Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Declaration of bore

The Blockbuster Killers are back. Despite winning nothing since the 1993 Reserves flag the much maligned AFL gives us two prime spots every year to play in front of big crowds under the focus of the entire football world. This year we've returned the favour with 13.21 across eight quarters of ice-cold football that has even the most resilient supporter wondering if there isn't something better they could be doing.

That's one goal for every 11,287 people who bothered to show up across the two games. Coincidentally the same number of our 50,000 members are trawling through the terms and conditions of sale to see if they can get a refund. That we can still drag nearly 150,000 people to these games under the circumstances, especially with the sport of Australian Rules football seemingly about to be wound-up, is a testament to the human spirit. Or the desire of Richmond and Collingwood fans to see a guaranteed win.

Queen's Birthday was a colossal waste of everyone's time. We kicked a higher score than Anzac Eve (you'd have a tough time getting much less) but didn't even have one token quarter of glory before floating out to sea. This was just four quarters of not being good enough to challenge a confirmed top eight team who weren't playing well enough to humiliate us.

My only fond memories of this week will be the Pies fans who tried to play down their chances and suggest we had the remotest chance of winning. They're probably still traumatised by the memory of Watts storming towards the goals like they were a giant pair of bristols but you'll never win a miserable memories shootout with a Melbourne fan. In the last 10 years we've been carved up by Brad Dick twice, Adam Oxley and Mason "one prelim from a Kingsley" Cox, lost by 83 and 88, and kicked scores of 3.10, 5.9 and 6.5...

By those standards 7.15.57 was almost a luxury total, if you ignore that like GWS the Pies stopped to a walk in the last quarter. Even then we only added 2.6, leaving our last two final quarters narrowly beating all of Queen's Birthday 2014 by four points. Conversely, after missing a bunch of easy shots early in the game the Pies kicked 9.0 in the second half. Imagine that. Must be nice to spend years building out of the doldrums then endure as a contender instead of plummeting back to earth at the first chance.

The problem with this result is that we didn't play well, but at the same time there's no specific issue to rally around and get upset about. I'd rather not lose by 88, but when you do it offers the chance to cleanse your soul by going troppo. Now it's just blah. Four losses in a row, one that definitely should have been a win, one that might have, one genuine thrashing, then a defeat that people will have forgotten by Thursday.

Nothing that happened yesterday should influence 2020, other than the chance to have the key pillars of our defence going from day one, but I'm still wobbling on my belief that we'll fully embrace the rollercoaster spirit of the Daniher years and rebound straight into the lower echelons of the eight. Until then the question of where it all went wrong for us will be more hotly debated than the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Everything has had a run already - Injuries, recruiting, coaching, administrators, rule changes, complacency, and off-field conspiracies ranging from believable to so ridiculous they're probably true.

For mine it's like Air Crash Investigation, where a dozen different things that would generally not have cause the plane to land upside down on a freeway come together to cause a calamity. Once half our list had off-season surgery it was optimistic to claim top four, and after they began dropping like flies in season even the top eight started to look a bit shaky. I thought we might at the very least hang around and make a late run at ninth once the majority of the side were back. Now we're two games and percentage out of 13th, have a worse percentage than Carlton and are a live chance to finish last. Stick draft picks up your arse (but not too far, they might come in handy), I'm genuinely embarrassed.

Don't make me get the financial report out again, but whether you like the coach or not he's not getting sacked. Even if he hadn't signed a long-term contract extension I wouldn't say that was going to instantly solve our problems, but I wonder if the people who talk of this as a serious option are the same who want to chuck the NT and blow up the pokies. If we were rich enough to do all these things at once we wouldn't have gone 55 years without a flag or be playing games in Darwin to start with.

It's not to say he shouldn't be under scrutiny though. In fact I'm disappointed that there isn't more. Sure, when he said to stop focusing on the injuries he can't have seen about half a dozen more waiting around the corner, but there are still questions to be answered about why this team is playing so badly. What's wrong with Viney, are you doing anything to try and get Tom McDonald back into the game, where's Nathan Jones going, does Garlett provide enough forward pressure, would you instantly put your head in the oven if Gawn was injured etc...

Considering where we were coming from, being as boring at batshit under Roos was alright. Now we're tedious, have no kids, and a lot of senior players who are just going. If there are young players who need to spend the next 10 games gaining experience no matter what happens, so too should an inexperienced coach be on the end of journalistic fireballs for the rest of the season.

This won't happen because footy media is run on a wink and nod system where asking too many provocative questions will end with you covering games in Tallygaroopna. It's safer to be as generic as possible, allowing coaches to do platitudes, cliches and say 'connection' on a weekly basis. You might get the occasional assassination job on TV or radio but I've got no respect for it unless put directly to the coach for his right of reply. On that note, Simon you're always welcome to a state of the union interview on this site - contact me via the usual diplomatic channels.

There's a lot of people who didn't bother to watch this game, and not just those in places without a public holiday. If you missed it source a replay of the first 90 seconds and you'll understand everything that followed. It started at the bounce, where Gawn kicked off one of his most animalistic performances by collecting the ball and trying a fancy one-two with Oliver that went awry, leaving a Collingwood player to gather unchallenged and hit a leading teammate on the tit with an opponent trailing miles behind with no chance to impact the contest.

He missed the set shot and there you had it, Gawn doing colossal things in a failing system and the Pies spurning opportunities to kick our brains in. Even before it got to players cracking heads you can press stop and get on with your life knowing you missed one of the most tedious exhibitions ever. A four quarter holding pattern that would have had neutrals and television executives alike reassessing their public holiday entertainment choices.

As the club's self-appointed Miserablist Laureate the only other 'highlight' until the last minute of the quarter was our all new settled defensive lineup, finally free of ACLs and binge drinking, lasting all of 90 seconds before one of them was injured. Not even just one, we picked up the spare by losing Salem and Frost at the same time.

I enjoyed Salem standing in front of the umpire giving him a look like "I wonder if he'll notice this" while his face was in the process of exploding into a crimson mask. Not surprisingly the umpire did spot it, sending both of them from the field and leaving us two defenders down within two minutes of getting Lever and May back. Frost was never seen again due to concussion, and we must have only had one concussion test in the first aid kit because Salem came back on and played the rest of the game like he was in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

At least after consecutive late withdrawals he made it to the game this week. No offence to Frost but I'm glad he was the one who came out worse because I hate to think what the ramifications would have been if Salem had come back from one concussion then suffered another almost immediately. First Brayshaw wore a helmet, now Kolodjashnij's got one, and if we keep going the entire list will look like Phil Narkle. Everyone involved in this result is a helmet in my book.

Because Salem got through the warm-up without having a Chris Mew this week we had to find somebody else to be a mystery late withdrawal. Tim Smith took his chance, apparently suffering from the flu. If the TV ad has taught me anything it's that he'll be stuck on the couch for the next four weeks. What I want to know is if the virus cropped up at some point after 2pm Saturday, because if he was touch and go wouldn't it have made sense to take Preuss out of the Casey game instead of Stretch and Josh Wagner? Then we lose a forward/ruckman and have the option of replacing him with a defender/not midfielder or a midfielder/not defender.

If Melksham was still alive or we had any other sort of half-forward line I could have bought the idea of just playing two talls. But when Max is taking on one of the few ruckmen who can shine his shoes, Cox is recalled in the hope that he might launch a 2018 style stitch-up on us, and last year's leading goalscorer is in dreadful form there was never a better time to unleash this brick shithouse of a man onto a significant TV audience.

Then once they declined to do that (and again why in the name of dutch buggery did you recruit somebody who hasn't got the tank to be a first ruck if you weren't going to play him as a second ruck) we reacted to recalling four defenders by putting another one in the side. Wagner is a classic inoffensive depth player and Stretch is hardly Robert Flower, but what would have been wrong with picking the more attacking player and having a bash at kicking a decent score?

If there was any good news to come out of the game it's that Lever and May both survived and looked capable of playing key roles in the future. They were both rusty but ultimately helped keep the score to where it would have been 'gettable' if we had anything even remotely approaching a functioning forward line. You could have Chris Langford and Glen Jakovich down there and it wouldn't help if the rest of the team is kicking 69.8 points per week. It's a disaster, and at this rate I can see us go into 2020 with a solid defence but still losing all the time because no bastard can a) stop the ball going down there or b) put it through the posts at the other end.

The forward structure is my greatest concern. I know Mark Stevens ruined adversarial journalism for everyone when Mick Malthouse treated him like a peasant but if anybody will risk redeployment to the Latrobe Valley here's a cut out and keep question for you to drop at the next press conference. "Simon, Tom McDonald has gone from one of the most dangerous forwards in the competition to barely getting a kick. Is he 100% fit, and if so are you making any changes to your forward structure to try and get him into the game?"

McSizzle's demise this year has been so mysterious that they should play the theme from Twin Peaks whenever he's on camera. I'll be buggered if he's not either suffering physical issues, severe emotional trauma or both. Last year he played the season of his life and got a big pay day two years after flirting with being delisted, now he's wearing the thousand yard stare of somebody who's just invaded Normandy. Tom's day was so bad that when he finally got on the end of a mark in the last quarter the commentators blathered on about it being his first shot of the day, ignoring the two in the first quarter that missed everything and left him with a look on his face like he'd just caused a major traffic accident.

Not only that but he'll have to be reminded of the first miss over and over again by seeing the free that created it on repeat. In 2017 he was the stepladder for Howe's mark of the year, and the only footage anyone will want to see from this game again is the same player taking another screamer on him, but this time being penalised for jamming his foot into the back. Tom then got a bit excited, made a vigorous push in the back gesture after he'd already been paid the free and kicked it like Earl Spalding having a stroke.

Opinions broke along party lines, with Pies fans thinking it was a legitimate action in a marking contest and ours claiming it unfairly pushed Tom out of the way. For mine I have no idea if it was legal under the current rules but would be comfortable if given as a mark because the game needs some razzle dazzle at the moment. Obviously Toby Greene kicking somebody in the face was different, but given that you can still knee your opponent squarely in the back of the skull as part of the marking contest I can handle this being paid. If he drops the mark pay a push in the back.

Shortly after that Darcy Moore - looking more like one of the Chantoozies than ever - was pinged for a deliberate in the pocket, leading to Tom giving it the full Hannan and missing everything. In Round 1 he was so full of confidence he gave away what would have been his second goal in the first quarter to Melksham, now eight goals in 11 games later this. Not to mention he kicked six straight in the same fixture a year ago. I haven't seen a fall from grace like this since (insert epic list of all our falls from grace).

The good news for Tom is that he's 26 and has time on his side. The same cannot be said for Nathan Jones, who didn't do anything spectacularly bad (not more so than 21 other players anyway) but had almost zero impact. There are terrifying signs that unless they can find an alternative role for him he's approaching the end. Don't let this end up like an even more emotional version of Lynden Dunn having to run out his last couple of years at another club because we didn't know what to do with him.

In the week where he gained one on Kade Simpson in the race to Kevin Murray's all time loss record, Jones also became the first man to be beaten 100 times on the MCG. It's a bit of a cruel record to lump on him considering only one team played there until 1965, and two until the 1980s, but it helps my narrative that he's the greatest martyr in the history of football so let's go with it.

Chunk is 21 behind Murray's magic 208 losses (including 42 straight at one point), so even if Simpson makes up his eight defeat deficit by the end of the year Jones needs him to retire to get a clear shot at the title. He'll definitely play on until the end of next year, so if we go badly enough until then he has a real shot at it. There's something to look forward to.

If he makes it we should run on the field and carry him off. But will he still be in the team by the end of next year? It's not all about disposal count but the rest of the team is moving on without him. Pity they're not moving in a forward direction. I don't like him in a Lewis style role in defence, but I'm desperate to give him a go as a forward. We're keen as mustard on ruining Petracca's life by playing him deep inside 50 so why not give Jones a go instead. If it works you've found a new goalkicking option for the next couple of years, if it doesn't we haven't lost anything other than a captain.

Speaking of Petracca, he played further up the ground and surprise, surprise, had his best game of the year. Via the humorous interlude where BT tried to convince us he was a good kick on goal shortly before he shanked one it was a performance which had more impact on things we did well (and there were some if you looked hard enough) than about five of the times he was played as a deep forward combined.

He looked so much better creating opportunities and we must persist with having him up the ground for the rest of the year, even if it leaves him having a big old spew at three quarter time every week. Consider it his pre-pre-season training, because that's the role where he's going to give us full value in the future. Forget unkind comparisons to Jordan De Goey kicking arsey goals, 75 games in that's not going to happen and he'll go mad if we try to force it.

We just avoided our first Super BaileyQuarter since the prelim (yes, we played in one of those) via a late, late goal from Garlett. He did well to break away from his opponent and run into the open goal, but most of the credit should go to Petracca for the long bomb that set it up. It was just the sort of kick we needed when we had no earthly idea how to create a goal otherwise.

For all my criticism of Garlett (and whoever left him in defence for one of the Pies goals earlier in the quarter) it was just the sort of goal nobody else on our list would have kicked. Doesn't do enough otherwise, get him to spend bye week training Hunt on how to break away to an open goal, then send him on his way with my best wishes for his future endeavours.

That goal breathed undeserved life into a contest where we'd been outplayed everywhere but the scoreboard. When the "time in forward half" stat after five minutes had Collingwood on 99% the only explanation was they didn't have space to show a team on 100% so rounded down. At this stage you couldn't blame the forward line. There was plenty for them over the next 3.5 quarters but this was a failure of everybody else to get the ball down there.

Once the ball crossed halfway for real things didn't get much better. The midfielders shut their eyes and kicked long, the forwards couldn't get an inch of space from their defenders, and it was in every way a 2015 style performance, with one fewer win to Round 12, two points less every week, and no mid-rebound goodwill.

It was an indictment on Collingwood that they were only 15 points up. Our backline - already one man down - was jumpy under pressure, most of the mids were offering bugger all, Gawn's heroic display was only warmed up to about 60 of 110% and our forward line was set for induction into the Fictitious Athlete Hall of Fame. Even more outrageous that when Petracca dashed in to kick the first of the second quarter (see, he started outside the 50, ran into it and got a goal. Do I need to draw a diagram of how this works?) we were within single figures. No wonder Collingwood fans were risking eviction.

No need for panic, it was soon obvious that nothing had really changed after quarter time and we were more content to keep the margin respectable than toss magnets in the air and try to pull off something incredible. Having said that, there was no call for the idiotic 'special comments' suggestion that we play May at full forward. Imagine trading Hogan for a 27-year-old defender, losing him for nine weeks with injury, then shifting him out of defence in his comeback match. Mr. Bartel, please proceed to the Australian Media Doping Association offices to urinate into a beaker. That none of the other stooges challenged it as a stupid idea says all you need to know about the circle jerking boys' club of footy commentary.

Almost giving Petracca's goal straight back out of the middle was a fun throwback to last year when McDonald's goals (remember them) were cancelled out in an average of 112 seconds. The miss let us off the hook for a few minutes, until Grundy was gifted one of those bullshit ruck frees that nobody on the ground understands and they were on their way again. This provided a demonstration of the stark difference between the sides, when they were given a half chance they took it, while we tried to create goals like McGyver making a bomb out of everyday household objects. For the rest of the day they were kicking goals from obscure bounces and soccers while we were trying to do it the old fashioned way and getting nowhere.

Somehow we created a goal out of thin air that kept us in the hunt. Even more surprisingly it involved Charlie Spargo kicking the ball 40 metres. His hamstring must have been ready to tear out of his leg and join the space program. As much as he looked promising last year I don't think he's the man for a struggling side but this was much appreciated. Of course no good Melbourne goal goes unanswered, and within a few minutes the Pies had got it back with another couple of points as interest.

For the second week in a row the contested ball was exposed as footy's answer to a pyramid scheme. From +15 in Darwin to +27 this week it was demonstrated that you can have four players scrapping at a contest like madmen but it will mean bugger all without the kick inside 50 and kick on goal to follow. One or more of Goodwin, McCartney or Stone Cold Jennings has the biggest horn on god's green earth for contested footy and the others need to stage an intervention. If they're all in on it send an external mediator.

After the game Harmes - one of the few who put in a proper performance - said "we win the contested ball, but we just can't hit up forwards". And Goodwin said "we're working on our goal kicking, our inside 50 entry and our fundamentals. We're working on it every single session". Training ground form be buggered, what are you doing about it behind the scenes?

As Neeld discovered you can train the house down but it's a bit harder to execute when an opposition turn up. Are they doing anything to adjust the gameplan and train the adjustments, or are they just hoping everything's going to click into place and off we go again? Because it won't. Last year we were a fringe top eight team that got on a wonderful four week run, if you didn't think the rest of the league were going to study that and try to cut us off at the knees you're bonkers. Alternatively they might have some tremendous innovation ready for next year and don't want to waste it on a failed season. If that happens I'll come back to this post and add a fulsome apology.

The margin had extended by half time but was still only 21. Of course 21 this year is worth about 121 considering how scoring is going, but remember the days where we used to kick a string of goals in quick succession? This time we didn't even do the reverse of conceding a bunch, it was just a slow, orderly trudge to the inevitable result. Like somebody going to the electric chair not even bothering to call the warden's mother a whore before the power goes on.

I wanted so little to do with this game at half time that I evacuated the room and did something more useful, only accidentally walking back in to find the third quarter had started. I arrived just as Garlett was lining up a shot from the pocket. Against Footscray 2016 he kicked the most casual around the corner goal ever from the same spot and I thought it was awesome so can't hold it against him for missing with an equally carefree effort here.

That - and the next 10 minutes we spent shambling about trying to restrict the damage as much as possible - was enough to convince me nothing had changed at half time and there was no miracle revival to be had. Hunt kicked a nice goal from the boundary line, and later set up another for Weideman with one of his old school turbo runs, but we were just second rate in about 15 of 18 positions.

I was pleased to see the Weid convert twice, albeit in a zero pressure environment, and look to be free of trauma from last week. Still unkindly muttered "where was that last week?" under my breath as if I could personally kick more than 25 metres without suffering a heart attack. Though to be fair when he had the chance at a third that might have given us a very outside shot at winning he missed the lot with a rancid kick so maybe you only want him kicking for your life with the heat off.

The game was finished when the score was 0-0, but the Pies decided to put it away for good at the end of the third. Our defenders took a five minute rest after being battered all day, through went three goals and out the door went the Dees. It was nice to see Steele Sidebottom, the man who once beat Banana Yaya in a silly names competition, get one after spending the day whinging to umpires like he was Gary Ablett.

Via a few minutes of complete disinterest from the Pies we got the first two goals of the quarter and the door ever so slightly opened to a stirring comeback. It wasn't going to happen but you've got to at least buy a ticket in the lottery. Ironically after last year it came down to the Pies scoring immediately after a Tom McDonald shot on goal, only this time they weren't replying out of the centre, but going from end to end after another shithouse set shot.

From there procession mode was activated and they banged through four in a row. With nothing else to play for it was fitting the game finished with the ball in Gawn's hands. He'd been the thin line between dignity and destruction for the whole second half and it was appropriate that he got to delay Collingwood's celebrations for a few more seconds by taking ages to kick it. The extra thinking time didn't help and he sprayed it horribly. I'd say "oh well, who cares" but it cost me a match-winning exacta in the FMITL. Am I remembering correctly that at first they put up a graphic with the final score as if he'd kicked it then had to redo it without?

For everyone other than me, it was actually "oh well, who cares". We confirmed there's no chance of beating a top four contender this year, Pies fans learnt absolutely nothing about their capabilities against decent clubs, and we end round 12 with the decidedly head-in-the-oven record of 3-9. Even two of those wins could be considered flukes. What's not to love about 2019?

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
4 - Christian Petracca
3 - James Harmes
2 - Clayton Oliver
1 - Angus Brayshaw

Apologies of varying degrees to Weideman, Hunt, Hibberd, Lever and May.

With 10 to play the dreaded dotted line of elimination is going to make an appearance soon. It'll take a few weeks to work its way up the table and confirm the winner but as it stands Maximum holds an enormous lead. In a race realistically down to three (just like the wooden spoon hey Dees fans?), the equal second place holders are capable of ripping out a few massive weeks of vote collecting but may be too far back already. Not a cracker of change in the minors.

38 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
24 - James Harmes, Clayton Oliver
18 - Christian Salem (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year),
14 - Jake Melksham
11 - Marty Hore (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
10 - Angus Brayshaw
9 - Jack Viney
7 - Jayden Hunt, Christian Petracca
5 - Nathan Jones
4 - Bayley Fritsch, Billy Stretch
2 - Jay Lockhart, Corey Wagner
1 - Sam Frost, Michael Hibberd

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
In another limited field it can't be anything other than Petracca on the run in the second. Apologies to Hunt and Hannan from the boundary line in the last but this was much more satisfying. His weekly prize is my ongoing support as a midfielder and the sort of verbal spray likely to have me evicted from the MCG the next time I show up and he's standing in the square. Hore against Gold Coast retains the overall lead.

Considering they have more disposal income than Bill Gates, Collingwood should do good banners. And apart from the one that went to buggery immediately before the Grand Final they do. I can only get a half look at it via this tweet but about 20 seconds in you can see how magnificently kerned it is, and how perfectly the letters line up. The design is so perfect that you almost suspect the thing is machine printed.

Under normal circumstances that might have been enough to deliver a shocking upset win, but what they failed to note on the run-through side was the charitable aspect of the day. We had MND messages front and back. And crucially, perhaps uniquely amongst AFL banners, the reverse side included a comma. That's the sort of touch that elevates our lot to the top of the cheersquad leaderboard. Dees 11-1-0 for the season via a thriller.

It didn't factor into the scoring but there was also the emotional element of Brad Green's kids running through after the tragedy their family suffered a couple of weeks ago. When they cut to Brad and he was holding back tears I nearly went with him.

Matchday Experience Watch
Neale Daniher's battle against MND has reached a Jim Stynes vs cancer level of heroism. Should you or I go down with any of the big ones they are amazing role models of how to not only battle your arse off but do some good while you're at it.

I've got a suggestion, given that nobody's going to be keen on the name 'King's Birthday' once QEII shuffles what about dedicating a public holiday to positive causes, volunteers and generally wholesome scenarios like a man's dog greeting him as he leaves the field:
This otherwise bullshit holiday may as well be dedicated to doing some good rather than a tenuous tie in to a new monarch born on November 14.

Meanwhile, the charity focus of this day is tops but the slide gimmick has hit the wall. If it wasn't for Nick Riewoldt's uncanny Freddy Mercury the atmosphere would have been as flat as a tack. We should donate the Hogan's Heroes concept and get celebrities taking screamers off the back of Russell Robertson in the middle of the ground.

Either that or replace the ice with human waste, set up a leaderboard of all the AFL journos and let people donate money towards the 10 they want to be sent into the sewage. Not sure I have enough money to cover all my selections but I'd nearly be ready to mortgage the Towers for the cause.

Anyone who genuinely thought we were a chance of even dragging back to a Stranglewank loss in the last quarter needs to front the tribunal. This didn't stop Channel 7 having a red hot bash at convincing us something was up.

Under normal circumstances I'd suggest somebody was screaming in their ear to keep people watching so the 6pm news ratings were protected, but with BT in the chair you knew he was just going for laughs at our expense. Now that Gee God Boy Wow is a distant memory I'm backtracking on my comments about coming around to him, he's dreadful in all aspects and should only be allowed to roam around asking novelty questions to boot studders.

"Are you with me Tim!?!" he screamed about five times, obviously part of some 'humorous' in-joke from another game that I missed. Nobody likes in jokes or outdated obscure references more than I do, but I'm not the one providing the audio to the historical record of the game. That's why if I see somebody fall on their arse outside the MCG you're going to get an 800 word description here and it won't rate a mention on Demonwiki.

You're there to report on what is happening in front of you, not "well called Darce", not "ho ho ho that's a good one from you Lingy", and not "hey King, remember that time you got capsicum sprayed by the police? Ha ha ha!" The quality of commentary doesn't get nearly enough coverage in state of the game discussions.

Next Week
The bye, thank Christ. How will I fill the massive disappointment void in my weekend? Might open a Muffin Break franchise or take up Scientology.

The week after
Fremantle at the MCG, and if you think that's going to be an pleasurable experience you must be heavily into masochism. We're playing like the days when Ross used to torture us for fun so he'll be licking his lips at the chance to drag us around our own ground by the ankles, making the few thousand desperate people who show up as uncomfortable as possible. Unfortunately I'll be one of them.

Casey won, which is about as rare as Melbourne this season, but were barely convincing. In a rare case of the league(s) getting something right this year they've landed the bye for the 2s on the same week as the seniors (although we have got another bye coming later in the year and had one in Round 3...) so this is the only form we've got to go on. Does it matter? It's all about the setup for next year now. For instance, Lewis was very good but what's the point in playing him now? Let's wait a few weeks, set up a respectful exit strategy and clear him to the media in time for finals.

As such we finally play Preuss as a forward and discover what he's all about. He's not going to kick 50 goals this year, next year, or possibly combined for the rest of his AFL career but he will at least make a contest when the ball is roosted aimlessly inside 50. Instead of going back to a three man forward line I propose we temporarily put Tom McDonald out of his misery, especially now there's no call for him to play in defence. Even if Frost has such a significant concussion he's unavailable in two weeks I'd rather give Petty another run.

It's a bit cruel to see the Weid play a couple of promising games then get rid of the senior member of their combination but the McSizzle has gone out so violently that I'm not even sure what protection he was affording his teammate. Invent a mystery ailment if you need to and just give him two weeks off to sit in a darkened room and either watch highlights of how he kicked goals out of his arse in 2018 or whatever website ending in '...hub.com' will help him relax.

Stretch gets another go doing whatever it was that Spargo did. The difference is that Billy is bigger and can usually kick more than 20 metres without having to exert excessive force. He was suspect in defence last week but that's because he's not a defender. Give him a go near the ball and decide whether we want to give him another contract.

Finally, why not just give Dunkley a bash at the big time? There's nowt to lose, let him have a taste of the good stuff. It's hardly like for like to bring him in for Wagner, but then again it's more realistic than bringing Wagner in for Tim Smith. I'm sure our crack coaching division (not an on crack coaching division, that would have been when I wanted Wayne Carey to replace Daniher) will make something out if it.

Garlett is in the same boat as Lewis, except we don't have any obvious replacements. Don't care, not offering enough. He didn't do offensive things today, just not enough good things. Time to move on. Like Stretch but with more credits in the bank I'd like to get Anal-Bullet back in to see if we can recapture some of the old magic.

IN: Preuss, Stretch, Dunkley, Neal-Bullen
OUT: T. McDonald, Spargo, J. Wagner, Garlett (omit)
LUCKY: Jones
UNLUCKY: Lewis, Neal-Bullen, T. Smith, Stretch

I expect to lose, and won't get upset unless we either go close or get thrashed. Another gloomy defeat like this and you can pre-write the "was it worth it" segment before I get home. Meanwhile, don't be a cockhead and boo Hogan. We could very well have kept him but tried to get smart and bet the farm on a Sizzle/Weid future that has gone tits up. I genuinely wish him well and hope he kicks all 10 of Freo's goals in a 150 point loss but fear it's more likely he'll kick two and they'll win by 95.

Next Year
The midweek two year extension for Weideman's was welcome, and now I want him to play every game for the rest of the year no matter what. As for the rest of the uncontracted players, you don't want to get excited and demolish your stock of experienced players but there's a fair bit of carnage to be had amongst this group:

Retirements - Garlett and Lewis
New contracts (of varying lengths) - Jones, Baker, Dunkley, Frost, Lockhart, Neal-Bullen, J. Smith
50/50 - Stretch, T. Smith, the Wagnii
In all sorts - Kennedy-Harris
All but gorn - Keilty and Maynard (I'm sad about this one) + it looks like injuries will put Guy Walker away.

Considering all the certainties are rookies, that's only two players off the senior list pending trades. That's bad news for the group directly above them. That's where the Wagnii come in, neither is ever going to bring the house down but unless we need to clear spots for instant upgrades in other positions is it not better to have them in the tank rather than some pick 84 kid built like Cale Morton?

The off-season can't come soon enough. I can't believe we're to delist - trade - draft being the happiest time of the year already.

Final thoughts
Never thought I'd say this during footy season but thank god for shift work. Not only was I able to justify staying away from this abortion because I'd only gone to bed at 9am but it also means not having to go back to work on Tuesday in a mood because my long weekend finished with a performance limper than a broken dick. Now I've got a few days for non-online life to carry on as if it never happened, unencumbered by slurry football, and by the time I run into random footy fans and Collingwood supporters later in the week the heat will have gone out of the result.

Bring on 2020. Both the year and the total number of points we'll kick over the next two seasons.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Standard "this post is delayed" notification

I have a lot of opinions on Queen's Birthday, the rest of the year, next year and maybe even the sport in general. So many that it will take well into Tuesday to compile them all into some sort of meaningful order. Sorry about that. In the meantime, why not peruse the post index and read about one of the other fiascos we've been involved with on this day.

Keep an eye on Twitter or Facebook for a link. In the meantime send any thoughts on the game via the usual channels and I'll incorporate/shamelessly steal them.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

(I Just) Died In The Arse Tonight

Within a few minutes shortly before the bounce I discovered there's a televised sport called cornholing, then felt on the end of one when late replacements swapped Hore and Salem for JFK and the Weid. I hadn't expect to win with the original team, so neither of the changes annoyed me in isolation, it's just that going in two defenders short felt like tempting fate.

At first I was fuming that they couldn't find a defender to put on the plane if Hore was in doubt and Salem was coming back from an extra week off with concussion. Then I realised that Petty was hurt last week, Lever declared himself unavailable, Lewis was suspended and May hadn't played since Round 2 so we were hardly flush for options.

With my key goal for the rest of the year being to avoid thrashings I was concerned that without Jetta's usual strangulation job on Betts, and both Taylor (never Tex) Walker and Josh Jenkins having had the piss taken out of their performances all year that somebody would run riot and kick a bag. After last week's mighty struggle to score who'd have expected our counter to playing without a backline would be to score at a 2018 rate? At least for the first half, before going down to agonisingly slow defeat by adding 3.12 in the second half.

Do we have an official ruling on the 'illness' that caused Salem to be withdrawn? You can't tell the difference between James Brayshaw being serious and doing FM radio blokey bullshit so I'm suspect about his claim of "gastro during the warmup". Surely not. If that's what the club has gone with they've got to be covering up something about his concussion symptoms. What are the chances that everything was going well up to the bounce and an MFC fourth quarter suddenly started dripping down his leg shortly before the game. How did he make it so close to the first bounce if he was in that state? Lucky we had a squad full of other players prepared to shit themselves on a national stage.

Don't know why I was so scared of Adelaide, like Melbourne 2017 they're inconsistent mid-table mediocrities who will probably have a few stupid losses that just keep them out of the finals. This should have been one of the defeats that they look back on in anger later in the year but it still puts them well ahead of us.

It wasn't so much them I was worried about, but our forward line ceasing to exist like last week and kicking another sad score like every game in Darwin from 2012-2017. Last year we were also horrifically inaccurate (13.24) but the opposition were so shit we couldn't help but win by heaps. So much for the theory that playing the Darwin game first would be better for us. And at this time, just a reminder that if the NT deal is still worth $1.2 million that it was the difference (one off profit from sale of Leighoak aside) between us making $500k and losing $700k. Nobody outside the Territory likes this deal but it is a sad necessity - especially without a permanent Queen's Birthday home game and disposal of the pokies.

Considering how far our scoring has fallen in the last year I didn't expect a blistering Alice Springs 2018 start, or to kick more than three goals total, so was pleasantly surprised to emerge from the first quarter with 6.3. Sure we also conceded 4.0, but considering how our defensive stocks were going that was to be expected. We were even given a leg-up by Rory Sloane going off never to return (possibly in protest at Brayshaw calling him "Rorza"). You'd think in a hot environment having an extra player all night would help, but that doesn't reckon with us being the worst team in the history of footy at taking advantage of opposition misfortune.

The good times started with a Garlett miss that I cursed at the time, but opened the door for his motivated performance in years. Which is not saying much but still welcome. He did something stupid in the last quarter but who didn't? He might have realised his time is rapidly running out and thought he better have a wholehearted bash. It was welcome but doesn't change my view that we need to move on at the end of the year. Somebody will try and draw a link to indigenous round, to which I'd counter that this round seems to go over two weeks and he was rancid in the first half of it. His later goal from a set shot was great, the dropped mark in the pocket when the game was on the line was not. I'd love the opportunity to move on, and would like to think within the next few weeks Hannan will be up and running enough that we can.

The most astonishing part of the first quarter was Petracca accurately kicking a set shot. Let's see more of that. Unfortunately he felt so internally conflicted at doing this that he then gave away a ridiculous 50 that led to Adelaide's first goal. He had an ok night, but the quicker they can develop a tank (CLICHE) and find him a spot in the midfield the better, because an uncharacteristic run of successful set shots aside he is in no way a forward.

Sadly on this night I learned that contested marks are as good a barometer as inside 50s or hitouts. As much as I pretended they were some secret formula that would lead to success we won the count in a canter and lost because we couldn't convert. Then again, no stat except behinds is going to be worth a damn when you kick 1.8 in a tight last quarter. Marks inside 50 were also discredited, as we had a season high 18 but wasted them at a record rate.

For now all was well. As much as the makeshift defence looked terrified whenever the ball went near them, you couldn't fault the way we moved the ball when it came out of defence. For a lot of the quarter we even looked like a proper footy team. The problem was that practically everyone except Clayton Oliver had their best quarter of the night. Forget what happened later, Weideman's return was much appreciated. I'm a mad keen McSizzle fan, and he was just ok here, but how good were Weid's marks up the ground? That's why we let Hogan go - or were going to play him as a defender. I'm worried for McDonald's place in this side - now the defenders are coming back he can't go there, and if he's not kicking goals how much do we value his ok but unspectacular other contributions?

Based on years of evidence about how we go after a high scoring first quarter the freewheeling, high scoring extravaganza didn't seem sustainable. Given we've kicked the equivalent of four six goal quarters less than 30 times since 1897 it obviously wasn't going to happen in Darwin of all places - where we've now scored over 100 three times in 10 starts. For us to get 24 goals this year we'd need 213 inside 50s and a tear gas canister to go off in the opposition huddle. Under the circumstances I was thrilled to get three more half time, in what passed for free scoring this year and must have had Channel 7's ad department jacking it for the first time since the Clive Palmer money stopped coming in.

My suspicions that we wouldn't be able to go on with it seemed justified early in the second when some bloke with a twirly 1800s ties-women-to-railways moustache set up a forward 50 contest where Oscar shit it and gave away a free in front of goal. Thank god we've got defenders back because he played like he'd seen a ghost. You don't want to pile on in circumstances like this but it was a Gillies-esque defensive performance. I'd have preferred to have seen Steven May play while he was still over .05

That we didn't concede more was a credit to the defence as a whole (for instance: Frost's epic rebound 50, flinging his boot at the ball while grappling with an opponent and hoofing it 30 metres downfield), and to the Adelaide player missing a sitter here. Soon they started hitting them from everywhere while we began shooting on goal like blindfolded.

The misses didn't just come in the last 30 minutes - we went from 11.5 to 12.16, and missed chances like Hunt taking a great grab in the pack then inexplicably missing from close range. Stuffed up a sitter last week as well, which is a comedown from the glorious weeks where he looked like he couldn't miss. Never mind we've always got McDonald (didn't get near a shot of any variety) and Weideman (oh dear).

Fans of fringe players doing wacky things would have enjoyed Kennedy-Harris kicking into the man on the mark, mowing him down with a strong tackle to win the ball back, then nearly kicking it over his teammate's head with the next pass. He's not ratshit awful but just lacks the extra gear to be a best 22 player. You could have said that about Harmes a few years ago and he's gone supernova since but I don't think there's much hope for JFK - which will be a relief for that bloke who cut up his membership in protest about him getting a game two years ago. Hopefully the scissors were taken away from him before the last kick or he'd have exercised the Tom Wills option.

Having started this page while living in the most rudimentary of studio apartments you'll understand how pleased I am that Demonblog Towers XI has something approaching a home theatre room that's about as big as the entire first Towers. In theory this is great for plugging the screen into a computer and watching games in luxury, except I'm not coping well with the brave new world of online streaming.

On debut against West Coast the Megawall provided flawless picture quality all night. This time the second quarter was spent cycling between High Def, Standard Def and No Def. It left me yelling more abuse at the TV screen than the umpires, Channel 7 callers and our forward 50 entries combined. When Garlett got a goal from the square it almost didn't register because I was so busy calling the National Broadband Network a bastard.

Like the wind at Casey Fields, the Wi-Fi was in my favour for the first and third quarters then went to shit again in the last and left me watching into a three bar disadvantage. I was starting to get used to the quality of the image changing every few seconds but thank god it recovered by the end and didn't buffer with the ball in mid-air off Weid's boot or I'd have rejoined Foxtel on the spot.

For all the shit hung on certain members of our backline we did hold the Crows to one goal in the second quarter, and against all odds and human decency opened a five goal lead. Due to the psychological distress of the last quarter I can't reconcile how this happened and won't be watching any highlights or footy shows to find out. It's not like we were playing particularly well, with the exception of Gawn grabbing everything that went near him it was your true team effort. We even did it without Oliver, who Adelaide sensibly decided to tag after he'd ransacked them for 16 touches in the second quarter. He barely had any in the third and we still carried on building what should have been a match-winning lead.

Then, because life as a Melbourne fan was not meant to be easy, came the natural correction. It was a bit like the West Coast game in that we'd fired our best shots and couldn't go on with it, but on this occasion we also flubbed half a dozen excellent chances to win.

The margin was already back to 14 at three quarter time, and when they got the opening goal of the last term my guts were in more disarray than Christian Salem's. Coincidentally by the end I also felt like dropping a brick on my head. Unusually we steadied straight away, and even more curiously it was via Garlett kicking a long set shot. After that anything should have been possible but that's where the goals ended and the artless, panicked attempts at scoring began.

Even after two quick Adelaide goals we still had the sort of buffer that meant one goal might have killed them off. Tim Smith had a go, taking a solid mark then looking at the ball like it was made of ice before missing, the otherwise excellent Harmes snapped into the post from close range, Garlett dropped his sitter in the pocket, and the next thing you knew we were behind.

Adelaide tried to keep some mystery about whether they'd run over the top of us by missing a couple of chances of their own before grabbing the lead for the first time all night. At this stage the neighbours probably thought there was a murder underway. There was, but it was happening on a footy field in Darwin.

Almost straight after going behind we had a chance to grab the lead back, with Maximum missing a long shot. Better the ball was at their end but I had zero faith that we were going to find a way to kick a goal. More likely we'd turn it over inside 50 and watch the Crows fly down the other end to win it. We got neither, with 30 seconds left Wagner launched a hit and hope kick inside 50 that made its way through a pack and straight into the arms of the Weid.

If you believe in supernatural shit you might say we'd spent all our luck on the Hawthorn and Gold Coast finishes. I don't buy into the occult, as tempting as it is after following this club for 30 years, but when he clutched the ball 40 metres out directly in front for what was going to be the last kick of the game the first thing I said was "he's going to miss".

Of course he was, what else are you supposed to think when a usually accurate set shot kicker has the ball in those circumstances? That's not our go. This club is more about defenders roosting long bombs from 50 and ex-defenders shinning the ball into the post. If you made me bet my house on a Melbourne player converting from that distance I'd probably have gone for Sam, and I'd be writing this from inside a cardboard box. Of course last year when a Geelong player did the exact same thing AND had the added pressure of kicking after the siren he drilled it.

As my body temperature rose to incredibly dangerous levels the kick pulled left, I let out a dramatic noise and collapsed on the floor, getting up only to try and turn the computer off before I had to either hear about it from the stooges on Channel 7 or see a joyous Adelaide player. There was a quick 'just in case' look to confirm that I wasn't having hallucinations before a farcical 30 seconds of angrily trying to shut off the coverage and failing. After that I just curled in a ball on the floor for a few minutes feeling sorry for myself and Sam.

Thinking about other heartbreaking losses of recent times, obviously the Kardinia Park fiasco last year was worse because of the huge finals implications but this just made me feel sick. Given the choice of two shit sandwiches I'd rather win a game off our own boot but lose one off the opposition's. The difference between the two was that as bad as the Geelong loss was I just wanted to get home as quickly as possible, so after a brief fence kickin' tantrum there was no time for reflection before escaping. That's why I suddenly felt like chucking a duck halfway home. This time - even after having to stifle my disappointment after receiving a conduct warning from Mrs. Demonblog halfway through the quarter - I could go straight to wallowing in misery.

I'm retrospectively even angrier at both us and GWS for the fourth quarter last week. Congratulations on banging through goals left, right and centre when the opposition has given up, try doing it when it counts. It meant stuff all for the season because we'd still have been more chance of going to Mars than the finals but I was fuming at the lack of leadership and poise that cost us.

In Perth you can blame the umpires for squibbing in the face of 50,000 people yelling at them, this was entirely, without a doubt on us. And unless you're a vulture who preys on the misfortune of others you'll know that Weid was just the one left to pay the cheque for sins of his teammates. Could have and probably should have kicked this but don't let it define him. Ironically if he hadn't marked it there would have been less focus on him and we'd have lost anyway.

Last night I was flatter than a tack, but by this morning I'm almost entirely over it. Football season is the best time of the year but still, let's get through the next 11 games with as many highlights as possible then never speak of 2019 again.

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
--- several timezones ---
4 - James Harmes
3 - Clayton Oliver
2 - Jack Viney
1 - Nathan Jones

Apologies to Fritsch, Hibberd, Brayshaw, Garlett, Weideman (sob) and Stretch.

It's on. With half the season played Max now stands over two full best on ground performances in front of Oliver. The Hamburglar is perfectly capable of mowing that down if he's not being tagged into oblivion but the ball is firmly in Maximum's court. Not a cracker of change in the minors due to the withdrawal of the leaders in both live second division award. Meanwhile I'd like to apologise to Corey Wagner for giving him a vote last week because now he's had two 1s and been dropped both times.

33 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
22 - Clayton Oliver
21 - James Harmes
18 - Christian Salem (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year),
14 - Jake Melksham
11 - Marty Hore (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
9 - Angus Brayshaw, Jack Viney
7 - Jayden Hunt
5 - Nathan Jones
4 - Bayley Fritsch, Billy Stretch
3 - Christian Petracca
2 - Jay Lockhart, Corey Wagner
1 - Sam Frost, Michael Hibberd

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
Tempted not to hand this out as a passive aggressive punishment for all the misses, but Jones' goal furthered my theory that he'd be a handy forward so I'm giving that the nod. So much the better that it came from Hannan doing the worst kick from the pocket of all time and the ball dropping on a Crows player's face.

The weekly prize is a bottle of Peter Jackson Bald Head oil, to be applied liberally whenever his nude bonce loses its sheen. Hore vs Gold Coast retains the overall lead.

TV stations have zero respect for teams running through the banner at the best of times, and I missed them both. Twitter tells me our side had a double sided tribute to race relations that featured impeccable kerning and centring, none of the usual search terms bring up a shot of the Crows effort but you can be sure it would have lost anyway. Dees 10-1-0 for the season.

Crowd Watch
With a group of ex-players on a trip to the game, most of who were probably off their face after a week of sinking bulk piss, it's a shame nobody got excited and jumped the fence to punch on with Michael Long as revenge for the 2000 Grand Final. Now that Troy Simmonds is a guru I can't see him on a footy trip but imagine a masked figure jumped the fence and shirtfronted Long then tore off the mask to reveal it was him. Talk about matchday experience.

Next Week
In the battle between sides that lost to a late, late shot on goal (and let me remind you, in our case not entirely because of it), we go into Queen's Birthday against Collingwood in an angry mood. No matter what changes we make hat's not going to end well. I thought the same for both the Adelaide and West Coast games and we nearly won but after a week of people mistakenly identifying this as our Grand Final like the Anzac Eve game doesn't exist they will fist us up to the elbow.

With a record low 10 Melbourne listed players on offer (and they only reached double figures thanks to the mid-season draft) Casey were not surprisingly shithouse against a side coached by my hero Choke Yourself With A Tie. Nevertheless, reports suggest that May was an almighty figure in defence so he's straight in.

Lever almost played this week before missing the 2s game but I'm not concerned about that or sticking him, May, Hore and Frost together for the first time. All I know is that Mason Cox - who is one star prelim turn away from the Kingsleys - dicked us last year and I want insurance against that happening again. Collingwood would be mad not to pick him again after that. Instead I expect they'll rush Lewis in after a week off for belting somebody in a pointless VFL match and Cox will kick nine.

As for the rest, if fit Salem and Hore obviously come straight back and I'm working hard at pushing Preuss in a week where the Weid came back and Smith was pretty good, but I would just appreciate some proof that the selectors have some interest in him. Also gives Max a hand when he's inevitably double teamed by a double ruck attack rather than Smith/McDonald/Weideman who can all gamely contest a stoppage but ultimately have no idea what they're doing.

For the outs, Wagner and Kennedy-Harris depart because they kick in play like the rest of our team kick for goal in a tight game, Spargo goes because he might have played the closest thing to four quarters in his career but still barely caused any damage, Smith exits with apologies just because I want a big, bald, mad bastard in the side, and Oscar's streak of games without a goal can be halted at 70 for as long as it takes for May and/or Lever to injure themselves again. Shouldn't have to wait long.

IN: Hore, Lever, May, Preuss, Salem
OUT: J. Wagner, Kennedy-Harris, O. McDonald, T. Smith, Spargo
LUCKY: Garlett, T. McDonald
UNLUCKY: Everyone else who is capable of playing

Comparison Corner
After the Gold Coast game we ranked all the six or less point wins since 1990 to decide which one was the best. I was going to do the same here but a) just want to finish this post and get as far away from this game as possible and b) didn't realise how many times it had happened. What about I work on it in the background and post next time we lose a thriller? Won't be next week.

Final thoughts
This sums it up:

Monday, 27 May 2019

Can't get there from here

In Zambia they get cheap thrills by huffing the gases of fermented human waste. The 2019 Melbourne Football Club is left to rely on a coach nearly going arse over in a press conference, and our highest scoring quarter of the season coming when 10 goals behind. This would be a good time to induce a coma and wake up in February.

Because I'm an idiot I'll soldier on to the end, but let me tell you when news came through that Christian Salem was a late withdrawal today just as my train left the station I was sorely tempted to yank the emergency lever off its hinges and run through the adjacent fields like I'd just escaped a mental asylum. Instead I continued towards one.

You got an idea where we're heading in the future when they ignored the option of replacing Salem with Lewis and used Spargo instead. Given that Casey's game was at Williamstown an hour later it's not like they couldn't have put Lewis in a car if they'd really wanted him. Even if Salem had turned up ready to play then been struck down with a grand mal seizure there was enough time they said "we'll be right" and went for the most unlike-for-like substitution in years.

Without Salem our backline was even less like the pre-season best 22 (even adjusting for Lever) than ever before. Only Fritsch and perhaps one of Sizzle Jr/Frost would get a start if everyone was fit, and though they were beaten all involved (except Fritsch for that kick in) can be happy with retaining their keeping the damage to a minimum and retaining their dignity.

Safe in the knowledge that we weren't going to win anyway, and after it became clear that the game wasn't going to played in driving rain I'd have preferred to stuff Preuss or Weideman into a New Era Caravan and drive them across the Westgate. I'm fond of Charlestone's 2018 win/loss record but he hasn't fired a shot this season. Then, after picking the slightest man on the list we then proceeded to kick non-stop long bombs into the forward line anyway.

I still can't comprehend how but flirted with a triple figure defeat, did some of the lowest quality forward 50 entries ever and spent three quarters trying for our lowest score since Carl Ditterich was coach and escaped with a margin that will look respectable on the historical record. Thank you GWS for bringing the same degree of care and attention to the last quarter as we did the first three.

It was apparent within the first minute that this was not going to end well. The moment the ball exited Max Gawn's orbit we were so comprehensively outclassed that the final margin should stand as a bigger indictment on the Giants than us.

After two goalless weeks, including a missed opportunity to fill his boots against Carlton, I expected Jeremy Cameron to either kick six or blow up and get six weeks for striking. When he took the first of what must have been half a dozen marks by their forwards that were technically 'contested' but were so effortless they didn't deserve to be I had nightmare flashbacks to Tony Modra dicking us 20 years ago to the same round.

Our HomeBrand defence deserves credit for keeping him to three goals by the end, but he only had himself to blame by failing to score with this kick. It might have been better for us if he'd kicked the goal, because with the ball camped deep in our backline we kicked off 20 de-electrifying minutes of desperately trying to extract the ball only to watch it immediately come back. At one point we broke out of defence, charged down the wing when the corridor was wide open, got to 70 metres out, then thumped it into the hands of a defender. It rocketed back for several more GWS opportunities, before Spargo finally cried "No Mas!" and gifted them their opening goal with a 50. In none-more-Melbourne fashion it went to somebody who'd never previously kicked a goal in 18 starts.

After a downfield free handed GWS another soon after it felt like the floodgates were about to burst. Against all odds we hit the brakes before it got too drastic and had the best of the last 10 minutes. It wasn't much of a 10 minutes to have the best of, but was preferable to death by a thousand set shots.

When the ball was camped in front of their goal and looked like it would never be extracted I had a nervous glance at the scoreless first quarters list. Given that we'd only done it 16 times in 2409 previous matches the odds were that we'd find some way to shamble through a behind. Oskar Baker was the saviour, with a shot that took a comedy bounce and was barely touched across the line. About 30 minutes later at the same end GWS had a nutso bounce that rooted Harrison Petty (who was otherwise serviceable) and turned into a goal. It was that sort of day.

The most unusual thing about this rancid opening term was that it was our first BaileyQuarter of the year. With scoring across the league going down the tubes and zany rule changes an absolute certainty we'd kicked at least two in every first quarter this year. This was the exception, but the way it was going I was happy just to get one - and for a team that makes scoring look so difficult what a goal it was.

The kick wasn't anything special, but watch how good the lead and kick to it were and ask yourself why we've only successfully pulled this sort of thing off about five times in a decade. Look how Sizzle kicks to where Hunt is going to be rather than where he was standing when ball hit boot. This ended with the ball hitting him right on the tit and a defender trailing sadly behind unable to impact the impact.
If you did that too often other teams would get wind of it and stick people in the way, but once you've introduced some sort of mystery about where the forward 50 kicks are going to go that's when you can stitch them up with a surprise kick over the top, or another target can drift forward to take a mark in front of goal. Even accounting for his pace advantage, Hunt probably got such a huge break because the defender didn't believe one of our players would actually lead.

Our first terms have been surprisingly good (think back to those glorious 15 minutes of domination against Port and have a gentle cry), and though we've scored more in fourth quarters they've been propped up by the 13 bullshit, low pressure goals kicked against GWS and Essendon combined. Otherwise in games where we've been a live chance of winning we've kicked 0.0 (Port), 1.1 (Richmond) and 1.3 (West Coast) and been outscored by both Hawthorn and Gold Coast. End of the Sydney game was good though.

Where the problem really lies is the middle two quarters, with 20.20 in second quarters and 22.34 (!) in the third. As if the empty stands didn't remind you of 2013, now we're back to being ratshit immediately after half time.

There was an outside chance of winning but if the game was a human you'd have put a pillow over its face. Imagine watching this and still arguing with a straight face that there's merit in a 10 team finals series. After the last quarter they should change it to a top six and make GWS prove they deserve to be there rather than artificially keeping the hopes of dud teams alive.

Now, if you admit that you're supporting it for commercial reasons and nothing else then I could come out of it with some respect for you. Otherwise you can pretend there's legitimate merit in it and I'll brand you a filthy liar. The finals are about the only time of the year people stop complaining that the game isn't as good as it used to be, imagine going out your way to devalue that. Obviously it's all about keeping the broadcaster happy, and this is the price we'll pay for not having to put up another raft of zany rule changes. Me, I'd be happy if all the players went back to being part-timers who had to go to training straight from working in an abattoir.

Despite a quarter that did its best to make sure nobody would bid on the TV rights next time, the refusal of GWS to put us out of our misery left scores a lot closer than they had any right to be. Obviously we weren't going to win it off our own bat, so our only hope for a memorable result (for the right reasons) was the Giants spontaneously combusting or one of Heath Shaw's teammates giving him a backhander.

For all the times a coach has been criticised for not having a Plan B (e.g. every coach we've ever had), I deluded myself that this could be a repeat of the many weeks of 2017 where we arrived without a Plan A and launched a furious comeback from several goals behind. Outrageously we could have been within 10 points early in the quarter. McDonald did our second decent forward 50 lead of the day, then kicked a pitching wedge shot that dropped right on the line, where we had one player against two and didn't even go close to contesting before it was rushed through for a point.

That near miss was the wake up call the Giants needed, and they proceeded to plough us like a field of turnips. A four goal to nil quarter was a far more realistic indication of the gulf between the sides, one that had scant interest in pressing home their advantage, and another that moved forward at this leisurely pace:

Viney's revival was much appreciated, even if he celebrated with a peg-legged set shot, but the undoubted star of the show was Gawn. Consider how badly we'd have been battered without him and be very afraid of of injuries. Not that it matters now as long as he's back at the start of the pre-season, but he is at the top of a very short list of reasons to keep watching for the rest of 2019. He even dislocated the bejesus out of his finger, ran off to have it jammed into its socket and returned like nothing had ever happened. What a mighty fine man.

Gawn is our Maginot Line, a mighty fortification that stands between us and total capitulation. And like that line circa 1939 there's only so much the big structure can do when the other side nip around him and attack our weak points. Which is pretty much everywhere else. The good news is that we won the contested marks for once. And fat lot of good that did.

Now that GWS has unloaded their garbage on Hawthorn I'm happy for them to win the flag, but even our Casey All-Stars team let themselves down by rolling into a fetal position and being kicked to death for the next two quarters. There's being beaten by a better side and there's standing awestruck then letting them ravish us in any way they wanted. Or killing every (rare) foray into attack with hopeful long kicks that landed in the arms of a defender anywhere from 30 to 50 metres from goal.

Appropriately for a Casey 2018 Grand Final reunion the fringe players did much of the heavy lifting. Other than Maximum (who completes the greatest fortnight of carrying his teammates since the glory days of Nathan Jones 2013) - the stars were MIA. Viney came good after quarter time, but the other big guns were unable to be located for most of the day. Brayshaw continued to be miles off it, Petracca is entirely without confidence, McDonald is permanently playing inside a phonebooth, and Jones tried hard but couldn't get near it.

Garlett no longer qualifies as a big hitter, so other than Gawn all day and Viney for the last three quarters, Harmes was the only top line player who emerged with credit. If all you'd seen was Josh Wagner topping our disposals charts approaching half time (and kicking like he had a flesh eating virus in his leg) you wouldn't have needed to see the score to know we were in all sorts. His brother did an honest tagging job on Trump family lookalike Lachie Whitfield, following him everywhere he went but not doing enough to be stereotyped as a tagger in the future.

Due to his age, the Jones question is the most pressing. It's not really working for him at the moment, but given how we've charitably carted players around when they were beyond it for years I'm not trying to force him out the door. Why not give him a bash in the Melksham/Petracca roles while one of them is injured physically and the other mentally? He can kick a goal (see the Sydney game) and would increase our level of forward pressure from 0.1% to at least 0.2%. Now that we've got nothing lose and he's just passed Robbie Flower for most losses in a Melbourne jumper, why not give Chunk a crack at eating into Tulip's 180 goal career lead. The only thing they've got in common is a career of heroically propping up garbage Melbourne sides, but I note Flower's all time top goalkicking season was his last...

Usually when everyone else is sinking without trace you can rely on Oliver to lift the crowd with some sixth sense handball over his head in traffic. He did one blockbuster tackle, but was otherwise well held. It helped that GWS had done their homework and realised that a) he is easily niggled, and b) the rest of our team are too pissweak to defend his honour. If they weren't going to pile in to defender Gawn's honour last week nobody had a chance here, and while everyone aboard the rapidly listing SS Melbourne fended for himself the Hamburglar responded poorly to group harassment by playing like a surly teenager asked to clean his room.

It's a caveman mentally but I just wanted somebody to make a stand. It doesn't have to be a line in the sand style punch up, just try to pull somebody's jumper over his head then throw him to the ground and call him a kent. Also spices up future games against the Giants, which are now as dull as dishwater now that the personal issues have been deleted. Oliver lamped somebody playing under the false generic name 'Brent Daniels' in the guts during the last quarter but by then he was just pissing money up the wall.

For fans of "West Coast take 90 marks and win" style bullshit stats that don't mean anything, I present the difference in fines between Round 10 this year and last year:

2018 - $10,000 (blowing out to a stately $25k by the end of the year)
2019 - $5000, most of that coming from the late Aaron vandenBerg in the same practice game + a Oliver's wasted biff.

The point I'm straining to make is that nobody's steaming in to punch on for their mates and we are much the worse for it. Even this time the only guy who copped it was the one who most needed protection. Maybe they're all worried about the next TV rights being sold for $200 because of games like this and are being sensible with their money? Regardless, I don't expect minimum wagers like Lockhart to waste their money on manly jostling, but a few of the players who are playing well below the standards expected from being paid a shitload could make a charitable contribution to the club's future.

Anyway, you could have taken to this clash like the 1989 Grand Final and it wouldn't have altered anything other than the inflation of somebody's lung. We were already in pieces before the usually accurate Hunt missed set shots in a row to open the third quarter. Again, that was all the Giants needed as a rev up to wailing unmercifully on us. I appreciate low scoring games, but this was about as tedious as footy gets. On the back of goals from somebody called Harry Hindenberg the lead crept towards 60 points, and you'd be hard pressed to argue that we deserved any better. The first people stood up and left after his third, before a mass exodus two minutes later. I don't blame them for going, but the evacuees almost quite literally missed all the action.

Finally, after two and a half quarters of doing FUCK ALL, Garlett found himself alone in the square for the second goal and we were spared the ignominy of kicking one for the day. Fremantle doesn't get nearly enough shit for doing that against Adelaide in 2009. If it was us you'd never have heard the end of "one goal in mind" jokes. Speaking of jokes, look at these strugglers who haven't realised that smart people have already moved beyond this, through cheese jokes, past drowning players, and are back to laughing at us for just being a shit footy team:

Imagine the company that lost $3 billion in two years cracking wise about the wealth of others. Best of luck when you lose the next round of footy rights and are forced to broadcast from the back of a chicken shop in Spotswood.

We unexpectedly got a second goal for the quarter via Baker, before doing exactly the same thing as the previous goal and handing it straight back. I thought Oskar was given a token game last week, but he has looked very good with ball in hand both weeks. Not so good in traffic, but I'm very keen on a fancy outside player who doesn't have to go for the contested ball so he will do nicely for now. Like a different kind of Sam Weideman I'm confident that if we can get him the ball more he will succeed.

Those goals vaulted us over the twin 2.8.20s of Round 12, 1989 and Round 1, 1991, so as the contest had been deader than this post for an hour all that was left to determine was how much we'd lose by (not as much as you'd have expected), and whether we'd pass 3.10/4.4.28 as the lowest score I'd ever seen in person. That we did, and then some, courtesy of a low-intensity, zero-impact cover of the famous last quarter landslide. Hope you feel as old as me realising that six years have passed since Neeld presided over the highest scoring fourth quarter in club history and Gawn aimed at a comedy wig wanker. The Giants have done well for themselves since, while we put out the biggest one hit wonder since The Ketchup Song and reverted to mid-table mediocrity (which, in the spirit of a top 10 I'm extending all the way down to 16th).

An unusual quarter should start unusually, and Petracca kicking a set shot a minute into the last was about as weird as you're going to get. To muted celebrations that put our score over 30, leaving the next milestone as the 3.16 (no involvement from Stone Cold Craig Jennings) against the Giants in 2014. That would also moved it away from our top 10 most futile attacking performances since 1980.

This was what I was reduced to on a Sunday where I could have been doing pretty anything else in the world. I won't say no regrets, but not many. All my focus was on us scoring now, so I can honestly say that Hindenberg's fifth about 30 seconds later had as little emotional impact on me as any opposition goal ever kicked. Better for our score to get the ball back to the middle instead of spending 10 fruitless minutes trying to clear it before conceding an 11 point play.

On Saturday morning I'd run out of things to do with my life and started watching baseball, where they were advertising a Stranger Things theme night:

... and this last quarter was our own version. First there was Petracca's accuracy when the pressure was off, before McDonald recovered from three quarters of toil and struggle (wonderful pass to Hunt excluded) and being kneed in the back during the quarter to kick two quick goals. Either the knee got him right in the on switch, or the GWS backline had downed tools and left him playing in a free range, 2018 style forward line instead of taking on six defenders in every contest.

I'll guiltily admit that part of me wondered "what if..." when Lockhart got a goal at the 20 minute mark that would have left us needing to kick about seven in six minutes. What a dickhead. There was more chance of a UFO landing in the middle of the ground and whisking Ray Chamberlain back to his home planet. In a win for players going hell for leather to avoid being dropped, Lockhart's major was followed by one each from Stretch and Spargo.

Rarely has such a high scoring quarter been so meaningless. Morally it was still a fiasco, but unlike some years I'm happy to take the reduced margin instead of insisting we deserved the post thumping spotlight. Everything from now to the end of the year is just maintenance, nobody get seriously injured, nobody get arrested, don't drop your bundle and lose any games by upwards of 15 goals and we do alright next year.

In the darkest timeline where I somehow ended up as a GWS fan the last quarter would have almost discredited the four points. You take wins where you can get them (and don’t we know that), but having a team poised for demolition then unnecessarily showing mercy offends me. Maybe it’s PTSD from 186, where in almost every comparable scenario Geelong would have eased up after half time but decided to turn us into dust for their own amusement. So they should have. As the Cobra Kai dojo's coach reminded us in 1984, "mercy is for the weak".

With the season now written off and goats preparing to be scaped from one end of the organisation to the other, I'd like to dedicate the rest of the year to kicking some decent scores. In 2014 struggled to the horrible average of 60.7 points per game and tried to convince ourselves this was ok because we weren't losing by a hundred every week, but five years on can safely admit it was boring as batshit and we only tolerated it because we were desperate to find positives.

That was as low as scoring has ever got across 22 games, followed at a respectful distance by the 66.1 of 2013, and the 67.1 of 1997. Yesterday's belated scoring extravaganza boosted our points per game in 2019 to a still less-than-robust 69.3 - which would still be our fourth worst 22 game season ever. We're now in a battle to beat 71.5 in 2015 and 71.8 in 2012. Any way you slice it that's as grim as all buggery after registering our sixth best scoring season last year.

I'm not as down on our backline as most, and it should get better as we get players back, we need to dedicate the resources of the club from Gary Pert to the lowest jabroni on the totem pole towards discovering how to convert opportunities into scores, because if I have to watch another 12 weeks of this I'm going to take up gear and watch the end of the season stoned to the bejesus belt.

2019 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Max Gawn
--- an incredibly long distance only accessible via a NASA space probe ---
4 - Marty Hore
3 - Jack Viney
--- from here to the moon ---
2 - James Harmes
--- walking home to Brisbane ---
1 - Corey Wagner

Apologies (of sorts) to Baker, the other Wagnii, Jones, Frost, and maybe even Petracca, all of who might have been in the running for one vote by default.

With 12 to play (and definitely no more), there is no way Gawn can be beaten in the Stynes. As well as opening a commanding lead in the main event, he takes home our first award of the year. In the other minors, Hore not only bought himself some insurance in the Hilton race, he also draws within long range of Salem in the race for the Seecamp. I can't see him making it, but pending some remarkable burst of form by Lockhart, Baker, [somebody else] or Dunkley (into the betting market at $75) he should leave the end of year awards with something.

28 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
19 - Clayton Oliver
18 - Christian Salem (LEADER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year),
17 - James Harmes
14 - Jake Melksham
11 - Marty Hore (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Rising Star Medal)
9 - Angus Brayshaw
7 - Jayden Hunt, Jack Viney
4 - Bayley Fritsch, Nathan Jones, Billy Stretch
3 - Christian Petracca
2 - Jay Lockhart, Corey Wagner
1 - Sam Frost, Michael Hibberd

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
For a while it looked like Hunt would win by default, and as much as I enjoyed his dynamite lead and subsequent set shot I'm going for Oskar Bonaduce's Dance Dance Revolution moves in the last quarter. Sure, by that stage the GWS backline had a lower population density than the Gobi Desert but it still looked good.

Marty Hore at Carrara remains the MFC goal to beat for 2019, but for the weekly prize Oskar wins a steaming beaker full of Jenkem. He can opt to drink it next week once the game is lost or apply it to his jumper to deter would be tacklers.

Given that I haven't got any pop culture references from beyond the year 2000 you'd think that a reference to Andy Dufresne 'breaking through' on the GWS banner would be right up my alley. Except that I'd never heard the name in my life, thought it was some hot top 40 single that I'd never heard, and was surprised to discover via Google that they were doing a Shawshank Redemption reference. As the only person born earlier than 2004 that hasn't seen it this went right over my head.

I wouldn't mark them down just for my ignorance, and they did provide both a lovely font (far cry from the early days of substituting 0s for Os) and kerning experience. What loses it for them is having more curtainry per square metre than any other banner in league history. It had about four different flaps waving in the breeze, and once the players gently passed underneath it split right to the top as if they'd destroyed it with mighty force. You'd say they did well with limited numbers, but the crowd on the field for the hoisting of the thing rivalled ours in numbers. I guess people like teams that are guaranteed to win a flag eventually.

On the other hand, our neatly kerned and lovingly constructed banner had a direct reference on both sides to Indigenous Round and no bloody curtain, therefore it wins easily. Dees 9-1-0 for the season.

Crowd Watch
There were so few people there (20,000 my arse) that I didn't have to venture far from the front of the Ponsford top lvel to avoid people. There were a few fans around - including far too many old Giants fans for my liking - and my favourite was the stereotype bursting bloke who'd done strange things with his ears, spent the first quarter cracking the shits, then picked up his skateboard and stormed off. I wish he'd stayed, because by the middle of the third term he might have flipped out and done a Tony Hawk Pro Skater style leap over the edge.

You know things are going badly when in the middle of the third quarter the biggest cheer of the day comes from a lippy Giants fan being turfed out the bottom deck of the Olympic Stand. I thought the crowd was going wild for the heroic return of Harrison Petty, but no, they were enjoying somebody being removed from the arena. It came at about the peak point of the Giant Wet Shit lead, so unless security did the sensible thing and hit him with the Yellow Pages while in custody he missed absolutely nothing that would have interested him.

It was my mum's token game for the season, and in the absence of any decent football to enjoy she peaked big time for Russell Robertson interviewing Jeff Farmer (had NFI who Jamie Bennell was) and otherwise entertained herself by taking photos with strange effects. I quite enjoyed this one, where Gawn appears to be decapitating Shane Mumford with a Tony Lockett vs Peter Caven style blow.

There was also this piece of modern art, entitled Depressed Midfielders:

She kindly offered to frame one of the photos for my office (though good luck dislodging this from prime position above the desk), which I appreciated but declined due to never wanting to be reminded of this abortion of a sporting contest ever again.

Next Week
When furiously typing notes on the way home I started with nine omissions. Almost everyone on our senior list who'd ever played before + a draft pick who didn't play for us yet were all immediately in. First I calmed down a bit, then discovered that Lever had (surprise surprise) been injured in the VFL game and would be away for another week, and had to stop being so dramatic.

Casey didn't do anything after quarter time but I'm not concerned about that. Time for a ceremonial chopping to remind players that nobody is above the axe, some rotation of fringe players, and an opportunity for some with their careers on the line to have a last gasp at making a case for 2020. We don't have the grapefruits to drop players en masse, and even if we did it's not like these changes have any concern for structure so would probably make us play even worse. Whatever.

The first move is to bring Salem back, but right after that is getting Preuss into the forward line. Nothing personal against Tim Smith but he can't ruck for shit and he our Hail Mary kicking inside 50 doesn't suit him. Maybe Preuss will play a couple of full games and we'll discover that he's no better a target but I'd rather know ASAP so we can start to plan for next year. Our forward line has arguably looked better the smaller it's gotten this year, which is why no sensible person would bring him and Weideman in at the same time but I will.

Weid or McSizzle roam up the ground, Preuss creates monster contests closer to goal, and Petracca is given a sink or swim assignment in the middle. Creating contests would help if we had dangerous crumbers, and I'm sad to say that Garlett is crocked. Not like we've got any ready-made replacements, but that's not important right now.

I'm reluctant to bring Lewis back, but it fits into the carnage narrative so roll on (Tuesday update - or not, given that he got suspended in the VFL. Feel the leadership). Neal-Bullen was meh last week before injured but he too fills a spot of somebody who's been executed. I was going to find an excuse to bring Maynard in too but apparently he was concussed in the Casey game so that's buggered him. As has the drafting of somebody who purportedly does his job but better. Shame, he played one good game then got dropped, then got wasted as a tagger in his second, injured and seemingly written off forever.

IN: Preuss, Lewis, Neal-Bullen, Weideman, Salem
OUT: Brayshaw, Fritsch, Garlett, Lockhart, Spargo, T. Smith (omit)
LUCKY: Jones, Lockhart, Petracca, T. McDonald, Stretch
UNLUCKY: Hannan (tempted, but it risky off one game since January), JFK, Lever, Kyle bloody Dunkley

Forget the velocity and violence of our demolition job on the Crows last year, things have changed. They're not all that good so I can't entirely rule out a surprise win (though I'm pretty sure...) but know we'll be lucky to score 60. This time the first NT game is being played in Darwin and the second in Alice Springs, so let's see if that makes it any less like playing footy on a slip-and-slide. Just close your eyes tightly and remember that without these games we'd have finished a preliminary final season by losing about a million dollars.

Mid-season magic
Sucked in Cory Gregson, we've picked up another midfielder. Albeit Kyle Dunkley is allegedly a decent forward prospect as well. It's clearly not a 'now' pick, and I feel bad for the potential mature age draftees that this concept was invented for who have been left with their thumbs up their arses while clubs horde promising kids. I'll pass judgement at the end of the year when we see how many games the draftees play, but if it goes like I think it will you can chalk it up as another botched idea by the AFL.

Now that this has been an unqualified success in keeping other sports out of the paper they're talking about bringing in mid-season trading, which will be a ripper for the clubs contending for flags but what are we supposed to swap when most of our list is injured? Draft picks? Thrilling stuff. Just go old school and allow trading/clearances until June 30.

Was it worth it?
Jesus H Christ no. There was no redemption from the 'comeback', this was an experience completely without merit. On the upside it takes about 45 minutes less to get home than it did at the previous Towers, but if I didn't have to cherish being able to attend games whenever I can now I'd still hate myself for leaving the house.

Final thoughts
This season has died more times than Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, but you can be sure now that there are no miracles coming and can comfortably put the white screen up. Things should (should) get better once the injury list thins, but I still don't blame anyone for pulling the pin and going spelunking for the next 14 weeks. In lieu of anything better to do I'm going to hang around and look for signs that validate my irrational belief that everything's going to be ok in 2020.