Sunday, 23 February 2020

What could possibly go wrong from here

Footy was confirmed to be back when I got a headache five minutes before the first bounce of a practice game. Even for a match that meant approximately fuck all, referred footy pressure had my central nervous system under siege. Can't see myself with head in oven if we lost, but there's a natural flaw in my DNA that causes major physical issues before the Dees play. What happens after the first bounce is all the team's fault.

These games are basically meaningless, but since going over the top about the club 15 years ago they've still felt real to me. Before that I didn't give a shit. Might read about it in the paper, might just ignore it entirely, it didn't change anything for the team if I was there or not. Still doesn't, but I'd be stressed if not allowed to watch. My days of going to every Victorian game might be over but I can still be obsessive.

My deeply held interest didn't extend to driving two hours across a torturous route through the suburbs to watch. There is probably no worse place in outer suburban Melbourne to get to Casey Fields from than where I live, so now that we're in a technological glory era of being able to watch everything on TV I declined to participate. May as well get used to watching on TV considering I can't go to an MCG game until Round 6.

There's plenty to be said about watching at home, more to come when they slash time from games and make leaving the house even more pointless. The only issue I had with watching on my in-house Megawall last year was that I didn't see us win one bloody game. To be fair, didn't see too many in person either. Like everything other than suspensions and fines, this game doesn't count for the official record, but I'll have plenty more opportunities to finally go home (from one room to the other) happy over the next few years.

Proof that my life has changed (for the better or worse) is that there wasn't even the slightest regret at not being there in person. I've done Casey to death, and even though the last time I went they seemed to have opened a few more roads so you weren't stuck roasting in your car looking at a pile of earth for half an hour after the final siren any more that's enough for me. Like Kardinia Park, where I am available to go this year but won't unless something remarkable happens between now and then. 

Viewers were immediately reminded that this wasn't a game to be taken seriously by the shot of a bank of portable toilets along the Casey wing. What an appropriate metaphor for the ground, if only we had Dwayne on commentary as well. It was also hard to take Adelaide seriously, given that their side was full of players you'd never heard of and their jumper seemingly had the flag of the German Democratic Republic on it.

I suppose Adelaide fans were likewise confused by Tom Sparrow and backman Jay Lockhart (possibly travelling the same path as Bayley Fritsch before being unleashed forward again?), but on the whole we took in a pretty accomplished lineup. Accomplished by 2018 standards anyway, if everyone played at a 2019 standard we'd have been lucky to beat the Koo-Wee-Rup thirds. Gawn, May, Fritsch and Brayshaw would have come in handy, but it was near enough to our best side that you'd have been as upset as possible for a pre-season game if we didn't put on a good showing.

You will not be surprised to discover that there was a wind at Casey. I'll stand corrected by anyone who was there, but it looked like one of the least offensive breezes ever recorded at the ground. Usually it's a force 10 gale that blows diagonally across the ground and ruins the game for both sides, this time it seemed to be gently wafting towards the goals left of screen, providing a benefit for the team kicking with it but not so much that they needed to be across the Chris Sullivan Line at the last change to be sure of victory.

In the absence of atmospheric conditions to whinge about, the main event was Christian Petracca playing the best pre-season game since Fev kicked 12 on New Year's Eve. I don't know why anyone would bet on these matches, but imagine if you'd found somebody who'd let you double a Melbourne win with the biggest truck related hit since CW McCall's Convoy. You would be, as they say in the classics, farting through silk.

By christ(ian) he was good, you always think of him as a fancy player, but if it was a real game he'd have broken the MFC record for contested possessions. He was in everything inside, outside, kicking goals, and at one point taking a screamer and looking down with pity at his vanquished opponents. Not everything came off but he generated more electricity than Loy Yang B.

We need a larger sample size and to make sure he's not drowned in the pool by our training staff again but watch out if he replicates this form when the real stuff starts. If it pushes Brayshaw out of the midfield then so be it, Gus has had plenty of good games but he's never looked like Godzilla knocking down Tokyo.

Again, fake games don't count, and we can't allow ourselves to get upset if he doesn't replicate this form BUT if you treated all MFC games as equals that was the most impactful midfield performance since god knows when. And we've played worse teams than the side Adelaide put out yesterday. Just our luck that 16 other sides will have twigged what's up and started working on how to stop him.

After moaning about playing Petracca in the midfield for most of last year (where to be fair he wouldn't have had the tank to do this for more than a quarter), another one of my cherished causes came off when Jones clubbed the opening goal on the run from 50 metres. It got us out of a Melbourne AFLW style start where we were good enough to park the ball in our forward line but didn't look like converting. It's criminal that they wasted time trying to play him as a defender last year when all was lost anyway. He can and will kick goals if you leave him forward long enough.

Further benefit came from two of the rudest moustaches since Lynden Dunn, parked at opposite ends of the ground. Mitch Brown, at least, has a touch of the country squire/minor royal about him, while Lever's looks like he should be hard at it in an adult movie (possibly behind an actress called Casey Fields). His look would have been the personal grooming disaster of the day were it not for the Adelaide player who looked like he'd had his tattoos applied with a super-heated paperclip while in the clink. I'm no tatt guru but if you're going to cover entire limbs the secret seems to be large designs, not bitty little pictures and hollow stars.

The facial hair horrors didn't detract from the performance of our bookends, who were amongst the best in the first quarter. Lever was chopping off everything that came near him early (aided by some tremendously, MFCesque kicking into the forward 50), and Brown goalled with his first two kicks. He should have had a third too, making himself feel right at home as a Melbourne player by missing a sitter.

His first was the best, soccering through after a strong second effort when the ball went to ground in a marking contest. He got three in the end, and though he'd hardly Tony Lockett he should come in handy considering we paid nothing for him. Also big laughs at Essendon's expense when Joe Daniher doesn't play and they've got nobody else up front. At this stage I'm promoting him to my Round 1 team (NB: season preview was supposed to be up last week but I ran out of time) in place of Weideman.

This feels harsh on the Weid, who didn't get the chance to play forward because in the absence of Gawn and Preuss he was required in the ruck. Sensibly, we decided not to subject Luke Jackson to the Toumpas treatment and throw him to the wolves before he was ready. Rucking is not Sam's go but he put in a reasonable performance. He certainly put everything into it but you wouldn't want to rely on him every week. Maybe they should swap him and Brown for the Hawthorn game and give us a better idea of what order they're in. Eventually you're going to want to prioritise the younger man, but we've got to get things going ASAP this year so whoever's more likely to kick goals gets the start.

Assuming Jackson isn't going to play from the start of the year, somebody's going to have to cover the 5% of the game when Gawn isn't rucking, but given the (on paper) strength of our midfield I'd be prepared to concede the centre bounce. Where we lose is his get out of jail marks around the ground. The centre bounce is overrated, I've seen James Harmes take one that we turned into a goal, it's not that important. May or Lever does it in defence, McDonald does it forward, and for stoppages in the middle of the ground hold your breath and hope for the best. It's not worth carrying players that don't fit into the rest of the plan in the off chance they might do a fancy Maximum style tap over the head.

Neither of the first game recruits set the world on fire, but they didn't need to. This was all about getting game time into them. Pickett did some good chases that won't be reflected in the stats (not the ones plebs like me see anyway) and was expertly set up for a well-taken goal by Viney, so given our absence of forward pressure last year I'd say he's an almost certain starter in the opening game.

Jackson was just there to gain experience, with no expectation on him at all. He only got a handful of touches but seemed to instinctively know what he was doing when he got it and did one monster JEff White-esque leap at a centre bounce. Sour 80s turncoat Gerard Healy complained that he wasn't getting enough of the ball, as if that mattered. He was purely there to get used to playing in adult company (Jackson that is, not Healy. Although now you say it...) and will - I presume - be given plenty of time to develop before we throw him in the deep end.

For all our early dominance, and Lever flinging himself about in mid-air like a cruise missile to stop multiple Adelaide attacks, we were barely in front and for the first time all year I was tempted to throw something when we allowed them to dink a little kick to a free play 20 metres out for their second goal. Wasn't worth it in pre-season (especially in the first quarter), I didn't even adopt my usual TV watching position of standing up and pacing the room like a maniac. Must conserve energy, we will hopefully be playing for something beyond Queen's Birthday this year.

If you thought the wind was worth worrying about, a two goal quarter time lead didn't seem like much, but it was much better than what it looked like being midway through the quarter. It's not like everyone was firing at full power, but there were enough shown that had they stopped the game there and sent everyone home you'd have come out satisfied.

Of course, the best thing about the opening term (and most of the other three) was Petracca. One thing that has hampered him is often playing one killer quarter and goes missing for the rest of the game, s o when he was on nine touches at quarter time I thought there was no way it was going to last. Wrong, he effectively finished with the same stats in each quarter. There were tackles, there were marks, there were fend-offs, and oh so many disposals. If this happens in a home and away game I'll be...




On a level somewhere between Petracca going bonkers and everything else that happened to me yesterday, one of the highlights was seeing vandenBerg out there again. Certainly didn't expect to see him in the pre-season, much less be in contention for Round 1. He's a natural footballer so he was fine coming straight back into footy after a year off but I remain cautious of his foot holding up for long. After all, he survived one game longer in last year's pre-season and was never seen again so I'll believe it when he's a) alive in Round 4, and b) we're not doing something stupid like playing him forward. All aboard the much delayed vandWagon.

Was also happy with Langdon, who offered everything we promised on the wing, explosive speed and hold your breath kicking. On the whole he offered far more good than bad. Hardly Robbie Flower, but as long as we give the forwards space that doesn't require him to do laser point kicks he can't help but do some damage with that pace. I don't know if Tomlinson was playing on the opposite side considering he seemed to be everywhere but he was ok, didn't do anything spectacular, didn't come off like somebody who'd been psychologically ruined by playing in a disastrous Grand Final.

After struggling to turn our superiority around the ground into goals with the wind (an affliction that gets to both men and women at this club), I didn't much fancy how things were going when the Crows kicked three goals in a row in the second quarter. Deep breathing and reminders to self that it was a practice game were fine, but it still felt like the side we had should have been dealing better with a glorified SANFL team.

I don't know why I was worried, like most pre-season games it was being played with the joy of life that will be forcibly squashed out of players by the time the real stuff starts. Witness them trying to keep the ball in instead of it spilling over the boundary now, when in Round 1 they'll be instructed to let it go out to create a stoppage. Also witness Gold Coast beating Geelong by 70.

You will also do well to note that we scored 101 against Richmond in the heat last pre-season and only got more than that twice for the rest of the year - and even one of those was a loss. Anyone who declares scoring to be back based on one of these games is a knob. Fortunately, if you factor in Gawn, we should be served well by the game going back to a defensive slog that makes Channel 7 executives slash their wrists.

For now I was still stressing out unnecessarily when we not only went into the half nine points down, but nearly conceded again 30 seconds into the third quarter. After sending a Casey side out in Melbourne jumpers to be savaged by Essendon on Friday (and Unless the reserves team is rebranding as Melbourne Demons this year what was the point?), and the women buggered up a golden chance to go 3-0 on Friday night, I started to get pessimistic and wonder when three Melbourne sides all lost on the same weekend was. Not counting the Little League, your answer stats fans, is Round 14, 1991, when the seniors and reserves both went down to Hawthorn, and the Under 19s to Geelong. Keep that in mind in case it comes up at a trivia night.

Not that there was any need to panic anyway, but there was no need to panic because Petracca Mania was about to erupt again. First he took Mark of the (pre) Year, and converted the set shot, but after reverting to type and missing a shot straight after, he was instrumental in a Jones > Langdon effort that retook the lead. From there it was pretty much all Melbourne. The midfield wasn't a one man show, Oliver and Viney were also excellent, and the latter set up one of two third quarter goals for his former co-skipper. All three of his goals were the sort of smart, out of nowhere ones that we lacked so many times last year - especially when Melksham was injured. I'm not the kind of person to say I told you so, but I told you so.

After midfield Truck and forward Chunk, my third long term complaint was proven correct in the second half. After not being able to get near the ball all day, Tom McSizzle had a massive finish to the game when we finally started kicking to his advantage rather than bombing the ball a mile in the air and expecting him to pluck an overhead mark over the heads of multiple defenders - and often his own teammates getting in the way. A couple of times he was at fault for expecting the ball to come over the top to him rather than going towards it, but early on our delivery forward was so bad that you had to rely on miracles rather than beautifully created goals.

Once he was able to run at the ball good times followed. This is why it's important to find a mix of forwards, one who can lead (McSizzle), one who can crumb (Melksham, Pickett?) and one who can pluck marks over a pack (TBD). If Joel Smith is still alive he could also come in handy for pack marks.

My nerves calmed as we kicked the first four goals of the quarter, including two more to Jones that made me shout self-righteous abuse at the screen. Because the Football Gods are pricks, Chunk's third goal was followed by immediately conceding one because he missed a tackle (the rare case of a player personally giving back the goal he'd kicked), then going after clattering his leg into an opponent in the same piece of play.

Given that Sizzle's season was finished last year by an innocuous knee knock I feared the worst, but it actually caught him in the shin and no harm done. We sensibly packed him away instead of tempting fate. Which is more than can be said for Nifty Nev, who hit the ground clutching his ankle and left me wanting to sob. He was soon up and hobbling about, but how many players have hobbled their way off the ground and into the rehab group for a year? Thankfully for us and a State(s) of Origin team he returned intact. Don't know if I'd have bothered, for a competition sponsored by a risk management company it would be ironic if we Joel Smithed him.

It's hard to tell what's real when you genuinely have no idea who 75% of the opposition are but we certainly looked ran out the game like a much fitter side than the shipwreck survivors of last year. No idea if it will hold, but it's an early win for the Darren Burgess program. He's in the fitness guru's golden era, between coming in to an organisation in shambles, talking up what you're doing as revolutionary and two years later when everyone's done a hammy and your professional reputation is being smeared on every corner of the internet.

After a minor comeback late in the quarter, the Crows clearly went "that'll do us" at the final huddle, probably focused on what a prick of a drive they had ahead of them from Cranbourne to the airport, and we played until the siren. Hope they were caught in a two hour traffic jam on the freeway. They got the first goal of the quarter to leave you wondering if there was a classic Melbourne collapse on the cards, before we engaged afterburner and ran away with it.

Everyone in the correct colours went home happy, and we assume neither Jones or Nev had their legs amputated during the night so I'd call it a successful start to the year.

2020 Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance
5 - Christian Petracca
4 - Jack Viney
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Mitch Brown
1 - Nathan Jones

Major apologies to Tom McDonald. Other apologies to Salem, vandenBerg, Langdon, Sparrow, Lockhart and Weideman

Leaderboard
The bootleg Casey side inexplicably playing under the Melbourne name that was thrashed by Essendon on Friday barely have five listed MFC players, so obviously no votes count from that. I'll decide on the eligibility of next Friday's suburban slopfest when the teams come out.

Goal of the Week
Plenty of good, goal out of nowhere options to pick from. With apologies to Brown crumbing his own and the Viney to Pickett combo that nearly had me sliding off my seat, the choice is between two lightning kicks from that man Petracca.


As far as the TV coverage goes, the Crows didn't bother so it's a walkover win for the Dees. Solid early season hitout for the Army.

Next Week
I will give Arden Street a crack for the first and probably last time on Friday as long as we field a half competitive side with more Melbourne players than Casey. Otherwise it's Nev for the Allies if fit and Oliver sitting by the phone ready to tell their selectors to piss off if they try to give him a consolation prize when somebody else pulls out. Should base the side on early practice match form and make Petracca captain of Victoria.

After that it's Friday again for Hawthorn in Tasmania, which would probably take me less time to get to than Casey Fields but will also be enjoyed via the medium of television rebroadcast through the internet.

Final thoughts
You wouldn't link arms and sing the song with a stranger but any win is appreciated after the slurry we served up last year. More of the above please.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Friday night filth

Imagine a competition where a side called Melbourne is a big enough wheel that they get two Friday night games in a row? Against all odds here we are. By the end both Channel 7 and Foxtel were dragging the thickest possible red marker through our name and condeming us to the graveyard shift forever. A week after lighting things up in the wet, we responded by putting on a real slopfest in the dry, arguably the most disappointing performance in the three years and three weeks the women have been playing competitive games.

Back at Moorabbin for the first time since we were royally humped in a lightly attended (e.g. probably unattended) 1996 practice match against Sydney, the return to a traditional ground was celebrated by our traditional move of taking the ball straight into our forward line (via a Saints player kicking out on the full comically) and doing everything create a goal other than putting the oval ball through the middle posts. Pretty fundamental aspect of the sport as you'd probably agree, but you'd never know it from watching this.

Other than one flying shot from Goldrick for a miss all the early pressure was for nowt. Kate Hore, who was in everything and nearly our best player, got a set shot on target, but having learnt their lesson from the Bulldogs leaving the square empty last week, St Kilda sensible had their ruck in place to touch it through by the barest of margins. We were obviously the better side, but having wasted all those chances, conceded a dopy free kick in front of goal by flattening somebody having a wild ping from the pocket and gifted them the opener. Where had I seen this before? In a competition where goals are at a premium giving them away like that should be punishable by having to walk home from Casey.

A week after not even reluctantly coming to the concusion that we might win the flag came the correction that I deserved for being positive. There is no sillier thing to do as a Melbourne fan than think you're turning the corner, because you will undoubtedly be met with a fist. The lack of a functioning forward line is the Achilles' heel of this team, you can't rely on goals from random midfielders ever week.

We were in such disarry that when Hore won another free kick within range, it was wasted by Cunningham trying to get involved by taking the advantage with a wild snap that hit the post. After getting away with a similar incident earlier in the season, the umpires weren't falling for it again. I can half understand where she was coming from given Hore's set shot record, but a wild flying shot from 30 metres out was so low percentage that it was almost below zero.

If you ever wanted a quarter to explain Melbourne AFLW that was it, domination in every aspect of the game, and a huge scoring shot advantage but barely anything to show for it. You'll just need to cut out the bit at the end where we unexpectedly got a goal, Shelley Scott lobbing through a set shot from distance that evaded everyone. Kelli Underwood called her a former Dairy farmer, which means either she or Jason Bennett were wrong, and I know who I'm backing.

The second quarter was much as you'd expect with a superior side with a pox forward structure kicking into the wind. We had the ball down there enough, just no bloody idea what to do with it. At the other end St Kilda were being turned back at every opportunity by our defenders, end result near complete tedium.

Our case wasn't helped by Guerin and Goldrick coming off injured at the same time. The Irishwoman going into triage as the medical staff tried to work out whether Guerin was our fourth ACL victim of the year. When people say they want this to be more like men's footy (the standard of which they complain about every week), they didn't mean having a Melbourne list with top to bottom injuries. Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and maybe this will be the encouragement we need to #releaseTex and try something different in our misfiring forward line.

We had the better of limited opportunities, but didn't look likely to score from air or ground. Then, after 11 minutes St Kilda had their first real chance and goalled. Pardon my French, but Jesus Fucking Christ. A day before the men start I shouldn't have been this frustrated watching Melbourne. Having not fired a shot in any atmospheric conditions I reckon it's time that Tegan Cunningham belts somebody again, that was clearly what made her happy. You can't blame the conditions every week, she's been poor all year, and with nobody else likely to take a mark within 20 metres we're relying heavily on generating goals from the midfield.

In three weeks Cunningham and Newman have zero goals between them, it's not going to get us far. And it's a tremendous waste of having somebody like Paxman in the midfield. Her kicking into our attack is like Al Pacino offering acting tips to the cast of Fat Pizza.

At half time the Saints were both lucky to be a point ahead and unlucky not to lead by about three goals. With two players less on the bench we'd have an unconvincing excuse for losing, but the discerning viewer would point out that we necked ourselves in the first quarter when everyone was fit. No further goals followed. At all. At one point Paxman got sick of everyone in front of her playing like they were blindfolded and tried to do it herself, but even the greatest player in the history of this club can't work miracles.

'Cringe' is an overused term, but watching our nuffy forward play slowly strangle any chance we had of winning comfortably (or at all as it turns out) was giving me the shits. When Cunningham marked and tried to steer one through only for it to drop into the square I nearly threw a computer peripheral. This was when we had 'the wind', and while it was hardly a Casey Fields hurricane special you have to ask what's going on when players can't make the distance from that far out and a light zephyr at their back.

Kicking into said wind in the last quarter didn't help, but it also wasn't strong enough to stop us if we could - god forbid - create an opportunity so close to goal that it wasn't a factor. Instead we horrifically botched a kick in the middle of the ground that led to the Saints nearly opening the quarter with a goal and were left desperately trying to extract the ball out of defence. This wasn't our worst AFLW performance (arise, Collingwood in Alice Springs when Mo Hope became the first female Kingsley) but it was the most embarassing considering what happened last week.

We barely held the lead for the first seven minutes, before conceding the exact kind of goal that I crave more than anything while watching this side. A long kick to 40 metres out on an angle, the forward throws her opponent out of the way to mark and thumps a set shot goal through from distance. Even with the breeze advantage it was a ripper of a kick. Meanwhile at the other end we can't kick set shots from 20 metres out. Retain Kate Hore, sack the rest of the forward line, give us the Tex Perkins fill-in player experience we so desperately want.

Even at five points down in the last two minutes it felt like there was more chance of peace in the Middle East than winning. Sure, somebody might have shambled one through, or even converted a set shot, but it would probably have been one of the worst win in the history of this club in any grade - Fourths, Under 19s, Reserves, Men's seniors, women's seniors and the Little League.

We never got close, one kick that landed 20 metres out and was rebounded and it was over. The Saints had executed the perfect smash and grab counter attacking victory, and we'd executed the traditional shock loss to an average side that will ultimately keep us out of the finals. After only losing to good teams last year, this was a throwback to classics like GWS in season 1, Fremantle after holding them to zero inside 50s in the first quarter AND Collingwood in season 2. That's just what this club does.

Throw the tapes and our forward strategy into a fire and move on to next week. And never, ever trust a team playing in red and blue again.

2020 Daisy Pearce Medal
5 - Karen Paxman
4 - Kate Hore
3 - Elise O'Dea
2 - Maddie Gay
1 - Daisy Pearce

Apologies to Burch, Cordner, Emonson and Sherriff

Leaderboard
It's lonely at the top, and with five to play the gap is increasing. Every chance that this is renamed the Paxman/Pearce Medal in the future.

13 - Karen Paxman
9 - Kate Hore
8 - Libby Burch
5 - Maddie Gay
4 - Daisy Pearce
3 - Elise O'Dea
2 - Shelley Scott

1 - Harriet Cordner

Goal of the Week
Thank you for your hilarious observation.


A joint Pride Week banner means a DRAW, leaving us in the unusual position of one win, two draws, no losses. Next have a Forward Pride match and let's try and turn our numerous opportunities into a decent score.

Media Watch
I was hoping for a Libby Burch style sour half time interview with Cat Phillips where she denounced us for not supporting her frisbee ambitions. Sadly she was all class, resisting the urge to throw prime time hand grenades. There was obviously no animosity because Melbourne players spent the night kicking the bloody ball at her.

Meanwhile, Kelly Underwood thought Meg Downie was Meg McDonald for the whole first half. She said it so confidently I thought Meg must been got married during the week. Later Downie got a mention, but only when getting Casey Sherriff's name wrong. Would still rather hear her than Dwayne straining his O-Ring 30 seconds into the first quarter but it was not a night for the audio scrapbook.

Next Week
Another Friday night, at the unfriendly viewing time of 5.40pm. I would very much like you to be a guest reporter. If you want to take on the challenge, please get in contact via email (demonblogger AT gmail.com), Twitter (@demonblog) or just come around to my house. Otherwise I'll be providing rudimentary coverage at best.

After years of being crap, Collingwood has been half decent this year so this could go either way. If we turn up with the same forward plan as this week and again rack up a thousand inside 50s for no reward I'll gently spew up. Let's just assume we'll lose and be happy if it doesn't happen.

Final Thoughts
I'm a strong AFLW advocate but this was dreadful viewing. If we're not actively looking to recruit a cannon-legged forward like the one that got the Saints over the line then we should hand back our licence.

Friday, 14 February 2020

The rain it raineth every day

With rain fanging down from arsehole to breakfast across the Greater Melbourne statistical area, the prospect of an old school Western Oval style slopfest loomed large. Middle aged and worse men everywhere were nearly doing a tendon pre-writing forum posts about how awful it was to see women splashing about in such dire conditions. Sadly fans of dead-set carnage and seeing players slide for 20 metres trying to gather the loose ball, prospects of a quagmire fizzled out when the belting rain slackened off to a light drizzle by the opening bounce.

I watched said bounce on a 15 minute delay due to the youngest W member of my house running riot around the house. Asked if she wanted to watch the girls play footy she replied "no thank you", which was admirably polite but I think final proof that she won't be lured into following my disastrous obsession with the Melbourne Football Club via its women's side. The closest to interest was a run-in when Aliesha Newman was on screen to ask "why is that lady wearing a mask?" like she was some sort of Lucha Libre recruit and despite the fact that you could clearly see her face. I suppose when you've got two Irishwomen and an American on the same ground anything is possible.

Even though the Bulldogs didn't look convincing against St Kilda for the last three quarters I still thought they'd do us a mischief here. Apparently not, we had one of our easier wins in the 3.25 seasons of the competition. It took a while to get value for dominance kick away, but to say the Dogs never looked likely would be an understatement. For a side stacked with quality players they looked well off it.

Against all odds we kicked the first goal without first having seven inside 50s for 0.3 then conceding a goal on the break at the other end. And a bloody delightful goal it was too, with Newman running onto a loose ball inside 50 after a neat set up by the diamond duo of Pearce and Paxman, then throwing a handball to Emonson to whack it through from 40 metres on the run.

Don't know why any defending team wouldn't just plant somebody on the line and try to cut off kicks that don't go through at half post height but the Bulldogs defence was MIA. Ours, on the other hand, was carving their forwards up. When it wasn't Libby Burch stitching up her old teammates, who responded by trying to biff her at every opportunity, Daisy Pearce was tremendous across half back. If you were going to pick a female player to kick 30 metres for your life you'd have her, she is safe as houses. Over that distance I'd have her over a few of our male players too.

While there was no $cully style angst from Footscray fans for the return of Burch her old mates took up the mantle and spent the first half trying to batter her. At least in the rare times when the ball went into the forward line. They should have revved up the surprisingly good in the conditions live audience by playing her scathing half-time interview before the game. She basically said the Dogs were falling apart last season, she'd had enough, and how good it was to be at Melbourne. You know the sort of interview, the same one almost everyone who has left us in the last 10 years has done five minutes into their new career.

On-field Burch was the female version of everything you want Jake Lever or Steven May to be, blowing her opponent to bits in picking up touches left, right and centre. For the rest of the game after thinking that I was waiting for her to suffer the inevitable serious injury.

Speaking of ex-MFC players, for all the footage of Nathan Bourke going off his nut on the sideline and endless coverage of Robert Murphy as their runner I assume you were equally as shattered that Sam Blease is no longer an assistant at the Dogs. Between their last coach getting the arse and Bourke being appointed he briefly occupied the top job and I feel we're worse off for him no longer being involved. It's not to say he doesn't know footy or he wouldn't have been involved in the first place, but a man with a 100% strike rate of being pictured looking like he's just beamed down from another planet is just what an emerging league needs. In the unlikely event that we sack Stinear I'm going to start a change.org petition to hire Blease.

As the Dogs went to water more opportunities followed. Hore reverted to her 2019 goalkicking form with a miss, then the kick-in went straight to Shelley Scott who missed as well. Hore had another opportunity shortly after, and while she missed the lot from 20 metres out on a slight angle it ended up working well for us. She can claim an assist as Zanker stood up mightily after a marking contest to bring the ball to ground and allow Paxman snap the second. To be fair I was not expecting this.

Now, we all love Daisy, but even if you take out the year off it would be difficult to argue against Paxman being the greatest ever Melbourne AFLW player to this point. Both have won flags galore in the state leagues but it would be criminal if we don't have at the very least a decent bash at one while they're still going around.

More important than the goals or the ongoing deification of Paxy was the revelation that former dairy farmer Shelley Scott has returned to her career as a bovine milk extractor. Which means after a year away it's finally time to bring this back, and best of luck to anyone under 40 or over 50 understanding what's going on...


Paxman's goal was given back in a classic Stynes-esque moment of rule confusion when Goldrick was caught holding the ball then looked like nobody had told her what to do next, trying to give the ball to the umpire, and having it fall on the floor because he was already midway through pinging her for a 50. She should get a grant from the AFL and Channel 7 for helping improve scoring.

I assume they had taught her this fundamental of the game and that she just forget in the heat of the moment. Let it not detract from an otherwise excellent performance. Before that, and for the rest of the game she continued to be very good. Her kicking was better than anyone with two games total experience playing the sport could be expected to deliver (albeit with significant Gaelic experience), and she was animalistic in tackling to the point where she's a 100% certainty to get suspended before the end of the season for accidentally knocking somebody out.

It shouldn't count, but technically the penalty delivered Footscray their first inside 50. Until then they'd been unable to breach our defensive wall, and the gift goal didn't encourage them to start. After the frantic start we settled down as well, though Newman had a shot for a miracle goal from the pocket in the dying seconds and was unlikely to find a defender in the way. Good to see the Dogs taking notice of my earlier advice - in a post that had not yet been written - and getting somebody back there. It was rushed through, but let the record show clearly that from a rotten angle Newman had the ball dead on line, and if it had taken a novelty bounce and gone over the defender's head it would have been goal of the year.

The second quarter was a bit more the wet weather experience I'd been expecting, with the ball trapped in the middle of the ground, and the rare inside 50s usually falling apart when a forward was expected to mark a cake of soap over her head. In an ideal world you'd probably have taken one of the tall forwards out late and put in another small, but when we literally have two players available outside the matchday squad there's not much scope for tricky moves. We had plenty of opportunities but lacked the killer instinct in front of goal. If nothing else, all the points created a two goal lead that the Dogs looked incapable of reeling in. Still, dangerous to get complacent when you're a Melbourne supporter.

Rain began pelting down again after half-time, making it clear that one or two more goals and the game would be over. We missed a golden opportunity for the first, with an assist to wacky umpiring. Zanker was paid a free, and even though Emonson - high on life after kicking the first - played on and missed running into the open goal it was called back so Zanker could take a set shot. I assume the umpire thought that confusion over whether it was a free or not put her off, probably not his call to make. Especially at the point where she put boot to ball and risked it being a 50 if the whistle had been in the other team's favour.

Her kick had the same result as Emonson's (at least she didn't miss everything and leave us a point worse off), making it nine scoring shots to one. She missed again straight after, a quick snap from the pack wasted after another cracking run out of the midfield by Pearce. We were dominant everywhere other than the scoreboard. If we find a cannon-legged marking forward before Daisy and Paxman retire they will make her look like the female Tony Lockett.

The much-needed goal to put the game away came from an end-to-end move that ruined Kate Hore's big moment of being interviewed on Channel 7 midway through. You have to take these opportunities where you can get them, I got interviewed by Lou Richards for the Wide World of Sport in 1990 and have never been invited back since. She was mid-sentence when Casey Sherriff ran onto a long ball into space inside 50 and [insert soccer reference here]. She didn't waste her time bending down to pick the ball up in the conditions and just thumped it off the ground to extend the margin to 20. On a night where tall forwards were slim to no chance of marking overhead, finding alternative goalkickers was welcome.

Maddie Gay joined in the party straight after, taking advantage of a nervy defender falling in her back to finally sink a set shot and an unexpected thrashing was on the cards. The resulting ball-up indicated the Dogs were over it and dying it to get to three quarter time, letting us sweep straight out of the centre and into attack. Unfortunately for us, and Channel 7 who could have snuck in another ad, nothing came of it. Down the other end Burch was presumably telling her opponent, "told you so."

By reasonable community standards the game was over, now what I wanted was for Footscray to go the whole night without a score they'd earned themselves. Sadly right after expressing this opinion publicly they got their second goal. That cut the margin to 20 points, and my gender neutral MSDS kicked in. It was all a bit close for my liking. Shelley Scott should have had the reply straight away, from an arguably pox shepherding free, but continued to partially undo all her other good work with another peg legged set shot. She is excellent at getting to the ball, but in a league where goals are at a premium missing shots from inside 30 metres is death. Except in this case, when the opposition has already been throughly battered into submission. It will come back to haunt us eventually, as it has numerous times in the past.

The miss didn't matter, the clock was adequately run down (which is not hard when it never stops) and a much easier than expected victory was complete. The only downside was Ainsley Kemp joining the black death injury plague and seemingly doing her knee at the end. Via some confusion where they said she either didn't have an ACL or had one that didn't work properly anyway it looked like she's injured herself severely. One of the trainers leading her off seemed to be having a good old fashioned laugh but I assume that was just gallows humour. Shithouse news for her, maybe good for those of us who are dying to see Tex Perkins dragged off the emergency list and planted in the forward line.

Now that the good teams have been beaten we just have to avoid a fiasco against the dud sides and should be right in the finals mix. Male players, I'm not sure how much you care about this competition (and to be fair, many of them don't give a rat's arse about the AFL proper unless it impacts them directly), but if you're going to take anything from AFLW please note how opportunities are created when you knock over a pair of finals contenders to start the season.

2020 Daisy Pearce Medal Votes
5 - Karen Paxman
4 - Libby Burch
3 - Daisy Pearce
2 - Shelley Scott
1 - Maddie Gay

Major apologies to Goldrick, Hore and Lampard. Lower level apologies to many others.

Leaderboard
8 - Libby Burch, Karen Paxman
5 - Kate Hore
3 - Maddie Gay, Daisy Pearce
2 - Shelley Scott
1 - Harriet Cordner

Goal of the Day
The first one please, the set up to get it forward was delightful, Newman's hands were A+, and even though the Bulldogs players had all pushed up the ground like their team was going to kick a real goal in the first three quarters, Emonson finished it perfectly. Plenty more of that please.

Banner Watch
The Bulldogs' effort was pretty standard, only that they've given up on doing funnies now. Some would argue that they never started. Special live correspondant Jonny Foreigner (crazy name, crazy guy) got in touch to declare the Dees "squeaked" out the victory. The Dogs seem to be doing the old GWS move of using 0 instead of O, which is an additional penalty on top of the curtain.
Media Watch
No graphic required when we remind you that Jason Bennett should be exchanged for one or both of Dwayne or BT. Sorry AFLW fanatics, it's either eight games here or 22 games in the regular season so you'll just have to put up with it.

Next Week
First wind, then rain. Any chance of playing in normal conditions? Another Friday night game seemingly rules out evil heat, and we assume that the new Moorabbin won't be a sprinkler assisted slagheap, so we just might get a regulation contest unless it pisses down again. On the strength of this performance we should beat St Kilda's brains out, but if anyone's going to doing something tremendously NQR at the banana skin it's us. I don't dare try and predict team changes in AFLW but given that Cunningham is two weeks with zero goals time to unchain Tex and send Zanker further up the ground. Dees win, hopefully by a lot.

Final Thoughts
I'm not getting ahead of myself on finishing top two yet, but it's an encouraging start. Given that we scored 55-60 three times last year I'd like to see what we do on a day where it's dry and doesn't have gale force winds going north, south, east and west. That we've won in difficult conditions twice against good sides, and in dominating fashion here, is a credit to everyone involved. Now let's wallop some of the slurry and set ourselves up for a decent crack at this competition.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Back from the dread

After three seasons of dragging AFLW season out until the last round before missing the finals, my confidence of keeping things interesting that long in 2020 was extremely low. Even before a black death style injury crisis cut a swathe through the list and the decidedly handy Bianca Jakobsson quit to become a rozzer I thought the abusive way Adelaide finished us off last year was the metaphorical slamming shut of the premiership window.

It's not that we haven't negotiated the rapid expansion of the competition to get to season four with a core of very good players, it's just that the more teams they jam into the competition the more unlikely it feels that we'll Bradbury our way through and snatch one. In the first couple of years I could have seen us winning one in our own right, now it would feel lucky. I'd still take it. Maybe this is the year for us to qualify - at the very least - for a final. Or this was just a surprise mugging off a good team and things will never get any better. Stay tuned to the next seven weeks (plus?) of our award winning AFLW coverage to find out.

Given the injury problems in our best 22 - Kat Smith gorn for the whole season, Lauren Pearce and Lily Mithen out for three weeks - it felt like a set up playing top of the table fancy North in the opener. The veil of gender non-specific negativity was not lifted by the opening minutes. I'm used to us dominating the opening of women's games and not making it count on the scoreboard, this time North did both.

My concerns were not lifted when we conceded the first goal via the ordinary scenario of an Irishwoman who'd never played a game before picking the ball up just far enough away from goal that she couldn't casually rush it and desperately struggling to drag a tackler over the line from metres out, ending in the inevitable free kick. Goldrick (whose name evokes fond memories of early 90s Crystal Palace winger Eddie McGoldrick) wasn't bad after that, but you can teach people to football all you like, finding yourself in traffic with people coming to grab you from every angle will take a bit more than one pre-season.

We had an opportunity at the response when we finally extracted the ball from North's forward 50 and got forward for the sort of kick to a key position play that the men should do more of. She took a strong chest mark, perfectly defending the drop of the ball and not letting the defender get an arm in, but if you've ever watched our AFLW side play you'll know exactly what happened next. Even without a howling breeze flapping her jumping about like a flag she'd be less than a 50/50 chance from that position, and thanks to the conditions it went *FLOMP* off her boot, didn't travel more than about 20 metres as it held up, starting like it was going out on the full before swinging back towards goal and dropping short for no score.

The most Melbourne-esque part of that miss was it setting the table for the Roos to kick a goal of their own, aided by a 50 that took them to the line and made certain of it. In a low scoring competition where teams play games on ridiculous suburban grounds that have hurricane force winds mysteriously blowing in all directions, every shot you can get from point blank, unmissable under any circumstances, even I could kick it, distance is gold.

When another 50 set up a shot at their third goal later in the term we were in disarray. The kick fell short and didn't cause any issues, but it did ensure we'd end the quarter scoreless. That was one goal in five quarters at Fortress Casey dating back to the Adelaide debacle. I don't think it will affect our long-term relationship with the region to admit that I despise that ground. Shame the proposed southern suburbs A-League didn't get up, they'd have used it over summer while waiting for their real stadium to be built and we could play somewhere better.

Now there's government money in the place (including an awkwardly added fake MFC scarf) so we're never getting out. Spend some of the money building freeway style barriers around the outside to dampen down the conditions a bit. Personally, I'd build a roof on every ground in the country and make it an indoor sport but I'm aware that's out of line with community views.

Having had more than enough of watching sides called Melbourne lose last year, I wasn't looking forward to the rest of this. And as we continued to launch suicidal runs through fierce North tackles in an assault on the Australian rules football record for being caught holding the ball it didn't look like getting any better. We finally got a goal back via a crashing tackle of our own, with Kate Hore pinning Random North Defender in a vice-like grip.

With her ponytail helpfully blowing from side-to-side so you knew there was a prick of a wind about I could have forgiven a miss, especially as Hore had 1.7 last year, but wouldn't you know it she slammed it straight through. Glory be.

That was our second life, but I've never found a Melbourne Football Club game yet that I didn't think we were going to lose. I still expected to concede nine goals to nil in the third term then have the wind swing about and cost us another nine in the last.

Our chances of victory seemingly diminished further when Eden Zanker - the prototype of an AFLW player who would get very good, very quickly until a full-time program - first did a ripping fend-off, then was bumped into oblivion and went off with a shoulder injury. Given that our senior list has already been reduced to such bare bones that we've got VFLW players on standby in case we can't field a team, this was not a good thing.

Next thing you knew Zanker returned from the grave and setting up the goal that put us ahead at half time, in what was probably the first time a serious injury has turned out to be harmless since Max Gawn's knee in the last round of 2014. I don't know if she meant to have a shot, so let's pretend the kick rolled across the face of goal from the pocket that sat up perfectly for Hore to stuff home her second was deliberate and laud her as a genius.

The wind was obviously a factor, despite total confusion in the commentary box about which direction it was going in (answer: north, south, east and west), but it didn't explain North looking as helpless in the second quarter as we did in the first.

It made no sense, North looked just as helpless in that quarter as we did in the first. Not that anyone who's watched the Melbourne men play for all but one year of the last decade can take the moral highground, but the twin tipping points for AFLW will be coast-to-coast ball movement and more than a handful of forwards with cannon legs who can easily kick 40+ metres.

For standard fanatics and men who hold strange obsessions about having things shoved down their throat, there wasn't much to say for the quality. It's arguably no better than the first season, but that's no bloody wonder when they've introduced six new teams in two seasons. Does it really matter? Probably not. Don't be the middle aged male whinging like you're owed spectacle when it's not for you and you're not being forced to watch. If you don't like it switch over to whatever episode of NCIS they're playing this hour on 10 Bold and we'll all be happy.

Wacky multi-directional winds didn't help the spectacle, but they didn't help North, who beat brave but outmatched emergency ruck Harriet Cordner and instantly swept the ball into the forward line, where it didn't leave until they kicked a goal.

Via more excursions into North's attack, all turned back via toil and struggle, we got the ball down our end, with Hore setting up another opportunity for Cunningham. In a carbon copy of her first mark she never gave the defender a chance to spoil. It ended the same way too, but in this case she was a touch unlucky. With the posts wobbling to and fro during her run-up she tried to start the ball left, only for the breeze to give up at that very minute and leave the ball sailing straight as an arrow for a behind.

Then a strong tackle in the pocket by 'I before E except after C' advocate Aliesha Newman set up another opportunity. She was stooged in the opposite fashion, trying to gingerly steer it through only for Cyclone Cranbourne to pick up mid-flight, hooking a once accurate kick violently to the left and registering no score. Those missed opportunities left us chasing a five point deficit in the last quarter. Given that all the scoring had been to the left of the screen the odds were in our favour, but I'm still recovering from not running North down in Hobart in 2017 so was not ready to trust just yet. Also, 30 years of losing to North by less than a goal.

I don't know about their decision to stick a player behind the ball and try to stack the backline right from the start. It's sensible to try and defend into the wind, but trying to hold a lead of under a goal for 15 minutes in a league where you're as likely to kick a scrambling goal from the square as one from a towering mark 40 metres from goal seemed a bit optimistic. It was also incompatible with the same coach telling players two minutes earlier to go out and win the game off their own boot. But - and usually when people say this they're being sarcastic but in this case it's true - what do I know?

What Mr. North coach (and it's a bit weird that all the coaches seem to be Mr) didn't count on was his defenders parting like the Red Sea at the first opportunity and allowing ex-dairy farmer Shelley Scott to mark. In the grandest tradition of the MFCW she kicked it out on the full, but it wasn't a day or venue for long distance assaults on goal. What we needed was a gift goal from a 50, but what we got at last was a clean transition out of defence that ended in a player - Robo Shoulder Zanker - running into an open goal.

The sealer might have come not long after that, when a kick into an open 50 with two forwards running towards it was pulled back for a free in the middle. I suppose you can't pay advantage just because the ball might go in a side's favour but it probably cost us a goal. There were more chances, and the clearly rattled North defenders started to give away free kicks left, right and centre, but the killer blow was absent.

What all the missed shots did was keep the ball at our end with the clock rapidly ticking down. It reached the last minute before North even got to half way again, running into a wall of defenders ably led by ex-Bulldog Libby Burch, who was safe as houses all day.

There was one moment of old fashioned Melbourne vs North style terror when they burst out of defence with 45 seconds left, but we held firm. Also got an assist from an umpire allowing a pack of players to madly scramble for the ball for a good 10 seconds without calling for a bounce, making absolutely sure we'd win. Certainly didn't see that coming, but when you're a Melbourne fan of any variety - even AFLX - you take wins under any circumstance in case it's the last you ever see. As long as we don't do anything stupid like lose to the expansion clubs we should be in the mix at the end of the year.

And now, the only competition in football where a player gets to compete for their own medal...

Daisy Pearce Medal for Player of the Year
5 - Kate Hore
4 - Libby Burch
3 - Karen Paxman
2 - Maddie Gay
1 - Harriet Cordner

Apologies to Downie, Emonson, O'Dea, Pearce, Scott and Zanker.

Goal of the Year
Don't care if it wasn't intended, the soccer-esque cross by Zanker to Hore provided an appealing visual spectacle, and moves onto the second round with the lead.

Media Watch
Donating to charity is a *checks notes* good thing, but Channel 7 are a bit optimistic in thinking people are going to scan a QR code on the screen. What would have looked futuristic 10 years ago is now less QR and more NQR. We're not opening bullshit scanning apps, just spend $19.99 and create a simple .com.au and we'll type it into our internet connected device.

Meanwhile, I'm told Dwayne is going to be on the Foxtel coverage at some stage this season. On one hand, dear god no. On the other, a good chance to bring back this classic.



You just know he's going to earnestly over-compensate and treat a game at Hickey Park like the 1989 Grand Final.



The gale force winds of Casey Fields did their finest work, tearing the banners of both sides apart like they'd been peppered with artillery fire. I presume ours featured some clever gag about Daisy's return, but even I'm not corrupt enough to declare a winner based on tattered red and blue streamers looking nicer. DRAW and 0-0 for the season.

Next Week
Beat the Bulldogs away on Friday night and 2020 is most certainly ON. After that come the very beatable St Kilda, Collingwood and West Coast so this win has put us in a tremendous position, even if we lose next week not all is lost. I'm writing this before the Dogs play the ultimate frisbee Cat Phillips powered Saints tomorrow, but am assuming they'll comfortably thrash them and we won't learn anything about next week. It's winnable, but if you held me out of an upstairs window by my ankles I'd still admit that I think the Dogs will win.

Final Thoughts
It was far from convincing but given that it was a) played with Lauren Pearce or Lily Mithen, and b) took place in conditions not conducive to football of any variety I'll gladly take it. Doesn't give me any confidence in winning the flag but it's a start.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Demonbracket 2020 - your full voting guide

Rules

  • 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. Vote shamers will be denounced.
  • 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". 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.
  • Any players left on social media may vote for themselves as long as they also vote in the other matchups of the day
  • 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 be conducted in an open format via Twitter, BigFooty, Demonland and Facebook. If you're intensely private or hate social media you can email votes daily via demonblogger AT gmail.com and I'll add you to the list of email voters.
  • The decision of the Demonbracket Organising Committee is final. Unless somebody takes us to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lucerne.
(Revised tournament schedule
Friday 24 January - Live draw from 18:00 AEDST
Monday 27 January - Preliminary Round/Round 1, part 1
Tuesday 28 January - Preliminary Round/Round 1, part 2
Wednesday 29 January - Round 1, part 3
Thursday 30 January - Round 2, part 1
Monday 3 February - Round 2, part 2
Tuesday 4 February - Round 3, part 1
Wednesday 5 February - Round 3, part 2
Thursday 6 February - Quarter Final
Friday 7 February - Semi Final
Saturday 8 to Monday 10 February - Grand Final day(s)

Preliminary Round

Adam Tomlinson d. Austin Bradtke 94-27
Ed Langdon d. Trent Rivers 94-27
Toby Bedford d. Aaron Nietschke 92-29
Kysaiah Pickett d. Mitch Brown 120-8
Luke Jackson d. James Jordon 108-20

Round 1

Ed Langdon d. Braydon Preuss 84-41
Joel Smith d. Toby Bedford 102-23
Oskar Baker d. Corey Wagner 101-20
Marty Hore d. Kysaiah Pickett 64-61
Harrison Petty d. Kyle Dunkley 92-36

Tom Sparrow d. Kade Kolodjashnij 80-48
Jay Lockhart d. Charlie Spargo 93-35
Jake Lever d. Adam Tomlinson 115-10
Sam Weideman d. Luke Jackson 83-42
Steven May d. Kade Chandler 109-12

Round 2

4. James Harmes d. Alex Neal-Bullen 126-7
Neville Jetta d. Aaron vandenBerg 112-28
Nathan Jones d. Joel Smith 111-22
8. Angus Brayshaw d. Oscar McDonald 124-16

6. Bayley Fritsch d. Jayden Hunt 106-46
Sam Weideman d. Michael Hibberd 68-65
Marty Hore d. Harrison Petty 94-39
Tom McDonald d. Mitch Hannan 126-14
Jake Lever d. Tom Sparrow 128-12

7. Christian Salem d. Oskar Baker 146-6
Jake Melksham d. Steven May 104-48
Jay Lockhart d. Josh Wagner 130-22
5. Christian Petracca d. Ed Langdon 112-28

Round 3

1. Clayton Oliver d. Nathan Jones 120-20
Neville Jetta d. 8. Angus Brayshaw 99-38
6. Bayley Fritsch d. Jake Lever 83-57
4. James Harmes d. Jake Melksham 79-58

3. Jack Viney d. Sam Weideman 102-35
5. Christian Petracca d. Tom McDonald 84-56
7. Christian Salem d. Jay Lockhart 131-9
2. Max Gawn d. Marty Hore 134-3

Quarter Final

1. Clayton Oliver d. Neville Jetta 102-45
4. James Harmes d. 6. Bayley Fritsch 103-44
5. Christian Petracca d. 3. Jack Viney 114-33
2. Max Gawn d. 7. Christian Salem 125-22

Semi Final

1. Clayton Oliver d. 4. James Harmes 99-43
2. Max Gawn d. 5. Christian Petracca 101-41

Final

2. Max Gawn d. 1. Clayton Oliver 160-48

Friday, 10 January 2020

Demonbracket 2020 preview

It's the most wonderful time of the year, when we invite you to make a judgement about which Melbourne player you prefer, based on whatever arbitrary criteria is most important to you.

It's the only democratic institution that you can still have faith in. It's Demonbracket. And the ninth edition of football's original grand slam kicks off on Monday 27 January.

Rules

  • 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. Vote shamers will be denounced.
  • 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.
  • Any players left on social media may vote for themselves as long as they also vote in the other matchups of the day
  • 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 be conducted in an open format via Twitter, BigFooty, Demonland and Facebook. If you're intensely private or hate social media you can email votes daily via demonblogger AT gmail.com and I'll add you to the list of email voters.
  • Harley Bennell is a preliminary entrant. If he isn't an officially listed Melbourne player by Friday 24 January he will be ineligible to participate
  • The decision of the Demonbracket Organising Committee is final. Unless somebody takes us to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lucerne.
Tournament schedule
Friday 24 January - Live draw from 18:00 AEDST
Monday 27 January - Preliminary Round/Round 1, part 1
Tuesday 28 January - Preliminary Round/Round 1, part 2
Wednesday 29 January - Round 1, part 3
Thursday 30 January - Round 2, part 1
Friday 31 January - Round 2, part 2
Monday 3 February - Round 2, part 3
Tuesday 4 February - Round 2, part 4
Wednesday 5 February - Round 3, part 1
Thursday 6 February - Round 3, part 2
Friday 7 February - Quarter Final day
Monday 10 February - Semi Final day
Tuesday 11 February - Grand Final day

Honour Roll
Nathan Jones remains the only two time winner, but all three of the top seeds are looking for their second title so this could be the year for another multiple winner.

2012 - James Frawley d. Nathan Jones
2013 - Tom McDonald d. Mitch Clark
2014 - Nathan Jones d. Jack Watts
2015 - Nathan Jones [2] 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

Seeded to Round 3
1. Clayton Oliver (reigning champion/best and fairest winner)
2. Max Gawn (best and fairest winner)
3. Jack Viney (next higher best and fairest finisher)

Seeded to Round 2 (next five highest best and fairest finishers)
4. James Harmes
5. Christian Petracca
6. Bayley Fritsch
7. Christian Salem
8. Angus Brayshaw

Enter at Round 2 (next 11 most total MFC games)
9. Nathan Jones
10. Tom McDonald
11. Neville Jetta
12. Oscar McDonald
13. Alex Neal-Bullen
14. Jayden Hunt
15. Michael Hibberd
16. Jake Melksham
17. Mitch Hannan
18. Josh Wagner
19. Aaron vandenBerg

Enter at Round 1 (remainder of MFC senior players)
20. Sam Weideman
21. Charlie Spargo
22. Jake Lever
23. Marty Hore
24. Jay Lockhart
25. Corey Wagner
26. Joel Smith
27. Harrison Petty
28. Oskar Baker
29. Steven May
30. Braydon Preuss
31. Kyle Dunkley
32. Tom Sparrow
33. Kade Kolodjashnij
34. Kade Chandler

Preliminary Round (new draftees, trades, and next lowest games total)
35. Ed Langdon
36. Adam Tomlinson
37. James Jordon
38. Toby Bedford
39. Austin Bradtke
40. Aaron Nietschke
41. Luke Jackson
42. Kysaih Pickett
43. Trent Rivers
44. Mitch Brown
45. Harley Bennell (if signed by Friday January 24)

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Demonblog's top 50 wins of the decade

We sent the Demonblog staff on a three day retreat to a desert island in the South Pacific and asked them to come up with their agreed list of 50 favourite wins from 2010 - 2019. This is what they came up with. In unrelated news, Melbourne has sold two home games a year to the island. Thanks for the almighty Melbourne Footy YouTube channel for the majority of the video evidence.

50. Round 15, 2010 vs Essendon (+19)
In an awful field, 2010 was probably our third best season of the decade behind 2018 and 2017 (tragic ending notwithstanding), but by this stage things were threatening to blow up. The three memorable wins earlier in the year were long forgotten, followed by a one point win, seven losses, and the Queen's Birthday draw. Nearly three seasons into the job Dean Bailey was under real pressure for the first time and got a much needed victory here.

The margin flattered them considering we were 32 points up and they gave away about five goals from 50 metre penalties, but I'll never forget Jamar finally having more than five kicks in a game, a measurement that nobody except me gave a rat's about. Also, forgotten until I watched this highlights video was the colossal defensive fuckup that gifted Green a goal.



49. Round 19, 2012 vs Gold Coast (+42)
Rewatch the rampant first quarter where we kicked six goals to nil, don't waste your time with the rest. One year to the round after the horror of 186, it didn't matter that the Suns were still kids and broken down veterans, after two years of teams teeing off on us without resistance the opportunity to pummel somebody else was most welcome. Even the guy in front who wouldn't stop turning around for a chat during the first quarter rampage couldn't ruin it. Like an album with one great track there was nothing else to do it, we only won the last three quarters by two points.

I ended in sitting in the AFL Members for the second half because the crowd was too slender for them to protect the door. Also memorable as the last appearances of Jordan Gysberts and Cale Morton, tying together the career of two highly ranked draftees who were Melbourned to within an inch of their lives.

48. Round 1, 2016 vs GWS (+2)
Not the greatest win in quality, but an important opening round statement against an up and coming side. I was very keen on a) coming back from 21 points down at the last change, b) Clayton Oliver being nominated for the Rising Star on debut, and c) Tomas Bugg wearing a weird jacket in the rooms after. Did not like a) being 21 points down to begin with, b) Giving up a goal with nine seconds left, then nearly conceding another one to lose. With an Essendon side decimated by drug scandal suspensions to come the following week we were a near certainty to start 0-2 and... oh fuck it.

47. Round 9, 2014 vs Richmond (+17)
There's a lot of Richmond in this list, because for a long time they and Essendon were the only Victorian teams we were competitive against. How rude that they went on to win two flags and become a dominant force while we're still splashing around at the shallow end. For now this was an enjoyable victory. We played one slashing quarter, then withstood a comeback to win comfortably, beating our win total from the previous season in just over two months. Neville Jetta was a late withdrawal with the green apple splatters.

Roos already had two wins in the first eight weeks, but this was the win that made you wonder if the rebuild was going to happen sooner than expected. It didn't, but how was I supposed to know that at the time.

46. Round 7, 2019 vs Hawthorn (+5)
A rotten season means this result ultimately meant stuff all, and we might have only won because a Hawthorn player dropped a mark inside the forward 50, but nonetheless it was exciting at the time. Ended with Sam Frost doing an turbo speed, escaped greyhound clearance that convinced the Hawks to buy him at the end of the year, and Christian Petracca bouncing back from nearly being drowned at a training session to play a key role in saving the game. Also featured the worst unpaid 50 metre penalty in all of football history. Hope was temporarily, and mistakenly, restored that we might catch fire and romp through the rest of 2019.

45. Round 4, 2011 vs Gold Coast (+90)
After our (relatively) great leap forward in 2010 I went into the new season with great expectations, only to start with a draw, a loss and an unconvincing win. After beating one Queensland team we confirmed that there was a whole state worse at football than us by thumping the competition's newest entrant, but hardly by the earth shattering margin required to put us on the map.

Even in the week some talkback nuisance caller accussed Brent Moloney of taking a piss on a bar I was as convinced as I'll ever be that we couldn't lose, but as the Suns had lost their first two games by 119 and 71 points I wanted to get involved in the big wins as well. Indeed we did thump them, but having travelled to see this live I left sour like a spoiled child thinking we'd underperformed. We had, but even if the margin was only boosted by an eight goal to one final term against a bunch of kids and an out of his depth rugby leaguist it wasn't all that bad. Certainly better than the next seven years of interstate trips.

Strangely enough Gold Coast won their first game the next week, then conceded 15 goals in the first quarter after that. I guess we landed in the middle somewhere. Even stranger, it was the first of our three +85 points wins for the year and we still ended it in near fatal crisis.

44. Round 17, 2018 vs Footscray (+50)
Having already humbled the Dogs once at Docklands, we did it at home as well. This was a massive danger game on the road to finals and we came out of it alive courtesy of a slashing third quarter, kicking eight goals in 12 minutes in the sort of exhibition you'd package up and send to internationals if you were really keen on introducing them to the game. Instead they get AFLX, which I can assure you will not feature in the next 46 entries.

43. Round 8, 2017 vs Adelaide (+41)
Adelaide hadn't held many fears for us since the shutters mercifully came down on Football Park, now we added a rattling comeback to our South Australian portfolio. From a near death position we not only passed the Crows but stuck two fingers up at them on the way past, and it looked for the first time like we might be a realistic shot at playing finals.

A disastrous second quarter left us five goals down, before Tom McSizzle was thrown forward because he was doing bugger all in defence, sparked us with two goals, and discovered the role that landed him a hefty payrise a year later. The game loses some points on the "why did you get into such a big hole to start with?" rule, but is still worthy of a mention for the 12 goal to two second half. Locals still blaming umpires by the final siren.

42. Round 23, 2015 vs GWS (+26)
A nothing game watched by almost nobody, but the end of one of the worst runs in a single stadium ever recorded. Finally, after over eight years we won at Docklands, and having seen almost all of them this meant a lot to me. The quality of football was toilet, Jeremy Howe was only playing to get him to 100 games for future father/son purposes, and Daniel Cross almost killed himself in his last game falling head first on a concrete surface, but not only did we win at the cursed ground but for the first time in years ended the season on a high. So few people took notice that when we won our next start at Docklands it was widely referred to as the droughtbreaker.

41. Round 4, 2015 vs Richmond (+32)
The first Anzac Day eve game, where Jesse Hogan made Alex Rance look like Tom Gillies and we held them to one goal in the last three quarters. Rance bounced back reasonably successfully, Hogan continues to have the worst luck since Lee Walker's knees.

40. Round 11, 2018 vs Footscray (+49)
This Dogs were well off premiership form, but I still appreciated celebrating Nathan Jones' 250th by touching them up. Shame we had to concede the first three goals and Jake Lever's ACL but all's well that ends well.

Meanwhile, at this point how many flags did you think we'd win in a row?



39. Round 1, 2015 vs Gold Coast (+26)
Gold Coast is the interstate Richmond, appearing on this list far too often because they were one of the few teams we consistently beat in our worst years. Sadly, when the reverse list of the worst 50 losses comes out they'll feature prominently there too. The Suns peaked in 2014, and were within striking distance of the finals a few weeks out, so rumbling them in the opening round with seven new players was a welcome reminder - after losing the last 10 of 2014 - that there was some life in this team yet. Also involved one of many false starts for Jack Watts.

38. Round 20, 2018 vs Gold Coast (+96)
The opposition was as useless as tits on a bull, but it was still a much needed reminder of our attacking power as we battled to qualify for the finals. At nine goals to one in front at quarter time it should have been a massacre for the ages, and even though we narrowly missed the ton on a kick after the siren, it was still an impressive shellacking. You don't often see 99% of the people in a stadium having genuine fun, but when we were 75 points up in the second quarter the whole place had the collective horn. Should have challenged the record 141 point win from 1926, but was still a vital reminder that we could score heavily given the right circumstances - namely shithouse opposition.

37. Round 21, 2016 vs Port Adelaide (+40)
After a narrow, fall over the line win against Gold Coast, and a much better received drought-breaker against Hawthorn, we were still an outside chance of catching a free-falling North Melbourne for eighth with three to play. First task was to win in Adelaide, and that we did in style, going six goals up at half time, surviving a third quarter comeback and kicking away to win easily. Buggered it all up against a lowly Carlton the next week.

36. Round 18, 2010 vs Brisbane (+10)
Another late season game that had major implications on slim finals chances, and another time where the win ultimately meant BUGGER ALL because we weren't good enough. In the case of 2010 we'd done all the damage to ourselves by dropping off in the middle of the year. It was good at the time though, providing that the morale-boosting win over them earlier in the season was no fluke. The Lions had gone from top of the ladder the first time around to the bottom but it still took all sorts of work to get rid of them. Dunn was gifted a stupid 50 and kicked the winning goal and I resisted the temptation to throw my couch off the balcony.

35. Round 14, 2011 vs Richmond (+27)
More Richmond, from the day we beat them to officially become the competition's Next Big Thing. Featured both sides of the Jack Watts equation, giving away a stupid free, then making up for it with a crucial goal that made you want to die screaming in a ditch for him. He was more good than bad, and I still miss him every day, caring not an ounce that he didn't have the training ethnic of Milo of Croton.

Victory left us in a fantastic position to make the eight, if not for a follow up match against the doomsday combination of Docklands and St Kilda.



34. Round 8, 2015 vs Footscray (+39)
A much welcome return from the dead after losing to Hawthorn by 105 points the previous week. Also memorable for Hogan hanging shit on Tom Boyd, shortly before Goldenballs pocketed a couple of a million, a flag, and got out of the professional game before it destroyed his body. Four match points to Melbourne, four life points to Tom.

33. Round 4, 2013 vs GWS (+41)
The ultimate in "you wouldn't need to launch a comeback if you weren't so far behind", as Mark Neeld went within a quarter of being lynched before his team - usually tedious battlers - took advantage of the wearying Giants to boot the highest score any Melbourne side has ever recorded in a final quarter.

The rest of the game - and season - was so awful that it probably doesn't deserve such a lofty position on the countdown, but that insane last quarter is very dear to my heart. Especially when Maximum kicked a goal straight into the head of some poon wearing a GWS comedy wig. All 1625 people to have viewed this three second video are blessed:


Later that year we were lucky to kick 12 goals in a month.

32. Round 5, 2016 vs Richmond (+33)
Them again, this time in the best of the Anzac Eve games. Back when Richmond was a basketcase. This had it all, including Tom Bugg gleefully starting fights, then shhhhing the Tiges cheersquad after a goal (they may have had the last laugh), Garlett kicking one of those pearler goals he did all the time at the start, and Watts' teammates steaming in to protect him with murderous intent after he was whacked about the head. I think about this night regularly, especially the Richmond fans ringing Finey's Final Siren fanging to sack a now two time premiership coach.



31. Round 8, 2019 vs Gold Coast (+1)
Like the GWS comeback six years earlier, this suffers from feeling like we should never have been in that position to start with, but how can you say no to such a wacky finish. Neither team was any good, but we'd battled to a lead deep in the last quarter when we cracked like an egg and let them go ahead by six with a minut left, causing me to kick shit out of a desk in frustration.

Then, in a scenario that scientists are still debating, defender Marty Hore snuck forward to tie the scores with an absolute Howitzer from 50 metres out. I'd probably have taken a draw, but the Suns midfield went missing and allowed us to forward again in the dying seconds. McDonald dropped a mark right in front of goal, but recovered to toe poke it onto the post for the winning point with seconds left. Undeserved but welcomed.

30. Round 4, 2016 vs Collingwood (+35)
Pies fans would have crucified Buckley after this if he was anyone else, but for us it was another vital step forward towards respectability. Not only was it a relatively big scalp early in the season, but there was much personal satisfaction from watching with a mouthy Pies fans. There's a trend in this list of games where we thought Watts was going to blossom into a superstar, I think the problem is he did that more in the 70 games we did win than the 770 we lost.

Also famous for Sam Frost kidnapping the ball for a rare goal. Insert dated reference about a Channel 9 camera crew in Lebanon


29. Round 1, 2017 vs St Kilda (+30)
Played in equatorial conditions under the Docklands roof at the tail end of summer, it looked like more of the same for this dreadful outfit when we were four goals down in the second quarter. Then out of nowhere came a free-wheeling comeback that landed us five goals up 10 minutes into the third. It didn't get any better than that, and Joel Smith's debut was ruined by stacking it in a marking contest, but after dropping a giant turd in the opening round against the Saints at the same venue the last time we debuted a coach, Goodwin's entrance was much more successful.

28. Round 4, 2014 vs Carlton (+23)
After 12 losses in a row dating back to mid-2013, the first win under Roos, and our first against Carlton since they threw the Kruezer Kup was obviously well received. Even better that it plunged the Malthouse era Blues into crisis. Ended with a tremendous Cameron Pedersen goal from the boundary line that nearly finished with me running into the shots of the nutters having their wedding photos taken in the Ponsford mid-last quarter.



27. Round 13, 2017 vs Footscray (+57)
I'm fantastically jealous of how the Bulldogs came from nowhere to nick a flag, and even though they'd gone back to the middle of the table team they'd started September 2016 as it was still extremely satisfying to carve them up here. In the aftermath a supporter who'd just waited up to 53 years to see their club play in a Grand Final called to say she was so disgusted that she stormed out of a match before the end "for the first time ever". Try some bloody perspective.

26. Round 23, 2018 vs GWS (+45)
We'd already qualified for the finals (yes, really), next step was to ensure we played a home Elimination Final instead of going to Sydney for another game against the Giants. Without this win we don't get the first bananas finals crowd, and while GWS basically couldn't give a rats, we still had to avoid a post-qualification comedown. That we did, playing with the freedom of a team with nothing to lose except a home final. Everyone came out of it satisfied except Dean Kent, knocked out of the finals team with a crocked shoulder and never to be seen again.

25. Round 4, 2010 vs Richmond (+55)
Funny what happens when you start trying to win again. In our last start against the Tigers we did our best to lose and could still only go down to a goal after the siren, now unencumbered by draft rorts we tortured them to the tune of nine goals. It was one of those days where Colin Sylvia played a game that made you think he was going to win 12 Brownlows, kicking five. We got eight goals in the first quarter, the best of which involved the much missed Ricky Petterd flinging himself a loose ball in the pocket like Wayne Harmes and batting the ball back to Matthew Bate.



Naturally we followed this by a goalless second quarter, but the second half was an enjoyable procession that set up a better win the next week. No finals though.

24. Round 8, 2018 vs Gold Coast (+69)
After a few weeks of scoring at a Roos 2014 level we'd started to wind up a fortnight earlier with 108 points against Essendon, but this kicked off three mega scores in a row. For slightly less than a month we were quite frankly abusive to anyone who got in our way, and it was wonderful. "It's only Gold Coast" they said, "far cough" I replied.

23. Round 11, 2011 vs Essendon (+33)
For the second year in a row Bailey entered a game against Essendon one loss away from being plunged into crisis. I'd already tried to sack him five weeks earlier, now we were one win from our last five and sliding down the ladder like a waterslide. For a rare Friday night game the coach rolled the dice on debuts for Gawn and Howe, and saw his side recover from a 10 point deficit in the second quarter to kick six unanswered goals in a blistering third term.

A half-strength comeback twice got the Bombers to within three goals, before a triumphant burst of three goals at the end made it safe. Bails punched the roof of the box and the exploding water droplets briefly looked like shattered glass, Watts took a screamer, Gawn missed a goal from the square and we were temporarily back in action before losing our next start by 88.

22. Round 9, 2010 vs Port Adelaide (+1)
We'd been in reasonable form, but after losing 13 games in a row outside of Victoria, the odds were against us breaking the drought in sweaty Darwin. After hiding in a meat locker during the breaks we shot away in the third quarter, and were 33 points up at the last break. All good if both teams faded, but Port ran it out while our lot were searching for oxygen.

By the last quarter lone ruckman Jamar was so stuffed we had to resort to Sylvia as a centre bounce ruckman, which went about as well as you'd expect. Somehow we held on in the face of eight last quarter goals. Jack Trengove whacked a point through to put us in front, we still nearly lost, and Russian was so rooted by the end that he had to conduct his post-match interview on the ground. To nobody's surprise we lost by nine goals the next week, kicking off a lucrative but usually troublesome relationship with the Northern Territory.

21. Round 7, 2016 vs Gold Coast (+76)
When people get upset about Simon Goodwin they like to pretend that the Roos era was a non-stop cavalcade of fun and frivolity from day one, when in reality we were as boring as batshit for most of his term. Part of this was out of necessity considering he took over a side that usually haemorrhaged goals. The shackles finally came off in his last season, and this was a grand example of what we could do.

We'd already scored 130 points twice in the first six weeks, but this was the first time we visibly bullied a team. All the action came after half time, where after eight goals each in the first two quarters we went boonta, piling on 16 to six after the break. There's plenty of similarities between this performance and the attacking juggernaut we (briefly) unleashed on the competition two years later.
James Harmes played like Gary Ablett on Gary Ablett, I got so excited during the third quarter that II did a lap of celebration around the house, 12 players kicked goals and life was good until we went back to losing the next week.

20. Round 13, 2012 vs GWS (+78)
If winning our first game against Gold Coast by 90 points was unconvincing, this was arguably an even worse performance, but it ranks highly due to the comedy value of the original and best anti-$cully Carnival of Hate. Never before, or since, have football fans protested with such a high degree of comedy and wit.

While this guy became a Gimmick Hall of Fame legend...



... some dickhead sat in the crowd wearing a Mexican wrestling mask, which had no clear link to the protest, leading to a rare moment of silence from Channel 7 commentators as the camera cut to him and they didn't know what to say.

19. Round 18, 2015 vs Collingwood (+37)
By late 2015 we were no longer a confirmed wreck, and had taken a massive scalp at Kardinia Park a few weeks earlier, but were wobbling all over the place late in the year. When late goals in the third quarter cut our lead to eight and half the players looked like they were about to die it seemed that we were going to be steamrolled by the finals chasing Pies. This was the day we were introduced to 120 minute man Max Gawn, who went into the last break sucking so much oxygen the first three rows passed out but emerged unscathed to play a pivotal role in the final term.

18. Round 12, 2016 vs Collingwood (+46)
Double your Collingwood with the day where we finally threw the Queen's Birthday shackles off after nine years without a win. And in some style too. You'd have preferred a larger margin but beggars can't be choosers. After conceding a two quarter time lead the unusual scenario of Tom Bugg tagging Steele Sidebottom into the ground helped inspire a comeback that left us 22 up at the half. In his second game back from a year and a half off, Jack Trengove kicked a goal that brought the house down, we cartwheeled away to an easy victory. Finally an enjoyable public holiday Monday.

Best on ground in all senses was Max Gawn. He kicked three, annoyed an overly sensitive chrome dome, and when presented with a trophy flexed it like a dumbbell.



17. Round 20, 2016 vs Hawthorn (+29)
We reached the last month of the season a way outside chance of making the eight, but with a triple premiership side that we hadn't beat since time immemorial in the way it seemed highly likely that our improbable run was going to end here. After all, we'd been lucky to beat Gold Coast a week earlier in a victory so unconvincing that it didn't even qualify for this list, so what chance the top of the ladder Hawks? Unusually plenty chance. We led at every change, never looked in serious trouble, and had the Viney/Gawn combination playing like they'd been kissed on the dick by god himself.

In 2007 we lost to them in a pre-season game that saw them pass us at warp speed on the way to becoming one of the great units while we spun into a uncontrollable death spiral. I really did hope that this was going to be the return leg, but while they've never seriously contended for a flag since neither have we. Still a monumental last quarter when we took off and left them in our dust.

16. Round 13, 2014 vs Essendon (+1)
Something of a false alarm considering we lost every other game for the rest of the year but forget that for now. Also ignore a dreadful first quarter where the Bombers continually teed off on us but lacked the attacking power to put up an unbeatable score. With James Frawley doing his limited best at full forward a comeback from 33 down early in the third quarter seemed unlikely. I bet some walked out at that stage and missed all the fun. Even four of the next five goals only cut the gap to 22 and you'd still have got long odds against us winning.

Somehow we kicked four straight to take an eight point lead midway through the last. The only problem was that we'd accelerated the comeback so much that it left us with 10 odd minutes to defend. Cue the Bombers kicking two in 90 seconds to take the lead, then only narrowly being denied the sealer from the next bounce when Lynden Dunn - who played a monster game in defence that left him typecast as a backman for the rest of his career - narrowly got a hand to it on the line.

With time almost out the ball was still deep in their backline, before a passage of play where absolutely everything went right. Pedersen bent out out of an attempted tackle like he in The Matrix, then the ball went through Jones, Frawley, McKenzie, Tyson, Viney and Cross, before landing in the arms of seventh gamer Christian Salem with 20 seconds left. The obvious Melbourne scenario would have been for him to miss, become permanently psychologically damaged and see a promising career destroyed. Somehow he rose above the tortured history of this club and made himself the hero.

Nothing comes easily around here so we still had to survive another inside 50 in the dying seconds before being confirmed winners. Cue much excitement. It prompted some betting agency dickheads to stop stealing money from the vulnerable for a few seconds and print a cardboard cutout of Roos as the Messiah. In a rare sign from the heavens we were punished for this blasphemy by falling to pieces, not winning again until the last round.



15. Round 13, 2011 vs Fremantle (+89)
For the second time in 2011 we came off a terrible defeat, thumped by Collingwood on Queen's Birthday, to wreak terrible havoc on an interstate side at the MCG. Five goals up at quarter time there were some concerns about a 2008 style collapse, especially when the Dockers won the second quarter, before ending the game with a 12 goal to two avalanche. Very satisfying. Ultimately meaningless six weeks later when Geelong pulverised us and tore the joint in two.

14. Round 7, 2014 vs Adelaide (+3)
Of the many frustrations I've got from the last 20 years, our fecal record at Football Park is near the top of the list. Even when we were good in the mid 00s we'd go to water under Central Standard Time. Of course when we turned to total sewage in 2007 we kept losing there. Our record at the ground was so bad that they conveniently guaranteed the Crows a farewell win by fixturing their last game there against us. Could have played Port, could have recreated their first AFL game when they thrashed Hawthorn but no, it was send in the clowns and we did our bit by not only losing but allowing somebody called Lewis Johnston to Kingsley us with six goals.

There was scant confidence that we'd open our account at the redeveloped Adelaide Oval here, then.bugger me we were six goals in front in the second quarter. Everyone knew there was a comeback on the cards, and when the margin was slashed to 12 at three quarter time it was how far Adelaide. Somehow we held on, staying marginally ahead until the siren, even after an errant kick by Frawley with 22 seconds left gifted them the opportunity to snatch it. Thousands of Adelaidians missed the fun because the cowards had evacuated the ground when it looked like we had it won.

Not quite as groundbreaking as it seemed at the time, but I made so much noise in the last quarter the neighbours must have thought there was a murder on. Also involved Jack Grimes delivering the first positive fisting involving Melbourne for several years.


13. Round 14, 2013 vs Footscray (+4)
Regular readers will be across the concept of the Chris Sullivan Line, the mark by which all comfortable leads are judged. This almost toppled the famed Round 6, 1992 collapse that gave birth to the line. In the early 90s you could be sure there was another win coming from somewhere, by mid 2013 I thought we might be put into liquidation before the next one. That's why this meant plenty, but the near disastrous circumstances make it even more memorable.

The only win under Neil Craig came against a team only one spot ahead of us on the ladder, but light years in front for the retention of dignity, and as it turns out winning premierships. When we conceded the first goal within a minute it was so far, so 2013, but with the players going at it like they'd had a giant Neeld shaped veil of negativity lifted from them, then bounced back to be nearly five goals in front at half time. Didn't expect it to last, but on the night where I unexpectedly found a dead mouse under my seat, the hits kept coming. David Rodan provided the highlight of his MFC career with a belting goal, which we can now freely admit shouldn't have been counted because he stepped out of bounds, and the unlikely forward combination of Jack Watts, Chris Dawes and Jack Fitzpatrick ran riot with nine between them.

When we went 42 points up halfway through the last quarter even I, foolish and young, thought there was no possible way we could lose. Then we nearly did, clamming up in spectacular fashion and conceding seven straight goals to not a cracker in a 15 minute explosion that made the Bulldogs look more like 186 Geelong than the barely competent side we'd been running rings around a few minutes earlier. We survived because Watts, lovely Watts, decided he'd done enough to win us the game by kicking four so he may as well drop back into defence and save us with a goalline mark. We held on, there were scenes and we quickly went back to being complete shite.

12. Round 9, 2018 vs Carlton (+109)
If you'd told me we'd have a decade like this and our only triple figure win wouldn't make the top 10 wins I'd be incredulous but here we are. After being the competition's chopping block for years a thumping win like this was much needed vengeance. What a wonderful feeling - and I hope to have it again before I die - of being deep in the last quarter and being scared that the margin's going to drop below the century with the same tension you get defending a narrow lead. 18 months later they finished above us on the ladder. Even the royal lady was surprised:



11. Round 5, 2010 vs Brisbane (+50)
A traditional opening round debacle aside, we'd been very good in the first month of the season. The near miss against Collingwood with the Petterd dropped mark carried us through to a battling win against Adelaide, then we tonked Richmond to sit 2-2. Now came the big test, against a glamour Brisbane side that had topped up an already finals calibre list with goalkicking and amateur pornography sensation Fev and were unbeaten through four.

Honourable loss expected, remarkable victory obtained. A five goal to one burst in the second quarter set up victory, and after narrowly losing the third we held our nerve, them goalless in the last, and kicked away to a thumping victory. Draft sensations Scullgove were key. What could possibly go wrong? Also gave us this classic photo of a gleeful Matthew Warnock putting Fev on his arse while a Lions fan in the background has a shit one.


Reportedly Fev's numerous personal issues also ran afoul of the comedy stylings of Joel Macdonald, suggesting he was going to win a TV for best on ground, only for Joel to reply "at least I have a house to put one in". These days he'd be fined $5000 for being hurtful. If the MFC Facebook page had its way they'd have been teammates two years later.

10. Round 12, 2017 vs Collingwood (+4)
After breaking our Queen's Birthday losing streak a year earlier, and with more than a hint of finals about us, one of our biggest crowds in years enjoy a classic finish. After an off-chops game which swung from us leading by two goals, to being four down, then a point up at the last change, it reached the dying minutes within us ahead but looking for all money like a side that was going to concede a late goal and lose by a point.

Enter Jackson Redvers Watts, unfairly maligned for the best part of a decade, now going for a run down the Southern Stand wing and inside 50 with the chance to make himself a hero. The well-worn negative Watts cliches suggested he'd fall flat on face or shank it out on the full but he steadied to smash it home and provoke the biggest roar of the decade to date. It was especially exciting after spending the day listening to a corporate box fulling of moaning Collingwood peanuts abusing us. Abuse was delivered at the siren, only for the Pies to take their revenge in the last game of the season by helping ruin our finals chances.

It quite literally never got any better for Watts, first injured, then tossed on the scrapheap for a bargain price. We'll always have this.



9. Round 12, 2015 vs Geelong (+24)
Talk about a slow burning breakthrough, it took us another three years to play finals after what felt like a major step forward. To say it took me by surprise was an understatement, stung by the years of endless misery at Kardinia Park and crestfallen by the timekeeping fiasco that cost us a win against St Kilda a week earlier, I tipped us to lose by over 100 points. The last time I got something that badly wrong was thinking we'd beat Footscray by 10 goals in 2011 then them doing the reverse on us.

Lucky I was right in the middle of my having to go to every game no matter what phase, because otherwise there's every chance I'd have chickened out on this trip . Instead, unlike every other match I've ever attended in Geelong except 2005, I returned home radiant. Maximum announced his arrival with a blindling game, Anal Bullet kicked three in his second start, The Spencil looked like he was ready to run wild (ironically, Gawn's emergence quickly killed that off), and one of the great curses was killed. We extended our glee for an extra week via the bye then lost by nine goals.

8. Round 7, 2011 vs Adelaide (+96)
A constant theme of this list is times that you thought everything was going to be alright. This, our second biggest win of the decade, isn't really one of those moments. Obliterating teams by nearly 100 points will never get old, but this was more of a relief than anything, coming after a rocky start to the year and defeat in Perth a week earlier that led me to ask - not unreasonably - what time Todd Viney was available to replace Bailey. Didn't take long to get to that, but in the meantime this was Bailey's Revenge.

With future Demon mastermind Neil Craig allowing the combination of Moloney and Jamar to run rampant in the centre, and the Crows players looking like they'd rather be anywhere else we took flight. Temporarily anyway, it was back to losing a week later. Still, on the day it was the best fun I'd had in years, including an eight goal to two romp in the last quarter that briefly threatened to take the margin over triple figures. Brad Green grabbed at the jumper, Jim Stynes joined in the huddle, and all was right for a few days.

It wasn't all good news, Jack Grimes broke his foot (you were truly never more than five metres from a Grimes injury), Jamar did so much heavy lifting in the midfield that his knee gave out for a month, and Trengove was suspended for three weeks because Patrick Dangerfield (who kicked six the next week) had a porcelain head that went to bits when tackled. Never mind all that, and who knows what impact those players going out of the side had on our eventual spiral into death, this was a day of good, clean, family entertainment.

7. Round 10, 2012 vs Essendon (+6)
Nine weeks into the Neeld era those of us who'd bought into the vision of being the hardest team to play against were starting to get nervous. Nine losses, two by over 100 points, and even parody Twitter accounts were taken seriously when they suggested the coach might be about to get the arse. Under the circumstances, beating an 8-1 Essendon who'd won three games by over 60 points seemed as likely as peace in the Middle East. Then they didn't even score 60, falling victim to full forward Colin Garland, in a plot twist so extreme that if it were a TV show you'd complain on the internet.

From 15 points down in the third quarter we clawed our way back in front, hanging on grimly in the last quarter against a side that kicked 6.16 like they were affected by powerful hallucinogens. I was so scared that we were going to throw it away in the last quarter that my legs didn't move for 20 minutes, and when the siren went they'd stopped working. There I was sitting in Row MM of the Ponsford Stand unable to exit the stadium because I could no longer walk down stairs. It provided excellent time to reflect on what a magnificent result it was, even if much of the credit went to the Bombers playing suicidal football.

In the wake of the surprise result Neeld coined the phrase 'reality bus', then spent the next 12 months being repeatedly run over by it.



6. Round 10, 2018 vs Adelaide (+91)
The most remarkable thing to happen in the Northern Territory since Lindy Chamberlain's retrial, a side that played a Grand Final 11 competitive games earlier was dismembered so violently that their coach spent three quarter time silently eyeballing his players like he was about to go full Bradley John Murdoch.

In the last of the Trilogy of Terror games, we made scoring look so effortless you could have deceived yourself into believing the free scoring was ere going to last forever. Lever whopped his old side, Hogan kicked an effortless five, Brayshaw played like he was going to win multiple Brownlows and we registered our biggest ever win outside of Victoria. As far as crises go, the one that we dumped the Crows into here wouldn't rank in our top 20.

The Criterion Collection - genuinely great wins

5. Round 17, 2010 vs Sydney (+73)
By the standards of the rest of the decade, a three year run at the bottom of the ladder wasn't so bad that we needed a life-affirming victory to convince us to go on, but this was the day it seemed everything was going to come good under Bailey. That even if we didn't fall into the finals that year, we were a near certainty for 2011. Just because we were losing by 31 goals barely a year later doesn't mean this wasn't still magnificent.

From 18 seconds in when Dunn, still wearing his dastardly moustache, kicked the first goal it was a dead-set procession. An eight goal first quarter and we never looked back. In the days before the middle deck of the Ponsford was walled off to the common man, I was sitting in front of a Swans past players function and at half time poor old Bob Skilton was finding no comfort in once having coached us, gazing miserably out the window.

We might have put the cue in the rack there and called it a job well done, but pressed on to a bonkers 14 goal lead at the last break. It was going so well that James Frawley not only chased Lewis Jetta halfway down the Southern Stand wing but also chipped in for a goal of his own. Brad Green put on five, Bruce McAvaney screamed "The Dees are going to be something!", and he wasn't proven wrong for a year. I left the ground thinking that everything was going to be ok. It wasn't.

One fan was so enamoured of McAveney's screeching that they intercut an otherwise perfectly normal highlights video with a cartoon rendition of Bruce cranking one out in celebration. I assume nine years on that no legal action followed.

 4. Round 22, 2018 vs West Coast (+17)
The final margin goes no way to telling the story of this bonkers match. We'd spectacularly botched a chance to qualify for finals on home turf a week earlier, now the equation was win in Perth or go into Round 23 a red hot chance of buggering it up like 2017 again.

After finally getting it right in our last start at Subiaco (more on that shortly...), we now had to win first up at the new Perth Stadium. Two victories in a row in Western Australia felt like a bridge too far, but when we scooted to a 26-0 lead midway through the first quarter it looked like all our dreams were about to come true. Of course there was toil and struggle in our future, and by midway through the second quarter the Eagles were a goal behind and threatening to overrun us. Then something strange happened, three goals on either side of the break restored a 21 point lead.

You thought "surely we can't throw this away twice?" and you were wrong, even two goals late in the third term were pegged back by a DemonTime special at the 31 minute mark, leaving us just eight points up and wobbling all over the place like a drunk driver. Enter a baffling last quarter where we kicked the first goal, then conceded three to be behind at the 18 minute mark. Had we lost from there I might have missed the final game due to hurling myself in front of a train, then first Jake Melksham took advantage of future premiership player Tom Barass falling on his arse to put us in front, then the ice-cold Dean Kent landed a set shot that extended the margin beyond a goal.

It was really going to happen. Unless we did the full Melbourne and conceded two goals in the last two minutes. Then Melksham marked in the square, kicked another and it was beyond doubt. As the Legion of Doom used to say, what a rush. The only downside was being in a house where not one other person appreciated the gravity of the situation, interrupting the wild celebrations at about the 10 minute mark of running around the house nearly in tears of joy to ask "so does that mean you're in the finals then?" Oh yes it did, and it was fantastic. Sour old tart Chris J**d complained that players celebrated the win too much, confirming everything we'd known about him since 2007.

Have a dramatic AFL360 highlights package to remember it by:

 

3. Round 14, 2017 vs West Coast (+3)
There were closer wins, and the one above meant a lot more, but not many that came as late, in such outrageously ludicrous circumstances from a completely unlikely player, or had genuine finals implications.

Like Football Park, we were treated with contempt at Subiaco for over a decade. The difference was that in our last appearance at this ground we battled like bastards to come back from a dreadful position and win. Sure, Subi had its revenge when the result there in the last game tipped us out of the eight but we only had ourselves to blame for that. If you marked wins down for what happened next this list would be a top zero.

Everyone knows about Tom McSizzle throwing the ball towards his boot while being tackled at the top of the square with 20 seconds left, putting us in front with his fifth, what's often forgotten is that it was our third goal in a row - and McDonald's second - after being 16 points behind midway through the last quarter. At a ground we traditionally died in the first, second, third and fourth quarters at.

A long hoof by Michael Hibberd from wide on the boundary bounced fortuitously off the hands of Cameron Pedersen, to McDonald, who did the best stand up in tackle ever, manoeuvred himself towards the goal, chucked the ball in the air and threw his boot at it successfully. Some Eagles fans claimed it was a throw. They are morons. Being the quiet, unassuming character he is, Tom refused mass celebrations and instead ordered his teammates back into defence, where they defused a final attack and got us over the line.

I fell to the floor of my loungeroom, pounding the ground with my flat, open palms, screaming "YES! YES! YES!" like I was in the throes of ecstasy. Because I was.

The Melbourne Football Club went on to completely fuck up the rest of their season.

2. 2018 Elimination Final vs Geelong (+29)
1. 2018 Semi Final vs Hawthorn (+33)

Obviously these are the two highest points of the decade - and arguably any time back to the 2000 Preliminary Final - and a case could be made for either of them as number one. Part of me wants to declare them the joint winners and be done with it, but that would be cowardly so I'm going to make the hard decision and opt for the second game.

First, Geelong. Even in the decidedly ordinary collection of wins we've had since 2010 there's no shame in being second best, and this was a brilliant night. Despite Ticketek falling apart like an Indonesian airplane earlier in the week we contributed a minimum of 70% of the most overwhelmingly pro-MFC blockbuster crowd since the 1987 Semi vs Sydney, and true belivers united with bandwagoners to go right off their nut.

After 11 seasons of pain and suffering, and nearly stuffing this season up after thumping teams left, right and centre earlier in the year, the anticipation level was off the charts before the bounce. I nearly painted the Ponsford with a massive vom before the bounce. After absorbing a few minutes of pressure we countered with a vengeance rarely seen against good clubs. Especially against Geelong, who had spent most of the previous decade ripping the piss out of us, most recently with that after the siren goal at Kardinia Park a few weeks earlier.

Five goals to nil by quarter time meant that at least if we were to lose it would give us something to moan about for years to come. By the time Weideman had his second I was legitimately sitting there mouth agape, in complete shock as to what I'd just seen. Realistically there was no way we were going to lose from there, but I've seen us throw bigger leads against worse teams so wasn't going to get excited just yet.

That we only kicked one goal in the next two quarters and let them get to within 17 points shouldn't detract from the overall joy of the evening, including Joel Selwood giving away a needless - some might say unlucky - free off the ball that cost them a red hot chance on goal.

Though they'd only kicked three goals to the last change, almost unbelievable for those of us who were there that fateful afternoon at Kardinia Park, I couldn't trust a 23 point lead. Then less than a minute in Nathan Jones, the friendly face of a decade of disaster, smashed through a steadier that caused the place to become unglued. They got a goal to make it interesting, before Mitch Hannan (remember him?) did his big run for the acknowledged sealer. Piss off to the GWS and their big big sound, that was the loudest thing I've ever heard at a footy game. There was half a quarter to play and we were barely any further in front than we had been 15 minutes earlier but you just knew there was no coming back.


I was so excited that I took a wrong turn driving home, ended up in the country, and didn't get to bed until about 4am but had no complaints. We were free to wallow in the glory of being a finals winning side, and to dream of the off-possibility of rumbling Hawthorn seven days later...

... which we did, in front of another crowd that was so overwhelmingly pro-Demon that for one night nobody could accuse us of being tally-ho shouting cravat wearing ponces. The decade peaked here, and even though it lacked the single swashbuckling period of the first game, Selwood making an arsehole of himself, or one shining Hannan-esque moment, I loved it more because it was hard fought. Not heart attack worthy, but the satisfaction of working hard to build a workable lead before going off our nut late in the third quarter and opening a five goal gap.

That should have been the end of it, but you don't get anything easily around here (see for instance - 2019), and for the first 11 minutes of the last quarter Hawthorn threatened the great comeback. Three goals to nothing, the margin was back to 12 points, and my bunghole was clenching like the jaw of a rabies addled dog.

Then, a moment of pure ecstasy that was great even before you heard BT's career peak with the "GEE GOD BOY WOW" commentary on replay. Melksham instantly replied out of the middle, everything was steady again, and we were shocked out of our lethargy to pile on another two decisive goals.


As the sealer went through I made the snap decision to go to Perth, trying hard to book a flight on a mobile phone with hands shaking all over the place. Via all this I looked up to see Spargo kick the last goal and the place came unglued again. It was bloody magnificent, and the reason I rank it higher than Geelong was because of what it meant. We were one win away from a Grand Final, and though it would take a trip to the other side of the country to get there, we had a ticket in the lottery. That ticket turned out to be fraudulent, but winning here set up eight days of dreaming that the next time we walked into the MCG it would be for a Grand Final.

Fans of successful clubs will fall about laughing at the idea of a winning Semi Final sparking such joy, but the looks on the faces of the fans as I left the ground that night almost (almost) made the years of vicious poundings and humiliations worthwhile. It doesn't matter what happened the next week, though the following year was a bit of a concern, this was the peak of our existence for the 21st century.

Thank you all for your custom in the 2010s, we go again for Demonblog's third decade (!!!!) from 2010.