Tuesday, 12 November 2019

2019 End of Year 'Spectacular'

In the biggest surprise since Pearl Harbour we're back at the bottom of the ladder. While we wait to discover which of the last two years was a fluke, let's concentrate on the non-stop carnival of misery that was season 2019. Can't see why you wouldn't want to reminisce about it. In an equally significant surprise I've finished the end of the year post before December, so we'll get the party started after these important words...

And now, from a generic South Pacific republic about to be enveloped by rising sea waters, please welcome your host, back by popular demand, the man who has lived in a bunker since 2010.

Heyyyy, what's doing everyone? After that Collingwood fiasco at the end of 2017 it was all getting a bit too much for me and I decided to sit out season 2018. I didn't miss anything major while I was away did I?. Let me just catch up by rifling through these conveniently placed papers...

** Multiple scores of over 150. Bet we still missed the eight...
** The inevitable dip in the middle of the year. Yes, much as expected, how are we going to stuff this one up?
** Hold on, beating West Coast in Perth to make the eight. Are you sure this right?

Several minutes of dead air while he argues with a producer, so much so that the emergency broadcast tape kicks in:

** Well bugger me we did make the eight again, but I bet we did something stupid like lose our first final by 85 points? No? This is outstanding.
** Oh there it is, massive Preliminary Final capitulation. I told you that would happen. Well at least we've still got Jesse Hogan, so I suppose things only got better. How many finals did we play in this year?

He is handed a copy of the 2019 ladder.

** Oh for fuck's sake. Is this upside down? I'm off to drink varnish.

Well, I guess I'll just have to take over then. How's everyone going out there?


Does anyone here follow... the Dees?

Some murmurs

Well stuff you then. Let's get on with it you miserable bastards. For our first two awards of the night let's return to a time where there was much hope and we believed anything might happen. The hotter the weather got, the more it looked like Melbourne might win a premiership of some sort. Then the women ended the season with one goal in mind, and the men weren't much better. Why would you support anyone else?

AFLW Season in Review

Here at Demonblog our crack team of reporters is right into AFLW, and we will continue to be until the last of the semi-professional joy is squeezed out of it and it becomes the same old sad corporate wankfest at the men's league. There's also a residual bitterness that we never finished off a flag in the first three years when we had the chance and now it's going to be downright impossible due to the over-eager expansion of the competition.

Round 1 vs Fremantle
What to expect when you're expecting
Where we immediately put ourselves on the back foot by losing to a team that was comprehensively trounced on their last visit to Casey Fields. Given this start it's a miracle we even got the chance to cock things up in the last round.

Round 2 vs Collingwood
Unsack everyone
Where I had to dial back my earlier demands to dismiss the entire coaching staff as we wobbled to an unconvincing win over a putrid Collingwood side. They didn't kick a goal until the last quarter and we still only confirmed victory late. In retrospect this should have exposed that the season wasn't going anywhere. Somehow we dragged it out for another five weeks and would have made finals if they had one combined ladder instead of bullshit conferences.

Round 3 vs Brisbane
Venue: Hickey, Opposition: Sucked
Where I was simultaneously thankful for a genuinely thumping win over a decent team, and for the chance to do a B+ novelty headline.

Round 4 vs North Melbourne
The Cardiac Club
Where after weeks of beating everyone without raising a sweat, the expansion North Melbourne side nearly came a cropper. A 2-2 record left us needing to win all our remaining games and have other sides fall over in front of us. Had we been in the loser conference it wouldn't have mattered a shit, and we'd have skated into the finals without raising a sweat.

Round 5 vs Greater Western Sydney
Protect and Survive
Where we avenged that shambolic season one defeat to GWS in Sydney but were still left so far behind that the Ms. Bradbury Plan (and indeed only Bradbury Plan for the year as it turned out) suggested we were bugger all chance of making finals, even with just under half the season to play.

Round 6 vs Footscray
The show goes on
Where I demonstrated a spectacular incompetence in understanding percentage and thought that this win (as thrilling as it was courtesy of a clutch Tegan Cunningham goal), meant we could beat Adelaide by any margin in the last round and make finals. Turns out my high school math teachers were correct, I couldn't count for shit.

Round 7 vs Adelaide
I did but see her premiership window pass by
Where we needed to upset a red-hot Adelaide by several goals to qualify for the Grand Final but ended the season as it began, looking silly at Casey. One goal for the day and our lowest score in the three seasons. It was almost Round 23, 2017-esque in its last round ineptitude.

Daisy Pearce Medal for Women's Player of the Year

In winning her second consecutive title Karen Paxman makes the idea that this award is named for one of her teammates seem a bit stupid. However, given that Daisy was unavailable this year due to furthering the survival of the human race it sets up a ripping 2020 contest. Even if Paxy wins x3 I'm not renaming it, but it will further prove that she's awesome.

They didn't win so they don't get their picture displayed, but credit also to Elise O'Dea on a third top three finish, and to Lauren Pearce, who blazed a trail for Max Gawn by threatening to become the first ruck to win a major Demonblog award for most of the season before being pipped in the closing weeks.

20 - Karen Paxman
18 - Elise O'Dea, Lauren Pearce
10 - Lily Mithen
9 - Tegan Cunningham, Maddison Gay
4 - Harriet Cordner, Meg Downie, Aleisha Newman
3 - Bianca Jakobsson
2 - Tyla Hanks, Kate Hore, Eden Zanker

Honour Roll
2017 - Daisy Pearce
2018 - Karen Paxman
2019 - Karen Paxman (2)

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance

And now the men, who unexpectedly proved to be as useless as tits on a bull. As wonky as the losses to Richmond and Brisbane were nobody would have believed we were going to be so bad after the pre-season. Except, as it turns out, the club, who'd internally been thumping the panic button until it needed replacing.

I was willing to overlook the two practice match losses on 1) beating the Pies in a low-intensity unofficial game where the coverage was interrupted for 10 minutes by somebody kicking a cord out, 2) the Richmond game being played in excessive temperature and 3) well, there isn't a #3 because I was genuinely concerned by the Brisbane game - especially Steven May's ongoing compulsion to assault Lions players.

It was the most average of times, but one man stood out above them all. In a leaderboard that looked a lot like the real thing (other than votes for Preuss and Smith), Maximum joined Nathan Jones as the only two time winner of the Plate. Build yourself an extension to the trophy cabinet son.

10 - Max Gawn
7 - Clayton Oliver
6 - Christian Petracca
5 - Angus Brayshaw, Christian Salem
4 - James Harmes, Braydon Preuss
3 - Joel Smith

Honour Roll
2008 - Aaron Davey
2009 - Cameron Bruce
2010 - Brad Green
2011 - Colin Sylvia
2012 - Nathan Jones
2013 - Nathan Jones (2)
2014 - Jeremy Howe
2015 - Heritier Lumumba
2016 - Jack Watts
2017 - Jesse Hogan, Jayden Hunt and Clayton Oliver
2018 - Max Gawn and Christian Petracca
2019 - Max Gawn (2)

2019 Year in Review Part 1

Must we? I'm not sure if I can handle this. Oh go on then. I've asked my wife to block up the air vents with newspaper so I'll probably be dead by Queen's Birthday anyway.

Practice match vs Collingwood
Or as it turned out, five to go. You couldn't seriously take a hands-off, early morning weekday practice match as a pointer to how the season would end up but at the same time it's hard to deny that this was the high point of optimism for 2019.

JLT Community Series Match 1 vs Richmond
Alternative commitments meant that for the first time in my life I had to block out a result until the next day. Wouldn't have been all that upset if I'd accidentally found out that we'd lost, and admittedly I came out of this thinking we hadn't done too badly. Sure we blew a four goal lead (actually this was the high point of optimism) and lost, but a spread of 12 goalkickers including four between McDonald and Weideman suggested that all was well post-Hogan. It was not.

Also, Preuss stamped himself as a novelty character by doing this:
By the end of the year the only person picking up anything was Grimes collecting another premiership medallion.

JLT Community Series Match 2 vs Brisbane
Panic on the streets of Cranbourne
Still got no idea what JLT do, but I know what Steven May does - belt Brisbane players. He gets the red mist whenever he sees their colours. I know the feeling, by Round 23 I had the same reaction to the Melbourne jumper. A suspension for light but stupid contact started a disappointing season for him, but he did more than Joel Smith - who looked like a star kicking four here but also blew his grundle to the bejesus belt, inexplicably played on, and was never seen again, prompting his dad to blow up on Facebook like a stereotypical 50 year old man.

Round 1 vs Port Adelaide
Extraordinary people doing bloody ordinary things
At three goals to nil halfway through the first quarter it was so far so 2019. By quarter time McSizzle kicked one and was so confident he could gift another to Melksham. Then *sound of a balloon rapidly deflating*. By half time we looked dire, and after a three goal burst early in the third quarter briefly regained the lead we went to sea again, not kicking another goal for the quarter. Still, that left us going into the last within 12 points and a Spirit of '18 style goal blitz couldn't be ruled out. Then we didn't score again and Nathan Jones did a blunder so spectacular that I'm not even going to subject you to a replay. Things didn't get much better for him in the next 21 games.

Round 2 vs Geelong
Let thine eyes with horror stare into that vast perpetual torture house
Realistically the only place worse for rebooting the season than Kardinia Park would have been the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, but I tried to remain calm, describing Geelong as "gettable" shortly before they beat us by 80. You can't say we didn't have chances. In a display of impotency that John Wayne Bobbit would have flinched at we kicked six goals from 70 inside 50 entries. For once the worst stat in the world told an accurate story. Meanwhile, at the other end Geelong was kicking goals for fun, May got injured on debut, Angus Brayshaw was offered potato chips over the fence, and we went home in a substantial trench.

Round 3 vs Essendon
Four quarters and a funeral
In a Friday night battle of teams that have offered their supporters non-stop aggravation for years, our season came to a screaming halt. Unlike Kardinia Park our forward line fired. Unfortunately this was at the expense of the backline playing like they'd taken Magic Mushrooms. Afterwards I ran into an Essendon supporting colleague and cut a sour promo on how they wouldn't beat any good teams playing like that. That was one of the few predictions I got right in 2019.

Comment of the evening went to The Hamburglar:
Round 4 vs Sydney
The comeback is on
At four goals down in the second quarter I was rifling through my cupboard looking for hemlock, then the emotional rollercoaster carried us all the way back up to hope of a 2006 style revival. Nathan Jones had the best bit of his season with a couple of well taken goals, we won comfortably in the end, and for the briefest few moment it looked like there was something in the tank..

Also, Braydon Preuss did this and I fell in love.
Sadly, bar a goal in the first 30 seconds the next week, it never got any better for him. Didn't get any better for the club either, spiraling back towards the bottom of the ladder almost immediately.

Round 5 vs St Kilda
The comeback is off
Even when we had a surprising loss to the Saints in 2018 it came after 15 minutes of domination. This time 30 seconds of superiority before going tits up and letting a distinctly ordinary team look like world-beaters. Any faith I had left went out the window here. Meanwhile, Alan Richardson's side sat second on the ladder at 4-1, and there's no way he'd have know he'd be working for the opposition 12 months later. I hope his first act as the [insert job title here] was to roll the tape on this game and tell Goodwin where we went wrong.

Round 6 vs Richmond
Best we forget
Even with the Tigers at their (relatively) lowest ebb, beset by injuries and sitting outside the eight there didn't seem much hope of toppling them. I turned up out of loyalty and was surprised when we got the early jump. Sadly the jump turned into a plummet and for the last three quarters we played at a level that wouldn't have qualified for the VFA. As that glorious banner once used to taunt Collingwood fans on Queen's Birthday said: SEASON OVER. Also - Jack Viney was bumped into oblivion by a first year player.

Round 7 vs Hawthorn
Not drowing, waving
In a week where we put Christian Petracca in a swimming pool and left him to sink, our season was also saved from a near-death scenario with what would have been a famous win in a good year but has instead already been forgotten. Fittingly Petracca was the amongst the most buoyant at the end, playing a key role in the victory. Match also famous for Hawthorn's shithouse banner and one of the world's worst non-50 calls.

Round 8 vs Gold Coast
We got the goldmine, they got the shaft
Now, this will be remembered long into the future. The last 90 seconds anyway, everything before that was as pleasant as finding dog vomit on your carpet when you don't have a dog. Everyone knows what happened next, but just think if we hadn't pulled off that spectacular comeback Gold Coast probably wouldn't have got a priority pick. Which would be fine except we'd all have necked ourselves and not been around to see Melbourne use pick 1.

Round 9 vs West Coast
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** ***k
After wobbling over the line against one Coast, I didn't much fancy our chances of going to the opposite side of the country and rumbling the other. We gave it a furious bash, and who's to say that a win leaving us 4-5 wouldn't have been the springboard to bigger and better things? We'll never know, like many games we finished as if completely maggotted and didn't even get within 10 points. Some As The Locals Like it umpiring in the last quarter didn't help, but we easily did as much damage to our own chances as they did. Also involved Mark of the Year being taken on us for the second consecutive season and players standing around dumbfounded while some poon who fell arse backwards into a flag taunted Sir Max. We didn't have one player suspended in the regular season, it's almost like nobody gave the fattest rat's clacker.

Round 10 vs Greater Western Sydney
Can't get there from here
Emblematic of our season we were woefully outmatched, but the opposition pulled the pin just time to let us get out of it with a margin that didn't cause the entire football community to come down on us like a tonne of bricks. This was the first time this year I had to check the lowest scores I'd ever seen in person at three quarter time just in case we didn't kick more goals. We just go away with it but without any honour. GWS made the Grand Final and discovered what it feels like to be comprehensively outplayed on the MCG.

Round 11 vs Adelaide
(I Just) Died In The Arse Tonight
After lamenting how we only started playing against the Giants when they were a mile in front (or more appropriately when they gave up), this was a lesson in being careful what you wished for. We lost again, this time in heartbreaking fashion. Sam Weideman was the face of defeat as his last ditch set shot missed, but there were plenty of guilty parties as we spent the last quarter in a far less sweatier than usual Darwin unsuccessfully peppering away at goal like arseholes. Would it have made a difference if we'd won? Probably not.

Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal

Like being the best captain on a crashed plane there's not as much prestige in winning this award in a year when we were complete wank. Usually in terrible seasons this award is highly competitive due to the large number of new players being trialled, but in this case there wasn't even that. 

The loose criteria allows Marty Hore to win at age 23, and fair enough too. I stand by my claims that he is Neville Jetta's natural successor, and though injury and form (both his and the team's) slowed him down towards the end of the year it was still a fair step-up from VFL to AFL, and we should get several more years out of him.

From next year the eligibility rules for the Hilton will change, it will now be open to anyone with less than five games AFL experience at the start of the year. This means Tom Sparrow remains eligible, while Kyle Dunkley is shafted out of a start by one match.

11 - Marty Hore
6 - Jay Lockhart
0 - Kade Chandler, Oskar Baker, Kyle Dunkley, Declan Keilty, Tom Sparrow

Honour Roll
2005 - No players eligible.
2006 - Matthew Bate
2007 - Michael Newton
2008 - Cale Morton
2009 - Jack Grimes ($4 fav)
2010 - [REVOKED] ($5)
2011 - Jeremy Howe ($30)
2012 - Tom McDonald ($8)
2013 - Jack Viney ($5)
2014 - Jay Kennedy-Harris ($15)
2015 - Jesse Hogan ($4.50)
2016 - Jayden Hunt ($50) and Christian Petracca ($10)
2017 - Mitch Hannan ($15)
2018 - Bayley Fritsch ($4.50 fav)
2019 - Marty Hore ($8 fav)

Demonbracket VIII

Or as it was better known, the year I got a bit sick of it. The humiliation of forgetting to include Steven May in the draw didn't help, and we pledge to be better in 2020.

Considering my barely concealed disinterest for the competition - which might have been a portent of evil for the season to come - the voters certainly came out of the woodwork, as we expanded to Demonland for the first time.

For about the sixth straight year there was barely an upset to be had in the early rounds, before the people chose Clayton Oliver as their #1, putting him past big names like Viney, Gawn, then Jetta in a Grand Final thriller that was the best match of the season.

See you in January for edition IX, where Oliver and Gawn will start on opposite sides of the draw and the red-hottest of favourites to go through to the final. Surprise me and set Austin Bradtke off on a magic giant-killing run.

Honour Roll
2012 - James Frawley d. Nathan Jones
2013 - Tom McDonald d. Mitch Clark
2014 - Nathan Jones d. Jack Watts
2015 - Nathan Jones d. Dom Tyson
2016 - Jack Viney d. Nathan Jones
2017 - Max Gawn d. Jack Viney
2018 - Neville Jetta d. Clayton Oliver
2019 - Clayton Oliver d. Neville Jetta

In Memoriam

Lots of assistant coaches
I have no idea what these people actually do so it's hard to get upset. Which is not to say they aren't useful, certainly more so than people who spout shite over the internet, but it seems like a revolving door of cogs in the wheel. The only one I'll be sad to lose is Stone Cold Craig Jennings, whose emotion free box antics gave us so much joy last year. Didn't have as much to not get excited over this season, and ironically when we beat Gold Coast he went off his nut. Probably should have known it was over for him at that point. He clearly covets a senior job, which should prove interesting when he has to front the media five times a week.

Sam Frost
While fully accepting the theory that his antics do as much harm as good I'm legitimately glum about this. In a season where we were as interesting as watching paint dry his escaped circus animal act was one of the few reasons to continue watching. Now we're going all in on Lever and May, who have spent all their time with us either injured or suspended, Harrison Petty, and Oscar McDonald, whose career has hit the skids but probably doesn't need fans treating him like Idi Amin. Vale to the era of free expression and outright turbo insanity.

Jeff Garlett
Speaking of people who played like they were loose on ice without skates, here's Jeff (For the last time never Jeffy), somebody who gave us great joy at a discount price for about 2.5 seasons, was there or thereabouts for one, and no bloody where for the rest. Still, fantastic value for what we paid. All the best highlights will come from the first couple of years, especially one pearler of a goal from the boundary line against Richmond on Anzac Eve. He goes home with the most nominations for goal of the year but never won it.

Joy of life and the dignity of being a finals contender
As much as I expected this to continue for a couple of seasons, is anyone really surprised at things going wrong at the first opportunity? What an absolutely Melbourne turn of events, on par with the drop from 2002 to 2003, only with a significantly younger list and at the end of that disastrous campaign we got a priority pick instead of watching some other pricks bank one for being marginally less terrible.

Celebrity fan Natalie Portman
Wonder what she thought of it all.

Declan Keilty
Deserved a go for sheer perseverance but never really looked likely at senior level. Cards marked when he couldn't get a game in a forward line held together by sticky tape and converted defenders at the end of the year. As far as two game MFC careers go it was better than Tom Gillies or Isaac Weetra, not as good as Danny Hughes or Adrian Campbell (five goals!) and on a par with Troy Davis or Hayden Lamaro.

Jordan Lewis
Much piss was taken out of him over the last couple of seasons, and not just for the synthetic hair, but no doubt he played a key role in his first two years. Not often that successful players pick Melbourne, even at the tail end of their career, so I'm just grateful to have been wanted. Career highlights packages will contain scant MFC footage but I'll always remember the kicking backwards scam he cooked up with Anal-Bullet to beat Carlton. Back as an assistant coach, which is probably where he should have been shunted to midway through 2019.

Corey Maynard
Scored Jakovich votes on debut, got dropped, had one more ill-advised appearance as a tagger and was never seen outside the VFL again. Injury finished him off but I'm legitimately upset that we didn't get more of an opportunity to see him in the seniors because I reckon he'd have done a half decent job.

Billy Stretch
Like Frost I recognise the science behind this but still don't feel good about it. I know you've got to cut somebody to make room for imports, and admittedly 47 games should be long enough to pass judgement but I reckon he was handy. Never played a great game (career total in the Jakovich - 8 votes) but was safe enough when he did play that you didn't want to self immolate. I didn't anyway, you were welcome to torch yourself over him at any time. Speaking of players who provoked ridiculous, attention seeking public protests....

Jay Kennedy-Harris
When they do a list of all the players we've had over the years who were great at VFL level but couldn't translate it to the big time he'll be up there. Has been a handy enough depth player for the last few years but time to try something else. We'll always have the vaguely racist insinuation that he could be a small forward just because of his heritage.

Pick 2
You could argue that karma finally got us for 2009 and the semi-whitewash of the Tankquiry. Alternatively you could point out that we were much worse in 2013 and got fuck all. All the focus was on Gold Coast's 18 game losing streak, but let's say they spread them out during the year, does that make them a better team? I'd say they weren't that bad in the first place. Speaking of things handed to the Suns on a platter...

From a sweaty Mark Jamar conducting his post-match interview to Weideman missing his chance to this year we've ridden the gamut of emotions at Marrara Stadium from A to Bullshit. Remember when the crowd was bolstered with US Marines and even they, never having seen the sport before, knew we were cactus? It was the same night Jeremy Howe ill-advisedly wiped his blood on an opponent and nearly took Mark of the Year. Maybe also when Sam Blease got so excited at kicking a goal in the second quarter that he high fived the crowd.

So much the better that we get another MCG game but I say where's the $600k shortfall going to be covered? Win games and make money they say. Look at last year's financial report when we did and tell me where we'd have been without half the NT money I say. Congratulations to the AFL on not scheduling us as the away team for Gold Coast next year.

Next year's first round pick
This is either going to be genius or something to be mocked about for the next 20 years. Historically I know which one is more likely.

The post-2018 membership boost kept something in the tank, which will probably be wiped out by the Anzac Eve/Queen's Birthday away games and the shouse crowds for the last three home games when fans were ready to put their head in the oven. So instead of boffo money we'll probably break even, and might again next season when you factor in the inevitable membership drop but the pair of home blockbusters. Then the pokies go and we've got to find another $2 million under the couch. Still reckon we're a chance of being allowed to wither and die without long term stability. And on that cheerful note...

Welcome to my vendetta

Darren Burgess
Don't pretend to know if this is a good thing or not. The cycle of fitness gurus is they're lauded as geniuses when hired, then everyone turns on them after two hamstrings explode, and by year five they're either the genius behind a flag or scapegoat for everything, including collision injuries that they couldn't have any control over.

Alan Richardson
NFI what he's supposed to be doing but the internet tells me this is a good thing. If all goes wrong, which I'm not convinced it will, he'll be in line for a crack at the job. I think the people, myself included, will inevitably demand Adem Yze because a) he used to play for us, and more importantly b) has come from a club that wins trophies for fun. 

Ed Langdon
Runs fast, kicks [?], hangs his tongue out all the time and has the hair of a 15-year-old girl in a commission flat. As we learnt from the Frost experience I'm easily seduced by speed, so look forward to acres of excuses for his clangers while simultaneously scourging Angus Brayshaw for a few loose kicks into the forward 50.

Adam Tomlinson
I don't know what he does, but I do know we gave him the only win of his first 30 odd games of league football so he's got to have a soft spot for us somewhere. Paid attention to him for the first time during the Grand Final, was probably a bad time to start.

Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year

Quite the rooting here. For the second year in a row Max is the only man to score. He's been dominant for so long that the last other ruckman to score was Jake Spencer. It's not easy to even get the 10 hitouts per game to qualify - only six players on the list had 10 in total. That left Max (39.47 per game) and Preuss (19) in the field. Maximum got a lot of votes, Preuss made it to the apologies once. 

This is Max's fifth win in a row in this category, extending his record haul to six Stynes' in total. 

56 - Max Gawn
0 - Braydon Preuss
DNQ - Austin Bradtke, Tom McDonald, Sam Weideman

Honour Roll
2005 - Jeff White
2006 - Jeff White (2)
2007 - Jeff White (3)
2008 - Paul Johnson
2009 - Mark Jamar ($3)
2010 - Mark Jamar (2) ($1.50 fav)
2011 - Stefan Martin ($30)
2012 - Stefan Martin (2) ($12)
2013 - Jack Fitzpatrick ($50) and Max Gawn ($45)
2014 - Mark Jamar (3) ($5)
2015 - Max Gawn (2) ($10)
2016 - Max Gawn (3) ($1.80 fav)
2017 - Max Gawn (4) ($1.25 fav)
2018 - Max Gawn (5) ($1.10 fav)
2019 - Max Gawn (6) ($1.50 fav)

2019 Year in Review Part 2

Round 12 vs Collingwood
Declaration of bore
The first away Queen's Birthday game since [can't be bothered looking it up] ended like most of the home ones. We went down without much of a fight to opposition so confident that their players were comfortable betting on themselves to kick goals. We didn't kick goals full stop, this left our tally in 'blockbusters' as 13.21 in eight quarters. This was the point where people started fantasising about sacking the coach, as if we can a) take the piss out of the only guy to get us to the finals since Neale Daniher and, b) afford to pay him out.

Round 14 vs Fremantle
Shelter from the Storm
What might have been another miserable afternoon was saved by the Dockers losing a bunch of players to injury by three quarter time, including the late Jesse Hogan, allowing us to stage a popular last term revival, powered by the all of a sudden much-maligned Tom McSizzle. By now some of us were still harbouring ambitions of mid-table mediocrity, while others were depressed that we were damaging our position in the draft. There was something coming for that lot, we called it the last seven rounds.

Round 15 vs Brisbane
What a terrible mess I've made of my life
I don't think it will have the same impact as the Hawthorn 2007 pre-season game, but here was two teams crossing in opposite directions. We did enough to make it interesting until the third quarter before the locals kicked away. The highlight was undoubtedly Steven May telling off Frost for being butchered in a couple of contests, leaving some delusional people thinking that was why Frost left.

Round 16 vs Carlton
Survivor Series
A near reverse of the Freo game, where we were the ones who lost all our players for the last quarter. This time we just held on, against a team that had been even worse than us in the first half of the year but would ultimately dash finish two games and 6% better off. It featured a welcome full return to form for McSizzle, who had six goals when he was crippled by an innocuous collision. It was a bit like Mitch Clark being stepped on when he was set to kick a bag against the Giants in 2012, hopefully not with the same tragic ending. Jayden Hunt kicked a clutch goal to win it - god bless him - yet Carlton went within one post-length of snatching a draw. Good times.

Round 17 vs Western Bulldogs
Same Old Story
A solid gold opportunity to pull away from the bottom of the table with a third win from four blown in a contest memorable for little else than Harrison Petty going forward for the first time in his life out of necessity, taking bucket handed marks and kicking three goals. Otherwise, the first of two disappointing outings at a ground we'd started to play well at.

Round 18 vs West Coast
17 and counting
For the second time we gave the Eagles a scare before packing it in after three quarter time. In front of a 'home' Alice Springs crowd that largely couldn't give a toss for anything not wearing yellow, we climbed out of a 20 point crater at quarter time to lead at the last change before finishing with a one goal last term. That was 2.5 combined in last quarters against the Eagles, both times from winning positions. Says almost everything you need to know about how we were prone to going down like an Indonesian airliner under the slightest pressure.

Round 19 vs St Kilda
You'll Never Walk Again
After pledging weeks earlier not to get upset for the rest of the year I stuck to my plan for three and a half quarters, before snapping and going off my face in the last 15 minutes when we rolled over and carked it again. It was deadset piss, and injury-riddled side or not everyone involved except this lady deserved censure.
Round 20 vs Richmond
Everybody Hurts
The first half of a weekend that should have been a financial windfall started with a stadium full of away Tigers fans watching their side toy with us like a wild beast pondering when to deliver the coup de grace to its helpless prey. By this point I had to accept the reality that my beloved Nathan Jones, a titan across 10 years of unending sadness, was starting to look like a broken down horse dreaming of the knackery.

Round 21 vs Collingwood
Longshot kicks bucket
Even less of our fans backed up the next week, leading to the lowest MCG crowd between the sides since Ron Barassi was in charge. The ones who stayed away were right for the first three and a half quarters when we were threatening an abysmally low score, but I got to see Oscar McDonald kick a goal in person so stuff it. Nearly missed the momentous event while tooling around on my phone as bored as buggery with this shitbox season.

Round 22 vs Sydney
Friday night and the gates are low
Could have stretched myself and gone on a few hours sleep, did the sensible thing and decided to stay home and watch on the Megawall I acquired early in the season with the new Demonblog Towers. Didn't see one win on the wall all year, but to be fair I only saw two in person. After two disappointing but far from abysmal performances against top teams we went to pieces here against mid-level slop, letting them treat us with contempt not befitting the fact that we beat them running away five months earlier. If I'd gone the night would have ended in making contact with overhead wires at Jolimont Station. Some UFC bloke was pictured holding our jumper before the game and was surprisingly not mortally wounded in his next fight.

Round 23 vs North Melbourne
The battle of who could care less
A year unexpectedly from hell ended in none-more-Melbourne fashion, losing, and by under a goal for the third time out of three against North in Hobart. Bonus points for going down in shambolic fashion, holding a lead until the last 90 seconds then cracking like an egg and allowing them through for the winner. The four points went begging - and we'd still have finished 17th so you were morally ok to enjoy a win no matter what your position is on tampering with the draft order.

Best Finals Player

Piss off.

Honour Roll
2005 - Not awarded
2006 - Brock McLean
2007-2017 - Not relevant
2018 - Jack Viney
2019-TBD - Not relevant

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year

After five years of double figure odds winners the favourites are back in business. Salem rides his hot start to the year to register a comfortable victory. Had Fritsch gotten any closer he might have been in danger of being DQed for registering most of his points as a forward but he did play the majority of the season in defence.

Salem becomes only the second man ever to win the Seecamp twice, leaving him in hot pursuit of four time champion James Frawley. With Frost now after Frawley at the Hawks, the man to watch in 2020 is Steven May. His strong performance from limited games suggests I have a tremendous bias towards him, which should help him if he plays enough games.

27 - Christian Salem
19 - Bayley Fritsch
15 - Steven May
11 - Marty Hore
7 - Sam Frost
6 - Michael Hibberd
1 - Jordan Lewis
0 - Neville Jetta, Jake Lever, Oscar McDonald, Josh Wagner
DQ - Jayden Hunt, Tom McDonald, Harrison Petty

Honour Roll
2005 - Nathan Carroll and Ryan Ferguson
2006 - Jared Rivers
2007 - Paul Wheatley
2008 - Matthew Whelan
2009 - James Frawley ($22)
2010 - James Frawley (2) ($3.50)
2011 - James Frawley (3) ($4)
2012 - Jack Grimes ($7)
2013 - James Frawley (4) ($2.80)
2014 - Lynden Dunn ($25)
2015 - Tom McDonald ($14)
2016 - Neville Jetta ($13)
2017 - Michael Hibberd ($16)
2018 - Christian Salem ($20)
2019 - Christian Salem (2) ($4.75 fav)

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year

Nobody was surprised when Hore won the Hilton, but this is the most outrageous twist in the award's short and wonderful history. He's only got one for his career but it was a bloody pearler, kicked on the run, from outside 50 at an absolutely clutch moment when we still had an outside chance of rescuing something from this diabolical season. Spoiler - we didn't.

We also say farewell to Hall of Fame medal legend Jeff Garlett, the most nominated player of all time. Unlucky never to win it, possibly because we thought him doing unreal things was par for the course and didn't get as excited as we did for others unexpectedly doing something ace.

Round 1 - Christian Petracca
Round 2 - Jay Lockhart
Round 3 - Corey Wagner
Round 4 - Braydon Preuss (these are the weirdest nominees ever)
Round 5 - Braydon Preuss (2)
Round 6 - Jay Lockhart (2)
Round 7 - Alex Neal-Bullen
Round 8 - Marty Hore
Round 9 - Jayden Hunt
Round 10 - Oskar Baker
Round 11 - Nathan Jones
Round 12 - Christian Petracca (2)
Round 14 - Jay Lockhart (3)
Round 15 - Bayley Fritsch
Round 16 - Jayden Hunt (2)
Round 17 - Jordan Lewis
Round 18 - Clayton Oliver
Round 19 - Christian Petracca (3)
Round 20 - Jordan Lewis (2)
Round 21 - Oscar McDonald
Round 22 - Billy Stretch (not official as it wasn't actually a goal, but I was clearly depressed by this point and willing to do weird things)
Round 23 - Alex Neal-Bullen (2)

Honour Roll
2014 - Christian Salem
2015 - Nathan Jones
2016 - Jack Watts
2017 - Tom McDonald
2018 - Mitch Hannan
2019 - Marty Hore

All time nominations (2014-2019)

16 - Jeff Garlett
11 - Christian Petracca
7 - Jack Watts
6 - Jayden Hunt, Jake Melksham
5 - Mitch Hannan, Jesse Hogan, Nathan Jones, Dean Kent, Bernie Vince
4 - Tom McDonald, Cameron Pedersen
3 - Max Gawn, Jordan Lewis, Jay Lockhart, Jack Viney
2 - Angus Brayshaw, Chris Dawes, Mark Jamar, Alex Neal-Bullen, Clayton Oliver, Braydon Preuss, Chrisian Salem, Dom Tyson
1 - Oskar Baker, Sam Blease, Chris Dawes, Jack Fitzpatrick, Bayley Fritsch, Sam Frost, Marty Hore, Matt Jones, Ben Kennedy, Jay Kennedy Harris, Heritier Lumumba, Oscar McDonald, Ben Newton, Aidan Riley, Charlie Spargo, Corey Wagner

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year

And now, the main event of the evening. Where we pay tribute to Max Gawn, a man who stood taller than 10 Max Gawns with a Charlie Spargo on their shoulder while all crumbled around him. Somehow he got hosed into having the share the Best and Fairest (we still love you Clayton xoxoxoxo) but in this arena he is king.

He needed a last round BOG to make sure of it, but there's no doubting Maximum's contribution to the cause. He's either sole captain in 2020 or we punch on.

Don't just focus on the taps, as good an exhibition of an otherwise useless statistic that they were, think about how many times his bucket handed marking got us out of the shit this year (at least temporarily) and how often he'd contest the centre bounce then win the clearance as well. What a man. What a mighty fine man.

Congratulations also to the ruck fraternity for their first title. That just leaves defenders and key position forwards to break their duck.

56 - Max Gawn
49 - Clayton Oliver
32 - James Harmes
27 - Christian Salem
21 - Jack Viney
19 - Bayley Fritsch, Jake Melksham, Christian Petracca
15 - Steven May
13 - Angus Brayshaw
11 - Marty Hore
9 - Nathan Jones
8 - Jayden Hunt
7 - Sam Frost
6 - Michael Hibberd, Jay Lockhart
4 - Tom McDonald, Billy Stretch
2 - Harrison Petty, Corey Wagner
1 - Jordan Lewis

Honour Roll
2005 - Travis Johnstone
2006 - Brock McLean
2007 - Nathan Jones
2008 - Cameron Bruce
2009 - Aaron Davey ($8)
2010 - Brad Green ($4)
2011 - Brent Moloney ($9)
2012 - Nathan Jones (2) ($3.50)
2013 - Nathan Jones (3) ($2)
2014 - Nathan Jones (4) ($3.50)
2015 - Jack Viney ($15)
2016 - Nathan Jones (5) ($8)
2017 - Clayton Oliver ($35)
2018 - Clayton Oliver (2) ($3.25 fav)
2019 - Max Gawn ($9)

A million congratulations to Max, who can be justifiably proud of his effort in hoisting 38 other men on his shoulder and carrying them across the swamp. If we gave out courage under fire awards he'd have been mentioned in dispatches for 20 weeks.

On a personal note thank you again for your support of everything I've done across this difficult year. The option of whinging on the internet is the best thing about being a Melbourne fan. Imagine having to relive the 1970s or early 1980s without being able to dash off abusive tweets?

But now, to 2019 we say farewell and piss right off you spawn of Satan. Bring it in boys...

Sunday, 25 August 2019

The battle of who could care less

The circle of life is complete. From five wins in a freefalling 2007 to five wins in a freefalling 2019 we're back to where we started this long, strange journey to the bottom of the ocean. But while the pain of this thwarted season will live inside us forever it can't hurt you anymore. Let's dip into the weedkiller bath of misery one last time, then roll 2019 up in a carpet and roll it into the Maribyrnong River.

Of the thousands of people who'll be happy to see the back of this year, Simon Goodwin will breathe the biggest sigh of relief. Last year he was full of Wolf of Wall Street references, this season he's looked more like Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant standing there with his joint out hanging out, crying like a baby as his life goes to bits. I lost faith in the coach during the last few weeks but am glad he now gets to thump the reset button and return next year to try and prove this year was the fluke and not 2018.

It's scant consolation, but we weren't bad for a second last placed team. Our record was certainly shithouse, but it was a step up from other classic 17th placed sides like Melbourne 2013 or Melbourne 2014. And while last week was a white flag waving surrender, there were seven games before that where we were a red-hot chance with 30 minutes to play before displaying the finishing skills of a teenager about to get his end away for the first time. It would be obscenely simplistic to say we could have won all of them, finished 12-10 and played finals, but there's something to be said for staying alive for so long in so many games despite playing in a way that almost made the two goal a week less 2014 seem exciting.

Of course, the end-of-season vibe (if not the ladder position) would be a lot different if we'd suppressed our self-destructive urges for another 90 seconds and beaten North. It wouldn't have scrubbed the stink off a dreadful year by any means but would have at least given us a positive note to end it on/sweep some of the ill-feeling under the carpet. Instead, we threw it all away yet again and lost for a 17th time this season. Why in god's name would you follow anyone else?

What a shouse season it's been, almost from the moment somebody tripped over the plug and cut off live coverage of the first pre-season game. That day I wrote:

I don't really think we're going to win the flag, but what I took out of this is that we're not going to be shit. 

Wrong. Never, EVER trust the pre-season. 24 games and nineteen losses in all competitions later it seemed appropriate to end it all (so to speak) exiled from the mainland of Australia, in an off Broadway dead rubber at ground that acted like a glorified Casey Fields, tormented one last time by a team that's been treating us with contempt for years. I feel like a real poon for imagining on fixture reveal day that this would have major finals implications.

Worse than ending another wasted year was the expectation that North would apply an exclamation mark by clobbering us. Having kicked one and 22 goals in their last two outings I was ready for more of the latter, especially in light of our limp and lifeless concession against the Swans. Even though our backline has been reasonably heroic in the circumstances I still expected the Roos to carry on the carnival atmosphere displayed against Port. It ended somewhere in the middle, they only kicked 13 and Ben Brown went from 10 last week to losing the Coleman Medal, but for our part we continued to make scoring look harder than open heart surgery, packed it when unexpectedly ahead in the last 90 seconds and lost.

To say I had low expectations for this game would be an understatement. After five hours' sleep I woke up five minutes before the first bounce and didn't even bother to get out of bed until half time.
What I saw wasn't too bad, but what a depressing comedown to be satisfied watching us cling to a side we finished well clear of last year.

Mind you, would anyone trust us to beat North no matter what circumstances the clubs were in? We snapped the famous 17 game losing streak in Round 3 last year, but haven't played them since our ever so brief glory era began a few weeks later. I'm not saying a lot has changed in nearly two full seasons, but that day 10 goals came from Bugg, Garlett and Kent combined. There was also no Hogan, Jetta, Kent, Oscar, Tyson or Josh Wagner, leaving us one short of half a new side. The only constant was Gawn being our best player.

As much as I thought we were going to get thrashed, losing by under a goal wasn't much of a surprise. It feels like my entire adult life has been losing thrillers to North. Shortly before my 18th birthday they beat us by a point and over the next 20 years have done us by one again, seven, one yet again, 10, five, four and now five again. The last three have all been at Bellerive, leaving us 0-3 at the ground with an average losing margin of 4.6 points. Add it to the pre-season game we lost by three and nobody can deny that Melbourne in Tassie = instant entertainment value, but at some stage I'd like to come home with a win.

There's not much competition, but the first and third quarters were probably amongst the best we've played all year.  The first featured disposals hitting targets all over the ground and the third delivered goals (relatively) galore. That these came when we were kicking into the wind is an indictment on a side full of Casey players who should be used to dealing with weird breezes at regional grounds. Still, not a lot was learnt about what's going to happen in 2020. Fritsch will play forward and Frost should swap salaries with Lever but otherwise it was just your standard last round dead rubber where a bad side plays with the sort of freedom they won't be allowed in Round 1.

When I say Fritsch will play forward, he'll certainly start there. Who knows how long until we jump at shadows and start shifting players around. His new status as our most dangerous forward was confirmed by a screaming contested mark right in front of goal for his first of three. Have I told you how much I love contested marks? For me they're second only to goals as the most honest stat in the game. Even better when somebody combines the two. Sadly the success of that play encouraged us to keep roosting it forward, even when Fritsch was vastly outnumbered or neither Preuss or Gawn was down there to take advantage. Suffice to say, while we did pull down more marks inside 50 than North there were no more one-on-ones at the top of the square.

A lot of things about our 2019 season are strange, but what about being in the top eight for marks inside 50 but second last in the competition for goals. We all know our inside 50s are pus, but how badly are you going when you can put the ball in somebody's hands in front of goal that many times and either kick points (us, St Kilda and Fremantle are the only teams below 50% for goalkicking this year) or get nothing at all. Inside 50s on the whole are a swizz, but last year was (in parts) a win for the brute force theory of "if you get it down there enough you'll score", this year not so much. Especially without anyone at ground level or players able to stop the ball flinging down the other end at warp speed.

Also from the world of statistics - in Round 16, 2008, Simon Buckley had 10 bounces. This year Christian Salem led our entire side with 10 and we had by some distance the least number in the competition. But who needs run when you're all in on contested possession eh? Wonder if they're regretting not having a shot at Andrew Gaff yet? Suppose it doesn't really matter how they move it if they're just going to finish the chain with a careless kick inside 50 anyway.

The surprise outbreak of precision kicking and four first quarter goals were welcome, even if you suspected the North players weren't taking the game entirely seriously. Conceding a real DemonTime special on the siren to a player that had 0.0 for the season was not. It was not the last time we'd concede in the final 90 seconds of the quarter. Not even the second last time.

When they got the first two goals of the second quarter I thought we might have lost interest and rolled over. Moves that would have seen us investigated if draft picks were on the line like Spargo in the backline suggested we had already, but he wasn't all that bad. I would rather scoop my eyeball out with a spoon than see him play there in Round 1, 2020 but it's nice to find somewhere that his 30 metre kicks can come in handy.

The expected capsize was kept at bay when we held them goalless for the rest of the term. Frost was doing an excellent job, Hibberd was more lively than he has been for 75% of the season, and Lever was doing everything right until it came time to kick and he disposed of the ball like he was battling a flesh eating virus. If his ankle needs surgery I've go no earthly idea why we were bothering to play him in a slopfest like this rather than getting on with the chopping and gouging, but who am I to question such a successful club? Maybe he doesn't need any surgery and he's just a shit kick.

Hunt started two behind Petracca in the race to be the leading goalkicker (some race...) and made it interesting with our only major for the quarter. That was as exciting at that contest got, neither man got another one and Truck held on for a win even he'd probably struggle to describe as satisfying. Petracca didn't kick any, but was very good playing further up the ground. He must do more of that next year. I'm sure somebody will cover the 22 goals.

That goal got us to half time on level terms, at which point I thought I'd better get out of bed, fire up the Megawall, and try to watch one win on it this season. It wasn't a complete waste of time, by watching the end of the game in a standing position I was able to express my displeasure physically by jumping up and down, throwing things and scaring children.

An odd third quarter followed. One, chockers with Melbourne trademarks, including randomly kicking a quick burst of goals that we couldn't replicate anywhere else, then going to sleep for five minutes and giving them all back. It was pleasant while it lasted and had a better mix of goal types than we've seen recently. Wagner burnt a defender off with speed to walk into an open goal, Jones, Maximum x2 and Melksham all kicked set shots, and Fritsch's third came from a 50 metre hoist that he probably wasn't even aiming at the goals but caught on the wind and floated through. We'll take them wherever we can at the moment.

The run of goals left us 15 points up and I foolishly started fantasise about notorious Anti Fun League figures like J**d, Lloyd and Wilson sooking about players expressing even the remotest enjoyment at winning. We didn't give them anything to work with, now they'll have to focus on Ken Hinkley doing self-conscious coaching box novelties after finishing 10th when he should have been boiling himself in oil.

Just when you thought a side full of VFL All-Stars, star players who have been disinterested for weeks, busted veterans and makeshift forwards might be onto something North kicked the last three of a surprisingly potent 11 goal term and the margin was back to a point. We were lucky to hold that, with their second DemonTime shot only scoring a point. After conceding twice at the end of quarters you'd think we'd have learnt our lesson by the last quarter wouldn't you? Nah.

North had the momentum, but courtesy of Melksham inadvertently stepping on an opponent's head we had a one man advantage and the use of the breeze. What could possibly go wrong? Funny you ask. Remember the last time we played there? Round 19, 2017, sitting a game and 6% inside the eight and needing a to firmly entrench us in the finals race. There we were, six points down against a 4-13 side and kicking to the same end where we'd piled on six goals in the second quarter. We took the lead midway through the last quarter, lost it late, then kicked two points that would have successively won and drawn the game. Still went into the last round with our finals destiny in our own hands and... well enough about that.

We've known for years that Melbourne can't play for shit against sides with a reduced bench. This year proved that we're no good in the rain either and it's been confirmed that we're also the worst side at kicking with the wind that has even breathed oxygen. We're not much chop at last quarters either, this was the fifth time since Round 9 that we've led at the last change for four losses and a total of 5.23. Across the season we've been outscored by nearly 30 goals in last quarters - worst in the league - so hooray for Darren Burgess forcing people to run up and down sand dunes but how about investing in top quality shrinks as well? We've been mental for years, even for large parts of 2018, so it's about time they tried something different and invested in psychologists, mindfulness gurus, meditation experts and astrologists.

There was a great opportunity to get the all-important first - and in our case probably last - goal of the final quarter. Preuss fulfilled fantasies I've been harbouring all season by taking a massive pack mark pretty much in front of goal, then proceeded to take the piss by hitting the post. Based on previous experience I knew that wind or no wind we weren't going to have another six goal quarter so every shot was crucial. What a waste. He had another respectable performance around the ground but is no chance of a game in Round 1 next year unless he kicks a bag in the pre-season or - god forbid - Gawn goes down. Send either Weideman or Petty to intensive summer ruckman school and they can do the same job Preuss does but provided a bigger threat in the forward line.

That was the first of seven behinds, and we proceeded to dominate the next few minutes in every aspect other than scoring before North got a goal on the break. After that we got plenty of the ball but disposed of it like Mad Monday had kicked off in the three quarter time huddle and conceded another. Even our one goal for the quarter was from one of those questionable ruck frees where neither man knows which way it's going until the umpire points. I thought his luck would run out at two set shots, but he nailed it and the gap was back to a point.

Still didn't think we were any chance of overcoming them, all day their forward line seemed far more likely to break out and kick goals. We got more scores out of nowhere than most weeks (for the first three quarters anyway) but confidence was low that we could outscore North by a point or more by the end. I hate being right. Not that we didn't have chances, with Fritsch and Melksham both missing snaps.

The misses were frustrating, but it did give us the lead with time rapidly running out, giving us the chance to put on a double-tough defensive performance and hold them out. Yeah right. Any Melbourne fan who says they thought we'd hold onto a one point lead after a day of conceding late scores is a lying swine. Sometimes you get lucky - Wingard dropping the mark or whatever the hell happened in the last minute against Gold Coast - but most of the time you can guarantee we'll do something stupid and lose in a thriller.

First there was Jones charging out of defence, signalling that he was going to hoof the ball down the line where Gawn was lurking, then changing his mind and kicking it to a North player in the middle of the ground. It was a shame, because to that point he'd played one of his better games for the season. Almost everyone had a horror turnover on the day but given the context of the game you'd slaughter a less beloved player for doing the same thing so it's only fair to point out what a tremendous cock up it was.

That was bad enough, then there's the multiple ways we cocked up their winning goal. Allow this helpful demonstration to explain:
How typically Melbourne to have four players surrounding an opponent, one who can't lock down a tackle, and three who stood there like statues waiting for him to get off a handball. Then the ball finds its way to the bloke who was goal side of the three free men. He was kind enough to leave some drama in it and have a flying shot instead of just kicking it Brown on his own at the top of the square but the result was the same.

When we entered the last 90 seconds less than a goal up I already expected to lose, so anything we got from here was a bonus. Given we'd had the advantage in centre clearances all day I was ready to win the ball then lose via an out of control fire hose style kick straight to a North defender. Instead our midfield went back into their shell at the wrong time, North bolted forward, I let out a primal howl and a point went through that confirmed for the 17th and final time this year we couldn't win.

Considering we'd chucked the game in a few seconds of madness, bursting from one to the other in a few seconds to grab a draw would have been a touch hollow. In a sick way I was still into it, thinking that if we were going to be miserable we might as well take some North fans down with us. Now we've lost I'm also upset that we didn't get the club's first ever draw in the final game of the season but at the time it was all about ruining somebody else's day.

Spite or no spite, when Frost - whose no man's land shenanigans for the Higgins goal shouldn't detract from another animal defensive performance - gathered the ball to kick-in with 45 seconds I wasn't thinking about a share of the points. My confidence was dented even further when he did the flattest torp ever and it was punted back at him by 76 year old Serbian grandmother lookalike Jared Polec. It fell short, Frost marked it in front of goal, tried to thrash another long kick that was only marginally better this time, and we somehow won the ball back at ground level.

Petracca did a lovely turn in traffic and hoofed it long to Fritsch, about the only man likely to take an overhead mark in the circumstances. He gave a good account of himself at full extension and the ball bounced out to Neal-Bullen, who dashed inside 50, opted not to try a tricky kick over the top of a defender to Melksham and went for it himself. Even though the result meant precisely FUCK ALL in the long run I still had my heart in my mouth as it landed and smacked right into the post in a way he couldn't have done deliberately in a million attempts.

ANB has been the victim of some shit for not passing to Milkshake, but imagine the anti-Bullet sentiment if he'd tried that and botched it. Not like he was kicking to a player on his own in the square, there was still a defender in the way and he probably (and rightly) though the siren was about to go so made the split second decision to take the responsibility himself. I'm not going to hold it against him, the way we've gone forward this year it's lucky he didn't run out the clock looking for a teammate with four defenders covering him. Melksham also played a part in the game-losing goal with an ill-advised spoil on Frost so I could do without the 'woe is me' hands in the air even before the ball had landed.

For failed last minute kicks at that end of the Hobart ground it didn't have the emotional impact of Billy Stretch's flying shot in 2016. I didn't know it was after the siren until it missed and threw myself from one room to another as it missed. There wasn't any need for that this time around but the poster still caused me to shriek like Ned Flanders when he saw the purple drapes. In the heat of the moment my brain didn't care that the game had no impact on anything. It probably also confused snatching a draw from behind with winning and thought coming out equal would have something to genuinely celebrate. Now I realise how stupid this would have been and am accordingly disinterested.

You couldn't have written a more appropriate way to finish our season than blowing a lead with a minute left, then having a maligned player blow a chance at redemption. The only way it could have been more apt would have been for Melksham to get the pass and have his ACL explode running into an open goal.

On the day I hated that we had victory in our hands and threw it away but 24 hours later it feels like any other dull but not totally embarrassing last round defeat. Like North 2010 or North 2014. Everything can eventually be traced back to a loss against the Roos. If there's a way to lose a game from 1-127 points we've done it against them at some point since that fateful day in 1990 when I walked into the MCG for the first time and came out after a 21 goal loss. Right then I should have known that this lifestyle wasn't going to end well.

Then Jakovich turned up, kicked 11 (against who else but North?), and my life was changed forever. Some might say for the worse, I say keep feeding me this slop until I burst.

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Bayley Fritsch
3 - Christian Petracca
2 - Clayton Oliver
1 - Sam Frost

Apologies to Brayshaw, Harmes, Lewis and Stretch.

Final standings
Thanks to Max for removing any controversy by confirming a very worthy win in the Jakovich with a five vote performance. Winning the best and fairest was probably a thrill but this must be an even greater rush. Congratulations to for Clayton Oliver, now holding two wins and a second in the last three years, and to James Harmes for consecutive third place finishes.

So, after 15 years a big player has finally taken the title. Until now Cameron Bruce (2008) was the tallest at 190 centimetres. The minors were already long decided, with Salem doing most of the damage in the Seecamp early in the year before May put in a strong charge, and Hore getting home in the Hilton despite not registering a score since Round 10. The Best Finals Player will not be awarded this season.

56 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Allen Jakovich Medal for Player and the Year and Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
49 - Clayton Oliver
32 - James Harmes
27 - Christian Salem (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
21 - Jack Viney
19 - Bayley Fritsch, Jake Melksham, Christian Petracca
15 - Steven May
13 - Angus Brayshaw
11 - Marty Hore (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
9 - Nathan Jones
8 - Jayden Hunt
7 - Sam Frost
6 - Michael Hibberd, Jay Lockhart
4 - Tom McDonald, Billy Stretch
2 - Harrison Petty, Corey Wagner
1 - Jordan Lewis

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
It would be easy to hold ANB's flubbed shot at the end against him. Maybe if it was to win the game I would, but for a draw? Meh. Instead let us pay tribute to his lightning crumb in the first quarter. I think he's already been gifted an actual Anal Bullet for a weekly prize this year but why not have another one? Start a collection.

That leaves Marty Hore as the winner for his intervention late in the Gold Coast game. Seems like a lifetime ago since we took until the last second to beat a team that were early in an 18 game losing streak. It was no McSizzle at Subiaco, but still a memorable inclusion on an honour roll along with Salem, Jones, Watts, McDonald and Hannan.

We won and go undefeated again. Much love to the Demon Army for their commitment in following this awful organisation around the country. Someday this war's gonna end. Dees 21-1-0 for the season.

Next Week(ish)
After a year off, the AFL has reintroduced the September Exhibition Series. If I was any more excited I'd shit my shorts. To the surviving eight clubs we say...

I hope everyone has a good time and that the final is a GWS vs Stefan Martin slopfest that ruins the spectacle for Victorians.

For the once again long suffering Melbourne Football Club, it's back to the cycle that has made us such a success in the 21st century. First we delist, then we trade, then we draft. As long as this is not followed by 'and then we watch everyone go down like nine pins again' we should be able to enter the new season with hopes of a revival.

Conspiracy Corner
Dwayne Russell is to be taken about as seriously as Boris Johnson, so when he claimed a Tasmanian team was on the way in 2023 the gut feeling was that he was talking out of his firestarter. Then Caroline Wilson joined in on similar lines, and for all her sour anti-Melbourne sentiment you have to respect that she's got more leaks than a Collins Class submarine so maybe there's something to it after all. If Gil's last ditch effort to be remembered fondly is to give into pressure for a Tasmanian team I'd suggest minnow Victorian clubs should watch their backs.

The good news is there's no chance of anyone being relocated. They're already going to be managing Hobart and Launceston factions, as if they're going to want a vocal group of mainlanders complaining about things as well. The bad news is there's no way the AFL will carry an uneven number of teams for long, so that means either adding or subtracting another side. There's no way they'll split GWS and Canberra, and third sides in Adelaide or Perth are fantasy stuff, so that means by fair means or foul there will have to be a net reduction of one amongst the existing Victorian clubs.

Merging two traditional teams would create chaos, so I'm suggesting the best result for the league would be to take a financially necked Victorian side and merge them with Gold Coast (who we assume will still be dismal in a few years), instantly creating a finals contender by fusing their lists together. The question is which of us, North, St Kilda or the Bulldogs will have the financial tap turned off by the AFL and be starved into agreeing to go.

I'm instantly ruling Footscray out given that they've just been gifted $18 million dollars by the state government in the ownership of the Western Oval. Between that, the flag, the geographical territory and more government sponsored dollars for playing in Ballarat I suggest they are almost unfuckwithable.

Of the other three North would be the most financially vulnerable if their Hobart deal disappeared (and if they'd had the same decade as us they'd already be playing home games in Western Samoa), but nobody is safe. If the 'It's time' factor for Tasmania is real you wouldn't want to be the team going to the AFL with cap in hand in the next few years. In theory the MCC relationship should save us but I bet if they were offered the chance to put on more Essendon, Collingwood or Richmond games they'd go "gee, that's terrible, sorry to see you go" and wave goodbye to us. And there's nothing more naive then the idea the league can't go on without a team called Melbourne.

Also in North's favour is that they've learnt how to live with pokies, while we're about to have to fill that financial void. If the Tasmanian deal is vital to them, we'd be left like heroin addicts scrambling for change in a payphone if the Northern Territory ditched us. Now you hear that Gold Coast is 'in discussions' with the NT about adding Darwin to their recruiting zone, and how far after that's agreed do you reckon they'll be playing games there? In isolation I'd be into this, goodbye sweaty Darwin and a one-off game in Alice Springs but there's another $600,000 a year out the door. Next thing you're asking the AFL to cover a shortfall in funds, they decline, say "well it looks like you're going broke, but there is one way we can save you..." and the next thing the club is being shifted to sunny Carrara.

There's a provision in our constitution that any merger has to be voted on by members (no mention of relocations mind you), and obviously at the moment it would lose by about 99%, but after a few years of being kneecapped, briefed against to journalists and starved out until it's presented as the only way to preserve some of the club's identity it might get a better hearing. Mind you, even South Melbourne fans voted against moving to Sydney so the VFL just rescheduled all their home games there instead.

This is all tremendously far-fetched, but what I'm saying is don't take it for granted that we'll plod along as an unsuccessful, moderately supported club forever. If the 8000 new members this year meant an extra million dollars in revenue then do your bit to cover for the people who pull out. Don't withdraw your financial support out of spite, buy in at the lowest level if you must but do something. The club is bigger - and more important - than any playing list or administrators, and the last thing we need is trouble from supporters flouncing off because the footy is bad. Fight, fight, and fight again.

Next year
Appropriately Jordan Lewis was chaired off by Max Gawn and Nathan Jones, two men who have made the carrying of players into an art form. Sadly their prospects are now heading in opposite directions, the Maximum for Captain campaign is reaching critical mass while this season has seemingly sucked out all Chunk's remaining life force, leaving him looking like he'll struggle to get a regular game next year. I am very keen to be proven wrong about this.

Based on this list, here's how I'd handle our remaining of contract players.

- Chandler, Dunkley and C. Wagner (another year on rookie list)
- Frost (a must)
- Jones (I can't imagine a world without him. One year guaranteed only though)
- Lockhart (did enough)
- Stretch (always going to be a depth player but he can kick so worth hanging around)

- Keilty (should have been given more of a go, but playing him in defence at Casey was basically the concession that he was done for).
- Kennedy Harris (handy enough as depth so I wouldn't riot if he survived for another year but just never seems settled anywhere in the side. Also I've only just discovered there's no hyphen between Kennedy and Harris. Better six years later than never)

- Lewis and Maynard (confirmed)
- Garlett (gave us great value for money but is shot now. Must look to the future)
- T. Smith (does alright in the AFL without excelling so I'd keep him at Casey as an option but is said to be ready to pull the pin due to injury)
- Guy Walker (shoulder shot to buggery)

So, not accounting for any unexpected player departures via trade that creates six vacancies on the senior list, which is a good number for drafting and bringing in players from elsewhere. I wouldn't be able to pick Ed Langdon out of a lineup if he robbed me in the street but he's apparently on the way. He looks like somebody who has pulled the hair back so far that it's going to cause a major injury to their forehead but I won't hold it against him. I'm told he's quick (though he only had as many bounces as Salem) but his kicking is ropey, which should see him fit in perfectly.

Now we've confirmed Fritsch is a marking mid-size forward our other pressing need is somebody to put forward pressure on. Goals are a bonus. I'd almost be ready to play somebody purely as a defensive small forward to try and set up opportunities for others, and if he gets a goal a game himself that's a bonus. Easier said than done but having somebody down there that will put the fear of god into opposition players whenever one of our inevitable useless long bombs is brought to ground would be good.

Realistically you can draft and recruit whoever you like, none of them are going to win a flag until they wise up and demand a trade to a decent side.

Final thoughts
So, that's another wasted decade. Like the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s before it, the 10s have delivered nearly bugger all. In a red-hot battle between bullshit periods it's narrowly beaten the 1970s by one finals appearance to nil. They lost by 190, we lost by 186. They won two wooden spoons, we morally should have had about three. Some of you have lived through both decades and I have the deepest sympathy for your plight.

Remember 2010? When we were an outside finals chance with three rounds left and looked like things were finally turning around. Imagine going back in time and telling yourself that we'd make precisely ONE finals series in the next nine years. Old you would vigorously shake new you's hand, say "thank you very much for saving me from years of misery" and get on with doing something worthwhile with their life.

We're all hopeful that next year will see an instant resurrection, but there won't be any solid proof of which season was a fake until late March 2020. That's six months to do any sort of mystical voodoo shit available to try and get us going again. I think we're a 5-10 side at heart, but then again I believed 2007 was an anomaly and we followed up with two wooden spoons. The difference is this time there's a hint of science behind my optimism, not just blind faith. I patiently await the truth being revealed.

So, as we wrap up season 15 (!) of Demonblog, thank you again to everyone who has indulged my shenanigans on here, Twitter, Demonwiki and elsewhere. I'd probably be writing this for my own sanity even if nobody was watching but it's heartening when people take an interest. I'll be back with the end of season 'spectacular' sometime before December 31, but in the meantime I bid you farewell.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Friday night and the gates are low

During the original #fistedforever decade I did many a terrible thing to be at Melbourne games. Left sick family members at home, declined to attend a family reunion because there was a practice game on, refused to attend both engagement and birthday parties, and walked out of work in the middle of the day to attend the post-tank Freo game in 2009. Two years after that decade was declared closed - via the Round 22, 2017 debacle - the reward for sacrifice was a long-awaited finals appearance, two of the best Friday nights of my life and the adrenaline rush of going to Perth for a Prelim. Now the arm is back in up to the elbow and the swelling of my heart 12 months ago turned out to be the prelude to it turning black.

Which is a convoluted way of admitting that I chickened out of going to the MCG last night. Adam 2007-2016 would be horrified and we'd probably end up trading blows, but life changes and so do your priorities. Back when I was a conventional Monday to Friday worker it felt different, even when I knew we'd lose by scoring at pre-World War War I levels the game on the weekend was still something to look forward to. This week I arrived feeling like I had an obligation to go just to defend a criminally low attendance figure. And I didn't even end up doing that. For shame/for sensible decision.

It wasn't going to be pretty, slogging home for an hour on Friday morning, having a few hours' sleep, then going back and forth to the MCG on a train that stops in every bloody suburb under the sun. I tried it for the Essendon game earlier in the year and the experience left me ratshit for about four days. So when the teams came out and it became clear the club wasn't taking this game seriously neither would I. All the shame of squibbing it was well out of my system by half time and I regret nothing.

Once my 12 year odyssey of being available for every game in Victoria ended it's become a lot easier to consider watching in the comfort of my own home but it would be cynical to pretend this outbreak of cowardice had nothing to do with our position on the ladder. Of course if there were finals implications I'd have been there on no sleep if that's what it took. There was a last minute crisis of conscience when I woke up after four hours' sleep and still thought I had to be there, but thankfully a test run to the supermarket in pissing rain where I operated my trolley like a drunk driver was the final straw. I bunkered down at home and, unlike our season, died with dignity.

I had major issues with selection, and it felt like you could hear a tank revving somewhere in the distance. Somewhere between the release of the weekly injury report and selection Oscar McDonald had a nervous reaction to kicking a goal by pulling up sore, Petty went with him, and Hunt was flat out turfed without even the courtesy of a fake injury. They may as well have sent it out with a button to push and listen to the sound of a tank revving.

Imagine being Declan Keilty, sitting at home knowing the AFL opportunity you battled so hard through so many games on cow paddocks is almost over but you still can't get a game even with all the other tall forwards out. In theory the wet weather would have worked against him, but he's played about 100 games on the windswept tundra of Casey Fields so I dare say he might still have been worth a go instead of fielding a NOBODY/NOBODY tall forward combo.

Concerns for Declan's feelings aside, and safe in the knowledge that Preuss is now firmly typecast as a 'break in case of Gawnmergency' ruckman, I wasn't entirely against the idea of an all small forward line. After all, it's not like playing talls has done much for us this year. I just don't understand why you'd flick Hunt, after playing him in defence last week, for a game where we could have done with a zippy player at ground level. I'm all for giving Chandler his opportunity but don't know why we also needed to play Spargo, who hasn't fired a shot this season in any competition. I'm sure Goodwin was keen to win but it also felt like he wouldn't have been too downhearted if we lost. Until we were slowly strangled in a way that made us - and by extension him - look stupid and he was left looking bereft.

The only hope of winning - if you were into that sort of thing - was that Sydney has been no good for weeks. There was a stat before the game that they were in the worst five weeks for clearances since that stat was introduced. If you're coming into this post blind and don't know what happened next you've obviously never watched Melbourne play.

Because the Swans are a generally successful operation on a bottom six gap year they looked at the weather, realised there was no point in feeding a young ruckman to Gawn and chose to go without one. Compare to the Richmond game where we sent Preuss out in conditions that were first slippery, then just plain wet to slide around like a giraffe let loose on an ice rink. It's one thing to be a team that's no good, it's another to refuse to take a competitive advantage.

Playing without a ruckman could have gone two ways. Either Gawn and any of the midfielders would do their impression of Jamar/Moloney vs Adelaide 2010 and combine for 19 clearances or Maximum could battle his heart out all night to win taps against an opponent only half interested in contesting then watch the ball swept away by Sydney players anyway. Thus it was. He'd win the tap and either his teammates were standing in four different postcodes while a Swan dashed through to grab it, or they'd know exactly where it was going and would instantly tackle a player the moment it hit his hands.

Not for the first time this year if I was Max I'd have withdrawn my labour. By the end he was on the bench looking so despondent that I wanted to send a Telecom Herofax assuring him that it wasn't his fault and point out that if he's not captain next year we should have our licence revoked.

That's how I felt about Nathan Jones in 2013. Now, after five years in the top job it is my sad duty to inform you that Chunk is starting to look even more like that beloved elderly relative who you know is about to snuff it. They had a half arsed go at my suggestion of playing him forward and he didn't get near it. Then he went back and didn't do much there either. I can't cope with seeing this and hope they spare him the trip to Tasmania so he can huddle down with his manager and consider whether the one year contract we offered is really such an insult.

Somebody else who shouldn't be on the plane to Hobart next week is Jordan Lewis. Not because of his performance, which was serviceable, but because if you're going to retire then what's the point of postponing it until some bullshit off-Broadway game instead of going out with a bang on a Friday night? Unless he doesn't think he's retiring, which would be either incredibly delusional on his behalf or negligent on ours.

Channel 7, likely already sour about being lumped with this putrid contest, would certainly have appreciated Lewis making this his last game because it would have a) given them a storyline to run into the ground and b) provided bonus viewing figures from sentimental Hawthorn fans. If he doesn't know he's going he won't like the replay, featuring the commentators talking about his impending retirement like it was a dead certainty. As of a few days ago my understanding was he was ready to pull the pin but it seems like strange timing to me.

There was even less reason for neutrals to hang around when we conceded three quick goals at the start. The first was a warning shot to our midfield, with Aliir Aliir beaten in the ruck, then starting to avenge his surprise defeat to Preuss earlier in the year by setting up a goal. He wasn't going to be tied down to mind a tall forward all night this time. Firstly because we didn't have any, and secondly because he was given license to roam hither and yon, either setting goals up or dropping back to mop up the sort of inside 50 kicks that were already lazy when we had key targets but became downright criminal without them. Bayley Fritsch must have been thrilled to be back in the forward line, he took a few contested marks last week and suddenly they're expecting him to take grabs like Tony Modra.

The next two goals came of dropped marks, spoils that went straight to a Sydney forward, and Melksham missing a snap that set off the most inaccurate night for a Melbourne forward since Shannon Byrnes (remember him?) kicked 1.5 against Gold Coast six years ago. I'm not holding it against Melksham, he might have got the majority of his goals from frees but was the only man who looked even remotely likely to get near it in the forward line until Frost's Pearl Harbour level surprise cameo in the last.

I cherish Melksham's contributions to our forward line and understand that players have to engage in furious, Shane Warne-esque spin when speaking after limp defeats, but I could have done without him pissing down my leg and telling me it was raining in this interview. Using raw inside 50 numbers as a justification that we were doing something right is an insult to the intelligence of supporters. Please subtract the number of aimless long heaves that go straight to a defender, roll over the boundary line, or leave what we have left of our forward line competing with multiple defenders at full extension and get back to me with that number. Everything else he said was fair and reasonable, but the inside 50 is the biggest myth in football and people who trade in it can't be trusted.

When Milkshake's shot rolled to the left it brought back uncomfortable, confusing memories of the same thing happening in the Prelim. Like that game we were only a goal down in the first quarter when his shot bobbled wide, and neither time would it have helped us in the long run. It's just that back then the stakes were a little bit higher than the chance to avoid finishing 17th. You'll see that number crop up a few more times before this post is over. After the final siren next week everyone who isn't being delisted, sacked or traded should have it branded on them like The Scarlet Letter so they're never allowed to forget how much of a drain this season has been. Usually I'd say write it off and start fresh again next year, but not in this case. Hire the people who mentally tormented Adelaide to constantly remind them of the number 17 wherever they go.

So, there we were 18 points down against the only team in the AFL that we've beaten by that much this season. Farewell to any lingering guilt about not going. Remember beating them at the SCG, thought the ship was righted, Preuss would kick 40 goals and things could only get better? It wasn't, he couldn't and they didn't. That was the last game I saw on TV at the old Demonblog Towers. Now I've upgraded to a house with a Channel 7 style Megawall, on which I've watched six losses out of six.

Even that win only came after spotting them a Stranglewank start, but 22 points may as well have been 222 for the joy it sparked at the time. Now, unless something BONKERS happens next Saturday in Hobart it will be our lowest winning margin in a season since winning one game by one point in 1981. In years with multiple victories you have to go all the way back to the wooden spoon year of 1978, where the best of our five was by 21 points and also came against the Swans. It prompted coach Denis Jones to celebrate by stomping on leaflets calling for him to be sacked. Presumably he didn't sign a three year extension before the season because a game later the leaflets got their way.

Just as it looked like we might do something stupid like lose by 53 there was a brief Melksham-led revival where he kicked a pair of goals. I don't know how, given that the ball was being moved towards him at a glacial pace that allowed Sydney defenders all the time they needed to block up our short forward line. The plodding ball movement explains why we launched precisely none of our goals out of defence. Then there were the kicks straight to Sydney players, handballs that missed the targets by metres, what must have been a record number of missed tackles and a lot of players who looked like they didn't fancy it.

In some ways I can't blame them for having scant interest, but in many others I can. You can waffle on about elite training standards and what goes on behind the scenes all you like, but there are about 44 hours a year when players are expected to be fully on. I don't care if they spend the week injecting heroin into their eyeball, I still expect them to show up and have a bash. This was meek surrender to an opposition that wasn't much better on paper but had spirit coming out the yin yang. Which is why they'll probably win flags in the future and (spoiler alert) we won't.

I'm used to turnovers and not being able to defend them, but what shit me more than anything else was the contrast in attitudes of players who didn't have the ball. This is not a 2019 problem, we have refused to block, shepherd or help the ball carrier in any meaningful way for years, but look at the little things Sydney players were doing to help their teammates and ask why we can't do the same. It's dishing a handball and backing into an opponent to clear space, or simply throwing your arms out to create a barrier between ball carrier and tackler. Not bloody hard but rarer than hen's teeth for us.

Instead they did exactly what they have under every other coach, buried their teammate with the handball then stood back, not far enough for a return handball into the space, but far enough that the guy with the ball is left boxed in, usually hard on the boundary line, usually ending in an ineffective kick or it going over the line. I know our obsession with contested football is on its last legs but this has nothing to do with that. The Cult of Contest is responsible for opposition players standing on their own outside a pack but it doesn't impact a player's capability for defending his teammate when they have the ball. It's every man for himself around here and I hope they send them all to another bricks-on-the-head military training camp in the off-season.

When we were holding firm at three goals to four behind at quarter time I might have been convinced that we could get it together and win if the total scores were kept low enough. Then Frost was nabbed for the lightest of contact in front of goal 30 seconds into the second term and I thought "ahh yes, I know where this is going". If I was a drinker I'd have poured a double. Of floor polish.

The most curious part of the second quarter, and with nothing else on offer perhaps the entire game, was a dispute between Clayton Oliver and Bayley Fritsch. During a goalless quarter, with another to follow, Fritsch did well in traffic to put the ball on Anal-Bullet's chest with an intelligent kick, provoking Oliver to throw his arms out like he'd been horribly wronged. Fritsch then responded with an open arm gesture that all but said "I hit a target inside 50, what else do you want?" It was strange, and as long as other clubs don't steal our airtime by disgracing themselves even more severely again this week it should get a run in the media. I'd love to know the truth but I suppose if the club does address it they'll just lie.

Somebody will accuse me of hypocrisy after I treated Steven May berating Frost in Brisbane as one of the highlights of the season but the difference is he was having a dig at something that cost us a goal, this looked to the naked eye like moaning over a situation that still ended with us having a shot. I need a different camera angle to see if there was a player on his own in front of goal that provoked the Hamburglar to go off his tits, but as far as I could tell Fritsch did everything he could to pull the ball out of a contest and connect with a target and that's good enough for me. I reckon Oliver just wanted the handball so he could have a shot. We have a lot of players who are fully up themselves. Which isn't a bad trait for footy players when things are going well, but time to reign it in a bit when you're 17th going into Round 22.

Maybe Oliver was bemoaning the decision to kick it to ANB, who converts set shots like Petracca after drinking a tin of Haymes Paint. He duly missed, but at least the bullet got a point, unlike Oliver, who had a chance to show them how to do it a few minute later and rolled a shithouse shot across the face of goal for nothing. Somewhere Bayley Fritsch was 50% laughing and 50% dying inside.

Prospects for this game were so low that even the Channel 7 CEO resigned before it went to air. By the end of the second quarter when nobody had kicked a goal for 25 minutes and ad revenues were dropping to levels 10 Peach would be ashamed of his successor had to be coaxed in off a ledge.

The game was left in a holding pattern where both sides were too inept to score goals and I thought our backline did an alright job under the circumstances. Frost, Hibberd and Lever all had their moments, though Salem looked like he'd rather be anywhere else and Hore was having flashbacks to being in the VFL. Of course when a team did finally kick a goal with eight seconds left it was not us. I was on such a high at not going to watch this abortion live that it didn't affect me. In fact the validation of my cowardice gave me a bit of a rush, like a soldier going AWOL then discovering his entire unit was wiped out in an airstrike.

Based on the second quarter you already knew where this game - don't forget, against opposition with six straight losses - was heading, but for those who stuck around after half time there were even fewer highlights per square minute. Kade Chandler did about as much with the ball as expected but should get credit (and a game next week) for a gutsy defensive effort, Fritsch made two spectacularly ill-timed attempts at mark of the year, and in the last quarter Frost turned the clock back to Round 6, 2016 when he took his escaped circus animal act to the forward line. Worth a go considering he and Lever are the last tall forwards on our list who haven't played in attack at some stage this year. Didn't end in goals but for the first time all night it created some energy inside 50.

If you like turnovers we had plenty ofto offer. Players big, small and medium were merrily gifting the ball back to the youngest side in the competition (and please do remember that next time we blame having a young team for being no good), then watching it fling back over their heads unchallenged. Sydney has so many players you've never heard of it would be a good place to hide people in the Witness Protection Program, but last night they all took a number and patiently waited their turn to pad the end of season highlights video. It was a full team Kingsley.

We haven't had a suspension since the pre-season so I don't want anybody to start now, but would a light melee have been too much to ask for? $1000 is a high price to pay to show you're still alive (ask fines record holder Nathan Jones, who is thinking about the well-being of his family and is about to complete his first season without a fine since 2011) but I'd appreciate somebody assuring us that they're still alive and feeling the burn, not just robotically going through the motions.

All the agro was provoked by triumphant Swans players rubbing it in, once after a goal, then at three quarter time as Oliver did the time-honoured move of arguing with an opponent while walking away rather than getting right into it. Poor old Channel 7 lingered hard before going to ads, hoping it would kick off. Me too, imagine one guy out of 22 thought "ahh fuck it, let's go" and ran into punch on. Instead they all just trudged off to listen to a coaches' address none of them cared to hear then came back to plod listlessly through the last quarter as well.

Seven tried to get something out of their investment by tormenting us with clips of the Geelong and Hawthorn finals. As if that's hurtful to Melbourne fans, we all know how far we've fallen, the clips only serve to remind us of better times. I'd rather have pressed red for 30 minutes of highlights from those two games than watched anything from the end of 2019. You know you follow a shit club when the "we'll always have..." moments are from Round 22, an Elimination Final and a Semi Final but Kent against the Eagles, Hannan against Geelong and Gee God Boy Wow will be remembered long after 99% of the bullshit that's been served up this year. I appreciated the reminder. Why not take time out to watch all of them again now?

(I never noticed until now that BT says, "Kick is a big kick of the ball". Bring back Dean Kick)

Enough of the good times, back to our present nightmare... Actually no let's watch those videos again.

I'm not ruling out the impact of injuries, especially with our Best 22 down to about a best 10 by this stage, but compare to our first Friday night game against Essendon, where we defended as if drunk but still scored over 100. I can understand a makeshift forward line not doing similar but the midfield - with the exception of Gawn - was so far down on where they were at earlier in the year it's not funny. As they're the only line that hasn't been ransacked by injury I have to assume they're just tired, battered and mentally frustrated.

As Sydney realised they were playing an easy touch and started to build a decent margin, the only hope for keeping neutrals watching was to constantly cut to Goodwin Under Pressure Cam, where he sat looking just like a bloke stuck in a confined area with a group of people who know they're about to be sacked. He should have told all of them - including the departing Stone Cold Craig Jennings - to have the night off and used injured players as scab labour. The Sizzle Brothers might not have experience doing [whatever assistants do on matchday] but unlike 75% of the people crammed into that box they'll be at the club next year. I think they will anyway, the way things are going they're just as likely to demand a trade to Gold Coast and join a team with a brighter future.

It was by some distance our worst performance of the season. The margin at Kardinia Park was bigger, but against far better opposition. Margin isn't everything, even the GWS game was more disappointing than that but covered up by them letting us kick meaningless last quarter goals. This was comfortably below both of them, the two Richmond games and either St Kilda defeat as the on-field low point of 2019.

If nothing else the mystical value placed on Friday night games should finally bring down the thrashing from the press that we've deserved for weeks. At last the people who have rallied around the phrase 'irrelevant' might have to try and analyse what's wrong instead of relying on cliches to explain why they haven't bothered to investigate.

If you are going to have a crack at explaining Melbourne 2019 try not to make a dickhead of yourself while you're at it.  Yesterday morning I had the misfortune of getting in the car just as old Melbourne sympathiser and latter day spouter of SHITE Mike Sheahan was potting us. For a man who spent so many years at the coalface of footy media his ludicrous theory was that we've escaped scrutiny because no journos care enough to 'help' us with scathing articles. The only reason I kept listening was in case white-coated medics invaded the studio and carried him off to a funny farm.

Maybe Simon of Jolimont should write in to Jon Ralph like he's Dr. Phil and beg for the media to give us a kicking. Alternatively, in the world of clickbait where you can write any old controversial shit, rack up a few thousand clicks and make money for your employer, somebody could sit at their desk, think, "gee, there's something weird about going from a Prelim to 17th, I'm going to do some research and write an intelligent, well thought out article everyone in the game will want to read". I'd be happy to do it under an assumed name but they might have to edit out all the dead giveaway phrases like 'fisted forever', 'farceshambles' and 'circus music'.

I expect there is still coaching, planning and preparation going into this side but either it's falling apart the moment the opposition turn up, the players can't execute what they're being asked to do, they hate each other behinds the scenes, we're carrying a bunch of lazy shits or all of the above. Other than a few key exceptions the moment the ball is bounced our players look like a bunch of anarchists doing whatever they want. Sadly this spirit of free expression is mostly expressed by handballing the shortest possible distance to a teammate or blindly kicking the ball down the ground and hoping for the best.

It's humiliating that for the third time this year we started the last quarter threatening one of our worst scores since 1980. We narrowly got away with it again, leaving the 3.16.34 against GWS in Round 21, 2014 as the most recent entry on the list. Five seasons since we scored 34 or less, there's something to celebrate. Just before you plunge a knife into the toaster. In this case we didn't even get to reduce the margin, but crucially we did kick two goals to take our tally for five. Or as the mathematically minded might like to see it, two in three quarters.

The first was a real charity job, with a Swans defender wandering backwards until he walked it through for a point and being pinged for deliberate. It was probably the right call, but as somebody who believes you should be able to freely rush behinds whenever you want (except from kick ins, thank you very much Joel Bowden for ruining it) it still made me uncomfortable seeing a team pay full price for doing it. However, as the fan of a team that hadn't kicked a goal for an hour I was more than happy to take a priority free. Maybe the Swans player was taking pity on us, like that night we were 61-0 down in the second quarter against Geelong and a defender 'accidentally' fumbled a mark on the line.

A couple of minutes later ANB converted a set shot (!), we had two in a row and the margin was back to 30. Not like Frost was going to kick six in the last quarter and engineer a famous comeback but I would have been as satisfied as possible under the circumstances if we'd kept the margin to five goals. Sadly, the only five goals on offer was our total, with no more added. One was kicked, it just didn't count. The players didn't want to be out there, Goodwin was left calling Lifeline instead of the bench, and the TV didn't even bother to cut to people doing their block in the crowd after frees because they knew nobody left could muster up enough passion to be argumentative about umpiring.

With the margin approaching 50 there was very little piss left to extract until Stretch kicked our one attractive goal of the night but lost it due to Fritsch lightly touching a defender who was about to jump into the post of his own accord. That was bad enough until Sydney sprung off the Demon Trampoline to walk into an open goal at the other end 20 seconds later. The bladder was now officially empty. Oliver was beaten to a shot after the siren by about 0.1 seconds but what difference would that have made? He was about to argue that he'd marked before time ran out when he hadn't, then had a moment of self-awareness, realised it didn't matter a bit and got on with his life.

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
Nobody deserves votes, and any award that also has to consider Swans players (newspaper awards, coaches votes, Brownlow) will have no room for anybody on our side. For what it's worth I tend to agree - for once - with the top four as offered in the AFL.com.au report except Viney over Oliver due to better ball use. I say this because of the major impact these votes have on the overall tally. If I'm going to be dragged into controversy I'm taking the lost Healy brother Jonathan with me.

5 - Jake Melksham
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Max Gawn
1 - Michael Hibberd

Major apologies to Lewis and Lever. Next level apologies to Frost and Stretch. Special mention to Chandler for tackling like a bastard.

Another battling performance against the odds leaves Maximum in the catbird seat approaching the tremendous cock up that will be our last round game. The Jakovich has a proud history of going down to the wire, with the result only decided before the final game four times in 15 seasons.

2005 - Travis Johnstone beat Russell Robertson in the last game
2006 - Brock McLean likewise jumped Cameron Bruce in the last game
2007 - Nathan Jones won his first Jako by leaping James McDonald and Brad Green in the last game. 2008 - Bruce split a tie with Green in the last round
2009 - Aaron Davey held on to beat Brent Moloney after neither got last round votes.
2010 - Green entered the last round a vote in front of James Frawley then made sure of it with a BOG
2011 - Moloney passed Sylvia in the last round.
2012-2014 - Nathan Jones smashed everyone in his path and had it won well before the end of the year
2015 - Jack Viney held off McDonald and Bernie Vince by scoring five in the last round
2016 - Jones grabs his fifth title, leaping Max Gawn courtesy of capturing votes in a putrid final round performance.
2017 - Clayton Oliver goes into the last game four ahead of Michael Hibberd then neither scores

... and last year Oliver walked it again. This time he'll need to deliver 2016 style heartbreak to Gawn if he's going to take his third title. Otherwise it's going to be the breakthrough win for a big man after years of podium finishes.

In the minors Marty Hore now cannot lose the Hilton under any circumstances. He may have to share it if Jay Lockhart returns for an improbable best on ground performance but he can do no worse. Congratulations Marty from the entire team at Demonblog.com.

51 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
48 - Clayton Oliver
--- Abandon all hope ye below here ---
32 - James Harmes
27 - Christian Salem (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
21 - Jack Viney
19 - Jake Melksham
16 - Christian Petracca
15 - Steven May
13 - Angus Brayshaw
11 - Bayley Fritsch, Marty Hore (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
9 - Nathan Jones
8 - Jayden Hunt
6 - Sam Frost, Michael Hibberd, Jay Lockhart
4 - Tom McDonald, Billy Stretch
2 - Harrison Petty, Corey Wagner
1 - Jordan Lewis

Crowd Watch
Not that I did anything to help, but I had grave concerns that after a day of pissing rain the crowd for a match between also-rans would fall short of the last sub-20,000 Friday night crowd at the MCG. By the sounds of it Sydney fans are to thank for boosting the figure to a still ordinary 23,700. There's nothing more suss than a round gate figure so feel free to treat it with scepticism. Apologies to Gary Pert for not making it 23,701, come around and paint a yellow streak down my back.

The idea that we might add another attendance record to the classic all-time lowest crowd at Docklands had me curious about how deep down rock bottom is for Friday night games at the MCG. Turns out pretty bloody far. Even we can't challenge these. If we ever do you can be sure liquidators will be visiting the next morning.
  • 6396 - North vs Brisbane 1992
  • 7611 - Fitzroy vs West Coast 1988
  • 8634 - North vs Brisbane 1989
  • 9235 - North vs Sydney 1989
  • 9377 - North vs WCE 1990
  • 9739 - North vs Sydney 1992
If I'd attended instead of being a poltroon even I wouldn't have bothered going all the way to Row MM, so this could very well have been me. Thank christ it wasn't. Instead I went to Row Fuck All, nobody took footage of me and I went to bed without any regrets.
To those who did attend, thank you for your service. It was a tremendous waste of your time but your bravery is the stuff of legend.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Good thing you can't take bets on this competition because I'm going to do something unprecedented and give the goal of the week to a non-score. It's not Stretch's fault that the umpire was fooled by minimal contact, so even though the six points were thieved I'm giving him the nod here. If you don't like it contact the Blogging Ombudsman.

For his prize Billy wins the sweet release of a delisting so he can get on with his career away from this derelict organisation. With one to play Marty Hore still the overall leader and good luck doing anything worth beating him.

We respectfully used the run-through side for the Frank Adams tribute (six flags. 6 flags. VI flags, ๅ…ญ flags, เน– flags) and saved the other side for an attempt to flog Scotch whiskey. Swans effort had a weedy font and peeling numbers. That'll do for a win. Dees 20-1-0 for the season.

Channel 7's commentary is so putrid that if you compiled an audition tape and played it for somebody who didn't know any of them it would be thrown in the bin within a minute.

We all know that BT's professionally playing a buffoon but Bruce McAvaney is like The Simpsons, sullying great memories of the 1990s with every new broadcast. Recently seen peaking to near sexual ecstasy over the progress of a horse, his catalogue of rhetorical questions is bad enough without also plummeting to the point of doing snow gags. It's like seeing a once great performer reduced to the theatre restaurant circuit.

Matthew Richardson is somebody worthwhile that has fallen in with a bad crowd so I'd rescue him if the commentary box caught fire. See also Daisy Pearce, who wanted to use her boundary riding role for good and discuss tactics but had to wait for some wanker in the box to stop talking about seagulls first. Otherwise I'll have Jason Bennett as my #1 pick, plus Hamish McLachlan and James Brayshaw if I can contractually bar them from doing Triple M style macho bullshit. No thanks to Carey, Basil, 'Darce' or Leigh Matthews, and Cameron Ling can be pushed out to sea on a raft.

And shame on the Melbourne fan who willingly participated in a cheeseboard gag with that hipster prick from the QLED 8K Lounge segment. It's already the only thing on Friday night more awkward than 'Hame' looking at the camera like "I can't believe I'm doing this" while talking to the Auskicker of the Year, and when the cheese angle was floated she should have refused to participate. What a shame if you were ejected from the 'lounge' where you're just sitting watching the game normally but with some fancy TV placed conveniently at your feet to 'watch replays' on. They should put me in the lounge, the QLED would probably end the night on 0K with a boot through it.

Next Week
The worst season since the last dismal one (and by this stage the prospect of landing Roos was even starting to take the stink off 2013) reaches its sad conclusion next Saturday afternoon. Remember when the fixture came out and I was outraged that the AFL would leave the fate of prospective finals teams hanging on last round games in Tasmania and Ballarat? Well, one out of two wasn't bad. At the time I was probably hoping that we'd have already sewn up a top eight spot and the North game wouldn't matter. That it does not, but not for the reasons originally expected.

Unless Gold Coast is going to win their last two games by about 250 points combined we can't go up or down the ladder from here, so win, lose or draw it's 17th for us. Our third time finishing next to last since there has been 18 teams in the competition, equal with the Suns. The legacy of failure clings to both organisations like poison gas. Let's merge.

Meanwhile, it's going so well for Casey that in the same week they announced an upgrade of the facilities their turf has been declared such a biohazard that the VFL game has been shifted to Frankston. A team controlled by Melbourne playing a home game in Frankston must be conflicting for the people who trade in stereotypes about us being posh. I care not for what happens and don't even know who they're playing against, I just want to make statements. Whether anyone will be listening I don't know. The 'ins' are just there to replace the 'outs', not the other way around.

Brayshaw needs a reminder that he's not immortal. It's one thing to get the ball 20 times a game but when 10 of those end in blind, stupid kicks that go straight to opposition players or nobody at all what's the point? I don't fault his endeavour in having eight tackles but there are plenty of fringe players in the side who have had as many and been chopped. If he sooks up and demands a trade then get on the phones and start selling. More likely he'll say 'thank christ' and go home to get an early start on Mad Monday. None of this will happen, the holiday camp atmosphere will see him picked next week, where he will play the same game he has 10 times this season because there are zero consequences.

Spargo should never have been in to start with, especially in some weird defensive role when he's pushed off the ball with the greatest of ease. And Salem has been half-arsing it for weeks so he can join Brayshaw in being publicly crucified. More controversially, I can't keep picking Jones. We should let him out of an interstate trip as part of his long service leave entitlements. If it was good enough for Oscar McDonald and Harrison Petty to have mystery injuries it's good enough for a future MFC Hall of Famer. It's also because I can't take seeing his career die in front of me any more this season. I want to believe he can come back strongly next year - and I'd probably sign that one year deal at 9.01am on Monday - but it's started to become genuinely tragic watching him over the last few weeks.

Coming in is Hunt, who has been ordinary recently but was still tremendously stiff to be dropped considering the state of our forward stocks. And Petty, who is presumably going to be fit again after 'pulling up sore'. May as well give Double J James Jordon his debut as well, and finally I reckon just give Gawn the day off and play him at full forward with Preuss doing the 95% rucking. This will probably backfire when Maximum bursts his knee trying to poke his foot at a loose ball in the square.

Even if it wasn't for the variable winds of Bellerive Oval I'd say we were going to lose, but with that in mind here's to us kicking 0.4 with the wind in the first quarter and going down by 67. A side that kicked one goal in a game last week is going to end the season filling their boots and it won't matter a shit. Goodwin would want to keep it tight though, otherwise there will probably be a Kickstarter to raise money for his payout.

IN: Hunt, Jordon, Petty, Preuss
OUT: Brayshaw, Salem, Spargo (omit), Jones (fake injury)
LUCKY: Dunkley, Kennedy-Harris, Lewis, Neal-Bullen, Wagner
UNLUCKY: Old no hips Maynard to complete the 1-1-1 set, Lockhart and Keilty

Final thoughts
I've entirely lost confidence in a comeback next year. Which is silly because the lineup today is nowhere near the lineup in Round 1 next year but trust has been completely eroded. Until somebody can prove otherwise I'm going to assume that we'll be shit again next year. And the year after that. And right through the 2020s. And after I die. And until an asteroid does all surviving Melbourne fans a favour by knocking the planet for six.