Sunday, 15 July 2018

Climb the ladder, make yourself famous

Melbourne Football club administrators rejoice, the Northern Territory is officially off the hook for 2018. We're $1.2 million dollars richer, won two games there by a combined 150 points and avoided a season-ending comedown on return to Victoria that would have unleashed carnage of biblical proportions. All in all, a pretty good seven days for everyone except Billy Stretch and Jack Viney.

There's something about toe injuries at this club, after Tom McDonald's 100 goal season was derailed by one in the pre-season, Stretch felt the #fistedforever sting immediately after reinvigorating his career, then Viney's went late this week. At least those three players know what the many fans who've injured themselves kicking buggery out of inanimate objects feel like. 

The St Kilda outrage has not been forgotten, so I was very worried about a similar disaster breaking out here. The tension was so high that when the news came through that Viney was out I was tempted to get back on the train I'd literally just egressed and go back the other way. This is what happens when you cut the cord and stop religiously going to every game, cowardly thoughts begin to creep in about watching on TV instead. Carrying on to the ground obviously proved to be the right idea, even if I was having serious doubts at half time. 

You'd have thought the obvious like-for-like replacement for Viney would be Dom Tyson, but he got a rude reminder of his standing when Mitch Hannan was picked instead. Why even make him an emergency if you're not going to use him to replace a midfielder? It was one in the eye to the people who assure me he's still got a big AFL future but just needs to go to a club where he can be the primary ball winner. I've nothing remotely personal against the guy but best of luck with that.

During week Wayne Carey offered him a chance at replicating his 2013 season, making the off-chops suggestion that Carlton trade their incoming #1 pick in a three player swap including Sam Frost and Tom Bugg. You thought he was doing a subtle 'Silvagni recruits GWS players' gag until the footage showed that he was being dead serious. The theory behind getting multiple players rather than pinning all your hopes on a single kid when your club is in disarray is reasonable, but the speed we would rush to sign off on that deal would only be matched by Blues fans invading Princes Park to demand an Extraordinary General Meeting.

While choosing an out of form forward to replace Viney instead of a midfielder didn't make any sense to the naked eye, it ultimately flung the door open to some of the most breathtaking centre square play you're ever likely to see. Between them, Gawn, Brayshaw and Oliver delivered the greatest centre bounce psychic connection since Jamar and Moloney poleaxed Adelaide in 2011. The trio did their best work in combination during the third quarter as we piled on seven goals in 12 minutes, banishing the fears of a second half fadeout wiping away the measly three point half time lead.

Victory didn't come easily until after half time, but at least this time against the Dogs we didn't have to fight back from a surprise three goal deficit in the first quarter. We did go one behind, with Harmes pinged for deliberate when he responded to a tackle 20 metres out by thumping a handball towards goal. If it wasn't so far out he'd have got away with it, but was so incredibly blatant you couldn't argue. I still think you should be able to concede a score whenever you want, but at the moment you can't so bad luck to him. It was the start of a ropey half for Harmes, but like everyone he burst into life in the second half, playing a decent role in the midfield. Though with the service Gawn was offering during the third quarter I might have had a centre clearance.

You couldn't fault Footscray's effort at the start, but I saw similar last Saturday in the rolling score updates of their game against Hawthorn. They managed a quarter and a half there before falling into a ditch, and not much longer here. It was clear that we had a better 22 players, considering the great vengeance and furious anger of the third quarter it's fun that we were still losing on all the main statistical indicators. In the end we only won centre clearances narrowly and were actually tonked in clearances around the ground. We even lost the inside 50s, leading to what was for us a super-efficient 29 scores from 52 entries.

Even after losing a goal via an over the top handball blooper by Garlett, we still recovered the lead via McDonald winning a free for falling over his opponent. It was an up-and-down quarter for McSizzle, later he found himself back in defence, had a nightmare flashback to the supposed horrors of the past and gifted them a goal. What a low moment for those of us ready to violently back his record as a defender, as if any backman who tries to make the play isn't going to stuff it up occasionally. For the rest of the game his old role was played by Sam Frost - who brings great closing speed and physical presence but you have to accept will do something insane at least once a game.

I was bleeding when a second goal not long after the McDonald blunder handed them a quarter time lead. There was a feeling people were about to go off on one if we didn't win, and those with long memories of Port Adelaide kicking a goal after a 'mark' that was held for about 0.1 seconds a few weeks ago nearly stormed the ground when Sizzle was denied a strong grab at the start of the second quarter. It looked - to sporting depressives like me anyway - that one of those days was on its way. By half time we'd marginally grabbed the lead, saved by Frost almost tearing his opponent's leg off in a desperate attempt to rush a behind, and Nifty narrowly running a bouncing ball through by the narrowest of margins. On the other side of the ledger was a hurried kick towards Hogan and four Dog defenders where they somehow contrived to infringe. Everything was pointing - falsely as it turns out - towards at best a slogging win that confirmed we didn't deserve to make the eight anyway.

After plodding through the first two quarters and expecting not much else, the pedal went down with some force after half time. Not straight away, we had to ride out conceding the lead at the start of the third term, and I could sense a nuclear reaction brewing amongst our fans that would wipe out all life for thousands of kilometres. It was reminiscent of the Essendon game that started that glorious mid-season run, a first half where all the usual scapegoats (Goodwin, Lewis, umpires, the people who tempted you into following Melbourne) were about to be burnt alive before the opposition packed it in and allowed us to win comfortably without even the lightest singeing.

I was hating on Lewis with a passion through the first half, but had to laugh when the usual 'he's ok with the ball but no good defensively' cliche was flipped on its head via a brave intercept mark followed by a suicidal turnover. The anxiety continued into the early stages of the third, where he did an impression of a traffic cone that should see him traded to VicRoads. Hopefully we read the small print on his Cone-tract and can void the last season by making him a coach or something. As much as I despise the "he's not going to be in your next premiership" line of thinking, we are beyond the stage of being desperate for mature bodies and need actual impact players. That doesn't mean we're good yet, but it's not like our defence has been functioning at top gear for more than about four weeks out of 17 so far this year so I'd much rather play somebody with a fifth of the career games who can be relied to put in the required defensive pressure every time.

I note that for all the bullshit that goes around about 'leadership' and the importance of these older players to lowly teams that the Brisbane Lions - well behind us in development for now - didn't implode when Luke Hodge pulled out yesterday. It's imperative that we use whatever draft picks we've got left, free agency or any other means necessary to get somebody who can be relied on to smash in every week instead of flitting in and out of the game. It's not like he's doing it deliberately, it's just that the wall is in the process of being hit and we're not going to get to the end of 2019 without it becoming a major problem if not attended to ASAP.

The third quarter will quite rightly go down as a modern classic, but before the chaos came a few minutes of nerves. There "here we go" moment is legendary at this club, and when Dale Morris was picked out standing on his own for a shot at his first goal since 2011 I was suffering major gastrointestinal distress. Fortunately he kicked like somebody who has three goals in 246 games, but after three minutes of our tremendously ordinary attempts to get the ball clear they got the goal anyway.

If there was a footy time machine available I'd go back to:
  • Dallas Brookes Hall on September 16, 1996 to punch on over the merger
  • The day they decided to hire Neeld so I could pull the fire alarm before he signed the contract 
  • Draft night 2009 to warn everyone about $cully
  • The 1987 Preliminary Final to run on the field and across the mark before Jim Stynes did
  • ... and obviously any of the flags.
The Bulldogs may want to use their turn in the machine to go back and make Patrick Lipinski miss his shot on goal, because the immediate net gain turned out to be -12 points and the overall result was setting us up to run riot. Party time started with a monster tap from Maximum to Brayshaw, who went through Oliver to Anal-Bullet standing on his own inside 50. With his recent record from set shots who knows what would have happened if he'd missed, but he chose the perfect time to convert and set up episode two of the Gawn Show. The next centre bounce contest went from his hand, to Harmes, Brayshaw again, and eventually landed with Hogan for the second in a minute. 

This set up another opportunity for Max to treat his opposing number like the day he had 80 hitouts against Bendigo in the VFL, this time using Petracca as his conduit to get the ball to Brayshaw for a long kick towards goal. That the last two blockbuster clearances came without Oliver was a positive sign, even better that the second one ended with him recovering from falling over to pluck the ball of the back of the pack and thump through the third in 90 seconds.

Footscray finally devised a way to hold us up by openly scragging Brayshaw at the next bounce. You could have seen it from space, but obviously not from ground level because it went unpunished. This was interesting considering earlier in the game he'd got a centre bounce free from a non-controlling umpire diagonally opposite him and with half a dozen players standing in the way. They're just making it up. But you know, bring in some zones and people will just go off their tits for the competition like never before.

Nobody has done more for thrilling footy this year than us, and we continued to contribute by looking highly likely to concede whenever the ball went near our 50. Fortunately after the Dogs blew one opportunity we went down the other end for a fourth in quick succession. Petracca steamed through the middle and unloaded a gigantic torp to Neal-Bullen standing on his own. The wobbly nature of the kick meant it took a weird bounce and almost came unstuck but the Bullet got the ball to Hannan and we'd practically killed them off in record time. I've seen this sort of avalanche happen plenty of times before, but not often in our favour.

It was a thrilling burst of ruthless, unstoppable football which we hope to be dropping on the good sides sooner rather than later. Our issue is what happens in the other 100 minutes when we're nervously shifting the ball out of defence or panic bombing towards a jam packed forward line where everyone jumps at the same contest. Not to mention our old Achilles' heel of what to do when the other side extracts the ball into open space and can get the ball inside 50 quickly. For the second time this year the Dogs had plenty of opportunities running through the ground that died due to them having no competent forwards. For the rest of the year we have to take on Hawkins, Walker, the Adelaide Tom Lynch, Franklin, Kennedy, Darling and Cameron so it would be nice to stop sides breaking forward so easily.

Garlett got another after a bullet pass from Oliver, sensibly resisting his first urge to throw a dangerous handball to Hogan. Then came the #1 highlight of the quarter that didn't involve the holy trinity of Gawn, Brayshaw and Oliver. Melksham took the ball in the midfield and went through two Footscray players like he was skating on ice, having a bounce, then in a visually appealing spectacle gestured while still running at full pelt that he was going to dump it long. The Dogs defenders took the clue and both went to Hogan, then the second time gave away an unnecessary free when they had him outnumbered.

Milkshake is not only the greatest player in AFLX history, he'll now have to field an offer from Channel 7's Dancing with the Stars. Meanwhile the Bulldogs players involved are seeking advice from the Thai cave rescue specialists on how they can be dug out of the MCG turf.
Falling down across the half-forward line has been one of my many ongoing irritations for the last 12 seasons, and for that reason I put it to you that Melksham is the most underrated key to us going anywhere this year. Gawn, Oliver, Hogan, McDonald, Brayshaw etc.. will have a more direct four quarter impact, but when Milk gets into space he can be lethal. To the uncultured eye I can't tell if we need to play through him more, or if he needs to do more to get into a position to be played through. All I can confirm is that we look a lot better when he's going. Same with Garlett, who did his job admirably again. He didn't star by any means, but two goals and plenty of chase is at least breaking even with what we were getting from three tall forwards plus it opens space for Hogan and Sizzle.

The golden era of the massacre ended with Gawn doing his own roving at the next centre bounce, contributing to McDonald marking in the pocket for a seventh straight. He probably didn't have enough of the ball, but it made up for being ripped off blind earlier. There were still eight minutes left, and if it carried on like this we were going to trouble the score of the off-brand fourth quarter against GWS in 2013. Then we did our bit for making sure Dogs fans didn't take advantage of the NQR twilight timeslot by going out for a curry when we let them kick an easy goal.

If they'd followed their own side's third quarters all year they might have done it preemptively at half time, and when Spargo got the party restarted immediately after with another goal born from Gawn's plus sized mitts they were free to head out down to Irving Street and pick up an ounce. To keep saving footy it was then our chance to concede one straight out the centre, before Max (*swoon*) and Oliver combined to set up Sizzle for yet another chance immediately after the bounce. McDonald uncharacteristically missed everything, ending the slaughter quarter at eight goals.

Even after a run like that I'm eternally scared, and when the Dogs nearly got a goal late we were about six points short of adequate insurance against a fatigue debacle. When they pushed hard for a goal at the start of the last that would have cut the margin to 24 with plenty of time to go I was getting a bit sweaty and quite a lot sweary. After the goal frenzy of the third quarter, the fourth was back to the sort of game people ring up talkback radio to complain about. After a couple of near misses it took 15 minutes for Lewis to be gifted an administrative free for somebody running past without filling in the appropriate paperwork, and he finished off any concern about a comeback.

That was all the encouragement Bulldogs players needed to give up for the day, and the rest of the game was played out in a less than enthusiastic manner. Gawn couldn't be accused of slowing down, he even bumped somebody at the end in a way that half-looked like a jumper punch and made me shriek in terror. The day was going so well for him that at one point he even nutmegged an opponent by slapping the ball through his legs and running onto it around the other side, ultimately setting up a goal. What a colossal figure, whoever eventually replaces him as our number one ruckman is going to be treated like Matthew Knights following Kevin Sheedy.

By the end the Bulldogs were about as stern an opposition as the no-name Freo players, but let that not detract from the majesty of the final goal. The continually impressive Fritsch marked, kicked short to Salem, who went wider to Gawn, handballed to Hibberd running past and we were off to the races. He propped, gave the ball to Oliver, who went to Hogan, kept running, took a handball from Brayshaw, sprinted to 50 in turbo mode and drilled a perfect pass to Petracca for the goal. Everyone involved played their role perfectly, but if you don't love Clayton Oliver you're either deranged, that Carlton bloke or both. You can never be found out if you don't play on the same frequency as anybody else, he's like an unjammable radio signal.

The hurricane of destruction was memorable, but I'm still not convinced it translates to beating any of the top eight contenders. At least we're going to have plenty of opportunities to test it, after negotiating banana skins the last two weeks, five of the last six games are against sides either clearly above us or right around our level. Ever since the fixture came out I've been moping about how difficult the run home was, and with Adelaide and St Kilda as the surprise win/loss cancelling each other out this is precisely where I expected to be come this time of year. Somehow that ended up with us finishing 7th, a result that would seem mediocre to pretty much every other club in the comp but would leave me turning cartwheels down the street and kissing strangers. In the sage words of he who provided the official name of this page, please please please let me get what I want.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Angus Brayshaw
3 - Clayton Oliver
--- a distance ---
2 - Jesse Hogan
1 - Tom McDonald

Nice to have several apologies who might have made the votes on merit rather than just filling numbers - Fritsch or Salem could have made either of the last two spots but I opted for McDonald not just because of the goals but highly competent backup rucking that took the heat off Maximum until he could go bananas.

A great day for the leaders, with all the votes going to players already in double figures. The results from this week further the near certainty that your winner is either going to be Maximum or the Hamburglar. No movement in the minors, Fritsch was unlucky not to further extend his lead in the Hilton but managed to get through another round without any of his challengers (e.g. Spargo and nobody else at this stage) polling and remains a near certainty. Nifty still sits atop a low volume but competitive field of defenders.

42 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Clayton Oliver
24 - Jesse Hogan
16 - Tom McDonald
14 - Angus Brayshaw, Nathan Jones
13 - Bayley Fritsch (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
--- No hope beyond here without at least one final ---
11 - Jake Melksham
8 - Jack Viney
7 - Christian Petracca
--- At least two finals needed ---
6 - James Harmes, Neville Jetta (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis,
4 - Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald
--- Three+ finals ---
3 - Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Alex Neal-Bullen,
2 - Christian Salem
1 - Cameron Pedersen, Joel Smith

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I'm keeping Tyson at Docklands in the lead overall, but this week's award goes to everyone involved in that last goal. It was capped off by Petracca, but the BOG in the process was Oliver. All of them get to enjoy dinner at the Lobster Cave in Beaumaris.

Opposition cheersquads - I direct you to this week's banner as an example of how to expertly create a generic message of encouragement. The rhyme flows perfectly, the font remains the best in the business and the kerning is delightful. As for the Dogs, for all the complaints I had about the wonky flow of the 'humorous' messages done by that comedian bloke they are far worse off now. Even with him gone they're still keen on Os that looks more like a 0s. Dees 17-0 for the year.

Crowd Watch (incorporating Matchday Experience Watch)
I was spirited into the AFL Members, where Bulldogs fans couldn't have given the faintest shit about the result. And why would you? I'd have sat there mentally replaying the Grand Final. Meanwhile, with no glorious triumphs in over 50 years to visualise, most of the Dees fans around me spent the first half hanging shit on Lewis. At one point one of them shouted "do you want it bitch?" at him (at least I think it was related to the play) after a marking contest, which even I think is a touch harsh.

Otherwise the only excitement was from seeing a 60-year-old man wearing a ridiculous jet black wig that made him look like an elderly member of the T-Birds from Grease, and from the people in the restaurant behind who got a close-up look of me hauling my bargearse over seats for a half-time panic feed.

Elsewhere, however, it was all happening:
These may have been the same children who serenaded the crowd at Jolimont Station with a rendition of the Grand Old Flag. Imagine the scenes when we build club HQ on top of the station and you can do that shit from a balcony above the platforms.

On to the entertainment, and let's be quite clear that Hogan's Highball is the biggest pile of shit since Match The Emoji. I understand that one bloke in a hundred necking himself (even after signing a waiver) was the end of the original concept, but why not do something new instead of a bootleg version of the same general concept? They've got overalls on, put them through a Super Mario Brothers simulation called Petracca's Plumbing. Even if part of the settlement was to replace the screamers with tepid chest marks why did the name have to change? I don't think there's going to be a complaint to the ACCC about calling contestants 'Hogan's Heroes' when they're not actually doing anything heroic.

Next Week
To our old nemesis Kardinia Park, where we could do with an outbreak of the spirit of 2005/2015 rather than 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2016. Last time the travelling Melbourne fans were bigger arseholes than the locals so the visit next Saturday night will be done under sufferance, knowing full well that I'll probably have a miserable time.

What will help my mood is if we walk out with the points, Geelong might start favourites but are in no way unbeatable. Even Carlton gave them a scare at home so I'm not completely ruling out a momentous victory. Nor am I expecting one, so watch out innocent motorists I'll likely be angrily swerving all over the place coming back up the highway.

Now that we've avoided the immediate post-Darwin comedown I'm on high alert for a delayed collapse. From 2010-2017 we were 1/7 the week after returning and 2/6 two weeks after. Even adjusting for the fact that would probably have lost most of those years no matter where we played it's still concerning. Guess what happened the last time we went to Kardinia Park two weeks after Darwin?

With Billy Stretch gone for the year and Viney now joining him in the toe recovery ward our already ropey depth is under severe stress. I was still scared of the Bulldogs pace, so I'm opting to pull the trigger on the "he runs quickly, that will cover up anything unpleasant" Hartung Manoeuvre and hand Baker his debut. Out goes Hannan, who wasn't terrible this week but isn't required in the forward line at the moment - get a runner in and let's try to get the ball inside 50 at a decent speed again. If we can replicate the quick entries from the middle in general play we could leave 18 blue and white piles of dust on the Kardinia Park surface. He wasn't in the best for Casey today, but quite frankly I wrote everything above before that game happened and am not changing my mind now.

Kennedy-Harris wasn't amazing, but did enough to get another go. Like a barometer for the whole team I'm not convinced he's going to keep it up against the better sides.

IN: Baker
OUT: Hannan (omit)
LUCKY: JFK, Lewis, Vince
UNLUCKY: Bugg, Tyson + Weideman and T. Smith who are no chance now that we've ditched the third tall

The All New Bradbury Plan

While Kylie Jenner is busily working towards becoming the youngest self-made billionaire ever, I'm dedicating the next several weeks to complex scenarios which end with the Dees playing finals. This was a tremendous week for the plan, with Geelong, Hawthorn, Collingwood and Port all losing. The problem is that Richmond screwing us by losing to the Giants might prove to be the most decisive result of the lot. Now the prospect of an in/out Round 23 game is right back on the cards, and I don't think I can handle that - I could almost handle Dunn and Howe putting us out last year but if Turncoat Tom comes back from injury to get one over us in spectacular fashion there may be civil unrest.

I've done two ladder predictors, the rolling one I've been keeping throughout the season and a completely fresh start. The rolling one has Round 23 being irrelevant to both sides unless a) we win three of Geelong, Adelaide, Sydney and GWS or b) Hawthorn lose to one of Carlton, Freo or Essendon as well as Geelong and Sydney in the next three weeks. The other somehow came out with it all being on the line against the Giants. Either way I'm more nervous than Alan Bond at the ATO.

Can win every week - will finish above us - , Richmond, Sydney and West Coast (↑)
Unlikely to be in the battle for 6th - 10th so may as well win - Collingwood, Port Adelaide (↓)
Likely to make the eight, usually still want them to lose - Nil
Lose against higher teams, beat lower teams, take games off each other 
Adelaide, Geelong, Hawthorn, GWS, and North Melbourne
Preferred result depends on opposition, usually want a win against higher - Nil
Win against higher teams, lose against lower teams - Essendon
Good value as spoilers only - Brisbane, Carlton, Footscray, Fremantle, Gold Coast and St Kilda

Your how to vote card for Round 18:
Collingwood d. North (shelve your natural hatred of the Pies, this is very important)
Freo d. Essendon
Brisbane d. Adelaide
Carlton d. Hawthorn
Footscray d. West Coast
Port d. GWS (it's important that GWS lose, unless you can work up a theory that has Port plummeting to their death. I reckon they'll still make it easily so best screw over the Giants)

...and who gives a shit about Richmond vs St Kilda or Gold Coast vs Sydney.

Special feature - the 10 games for the rest of the season that are most crucial to the Plan. As you can see, it's the five other sides playing for the 6th - 8th that are the key. Obviously weird results like Hawthorn losing in Launceston would also be welcomed.

1. Round 21 - Hawthorn vs Geelong
2. Round 19 - North Melbourne vs West Coast (in Hobart)
3. Round 23 - Sydney vs Hawthorn
4. Round 20 - Hawthorn vs Essendon
5. Round 22 - Adelaide vs North
6. Round 19 - Fremantle vs Hawthorn
7. Round 22 - GWS vs Sydney
8. Round 21 - GWS vs Adelaide
9. Round 18 - Port vs GWS
10. Round 20 - Adelaide vs Port

Was it worth it?
In the end it really was. My commitment to 6.5 hour round trips (that is including game time, I'm not a complete lunatic) is wavering, but once the travel is done there is no better place to be. Even when we were a rock bottom that should have been torched for the insurance money I just loved going to the MCG. Not sure if 2013 happened again I'd be so enthusiastic, but there's still something magical about the place. Fortress Docklands might be easier for me to get to and bring out our best football, but it doesn't give me nearly the same rush as this joint. We just need to cap it off by winning the big one there, then I can semi-retire in peace.

History Wanker Corner
At the risk of being a miserable sod (and why start now?), it is my duty to rain on the hastily convened and not at all accurate celebration of 160 years of the Melbourne Football Club. They're working off the date of Tom Wills' letter to the paper suggesting a football code be developed to ensure a 'state of torpor' didn't creep over cricketers in the winter, which is like celebrating your birthday on the day you were conceived. When Ronald Dale Barassi was wheeled in for a photo opportunity three days later the claim had been elevated to official fake news status.

You can dispute the actual date that should be celebrated, but if it's not one of these three you're taking the piss:
  • 31 July 1858 - First scratch match featuring players connected to the Melbourne Cricket Club
  • 25 September 1858 - First game played by a team called 'Melbourne' vs South Yarra
  • 14 May 1859 - The day the actual Melbourne Football Club as we know it was formed.
The club has always been behind 1858, but for mine the real date is 14 May 1859. Before then it was people connected to the MCC appearing for a loose team called 'Melbourne', but from May 1859 they were playing as the Melbourne Football Club. For the sake of not causing a fuss I can wear 1858 and the 'Melbourne' teams but as the most comprehensive chronicler of club history since 1858 or 1859 I refuse to in any way participate in the fiction of 10/07/1858 being the anniversary of the club's foundation. Now that I've ruined the occasion, let me remind you that Demonwiki is your #1 source for information on seasons and players from the 1859 to 1896.

Misery Chat
Speaking out rock bottom outfits where they should salt the earth and move on, there's been a lot of loose talk this week about Carlton being the worst established side since Fitzroy 1996. Cobblers. I invite you to inspect the 2013 archives and tell me that a team with a six point better percentage than we had is worse simply because we won a single game more.

Wins are usually a fair tiebreaker, but like how two in 2013 were worse than zero in 1919 because we'd just come back from dying in the war please consider that we had a get out of jail last quarter rampage against a side who won one game (against us), and almost let the rubbish Dogs overturn a 40 point lead in the last 15 minutes. Throw in a pre-season Tankquiry, a sacked CEO, sacked coach and people falling out with each other all over the shop and Blues fans can be content with second place for now thanks. If they can get their percentage below ours circa 2013 by the end of the season I'll reconsider.

Final Thoughts
The two weeks where we failed to put Port away then turned in a shocker against St Kilda are likely to have their revenge on us at the end of the year. It's hard to fathom that we might finish in the positive two seasons in a row and come out of it with nothing to show but that's where we're heading. Since the top eight was introduced in 1994 the only teams who have missed with 12 wins (other than Essendon being sacked for cheating) were Richmond '94 and '98 (and haven't we heard about them ever since), Hawthorn '03, St Kilda '12, Port '15, St Kilda '16 and us last year.

So it's not unprecedented, but doing it two years in a row would mean we would deservedly take over Richmond's ninth cliche. For the love of god, Brisbane finished eighth in 1995 with a 10-12 record, is there no respect for a combined 24-20 over two seasons? We're on 10 now, and if nothing else happens will surely get to at least 11 against Gold Coast. Imagine winning another on top of that and still not making it? If that happens I'll eat plutonium.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Home sweat home

There's downhill skiing, then there's veering off the mountain and crashing head first into a tree. I'm not one for cosmic connections, but have you noticed that until last night our season had been in terminal free-fall ever since Goodwin turned up on Queen's Birthday dressed like Jean-Claude Killy? If we'd lost here he and everyone else who'd ever signed off on playing in the Northern Territory might have had to return to Melbourne dressed like they were in the witness protection program. With the prospect of starting red-hot favourites in greasy, unpleasant Darwin conditions we adopted the reddest of red alerts and braced for a surprise defeat that would cause the place to become unglued.

Everything pointed to an easy win except the venue. Without Sandilands or Fyfe, the Dockers fielded a team that looked a lot like the one we'd put out against them almost four years to the day earlier - a small core of respected senior players, some promising kids and plenty of generic nobodies who will never be heard from again. That night we kicked 4.10.34 and lost by 63, this time they got 7.6.48 and lost by 54. In the end the margin exceeded my expectations, but all I could see before the bounce was a fat ruckman and half a dozen other people I'd never heard of who were poised for a breakout game.

My pre-match confidence wasn't helped by seeing that St Kilda had struggled to score 50. What that should have told us was that last week was an anomaly and that normal service was about to resume, but because I'm scared to death of us failing to take off I expected Melbourne to suffer ongoing disruption.

I never expect to win any game ever, but there's a special place in sporting hell reserved for games played in unnecessarily complicated environments. It's immoral to say, but could we not have kept the pokies and pissed off the Northern Territory instead? Piledriving the Crows in Alice Springs was memorable, but if we can't reduce our commitment to one game a year the series as a whole is dead weight for the football department. Money is an important factor, but if we've got a plan to stop pinching $2 million a years out of the pockets of gaming addicts then surely there must be something to cover $1.2 million of going to Darwin. At the same time, even the most virulently anti-NT types would have to admit that this year the deal raised a million bucks and 155 points of wins.

The real proof of any damage done will come next week. Mind you, if everyone runs like they're ankle deep in concrete how will that look any different to our last start at the MCG? But for now we've comfortably retained our dignity, and the receptionist, the social media team and the person who reads everything sent to dupe email account can come out from behind the couch. The prospect of an angry mob shutting down Brunton Avenue demanding an Extraordinary General Meeting has been - at least temporarily - put on hold.

All's well that ends well, but Christ on a bike what a woeful exhibition of the sport. Even advocates for forcing spectacle couldn't seriously suggest a rule change that could have improved this clash of ex-top four battlers and dreadful strugglers in a climate where no bastard could cleanly grasp the ball. Here's something for your competition committee, forget zones and comically oversized goal squares just stop selling games to locations that aren't suitable. Apologies in advance when the AFL takes my advice, leaving us $3.2 mil in the hole without pokies or the NT sponsorship. Then we'll be found dabbling in the human slave trade and expelled from the competition.

If an overmatched team had to suffer death by a thousand behinds, at least these days we're the ones doing the overmatching. Given that we were tortuously inaccurate and may have dropped more marks than any nine goal winner in the history of the sport, just getting to a score of 100 again should be acknowledged as an achievement. That we had to do it via an outrageous number of easy misses was unpleasant, but symptomatic of an almost complete domination of the game. Everywhere but the scoreboard that was a triple figure victory, so as happy as I am to get the job done there's also a bit of a hollow feeling at 'only' winning by 54. The scope of our dominance was nearly unprecedented, 24 behinds were the equal 15th most the club has ever kicked, and the second most since 1987. The inside 50 differential was the third most on record - right behind a different Geelong/Melbourne game to the one you might expect.

Gawn lost the first ruck contest of the night, but from the moment the ball hit the ground all signs pointed to us giving them a bit of a kicking, but that's what I said after the first five minutes last week and look how well that turned out? This time Freo didn't have a Plan B to switch to, St Kilda realised they could out run us, the Dockers lay back and absorbed all the misplaced, ill-timed punches we could throw at them, only rarely nicking one on the break. It was a classic mid-rebuild loss, the sort I've seen us suffer so many times in the last decade.

After five minutes where Hogan played like Wayne Carey for everything other than the conversion of marks into goals the Dockers finally got the ball across halfway to reduce our 'time in forward half' to a mere 97%. At that point there cannot have been a Melbourne fan alive who didn't know what was coming next. Their first inside 50 of the game led to a goal and the "football's coming home" gimmick of English soccer fans was temporarily replaced with our supporters singing "here we go again" to the same tune. Apart from one goal gifted by an outrageous turnover by Jetta - who has had more massive clangers in the last three weeks than the previous three years combined - that was practically Freo's last gasp. The game soon settled into the pattern of us failing to take advantage of dominating to crush them, while their defenders' legs were threatening to fall off from kicking in so much.

It was not a pleasant game, but in contrast to last week we were superior in every aspect of the game.
For all the shit the coach (and by extension the rest of the football department) get, they absolutely nailed selection. There wasn't much of an opposition in their way, but Garlett, Stretch and Frost all did exactly what was required to reboot their seasons - and in a couple of cases their careers. Forward pressure, outside run and a defender who could quickly close-down an opponent were exactly what the doctor ordered. I'll remain on caution until they do it against a good team, but at the risk of laying another boot into the ill-fated debut of Harrison Petty I think if Frost had played last week we'd have won. Whether that works in the important matches is another story, but to quote that classic 1991 banner:

You could tell we were far better than the Dockers, but 2.9 in the first quarter wasn't much defence against any fatigue related crash in the last quarter. The insurance plan wasn't required, this was one of the rare times where a side was so dominant that there is something in "they should have kicked straighter", because our midfield would undoubtedly have generated more chances from the post-goal ruck dual. Freo's Sandilands free ruck division had a crack at the bounces (or from halfway through the first quarter, the ball-ups) but not only were our mids superior Gawn was busy showing the difference between any old ruckman and the elite around the ground. It's not just the towering marks (under normal conditions, not many last night), it's how he's so clean gathering the ball even in dripping humidity and a more comfortable field kick at that size than many smaller players. I wish we'd kept The Spencil just in case of an emergency, but with Maximum fit and firing he'd have spent the whole year in the VFL because we have no need for a second ruckman.

With scores tied approaching the end of the quarter I had nightmare visions of us punching ourselves out Rumble in the Jungle style and the Dockers easily running over the top in the second half. After all, was our last win against them in Darwin not set up via a blistering first half before sailing through the rest in second gear? Still, for all the wasted dominance we won by plenty so from the outside all you can do is go on in the same vein in the hope that it eventually translates to beating a contender. We're now 0-5 against sides currently in the eight and 9-1 vs sides outside it. Better than what we used to get, but mid-table mediocrity is like carbon monoxide and will eventually suffocate you.

With nobody - and I mean nobody, because even Hogan ran around to snap a goal instead of taking a set shot 20 metres out - able to convert from a standing start, Melksham was required to craft our second goal via a weird scenario. His riding of a tackle to spin goalward and kick accurately was hardly Tom McDonald in Perth, but it came just as extreme scenes were threatening to break out in my living room. Then we went back to missing opportunities, with even the usually dead eyed Sizzle spraying what should have been a sitter by his lofty standards.

A nine point lead - all behinds - said nothing about the game other than our inability to convert. In his press conference Ross Lyon said "sometimes, you're just not good enough", and if he'd commandeered the Fox Sports microphone to say that at quarter time it would have saved a lot of people a lot of time. Still, I can't see why any neutrals would have been left by the start of second quarter anyway. It was just bad viewing, one side completely squashing the other but without the perverse aspect of a massive thrashing to hold interest. My interest was firmly held, hovering over the TV yelling obscenities at all and sundry.

Several of the aforementioned obscenities were directed at the goal kicking efforts of Alex Neal-Bullen and Christian Petracca, both of who converted like they had a wooden leg full of termites. At least Truck made up for it with everything else he did, I remain a fan of the Bullet but apart from a short purple patch in the middle of our glory weeks he's been a more palatable version of $cully for most of the year - runs a lot, doesn't do much else. I'm confident that he'll bob up with a few nice things each week but could do with a week in the nightmare conditions of Casey Fields to remind him why it's so important to strive to remain in the seniors.

On paper the opposition were about as good as last week, the difference being we plugged up some of the Swiss cheese gaps in our structure and the Dockers couldn't cope with having to work through it. There was no effortless run out of defence this time, partially because they weren't capable of it but also because there was a modicum of forward pressure that stopped forward attacks being launched at warp speed. Garlett had a perfectly acceptable comeback game, not doing a tremendous amount with ball in hand but putting the fear of god into some wonky, previously unknown backmen.

Being the better side everywhere other than on the scoreboard is great, but it's unpleasant to miss the first two shots of the quarter then concede a goal down the other end. Amongst the fumbling and dropped marks, Freo rarely looked like adding another and eventually after half the quarter was gone we shambled one through via Hogan, Petracca and Jones doing a complicated piece of performance art entitled "You kick, no you kick it, no you kick it. Fine I'll just bloody do it".

The floodgates weren't holding much back, but they eased open after that and Garlett got his first not long after. He may have had a second in a row before another classic moment in the history of the video review. Petracca undoubtedly slid into the post with the ball in hand and should have been called for a point before Jeff kicked the 'goal', but nobody cared at the time and only bothered to look at it after he'd had a kick smothered and Garlett recovered to 'convert'. They'll say technically it was in the same passage of play, but how far are you allowed to go back? If there's a contentious decision before the ball leaves the defensive 50 and three kicks later it's through at the other end do we get to roll tape on that as well?

Admittedly this affected me more than a normal person because I dislike video reviews to begin with. I'd be quite comfortable leaving open the prospect of some contentious decisions instead of trying to find a way to make everything 'correct'. That will never happen. Either you take the Skynet option and subject every aspect of the sport to technological review (please do not do this) or wear that things might go wrong sometimes. If the goal umpire thinks it's touched just let him pay a point and move on - occasionally somebody will get rorted, that's life. Instead everyone hides behind somebody else making the decision until the poor bastard on video review duties makes a howler and gets the sack. Add abolishing reviews to the 'yes please' list.

After all that we got a goal to make up for it a couple of minutes later anyway, and should have had a another when Gawn missed from 20 metres out. He's the new Travis Cloke (except good), and when he marks that close he should voluntarily take his kick from a minimum 40 metres. That goal would have sent me into half time moderately confident of victory, but instead they went down the other end in the dying seconds, and after a half where our players missed from everywhere kicked a goal from well on the boundary line. That's DemonTime™ for you. Now I was terrified of it coming back to haunt us at the end.

Distressed by conceding from the first piece of real work they'd needed to do in several minutes, the defenders held a half time briefing that looked like the sort of weekend retreat sad middle aged men go on after their wives have left and taken the kids.
We kicked away to a comfortable win after half time, but not without a few light scares. The third quarter was our most accurate with 4.3, though this may have been helped by sending Joel Smith into attack to get in the way a lot. I've got no idea why he was there, other than Freo having no decent forwards to play on, but if the idea was it worked for Tom McDonald there was no such luck here. Suffice to say he's taken more from his dad's stint as a defender than the days where was standing on people's heads.

Nevertheless, a wacky experiment in our already suspect attacking structure didn't have much negative impact. The Chris Sullivan Line still loomed when a 50 gifted the Hamburglar the first goal of the quarter, Salem added another, then Oliver proved himself the #1 random forward option by kicking a second. We'd broken the Dockers, and had the game won for sure unless we lost our mind and started doing stupid things.

Like, for instance, Hibberd unnecessarily backing into a forward right in front of goal when we had a 3-1 advantage. Or Lewis giving away a kicking in danger free because he didn't want to pick the ball up, then petulantly conceding a 50 that handed them a second goal in a row. Is that the amazing leadership he's supposed to bring? At least when Neitz used to throw hissy fits and give away stupid 50s he already runs on the board at this club.

Lewis' presence in the team causes Jack Watts level divisiveness, and I'm firmly in the camp of people who'd like to say thanks for your service please progress directly to a career in the media. His supporters like to focus entirely on what he does with the ball, and I'll freely admit that has been no worse than anyone else over the last few weeks but defensively he's a liability. No pace, can't bend over to pick up the ball, barely ever lays a tackle. Doesn't block for teammates either, but who at Melbourne does?

I've been saying they can't play Lewis and Vince all year and reckon we dropped the wrong one. I'm not enamoured with the potential replacements, but I'd be more confident in Josh Wagner's ability to do the required work even if he lacks these mythical football smarts that people like to go on about. Imagine he hadn't been there for the last month, we might have fallen even lower than 18th for points conceded. It's all academic, Goodwin loves him so we're stuck for at least the rest of this year and probably next - by which time he'll be outpaced to the ball by a three toed sloth.

With a 25 point advantage made up of kicking 2.13 more I was still guarded for a total collapse that would cause fans to storm the tarmac at Tullamarine and tip the plane over. Then we finally had our revenge for conceding so many goals late in quarters this year. Freo's great lump of a ruckman clumsily conceded a free to Gawn with one second left and Max was just far enough out to thump it through easily. so an extra buffer ever so slightly calmed my nerves. As far as goals after the three quarter time siren in Darwin go, it was less visually appealing than Jayden Hunt's mega torp against the Crows last year but far more important in the context of the game. I could at least partially relax, there are still mental scars from only just falling over the line against Port in 2010 after stopping dead in the last quarter but the extra buffer was welcome.

The shock of Max hitting an even slightly clutch set shot was enough to convince Freo that their night was over. The purple cue was jammed into the rack (settle down Ross) and they let us continue to experiment with new ways to miss easy chances. The best of the lot was ANB hitting the post from the top of the square, though he did partially redeem himself by setting Spargo up for one and kicking another.

If Freo had sent out terms of surrender 15 minutes in nobody would have been concerned, we chucked on another four goals before their only one of the quarter, missed six other chances and ended on the very apt note of Petracca flunking a set shot. The points (both premiership and scoreboard) were safe, we'd blundered our way to a score of over 100 and the circus rolled on towards the next town.

It wasn't quite the reminder of our capacity for violence that it could have been (and based on the ratings even if it was nobody would have noticed), but given where we were at after the St Kilda fiasco it did the job. We did what needed to be done to stay alive, and if it all goes terrifically wrong against Footscray we can cope by blaming it entirely on playing in Darwin. And Jordan Lewis.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Clayton Oliver
4 - Max Gawn
3 - Angus Brayshaw
2 - Christian Petracca
1 - Christian Salem

Major apologies to Hogan, Stretch and Frost. Many others good in difficult conditions.

The battle rages on, and now there's only the fattest chance of anyone other than Oliver or Maximum winning the title. Given that there's 35 votes tops left in the regular season and I'm not convinced we'll be playing behind Round 23, the line of doom makes its first appearance for the season. Shocking news for Cameron Pedersen fans, hoping he'd string together seven straight BOGs while Hamburglar and Max score nil. Until it's confirmed that we won't be in the finals there will be lines representing the various numbers of finals we'd need to play for somebody to win.

Nothing much in the minors, Salem puts himself within range of Jetta in the Seecamp and Fritsch goes another week as the only eligible player to poll votes. It will take Charlie Spargo to go off like Darren Cuthbertson to catch him from here.

39 - Clayton Oliver
37 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
22 - Jesse Hogan
15 - Tom McDonald
14 - Nathan Jones
13 - Bayley Fritsch (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
11 - Jake Melksham
10 - Angus Brayshaw
8 - Jack Viney
7 - Christian Petracca
6 - James Harmes, Neville Jetta (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis,
4 - Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald
--- No hope beyond here without at least one final ---
3 - Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Alex Neal-Bullen,
2 - Christian Salem
1 - Cameron Pedersen, Joel Smith

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
He didn't do much else, but I certainly enjoyed Melksham waiting until the tackle spun him to just the right place to introduce boot to ball during the first quarter. I'm too creatively bankrupt to come up with an appropriate novelty gift for the weekly prize so he'll just have to enjoy good intentions. Tyson still leads the overall race.

Just a solid interstate effort, well designed and lacking histrionics. Freo had a well worded effort (though why not 'skill' instead of 'will'?), with a picture of Stephen Hill that made him look like a religious icon. You know I could almost have given this to them too, but that font is an absolute disaster. It's like Courier New after a three day ice binge, and I can't possibly bring myself to reward the overall product. Dees 15-0 for the year.

Next Week
Another seconds game on TV allowed us a closer look at the 'depth' of the list, and the chance to enjoy a Channel 7 game without dickhead commentators. For the sake of any network executives Googling to gauge public reaction, Jason Bennett is the best commentator they have and it's criminal that he's left calling games from a marquee at Williamstown, Craigieburn or Cranbourne while icy winds blow into his face like Ernest Shackelton's expedition to the South Pole.

Making him go straight from Casey to Docklands to call a second game could be considered cruel, but hopefully it will help them come to their senses and relegate BT to going "Wowee!" and saying player names in a 'funny' way at Frankston vs Coburg. Knowing my luck they'll trade him to Fox, leading to the perfectly sensible commentators with faces you're never allowed to see like Speed and Papalia to be further marginalised. Apart from Dwayne going off like he's just sat on something sharp Fox Footy's problem is not with the callers, it's with trying to work out what in the name of christ Dermott Brereton is on about. I feel like he is a sound special comments man at his core, but doesn't think anything without saying it and thinks it's clever to come at his theory in via the longest possible route.

Anyway, given that it was played in a rain alternating between pissing and bucketing down, with a force 10 breeze, and that North Melbourne failed to score a single goal it's hard to know what to take out of Casey's performance. I thought it was insane going down the road in the rain when the game was on TV last week, but the people who left the house to watch this need to be studied for science.

In those conditions the only players you could rely on were the pure grunt types like Bugg and Tyson. They got plenty of it, but I have my suspicions about it translating to the main event. vandenBerg came back after two years out and had about nine tackles in his first quarter. It's obviously too early to think about bringing him back, but even if they did there's no point if it's going to be as a defensive forward again. Nobody else demonstrated anything other than the ability to stay afloat, so the only one I'm going to have for the seniors next week is Bugg. I'm not crash hot on him, but ANB desperately needs a spell. Vince went to Darwin as an emergency so he can come in as fresh legs after missing two very different types of diabolical conditions.

It's absolutely ridiculous that we should be playing the Bulldogs four matches after the last time, and things will be much changed from the day we ambled to the last of our six glorious wins. They probably still don't have a forward line, but for a team who kicked three goals in the first 10 minutes and four in the next 10 I do recall a lot of players dashing through the midfield on their own. Last time we were saved by nine goals between Hogan/McSizzle and the Dogs playing entirely without forwards - now that we're rediscovered forward pressure I'm hoping we can get through this potential banana skin with a minimum of fuss.

IN: Bugg, Vince
OUT: Neal-Bullen (omit), Lewis (face-saving fictional injury)
LUCKY: J. Smith
UNLUCKY: Tyson (?)

The All New Bradbury Plan
Alright, after a week off due to anger I'll reincarnate the plan. Even though I still think we'll finish a distant 9th, fourth in the six team battle for the last three spots in the eight.

Can win every week - will finish above us - Port Adelaide, Richmond and Sydney
Unlikely to be in the battle for 6th - 10th so may as well win - Collingwood and West Coast (↓)
Likely to make the eight, usually still want them to lose - Nil
Lose against higher teams, beat lower teams, take games off each other 
Adelaide, Geelong, Hawthorn, GWS (down one line if they lose to the Eagles) and North Melbourne
Preferred result depends on opposition, usually want a win against higher -
Win against higher teams, lose against lower teams - Essendon (↓)
Good value as spoilers only - Brisbane, Carlton, Footscray, Fremantle (↓), Gold Coast and St Kilda

Your how to vote card for Round 16:

Adelaide d. Geelong (better to risk the Crows making a run than let Geelong get too far ahead)
Brisbane d. Hawthorn
Gold Coast d. Essendon
Richmond d. GWS
Collingwood d. West Coast (only marginally, just worth them dropping games away if they're going to win at home - whoever wins should do it by a thumping margin for maximum Bradbury value)
Sydney d. North (this is crucial - if North win this it will take some serious help from other results to get us into the eight)
Freo d. Port (not much chance Port will miss out, but losing to a rabble might send them on a downward spiral)
No interest professionally or personally in St. Kilda (can't play Melbourne every week) vs Carlton

Hollywood Boulevard
More of me in podcast land, you can forget the post-Saints misery now and skip straight to the loose as a goose last 30 minutes where we pondered the history of bananas in footy advertising.

There have been some suggestions about a Demonblog podcast, but a) there are already about nine so WTF is there to add? (I stand by this idea, but was just too disorganised to see it through properly) and; b) it suits my shambolic, volatile lifestyle to randomly show up on other people's shows.

Administrative announcement
I'm looking for feedback on a proposed new Demonbracket format for 2019. Pretty standard stuff but get in contact with your thoughts via the usual channels.

Final Thoughts
This season is stressing me out, even straight after winning all I could think about was the prospect of stuffing it up against the Bulldogs next week. In the end I think we're going to go 12-10 two seasons in a row, hold a better percentage than last year and still miss the eight again. What a wonderful world.

Standard "this post is delayed" notification

Take any win you can get and run with it. I'll be back by Sunday night with more. Keep an eye on Twitter or Facebook for a link. In the meantime send any thoughts on the game via the usual channels and I'll incorporate/shamelessly steal them.

Cheerio and Go Dees.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Demonbracket 2019 format review

If you're looking for this week's match review - and why wouldn't you be after that five alarm shambles of a performance - go here.

It may soon be time to start thinking about 2019, and that means preparations are well underway for January's main event - Demonbracket. Ironically, after mocking people for changing footy's rules to engineer spectacle I'm proposing to do that with my own competition. Despite record voting numbers in 2018 this year's event felt as flat as a tack, and I've decided the original 2012 format of the tournament needed an overhaul.

Some of the more radical ideas considered:

  • Elimination of preliminary rounds, with everyone but the highest speeds starts from Round 1
  • An FA Cup style knockout where the draw is redone from scratch at every round and there are no seeds
  • World Cup style groups and round robin matches
My suggestion is a slightly more convoluted variant on the old system, with a few major changes:
  • Seedings 3-8 no longer based on best and fairest placings (reigning champion to be seeded #1 and Best and Fairest #2), but by a learned committee of long-time Bracket voters.
  • Top eight seeds automatically through to the Round of 16, with the rest of the list playing to be their opposition
  • The top 12 in MFC games played still get a bye past the preliminary rounds, but there will also be two wildcard spots on offer as decided by the committee (intended but not limited to players traded in or high draft picks) 
  • The draw will be set through the first two rounds, then there will be a new draw for the Round 3 matches between the eight 'finalists' and the seeds.
Using the 2018 field, here's an example of how it might have looked:

Preliminary Round (the last 12 qualifiers - new draftees plus least MFC games played)
3x four way games - one day

Oskar Baker d. Harrison Petty, Charlie Spargo and Joel Smith
Lachlan Filipovic d. Declan Keilty, Dion Johnstone and Pat McKenna
Mitch King d. Corey Maynard, Harley Balic and Bayley Fritsch

Round 1 (R1 winners + next 10 qualifiers)
3x three way games + 1x four way game - one day

Billy Stretch d. Oskar Baker and Sam Frost
Lachlan Filipovic d. Alex Neal-Bullen and Mitch King 
Jay Kennedy-Harris d. Aaron vandenBerg and Tomas Bugg 
Josh Wagner d. Mitch Hannan, Sam Weideman and Tim Smith

Round 2 (the 4 R1 winners + top 12 qualifiers and two wildcards)
7x one-on-ones, 1x three way game - two days

Tom McDonald d. Billy Stretch
Bernie Vince d. Lachlan Filipovic
Jay Kennedy-Harris d. Dom Tyson
Josh Wagner d. Jake Melksham
Cameron Pedersen d. Jake Lever
Jeff Garlett d. Dean Kent
Jesse Hogan d. Christian Salem and James Harmes
Jayden Hunt d. Oscar McDonald and Angus Brayshaw

Round 3 (8 seeds + 8 qualifiers from Round 3)
And you know how it goes from here - two days for Round 3, two days for the quarter finals, one day for the semi and the final

1. Max Gawn vs Tom McDonald
8. Christian Petracca vs Bernie Vince
7. Michael Hibberd vs Jay Kennedy-Harris
4. Nathan Jones vs Josh Wagner
5. Jordan Lewis vs Cameron Pedersen
6. Neville Jetta vs Jeff Garlett
3. Jack Viney vs Jesse Hogan
2. Clayton Oliver vs Jayden Hunt

  • More competitive matches early, instead of rookies being pulverised in the first round.
  • Ensures blockbuster clashes for all the seeds
  • Compacts the tournament into a perfect 10 day, two business week format.
  • Still ends with Round 2 being split over a weekend
  • I'm still not comfortable with multiple player games, it feels like cheating
  • Lack of star power in the early stages
Your thoughts are welcome via the usual channels, I'm also open to any counter-proposals on how to either improve the above or consider something entirely new. Your thoughts welcomed until the end of August.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

The Welcome To My Nightmare Game

There are many things I'm thankful to my family for, including that my daughter was born on the 1st of July so I didn't leave the house today to watch a game that may have led to me being remanded in custody until a hearing at a later date.

What a dead set fiasco it was, one of those pus-dripping slopfests that any fringe finals team is contractually obliged to suffer against a bottom four team at least once a season. After a few glorious weeks of slapping around lower teams, back to the classic Melbourne trait of falling flat on our face when starting hot favourites. The problem is that in the most competitive race to the eight since (insert another one because I'm not in the mood to look it up), it's the surprise defeat that probably leaves us spending September on the couch with our thumbs up our arses watching real teams going for gold.

This was the sort of game that we'd spring every so often when we were awful, scaring the shit out of a side far better on paper with high pressure and manic application. The difference is that we'd usually win those games by restricting scoring to ridiculously low levels, not by engaging the red hot favourites in a shootout. I've nothing but respect for the way the Saints turned up with a team featuring more generic product than Aldi and knocked us over because they desperately wanted it more. We were reasonably tough at the contest, but the moment it got outside we waved goodbye and only their own errors were in danger of stopping them. We did all sorts of modern tactical shit like playing men behind the ball and starting with less forwards at centre bounces, none of it seems to have worked. On the other side, the coach who was a quarter away from Centrelink two weeks ago was having a great day out.

To say it started alright would be an understatement, we spent the first five minutes squashing the life out of them inside 50 for three goals to nil. You've rarely seen such dominance, and seemingly the only plan they had to combat it was suicidal switches that always teetered on the brink of disaster. Soon enough they realised there was no point going backwards when you were always likely to find a free man standing on his own forward of the ball - often because multiple players would run at the ball-carrier and not reach him but leave somebody else standing on their own. Which happens every week without fail, certainly more times than anyone laying a shepherd. If there's not a stat for how many times a player gives the ball off then steps back and lets his teammate be put under direct pressure them Champion Data should invent one. I realise this is part of the gameplan, and there are probably times where it creates goals but to an uncultured eye it's too often that the player who gives off drops out of the play instead of running on to be the next option, leaving the next guy fighting for his life in confined space and with nobody to give to.

It was gratifying to get some reward for our constant attack, but like last week all the best of the first quarter was wrapped up in a few minutes and the rest was the sort of stuff that should have had alarm bells going off like an imminent nuclear strike. It was fine when we had the ball, except the absence of a half-forward line for the second week in a row, or when the Saints were making bulk clangers but you could tell pretty early that their forwards were still going to get a ton of opportunities. Speaking of outrageous clangers, Brayshaw got two of the first three goals and they may have been his only effective disposals of the afternoon.

We didn't even get to the end of the first quarter before dying, and my demeanour wasn't helped by spending the three hours before the game consuming about 15 kilograms of sugar. By the time the crowd was down to immediate family only and the ceremonial viewing of the replay could begin I was ready to crash through walls. Conversely, by the last quarter there was a physical and emotional plummet worthy of an episode of Air Crash Investigation. The only minor consolation is that we narrowly managed to avoid what looked like a career best day out for celebrity concussion spokesman Patrick (never Paddy) McCartin, when he looked likely to clean our clock in the first half I was ready to walk out of my own house. We calmed him down - or more accurately, St Kilda developed 11 more avenues to goal. By the end I called it a team effort and stormed out of the room anyway.

We should have known what was coming when a centre bounce saw a Saints player fly through the middle like a cannonball and run onto the tap. The closest any of our lot got to him was one player falling over in the general vicinity - possibly due to the wake vortex caused by his opponent going through so quickly. I spent the rest of the game watching in a state of sugared up anger (and yes, if you are reading from the Department of Human Services the birthday girl was elsewhere by this time. I did yell "FUCK!" at the top of my voice as my wife was making a work phone call so that's something) so can't remember if it cost us a goal. If it didn't it should have, I may never have seen a better centre clearance in my life.

We were busily chucking away the lead by any means necessary, including Tyson and Viney jointly contributing to one of those much loved administrative free kicks by wandering within close range of a guy kicking from outside 50. It's a shit rule but we fell right into it, and not the first time a 50 cost us a goal. Then Gawn was pinged for a down the ground free after the most incidental of all contact as the St Kilda player disposed of the ball, allowing a forward who was meant to take his kick from an obscure angle to walk into an unguarded open goal instead.

It's either a sign of maturity or world class scapegoating that despite being rolled for multiple goals by the umpires there's barely anyone pointing the finger at them, and instead it's individual players and coaches who are being torn to bits by a frenzied mob. Rightly so, we were fisted on a couple of dodgy decisions (the Salem tackle being called in the back anyone?) but did ourselves a dozen times more damage by being flatter than a shit carter's hat.

A nice goal to the Anal-Bullet at the end meant we only went into quarter time a point down, having taken our hands off their throat after five minutes and allowing them to roar back into life but never give a hungry team an even break. There were multiple opportunities to stuff them back in their box and resume normal service, but we couldn't stop them legging it forward in waves with our players trailing behind like they were running in quicksand. Speed kills, and the rest of the league knows it.

The first goal of the second quarter should have been the rev up we needed, but instead we were left grimly defending for the next 10 minutes. The only player we had that looked remotely convincing was Gawn, who wasn't getting much value from the midfield (including Viney, wasted for the first half on a pointless tagging job before being freed to play his normal game - if you're going to tag why do it with good players?) so had to do it all himself. He even roved his own tap to hit a perfect inside 50 pass to Weideman, one of the few times all day any of our forwards led at the ball instead of having it dumped on their head with five players to beat. Usually at least two of those five were their own teammates as we set a world record for spoils inside attacking 50.

The Weid missed, and it was a typical game for him, trying hard without getting much of the ball and generally finding the standard a massive jump from the VFL. I got sucked into picking him off the back of seven goals against a bog standard Coburg team, but in retrospect that was too hasty and he should have been made to touch up decent opposition first. What are you supposed to go on though, VFL form against nobodies or Tim Smith barely touching it against Port? Now that Pedersen is in the China Southern Airlines position change departure lounge after his Queen's Birthday struggles it was Weid's turn to have a crack. I love his endeavour but if you're only going to average eight disposals a game you'd want to convert some of the opportunities. Maybe we don't pick any of the rotating third string talls and clear the way for Hogan to have a clearer crack at it? If you're going to play McDonald on the wing for half a quarter you can't take the moral high-ground on using him in the middle twice a quarter.

After a brief period of St Kilda dominance we got on top again in the middle of the quarter for three in a row - including James Harmes winning a humanitarian award for openly admitting he had no idea whether his foot had connected with a ball before it went over. Fortunately the goal umpire was more certain, and when the video reviewer refused to get involved it stood.

Once more we had the dagger poised for the coup de grace but failed to put them away, dropping one goal on an iffy free and the other via Melksham not running wide enough of a player 70 metres out from goal. For the second time it was probably the correct application (though umpires can't accurately judge how far a kick goes, how are they supposed to get this right) of a joyless, corporate rule. Was there a concern that he'd somehow put the player off his kick by not giving appropriately wide berth? Fair enough you can't stand right behind them, but if you play on and are pinged by a player five metres to your left then stiff shit. There's no need to look for inspiration in the regulations of international shipping, unless you're watching us haplessly trying to deal with another team's transition out of defence and feel like flying the Man Overboard flag.

Ironically this would have been happening right at the time when several children had spent minutes failing to make a dint on a pinata and I was called upon to finish it off with a tennis racquet. I must have had psychic feelings about what was going on at the MCG, because even while trying to provide a good example to children by not being overly aggressive I slashed the top off like it was a medieval battleground. That clean decapitation neatly mirrored the Saints moving the ball from end to end with only the most token of resistance, eventually finding their way to a defence that could politely be described as confused. You'd have thought by now our backmen would be so used to the rest of the team standing back and letting teams fling forward effortlessly that they'd have developed a plan to combat it.

It was a bad day for our backline, already ridiculously easy to score against but now no longer covered up for by a fully functioning attack or midfield. It's no wonder the much loved quick transition, cheapskate over the top open goal has been eliminated when Hibberd is the only man down there capable of setting it up. Oscar McSizzle, Joel Smith and Harrison Petty had 39 touches between them, Jetta and Lewis are best suited to short kicks, and Salem is good with ball in hand but doesn't feel like anything approaching an attacking weapon. So if Hibberd isn't doing it then good luck finding anyone else to. You should be able to rely on midfielders pushing back or the archaic concept of a half-back flanker but we didn't have any of those either. Fritsch would have been handy as a half-back flank/wingman, but was called into service up front to fill in for missing person Mitch Hannan. If anyone discovers where Mitch got to please call 000 immediately, his family are worried sick about his welfare.

Keeping it from rocketing down there at warp speed would help, but I can't have that lineup together again. Smith is just going, and Petty had a debut on the Tom Gillies/Isaac Weetra spectrum. He's got the excuse of being young, and that has plenty of time to get it right but this was not good. His seconds form earned a debut, his debut earned him the chance to find more seconds form. Sam Frost is way out of favour, but if there has ever been a better time to pick a see ball-get ball-get rid of ball defender it's when you're bleeding easy forward entries from every orifice?

Just as we were set to make half time a few points down and with plenty of time to right the ship, along came a classic DemonTime farce. A bullshit free on the wing shouldn't have caused any trouble given how much time there was left, before Oliver took it on himself to fly the flag with a judo throw that advanced the kicker to well within range. If it wasn't for the pox free it would never have happened, but the 50 was the sort of stupid shit teams do when they're panicking under unexpected pressure.

Remember when we thought that at least if the top teams had our measure we could easily handle the others? It seems like a long, long time now since that epic vivisection of Carlton. If only we'd used that as the day to hand out thousands of free tickets to people from other countries, instead those who did show up (and none of them were in the top level of the stands by the looks of it) probably went home committing themselves to the excitement machine Saints. The effort to collect everyone's old scarves and hand them out to first timers will backfire when we're handed the bill to pluck 2500 of them out of the Yarra tomorrow.

Doing our bit for spectacle obsessives and scoring 117 in defeat will only be comfort it helps avoid wacky rule changes at the end of the year, for now it feels like an unnecessary distraction from a horrific performance. Given the lack of firing forwards it's amazing that we got as much as we did, try that again against good sides that will be just as willing to sprint down the other end and kick goals as St Kilda were.

It was another day of hit and hope kicks into the 50, where all the defenders know McDonald is going to run at it and gang up on him accordingly. That's the downside to going from under the radar to the most damaging forward in the league, now he's got to beat multiple opponents. I'd prefer to see him lead at the ball, but the long bombs would help if we had anyone else likely to take an overhead mark inside 50. The worst thing was that they lost one of their key defenders to injury in the third quarter and we still barely took advantage. Hogan got three goals but was otherwise ineffectual again, and Weideman may not have had a mark within 30 metres of goal since his debut.

Our loose as a goose defending across the ground flung the door wide open for the Saints again, and by three quarter time we were digging ourselves out of a four goal grave. Storming out of the centre at the first bounce of the last term was a good statement of intent, but watching a point be turned coast-to-fucking-coast into a goal straight after was a more realistic demonstration of where we were at. Statistically it was great and St Kilda fans (both rusted on and hastily tossing donated 2009 MFC scarves over their shoulder) would have been battering themselves in glee at the way their side was playing, but if unaccountable rubbish is what you need to 'improve the game' then give me Ross Lyon/Paul Roos suffocation football any day.

For the third quarter in a row we launched a comeback, it was just that we had the problem of having to come from nearly 30 points down. Four of the next five cut the gap to less than two kicks with plenty of time left. We marched straight out the middle again with the chance to put it under a goal but kicked a point, they went down the other end for a goal and we were back up to our necks in quicksand.

I was reasonably upset, it wasn't only the sugar and the outrageous football that were playing on my parlous mental state, fast forwarding through all the breaks meant there was no time for mental rest. It was all footy, all the time and I wasn't coping well. Even my usual stance of hovering over the television couldn't be sustained without time to breathe and by the last quarter I was sitting on the floor having a good old-fashioned sook and occasionally rolling about in disgust when something went wrong.

When Hogan won a holding the ball free in the pocket we might have been back in it, but he missed and it was pretty obvious where the game was headed. Having already spent the second half doing a x6 fast forward whenever St Kilda were kicking for goal I had to resist the urge not to give up, but when the unmade bed looking Jack Steven beat Oscar to run into an open goal and put them four up with about that much time left I did the delayed telecast version of a walkout, shutting off the TV, throwing my hands in the air and evacuating the room.

The last real game I walked out of in disgust was against St Kilda too, in Round 18, 2005. Over the wilderness years I've been firm on staying to the end just in case something memorable happens (this isn't a political platform, you're welcome to go at quarter time if you like) but am starting to see the benefits of cracking the shits before the final siren. It's good when you're watching on TV, at the ground I feel like it will take me so long to get home anyway why not just stay to the end and wear the pain but this helps you get into other things as soon as possible. Given that my in-person viewing will be severely restricted next year, the prospect of a satisfying thump on the remote control when it all gets too much looms large.

Today I was so distressed that I turned both the Foxtel box and the TV off just to make sure there was no prospect of accidentally seeing any more of it. It was a surprise - neither welcome or otherwise - to walk into the other room, take my phone out of quarantine and discover that we'd only lost by two points. It was such a screaming shitshow that even if I'd found out we'd won I wouldn't have been upset at my decision to give up, victory would have been welcome but criminally undeserved. It would be payback for 2017 if we somehow avoided complete collapse and the three consolation goals get us in on percentage.

When I was discovered laughing hysterically - and probably a bit disturbingly - at how close we got my beloved revealed that she knew the score and would have told me to keep watching if we'd won. That's love. My current feelings for the Melbourne Football Club are not.

Commentary Corner
I don't hold it against Dwayne for punting home the underdog, but how many times did he reference the Saints doing something 'last week before the bye'? Meanwhile Jason Bennett spent yesterday at Craigieburn calling from inside a god honest Spring Racing Carnival style marquee and the Fox commentators who call the D level Saturday night games professionally without ridiculous hyperbole were sitting on the couch. The cult of the big name commentators is obscene, sack all the big names except Huddo and give the off-Broadway contenders their chance to shine.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
Not keen on anyone after Max, but somebody has to get them.

5 - Max Gawn
--- Light years ago from a galaxy far, far away ---
4 - Bayley Fritsch
3 - James Harmes
2 - Jack Viney
1 - Michael Hibberd

Apologies to Brayshaw and Salem, everyone else can GAGF.

Thank you to observant reader @TomCarolan (possibly the only person who reads this far) who picked up that Jetta was showing twice. This was due to an administrative error that saw his votes from Round 11 added separately rather than on top of his one from Round 5 and a full audit of the votes was conducted to make sure there were no other errors. The intern who is responsible for this segment has been sentenced to a Barry Hall gynaecology class.

It's on at the top, with Maximum drawing to within one of the lead. Surely now it would take a remarkable turn in form from Hogan and the other two to drop off the face of the planet for anyone other than the Hamburglar or Maximum to win. With 40 votes (and no more) left to play for, anyone who wants to have a shot from outside the current leaderboard would want to get their skates on next week. In the minors I'm comfortable that Charlie Spargo is the only outside threat to Fritsch for the Hilton and he's not going to score 14 so Bayley is practically unstoppable from here.

34 - Clayton Oliver
33 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
22 - Jesse Hogan
15 - Tom McDonald
14 - Nathan Jones
13 - Bayley Fritsch (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
11 - Jake Melksham
8 - Jack Viney
7 - Angus Brayshaw
6 - James Harmes, Neville Jetta (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis, Christian Petracca
4 - Michael Hibberd, Oscar McDonald
3 - Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Alex Neal-Bullen,
1 - Cameron Pedersen, Christian Salem, Joel Smith

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
There's no chance of me watching, so if one of the last three goals was a stormer you'll have to launch a protest on this result. I'll go for Petracca's crumb from a stoppage in the second quarter, narrowly ahead of Neal-Bullen's set shot from the boundary line in the first quarter. There was a weekly prize but I hurled it against a wall, so Christian wins a pile of rubble and a heartfelt plea to rip a game apart again. Tyson still leads overall for that goal at Docklands.

Ours was welcoming to people from around the world, St Kilda's was not. Dees 14-0 for the year and a secondment to the United Nations.

Next week
With Casey playing within five kilometres of my house for the first and probably only time ever I felt it was my duty to go and watch live even though it was also on Channel 7. To crank up the degree of difficulty I also agreed to take my kid to clear out the house for party preparations, knowing that we were likely to be heavily rained on. I can't remember going to a VFL game since Round 2, 2009, also pulling the pin at half time on a freezing Casey Fields day against Port Melbourne and didn't last any longer this time. At least they didn't think to charge an entrance fee, so I felt comfortable in pulling out and going home to watch the rest on TV.

At least I was there for the majority of Casey goals, as they went five goals up then narrowly held on in the face of a belated Essendon comeback. From the first half live and the last quarter on TV I can deduce that Oskar Baker needs a crack at some stage this year, Tim Smith is too good for VFL level, Pedersen's move to defence is the encore for him sadly being delisted, Frost could still do something for us in defence, and Vince is a good bloke for taking his demotion with such good grace. Given that the rest of the time I was wrangling a child or running for cover you would have got more out of it on TV than I did.

So, it's Freo in Darwin next Saturday night in a solid gold must-win scenario. All I know is that if we lose this every MFC forum around better put on extra IT staff because there will be an anti-Territory meltdown of epic proportions. Latest gossip suggests the attempt to get out of the second NT game isn't going anywhere so bad luck. It's grim up north. Pretty fucking grim down south too at the moment.

I'd love to sack everyone, but we've got paper thin depth so there's not much new and exciting in reserve. I'm super keen on Oskar Baker but not first up in conditions where the ball will be like a cake of soap. Another good VFL game and he's in the week after. Usually I'd be keen to give debutantes two in a row, but we can't have Petty and Smith in that defence so I'll have a touch of Frost please.

Elsewhere, there's no room for Tyson. Brayshaw has pulled ahead in the race to be our midfielder who can get a lot of the ball but torches it like an arsonist - the difference being that at least Gus can get the kicks in the first place. I've not got much faith in Stretch, but I'll give him another go as well and chuck a Hail Mary pass on Garlett. He didn't do much again yesterday but it's now or never - either him or Kent has to play, we can't just go on with this horribly wasteful strategy forward, somebody's got to get at it around ground level and provide the chance of cheap out-the-back goals.

IN: Frost, Garlett, Stretch
OUT: Hannan, Petty, Tyson (omit)
LUCKY: Lewis, J. Smith, Weideman
UNLUCKY: Baker, Kent, T. Smith, Vince (would prefer him over Lewis but won't happen)

The All New Bradbury Plan
Technically North and Geelong both losing keeps us alive, but this mid-table struggler of a team is not making the finals no matter what other clubs do so the plan is suspended until further notice.

Final Thoughts
Shit losses to otherwise bad teams happen to almost everyone, but how was anyone sucked in to thinking we were honest top four contenders a few weeks ago? The massacres were welcomed, but it was never more than fringe top eight stuff. We have the resilience of a piece of paper under a tap, and best of luck to everyone that exploits us from here. The draft is shot due to the Lever trade, but we'd best get something out of the trade or free agency period if we're going to be any way serious next year.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Friday night and I just love complaining

Apparently footy is broken and must be saved before TV stations withdraw support and players are forced to work part-time as PE teachers again. Just like the 80s when the game was flawless. Much of the anxiety surrounds plummeting ratings on Friday - or as it's known in the industry 'Carlton Night' - so it was about time they put The New Entertainers on and gave us a chance to save the competition. Then the game opened with 15 goalless minutes, and by the time we put on three in rapid succession, thousands of viewers had their heads in the oven and were reaching for the knob.

All's well that ends well for neutrals, it ended in a thriller and gave viewers from coast-to-coast the opportunity to laugh about a team throwing away a three-quarter time lead because they didn't kick another goal. Neutrals can do one, hold all tickets for the next fortnight but this was the most infuriating loss of the year. We got closer against Geelong but played worse and had 21 more games to recover. This was absolutely vital in the context of the season, and we necked ourselves with 68 forward entries that were about as much use as dropping the ball inside 50 from a hot air balloon.

In footy's quality wars I'd like to think we at least gave viewers bang for their buck. My interest in the enjoyment of others is usually nil but I felt a weight of expectation to do something interesting in our only Friday game of the year. Surely last night was enough to satisfy; I'm not sure what another 30 points per team would have offered other than the chance to run 10 more ads. However that will all count for nil in the end, as it contributed to the further reduction in average scores and next season there will be more zones on the field than a game of Test Match. Recycling spokesman Chris J**d wants to make the game shorter, and after spending the week hanging shit on him for it I accept that we could have done with 30 minutes less here.

The War on Congestion may be just what we need, we seem to go to water against any side that can get close enough to apply pressure, and good teams already move the ball untouched like they're playing basketball against us anyway so why not sell out and try to get a flag ASAP? Given the disposal averages of our players in this game, and what to the naked eye looked like a complete inability to shift the ball from one end to the other without going via a contest, we should be more astonished at having nearly 70 inside 50s than how they were badly they were wasted.

There will be much talk about the umpiring, and believe me when Brayshaw wasn't paid that mark at the end I was about to go out and buy a cat just to kick it, but not for the first time in an interstate game we had the chance to rise above weird decisions from umpires terrified of the locals and win anyway. The comical decision to cost Melksham's a goal for a 'block' in a one-on-one contest, or some plonker running into Vince's hand were ripe to be heroically overcome if we found a non hit-and-hope avenue to goal. We didn't, we lost, bad luck to us.

If we were only due one Friday night game all season I'm thrilled that it was interstate. I've not the slightest interest in attending games on weekdays, especially after the Sydney debacle last year, due to the required several hours of aimlessly hanging around the city after work like a uni student. It suited my lifestyle much better to come home and have several hours to mentally warm-up for the inevitable debacle.

I'm not used to being home for any match considered important enough for a pre-game show. Say what you like about David King - and I certainly have - but pre-match coverage where they even lightly touch on how teams play and why takes a zesty dump on the insight free, boys' club FM radio atmosphere on Channel 7. It's unfortunate that when the game started they had to put the 7 call on, instead of Fox doing what they do for the NRL and running their own commentators over the top. As long as Dwayne wasn't involved it might have saved us from multiple HILARIOUS "Houston we have a problem" references as if nobody had ever cracked that gag before.

I'm satisfied with the game as it is, but that's probably because every game not involving us including the Grand Final is like background noise. An Essendon style surprise 50-1 start was too much to ask for, but a 3-3 score halfway through the first quarter didn't seem like as much of a burden to me as TV executives desperate to run ads. Why not just sell space on the humanoid mutants who hang over the fence yelling stupid shit at players? The six scoring opportunities, including some spectacular flubs from both sides, came outside an otherwise stoppage heavy quarter that would have caused lovers of free-flowing excitement to weep openly. Alternatively you could have enjoyed another heavyweight battle between two of the premier ruckmen in the sport and a brutal contest at ground level.

The pressure was immense - and remained so throughout - but the best example of why there's nothing wrong with congestion in the right hands is Clayton Oliver. You could blindfold him, spin him around three times and surround him with 4/5 opposition players and he'd still probably hit the right target. Six long years ago I came up with an ingenious idea for a Hogan's Alley style kicking drill, and would now like to extend this to handballs so I can see The Hamburglar set a world record. Like last week it was nowhere near his top performance, but considering how the rest of the side was crumbling under far less pressure than he was wearing (including a tagger with some of the busiest hands ever seen in Adelaide) he was still one of our best.

As the highest scoring team in the competition (⛷️) there was a reasonable expectation that we'd create a lot of chances, but our strategy was exactly what Port expected and they went on an Adam Oxley Kingsley nomination style streak of intercept possessions. It was obvious in the first two minutes that they'd rumbled us, and yet we were still doing the same thing two hours later with disappointing results.

I assume Simon Goodwin made some unseen adjustments, but whenever they cut to him he was extending the Wolf of Wall Street theme for another week by making faces like this:

I know where he was coming from, by the last quarter that's how I was reacting to our attacking moves too. The difference was I couldn't do anything about it.

With the 56 minutes of the hour left over after making this week's All The Goals, I'd like to request a supercut of all his half-quizzical, half-pained expressions. He was writing and circling on a piece of paper just captured at the bottom of screen, and somebody with sick modern technology needs to confirm that he was just wring "we're rooted" over and over again.

The biggest disappointment (before the last quarter) was that with Watts and Dom Barry dropped, Smilin' Jimmy Toumpas' career on life support in the SANFL and Trengove firmly 'break in case of emergency' we avoided having to take on any of the Four Horsemen of the 2013 Apocalypse. This was selection madness by the Power, who might be in good form but should have paid respect to the time honoured tradition of ex-players kicking the suitcase out of us. Between the four of them one had to be BOG, probably Trengove as another surprise foot injury unleashes his long-dormant running power and he kicked nine off the half-forward flank.

The loss of Watts hasn't seemed so bad since we discovered that Bayley Fritsch is good, but it still doesn't mean I'm keen on them chucking him for peanuts. Giving away an enigmatic but talented player for pick 31 and getting what looks like a long-term solid player in return is like diving off a pier and celebrating when you don't hit a submerged shopping trolley. Bruce McAvaney certainly liked Fritsch, who didn't get the ball very much but caused a Cyril-esque style party in the pants whenever he did. Bruce claims to love watching anyone play in the 31 at Melbourne, which is not something you ever heard when Donald Cockatoo-Collins was wearing it. They claimed it was his Bruce's birthday, and I feel bad that he had to spend it sitting next to a blathering idiot watching us torch more chances than he has candles on his cake.

Both teams should have had the first goal, but while we were blowing speculative chances, Port had the first decent opportunity after a 50. It would not be the last time they set up a shot on goal via that method, and not the last time the culprit would be Oscar McDonald. At least in this case he was rorted blind (or not if you're Michael Christian and fined him $2000), having eyes for nothing but the ball in a marking contest and clobbering his opponent only by virtue of arriving fractionally late. If the mark had been dropped they'd have just paid a free and got on with it, so in that split second was he supposed to have decided to make up for missing the mark by belting somebody? There's something fishy about four umpire games, and there will be until we get one where the rorts go overwhelmingly in our favour. The only good bit about the 50 other than kick missing was the replay showing our water carrier instinctively applauding the hit as it happened.

It was concerning that we were attacking constantly without reward, and that even if Port missed their limited opportunities they looked far more likely to score when going forward. It's been the same story against good sides all year, I'm absolutely thrilled that we can obliterate strugglers now and hope we keep doing it, but anybody who genuinely thought we were a top four team before the Pies game (much less now) must have been inhaling gas. The building blocks remain firmly in place but there are still holes big enough to drive a semi-trailer through.

I'm not going to blame the midfield, because Gawn held his own and they were certainly able to get the ball, it's just that they were under full harassment all night and as a consequence everything was rushed at 150% speed. Disposal efficiency on its own is unreliable evidence, but there's something to be said for the heat from Port across the ground when we ran riot in the clearances but Dom Tyson was our cleanest midfielder and Neville Jetta came in at 55.6%, which must be the worst result since his comeback. Our defence battled under siege but never looked comfortable, and in a flashback to the 'good old days' the half forward line was practically non-existent.

While Oliver floated in and out doing his sixth sense handballs, Viney was best suited to the general biff of the first half. Brayshaw proved he could get the ball against good company, but the pressure was not his friend and he ended up wasting most of his kicks by blindly thumping them forward. I'm satisfied that he will handle this better over time, and that not every team is going to be able to bring the same pressure as our last two opponents.

Like a bus you had to wait ages for the goals, then three came at once. First Melksham set up Hannan, then Tom McSizzle pulled off one of the wildest sidesteps ever seen on an AFL ground to go past an opponent into an open goal, and the mini-rampage continued with a Port defender shitting himself on the line and allowing Petracca to soccer through. When they gave away a free immediately after and Hibberd hit McDonald 30 metres out on not much angle at all it was looking like a repeat of the first quarter against the Crows on a 15 minute delay. Of course when they flashed up that he was 19.2 from set shots this season we all knew what was going to happen next, but regardless it was clear that the Power were rattled.

The idea of holding a good side goalless was appealing, but as the ball went down the other end in the last minute I think we all knew what was coming next. After failing to waste McDonald's goal immediately after he kicked it, we switched back to our other special skill and conceded in the last 90 seconds. Just like three quarter time against Collingwood when we were still an outside chance this came after the siren and ultimately proved even more decisive.

A two goal lead was still welcome, but we'd wasted our period of domination and would never get the same clear run again. Joel Smith made up for being pinged holding the ball to gift them that goal by saving one with a ripping tackle early in the second. He had another ok game, but I'd like to watch the tapes with a defensive coach and see what they think about his positioning. He is an animal at ground level and his disposal isn't bad, but there is something chaotic about our defensive structure and I'm not sure he's helping. It said plenty about how few times Port actually went forward, and how we barely dealt with the threat when they did was that were only 25 disposals between him, Sizzle Jr and Jetta. They all grafted hard, but Hibberd was the only one who looked even remotely likely to start an attacking chain.

Smith's save preserved another several minutes of goal free footy. It was still a reasonable advertisement for the game, but if the AFL want us to keep saving footy they'll have to help us develop a way to take advantage of all the inside 50s. Last night was another dark day for that stat, three quarters of ours could be easily ignored because they could only have led to scores via tremendous luck. The number of properly crafted opportunities would have been lucky to get into double figures.

I'm sure the late goal in the first quarter wasn't the difference, and that Port would have come back to win anyway, but soon enough they were level. McDonald's second got us back in front, but we still didn't look much like kicking a winning score or keeping Port out long enough to defend a small score. And so it came to pass. When tactical illiterates like me could accurately see what was going to happen an hour out something must have been wrong.

We only kicked one goal to the right of screen all night but should have had another straight after McDonald's goal. We went forward again and Melksham found himself one-on-one inside 50, held his ground in the contest and was pinched for a block. On a point of law, how do you block when there's not a third man in the contest? (Update - I've reviewed the rules and it does say you can block an individual player. Not that he did.) It was up there with the wackiest decisions of all time, and the air of shambles was not helped by Milkshake casually kicking the 'goal' after the free in a way that demonstrated he 100% knew (if not understood why) he'd been pinched, then doing a muted goal celebration in an attempt to avoid conceding 50.

Hanging on to a stringy lead, we tried ultra-hard to get up another DemonTime™ goal up by standing back and letting Lindsay Thomas (and who knew he was still playing?) take a mark. He missed, and we were left to ponder how there's an AFL team with a Jane Austen cast of Darcy, Dougal, Jasper and Lindsay and it's not us. Despite the failure of the Heritier Lumumba experiment in picking players against type, we should keep trying to find players with traditional 80s names like Barry and Kevin who have anchor tatts and a liberal attitude towards physical violence.

We were still two points in front, but I was sorely lacking confidence in carrying on after half time. In fact I'm surprised we got into the position to throw it away in the last quarter to begin with. We looked ok from stoppages anywhere in the middle of the ground, but got trapped in defence too often with stuff all prospect of coast-to-coast goals. Then when we did go forward it was via the fingers crossed and hope for the best method. Whatever Port did to Hogan it worked a treat, barely letting him get the ball in space up the ground and completely removing him from the game inside 50. It's telling that even though future Coleman Medallist McDonald kicked another three none were from marks. Their backline had us completely handcuffed with no idea how to escape.

If the entertainment loving CEO of Channel 7 was still watching, the third quarter was the closest you were going to get to a shootout without deleting two players from each side and extending the goalsquare to Mt Gambier. Four goals to one in the first 15 minutes, and we were back in the ascendancy again. That seems pointless now that we know the result, but at least demonstrates an ability to trouble good sides. Now to work on troubling them for more than five minutes in the first quarter, 15 in the third and not much at all in the last.

Our second and final burst was ended by one piece of bad luck, and one of rampant stupidity both involving Angus Brayshaw. First Gus mistimed a leap into the air, landed on top of his opponent's head and gave away a free for a goal. It happens, no heat on him for that. Then he was left marooned on the goal-line with the significantly larger Charlie Dixon marking over him because none of the talls could be bothered going down to help during a set shot. That's not the first time we've conceded in those circumstances this year, maybe the forward line and back line coaches should swap for a week and see if anything comes of it.

Port had us running scared but wasn't all one way pressure, Nev pulled off a tackle of such rare beauty that nobody even cared that he followed it up by kicking out on the full for the first time in about four seasons.

Nifty later took his third minor knock to the head of the year, which is a worry after years of giving his battered bonce a rest. In the press conference they were more interested in talking about him rolling his ankle rather than being knocked half goofy and still putting in more repeat efforts immediately after than Hogan did all night. Given the concussion rules and his history it was a bit suspect how quickly he came back, but hey I'm not a doctor.

McSizzle flipped the script on Queen's Birthday by wasting somebody else's goal, replying right out of the centre via assists from Viney and Melksham, and then had his Monday nightmare replayed when we conceded a minute after that. Holding an eight point lead through the last quarter was not inconceivable if we could get another run of goals on, and in a piece of punditry that he'll want deleted from the replay, the otherwise sensible James (never Jimmy) Bartel said Port would "have to kick six, because you'd think Melbourne will get four". When would you ever think Melbourne was going to kick four in a quarter against a top eight team outside of Victoria?

In the end, Port only needed three and we fell moderately short of Bartel's expectations with two behinds. It was an especially frustrating finale because we burnt countless opportunities to either kick decisive goals at the start, or to get back in it when they overtook us. There was a bit of five-finger-fisting from the umps, but we could have got past that with a bit more composure. It would have been an excellent time for Hogan to arrive, or for Petracca to come back for the first time since the first quarter. Neither did much, and will both be writing letters under fake names to the AFL this week demanding that the game is artificially ripped apart to give them free range space.

When McDonald was poleaxed in a contest and left on the ground pissing blood from his mouth I was about to pack up on this season. The six weeks of glory will be remembered forever, but the way it feels like the rest of 2018 is going to drip away Forward Sizzle is about the only thing I've got going for me. Despite the fact that he appeared to be dead and the ball came to a stop for a mark, the umpires didn't think to stop the game so he could go off and let it carry on around his semi-lifeless corpse. In those seconds in was my dream that he'd rise from the dead, snatch the ball off the ground, and kick a goal that left the Sherrin soaking in blood. Put that on sale at your MFC Auction Spectacular (P.S - GAGF if you're the person who beat me to the Rhys Healey #50 Shanghai game jumper).

Even after they got in front we had a handful of decent chances. Fritsch went closest, missing on the run with a shot that would have put us back in front. Oscar then gave away his second questionable 50 for post-mark clobbering and we were down 11 points with barely any time left and no indication that we'd be able to kick two in a row. To be fair the time we were most likely to score all day was after centre clearances, so one may have quickly begat another. The theory was never tested, and we spent the last two minutes trying to score through chaos. Oliver and Lewis crashed into each other going for a loose ball, and eventually a panic kick found Brayshaw running straight up the 50. He spilt it, and morally there's no way it should have been paid as a mark except for a Port player having just as little control on one inside 50 earlier and being allowed to keep it.

With 30 seconds to go another fingers crossed kick was intercepted, I turned off the TV and for the first time all night sat down instead of hovering over the screen yelling. Apparently Port had another shot after the siren, giving us a 75% DemonTime™ ratio for the night. Now that they don't want Watts can we get him back on a free just so he can regain his position as our designated spare man in defence across the last two minutes, flapping like a bird after a mark to tell everyone to calm down.

Losing an interstate thriller to a top four contender shouldn't have me this upset, but one day there will be a scientific inquest that proves losing a thriller is worse for your mental health than going down by six goals. To contribute to the study I've spent most of Saturday being an arsehole to strangers through no fault of their own.

Not sure how much was learnt, other than the need to relegate this forward entry plan to the 'against shit teams only' file. We've always been a fringe top eight side at best, and that's what we have to fight for from here. I too dared to dream of more when we were steamrolling rubbish but let's be realistic. The most important thing is to qualify, you can't tell me the Bulldogs were any better than us now when they won the flag. Get in, and hope to get on a roll. Or finish 9th again and become a Richmond style cliche.

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
I'm not especially thrilled by handing out many of these, but at least unlike Queen's Birthday I had a group of apologies who might not have deserved votes but I would have been comfortable including in an emergency.

5 - Jack Viney
4 - Max Gawn
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Tom McDonald
1 - Michael Hibberd

Apologies to Brayshaw, Melksham Fritsch and Salem

Maximum claws one back on Oliver as they further firm as the only two who can win it from here. There are only 45 votes left unless we make the eight, so it's time for those who have not yet polled to get onto the run of their lives if they want to have any chance. No move in any of the minors, but all betting agencies have paid out on Max in the Stynes.

The real battle is in the backline, where Nev has a razor thin lead over Oscar and Hibberd. Lewis should probably be eligible for that as well, which would put him in a share of the lead and make me want to shut the award down. The Jakovich Committee will rule on his eligibility shortly.

34 - Clayton Oliver
28 - Max Gawn (PROVISIONAL WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
22 - Jesse Hogan
15 - Tom McDonald
14 - Nathan Jones
11 - Jake Melksham
9 - Bayley Fritsch (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
7 - Angus Brayshaw
6 - Neville Jetta (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Jack Viney
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Jordan Lewis, Christian Petracca
4 - Oscar McDonald
3 - James Harmes, Michael Hibberd, Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Alex Neal-Bullen
1 - Cameron Pedersen, Christian Salem, Joel Smith,

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Still not much on offer this year, we've never kicked so many goals (in total, not tonight) and barely had any that were spectacular. For want of other options it's Tom McSizzle for the one where he sold a dummy so enormous it should be sponsored by Baby Bunting, took an unnecessarily early bounce and dribbled the ball through. For his weekly prize he wins a chiropractic assessment to determine what damage carrying our forward line has caused.

The leader is still Tyson for that goal at Essendon, but surely even he'd refuse to accept it if nothing better comes along. Either that or you'll think he's refused because he's so slow to get to the podium.

If you were just going by the TV coverage it looked like we either didn't have a banner or it had something controversial splashed across it, because the footage cut from players emerging from the room to them on the other side of the ground as if the player/crepe paper interface didn't happen. Fortunately the Cheer Squad did what Channel 7 didn't and gave us a look. Somebody must have done a motivational seminar during the week. Should have just said LOWER YOUR EYES.

Design wise that text is spot on. Compare to Port, who had a font that was one step away from Times New Roman and became the 79th to use the word 'exorcise' against us since 1990. Dees 13-0 for the year.

Next week
In theory we should be able to send out the same side against St. Kilda and piss it in, but as we're left hanging on by our fingernails in the race for the eight anyway I'd rather try to find a system that may stand up for us in a final. Vince is roasted, and Lewis is serviceable with the ball in hand but a massive liability defensively. If somebody else can't play the mop-up role in his absence then work around it, because every club will be trying to take advantage of us with a Billy Hartung style designated sprinter who has NFI how to do anything but run.

I saw the first half of the Casey game against Coburg online, and it's hard to make any serious judgements from that game due to the toilet quality of the opposition. It was interesting to see Pedersen playing in defence, either because Petty wasn't there or they think he's an option to do it in the seniors. Either way, the surprise mid-season positional switch in the VFL is usually a sign that you're about to get the arse.

Garlett has done chuff all in the VFL and didn't do much from what I saw but it's time to roll the dice on the theory that he's a match-winner. Likewise Spargo wasn't all that prominent, but has had the week off to reflect on his blistering second quarter on Queen's Birthday and stuff all in the other three so I'm willing to give him another go. Petracca can follow the same path, reflect on what he did in the first quarter last night, learn from a week off and come back ready to blow Freo's brains out in Darwin.

Weideman kicking seven was the ultimate in not getting excited considering the opposition but stuff it, I'm going to reward form anyway. Otherwise, it doesn't really matter what happened at an arctic Casey Fields in pissing rain, time to make decisions on whether we're playing to hang on by our fingernails this year or build for the future. If we make changes and somehow contrive to lose to the Saints then stiff shit, it's better than winning next week with Lewis and Vince who are going nowhere and Petracca thinking he's bullet proof then missing the eight anyway.

IN: Garlett, Petty, Spargo, Weideman
OUT: Lewis, Petracca, T. Smith, Vince (omit)
LUCKY: Tyson (for want of options)
UNLUCKY: Baker, Bugg, Stretch and me for following Melbourne

This is all academic, there's more chance of me being picked than Lewis and Vince being dropped at the same time. How about a couple of face-saving mystery injuries? This article is spot on across the board, but especially about the changes. In fact you've wasted your time reading this post when the truth was readily available by reading that. I'd fall off my chair if even one of the two got the boot, because going off the cliff like lemmings without altering course is in our DNA.

If I am picked in lieu of the double droppings it will be awkward, because in one of the great stitch-ups of our time my kid's birthday party has been arranged for the exact same time of the game. Therefore I'll be watching on delay once the people who don't understand me have gone home. I was sour for the first five minutes after finding out about the schedule clash, before realising that it's better to concede defeat here than have her cite Round 15, 2018 in future counselling sessions. It should be ok as long as guests understand that there's a media ban in place and I don't instinctively browse Twitter while trying to avoid mingling. It may be the first home game I've missed since Queen's Birthday 2013 - that's a lot of episodes of Hogan's Heroes (and one too many of Hogan's Highball).

Ad Chat
Max Gawn (shown as 'AFL Player - The Demons') has followed in the footsteps of Jack Watts for Energy Watch and Mitch Clark for Ultratune by converting his MFC related fame into an acting career. With difficult material to pull off in the Google Mini ads he just keeps it from going off the rails. I don't understand the product, are you bastards too lazy to even type what you want to watch on TV now?

Crowd Watch
When ranking cringeworthy things in footy, Port's community singing is only marginally better than Kiss Cam. It must be a regional thing, because when Collingwood tried to copy the idea even their puppet fans refused to participate. There's only one INXS song that should be played in conjunction with footy:

The All New Bradbury Plan
Champion Data provides the all-important reading material for next week's how to vote card. I'm interested by their cynicism about Hawthorn recovering when they've got Gold Coast, Bulldogs, Brisbane, Carlton and St Kilda in their last eight games, plus genuine 50/50s against GWS and Freo away, and the usually bonkers match against Geelong that could go anywhere. I've got them comfortably in to the point where they were almost lifted from the Battle Royale group.
Given the few other results to go off at the time of writing I may be hasty in promoting some of these sides. I'm taking Champion Data's word for Sydney being night on unstoppable in the race so they may as well start taking points from our opposition. Port has a piss easy run from here so they can start working for us too.

Can win every week - will finish above us - Port Adelaide (), Richmond, Sydney () and West Coast
Unlikely to be in the battle for 6th - 10th so may as well win - Collingwood ()
Likely to make the eight, usually still want them to lose - Nil
Lose against higher teams, beat lower teams, take games off each other 
Adelaide, Geelong, Hawthorn, GWS and North Melbourne
Preferred result depends on opposition, usually want a win - Essendon () and Fremantle
Win against higher teams, lose against lower teams - Nil
Good value as spoilers only - Brisbane, Carlton, Footscray (↓), Gold Coast and St Kilda

The rest of the desired results for this week are both obvious and highly unlikely, so now that this bye nonsense has finished your how to vote card (subject to change) for Round 15 is:

Footscray d. Geelong
Carlton d. Port
West Coast d. Adelaide
Gold Coast d. Collingwood
Hawthorn d. GWS (if you go on the table above it's a genuine 50/50, but I think better to piss the Giants off ASAP given the last round fixture)
Essendon d. North (this would be massive, feel free to go bananas in the first quarter again)
Brisbane d. Freo (just to sink Sex Chat Ross' 1% chance of a happy ending)

... and Richmond vs Sydney has zero impact.

At this stage, I have us in a three-way battle with Geelong and North, nudging out the Roos only by winning in the last round. They play slop merchants Gold Coast and St Kilda respectively in the final game so don't expect late favours from anyone else.

I don't have the slightest qualification to comment on the suitability of Gary Pert for the role, but the timing of the appointment was certainly a surprise. It's almost like they were lining up the rising stars of our office (+ bonus Al Nicholson rumours), then somebody with a proven track record came along and they decided to play it safe.

We're 1-1 on recent off-field signings from the Pies (and even Jason Taylor had a rocky start if you believe the rumour and innuendo), so happy to sit back and hope for the best. His record at Collingwood was mostly in the positive, but with the vast difference in financial might between the two he might be the off-field version of when Harry O realised he didn't have Swan and Pendlebury to kick ta any more. At least when his first staff meeting was leaked straight to the media it painted us in a positive light, instead of the Cold War style hotline between board members and Caroline Wilson that propped Telstra's profits up for several years.

Pert will have plenty to do once The World's Greatest Bald Head departs. Finding the money to cover chucking the pokies still concerns me, but I'm pleased to see there is now some talk about pissing off Darwin and going all-in for one game in the Alice.

Perhaps his biggest task, unless PJ pulls off the negotiations of the century, will be to shepherd home the plan for a dedicated training oval and HQ at the Jolimont end of the MCG precinct. This is obviously the best option, but maybe the whole thing is a wildly ambit claim to soften up previously raised options in Docklands or around the University?

I don't like our chances, even if it would effectively be replacing random parkland with a lightly fenced off oval. The net effect for the park will be stuff all, but there will still be enough "won't somebody please think of the children?" style moaning about it to keep us out.

There's also the question of who's going to pay for all this. If it was any other club I'd be ready to punch on at the idea of the government putting money into it, but because it's us I howled at Opposition Leader Matthew Guy (the worst leader of a struggling unit since Mark Neeld in 2013) doing a 'gag' about us having more chance of winning a flag than getting the land. His views on the footy ground may not be relevant considering the MCC control it, but given that the railway space is government owned that's more of a concern. Considering his record approving high rise buildings out the yin yang as planning minister, maybe we didn't stack enough layers on top?

All I want is for the western side of that HQ facing Jolimont Station to have a deck with a bar/function room, where after a massive win we can taunt opposition fans waiting on the platform. That's the sort of Billy Big Bollocks style behaviour that will put the exclamation mark on any glory era that may accidentally turn up. Either that or a train will derail underneath and the entire structure will collapse.

Administrative announcement
Confirmed Roos Chat, sadly without a lights out, no holds barred second hour where we could start delving into ridiculously insider chat about Mitch Clisby. You should still enjoy, and well done to Roosy for making it through the hour without dying from the obvious illness he was suffering.

Final thoughts
Before last night the odds on us making the eight were reaching the peak frenzy levels of 2017, and I have the feeling it's going the same way this time. Now I've got an even more desperate need for qualification, the unthinkable has happened and I've signed up to go back to shift work. I'll get through this season, but from the 2019 AFLW season for the foreseeable future/until I'm sacked my S and MFC relationship will operate on a reduced schedule. I'm hoping to still watch most games live on TV even if I can't be there, but there are going to be times when you the dear listener will be called upon to volunteer for guest reporting duties.

It's outrageous that after being spat at, slapped and kneed in the knackers by this club so many times that I'd risk stepping away from what could (on paper at least) be a glory era but you've got to be an adult at some point in your life. Literally the only thing holding me back from enthusiastically signing on the dotted line when offered the job was the idea of losing touch with the Dees. My whole life would be a field day for psychologists, but I'm going through legitimate trauma about the idea of not being able to be 100% in on following this club. Ultimately taking a step back will probably prolong my life to the point where I might see us make the finals again.

So, what I'm trying to say is that it would be an excellent time for the Dees to go on an amazing run and get the flag now so I can comfortably sneak into the night. At an absolute minimum could everyone involved please recognise my untold suffering since Round 1, 2007 and at least qualify for the finals? Is that really too much to ask?