Sunday, 17 February 2019

Venue: Hickey, Opposition: Sucked

After the defence-free Round 1 loss to Fremantle, last week's victory over the proven putrid Collingwood was as least convincing as you're ever likely to get while holding a team goalless until the last four minutes. That - and the fact that we've been drawn in the good team 'conference' (spew) instead of Jabroni Alley - made this the rubber match to decide whether we stayed alive or started calling Daisy's obstetrician to see if she'll be right to return next season. Speaking of rubber, the game was played at Hickey Park, which sounds like a Makeout Creek style colloquial name for somewhere teenagers go to have it off.

A tune up game against another pox Conference B team would have been preferable to away against two time grand finalists, until we treated them with contempt (both spiritually, and in Tegan Cunningham's case physically) on the way to the second biggest win in club history. Didn't say that coming, and neither did the Brisbane players going by the looks on their faces as we chipped it around and didn't let them get a kick. Makes my moaning after the first game - especially now that the Dockers are good - seem even more NQR.

Those of you who are into omens, sorcery and the dark arts would have been bleeding when our gigantic curtained banner neatly tore asunder on the breeze just as the players approached. I suspect it went out in grief at seeing Brisbane's perfectly normal curtainless crepe banner, which had a clever mid-riff design that meant the players could just run underneath it without the prospect of being coathangered.

The standard for banners in women's football remains:
Based on continued ruck titancy of Lauren Pearce, I was convinced we were the better team within the first couple of minutes but as always the concern was converting enough chances to insure us against the other sides kicking a couple of arsey goals and winning by three points. The first chance came from Pearce hitting a leading Eden Zanker with a perfect pass. The only issue is that at this stage of the AFLW's life there's no point taking set shots from 40 metres out, and when nobody could mark her kick to the square the first of what originally promised to be a million missed chances went begging.

Speaking of Zankers, the bloke commentating was a bit of an Eden. I'm all for new people having a go, but this bloke clearly thinks that the route straight to the top of his chosen profession is Triple M style buffoonery. The crumbtastic Aleisha Newman was referred to as Paul (we think because of the actor and not the MFC 2004 rookie), and Tyla Hanks was said to have a "Green Mile ahead of her" (because, you see her name is Hanks and... no wait, that's the extent of it), ignoring that the titular mile was the walk to the electric chair. Nor had the callers been briefed beyond the most basic of fun facts, leading us to the "Brad Green at Manchester United" style anecdotes around Harriet Cordner's family and Cat Phillips being a frisbee guru.

In a backline that was almost unbeaten, Cordner was a revelation on the usually dangerous Sabrina Frederick-Traub. In two previous starts she'd had less disposals against us than any other team in the competition but still kicked four of 15 career goals. It's a half-Kingsley, where the player doesn't play particularly well but still stitches you up. Not this time, the delivery forward was awful and every time she went near it Cordner et al jumped on her. Result - two kicks and not even the remotest threat of a match-winning performance.

Down the other end, our flawless ball movement set up Newman to trot through their forward 50 on her own to pop through an open goal. It was as well set up a goal as you'll see in any grade, and worthy of a spot on the end of season highlights laser disc/VHS/DVD/Blueray/digital download or YouTube compilation. Presumably it will get shunted off for a flashier goal featuring somebody kicking over their head, or as in the case of the reigning Goal of the Year winner's second, a player expertly crumbing off a pack and plowing through the opposition defence like a freight train obliterating a flock of sheep.

Even with Zanker missing the lot from the forward pocket our attack looks plenty more potent than last week against (arguably) better opposition. She might have missed, but the idea that we've got a player who can take overhead grabs in the general vicinity of the square is thrilling. The fancy banana kicks from the pocket or running out to improve the angle will come later, she will be a star after another couple of seasons of VFL and AFL games.

As Newman's second went through the prospect of a thrashing came into play, but that was it for us in the first quarter. Brisbane even got one back, threatening to waste all our good work in the traditional manner. It fell to the thrillingly named Jesse Tawhiow-Wardlaw, with the commentators steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the first half of her surname as if it was a) a taboo subject, or b) nobody had told them how to pronounce it. Ever Jasper McMillan-Pittard got the courtesy of them saying his full surname before he snubbed the McMillan wing of the family by ejecting them from his professional life.

That goal led to one of Brisbane's few threatening patches, but endless panic bombing towards Frederick-Traub (who got the reverse Tawhiow-Wardlaw treatment and was just referred to as 'Serena') came to nowt and they were left on one goal at the first change. It's not for me to tell them how to conduct their business, but it can't have helped having a player getting around in long sleeves. Either somebody had packed the wrong jumper, she has a genetic disorder which stops her from feeling heat, or I'm stereotyping Brisbane weather as tropical and she was just a bit chilly.

Like most of the quarters in the history of this fledgling organisation, the second started with us poised to put them out of their misery but we couldn't land a killer blow. Another perfect pass out of the middle by Pearce came marginally too far out for a goal, and Brisbane narrowly avoided paying full price from the resulting a kick-in disaster. Somehow from a near total stranglehold on the game we nearly conceded the opening goal of the second, with only a last ditch tackle from Emonson stopping them from walking into goal unchallenged.

Like most quarters in the history of the AFLW club, the second opened with us poised to put them away but lacking the killer blow. Another killer pass to a lead by Pearce came marginally too far out, and Brisbane only narrowly avoided conceding full points from the resulting kick-in disaster. Almost still conceded the first goal, with a last ditch tackle from Emonson the only thing between us and a counter-attack trot through an open goal.

As our forwards were having trouble putting the biscuit in the basket it was left to Cat Smith to wander forward and unexpectedly snap one off a pack. This meant Fox Footy had to halt their replay of Tegan Cunningham assassinating an opponent behind the play. It didn't help her cause as she was immediately reported anyway. There wasn't much in it but she'll probably get suspended anyway because they don't want parents to shit themselves and stop their daughters playing the game.

Of course there was a high probability that if you'd just let the Brisbane player run around unchallenged long enough she'd have blown her ACL, but that lacks the outrage points of a forearm to the back behind the play. Somebody must have lagged her to the umpire, because if he was going to report her anyway how come there wasn't a free kick in the first place?

With at least one Brisbane player trying to regain her equilibrium the next chance flowed closely behind, another entrant in the Festival of Kicking To A Lead. Somebody's gone back and watched all the tapes, because for possibly the first time ever the player (Zanker again) marked 40 metres out and didn't just try to kick the cover of it. She spotted Paxman in acres of space and hit her with a perfect pass instead and the floodgates sprung open. Zanker got her reward for setting up the last goal with another snapped around the body, before going into the ruck and winning a centre clearance that indirectly led to Newman's throwing another log on the bonfire with her third. The discount commentators spruiked a 32 point lead, it was actually 34 but Brisbane were not going to recover from either.

Things were going so well that we could afford the comical scenario of Zanker running onto a loose ball with no opponent within the same area code, then taking a half shot/half pass to a loose player in the square that did neither and rolled across the face of goal for nothing. She is the new Jakovich, capable of doing remarkable things one minute then stuffing up the blindingly obvious the next. It didn't matter, as Fox Footy's countdown clock failed for the second consecutive week, Bianca Jakobsson ran into an open goal and the landslide was on.

After half time our transition kicking remained top shelf, but for the first time all day Brisbane looked half-threatening going forward. Freewheeling, rampant Melbourne quarters are usually followed by ones where we're lucky to get one goal, and in this case that came in the last 10 seconds when a lolkick across the face of Brisbane's goal landed with Jakobsson for another. Unlike most times this season the wind helped us, holding her kick just inside the left post and getting us out of an average quarter (compared to the second anyway) at one goal each.

Until that kick - reminiscent of Jack Viney in that pre-season game against a fill-in laden Essendon - the highlight of the quarter was Cunningham clattering into the same player for a second time, running into her so hard she wasn't just seeing stars but constellations. Lucky she didn't got back for a third because it was veering into Muhammad Ali "I'll hit him so hard his ancestors will feel it" territory and a head-start on WNBL pre-season training.

With victory guaranteed, the last quarter was basically just Brisbane trying to avoid losing by 100. They stacked the backline, and late in the quarter had 2% time in their forward half. It made scoring difficult - and in the future of 6-6-6 positions being introduced everywhere I suppose they'd just be expected to get thrashed - but we still should have had the first. That woman Zanker set up Newman to run into an empty goal, but high on equally Richelle Cranston's record for three goals in a game the livewire forward tried the trick shot off the ground instead of just waltzing into an open goal. Nevertheless it helped confirm Brisbane weren't going to threaten.

The coup de grace came via the dangerous Cunningham marking, banging through her set shot and resisting the urge to go and knock that same Brisbane player over in celebration. It was one of 11 marks inside 50, which must be up there for the most ever in an AFLW game.

Brisbane's lack of interest in forward play saw them only register two inside 50s for the quarter. One where one of their players was closely pursued by three of ours, with nil but Demons downfield. That didn't end well. Her with long sleeves got a token one after the siren, which wouldn't seem to be too much of a problem except that we're in an absolute snakepit of a group that will probably be decided by such marginal percentage that the lost six points here will keep us out, while on the other side the top team has a 3-4 record.

2019 Daisy Pearce Medal
5 - Lauren Pearce
4 - Harriet Cordner
3 - Aleisha Newman
2 - Karen Paxman
1 - Elise O'Dea

Major apologies to Zanker, Phillips and Jakobsson.

There's a boilover brewing. I don't profess to know enough to set a betting market for the Daisy but you'd have got reasonable odds at Pearce winning. It's not over by any stretch of the imagination, but if Max Gawn isn't the first ruckman to win a top award on this page he might drop his everyman persona and punch on. 

14 - Lauren Pearce
9 - Elise O'Dea, Karen Paxman
4 - Harriet Cordner
3 - Aleisha Newman
2 - Tyla Hanks, Lily Mithen, Eden Zanker

Next week
I thought this was a test, but at the unusual time of 4.05pm next Sunday we return to Casey Fields for a season defining clash one way or another. If Fremantle beat Adelaide in Darwin the night before (what is it, a bronze medal match for teams our men thrashed in the NT last season?) then a loss against the Roos will leave us in more trouble than the early settlers with three games to play.

No doubt Casey will serve up another bullshit game where there's a 400km/h breeze favouring the pockets, which might come in handy for us because we could probably do with necking the score against a team averaging over seven goals a game. Or for those of who with more courage than me, we could just try to beat them in a shootout. Either way I'm not keen on our chances, but it will be the first good team North has played so here's to them shitting the first time Pearce clambers over their ruckman and delivers a fearsome tap.

Final thoughts
I'm back on the bandwagon. Mick Stinear, please address abusive mail to PO Box 9994 in your capital city.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Unsack everyone

Funny old game, last week in wind-affected conditions we conceded a near record score, now in similar bluster the opposition go within four minutes of being held goalless.

It was back to Victoria Park for any sort of premiership points for the first time since Jako kicked seven in 1992. A time when, amongst other since discredited political views, most of the crowd would have probably spewed up over the prospect of a women's team occupying the turf. Now over 7000 people turn up to see them play. The venue nostalgia seen at other suburban grounds (at least the ones people liked in the 80s, not Casey) suggests that's the peak of what they're going to get but it's still an achievement.

For about the fifth time in the life of AFLW, this was supposed to be my first live game. Not playing at Princes Park means this is the most accessible ground for me, so after convincing Junior to come along on the promise that it didn't go for as long as a "boy's game" (hello AFLX, I've found your target market) nothing could stop me. Except sideways pissing rain early in the afternoon and a deep suspicion that we'd barely get past half time before having to leave. In the end I left the decision up to her and she preferred to stay home and watch the My Little Pony movie.

Of course if I'd taken the gamble we'd have turned up just in time for it to be sunny for the first time all year (albeit with a firm breeze up the clackbag) but better to be safe than under the pump from a feisty four year old. Had the Pies actually gone goalless I'd have been kicking myself at missing out on history, but had to settle for a level of live coverage that the people of 1992 would have been flabbergasted by. 15 years ago you'd still get dickheads hosting the replay and ruining the first three quarters by hinting at a thriller, now I could watch a semi-professional women's league streaming through a computer because my TV was occupied with kid shows.

I might have been a touch hysterical in going off after last week, but memories of turning a 14 point lead into being thrashed against the Pies last year concerned me, for an 0-2 start would be all but fatal. I still think we'll need to pull off a string of upsets - starting next week - to make it. This is not life or death stuff to me like the men, but the idea of having any Melbourne FC season end after Round 2 is something I'd like to leave back in 2013.

My concerns about another screwjob were not helped by the wind. Like Casey it was blowing to one end, meaning one botched quarter while using it could have been fatal. In this case it was not only blowing to one end by seemingly diagonally across the ground. For all the excessive excitement about playing games at these allegedly much beloved suburban grounds I put it to you that the last thing a competition developing the skills of a generation of players needs is a tornado randomly whisking the ball across the ground. Fortunately for fans of grounds that were no good even in their heyday, there are scant options for playing anywhere that neutralises the conditions. It might work in the women's favour, like being forced by the conditions into taking a gigantic evolutionary leap.

Those who didn't see the game won't be at all surprised to discover that we had all the play early. Even against the wind we looked far more likely to score for almost all of the quarter. And score we did, just not goals. For some reason the commentator had prepared a fun fact about Karen Paxman's first kick being the 298th of her career, then never provided any updates. Fans at home were forced to do their own maths to discover that her 299th, 300th and 301st were all points.

Naturally the ball being held up on the breeze made forward play difficult, but I can't help contrast the way we often move the ball down the ground via a series of solid marks only to find bugger all grabs inside 50. I'm down for Tegan Cunningham, and celebrations of her goal from an obscure angle last week were cruelly forgotten in my post, but no bloody good being that tall if you can't take an overhead mark. The best thing to an overhead mark - and probably preferable in these conditions - was to one down low, and that Cunningham did. In the conditions she was well too far out and set up Paxman for her second miss.

Owning the game into the wind but not taking advantage against opposition unable to escape from 50 was either going to lead to a flood of goals or quarter time scoreline gold for AFLW sceptics. We got the flood (of sorts) a quarter later, and I became a streaming sports sceptic when my coverage buffered for 20 seconds just as the Pies finally got the ball forward for a point. Admittedly it was the only time all day it dropped out, but imagine that happens in the dying seconds of a big game and I end up self-immolating outside Kayo Sports HQ.

It could have buffered for 30 minutes and I wouldn't have missed any goals. Our best chance fell to Aleisha Newman after a holding the ball free, but like all great crumbing forwards set shots aren't her go and the ball wafted out on the full from 20 metres. She should have handballed it into the ground, backheeled it over the woman on the mark, thrown two dummies then sunk a banana kick from the pocket.

The last few minutes of the quarter left open the possibility of the Pies being hemmed in on their own line for 15 minutes then stealing a late one. Even our nice link up kicks from earlier were out the door, replaced with hopeful hoof to nobody. They tried, they failed, and we held on to the decidedly unattractive scoreline of 3-2 at the break. Unless you were a Pies fan, the game was fine in every aspect other than our ability to turn a winning midfield - including the female Max Gawn, Lauren Pearce - into goals.

Step 1 in my guide to AFLW going through the roof is tall forwards taking overhead grabs, but right behind that is nifty crumbers who can grab the ball off the deck and make a goal out of nothing. Defences do enough - and ours was much improved based on last week, with much enjoyable intercept marking - and there is no problem with midfielders but give us marking bigs and crafty smalls then tell the medium sized forwards to go stand on a flank.

The return to Victoria Park was a sound reminder that people's views about how good the past was aren't always reliable. Take for instance Clive Palmer, who has a new ad featuring some paid ringers trying to rope in the female audience with a list of his achievements the last time around. Good idea to remind everyone about them, because all anyone remembers is the bloke buying the best position for a minor party in our history then fucking it up by running the joint like a Turkish bordello. I suspect it had about as much impact to the heavily female skewed audience as would Sam Newman popping up in blackface to tell them to get back to the kitchen.

If last week taught me anything, other than how you're not a real football team until some internet nuffy has tried to sack everyone after a Round 1 loss, it's that we are capable of doing damage with the wind in our favour. So I put the feet up and waited for the inevitable hailstorm of goals that wiped Victoria Park off the map once and for all. And I kept waiting. Pearce was practically unbeatable in the ruck, O'Dea and Paxman were mopping up possessions like they were going out of fashion, but even with the ball carrying miles on shots we had chuff all crumb so unless somebody took a mark we could only hope for a point at best.

Scoring is not everything. The people who fall over themselves to compare scores now to the 1898 VFL as if there's a relevance are almost as bad as the ones who bury entire savage, injury laden ground-ball contests based on the aggregate total but even as an unashamed supporter and defender of AFLW I was starting to lose interest. I had to reconsider my thinking. Either I didn't want to watch and I was free to turn over to professional caber tossing on Eurosport, or I did and could treat it like a soccer game and increase the value of any potential goals to near mythical levels.

The Karen Paxman Points Experience got out to 0.4 with another speculative long shot, before at last the mighty O'Dea put full points on the board. She grabbed the ball off the pack after a bounce and snapped over her shoulder, watching the ball evade everyone on its way into the goal. It was just the sort of instinctive, out of nowhere goal we needed after swinging and missing so many times on textbook attempts to score.

With less than 90 seconds left we got a helping hand from a Collingwood midfielder who was so shocked to get the ball against our razor gang midfield that she turned the wrong way and punted inside of 50. It rolled out of bounds, but even without tripping the mysterious rule where sometimes kicking the ball over the boundary leads to a free and sometimes it doesn't (fair enough too, you'd be the shittest umpire of all time to pin somebody for that) it led directly to a rapid fire second goal. The impressive Tyla Hanks gathered on the boundary and hit a fantastic pass to the leading Pearce on an obscure angle just outside the square. The angle + a ruck + the wind didn't give me much confidence but she popped it through and in the space of a minute we'd bought insurance against Collingwood doing anything with the advantage after half time.

If Collingwood was ever going to launch another Alice Springs style comeback from two goals down it had to happen in the third quarter. And didn't. There was no change to policy as we carried on like the first quarter into the wind, effectively transferring the ball with the greatest of ease until time came to find a forward. The only time we went close to scoring was a perfect Jesse Hogan-like (remember him?) dismissal of a defender before marking by Kate Hore. For the second time to that end a kick from 20 metres out directly in front swung well right, only just sneaking through for a point. With the Pies scoreless for the second straight quarter it was a great opportunity for guys who were definitely never going to watch AFLW again to put a foot through their TV.

With a 15 point buffer at the last break and the wind it was going to take a tremendous cock-up to lose, but if anybody is capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory it's us. Fortunately not, they got their token goal late but we'd already finished it off via Hanks.

It was as comprehensive a victory as you'd want everywhere but the scoreboard, plenty more disposals, a 31-12 inside 50 count (although that's an even more useless stat in AFLW than the men's game). However, as good as things look after a victory the fact remains that the Pies have been bobbins since Day 1 of this competition and I'm not at all convinced this will translate to playing against better sides.

Nevertheless, shut off access to and don't try and trade all our players to one of the 13 new sides coming in next season. All is temporarily well.

2019 Daisy Pearce Medal
In the first two seasons the big three were Paxman, O'Dea and Pearce. They still are.

5 - Elise O'Dea
4 - Lauren Pearce
3 - Karen Paxman
2 - Tyla Hanks
1 - Lily Mithen

Major apologies to Emonson, who was excellent in defence.

9 - Lauren Pearce
8 - Elise O'Dea
7 - Karen Paxman
2 - Tyla Hanks, Lily Mithen, Eden Zanker

Crowd Watch
The odd people with a Cat Phillips "fans not friends" banner were back. Must be some sort of obscure Ultimate Frisbee gag.

Next Week
Brisbane Lions at Hickey Park, which sounds like where 80s teenagers would pash on. It's somewhere in the State of Queensland, and given that it's February in the tropics you can be almost sure it will fair piss down at some stage. Even allowing for that great win at Casey Fields where we sent the Lions player off the deep end, they'll go in as favourites here. Not much use winning this game against somebody in another conference (*spit*) if we lose again against teams from our own. I reckon we'll lose. So sue me.

Final Thoughts
Where there's life there's hope.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

What to expect when you're expecting

You'd be lucky to know about it considering the league's minimal promotion, but AFLW season three has arrived. In an unusual twist that still feels like a tremendously Melbourne way to end Round 1 we registered a score that would have beaten every team in the competition except the one we played and still ended up lower on the ladder than a team that kicked 1.11.

If it wasn't for following the relevant social media accounts I might not have known this game happened until Monday morning. If nothing else I'd have felt a disturbance in the force from all the men proving their status as MEN by going well out of their way to tell you how terrible the women's game is and how they certainly won't be watching. The same people usually come back later to tell you it was as bad as they thought it would be, proving they sat down to hatewatch the whole thing.

It's fine not to be interested, or to engage in a nuanced debate about the issues, but don't be the guy who says "what's next, a men's NETBALL league?!" as if that's the killer blow in the argument. As a solid Twitterist with a protected account sagely pointed out during the week there is a strong correlation between men falling over themselves to speak out against coverage of women's footy and those with a fixation about having something rammed down their throat.

Ironically most of us act exactly the same way as these questing, macho individuals when it comes to the coverage of AFLX, which can of course continue to piss up a short rope. If there's any difference - and to avoid looking like a hypocrite I'll pretend there is - it's that AFLX came out as a shameless corporate wankfest right from the gate, while AFLW is at least two seasons from disappearing up its own arse.

Anyway, for those of you not so butch that watching and/or reading about women playing football will convert you into a flaming homosexual overnight, it was off to Casey Fields. Metaphorically speaking anyway, Demonblog Towers will soon be shifting yet again but I'll still be 90 minutes and no chance away from ever attending a game there in person again.

My hopes for this season are not high, not before the game, and not even after kicking an almost unprecedented in this competition eight goals. Other than Daisy Pearce: OUT - Preggers none of the departures to expansion teams really cut me up, but I don't see where enough was added in the other direction to make up for the sum of the experience lost.

The introduction of conferences (ahem) and a four team finals system means one loss isn't as nigh on fatal as it was the first two seasons, but given that we've got Collingwood (not bad), Brisbane (quite good), North Melbourne (apparently very good) to come + games against the Bulldogs and Adelaide but no guaranteed win against Carlton best of luck to all involved. Even with a win here I'd have been willing to bet against making the finals, now I'm sure of it. Prove me wrong ladies, prove me wrong. Even just the token heartbreaking finals near miss will do.

My lack of confidence was narrowly proven correct, but my radar was out on the root of the problem by about 170 metres. Here I was expecting another season where we'd waste dozens of inside 50s by making attacking look more difficult than performing brain surgery, only to discover a defence who look like they'd been blindfolded, spun around and asked to jump over a broomstick. Since the first season of the competition I've been convinced that the secret to unlocking AFLW is to find a tall forward who can take overhead contested marks, and we went closer than ever to that today only to fall to bits at the other end and concede nine goals. This coming after losing a practice match 34-56. This may be a problem.

When I still thought we were going to live and die on wasted attacking opportunities (and does anyone doubt we'll go out and lose 21-20 next week now?), Freo at Casey felt like a good way to start the year. Ignore that FIASCO last year when we held them to zero inside 50s for the first quarter and still lost, and instead reminiscence about how they turned up demoralised for the last round of 2017 and were mercilessly curb-stomped. It's not too early to be nostalgic about previous eras. Apparently we were #1 for marks inside 50 last season, which must have meant also being #1 for comically botched attempts at scoring.

The problem with hoping for another outbreak of ruthless aggression was that a) they were high on life for Round 1 instead of losing the will to live on the way from Tullamarine to Cranbourne, and b) it was 38 degrees, with Casey's usual polar breezes the likes of which killed Scott of the Antarctic replaced with the likelihood of a roaring bushfire ripping through the district. And some lunatics wanted to plonk an A-League team (albeit temporarily) at the ground. Not only would any sensible people have stayed away, it would have led to goalkeeping howlers like this:

In 1986 I'd have got used to it, but I despise games with a wind blowing strongly to one end of the ground. The Western Oval can retrospectively get stuffed, give me gentle effects of the breeze through the MCG stands, or even more attractively a big bloody roof over the joint. But a hot Hurricane Bertha it was, and fat lot of good that did us for three quarters.

At first there was a touch of the Round 7, 2017 about it. We pinged it straight out of the middle into attack where Aliesha Newman discovered that the antidote to our forward woes was to stuff the marks and just nick one off a pack to run into an open goal instead. Crumb is always welcome, as was Kate Hore following it with a strong overhead mark right in front of goal. I'd seen these spray before, and with her hair flinging from side-to-side with the breeze thought that it was our turn to start kicking for goal like Adelaide. But no, straight through it went and we had two goals to a couple of cute, fluffy and insignificant inside 50s.

Such was the dominance of the midfield at centre bounces that we almost got another goal immediately, with a long kick carrying on the breeze and beating everyone to roll through for a point. With that chance to really stitch them up lost we went to sleep and discovered that when they went forward there was a high probability of things going teat up. One goal into the wind should have become two straight away, if not for two missed shots in a row from close range. The good times were over - at least for the next 30 minutes - we could win the ball out of the middle after goals, but extracting it from their defensive 50 was practically impossible.

Based on seeing the second halves of the Geelong/Collingwood and North/Carlton games we didn’t have nearly the quick hands around the pack as those teams (with the exception of Carlton who are pus) so if you’re not moving the ball quickly out of packs what hope do you have? Credit to Freo for putting the pressure on that didn't allow us to do any razzle dazzle. The rest of the league go "ah, there's an idea" and we never get a metre of free space again for the rest of the season.

It's dangerous to base anything on one quarter into the wind, but by half time I was convinced we were finished. Eden Zanker - your new favourite rhyming slang for an unpleasant person - took a strong mark for our only goal of the quarter, but the nightmare that is Melbourne AFLW trying to attack was best demonstrated when ex-dairy farmer Shelley Scott took a perfect leading mark at centre-half forward, then lobbed a Hail Mary inside 50 in the hope that somebody would be on the end of it. They weren't. They rarely are.

Never thought we’d be much chop this season, convinced by the end of the quarter that we were going to finish last. Sure they were kicking with the wind in the second quarter, but any sort of decent lead was going to put us away. The problem with us 2017-2019 was demonstrated when a free out of the middle at the end was met with a strong leading mark in space from ex-dairy farmer Shelley Scott at CHF, who then just hoofed it forward Hail Mary style. Eden Zanker – your new favourite rhyming slang for an unpleasant person –  took a decent mark earlier for our only goal of the quarter but that was one-on-one, not busting through packs like Jonathan Brown. It made me long for the tap-ins through an empty square.

An interlude at this point to complain about the farcical coverage of this competition on the AFL website. To say they've given up would be cruel, but they're certainly relying on people to only have the most casual interest. After the game I can watch the replay (no thanks) and the highlights, but can't even get the quarter by quarter scores in the alleged match centre let alone player statistics.

There hasn't been this little care taken of a football program since Melbourne 2009. So I thought the AFL mobile app might have it, only to be directed to download a separate AFLW app that finally a dozen clicks/presses/whatever later gave me the team lists. So you've got the data, why not just put it on the freaking website? If it is there it's buried somewhere beneath a story about Jack Watts burying his head in a set of bristols at Oktoberfest.

By the time both sides had a go with the wind we were 20 points down. The last goal should never been allowed to happen. The number of coast-to-coast goals in AFLW history must be in single figures, yet somehow we allowed them to go from deep in our attack to a forward taking a mark 'out the back' (cliche) within the final 30 seconds. Could have done us a favour and missed, but didn't and alarm bells were going off like there'd been a bank heist.

Not for the first time while watching our women's team I was just about to launch a SACK EVERYBODY campaign when the side came out after half time and went nuts. Not only was the half time deficit reduced, we opened a 14 point lead that we were a realistic hope of defending into the wind. This was the good shit. Crumbed goals by a retired primary producer, a quality snap by Zanker after a ropey handball from a former frisbee champion, and another from the ex-star of the WNBL. The more it stayed at our end the better, I in no way fancied us holding them back if they trapped the ball in our defensive 50.

The enjoyment factor in watching us sink like a stone during the last quarter was further reduced by the continual interjections of the guy telling me how terrible the women's game was and how he can't watch it but also that he "thought the standard would be better" which means he obviously has watched it. I took the same tone as Richie Benaud when confronted with the anti-cricket views of Theo Fuckanopolous in Still The 12th Man and explained that I actually find the game interesting and furthermore could he please piss off.

Sadly for my The End Is Nigh narrative, I have to report that we could have sealed it in the opening minutes of the last quarter. Hore had a snap that just bent too far. Had we conceded it the ball wouldn't have emerged for three minutes, but they went down the other end, stuffed up an open goal and then graciously cashed out with just a seven point play. Then they got two more and we were stuffed. Lucky the men are (I think) good.

2019 Daisy Pearce Medal
There's 100% less Daisy in the field this season, but let's keep it in the family anyway:

5 - Lauren Pearce
4 - Karen Paxman
3 - Elise O'Dea
2 - Eden Zanker
1 - Lily Mithen

Crowd Watch
Only 1800 people there, but who wants to go to Casey at the best of times let alone in ripping heat?

Next Week
Collingwood at Victoria Park. I've said this about eight times in the last two years, but this might be my first game in person. I wish to relive memories of the only other game I've seen at the ground, a 1999 practice match where Dockers supremo and now Senator Damian Drum was heard from the coaches' box yelling about one of his players being an f'ing c f'er. Apparently only 499 others turned up. That night I kicked a footy onto the court after a NBL game in an attempt to put it through the hoop, because I was 18 and a dickhead.

Based on the scores of the respective games we should win, but they got the ball forward a hell of a lot without converting in the second half against Geelong. Find a way to get it out of the defensive 50 and belt them.

Final Thoughts
Seeing a Melbourne side lose in any grade above the Little League gives me the shits.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Demonbracket 2019 - your full voting guide

Footy's first Grand Slam is back. The tournament where we offer you the chance to make an arbitrary decision on which MFC player you like best in daily one-on-one matchups.

  • 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.
  • Players 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 is conducted in an open format (TwitterBigFooty. Demonland and Facebook) to keep it interesting but if you're really keen on your privacy or have an intense hatred of social media you can email me daily via demonblogger AT
  • The decision of the Demonbracket Organising Committee is final. Unless somebody takes us to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lucerne.
Honour Roll
This will be the eighth tournament, with the last six winners still on our list. McDonald, Jones, Viney, Gawn and Jetta go again, with all number of promising competitors threatening to rumble them.

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

The draw
Preliminary and first round matches will be drawn LIVE on @demonblog from 19:00 on Friday 25 January.

The field

Seeds (1-3 enter at Round 3, 4-8 enter at Round 2)
1. Neville Jetta
2. Max Gawn
3. Clayton Oliver
4. James Harmes
5. Nathan Jones
6. Tom McDonald
7. Angus Brayshaw
8. Jake Melksham

Enter at Round 2
9. Jack Viney
10. Jeff Garlett
11. Christian Salem
12. Christian Petracca
13. Oscar McDonald
14. Alex Neal-Bullen
15. Sam Frost
16. Jayden Hunt
17. Jordan Lewis
18. Michael Hibberd
19. Billy Stretch

Enter at Round 1
20. Aaron vandenBerg
21. Mitch Hannan
22. Jay Kennedy-Harris
23. Josh Wagner
24. Bayley Fritsch
25. Sam Weideman
26. Charlie Spargo
27. Jake Lever
28. Joel Smith 
29. Tim Smith
30. Corey Maynard
31. Harrison Petty
32. Declan Keilty
33. Oskar Baker
34. Braydon Preuss
35. Steven May
36. Kade Kolodjashnij

Enter in Preliminary Round
37. Austin Bradtke
38. Guy Walker
39. Tom Sparrow
40. James Jordon
41. Aaron Nietschke
42. Marty Hore
43. Toby Bedford
44. Corey Wagner
45. Kade Chandler

The tournament

Demonbracket VIII commences on 07:00 on Monday 28 January. The full match schedule (voting open from 07:00 to 19:00 AEDT) is:

Monday 28 January - Preliminary Round/Round 1, part 1
Tuesday 29 January - Preliminary Round/Round 1, part 2
Wednesday 30 January - Round 1, part 3
Thursday 31 January - Round 2, part 1
Friday 1 February - Round 2, part 2
Monday 4 February - Round 2, part 3
Tuesday 5 February - Round 2, part 4
Wednesday 6 February - Round 3, part 1
Thursday 7 February - Round 3, part 2
Friday 8 February - Quarter Final day
Monday 11 February - Semi Final day
Tuesday 12 February - Grand Final day

Preliminary Round

James Jordon d. Kade Chandler 82-51
Toby Bedford d. Aaron Nietschke 84-49
Corey Wagner d. Austin Bradtke 84-49
Tom Sparrow d. Marty Hore and Guy Walker 77-45-6

Round 1

Tim Smith d. James Jordon 100-35
Joel Smith d. Corey Maynard 100-27
Josh Wagner d. Harrison Petty 79-49
Bayley Fritsch d. Oskar Baker 120-8
Mitch Hannan d. Jay Kennedy-Harris 121-12

Aaron vandenBerg d. Kade Kolodjashnij 100-35
Braydon Preuss d. Tom Sparrow 84-51
Charlie Spargo d. Declan Keilty 127-6
Sam Weideman d. Corey Wagner 133-2
Jake Lever d. Toby Bedford 130-5

Round 2

Jordan Lewis d. Tim Smith 104-42
Alex Neal-Bullen d. Oscar McDonald 84-59
8. Jake Melksham d. Christian Petracca 79-67
6. Tom McDonald d. Mitch Hannan 131-6

Billy Stretch d. Jeff Garlett 84-53
Jayden Hunt d. Braydon Preuss 105-32
4. James Harmes d. Jake Lever 98-45 
Bayley Fritsch d. Aaron vandenberg 94-49

Charlie Spargo d. Sam Frost 82-61 
Jack Viney d. 5. Nathan Jones 97-46
Michael Hibberd d. Josh Wagner 139-7
Christian Salem d. Joel Smith 133-10 
7. Angus Brayshaw d. Sam Weideman 122-21

Round 3

1. Neville Jetta d. Jordan Lewis 135-4
8. Jake Melksham d. Alex Neal-Bullen 95-44
6. Tom McDonald d. Billy Stretch 134-5
4. James Harmes d. Jayden Hunt 119-28

3. Clayton Oliver d. Bayley Fritsch 138-9
Jack Viney d. Charlie Spargo 134-5
2. Max Gawn d. Michael Hibberd 127-20
7. Angus Brayshaw d. Christian Salem 116-31

Quarter Final

1. Neville Jetta d. 8. Jake Melksham 144-16
6. Tom McDonald d. 4. James Harmes 114-46
3. Clayton Oliver d. Jack Viney 110-50
2. Max Gawn d. 7. Angus Brayshaw 115-45

Semi Final

1. Neville Jetta d. 6. Tom McDonald 114-62
3. Clayton Oliver d. 2. Max Gawn 96-80


3. Clayton Oliver d. Neville Jetta 122-112

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Demonbracket 2019 preview

For immediate release.
Tuesday 1 January 2019

Demonbracket VIII playing field and format confirmed

The Demonbracket organising committee is pleased to confirm the field and format for the eighth running of this prestigious tournament. The names of the 45 entrants, and the numbers they will take into the draw are listed below.

Demonbracket VIII features six of the seven previous winners, including defending champion Neville Jetta, plus Tom McDonald (2013), Nathan Jones (2014/15), Jack Viney (2016) and Max Gawn (2017). The tournament commences on Monday 28 January, with the draw conducted live on Twitter @demonblog on the evening of Friday 25 January.

There are minor alterations to the format of previous years, with the preliminary round now only containing new draftees and category B rookies. The committee opted for this model after a lengthy consultation process and a trial in the VFL. It is believed matches in Round 1 and beyond will now be more competitive. To assist with this change, the top three seeds will now receive a bye into Round 3, adding a further incentive for players to win the Bracket or finish in the top two of the next season's best and fairest.

The tournament commences with Preliminary Round matches at 07:00 on Monday 28 January. The full match schedule (voting open from 07:00 to 19:00 AEDT) is:

Monday 28 January - Preliminary Round, part 1
Tuesday 29 January (13:00 session) - Preliminary Round, part 2
Wednesday 30 January - Round 1, part 1
Thursday 31 January - Round 1, part 2
Friday 1 February - Round 1, part 3
Monday 4 February - Round 2, part 1
Tuesday 5 February - Round 2 , part 2
Wednesday 6 February - Round 2, part 3
Thursday 7 February - Round 3, part 1
Friday 8 February - Round 3, part 2
Monday 11 February - Quarter Final day
Tuesday 12 February - Semi Final day
Wednesday 13 February - Grand Final day

Seeds (1-3 enter at Round 3, 4-8 enter at Round 2)
1. Neville Jetta
2. Max Gawn
3. Clayton Oliver
4. James Harmes
5. Nathan Jones
6. Tom McDonald
7. Angus Brayshaw
8. Jake Melksham

Enter at Round 2
9. Jack Viney
10. Jeff Garlett
11. Christian Salem
12. Christian Petracca
13. Oscar McDonald
14. Alex Neal-Bullen
15. Sam Frost
16. Jayden Hunt
17. Jordan Lewis
18. Michael Hibberd
19. Billy Stretch

Enter at Round 1
20. Aaron vandenBerg
21. Mitch Hannan
22. Jay Kennedy-Harris
23. Josh Wagner
24. Bayley Fritsch
25. Sam Weideman
26. Charlie Spargo
27. Jake Lever
28. Joel Smith 
29. Tim Smith
30. Corey Maynard
31. Harrison Petty
32. Declan Keilty
33. Oskar Baker
34. Braydon Preuss
35. Steven May
36. Kade Kolodjashnij

Enter in Preliminary Round
37. Austin Bradtke
38. Guy Walker
39. Tom Sparrow
40. James Jordon
41. Aaron Nietschke
42. Marty Hore
43. Toby Bedford
44. Corey Wagner
45. Kade Chandler

For media requests please contact Brunton Avenue Will Be Closed For 20 Minutes After The Match At The Discretion Of The Police Operational Commander PR via @Demonblog or

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Demonblog's 2018 End of Year Spectacular

Yes friends, it's that time of the year again. The season is over, exciting trade period bombs have dropped, a few familiar names have been given the Tijuana, and we gather to celebrate a season well played. And for once it really was well played, so the celebrations aren't sarcastic.

From the smouldering crater in the MCG caused by the reaction of our fans when we kicked the sealer in the Hawthorn game, it's the 2018 Demonblog End of Year Spectacular. Please rise for the national anthem:

This is the latest season review post ever, mainly because I've just discovered how hard they are without leaning heavily on gags about being a shambles. Now we're... good? I think. Either that September was one hell of a thrilling mirage.

Even the brief mid-table mediocrity era provided plenty of material, now we've made the last four of the competition and the only point of mockery is a disastrous Preliminary Final performance. If you'd offered me a prelim 12 months ago I'd have leapt on you so vigorously you'd have needed surgery, so you won't find me complaining. Until Round 1 next year when it will be sack everybody and bring back Swooper Northey.

The post was intended to mark a triumphant return for the world famous Demonblog Solid Brown Dancers, but because I've deleted the original files and can't be arsed redoing the video you'll have to use your imagination to enjoy their rendition of Melbourne, Melbourne:

Farewell the finals drought
Hello prelim blow out
Better than ninth

Joel Selwood has a sook
BT spoke gobbledygook
Gee god boy wow

Melbourne Melbourne
Winning six games in a row
Jesse’s off to shout heave ho
Ho ho ho ho ho hey

Melbourne Melbourne
Beating Carlton until dead
Quarter time man dropped on head
Ho ho ho ho ho hey

Melbourne Melbourne
Blew the Gold Coast Suns to bits
Jack Watts says he loves the tits
Ho ho ho ho ho

Melbourne Melbourne
Dean Kent kicked a magic goal
Then we sent him to a hole
Ho ho ho ho ho

Goodwin hit the jackpot
After we whinged a lot
On the internet

Lever could play a bit
Shame his knee went to shit
Atop a car park

Melbourne Melbourne
Finally beating North at last
Max's year was unsurpassed
Ho ho ho ho ho

Melbourne Melbourne
Everything went wrong in Perth
Daisy Pearce is giving birth
Ho ho ho ho ho

Melbourne Melbourne
Brownlow bronze for comeback Gus
Viney's foot is pretty suss
Ho ho ho ho ho

Melbourne Melbourne
Bayley Fritsch played everywhere
Lewis has synthetic hair
Ho ho ho ho ho

Melbourne Melbourne
It's easier to do satire
When your team's completely dire
Ho ho ho ho ho hey!

... and if you thought that was low quality content you'll love the rest of this post.

Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance

How long ago pre-season feels now, when wobbling to an unconvincing win over North in front of 1500 Tasmanians seemed like a major achievement. To be fair, in early 2018 beating North under any conditions was an event. Who'd have thought then that we'd end the season with a memorable finals run? I still didn't think that after Round 20.

After North came a win over St Kilda and that was it. No votes were awarded for AFLX because it was an ill-conceived idea, poorly executed for the enjoyment of dickheads. Bad news for Jake Melksham, who proved himself to be the greatest athlete in the history of that sport. Which is like being the most successful sailor on the Titanic.

Based on the two games that counted, it's congratulations to confirmed superstar Gawn and pending superstar Petracca for etching their name onto the most eclectic leaderboard in the business. I'd love to go back and do retrospective votes for 2005-2007 (especially because Chris Johnson once got five in a NAB Cup game), but the absence of votes in the low-effort first season of this page and the incomplete set of reports after that make it difficult without relying on bullshit newspaper reports.

7 - Max Gawn, Christian Petracca
5 - Alex Neal-Bullen
4 - James Harmes
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Jesse Hogan
1 - Bayley Fritsch, Dom Tyson

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

Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal

When you think of unexpected positional changes by Melbourne players you think of Clint Bizzell turning into a defender, Tom McDonald becoming a forward and James McDonald becoming unemployed. Other than the still contentious forced retirement of Junior, none of these were as high-risk as a mid-good season conversion of a first year VFL forward into a wingman and running defender.

It worked a treat, until we chucked him for the prelim on the grounds that he was tired only for the rest of the team to play like they were under heavy sedation anyway.

Bayley started favourite for this award so it was hardly a surprising result, he was expected to win as a forward and the good news that he would have anyway. There was a school of thought that held he played enough in defence to qualify for the Seecamp, but in the most bespoke piece of analysis in the history of the game Champion Data confirmed that he was only officially a backman for four games.

The man for all seasons took advantage of the smallest field of contenders for years to win the equivalent of a 6-0, 6-0 in tennis. He became the first favourite to win since Jack Grimes in 2009 - and look how well things turned out for him. It's also important that he got a decent number of votes so even if the award is uncontested it retains its legitimacy.

16 - Bayley Fritsch
0 - Corey Maynard, Charlie Spargo
DNQ - Oskar Baker, Lachlan Filipovic, Dion Johnstone, Declan Keilty, Pat McKenna

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

Demonbracket VII

If Demonbrackets were Wrestlemanias this would have been the one where Hulk Hogan pinned villainous Iraqi sympathiser Sgt. Slaughter. In this case it was left to Nifty Neville Jetta to play the role of wholesome babyface, throwing back to the early glory days for defenders in this competition by defeating Clayton Oliver in a more Wrestlemania VI-esque battle of good guys.

I've gone cold on the proposed format review for next year and will once again be presenting a straight knockout tournament. The only concession to spectacle is that rather than blindly following the tournament draw daily matches will be hand-picked to ensure a balance of attractive clashes and probable massacres.

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

2018 seeds
No change to seeding policy, defending champion opens the batting followed by the top seven in the best and fairest. Clear your calendar for Day 1 action on Monday 28 January 2019.

1. Neville Jetta
2. Max Gawn
3. Clayton Oliver
4. James Harmes
5. Nathan Jones
6. Tom McDonald
7. Angus Brayshaw
8. Jake Melksham

Fond farewells and assorted goodbyes

Harley Balic
We hardly knew ye. Kicked six in a VFL game to make people sit up and go "hello!", until we realised that the goals came against a bloody awful side and he realised he wasn't having any fun playing professional footy. Good on him for putting his hand up and getting the necessary help. We wish him well for the future.

Tom Bugg
Shamefully overlooked in the original draft of this post, the master of Buggery delivered some of the most memorable moments of the last four years. He wore a strange 60s jacket after playing in a win on debut, shhhed the Richmond cheersquad, pushed Jack Riewoldt over while injured, asked "you ready?" alongside Jack Redvers Watts, punched a bloke in the chops and kicked four in our drought breaking victory over North. Was a reasonable soldier in his day, but not the sort of player who's going anywhere in a finals team. So he's done the opposite and gone to Carlton.

Lachlan Filipovic
A very sour goodbye to all the references to Croatian head-kicking sensation Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic that were going to wheeled out during his career. And because now I'll never get another opportunity, here's the original recipe's surprisingly poptastic ring entrance that our one never got to enter the MCG to.

The Great Queen's Birthday Free Kick
At last we're not completely skint (for now anyway) and don't need the guaranteed home game to keep us afloat. That's a good thing. I always unrealistically fantasised about turning on the Pies and kicking them out first but that was never going to happen. Know your role and all that.

For all the put-on rivalry with Collingwood I'm not going to quibble about this, we've had nearly 20 years of charity from them so about time we stood on our own feet. The only complaint is that we'll have the home Anzac Eve game in the same year as our home Queen's Birthday game, meaning the CFO will want to stuff a shitload of money down the back of the couch in the 'on' years just in case we run short in the other. 

Jesse Hogan
The main event of departure season was the day we'd feared for years, and when it finally happened nobody seemed all that concerned. In fact you got the hint that the club were giving it the same "you don't have to leave but what about we drive you to the airport?" treatment Watts got last year. The assumption is Weideman will go supernova and McSizzle can't be stopped even if the focus goes on him in Hogan's absence. I'm keen to sign up, because the alternative is a Roos Year 1 scenario where the defence is solid but we make kicking goals look like landing a man on the moon.

The first time we play Freo you're entitled to act however you wish, but there will be no Carnival of Hate redux from me. Jesse did his time in the asylum, and I hope he does very well at Freo while they do very poorly.

Peter Jackson
The greatest bald head ever returned an air of quiet dignity to the CEO's office after a period of David Brent-esque self parody. He presided over the Herculean task of dragging us back from beyond the brink of irrelevance to a respectable footballing side and a mid-range financial power and did it without ever looking publicly stressed. Godspeed you wonderful, shiny bonced man.

Dion Johnstone
Started as a forward, and looked like he was on the verge of great things when named an emergency in 2017. Then we found out that was only because a bunch of other players had been suspended for illicitly getting on the piss. He never went close again and was converted into a defender in a last ditch attempt to save his career. For every Tom McBizzell style winning switcheroo there's a Troy Davis or Tom Gillies who is dragged down the other end to no avail. Took a shortcut to his released by belting somebody in the VFL Prelim, yet still survived for a week longer than all the other delistees. Maybe he just refused to answer the phone?

Dean Kent
At least we'll always have Perth Stadium. The clutch goal that gave us finals life was practically his last act as a Demon, injured early the next week and subsequently excluded from our bonkers finals run. By all accounts we were comfortable in letting him go, and for some reason St Kilda think they're going to make him a first string midfielder. Everyone's a winner, he'll get paid handsomely for three years to try something new and we don't give a continental if the Saints blow their dough. Pick 65 later formed part of the trade to Fremantle for Hogan, allowing him a partial stake in Steven May's hopefully amazing career with us.

Mitch King
A bad season to be a developing ruckman, and sincere apologies that I never did work out which one was Mitch King and which one was Max King before both were dismissed.

Cameron Pedersen
This one makes me sad. Has there ever been somebody who went from maligned to beloved via about 29 different stints in the VFL? It feels cruel he's been reduced to playing at Phillip Island (who must either be nicknamed the Penguins or shut down) when he'd be a perfectly good backup option for our list, much less one of the down on their luck shitbox teams who need mature bodies.

They've helped us prop up the bottom line for years, now hopefully the moment we sign them over to new owners they malfunction like an American voting machine and have to be written off as a bad investment. If you're mourning the loss of these glorified Sony Playstations why not just send me a hundred dollars and a number, and if you're lucky and pick the same number I'm thinking of I'll TREBLE your investment. We've sold Leighoak but are apparently keeping the Bentleigh Club without pokies, which seems like a fair gamble on the popularity of the joint as a wedding venue. 

Dom Tyson
Delightful fluffy hair, a world record pace for being caught holding the ball, and competent midfield play that looked a lot better when we didn't have any other good mids. They say a rising tide lifts all boats, but in Dom's case our midfield going from village standard to arguably the best in the competition left him surplus to requirements.

Harmes' astronomical emergence was the final blow, but it's undeniable that the best Tyson looked all year was when Viney was out so he should have gone to Carlton or Gold Coast and flourished while all around him was covered in shit. Instead he's gone to North and nobody can work out why. We wish him well.

Bernie Vince
The only player anywhere near their prime who chose to join us when we were out on our feet and begging for scraps. Forget what happened this season when he was shot and remember the very good times in very bad teams before that. I've delayed this post so long that he's already come back in some sort of part time coaching/mentoring role. There's never been a better time to bring back this tweet in tribute:

AFLW season in review

Round 1 vs Greater Western Sydney

Where I enacted a good old fashioned media ban, watched on tape the next day and saw us require a grandstand comeback in the last quarter to win. In a competition where you could only stand to lose one game and make the Grand Final (so we thought anyway) this was nearly curtains at the first hurdle, but a win was still one step ahead of what we'd done against them the year before.

Round 2 vs Adelaide

The week the AFL reacted to a perceived lack of razzle dazzle footy in the opening round by pissing about with the rules like madmen. This might have been a good thing for us, because after falling over the line as hot favourites in the opening week we tonked the defending premiers here. Unbeaten after two games and all was well with the world.

Round 3 vs Fremantle

Whether men's football, women's football or intergalactic alien football there has rarely ever been a more ridiculous defeat than this. We kept them without a single inside 50 in the first quarter, but only converted one of six scoring shots at the other end and gave them a second life. They gratefully accepted our gift and roared back with a vengeance to win, leaving us with minimal room for error in the last four games.

Round 4 vs Collingwood

A Perth to Alice Springs road trip seemed like rude scheduling, until you remembered that it was our choice to flog the game to the Northern Territory as part of the sponsorship deal that keeps us in the black. As an advertisement for games in the Alice the pulverisation of Adelaide's men was much better, with the women dying in the arse against mediocre opposition in the heat. This time it wasn't even close, with Special K spokeswoman Mo Hope winning the first female Kingsley nomination shortly before legging it from the Pies to play elsewhere. At 2-2 we were now basically rooted.

Round 5 vs Brisbane Lions

Our AFLW squad took the mantra "life wasn't mean to be easy" far too seriously, barely staying afloat against the Lions with the season on the line. In the dying seconds, inside Brisbane's 50 with a goal the difference we totally ran one out of bounds on the full deliberately which was paid as a boundary throw-in. I was less than gracious in victory towards an incredulous Lion...
... which nearly backfired when Brisbane made the Grand Final. But they lost, so double sucked in.

Round 6 vs Carlton

Carlton's women were as crap as their men. When the saving grace of a club is the VFL side finishing 12th you know you're in trouble. It's been nearly 20 years since teams had the chance to suck in three different grades, but you can be certain that if anyone put together an equally disappointing campaign in the days of the Under 19s it would have been us.

With a near certain victory here we looked towards an unofficial elimination final against the Bulldogs a week later, with the backup option of falling in on percentage in front of Brisbane if we won by a landslide here. The Blues had already handed Footscray our record for the largest AFLW win a few weeks earlier, and when we were 6.3 to 0.1 in front at quarter time here it looked like the mother of all percentage boosters was on the way. Then it wasn't, kicking one less goal for the rest of the game and losing Mel Hickey (for good as it turns out) with a knee injury.

Round 7 vs Footscray

Even with a 4-2 record there was a Grand Final lifeline to be had by beating the Dogs on their own ground. A win wasn't out of the question after toppling them at home in 2017, but while we gave winning a fair old crack the natural weight of part of the Melbourne Football Club dragged us under.

Our season quite literally swung on the wind, with a boundary throw-in dropping short because of the breeze and allowing the Dogs to sweep forward for the winner. It was the third consecutive season played by a team called Melbourne where we narrowly missed the finals and I was jack of it. Thank god then, for the first time in years, for the men. 

Daisy Pearce Medal for Women's Player of the Year

That's right, if you missed our award winning AFLW coverage (which to be fair was mostly complaining about ad hoc rule changes and Melbourne narrowly missing the Grand Final) we took the unprecedented step of renaming an award after a serving player. Who knew she'd decline to challenge for her own title in 2019 due to OUT: Pearce (Up The Duff). That's a team change you've never seen before.

In her last tilt at the title for now, Daisy finished third behind a thrilling Karen Paxman vs Elise O'Dea dual. The ever reliable Paxman won, and betting agencies across the country are suggesting they'll be facing off for top spot again next year.

20 - Karen Paxman
19 - Elise O'Dea
16 - Daisy Pearce
10 - Tegan Cunningham
6 - Katherine Smith
5 - Richelle Cranston, Shelley Scott
4 - Laura Duryea, Bianca Jakobsson, Lauren Pearce
3 - Mel Hickey, Brooke Patterson
2 - Meg Downie, Lily Mithen
1 - Harriet Cordner, Erin Hoare

Honour Roll
2017 - Daisy Pearce
2018 - Karen Paxman

2018 Year in Review Part 1


My attempt at a boycott of this unholy slurry lasted until I heard we were in the final. In case we never win anything meaningful I caved, tuning in to see us lift a trophy that looked like it was from a primary school arts and crafts fair. It was the most pointless exercise of all time, and next year will be played with all-star teams instead of real clubs as it should have right from the start. If any of our stars so much as cramp there will be murder.

JLT Community Series game 1 vs North Melbourne

We started another year of nobody knowing what JLT is by beating North in a real game - or as close as you get to it with supergoals - for the first time in over a decade.  Nobody turned up to a suburban ground in Hobart to see it but television coverage confirmed it really happened.

Now we'd toppled our long time nemesis in an AFLX wankfest and a pre-season game so the only frontier left to cross was the one that mattered.

JLT Community Series game 2 vs St Kilda

St Kilda were supposed to be in the same up elevator as us, so even in a practice game beating them made things start to seem real. Like the North game we needlessly left the door open to a comeback instead of obliterating them. We withstood a comeback, and when the Reverse Stranglewank failed we ran away with it in the last quarter. As I'd declined the three hour roundtrip to Casey Fields I turned my TV off and went to bed.

Round 1 vs Geelong

We'd keep finding inventive ways to lose during the season, but this hurt even more than the usual defeats because we had the game in our own hands with 30 seconds to play. You know the story by now, after recovering from a horror first half where the defence look like they'd just met Gawn marked 25 metres out directly in front with a shot to win it. He missed, the soon to disappear from the face of the earth Jayden Hunt had an underrated ping at a 70 metre torp from the boundary line after the siren and we were back to our old habit of losing in Round 1. 

Round 2 vs Brisbane

Well done to those who spotted the reference to Milton Berle's horsecock in the title, and more importantly to Melbourne for narrowly toppling Brisbane on their own ground. It was not without some nervous moments, with the Lions charging back from a mile down to make it all too interesting for my liking. In a higher stakes repeat of the St Kilda pre-season game we burst back to win easily, which was much appreciated considering I'd threatened to write the season off if we didn't start 2-1.

Round 3 vs North Melbourne

The trifecta of wins over North was complete, and we'd achieved the crucial two wins against ordinary teams that allowed me to buy in to the season. I'd somewhat cash out again over the next two weeks, but all's well that ends well. Victory was achieved in the face of a first half by Billy Hartung that reminded seasoned watchers of Robert Flower until he kicked the ball. It would be Billy's finest moment before he was dropped and subsequently delisted, seeing our first nominee of the season to the Kingsley Klub.

There's no telling if the rest of the season would have gone the same if we'd lost here (e.g. would we have still cocked it up so spectacularly against St Kilda?) but on a raw viewing of the numbers it represented the difference between the win in Perth sealing our spot and another week of tension waiting to see if we'd beat GWS. More importantly, Josh Wagner's heat map drew a cock and balls:

Round 4 vs Hawthorn

Hello top eight contenders, goodbye dignity. In the rain we played a searing five goal first quarter,  before Al Clarkson decided he'd have none of that rubbish and didn't allow another until we were 10 goals down in the last quarter. And that was the only one we got in the last three quarters. What a day to opt for doing something more important and watch on delay from home.

Round 5 vs Richmond
A memorable night for so many reasons, including a Richmond cheersquad member disgracing the memory of the Anzacs by wearing a comedy jacket to the pre-match tribute, and the bloke necking himself during Hogan's Heroes. There was also a footy game, and we barely participated in it. One game in the hole after five was about where I expected us to be at the start of the year but it was the struggle to score that made many of us get prematurely morose and ironically start acting like bloodthirsty pre-flag Tigers fans. Imagine knowing then we'd end up as the highest scoring team in the competition.

Round 6 vs Essendon
Randy Salvage

For the second year in a row our 18 hours of extra rest after the Anzac games proved decisive as the Bombers went to bits after half time. Until then Simon Goodwin was in all sorts of trouble from 'the internet', for the zero that matters. Even I was starting to get nervy and as 2012 to the third quarter of Round 1 2013 showed I'm usually too generous on coaches. Then Gawn laughed in the face of a numpty after kicking a goal and the Bombers stacked it, prompting us to straighten up, fly right and start giving teams what for.

Round 7 vs St Kilda
Keep a lid on things

In years gone by back-to-back trips to Docklands would have been cause to put your head in the oven, but now we were a better team at Fortress Shithole than on the MCG so another game there was welcomed like an old friend. Sure you still risked being trampled leaving the place, but now you'd die happy instead of cursing the club under your breath. By now we knew St Kilda were crap, but that didn't affect our joy at recovering from two weeks of tension with a fortnight of comfortable wins. The qualification mark for a comfortable win was about to be redefined...

Round 8 vs Gold Coast
Slip, slap, slop

The two wins before were most welcome, but this was truly the opening ceremony to probably the best three mid-season weeks of my life. Who'd have thought that of a literally unprecedented three week orgy of violence, venom and velocity a 69 point win against the Suns would be the least brutal.

In front of a palty 6060 people at the Gabba, while the Suns' ground had a Commonwealth Games long jump pit on it, we evoked happy memories of that first stomping of them on the same ground. Except that day we won by 90 and went home unhappy, while this 21 point 'worse' margin was far more memorable. It could have been more considering we had the equal more inside 50s ever in a game. Even 186 had less, but to be fair Geelong didn't need them when they kicked a goal on every entry.

Round 9 vs Carlton
How to make friends and eviscerate people

On the joyous occasion of celebrities getting hitched, our present to the Commonwealth of Nations was the 100 point win I'd coveted ever since the 1993 beheading of Richmond. Even that was a throwaway end of season game when we were well out of the finals race, this was a statement of intent that we'd graduated from errand boys to assassins. I had some sympathy with the Blues in the last quarter, having watched sides capitulate in similar fashion many times. Bad luck somebody had to be on the end of a kicking eventually.

By the end there was almost as much tension in keeping the margin over the ton than there would have been if we were up by a goal. Now the final frontier (non-premiership department) is somebody kicking 10.

Round 10 vs Adelaide
Alice Wonderland

We'd had it so good for a fortnight that I thought it would absolutely come to a screaming halt here. The Crows were not in the same shape as when they'd made the Grand Final, but were still a cut above the flotsam and jetsam we'd thrashed over the previous three weeks so as a coping mechanism I expected the worst. Next thing we'd kicked 12 first half goals, were up by 48 and on the way to a fifth consecutive win.

At three quarter time an understandably upset Don Pyke channelled his rage into silent patrolling of the huddle and eyeballing of players. They responded by staring back thinking "aren't you the tit who kidnapped us in a bus?" Concerned that he'd be driving them back to South Australia they briefly rallied at the start of the last term, before deciding it was all too hard again shortly after and crumbling to the largest defeat any team has ever had against us outside of the Melbourne metropolitan area.

Round 11 vs Footscray
Six won, and tons for fun

Sugarhill Gang fans rejoiced over the post title, while people who hate playing games in the Northern Territory were ready to riot when we went three goals behind in the opening minutes. Our near record streak of winning quarters was halted at 16, but from there Bulldogs packed up and let us do whatever we wanted. The not long for this world McSizzle/Hulkamania forward combination lobbed through nine, the winning streak extended to Milton Berle-esque length, and to remind us that we were Melbourne fans and could never truly be happy Jake Lever did his knee.

Round 12 vs Collingwood
On the slide

In what was all of a sudden a heavyweight clash against resurgent opposition our coach tempted fate by going down the charity slide dressed as a downhill skier. Against our first finals contender opposition in seven weeks we were soon exposed. In an outcome that would have paid 2000-1 a couple of years earlier, Tom McDonald and Mason Cox kicked 11 between them but the American's five were worth far more because his teammates joined in.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year

Round 1 - Alex Neal-Bullen
Round 2 - Jeff Garlett
Round 3 - Jeff Garlett (2)
Round 4 - Jesse Hogan
Round 5 - Jake Melksham
Round 6 - Max Gawn
Round 7 - Dom Tyson
Round 8 - Max Gawn (2)
Round 9 - Jake Melksham (2)
Round 10 - Christian Petracca
Round 11 - Jesse Hogan (2)
Round 12 - Mitch Hannan
Round 14 - Tom McDonald
Round 15 - Christian Petracca
Round 16 - Jake Melksham (3)
Round 17 - Christian Petracca (2)
Round 18 - Charlie Spargo
Round 19 - Jake Melksham
Round 20 - Charlie Spargo (2)
Round 21 - Cameron Pedersen
Round 22 - Dean Kent
Round 23 - Christian Petracca (3)
Elimination Final - Mitch Hannan
Semi Final - Christian Petracca (4)
Preliminary Final - Mitch Hannan (2)

... and your winner by popular acclaim - with apologies to the late Dean Kent in Perth - is Mitch Hannan sealing the Elimination Final with one of those heart in mouth running goals that ends in an eruption of ecstasy a'la Watts on Queens Birthday 2017. But better.
In the all-time leaderboard, Garlett now has 21 nominations and Petracca 10.

Honour Roll
2014 - Christian Salem
2015 - Nathan Jones
2016 - Jack Watts
2017 - Tom McDonald

2018 - Mitch Hannan

Tweets of the Year

If you're a player social media is a best avoided sewer, but I'd have had an even shitter time in the dark days if it wasn't for the people of Demon Twitter. Here's some of their finest work, headlined by this mid-preliminary final character assassination:
Accurate pre-season commentary that seemed more ludicrous than the bottom right old lady's jumper when we were struggling early in the season
Thoughtful Nathan Jones pondered the meaning of life while Fritsch and Harmes pissfarted around
A return to traditional values for the first time since Aidan Riley was on the list.
#ruleschat with Maximum - the tweet that saved us from the giant goalsquare
If you take the view that this was a legitimate account and not something doing a gimmick I'd like to meet them. Went quiet from July until dropping one last bomb after the Prelim
This perfect summation of the shared experience of climbing out of the sewer

And remember, if your account is locked it's not that I'm being rude and refusing to respond, I just can't see what you're saying. 

Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year

The good news for Maximum is that he could have retired disinterested after one vote and still clung to a perilous victory due to nobody else even going close to the 10 hitout per game qualifying mark. Next closest was Tim Smith at 4.25 per game, and he didn't get any votes either.

The bad news for Max's campaign for a sixth title in 2019 is that the aggressively bald Braydon Preuss surely hasn't joined us to test his mettle on a freezing Casey Fields so there might be genuine theatre in this award for the first time since the Fitzpatrick Debacle. 

51 - Max Gawn
DNQ - Lachlan Filipovic, Mitch King, Tom McDonald, Cameron Pedersen, Sam Weideman, Any other player

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

Welcome to my vendetta

Jake Lever's knee
Sam Docherty's has blown out like a faulty truck tyre for the second year in a row, leaving me shitscared of Lever's doing the same. Internet conspiracy theorists and Donald Trump dickheads are already discussing how convenient it is that Adelaide could have benefited from Lever going down and will benefit from Docherty's injury. Don Pyke with an ultrasonic sniper rifle not pictured.

Kade Kolodjashnij
Likely to pose the most spelling trouble for fans since Austin Wonaeamirri, and it's no easier to divine whether he'll deliver on-field. Given that he's had concussion trouble I'll be waiting patiently for the triple clack head knock with Brayshaw and Jetta, but if he can avoid that working purely off the vibe I think this will turn out ok. Has played 78 games, which makes me think of Mark Neeld's quest to get players up to the 80-100 game mark only to get the arse after 33 himself.

Steven May
If this goes badly I'll be inconsolable because I've coveted him for years. So much that I quickly forgave him for his cold blooded murder of Stefan Martin, and genuinely fretted when it seemed he was going to ditch Gold Coast for another Victorian club. No idea what draws me to him but I reserve the right to treat him like a messiah until the first time he unloads some poxy kick in defence and costs us a goal.

Gary Pert
Like Matthew Knights after Kevin Sheedy, David Moyes after Alex Ferguson or Denis Napthine after Jeff Kennett good bloody luck following an icon. He has runs on the board at Collingwood, but ask Heritier Lumumba what it was like leaving that moneybags operation and discovering all the stuff that used to work effortlessly at the old joint is a struggle here. Judging a CEO before he's started is about as wacky as doing articles about who won the draft before anybody's played a game, so let's just remain calm and see how it goes.

Natalie Portman
Probably the first not quite sure what they're watching American ring-in we've had since Don Lane. Later told of her experiences as a celebrity supporter on the Ellen show, providing the first entertaining content that godforsaken program has ever put to air. Feels appropriate to be involved with somebody who starred in V for Vendetta. Now do V for Viney.

Braydon Preuss
We'll either be playing him alongside McSizzle and Weid in the forward line, or he'll ruck more and free Gawn to go and create havoc in the forward line. Otherwise he should have just stayed at North and pushed Todd Goldstein down the stairs. Has kicked 5.6 in eight senior games so at least he's running at an average of more than one shot per game. Not exactly Simon Madden numbers but in Goodwin we trust. Coming from Queensland I don't fancy his chances of making the end of the year if we leave him at frozen Casey Fields all winter.

I hate the resulting draw with a passion, but welcome to the world of being the 4th best team in the competition. Not sure how I'm going to take to being the hunted rather than the hunter but am certainly not complaining at the chance to give it a crack. We've got a better team than last season, but if we crack through the good team draw to finish top four we'll win the bloody competition. Early prediction is a top four near miss again but I am here to be surprised.

All the draftees
With our first pick not until well beyond the point of serious draft analysis I have no idea who any of them are, what they do, and whether they project to be good, bad or otherwise. It certainly looks like we've gone small, which certainly makes sense in defence but I could have done with parking another forward of the future in the VFL just in case. Or we could have kept Pedersen.

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year

In contrast to the Stynes, this award was low-scoring but ultra-competitive and could have gone almost anywhere in the last few weeks. Ultimately Michael Hibberd's bid to become the first repeat winner since the 2010-2012 Frawley three-peat fell just short and Christian Salem became the fifth first-time winner in a row. Now that we've chucked Tyson it's entirely up to him to win us the Josh Kelly related trade, and this was a good start.

Gambling fanatics will note this is also the fifth consecutive player to win at double figure odds. Put your house on Declan Keilty in 2019. Then find somewhere else to live.

10 - Christian Salem
9 - Michael Hibberd
8 - Jordan Lewis
7 - Neville Jetta
4 - Oscar McDonald
3 - Jake Lever
2 - Sam Frost, Joel Smith
1 - Cameron Pedersen
0 - Jayden Hunt, Declan Keilty, Bernie Vince, Josh Wagner
DQ - Bayley Fritsch

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

2018 Year in Review Part Two

Round 14 vs Port Adelaide
Friday night and I just love complaining

The half of the year where we finally brought home the bacon had an inauspicious start. There was a period in the first quarter where it looked like we were going to march into Adelaide, extract  four points by force and return across the border leaving a trail of destruction behind us, before the league's scoring juggernaut clammed up. We only kicked nine goals, a 20 point lead was squandered, and our wobbles started to set off seismic detectors across the eastern seaboard.

As long as we didn't do anything stupid like lose to St Kilda...

Round 15 vs St Kilda
The welcome to my nightmare game

Much like the Hawthorn loss I can only imagine my reaction if I'd left the house to watch this. Especially if I'd been a flat out shithouse human and rearranged my daughter's birthday party to get there. I opted not to be the subject of future psychiatrist sessions, watched on tape delay and stormed out of the room in frustration when they went four goals up only to check the score and discover we nearly won. That would have been embarrassing. In hindsight consider it the loss we had to have.

Round 16 vs Fremantle
Home sweat home

After stacking into the wall against one team of also rans I can't tell you how little a Darwin game against Sex Chat Roscoe and the Heave Ho Squad appealed. If we'd lost the heroics of Alice Springs would have been forgotten while people lined up a no confidence motion in the entire administration. Fortunately just when things were starting to look dodgy the Dockers only offered token resistance. We went on our merry way racking up a ridiculous number of behinds, 5.15 at the half, and 13.24 by the end of a win that was comfortable but in no way suggested a barnstorming run to the final four was on the cards.

Round 17 vs Footscray
Climb the ladder, make yourself famous

Another outing where we staggered, wobbled, went around in circles and mixed our metaphors for a bit before deploying the afterburners and ripping the opposition's knackers off. Even after winning in Darwin there were still people waiting with baseball bats if the delayed effects of the humidity hit us here. At half time when we were only three points ahead they looked like this...

... before a masterclass of rucking by Gawn put both the naysayers and the Bulldogs on their arse. The NT was off the hook as Max fed his midfielders like he was throwing food to the starving. It rained hitouts as Max and the Midfielders combined for eight thrilling goals in 12 erotic minutes. Another four to one in the last quarter saw us win running away, and all it lacked was Peter Jackson running around the ground with a novelty cheque showing how much we'd made for playing in Darwin.

Round 18 vs Geelong
Respect the clock and tame the punt

Just when you thought everything was back on track along came an old fashioned MFC disaster. Not much of one by Kardinia Park standards, but try telling me that when Zac Tuohy's goal went through and I forcefully sunk the slipper into an innocent fence. The amount of energy I was expending on running ladder predictors and scenarios to get us into the eight at this point was ridiculous, adding an extra 'losing an eight pointer' level of agony onto the already traumatic nature of this defeat. After a nervy few weeks the ladder shook out so that we weren't in direct competition with the Cats for a spot so this was ultimately worse for our top four chances than top eight.

Round 19 vs Adelaide
Attempting reentry

What made the Geelong fiasco even worse was the prospect of having to travel again the next week. The Adelaide Oval holds nowhere near the same fears for us that Football Park did after the Port loss it still felt like a great place to dig a hole and bury our premiership hopes. It was nearly a burial at sea, as the Crows came at us with all guns blazing in a sodden last quarter. Much love to Eddie Betts for missing from the square in the dying minutes and allowing us to survive. It was a maintenance win, not pushing us much further towards September but preventing what might have been a fatal dip to 10th.

AFLX premiership coach Stone Cold Craig Jennings shot to internet superstardom when he treated the result with the same level of excitement as collecting your dry cleaning, with added contempt for being smacked about the head.
Round 20 vs Gold Coast

The Suns were in an even worse state than the last time we'd thrashed them, but had somehow recently beaten Sydney in a result so unusual even Pakistani cricketers would have said "blimey!" We had to be on guard against something equally bizarre happening but need not have worried, their only tall forward was injured in the first 30 seconds, and we registered our second biggest quarter in history. Ever. Against anyone. Since 1897.

When the lead hit 75 in the middle of the second quarter our record 141 point win against Hawthorn in 1926 was in grave danger. To the delight of nobody the Suns demonstrated some self-respect and dug in, only losing the rest of the game by 21. The margin narrowly tipped over the century late, before we missed another chance at it after the siren. Fine time for teams to stop kicking goals after the bell.

Round 21 vs Sydney
Unsafe at any speed

Victory here would all but seal our spot in the finals with two games to play, allowing a relatively stress free trip to Perth the next week. And it all looked so good at the start, before we reverted to Old Melbourne and threw away the game in 20 minutes of pressure-free madness. Once Sydney lost more troops than the first 25 minutes of Saving Private Ryan we had the chance to launch a rattling comeback but got within touching distance and clammed up again. Pedersen ended his Melbourne career setting up Mark of the Year with a shit kick, Hogan ended his with a damaged foot, and our finals hopes now hung on by a thread. 

Round 22 vs West Coast
You're going home in a cosmic ambience

Shame we'll never be able to remember this without also thinking about the Prelim, because before the legacy of Perth Stadium 2018 games was ruined it ranked as one of the most enjoyable victories ever. Still worth giving some thought to, especially how we didn't go to pieces when they hit the lead. At that point I was so nervous it was like somebody on real solid gear who thinks they're hovering outside their body.

The idea of choking our way out of the eight against the Giants the following week terrified me. Thank god then for Dean Kent, who in practically his last act before being shuffled out the door sank an ice cold set shot. That got us back in front, before a later premiership winning defender fell over and let Melksham goal unchallenged from the square to confirm it. I did a victory lap around the house, Chris J**d acted like a joyless wanker about regulation on-field celebrations and at last you could receive a finals brochure in the mail without kicking the postman.

Round 23 vs Greater Western Sydney
The Great Australian Free Hit

When you reach the last round playing simply for the right to host a home final then you know something has gone right. It was either back to the MCG for a festival of frenzy amongst the faithful, or filling the Giants' dinky stadium with our fans anyway. We avoided travel once, karmically rolling ourselves into going to Perth later, by winning in a canter. It didn't look like the Giants had their hearts in it, and we were pleased to take advantage in a warm-up carnival atmosphere for the chaotic scenes at our next game. Pride restored, time to go for the jackpot.

Elimination Final vs Geelong
Having expended so much psychic energy just to get in, it was a bit rude to play a team who'd already beaten us twice in heartbreaking circumstances. But this surprisingly quite good version of Melbourne accepted the challenge to a degree science is unable to properly measure.

60,000 odd diehard Melburnians, bandwagon jumpers and carpetbaggers who'd risen above Ticketek's ineptitude to get in went off their nut, and the remainder were stunned into silence by a blockbusting first quarter that left us five goals up. With mouths agape across the ground the inevitable response came on the counter-attack in another quarter where we comprehensively outplayed them.

After a weird third quarter where each side only kicked one goal we turned it on again in the last to win easily. As a bonus we not only withstood their comeback, but Joel Selwood was driven insane by the pressure and was offered free life coaching advice by Sam Frost.
Semi Final vs Hawthorn

After one life-affirming evening of Demon fans tripping off their tits, we arrived the following Friday night knowing that the only two places to go were Perth or out. I vowed to go west if we won, secretly not expecting to have to go through with it. In a reverse of the previous game we were the ones who kicked goals against the run of play in the second quarter, before a burst at the end of the third quarter set up what should have been an unassailable lead.

As payback for Channel 7 showing old ladies crying in joy at the last change Hawthorn kicked the first three goals of the last quarter to leave things looking very ropey indeed. Enter Jake Melksham, with a goal so great that serial shit chatter Brian Taylor of all people unloaded what may be my favourite commentary moment of all time.

Preliminary Final vs West Coast

It cost me about $1000 to get there, I walked the long way to the stadium because Google Maps didn't know there was a bridge over the river, we were pummelled from the opening bounce and my flight home was delayed but I regret nothing. If I'd chickened out and we'd won at least I've had had a Grand Final to look forward to, but even with the grisly circumstances of our demise I'd have felt like a poltroon not being there. 

Even if victory was unlikely (though I didn't think it was zero goals in the first half unlikely) the wave of the first two weeks needed to be ridden to its ultimate conclusion - which turned out to be some jagged as fuck rocks. Afterwards I met a drunk man in charge of children and watched 10 overs of domestic cricket at the WACA, before travelling home in misery.

The Still Unnamed Medal for Finals Player of the Year

You'd think more than two months later I'd have come up with a name for this. But no, I'm waiting for us to make another finals series first. Also, it's hard finding anyone sensible to name it after when we've played so few finals - relatively speaking - in the last 50 years. I'm tempted to do a Daisy and just name it after Nathan Jones now in tribute to his bridging of the 2007-2018 #fistedforever gap but won't tempt fate. Here's hoping we're announcing a name next year and not 2032.

10 - Jack Viney
9 - James Harmes
6 - Tom McDonald
5 - Michael Hibberd, Sam Weideman
4 - Clayton Oliver
3 - Angus Brayshaw 
1 - Neville Jetta, Christian Petracca

What we can do is use the votes of the past to declare a retrospective winner for 2006. I'd love to do 2005 as well, but for reasons still not adequately explained decided to go to work instead of chucking a sickie and watching us get thumped in the Elimination Final.

Honour Roll
2006 - Brock McLean
2018 - Jack Viney

2018 Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year

He looks like the McHamburglar, he dishes off psychic handballs to players out of his field of vision, he's become the second man behind St Nathan Jones to win two Jakovichs. He is possibly the best midfielder we've had since [insert a year that gives away your age].

I'm so surprised to have found a player of such rare quality that I'm continuously waiting for something to go wrong. For now the man who made Mooroopna famous has emerged unscathed, and is well on his way to becoming Demon royalty.

He becomes the second shortest price favourite ever to win, but was arguably better value than Jones' $2 in 2013 when he was the only breathing midfielder.

Congratulations Clayton, and best of luck with your quest to become the second triple winner in Jakovich history.

64 - Clayton Oliver
51 - Max Gawn
36 - James Harmes
29 - Jesse Hogan
26 - Angus Brayshaw
24 - Tom McDonald
18 - Jack Viney (WINNER: As Yet Unnamed Medal for Best Finals Player)
16 - Bayley Fritsch (WINNER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
14 - Nathan Jones
13 - Jake Melksham
11 - Christian Petracca
10 - Christian Salem
9 - Michael Hibberd
8 - Jordan Lewis
7 - Neville Jetta
6 - Alex Neal-Bullen
5 - Jeff Garlett, Mitch Hannan, Sam Weideman
4 - Oscar McDonald
3 - Dean Kent, Jake Lever, Dom Tyson
2 - Sam Frost, Joel Smith
1 - Cameron Pedersen

Honour Roll

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

And there you have it, at long last the curtain falls on the 14th season of Demonblog. As you would surely be aware if you've come this far I'm going to miss several games next year due to work commitments.

I'm hoping to be able to sneakily watch everything, but will still be taking up the offers of everyone who has volunteered to do a stint as a guest reporter. It's probably come at the right time, I'm worn out. But not enough to hush up and keep my crackpots opinions to myself.

So, until AFLW season, the pre-season series, and the real stuff we say farewell. Until then why not bury your head in either the 8000 page leviathan Demonwiki or the now not as relevant as it used to be book. I'm out, here's Nathan Jones going off his bald nut: