn, outmarked in the square by a player 5ft shorter, or courtesy of Dawes who dropped a mark (FFS), gathered the crumb (YES!) then sprayed an easy snap (FFS!). When you score as little as we do you can't afford to go missing easy chances like that - but they weren't the only offenders throughout the night.

After 12 minutes of threatening to kick a goal despite seemingly playing without a forward line to receive our aimless hoofs inside 50, a missed snap by Nathan Jones allowed the Dockers their chance to deploy the same move every decent team does against us - converting a kick-in to a goal within 10 seconds by going straight down the middle of the ground to an easy mark then finding a player running unattended into an open goal.

Shortly afterwards the Turnover Kings struck again and the death march began. Picking out individual clangers in an MFC game is cruel considering at least half the team are responsible for one horror cock-up every game, but special mention must go to Jack Grimes following up his best game of the season last week by contributing to the tide turning with a hospital handball to Howe, who proceeded to shit himself in the tackle and dribble out a little handball to nobody in particular.

That shambles aside we were at least playing with intent in the first quarter, and Freo did their best to keep it lively by dropping easy marks and generally playing like they'd never been in humidity in their life, but with nobody seemingly capable of taking a contested mark and no burst players capable of showing up out of nowhere and doing something special it was only a matter of time before they choked us out.

They also helped us out by missing a bunch of easy chances, and like all good MFC wins the door was momentarily left open. Then Dawes held a mark for the first time in two weeks and didn't even go close to converting a set shot from 20m out on not much of angle. Two minutes later a meltdown at a defensive stoppage cost us another goal and it became abundantly clear that even on an off-day Fremantle are not flaky enough to fall-apart and let a side like us take advantage.

From there the evening descended into quite possibly one of the most tedious Melbourne games I've seen in recent years. Not that I want to run into opposition teams kicking 150 points and tearing us to shreds, but at least when that happened you'd sit there and appreciate it with a horrified fascination. This was a good side holding a poor one at arm's length and never expending more than the minimum of effort. At least Sylvia did nothing instead of exercising the option of all ex-MFC players to play their one great game at a new club against us.

Finally, 10 minutes into the second quarter Pedersen and Kent decided to take the game on (CLICHE) instead of stop-start slop and were rewarded for it with a goal. It helped that Kent converted on the run from a ludicrous angle, but thank god we've got at least one player capable of doing that. As much as I love Blease I'm prepared to admit that Kent looks like he does the same thing with far greater efforts across four quarters. He'd been down the last two weeks after the heroics of the Essendon game, but is far from our worst player at the moment.

At least having a player who can kick goals on the run makes up for not having anybody else looking likely around half-forward. I'd have thought Frawley could have helped in that regard having taken a shitload of marks from a lot of dodgy kicks when used as a forward, but for some reason he ended up back in defence despite Pavlich's late withdrawal leaving Freo without a vast array of talls.

He wasn't kicking an outrageous amount of goals up front, but he was far more likely to run to the ball and hold an important mark than some others. It was even more bizarre considering Pedersen has been quietened a bit in the last few weeks after his burst of career best form. It's not like we're well equipped to win the ball if it's kicked forward and not marked so why not play somebody down there who has proven that he can do just that. I thought - controversially as it turned out - that he was amongst our best last week but I'm into the horses for courses policy.

Not surprisingly the first time he went near the ball in the middle of the ground after being switched forward for the last quarter he marked it. The fact that he didn't have anyone to kick it to was secondary to the fact that many of our other forwards would have dropped it. Compensation issues aside I really think that if we can't get another decent forward in the off-season that we'd be better having him to play down there to take some of the heat off Hogan. The last thing I want is for Hulkamania, now being paid obscene money for somebody who has played two pre-season matches, to be ruined Toumpas style by being thrown to the wolves in his first year.

The fact that we're reverting to previous form is a huge win for Chip, who can now claim with a straight face (but smouldering pants) that we're not progressing enough for him to stay. I'm 90% that he's leaving now (based on nothing more than intuition), and am sad about it but as long as he manages to extract ridiculous amounts of money from another club in order to maximise our compensation hopefully we can swap that pick for an established player to help us take the next step back to the sweet mid-table mediocrity that we got a taste of a few weeks ago.

Back to the second quarter, where we momentarily held the Dockers up and played our customary dominant 10 minutes of a quarter for no reward before falling in a black hole never to be seen again. The theory behind boring the shit out of everybody momentarily seemed sound when Grimes - suddenly as much of an attacking option as you get with us in the last few weeks - won a free in the pocket. He missed, and soon half the team went missing as the Dockers did what they pleased.

I love that we're no longer (just yet) the sort of team to be 10 goals down at half time, and am well aware that Freo are the masters of slowly garrotting the opposition, but we've only got ourselves to blame this time. Giving up 51 points from turnovers doesn't say it all, but it says enough. The respective systems were never going to produce a 150-130 shootout, but it doesn't mean you can't finish some of your tiny number of chances and/or create a few more. At least the popular Kent/Pedo combination made something out of nothing instead of trying to work through the sludge to create the perfect opportunity or just get ball, kick ball, see ball marked by defenders and rebounded straight to the other end in trampoline fashion.

So by half-time the dream of luring them into stuffing it up was dead and the game was shot. At the risk of anti-Roos apostasy, and accepting of the fact that we're playing for bugger all this year, I wish he'd have taken a chance on the sub earlier. As long as the feedback is delivered constructively you're not going to crush Salem's youthful spirit by admitting that he's done nowt and replacing him with Barry at half time. Why wait until the game is shot before introducing a different type of player? Even if they wanted to try Salem in a different role to try and get his hands on the ball there was a lengthy queue of other potential victims waiting to be dragged off. To his credit Salem got into it more in the second half, but he still needs to go back to Casey and smash a few games to get his touch back. Barry, on the other hand, is clearly nowhere near it at the moment but if you're going to pick somebody as the sub at least back them to make a difference.

Speaking of declining to implement alternative plans, perhaps the "Belt it towards Jamar" tactic from kick-ins should be shelved when he's playing against a giraffe like Sandilands? It cost us a goal in the third quarter. Later Dunn tried a gigantic hoof down the middle of the ground and that came straight back for a goal too, so be careful what you wish for I suppose.

We had to go 35 points behind before finally kicking our second goal. Which sounds familiar, but unlike last week we weren't playing a team at our level and Freo didn't fall into the trap of letting us get a run on by kicking multiple goals. Despite the extreme excitement factor of scoring two goals in more than a half of football end of season malaise started to kick in. Midway through the quarter I got distracted and wandered out of the room to do something else. Luckily I walked back in just to see Bail kicking his goal, which was nice because if you miss any MFC goal you might not see another one until 2015.

At this point I was half tempted to leave and do something sensible like rejoining my family, but couldn't bring myself to go in case I missed 'something' in this dull as dishwater game. It wasn't just me who was starting to look like they were reaching for the end of the season (oh how I will miss it come October though), half our side are still listed as missing by the NT Police and Freo were just trotting around doing whatever they liked.

I was half tempted to leave at three quarter time and do something sensible like returning to my family, but couldn't bring myself to.even though the whole thing was as dull as dishwater. Missed Grimes' turnover goal in the third because I'd lost interest again, and if you'd turned in to see a tough performance by our team you'd have been sorely disappointed. Freo were just running around doing whatever they liked. Fortunately they only wanted to deliver some light GBH rather than a total massacre.

You can cite game styles all you like, but we had plenty of chances to get in a scoring position and couldn't convert. The idea of setting up the Maginot Line and trying to keep opposition scores down is fine, but the amount of opportunities we stuff up due to shithouse kicks out of the middle, not having quick running players around the half-forward flank or any crumbers inside 50 is criminal.

At one point during the third quarter Pedersen ended up in the ruck, and it looked like even the coaches had given up but it turned out they'd eventually introduced Barry at the expense of Gawn. Thank god they finally got the kid on just to see if he could make a difference, but why not give Gawn the game-time against one of the best ruckmen in the comp? He's got the potential to be the undisputed #1 when Jamar retires, so let's stop pissing about with him and start preparing for the future.

Eventually 10 minutes into the last quarter I'd had enough of listening to Tony Shaw (whose one contribution to footy broadcasting appears to be whacking Dermott Brereton in the cock in the League Teams ad) and listened to the rest in the car. Managed to miss precisely zero goals, and can probably live without seeing 15 minutes of a 2013-esque bending over for a top team.

The next few weeks will tell whether or not we can show anything against good sides again like we did against Sydney (albeit while only kicking five goals) or whether this season is being thrown in the 'too hard' basket and planning for 2015 has started. If it's the latter then for god's sake can we please try some more of the 'other' players instead of going in with the same team every week?

2014 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
One of those glorious games where nobody actually deserved a vote, but as per the Demonblog Constitution somebody's got to get them...

5 - Tom McDonald
4 - Matt Jones
3 - Jack Viney
2 - Bernie Vince
1 - Dean Kent

Apologies to the other 17 players who are about as worthy of votes as most of the above.

Leaderboard
Seven games left, and 35 points on offer so good news to Dean Kent in that his one vote has kept him eligible for the big prize. It's still NJ's to lose, but his nearest challengers have done him a huge favour by being down on form/injured in the last few weeks. The Hilton remains farcical.

38 - Nathan Jones
27 - Lynden Dunn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
24 - Dom Tyson
20 - Daniel Cross
14 - Bernie Vince
13 - Chris Dawes
12 -  James Frawley, Jack Viney
10 - Jeremy Howe
9 - Cameron Pedersen,
8 - Tom McDonald
7 - Matt Jones
6 - Jack Watts
5 - Mark Jamar (Leader: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Neville Jetta
4 - Dean Kent,
3 - Dean Terlich
2 - Rohan Bail, Jack Grimes, Jay Kennedy-Harris (Leader: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
1 - Jake Spencer

Stat My Bitch Up
The first quarter was our 8th 0/1 goal opener of 2014. This compares 'favourably' to the other years of the dark ages:

2007 - 4 (2 Daniher, 2 Riley)
2008 - 9
2009 - 8
2010 - 6
2011 - 5 (4 Bailey, 1 Viney)
2012 - 9
2013 - 8 (5 Neeld, 3 Craig)

Total - Bailey 27 (32.53%), Neeld 14 (42.42%), Roos 8 (53.33%), Craig 3 (etc..), Daniher 2, Riley 2, Viney 1

It might all be in the best possible taste and in the name of stopping us conceding 1000 points a game, but if it hits 10 this year the Bailey Quarter may officially become the Roos Quarter.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
For a while it looked as if Pedo/Kent (Pent? Kedo?) was going to win by default, and even though there were three more goals none of them were better. Congratulations to the duo who win a double pass to the Viewbank Secondary College production of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore. Tickets are not transferable.

The Big 10 are still the clubhouse leaders for the goal against Essendon.



Given that the Dockers cheersquad didn't even bother to make a banner our team could have won even if they'd created something made out of tissue paper, which unsuccessfully attempted to merge pop culture phrases and obituaries, with 0's instead of O's and a curtain large enough to march King Kong through and they'd still have won. As it was they produced a banner of a good standard, and with extra points for the effort of transporting it to Darwin the only possible result is 15-0 Demons.

I wish the Freo players had run on and committed a deliberately provocative move like running through our banner.

Also may I say as I start to get jaded with this season the gusto that the community has taken to Banner Watch with has been a highlight. Keep on crepeing on.

Draft Watch
It's abundantly clear to me now that we won't finish outside the bottom four, so odds on three superstars and one honest toiler will go in the first few picks and we'll get the toiler. I'll just assume the first pick will end up being a disappointment, so I'm left hoping for us to finally use an insignificant national draft or rookie pick on some ill-bred lunatic with face tatts. You'd think I'd have learnt my lesson after demanding a hard coach for years then getting a pyromaniac who showed up with his own can of petrol, but no. Give us the insane. So much the better if they can play as an exciting half-forward flanker or crumber.

As for top line players I like the sound of this Christian Petracca guy just because he's a half-forward flanker which would give us the chance to actually play with one for once. There's also somebody called Dillon Viojo-Rainbow, so let's get him as part of the #draftsillynames campaign.

Next Week
Writing off Geelong is a national sport, and we've all indulged ourselves in a spot of it at some point only for them to leap out of the grave at the last minute and make us look foolish. They're hardly flying on all cylinders this year, but you'd think they've still got more than enough class to take care of us. Would be a fine time to make some sort of statement about how we're not intending to remain in the wooden spoon race, but coming back from Darwin I'd say fat chance. Prove me wrong gents, prove me wrong.

Apparently Casey choked on a giant set of plums again. Probably didn't help them that we were playing interstate and presumably took a couple of emergencies in case anybody did a Nifty Nev Jetta and got the trots just before the bounce. We were kind enough to leave Nicholson behind so it's not a totally loveless relationship, and along with Riley he was the only MFC listed player in the bests so that's not a great sign. So on that note...

IN: Tapscott, Jetta, Riley, Kennedy-Harris
OUT: Salem, Terlich, Barry, Bail (omit)
UNLUCKY: Bail - who hasn't been all that bad, but give him a week as the emergency and try somebody else.

Final Thoughts
We've got an ugly few weeks coming up. Top 8 by the time my kid graduates high school.

3 comments:

  1. Congrats on yr baby Adam

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  2. I'm tipping there would have been high 5's all over Demonblog towers after this one; "Keep on crepeing on." Excellent stuff as usual and well done on the baby.
    Bakes.

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  3. congrats, and can't way to see little Jako running around for the mighty (and unbeaten) WMFC.

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