Sunday, 19 February 2017

NB: A side called Melbourne is inside the top four

See also the post on the same day's men's practice match.

Unable to stay after the first game, and unable to go home and watch live I took the ridiculous view that I could keep a media ban alive until watching this on tape. Which might have been fine, except when I flicked over to ABC Newsradio in the car expecting some dry examination of the Estonian parliament only to discover that for no apparent reason they were doing live coverage. Which blew the surprise that approximately 25 minutes after the first bounce the score was one goal apiece.

Then after I'd finished writing the regular post for the men's game I had to go onto Twitter to post it, exposing me to the last post on my feed. Which was about Daisy Pearce, with a picture of her playing against the Dogs. Was it a picture from this year? Was she in the media because we won or was it a coincidence? I have no idea why this all mattered to me, why not just listen to it on the radio? Because the words Melbourne, Football and Club used together (note: not with North or Port) have a ridiculous hold on me.

Then once I'd finished everything else I needed to do it was midnight, and given the choice between avoiding social media to continue the ban or ignoring another early start and watching it I naturally chose the latter. Which I am paying for in significant fashion now, but stuff it I have no regrets.

Oddly enough we declined to play Daisy Pearce in the middle from the start again. Last week it was when she went into the midfield that we took off and shot past the Pies. It's a weird tactic considering that's two weeks in row that she's barely had a touch in the first quarter. Why sacrifice your best player? I don't understand the thinking behind that. Not surprisingly she started racking up touches galore when she went back on the ball.

As we with every other week in this competition we gave away a cheap goal, in this case the first one, and surely in low scoring games nobody has handed over more freebies than us. This time it was a free against Catherine Smith, who has ridiculously long hair which will no doubt be yanked by an opponent at some point this season. She also did a great passive aggressive arms wide open, incredulous look at the umpire after it was paid.

The Bulldogs were clearly the better side early, but missed several opportunities at goal which cost them. Up popped Harriet Cordner right in front after barely getting a touch the last two weeks for the goal that I heard while flicking channels on the Western Ring Road and we were back to within a kick. I especially enjoyed how she jostled her opponent after kicking it, if I'm going to have to live without Lynden Dunn this year then somebody's going to have to take up the jostling.

Unlike the first quarter we got on top in the second, coincidentally when Daisy went into the midfield, and after having the first five inside 50s of the quarter finally got a goal through a snap from Deanna Berry. Now it was our chance to waste multiple chances. I liked Alyssa Mifsud's leading and marking inside 50 but she couldn't convert it into a goal. It was a level of forward pressure that the senior side might want to study, instead of letting sides rebound all the live long day.

Because Melbourne Supporter Depression Syndrome crosses genders you felt that all our dominance for the quarter would go out the window when we let them kick a late goal. Instead we got Mifsud's alternative route to goal, waiting for a loose ball to fall at the feet of the contest then just shoving her opponent out of the way and dribbling through from the square. This was good. The Bulldogs fan who had earlier gone on for minutes about how much he loved the way our women's team played obviously knew what he was talking about.

It was the third quarter in the last four we'd kept a side scoreless, and I'm not even sure they went inside 50 once for the quarter. They only did it five times in the whole of the half. It eventually took - SURPRISE - a free for a high bump to gift them another shot which they converted. This caused Channel 7 to cut to a Footscray version of Catman - a nuffy in a costume doing an insane dance.

For all our dominance we were only nine points up and vulnerable to the same sort of surprise reverse that subjected the Pies to last week. Until they kicked another goal straight after, cutting the margin to three and causing fireworks to inexplicably go off. Has a team ever celebrated getting back within one straight kick by firing off explosives? We should have done that in 2013 whenever we got within 10 goals. I suspect the fireworks operator just got excited by the goal and leaned on the big red button.

They were unable to recall the big bang when shortly afterwards Mifsud got her second, again manhandling an opponent in a contest close to goal. We would have been back to where we started if Cranston hadn't missed an open goal - sadly this week she also missed hitting anyone in the head. Speaking of AFLW players I've declared my favourite it was another good week for Cat Phillips, not as dominant with her speed as last week but still better than you'd expect an expert frisbeeist to be. Other than her, everything I know about frisbee comes from California Games:

For some reason the Brad Green/Manchester United style fun fact about her that commentators run into the ground is that she's a 'speedster', and nothing to do with the competitive throwing of a plastic disc.

Footscray's challenge was snuffed out by a third goal for Mifsud, as the female answer to Jesse Hogan became the first Demon ever to kick three in an AFLW game. The double counter-attacking suckerpunches hadn't cost us too badly. For now at least the season remained alive - with Collingwood, Freo and GWS all wiped out (and any GWS loss is good for footy) at least we can be fairly sure we're not going to be sucked into a wooden spoon battle no matter what happens from here.

Still not sure about our forward line - Mifsud Mania notwithstanding - but the defence is rock solid. If you take out the goals we've gifted sides with free kicks or 50s there wouldn't be many others left. Despite this we couldn't get rid of the Dogs, another goal that cut the margin to nine set off an even more baffling fireworks display and they attacked again immediately. Laura Duryea unnecessarily gave away a free by suplexing her opponent, which was lucky not to give away another goal. I enjoy the way that every time she goes near an opponent there's a chance that she's going to inadvertently cause them injury.

The Dogs were alive again, like the first quarter - and us in the middle two - they were in charge but couldn't convert it into scores while we were unable to clear out of defence. At last a goal from a 50 finally went in our favour, when Mel Hickey kicked the sealer against the run of play. It was a double blow for the Dogs, they thought they had the mark in the first place before giving away the 50.

Finally, after that exhibition games where their ring-ins beat our ring-ins the Bulldogs women's team are back to being our bunnies. Turns out we're pretty good as this caper.

2017 Debbie Lee Medal for Player of the Year
Two new faces in the votes this week, but the big hitters continue to dominate.

5 - Daisy Pearce
4 - Alyssa Mifsud
3 - Elisa O'Dea
2 - Lauren Pearce
1 - Karen Paxman

11 - Daisy Pearce
9 - Elisa O'Dea
8 - Karen Paxman
6 - Lily Mithen
5 - Cat Phillips

4 - Alyssa Mifsud
2 - Lauren Pearce

After the unfortunate banner scenario in the men's game we were lucky to have the posh iSelect sponsored version for this game. In competition was a Bulldogs one which tried to refer to two teams as 'pioneer' rather than 'pioneers' to help with a rhyme. No thanks. Dees 2-1.

Next Week
As we continue to await the Daisy Pearce goal that will make that Chemist Warehouse ad seem more legitimate, it's Carlton in a double header with the pre-season game. If the conditions are anything like the last game we played at Casey Fields don't bother turning up. The Blues seem to be very good, and while we've really started to pick up in the last couple of weeks (and Brisbane have turned out to be good), I suspect they'll clean us up.

Final Thoughts
Don't think I can cope with two games in a day. If you want to write a guest report for the Carlton game I would like to hear from you.

The kings of summer are back

See also the post on the same day's Round 3 AFLW game.

First it was Ballarat, then it was Craigieburn, now Footscray. Pit us against the Bulldogs at any offbeat pre-season venue you like, we've got them covered. In this time they done reasonably well for themselves, but while nothing that happened today should be seen as an earth shattering predictor to a wonderful future I'm still not past the stage where every kind of win counts. That's why, in an unwelcome flashback to the Ballarat game, I was moderately panicky when it looked like we might cock it up in the last minute. It wouldn't have mattered if we did, it's not like balloons are going to drop from the sky if we extend our pre-season winning streak to five against Carlton next week. Let's concentrate on beating them in a game for points eventually.

When the first game of the season is at a ground where there's no big screen (no decent one anyway in this case) I'm usually in total disarray. The last time I watched a live sporting event was when we were humped at Kardinia Park, and at this age the brain struggles to pick up the pace again. Then there's the usual drama of trying to work out who's who and compute why Jake Spencer has changed his number after eight years. It's not just the on-field stuff that was troubling me, I thought the truck at the end of the ground housed toilets, until I got right under it and realised that it was holding the scoreboard up. Lucky there was a real WC immediately next door or I may have played havoc with the electronics.

I'd never been to the Western Oval before. Not even for a casual midweek dog turd dodging stroll across the turf. As a kid mum would take me to the MCG, Waverley and nowhere else. Even VFL Park got the arse after they started charging $5 for the connecting bus. Obviously the most notable game there was Round 22, 1987 but I'd come in much later than that. Opportunities were few and far between, from my first game to the time the place was mercifully shuttered after 1996 we only played there nine times - and three of those were in the lost years of 1995/1996 when I was too busy being a sullen teenager to watch footy. At least it meant missing the Round 13, 1992 debacle when we ruined Stephen Wearne's debut with a 107 point loss.

Suburban venues probably hold attractive memories if you followed the team that played there, or were present for a great win, but there's no romance in them for me. You can swing the gates open for every food truck in the western suburbs but the ground in the middle of the housing estate in Craigieburn was still a better place to watch a game. I can't understand how they ever had a stand along the road side, it's not as difficult to work out as how they ever played games at Glenferrie Oval with trains whizzing past five metres behind spectators but it's close. Now that the ground is open on one side we could enjoy the hundreds - and this is no exaggeration - of motorists who thought they were getting involved by tooting their horn while driving past. At least some of them had the courtesy to lean out the window and shout outright abuse.

The latest outbreak of misery in Geelong (and this year we play them away at Etihad, possibly the first time going there will be an upgrade) was practically forgotten a week later, but to be entirely honest I remember more about that day than I did today. This just whizzed past me in a blur, and while I greatly enjoyed watching a Melbourne Football Club game as always the wider footy industry is starting to bore me. I never read the papers, didn't see any of the other games this weekend and quite frankly do - not - give - a - flying - fuck about any non-MFC topics. Maybe I'll get bored of the Dees too eventually? Hopefully after a flag.

What I did see was Jesse Hogan throwing hapless defenders out of the way with ease. It's what he does best, and we sadly lacked it in the last few weeks of 2016. Even before the Mighty Ducks Finish was snuffed out by that rancid performance against Carlton he was struggling. Now, re-signed and much heavier of pocket he looked great. At one point he even took a huge contested mark in the middle of a pack, and his lop-de-lop Peter Taylor spin bowling run-up was reduced to a short shuffle at the start before ending normally. More importantly most of the time it ended accurately. I especially liked the goal where he fended the Bulldogs player off being snapping it. For all I know the defender could have been the same rookie list hack who threw Colin Garland over the fence last year, but it looked good.

Down the other end the game started with a massive extraction of piss, as Travis Cloke flashed back to Queen's Birthday 2015 by taking an easy mark in front of T. McDonald then flawlessly converting a set shot. The last thing we need is for Sizzle to enter the sort of downward spiral he hit after that day before we've even played a competitive game. Happily Cloke's best work from then was confined to well up the field where he couldn't do us too much damage.

After they responded to our opener with two in a row I naturally became pessimistic and just assumed that we were going to lose, but we were moving the ball reasonably well. It seems Simon Goodwin was all but in charge last year, so there were no surprises when we played on at all costs. Even our kick-ins were quick, and now that I think about it we were much less disastrous with them than usual last year. The problem was that our attacks broke down on or around the 50 they were pinging straight down the other end unchallenged - so far, so much like every other year since about 2004. Still, after the early Cloke scare the defence calmed down and held firm - allowing us to get back in front by quarter time. Sure they were missing five or six premiership players, but we didn't have err... Watts and Jetta? Shame Trengove and Johnstone got chopped from the original lineup, I was looking forward to seeing both of them play.

I suppose it's what happens in pre-season games, but one of the weirdest aspects was how players would play amazing bursts then go missing. Jeff Garlett dominated the first quarter and a bit, with three goal assists while Jordan Lewis could barely get a touch, then after quarter time Lewis came into the game and Garlett all but disappeared. Then there was Joel Smith, who I instantly fell in love with during a five minute period in the second quarter where he was in everything - including one blockbuster tackle for holding the ball that made me quiver. Gawn was excellent again, and there was one pass to a leading Viney in the that was better than any ruckman had a right to lay on. From hard on the boundary the new co-captain even rewarded him by converting it. Maybe things are turning in our favour?

With five minutes to go in the second quarter we were 20 points in front, and so untroubled moving the ball that the Bulldogs could really only stop us when we made a mistake. But what's a Melbourne game without a period (or in this case two) where we go to sleep and let the other side get a run of goals? Three in the last four minutes cut the gap to less than a goal before an ultra late one saved us, just as I was about to denounce them all as the same old Melbourne, gave us some breathing space. For some reason this mattered to me. Possibly because we're somehow without a back of jumper sponsor a month before the start of the season and could do with a win to generate some buzz. I hear Energy Watch is under new ownership, maybe we should try them again? Meanwhile are we going to be sporting the all red rear of jumper in competitive games as well? I'm not into it, bring back the blue - but it's certainly better than our hideous new clash jumper.

Issues still remain, there was clearly a move to play Salem in the midfield and while he did well it robbed us of a player in defence who could reliably hit a target. I don't understand how between him, Stretch, Vince and Lewis we were still relying on the brothers McDonald to take so many decisive kicks out of the backline. It's a solid gold recipe for howlers. Get a good kicker down there, give it to them and let the Sizzle Family unload long bombs down the line instead of trying to hit perfect 40 metre switches across goal. Meanwhile as much as we love Hogan marauding up the field and taking marks I still think it would be better if somebody else was doing that so he could terrify defenders inside 50. Weideman was in the right place at the right time for a couple of goals, and I'm hoping he can get up the ground and get more touches as he gains experience. And let's not forget Jack Watts, until 15 minutes into Round 1 when we play him in the ruck and he does his knee.

Speaking of rucks, how can you not love The Spencil? The man is going to get a life membership before he hits 50 games, looks like he's been marooned on a desert island for years, and is never going to get any better at disposing of the ball but how can you fault the intensity? I suppose when you're in his position you wouldn't have survived this long if you didn't care, but I love the way he chases and attacks loose balls. God willing we won't need to use him often this year while Gawn's got the top job sewn up, but I'm very fond of him.

With Gawn, lessons have clearly been learnt from last pre-season. Now that we know he's practically the best in the business there's no need to run him into the ground in these scratch matches. Last year he was rucking 95% of a game in 30 degree temperatures, this time they sensibly split his time with Spencer to ease him into it. I wish they'd taken both he and Hogan off at the end though, because in a flashback to that St Kilda game at Etihad last year there was likely to be a world first lynching of a winning coach if either of them got hurt. Then Hogan landed and clutched somewhere between knee and ankle. The world stopped spinning as he hobbled to his feet looking moderately crocked, before swearing it off and getting back into the play. I'm expecting they'll have discovered that he's actually fractured his leg and somehow stuffed his back up again at the same time too.

The second half was a clinic of Clayton Oliver up close and personal disposals. His hands in traffic are ridiculous, just watch the times where he's either about to be or is being tackled and still manages to find a target. I have a sixth sense that he's the sort of guy who's going to get sucked into some sort of off-field bullshit (my ouija board doesn't tell me how serious) during his career, but we're onto one here pending major on or off-field disasters.

Most everybody did something worth watching for, except Josh Wagner who has apparently suffered a very unpleasant sounding dislocated shinbone. I didn't even know that was possible. It's no good for him, but not a major drag on our Round 1 side considering we've got Jetta to come back. Possibly in an attempt to look less like a 45 year old woman, Melksham has gotten a very silly haircut and was hardly dominant but had a few nice touches. Kennedy-Harris did well on return from injury, but let's be very clear that he is in no way a crumbing forward. Remove that idea from your head. He's a midfielder/half-forward flanker, as best demonstrated by one sublime Hamburglar-esque pickup and handball on the outer wing.

Alex Neal-Bullen is an interesting case, he reminds me of Cale Morton in one key way. Which is never usually what you want to hear, but go with me. I am absolutely convinced that if you play him forward he might kick a few goals, but am struggling to have faith in him as a midfielder. The good thing is that like Morton they'll never do it, so I can continue to claim I'd have been right for years to come because the idea was never disproved. I'm not suggesting the goal he kicked here, where Gawn freshed aired a contest and it bounced through for ANB to tap home, forms part of my dossier of evidence. In fact I don't even have a dossier, it's just gut feel.

With four minutes to go we were 25 points up, but like the first half a few minutes of madness cost us. In fact now that I've watched the highlights I realise we were 17 up with 100 seconds left. As I said to the person standing next to me, a 17 point lead to us is a one point loss waiting to happen. This failed to take into account the dreaded Jesus Christ Supergoal. I forgot they were even on offer, because as usual we refused to participate and instead concentrated on the ones that will count in the regular season. They got one, but still needed another in the last minute and almost did it. I expect the shot was rolling wide anyway, but Lewis punched it through for a point and we managed to navigate the last few seconds to confirm a win that will go down alongside Wizard Home Loans Cup Round 1 2005 and the Kaspersky Cup in pre-season wins that we won't remember in three weeks' time.

2017 Paul Prmyke Plate for Pre Season Performance votes
5 - Jesse Hogan
4 - Max Gawn
3 - Jack Viney
2 - Nathan Jones
1 - Joel Smith

Apologies to Lewis, Vince, Oliver, Garlett and Spencer.

Combined with votes from the intraclub that gives us...

7 - Max Gawn
5 - Jesse Hogan, Jayden Hunt
4 - Clayton Oliver
3 - Jack Viney
2 - Dion Johnstone, Nathan Jones
1 - Jay Kennedy-Harris, Joel Smith

Absolute tragedy, as a near certain win against another corny Bulldogs banner which didn't even have a message on the b-side went up in smoke as ours fell apart. All I saw before it was de-hoisted was that the top line declared cricket season to be over, which is an admirable way to treat tomorrow's T20 international in Geelong featuring the Australian reserves. For the first time ever, and it pains me to do this, I have to report that the Dees are behind. 0-1 OTHER.

A correspondent sent us this harrowing image of the fallen crepe being taken to its resting place. RIP.

UPDATE: Cheersquad sources suggest 20 people were "coated in blue dye" as it went down. Which opens a new promotional front:

Crowd Watch
Not as many Bulldogs present as I'd have thought, but now they're involved in serious business I can understand the fans sudden disinterest in practice matches. It's like seeing people you barely tolerated in high school unexpectedly striking it rich.

For people whose last memory of the game was the greatest moment of their supporting lives they sure were concerned about umpiring decisions in a throwaway pre-season game. Not that we'll ever know, but it must take time for it to sink in that you've escaped poverty and to realise that there are bigger and better things in the world than pre-season wins. I expected them to a lot punchier about the premiership, but the people around us were downright reasonable. They clearly knew that there's no point wasting their best lines on us before the real stuff starts.

What united both fans - other than shamelessly clambering for free ice creams - was the question of who in god's name JLT are, and why they're sponsoring this cup/shield/challenge/series. They'd be moderately miffed that half the people are still referring to it as the NAB Cup, but the way it goes they'll still be calling it the JLT Whatever for two years after somebody else has taken up the sponsorship. It still felt right to call the pre-season the Wizard Cup until about three years ago.

It was surprisingly how many people showed up just for the prime time AFLW game, and a shithouse result for whoever decided to only have one gate open at the end. Result - people going in and out at the same time while a harried Bulldogs staff member tried to shout instructions to alleviate the traffic jam. Not that I'm at all bitter at having made the rookie mistake of parking as far away from the gate as was humanely possible.

Human Resources

In case you missed it in the season preview, a reminder that I'm looking for anybody interested in a) doing reports for AFLW games for the rest of next season (especially next week) and b) being considered for emergency call-ups during the regular season. I've got so much going on that this will undoubtedly be the year when I'm unable to go to one or more games, and I'd much rather get reports from on the ground than compiling from the TV. As long as you give the votes, tick off the usual segments and keep your abuse on the right side of defamation laws the format, length and tone is up to you.

Next Week
Carlton at Casey, and if the weather is anything like that women's match there I'm going to sit in my car and wait for the first opportunity to escape the treacherous parking lot. Apparently it would take me 10 hours and seven minutes to get there on public transport, so here's hoping I don't lose my licence between now and then. After tipping the Blues to finish last I reserve the right to take offence if we lose, even though I understand that the middle game is usually the one where the team least likely to play in Round 1 are selected.

Was it worth it?
Yes, in that classic pre-season way that the result isn't important but you saw positive signs that might translate into the real stuff. Also because the commentary team was Dwayne making noises as if he'd sat on something sharp and Moaning Gerald Healy.

I'd like to have stayed for the women's match, but ironically had a household full of women to get back to. Instead taped it, and held a media ban so I could watch as if live. Review here.

Final thoughts
I'm legitimately scared that this isn't going to work out. Which is actually a good thing, because it means we're no longer floating around like a carcass at the bottom of a swimming pool. A few years ago there was no fear, because there was no hope. Now we've got so much hope it's causing a crushing feeling. Or is it just me?

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The first season of the rest of your life - 2017 season preview

It's refreshing, if not potentially fatal, to enter a season wracked with fear and doubt for the right reasons. From a position of 100% terror a few short seasons ago now it's more of a 50/50 split with hopefulness. These days I'm concerned about the club humiliating itself by not living up to expectations, rather than just worrying about pure, base level shambles. It's an interesting point of view for a side about to launch a new coach, and who lost their last game by 20 goals

A year of banging away my memoirs while simultaneously riding the wave of a finals tilt that made it to the last fortnight of the season, left me psychologically battered. Like him from Moby Dick I remain in danger of being driven bonkers by the quest to see some sort of success before toppling over and dying from a surprise heart attack before my 40th birthday. My best effort to disengaged was not going to the AGM for the first time in about seven years. As anyone who's ever been to one knows I didn't miss much. The first time I spewed hateful comments at umpires during a women's game it became obvious that I've got no chance.

In fact the first sign that I wasn't making any decent progress was just after New Year when I started panicking that I wouldn't be able to get a ticket to see the pre-season game against Footscray at the Western Oval. What if their fans with the biggest footy horn since St Kilda post-1966 snapped up all the tickets and none of our fans could get in? Who would they hang shit on about not winning flags for the first time since 1955? Not surprisingly when tickets came out there were no dramas, but Ticketmaster did refuse to let me buy one for the game against Carlton at Casey. Imagine if I can't get in there and don't have to go to Cranbourne, wouldn't that be a pity?

The last time we played - if that's the best way to describe the latest outrage at Kardinia Park - the idea of the Bulldogs winning a premiership was only marginally less fanciful than us doing it. Since then we've wheeled in one four time premiership player (the last time we had four premierships on our list in total must have been the early 80s when Barassi tried stacking the list with ex-North and Carlton players) and added another ex-Essendonian who's had a year off due to being pumped full of Elephant Juice, while not losing much except Lynden Dunn who I still pine for daily but had become spare parts.

We turned up at the draft halfway, picked a few randoms then did likewise in the rookie draft. All of that was just the warmup to the most traditional event on the MFC calendar 'player suffers a pre-season injury'. This time they managed to get it over with before Christmas, but paid homage to the long standing 'don't flip your calendar until you hear somebody's hurt themselves' tradition by keeping it quiet until early in the new year.

In the the sort of event that you conveniently choose to look for the positives in when you support the coach the players were carted off on a special forces style bonding camp where they were kept awake all night, presumably sworn at as if Neeld was still in charge, and forced to go on grim death marches while carrying bags of construction material. The end result was Dom Tyson lightly doing his knee, and in one of the most MFC twists of all time Christian Salem took the concept of training the house down far too literally and knocked himself out with a falling brick. That's what you get for putting this guy in charge of the program:

After two seasons of running our best players into the ground during the pre-season matches it makes sense to smash them pre-Christmas this time then rotate them through the three Jailbait Series games. Hopefully this time the season doesn't end in half the squad desperately grasping for the finish line just as things start getting interesting. Especially considering how our run home should set up a decent finish if everyone stays upright.

When we're swinging into Round 23 like pirates, decapitating Collingwood to such a degree that even Eddie McGuire has to recognise that Buckley's had enough, en route to the drought-breaking finals appearance your 10-year-old kids need to see before they give up and start following Footscray, I will admit it was all genius. Until then the whole thing seems a bit 'Nigel Smart scurries over hot coals' for my liking.

Nathan Jones suggested the camp was an excellent experience that would hold the boys in good stead, and who am I to doubt him? Unless they slipped some light brainwashing in after the sleep deprivation and forced marches in the hope nobody would notice. He certainly didn't look like he'd called the Grimes/Trengove Captaincy Chatline for advice on how to look upbeat for the media when you're actually dead inside. The proof will not necessarily be in the pudding, it might have been the worst thing ever and we play well or vice versa - let's just put the brick at the bottom of the backpack next time eh?

I've got reasonable confidence in this season, and you'll love my wishy-washy predicted ladder position, but there are still concerns. There is no way in hell we can have as good a run with injuries as last year, and without adequate backup for Gawn it's god help us all if he gets hurt. Not all that convinced by the depth in the forward line or defence either. How did we get to a point where you can be confident that we've got midfielders in supply but hold grave concerns over the other ends?

I think we'll go reasonably well, and hopefully tee off on a couple of sides to really give people something to go gooey over. But if we don't make the eight then don't self-harm, we had the youngest list in the competition last year and won't be much higher this time. If it doesn't all come together this year then we've got time, as long there's no explosive decompression incident like 186 that tears the place apart, there's no need to panic if gratification is delayed.

All you can do is have faith that the worst times have passed. I can't imagine what my reaction would be if this new dawn ends like the last one and we plummeted back into disgrace. I don't even want to ponder it because the idea is too horrible, at least give us a few Carlton style token finals appearances that are guaranteed not to go anywhere but buy a few years of enjoyment before we start trying to lynch the coach and rebuild again.

Buy, Hold, Sell

Back after a lengthy absence (due to my inability to complete a mid-season review in 2016), what would be Australia's most controversial column if filed by somebody with even the remotest hint of credibility. It's where we advise you which players to invest in on our All Ordinaries Index and who will just end up as paper being swept off the exchange floor at the end of the season.

Before considering the investment advice below please read the product disclosure statement (e.g. last time this was done in mid-2015 I told you to sell Jayden Hunt and buy Lynden Dunn).


Angus Brayshaw
- I said buy him in massive quantities in 2015, only for his 2016 to be ruined by novelty injuries like having a footy forcefully kicked into his bonce. Nevertheless while you might have taken a bath on your portfolio by holding him last year I'm even more convinced than ever that he's going to pay major dividends. So sell your house and dump the lot on him at a reduced price before he costs more than Berkshire Hathaway.

Sam Frost - I'm not saying he's going to be the lynchpin of our defence for years to come, and *spoiler alert* I only have him as a maybe in my best 22 BUT he showed a lot in the second half of the year in defence. Buy low, sell high.

Max Gawn - We are living on the edge of disaster by not having any serious backup, but if you're going to play one guy in the ruck 95% of the time then that's the risk you take I suppose. Last year the only thing that stopped him, other than a couple of weeks where he looked like he was about to die from over-exertion, was third men up jumping over the top of him. Now they're gone and he is going to tap everything that comes near him.

Jayden Hunt - There's always the off-chance that his debut season of glory won't translate long term, and there was a game where after his first dashing run St Kilda successfully stopped him ever having a trot again - but I think we'll go alright here.

Neville Jetta - It's a risky bet because he's always one head clash (knowing our luck it will be with Angus Brayshaw) away from disaster but I'm willing to bet that this is year the rest of the league finally acknowledges him as one of the best small forwards around.

Dion Johnstone - Available at a discount price, I like his forward pressure chops. If he can kick goals then it's good times all around. No pressure to perform immediately though.

Tom McDonald - Unlike Sam Frost, I am suggesting this is the lynch pin of our defence for years to come. Yes, he flubs the occasional kick. No, it does not define his role in the team. Now that we've got more players who can kick when they go down there he shouldn't have to do it as much, but is still capable of some thumping long distance roosts if required.

Christian Petracca - 🎵 Take my hand, take my whole life too 🎵 etc... etc... Last year he turned up, and did a few nice things like the spinnerooni goal against Collingwood and generally warmed us up for what's going to be a career spent executing death by a thousand cuts on the rest of the competition. I want more, and feel moderately cheated that we're a season behind due to the knee injury. My favourite part of his off-season review was:

He just played with that flair and carefree approach, which is a great way to play. We’re not trying to bind that up too much – we’re just trying to find a little bit of balance with it.

Balance be buggered, give him full creative freedom and watch the magic unfold.

Joel Smith - Allegedly close to getting a game last year, which was a surprise to me because I thought he was some sort of protected species rookie who you weren't allowed to play. From the limited VFL games I saw last year he looked a likely type. Has come in just too late for the era when he'd have been gifted a game, but will undoubtedly play seniors this year.

Tim Smith - Like his fellow Smith I liked the look of Timbo in the VFL. You can never have enough marking forwards, so I reckon he might get a start relatively early in the year. His nickname is 'Bull', and we hope he's not as badly Melbourne as Tapscott was.

Jake Spencer - On his way to the lowest games/years on list ratio of any life member, and given that he's our only other senior ruckman you may as well drop a few bucks on him just in case Gawn goes down. Then at least you'll have money to pay for psychological care.

Jack Viney - Barring injury and a lengthy suspension for caving an Ebert's head in out of frustration he can only get better. Labelling anyone our future captain is worse than a death sentence, but in this case I have no hesitation in saying that he will not only replace Jones when Chunk is good and ready but will dominate for years to come. Now watch him come down with a rare flesh eating virus.

P.S - I'm not at all for having multiple captains, but if we had to he's the only one I'd want to share the job with Jones.

Sam Weideman - Showed decent signs while still looking raw in the last few weeks of 2016. Will certainly play a lot of games this year, and we have high hopes for his goalkicking.


Tomas Bugg - My favourite irritant. Form is temporary, niggle is forever. I have high hopes that he'll be an important player but you can't rely on being an agent provocateur forever. Here's hoping that he at least plays against Richmond so he can send their cheersquad and 'Jon' Ralph bonkers again.

Lachlan Filipovic - Never invest in a rookie ruckman. Sure, he's got the same name as an MMA superstar and some great floppy hair but let's give him time. They're mental if he doesn't get to come out at Casey Fields to this:

Jeff Garlett - With apologies to the mystery skin infection he suffered at the Adelaide Oval last year, his second half of the season was relatively poxy. That's what you get with enigmatic players, he might kick 50 goals this year but I'm a bit wary about him. Has a spot sewn up for Round 1, but would want to hope Dion Johnstone doesn't develop an appetite for goals in the VFL.

Mitch Hannan - Looks good, took a ripper of a hanger, highlights package is solid. Will it translate to the AFL? No bloody idea. Ask me again in six months.

James Harmes - Had a few good games last year, most notably the Gold Coast game where he played like Gary Ablett for a quarter, and definitely has a spot on our list for the foreseeable future but not sure on his ceiling.

Michael Hibberd - Like Jake Melksham before him my criminal disregard for players from other clubs means I'd never even heard of him until he was linked to us. Supposed to be good, but it would be cheating to give a opinion. It's no slight on him that I'm so criminally under-researched, but the only way I'd know I was standing next to him would be from the radioactive glow that he got from Essendon pumping him full of plutonium.

Jesse Hogan - Will still cost you a fortune even after fizzing out at light-speed in the last month of 2015. Let this not suggest that I'm saying he won't do well, or that he's a poor investment but can you be sure that he'll live up to our lofty expectations next year? Canny investors may wish to pile on in the hope that his price will go through the roof in the long-term. Personally the reason I don't play the actual stock market is the same reason I was no good at cricket or tennis - no bloody patience.

Liam Hulett - It's bad news for him that we seem to be finding forwards everywhere for the first time in years - but barring injury he should get a go this year. I'm conservative so not willing to take a punt on him, but you may wish to take the bet.

Nathan Jones - I'd have had him in the same spot last year, convinced that he can only push things so far before he either finally suffers an injury or is eclipsed by our emerging midfield. And here he is defending his fifth Allen Jakovich Medal. I'm still cautious, there will be a statue of him after his retirement (even if it has to be in my backyard) but this might be the year he goes from almighty to just really good. Hope he wins a sixth Jako to stick it up me.

Declan Keilty - Wouldn't know him if he robbed me in the street. We wish him well.

Ben Kennedy - Started well before levelling off in the middle of the season, but definitely still plenty to offer. Not sure if he's got a spot every week though.

Jay Kennedy-Harris - Fresh from his recent victory in the Demonbracket 2017 #Sizzle Award it would be unkind to suggest I don't have any faith in JFK, but I do wonder. He's definitely not a small forward, and that's not an issue because we've found a couple of those elsewhere, and he did have a great game as a midfielder/half-forward against Adelaide a couple of years ago. Could go either way.

Dean Kent - Love the Kent, and really enjoy watching him play but he's a bit up and down. Needs more consistency this year, and a few more filthy outbursts that are broadcast through effects mics would also be welcome.

Jordan Lewis - Comes in near the top of his game, so while ultimately the only way is down we can get a few good years out of him first. Worth monitoring in the early stages to work out whether we can get the full three years out of him, or if there will be a negotiated exit whenever we play Hawthorn for the first time in 2019. Should be useful in the short term, and it's certainly a step up in quality from the last group of people we drafted just to crack open their skulls and extract the sweet premiership flavoured goop.

Corey Maynard - Haven't watched the NBL since the Victoria Titans were around so I can't comment on his basketball career, and he hasn't had much a footy one yet. What I will say is that Joel Smith was the last off-Broadway rookie we recruited and he seems to be turning out quite nicely, so hopefully this does as well.

Oscar McDonald - After a rocky start where he was clearly getting games on experience rather than performance he came good at the end of the season - most notably against Hawthorn on the day the Mighty Ducks Finish was born. Still don't know if it's going to translate, and I hope he's bulked up a bit in the off-season but should go alright.

Pat McKenna - Is your annual entrant who I know absolutely nothing about, except that he joins the Tyson, Frost, Bugg club of being a better person for no longer taking directions from GWS.

Jake Melksham - Unlike Hibberd I've had a year to get used to who he is, but feel he might have missed the boat a bit by not getting in the side and becoming established. It's a bit concerning that his highlights package is only 123 seconds, and at least 10 of those are titles or a mysterious shot of him walking and pointing. There's also a lot of him either kicking goals or setting them up, and the latter at least makes sense if we're going to play the same system where the defenders push so far up the ground that they can kick inside 50. Based on the 113 seconds I've seen I'd rather him doing it than Tom McDonald let me tell you.

Alex Neal-Bullen - I like him, don't think the last coach did. There didn't seem to be any move to get rid of him in the trade period, so hopefully Goodwin is keener. He reminds me of Cale Morton, in that I'd like to see him play forward more often as not convinced he'll crack it as a midfielder but seems to have a sense for goals.

Clayton Oliver - The modern day Sam Blease, a man who cannot help but be involved in weird situations and always looks like he's about to die during training. I'm certainly not holding his alleged pisswreck driving against him, who amongst us didn't have at least one morning on their Ps frantically trying to calculate if we were still over 0.00? Call me back for some good old fashioned outrage when he's found swerving down the wrong side of the Westgate Freeway. Based on the small sample size of last year when he played 60% of every game and fell out of favour with Roos for six weeks he has got 'it'. Whether he takes 'it' to the next level or not is the question, but witness

Christian Salem - The inability to adhere to reasonable occupational health and safety standards when filling a backpack aside, on paper he should be ready to accelerate from the mundane and into the fast lane. But how can we be sure with all the injuries? Looks good when he plays but has gone 12/10/8 games across his three seasons. A risky investment that you may argue will pay off in spades later.

Billy Stretch - Really liked his performances last year, just wondering if a fit, masonry-free Salem causes him issues. Should be right, but when you follow this club always be on guard for an unexpected fiasco.

Dom Tyson - Back in form last year, just in time to be crippled at our Special Operations Group concentration training camp. Has plenty more to offer and you can never have enough good players, but I suspect your Brayshaws and Olivers of the world are going to become more vital by the end of next year.

Josh Wagner - Now officially on the senior list you know they like him. I certainly didn't dislike him, he played a few decent games last year, but will not be a first choice player. Has the opportunity to find a spot but will have to win it with a big pre-season or from the VFL.

Jack Watts - Price at an all-time high, but with more scrutiny sure to come and the red hot chance of necking himself in a ruck duel because we forgot to get a proper backup for Gawn terrify me. Pre-season is a fraud but I suspect you'll be able to tell which way this is going to go by Round 1.


Colin Garland - I really like him, and I want him to do well, but he's had a rough couple of years. With the emergence of Sizzle Jr I don't like his chances of a full time spot until somebody falls over.

Mitch King - We've not had much luck with people called M. King in the last couple of years, first Max got delisted then this one did his knee. Coming back from the knee injury I'm not confident, but we've all been stitched up writing off young ruckmen before.

Heritier Lumumba - You've missed the boat here, should have cashed out after the second concussion mysteriously stretched to the end of the year. Get what you can and donate it to a fashionable international cause.

Cameron Pedersen - It pains me to say it, but I don't think he'll last past this year. After a rocky first couple of years I've grown to love [nickname deleted on legal advice]. I was surprised he only played six games last year, and I'm suspect as to whether he'll get more this time.

Jack Trengove - It's marvellous that he's come back, and I hope he proves me wrong by fighting back to the best 22 and playing for many more years to come, but I just don't like the way this is going. Didn't get much of a run at it last year considering his first game back was understandably nervy, the second quite good and the third a sodden slopfest where we kicked two goals. Would like him to have an opportunity this year, but until the inevitable injuries kick in I'm not sure at whose expense.

Aaron vandenBerg - My suspicions about AVB are not just a running joke, I think he's hit his limit. And if we don't need him as a midfielder he's never going to be anything more than a pinch-hitting forward. Has had a good run until now.

Bernie Vince - This is not anti-Bernard content, but he look like things were turning south at the end of last year. May have a couple of years as a defender left yet, but I'm not 100% confident. No arguments with his Melbourne career so far though.

Mitch White - Has never done anything wrong, just don't think he's going to find a permanent place in this team and predict he'll be off at the end of the year.

Projected ladder
There's barely any imagination in changing the top eight, and Carlton fans will probably punch on but bad luck. I can't be so adventurous as to have us in the eight, but for the first time since boldly predicting a 7th placed finish in 2011 only to end up in a place that smelled like slow death I've got us in the mix.

1 - GWS [*spit*]
2 - Adelaide
3 - Sydney
4 - Geelong
5 - Western Bulldogs
6 - Hawthorn
7 - West Coast
8 - St Kilda
9 - Melbourne
10 - Port Adelaide
11 - Gold Coast
12 - Fremantle
13 - Richmond
14 - Essendon
15 - Collingwood
16 - North
17 - Brisbane
18 - Carlton

Demonblog's chosen 22
It matters not that nobody's played to their position since about 1997, you get the general idea if I set them up in this format.

B: Stretch, T. McDonald, Jetta
HB: Hibberd, O. McDonald, Hunt
C: Vince, Viney, Jones
HF: Petracca, Hogan, Kent
F: Watts, Weideman, Garlett
Foll: Gawn, Lewis, Tyson
INT: Brayshaw/Oliver, Kennedy, Pedersen/Frost, Salem

Paul Prmyke Plate for Pre-Season Performance
Thanks to Simon @portglass for heading down to the intraclub game and providing these votes. Of course since they turned the intraclub into a glorified practice session it makes deciding these things far more difficult, so thanks to Simon for having a bash. Top votes here gets Hunt off to a great start, he's only got three more matches to defend the lead. Here's hope he goes on to bigger and better things like previous winners Colin Sylvia, Heritier Lumumba and Jeremy Howe.

5 - Jayden Hunt
4 - Clayton Oliver
3 - Max Gawn
2 - Dion Johnstone
1 - Jay Kennedy-Harris

First draft betting markets

Allen Jakovich Medal for best overall player
$5 - Jack Viney
$9 - Nathan Jones
$10 - Max Gawn
$16 - Jordan Lewis
$20 - Jack Watts
$25 - Jesse Hogan, Dom Tyson
$35 - Bernie Vince
$40 - Michael Hibberd, Neville Jetta, Tom McDonald
$42 - Jayden Hunt, Christian Petracca
$45 - Angus Brayshaw, Christian Salem
$50 - Dean Kent, Clayton Oliver
$70 - Billy Stretch, Jake Melksham
$80 - Jeff Garlett, James Harmes, Ben Kennedy
$90 - Sam Weideman
$100 - Sam Frost, Aaron vandenBerg
$110 - Tomas Bugg, Oscar McDonald
$125 - Colin Garland, Alex Neal-Bullen, Cameron Pedersen
$150 - Jake Spencer, Josh Wagner
$200 - Jay Kennedy-Harris, Jack Trengove, Mitch White
$250 - Mitch Hannan, Tim Smith
$350 - Liam Hulett, Dion Johnstone, Pat McKenna
$400 - Mitch King
$500 - Lachlan Filipovic, Declan Keilty, Joel Smith
$1000 - Corey Maynard
$9999 - Heritier Lumumba

Marcus Seecamp Medal for defender of the year
$7.50 - Neville Jetta, Tom McDonald
$10 - Jayden Hunt
$12 - Bernie Vince
$16 - Michael Hibberd
$20 - Christian Salem
$25 - Billy Stretch
$35 - Sam Frost, Oscar McDonald
$40 - Colin Garland, Jake Melksham
$50 - Josh Wagner
$75 - Mitch White
$100 - Cameron Pedersen
$150 - Tomas Bugg
$300 - Declan Keilty
$500 - Jack Watts
$5000 - Heritier Lumumba

Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal
NB: Sam Weideman remains eligible as he debuted in the last month of the previous season

$5 - Sam Weideman
$10 - Mitch Hannan, Tim Smith
$20 - Liam Hulett
$25 - Mitch King
$50 - Pat McKenna
$70 - Dion Johnstone
$80 - Lachlan Filipovic, Declan Keitly, Joel Smith
$500 - Corey Maynard

Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year

$1.05 - Max Gawn
$50 - Jake Spencer
$80 - Cameron Pedersen
$100 - Lachlan Filipovic, Jack Watts
$125 - Mitch King
$250 - Sam Frost

Will it be worth it?
You would hope so. As above I'm not expecting us to make the eight, but to be involved in a competitive mid-table mediocrity battle royale for the right to thumped by whoever finishes fifth. That will do me for now, let's reconvene next year for "finals or we riot" chat.

Assuming we'll at best win 12 games what I'd really like to do is beat either or both of St Kilda or North, win in Perth and absolutely poleaxe somebody. We got within range against Gold Coast last year before easing up, now to go on with it . I will not be identifying any potential victims, because as we've seen enough times over the last couple of years it's just when you think a massive victory is on the cards that we get beaten by pox teams. Anyone from Adelaide to West Coast will do, I just want that 100+ point win to sit against the nine we've been on the end of since Round 6, 2004.

Administrative Action (incorporating the Paperwork Pond)
This will 100% be there when I start missing games, I can feel it in my bones. So you may be called upon to act as a guest reporter. Please be ready. In the interim I definitely need somebody to do the AFLW games against Footscray and Carlton, I'm struggling to get there as it is without staying for two matches. Please contact me via Twitter, FB  or email. You don't have to go ridiculously over the top with content like I do, because presumably unlike me you're not insane. Just hit all the usual segment gimmicks the rest is yours.

Final thoughts
Take me to the promised land or leave me crumpled under a fold-up seat in Row MM of the Ponsford Stand.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

It begins

No matter the format you can't help but enjoy a win over Collingwood. Especially one that sinks them to the bottom of the ladder. Though tell me that when the Pies were four goals to one up and we were playing with a forward structure devised by a random number generator. 

All I knew about women's football before this competition started was that until that last game where the whole country was watching we always beat the Bulldogs, but once the list was completed I just sensed that it lacked attacking power. On the other hand Collingwood recruited the best goalkicker in the game, and should presumably have profited handsomely. But now they're on the bottom and their season is over after two weeks.

It was concerning that after two games - one practice, one real - where the opposition has kept Mo Hope quiet by quadruple teaming her that we decided to strike a blow for attractive football by trying to go one-on-one against her. In the first few minutes that was a disaster, and Michael Stinear was probably wistfully thinking back to his glory days winning TAC Cup premierships and wondering if being the first AFLW coach to be sacked would be detrimental for his career. First she set up a goal by marking in acres of space, then kicked one immediately after to set off the nerves. And indeed I was nervous, for the second week in a row I was howling at the television in disgust as clear holding the ball decisions went unpaid until we did one and were pinched. We even managed to give away another goal from a 50, and just because you've recruited somebody Irish and given her Jim Stynes' number it's no need to pay tribute to him every week.

Then at three goals to one down at quarter time we discovered that the best way to stop their attack was not to let them get the ball down there in the first place. Which was noble, and kept them to one goal in the second quarter, but was handicapped by another quarter where there was more chance of a UFO hovering over Princes Park than us scoring. It was really starting to get me down, I'm not expecting freewheeling extravaganzas of amazing attacking footy in this competition but the idea of struggling to one or two goals again didn't appeal. Fortunately better times were on the way.

If we'd lost there would have also been plenty to say about starting Daisy Pearce forward in the first quarter, where she was tagged to buggery and barely got a kick. All's well that ends well, as the Pies fell off the face of the planet she came to the fore and started to rack up touches at will. Which is to be expected, she wasn't known as the best player in the women's game for nothing, but wouldn't count for much if we couldn't score. There were plenty of inside 50s, but no system to them and Collingwood usually rebounded merrily. At first into attack, then as the game went on only into the midfield, until finally they could barely clear it outside their defensive 50.

Other than the forwards it was, as you'd expect in conditions about 98% drier than last week, a far better showing around the ground. There are still a few players who are out of place and run around like me in one of those ill-fated forum games a few years ago - only without the broken elbow from an ill-advised attempt at a smother - but that's understandable. No doubt a few of them will be moved at the end of the year to get some actual footy players in. What we do have is a core of quality players, and once you get to the votes you won't be surprised to discover I know who my five favourites are. I'm still not convinced we will beat Carlton or Adelaide and suggest we've got about a 1% chance of making the Grand Final but let's reinvestigate that after the Bulldogs game. Anyway, what would following Melbourne be if success was dropped on your doorstep immediately? We have to suffer for a few years first.

It was clear from the start of the third quarter that we'd got their measure around the ground, it was just a case of whether anyone could fashion a goal. Then the spark came from frisbee guru Cat Phillips, who decided that instead of crafting one the old fashioned way that she might instead snap one from a wacky angle.

I haven't declared an equivalent of the Aaron Davey Goal of the Year award in this competition, but suffice to say that if you can kick a better goal than that it's yours. After cruelly chucking her as my favourite player just because of Cranston's sick bump on a defenceless Brisbane player last week I'm back on the Catwagon. At least she's a better footy player than Jeremy Howe is a frisbeeist.

From there we made kicking goals look easy, smashing another one in a minute later to make things interesting. Who needed a system, just belt the thing into space and wait for somebody to run onto it. Just as we started to take control, but hadn't yet the hit the lead, the lights started to go out. We'll assume that was just cheap equipment rather than the work of a dodgy Asian betting syndicate. It didn't look too bad on television, but it would have been shithouse at ground level. With the experience of playing in the gloomy slurry of Casey last week, the girls activated Terminator mode and wiped the Pies off the park. Unlike so many men's team comebacks we didn't run out of energy getting back into the game then have nothing left to go on with.

It was an unexpectedly rampant finish - and I do think that we've got the building blocks for a good team in the future. I like Lauren Pearce in the ruck, and our defence was rock solid after their shaky start. Everybody's talking about the established big guns like Paxman, O'Dea, Hickey, Daisy etc... but I've been a big fan of Lily Mithen in both games so far. Until half-time I thought she was our best in trying conditions. The only concern is how much she looks like her dad, giving me flashbacks to him presenting Sunday Scoreboard on the Channel 9 news to the soundtrack of Bruce Hornsby and the Range. Let's hope she doesn't celebrate wins the same way as her old man...

I still wasn't comfortable at three quarter time, but I needn't have worried. Collingwood has now kicked 0.1 in four second half quarters, which would be a worry for them but is hilarious to the rest of us. The final term was a relaxed rampage, where we even started to find targets inside 50 as Pies defenders realised the euphoria of last week is gone, confronted harsh reality and lost the will to live. The most enjoyable of the last quarter goals was by Shelley Scott, who marked strongly in the pocket from a rank Daisy set shot then ran around and bounced it through an unguarded square. Anyone wearing red and blue and taking advantage of a demoralised opposition to pile on goals in the last quarter is alright by me.

So, we won. And Mia-Rae Clifford became the first AFL player in history to earn household bragging rights by winning a game against their partner. Which is nice. The song was belted out enthusiastically in the middle of the ground, complete with some zany dance routine at the end, then again in the sheds for a job well done. I will never tire of a Melbourne win in any format, let's have more of it.

2017 Debbie Lee Medal for Player of the Year
Yes, it's the exact same top five as last week. I can't think that's ever happened before. It's not because they're the only five I know, it's because they're all quite good.

5 - Karen Paxman
4 - Cat Phillips
3 - Lily Mithen
2 - Elise O'Dea
1 - Daisy Pearce

Apologies to L. Pearce, Duryea, Scott and Smith.

7 - Karen Paxman
6 - Lily Mithen, Elise O'Dea, Daisy Pearce
5 - Cat Phillips

I'm glad that our cheersquad gets a break from hand crafting their award winning banners, and that we've roped iSelect into paying to sponsor ours. And they do look excellent, but I can't help myself but defer to the simple, homemade one that the Pies had. 1-1 for the season.

Media Watch
I'm impressed by Daisy Pearce's performance in the Chemist Warehouse ad. The only problem is that now she has to kick a goal to make it realistic, which might have been what was going through her head when she missed that set shot at the end. In the realm of modern day Melbourne players in TV ads I'd rank her above Jack Watts for Energy Watch (*spit*) and Mitch Clark being sexually harassed by female motorists for Ultratune.

Next Week
The Bulldogs game will be the other half of a double header with the pre-season men's game - and given that I've barely got the time to get to one game these days I'll be struggling to get to the Western Oval for the main event. So, on that note would you please consider contributing a guest review? Let me know before the game via your favourite social media channel or email. Same deal for the Carlton game, and the way our kooky fixture includes travel to Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in the last three weeks I think that's my hopes of making to any game short of the Grand Final shot. So, if you want to take over full reporting duties for any of the games then you are more than welcome.

As for team changes next week your guess is as good as mine - presumably Meg Downie misses after being flattened and going off on a stretcher, but with such small playing lists it doesn't make sense to replace her with the returning Cranston. Do we have any defenders left in reserve? I look forward to a glorious future where I know the who's who of our list like I do the guys.

Final Thoughts
This is good, I've already moved beyond all the shiny happy breaking down barriers stuff and am treating like this team like I would the men. Halfway through the game trying to sack everybody, then trying to desperately backpeddle once they win. Let's see how the momentum goes when the (let's be honest here) real stuff begins next week and there are competing priorities.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

A tradition begins

The early criticisms levelled at the new AFL Women's competition have been that the games are low scoring, the players aren't skillful enough and the league is heavily subsidising teams to take part. Show me something I haven't been watching at the men's level for years.

You are of course free to ignore it, just try not to make a Rex Hunt of yourself like clowns with egg logos on Twitter who spout nonsense phrases like 'virtue signalling'. Personally I'm all for it, not going in expecting the 1989 Grand Final to break out helps in enjoying it for what it is, but more so than the gender equality and the fact that my kid is now a chance of playing professionally I'm into it because there's a side called Melbourne. To be honest I'd watch televised Little League if we were involved.

At 4pm I had a level of guilt about not being there for the birth of a new team. I only squibbed it because I'd rather not go to Casey once a season let alone twice in one month. The prospect of large crowds didn't help either, being stuck in any ground that's one step up from a suburban park with nowhere to move is my idea of hell. Then it started pissing down like the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse were about to trot past on horseback and it was obvious that I'd made the right decision. Call me when we play at an established ground and somewhere nearer than Cranbourne.

Ultimately the only advantage to travelling an hour to see us lose and kick one goal in pelting rain would have been for historical value. Everyone expected us to win and we didn't - ladies, welcome to what being a Melbourne Football Club senior player is all about.

It almost started perfectly, as much as I declared Ultimate Frisbee champion Cat Phillips to be my favourite player pre-season, based on nothing more than her involvement in a novelty sport, I'd chucked her by the five minute mark and started supporting Rocky Cranston instead. She should have had the first goal with a piece of classic crumb but shot wide. Then to confirm her status at the top of my list she absolutely murdered some hapless Lions defender with a bump and will probably be the first player in the competition to be suspended. Later in the first quarter she attempted a snap without a boot, and it's not clear if she ever managed to put it back on because I don't she got another kick.

I know they scheduled the game at Casey before they realised there'd be big numbers watching, and without access to a super long range weather forecast, but if you wanted spectacle it was the worst place for it. All discussions about the quality of football in this one should be held with a split screen view of some of the horrendous televised VFL games the Scorpions have played. It's the black hole of death for quality footy at the best of times, let alone for a new competition.

We continued to dominant early but it came to nothing due to a complete lack of spark up forward. The usual tricky Cranbourne wind was blowing towards our end - sadly now without classic Casey sponsor Lurline Liquor - and we spent the first eight minutes camped in attack for just two behinds. So far, so Melbourne. After wasting the early advantage it started pissing down, making it even less likely we'd take advantage of the breeze. That we did not - failing to kick a goal with it all day. Mind you we only got one against it, so who knows if the conditions were to blame or not.

I'm not going to live or die on this competition like I do the seniors, but my rampant pro-MFC bias was on show within the first few minutes when I was yelling at the TV for frees during some heavily suspect 'let the play go' umpiring. It seems dropping the ball doesn't exist in this competition either. By quarter time we were 3-0 up, which on paper is complete bollocks but long-term readers will know I think there's something beautiful about a low scoring game. It makes every goal crucial, and while we don't want every losing team to kick one per game it meant subconsciously tensing up when Brisbane went into attack and automatically assuming there'd be no score when we did.

Ironically I had to watch most of the second quarter on delay after trying to convince my kid not to go outside in a storm. All that meant was waiting an extra 15 minutes to see Brisbane kick the first goal after we'd done all the hard work. We almost reversed the trend of the men's team by getting it back straight out of the middle but turned it over immediately. That was the story of the day, long and hopeful roosts into the forward line that were effortlessly mopped up by defenders. That would be your homage to Queen's Birthday 2015. Later the tributes to the men's team continued as our ruck was clawed in the face and didn't get a free.

Even after conceding the goal we kept up the pressure forward, but as much as I enjoyed Cranston's Byron Pickett style shirtfront I'm not sure we've got much in store up front. Given the number of kicks that are going to miss the target going inside 50, having quick, small forwards who can gather on the run is going to be equally important as your traditional full-forward. It took a loose ball to get our first (and hopefully I never write this again) and last goal. Cranbourne local Jasmine Grierson used her experience playing in the shit local conditions to pick up and snap to put us back in front. Remember the name for trivia nights - and if you're at a trivia night where they're asking obscure MFC related questions you've done well.

It feels weird that there were players out there playing their first game of footy (presumably other than the practice game). I wonder how many good local women's players were throwing things at the TV watching rowers and frisbee players having a bash? It's understandable that the Darebin Falcons have got 16 players in the league given that they've won a million flags in a row, but what are the other six doing? I guess the publicity value of rolling in WNBL players and hoping for the best beats picking lists entirely consisting of random suburbanites who can't be paraded in the media. It also seems NQR that this league uses a smaller ball than established competitions (according to the coverage on Friday night, scientists informed the AFL that women had smaller hands. Which is a great application of science), were Darebin winning flags out the wazoo because they were the only ones who could play with a normal sized ball?

In a surprise twist the second quarter was called off early due to lightning. Given that we were kicking into the breeze it would have been great news for us if they'd just called it off and come back for the third quarter, instead they took half time early and played the last three minutes after the break. Naturally we used those three minutes to concede against the run of play.

After half times both real and fake the game degenerated into everyone just chasing the ball and kicking it as long as they possibly could. If the AFL made this 16-a-side to try and judge the merits of doing that in the men's competition (for god's sake no) they would have struck this game from evidence, especially with the number of throw-ins. Mark my words, the next step will be introducing the hated last kick/free kick boundary rule.

After Brisbane got the second goal we continued to look as potent up front as the year Chris Dawes led our goalkicking with 20. Back then I thought it was just because we didn't get it inside 50 enough, this time we got it down there plenty but most of them were hopeful hoofs rather than structured kicks. Pack marks were at a premium in the conditions, but the Lions forwards certainly looked more like it than ours. We were at a major disadvantage in marks overall, with their top three players having more than our entire 22 combined. Has anyone organised a forum thread to discuss sacking the recruiters and/or the coach yet?

The rain went away for a while, then started bucketing down again at three quarter time. With respect to the players and the suggestion of Kelli Underwood that "nobody has left" I would certainly have done a runner at this point. If you've ever tried to drive out of Casey Fields in perfect conditions you'll know how treacherous it would have been to escape along with 6000 other people in bucketing rain. That would be if you were able to extract your car from a ditch anyway. In this case I was quite happy to be at home.

Brisbane dominating the intercept marks and having an 8% better kicking efficiency (what happened to disposal efficiency?) said it all. We had a lot of kicks forward, but most of them were just panicky hoof-and-hope jobs. Let's see how it goes in the dry, but seemingly without the quick forwards I'm feeling less optimistic about this season. But who's better at complaining about Round 1 results than us?

I dare say we're not going to win this competition, all the other winners this week will clean us up without too many problems. With only six games left and the top two making the Grand Final we were already in big trouble courtesy of the percentage boosting wins elsewhere much less with a loss. It's curtains if we lose next week, and I for one am in a filthy mood because of it.

2017 Debbie Lee Medal for Player of the Year
5 - Daisy Pearce
4 - Elise O'Dea
3 - Lily Mithen
2 - Karen Paxman
1 - Cat Phillips

Crowd Watch
As the players evacuated the field for the early half-time Shaun Smith was seen wandering past the camera. He was one of a conveniently announced crowd of '6500' that helped land the total attendance for the first weekend of the competition at over 50,000. At least changed the last couple of digits if you're going to pretend it's the real figure.

Down with the introduction of a curtain, but otherwise it was quite the lovely banner. More printed than letters applied to crepe paper, but that doesn't matter. Don't know if Brisbane even had one. If they did I didn't see it, certainly did see it if they did so let's say 1-0 Dees.

Next Week
Collingwood next Saturday night - currently scheduled for Olympic Park Oval but sure to be moved due to that being a shit ground with zero facilities. There's talk about them running it as a double header with an earlier game at Princes Park, and that presumably means more big crowds.

To continue the trend of easing the new team into the game by doing cover versions of all the great Melbourne traits (and today they achieved the never before seen Bailey Game) I expect that Moanna Hope will bounce back from suffering the league's first Media Curse to kick eight.

Final Thoughts
I'm not going to pull my hair out over this competition, but for god's sake can we just avoid the wooden spoon?

Friday, 27 January 2017

Demonbracket 2017 - Your full voting guide

Democracy has had a bad run recently, but Demonbracket 2017 is refreshingly free of Russian influence and ready to begin on Monday 30 January.

This is the sixth time the competition has been held, and the draw was conducted under government supervision at an undisclosed location on the morning on Friday 27 January 2017. For more on the history of the tournament, please consult our preview show.

  • The voting criteria for each match-up is your personal business. It need not have anything to do with football if you don't want it to, but if does then the best of British luck to you. We won't ask questions, and nor should anyone else. If anyone tries to vote shame you denounce them on the internet.
  • Voting will be conducted between 0700 and 1900 AEDST unless otherwise noted
  • You must cast a valid vote for every match that day or none of your votes on that day's matches will count (I'll try and remind you where possible by there are no guarantees).
  • You must pick a winner in every match up. No half votes, no "I can't split them". Yes you can, and you must.
  • Non-MFC fans are more than welcome to vote as long as you follow all other rules
  • Players are more than welcome to use social media, real media or paid advertising to promote themselves. Outright bribery is not permitted.
  • Players may vote for themselves as long as they also vote in the other matchups of the day as per the above rules
  • In the event of a tie both players will advance to the next round, except in the case of the Grand Final where a replay will be held the following day.
  • If a match features three or more players and two or more tie for the most votes they will advance with all other players eliminated.
  • We reserve the right to refuse an excessive number of multiple votes from the same person using multiple accounts
  • Voting will once again be conducted in an open format (TwitterBigFooty. and Facebook) to keep it interesting but if you're really keen on your privacy or have an intense hatred of social media you can email me daily via demonblogger AT
  • The decision of the Demonbracket Organising Committee is final. Unless somebody takes us to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lucerne.
2017 specific rule
  • The organising committee has determined that as Heritier Lumumba will remain a senior listed player in 2017 that he may participate in this event. Previously unavailable players to compete include Maia Westrupp, Jesse Hogan and Jake Melksham. If you don't like it don't vote for him.
The tournament

Preliminary Round

Monday 30 January
Clayton Oliver d. Mitch White 106-4 
Alex Neal-Bullen d. Heritier Lumumba 102-8 
Jake Melksham d. Mitch Hannan 72-38
Josh Wagner d. Liam Hulett 76-29 
Oscar McDonald d. Tim Smith 88-17 
Declan Keilty d. Corey Maynard 56-4

Tuesday 31 January
Christian Petracca d. Jay Kennedy-Harris 70-36
Ben Kennedy d. Pat McKenna 81-25
Tomas Bugg d. Sam Weideman and Michael Hibberd 59-43-4
Sam Frost d. Mitch King 101-7
Jayden Hunt d. Lachlan Filipovic 102-6
Jordan Lewis d. Joel Smith and Dion Johnstone 83-18-7

Round 1

Wednesday 1 February
1. Jack Viney d. Jack Trengove 101-12
Clayton Oliver vs Aaron vandenBerg 100-13
Tomas Bugg vs Jordan Lewis 64-49
8. Jesse Hogan d. Oscar McDonald 106-7

Thursday 2 February
5. Jack Watts d. Neville Jetta 86-26
Cameron Pedersen d. Jake Spencer 96-16
Jeff Garlett d. Josh Wagner 78-34
4. Dom Tyson d. Alex Neal-Bullen 97-15

Friday 3 February
3. Max Gawn d. Ben Kennedy 104-6
Angus Brayshaw d. Christian Salem 59-51
Jayden Hunt d. Colin Garland 90-20
6. Tom McDonald d. Declan Keilty 106-4

Monday 6 February
Christian Petracca d. 7. Bernie Vince 59-50
Dean Kent d. Jake Melksham 102-7
Billy Stretch d. Sam Frost 75-34
2. Nathan Jones d. James Harmes 101-8

Round 2
Tuesday 7 February
1. Jack Viney d. Clayton Oliver 84-24
8. Jesse Hogan d. Tomas Bugg 73-35
5. Jack Watts d. Cameron Pedersen 93-15
4. Dom Tyson d. Jeff Garlett 88-20

Wednesday 8 February
3. Max Gawn d. Angus Brayshaw 110-11
Jayden Hunt d. 6. Tom McDonald 85-36
Christian Petracca d. Dean Kent 85-36
2. Nathan Jones d. Billy Stretch 98-23

Quarter Finals - Thursday 9 and Friday 10 February

1. Jack Viney d. 8. Jesse Hogan 76-44
5. Jack Watts d. 4. Dom Tyson 93-27
3. Max Gawn d. Jayden Hunt 84-27
2. Nathan Jones d. Christian Petracca 80-31

Semi Finals - Monday 13 February
1. Jack Viney d. 5. Jack Watts 67-66
3. Max Gawn d. 2. Nathan Jones 96-37

Final - Tuesday 14 February

3. Max Gawn d. 1. Jack Viney 106-36