Sunday, 23 October 2016

Demonblog's 2016 End of Year 'Spectacular'

Well here we are at last, three weeks later than last year due to other commitments. This is the time of the year where we gather, wrap the previous season in an old carpet and bury it in a shallow bush grave. This year we could afford to wait a few more weeks, because despite what happened in the last fortnight the stench wasn't as offensive as it had been in previous years.

So, after the surprise entrance of a player who has won as many premierships since 2008 as we've had since 1957 let's get on with the show. All the guests are gathered in the Chris Heffernan Convention Centre in Mosul, Iraq so without further ado please stand for the national anthem.

And now, ladies and gentlemen. Please welcome your host for the second consecutive year - the man who has been in a bunker since 2010. Let's hope he makes it through the entire ceremony before going back into hiding again this time. Over to you Keith.

"Well thank you, and it is truly an honour to be asked back to host again this year. Before emerging from my bunker I sought assurances that the Demons enjoyed significant improvement during 2016. As I scan through this list of results I can certainly see that they did get better.

Hey, in Round 21 we were still an outside chance of making the finals. I wonder what happened from there...

Oh... sod the lot of you I'm going back underground"

Well I've got no time for this, I'm going to have to find somebody else to do this. Somebody who can be the butt of topical gags that will be completely bloody mystifying in 12 months, somebody who knows what it's like to lose millions of dollars, somebody who has touched everybody he's come in contact with.

Like The Spencil is a poor 'break in case of emergency substitute' for Max Gawn this man isn't our ideal host but he'll do. Time to inject ourselves into somebody else's political system uninvited, with your replacement guest host....

"Hi everybody, it's fantastic to be here.

[insert hours of comedy relating to Donald's platform of wall-building and wacky views about grabbing people on the unmentionables]

Now let's get on with the first award of the evening, the result of which was most likely rigged by the criminals who operate this site.

2016 Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance

After years of being on the end of satire from the dregs of society and Melbourne supporters alike this man finally climbed to the heights he was threatening to reach in 2011, before 186 and a new coach intent on attaching jumper leads to his testicles turned up.

Unlike 2015 winner the late Heritier Lumumba, Jack's form continued into the real season as well. Where he rejected the lure of free agency and chose to stay with the club for the long-haul. Congratulations to Jack on his first piece of career silverware and we are all well keen for more in the future.

14 - Jack Watts
9 - Jack Viney
8 - Max Gawn
6 - Clayton Oliver
4 - Jesse Hogan, Nathan Jones, Ben Kennedy
3 - Lynden Dunn, Aaron vandenBerg
2 - Jeff Garlett, Bernie Vince
1 - Neville Jetta, Christian Salem

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

2016 Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year

This was not a hard one to judge, in the most dominant demolition job in the history of Demonblog awards the winner stomped his competitors - because in the end there weren't any. Nobody else averaged 10 hitouts a game to be eligible, but to be sure of victory the $1.80 pre-season favourite almost won the main event as well.

For the third time, tying Mark Jamar and Jeff White for the all-time record, your winner is Max Gawn.

Oddly enough despite becoming the All Australian ruckman the MFC website never bothered to upload his 2016 photo to their website, so we are still forced to look into the haunted eyes of a man who is wondering when they'll start playing him to his considerable strengths instead of at full forward in VFL games.

0 - Max King, Mitch King, Jake Spencer
DQ - Sam Frost, Cameron Pedersen, Jack Watts

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)

Demonbracket V
Time flies, it only seems like yesterday since Rohan Bail defeated Jake Spencer 37-3 in the first ever Demonbracket matchup (but given that The Spencil is still on the list who's laughing now?), and now here we are almost six years on.

Some say the introduction of the bracket in the 2012 pre-season was the final push the club needed over the edge from shambles to utter disaster, and they may be right but it doesn't mean we're stopping now. From the heights of 2013 when Tom McDonald sizzled his way to fame, to the dizzying lows of last year when players couldn't give a rats we've seen it all.

This year the torch was passed from two time winner Nathan Jones to the master's apprentice. Congratulations Jack Viney, who rode the momentum of being voted the People's Champion into a season where he was a Brownlow contender before punching Brad/Brett (whichever one) Ebert in his angular head.

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

Demonbracket VI
Competition dates will be confirmed when the pre-season fixture is released, but what we do know is that the top eight finishers in the Best and Fairest all survived into the new season so there's no drama with the seedings.

1 - Jack Viney
2 - Nathan Jones
3 - Max Gawn
4 - Dom Tyson
5 - Jack Watts
6 - Tom McDonald
7 - Bernie Vince
8 - Jesse Hogan

It promises to be the most exciting bracket yet, with any number of those contenders a chance at lifting the title. We'll also have the dramatic scenario of all of Michael Hibberd, Jordan Lewis and Jake Melksham starting from the preliminary round as zero game players. Here's to us drafting some players with kooky names to throw further confusion into the mix.

I may run a Women's Team bracket in the warm-up to that season starting. Where else will you get the chance to vote for an ultimate frisbee player?

2016 Year in Review - Part one

NAB Challenge match one vs Port Adelaide - Building dreams from the ground up
Where we were all at sea on an unusually large ground in the first half, before giving everyone a thrill by storming back to pip the Power in what was an otherwise pointless match.

NAB Challenge match two vs Footscray - This is living
Where we ventured to Craigieburn, watched Goldenballs Boyd struggle into a vicious breeze and had no earthly idea that the season would end with the Bulldogs winning the flag while we barely held on to mid-table mediocrity.

NAB Challenge match three vs St Kilda - Beware the tides of March
Where we completed the perfect pre-season and emerged with nothing to show for it except good feelings and the hope that we might not end the season as an impediment on the competition again.

Round 1 vs Greater Western Sydney - The life erotic
Where we narrowly held on to win despite that little turd $cully having a flying ping at goal in the dying seconds. If it had gone in before the siren I'd have been banned from attending or viewing any of the 21 games to follow.

Round 2 vs Essendon - The Mouse That Bored
Where I realised that it might have been better if we'd lost to GWS, because we'd probably have taken the Bombers more seriously and not ended the day looking like complete dickheads. I tried to laugh off the effects of defeat until I accidentally drove on the wrong side of the road on the way home.

Round 3 vs North Melbourne - Divine wind
Where we travelled to Hobart, failed to contend with a cyclonic seven goal breeze to one end of the ground, went seven goals down, came back to get in front, went behind again and launched a furious last minute comeback which went within seconds of coming off. For the first time Max Gawn's claims that he wanted to be the top ruckman in the competition were taken seriously after his 100 hitout battle with Todd Goldstein.

Round 4 vs Collingwood - Floating to the surface
Where we levelled our record in the first month of the season for the first game in years, as Nathan Buckley wasted Scott Pendlebury in defence while we racked up a match-winning lead. The Pies never got close again, I saw an extremely fat man importing his own food into a catered corporate box, Jeremy Howe made a high profile blunder and a good time was had by all.

Round 5 vs Richmond - Gawn Service
Where we finally won two games in a row in the same season for the first time in five years, as Richmond were so easily dispatched that Alex Rance went nuts and hammered Jack Watts in the back of the head. Earlier Tomas Bugg had launched the Era of Buggery by starting fights with anyone he could find and 'shhhing' the Tigers cheersquad as he ran into an open goal. This caused celebrity Richmond fan Jon Ralph to have a sook.

Round 6 vs St Kilda - Don't believe the hype
Where we ended a week of saturation media coverage by playing a blockbusting five minutes then dying in the arse. Whatever a defensive zone is supposed to do ours didn't qualify, and Jesse Hogan picked the wrong week to kick seven goals because everyone was too busy complaining to remember him doing it.

Round 7 vs Gold Coast - How I learned to stop worrying and love the long bomb
Where we came, saw and conquered in Australia's sporting graveyard. At one point we were piling on so many goals with such ease that I took off around my house doing a high steppin' celebration. We should have pushed on to win by 100 but a thumping victory was a reasonable consolation prize.

Round 8 vs Footscray - Throw your hate in the ring
Where we lost by five goals but it felt like we lost by 15. The Bulldogs were still not much more than fringe top four contenders, but we were clearly not a finals side. The rest of the season was seemingly to be endured not enjoyed.

Round 9 vs Brisbane - I knew the bridge when she used to be a moll
Where we finally dismissed a shit team with ease, even after necking our chances of a massive win with one quarter of failed razzle dazzle football. After two months of forming a great partnership the Watts/Hogan combination fizzled when Jesse decided to team up with Jeff Garlett instead.

Round 10 vs Port Adelaide - Assisted Football Living
Where we went to Alice Springs and the loss prompted everyone to complain about selling games interstate without stopping to consider that we played such a loose style of optional defence that Port would have rumbled us on any ground in the free world.

2016 Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year

For the second time in three years your Hollywood style novelty goal was beaten to the title by a nice, well taken set shot at a crucial time. The ball is back in the court of Jeff Garlett and Co. to do something remarkable and/or ridiculous.

Congratulations to Jack Watts, who takes the prize home for his winning goal against Gold Coast. Still not convinced Wagner meant to kick it directly to him but who's complaining?

Despite never winning Jeff Garlett retains a clear lead in all-time nominations with 12.

Round 1 - Ben Kennedy
Round 2 - Jeff Garlett
Round 3 - Dean Kent
Round 4 - Jack Watts
Round 5 - Jeff Garlett [2]
Round 6 - Nathan Jones
Round 7 - Jeff Garlett [3]
Round 8 - Christian Petracca
Round 9 - Jeff Garlett [4]
Round 10 - Max Gawn
Round 11 - Dean Kent [2]
Round 12 - Christian Petracca [2]
Round 13 - Christian Petracca [3]
Round 15 - Jeff Garlett [5]
Round 16 - Dean Kent [3]
Round 17 - Jack Viney
Round 18 - Christian Petracca [4]
Round 19 - Jack Watts [2]
Round 20 - Jayden Hunt
Round 21 - Nathan Jones [2]
Round 22 - Jayden Hunt [2]
Round 23 - Angus Brayshaw

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

2016 Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year

He started life as a forward, and had to fight back from being given the arse to return via the rookie list. Now we crown our first 'small' defender winner of this award since 2012. Congratulations Nifty, may somebody outside the Dees recognise that you're one of the best small defenders in the competition eventually.

His rise to prominence would have given hope to Viv Michie when they tried to convert him into a defender as well. That didn't work nearly as well and he was soon delisted.

19 - Neville Jetta
12 - Jayden Hunt
11 - Tom McDonald
8 - Christian Salem, Billy Stretch
2 - Heritier Lumumba
0 - Lynden Dunn, Colin Garland, Jack Grimes, , Dean Terlich
DQ - Tomas Bugg, Sam Frost, Cameron Pedersen

Honour Roll
2005 - Nathan Carroll and Ryan Ferguson (shared)
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)

2016 Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year

In a narrow field the only three players to poll in the Hilton this year fought out a ding dong battle for the title, with Hunt bridging a five point gap with a last round best on ground in what was otherwise an abortion of a performance. After Hogan's win last year it's a great advertisement for players missing at least one year before debuting. 

With our draft picks in a state of shambles next year award might go anywhere, but with Sam Weideman eligible due to debuting in the last month of the season he'll probably start red hot favourite.

12 - Jayden Hunt, Christian Petracca
10 - Clayton Oliver
0 - Liam Hulett, Max King, Mitch King, Oscar McDonald, Joel Smith, Josh Wagner, Sam Weideman, Mitch White

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)

2016 Year in Review - Part two

Round 11 vs Hawthorn - Water, water everywhere so let's all have a drink
Where we gave the three time premiers a reasonable scare for three quarters in the wet before they ran away from us in the last. Featured Bernie Vince being reported by an umpire who just guessed he'd whacked an opponent, leading to some bench-warmer Australian NBA player having a Jon Ralph style sook on Twitter.

Round 12 vs Collingwood - Maximum Force
Where we finally won on Queen's Birthday again for the first time since 2007, with Max Gawn taking advantage of the Pies attempt to neutralise him by playing three ruckmen to be best on ground. For his performance he was handed a trophy which he used to flex like it was a dumbbell.

Round 13 vs Sydney - All at sea
Where we took our hot form from Queen's Birthday and watched it sink deep into the SCG turf on a soaking wet day. We started well and kicked three goals.. for the match. Our score only narrowly missed the lowest total we'd ever registered in an interstate game.

Round 15 vs Adelaide - The malady lingers
Where after a week off to ponder the ratshit performance in the wet we returned to the MCG and played one quarter of blistering football that gave us a chance of victory. Naturally we stuffed it up and were left with no chance by the last quarter.

Round 16 vs Fremantle - Steamy wonder
Where we finally conquerered Darwin again, opening up a match-winning lead against the surprisingly shit Dockers before going into our shell again. At half-time Peter Jackson announced that we'd extended the Northern Territory deal to the distress of everyone but me, because I was too busy watching the sweat pooling on his wonderfully bald head. At the end Max Gawn challenged Jamar/Colbert in Darwin for the greatest post match interview ever when he suggested that he'd prepared for the humidity by leaving the heater on.

Round 17 vs St Kilda - The sadness will last forever
Where we went back to Docklands to play the Saints for the third time in a year and discovered that the favours they'd done us in the pre-season game were all part of an elaborate rope a dope scheme.

Round 18 vs West Coast - How the West was wasted
Where rain helped us to our best performance at Subiaco in years. We registered an almost record number of inside 50s but couldn't convert that into a win due to an utterly dysfunctional forward structure. Everything began to seem hopeless and bleak again.

Round 19 v Gold Coast - Trial by ordeal
Where we engaged in a death struggle to beat the Suns, highlighted by one of their players being pinched for a deliberate out of bounds when he was having a shot. In what felt like a good advertisement for the way our season was going we managed to turn that into a Suns goal. We led with 20 seconds left and Bernie Vince with the ball in hand, he could have kicked literally anywhere else except straight to Tom Lynch. With Demons players rejecting the chance to form a human pyramid on the goal line Lynch fortunately missed and we didn't know it yet but our season remained alive.

Round 20 vs Hawthorn - Brawl State vs Natural High
Where after years of the Hawks treating us like peasants we rose up and made a statement. After a lot of games over the years that have gone from 'alive' to 'over' in the blink of an eye it was refreshing for it to happen to another side for once. The excitement was such that I didn't even realise until the next day that we were now a quite reasonable chance of getting to the last round with our finals chances in our own hands.

Round 21 vs Port Adelaide - Talent plus attitude equals dollars
Where we did a carbon copy of the Fremantle game in nicer conditions, rushing to a winning lead then going silent for a quarter, withstanding a low power comeback before winning comfortably. Featured the magic scenario of famous agitator Tomas Bugg hiding behind an umpire inside 50 then popping out from behind him to take a mark and kick a crucial goal. At the end our players acted like they'd won the flag and did several laps of honour high fiving people. There's no way that could ever come back to haunt them...

Round 22 vs Carlton - Blue Murder
Where we had the world in our hands and completely stuffed it up, like the damaged, abused club we are. All we needed was a win against a side who had lost nine in a row... back to the days of losing after starting overwhelming favourite.

Round 23 vs Geelong - Decade ends, era endures
We might not having won at Kardinia Park even if we'd beaten Carlton, but we might not have lost by 111 points either. Having strips torn off us at that ground was an appropriate way to end a decade which had been 'highlighted' by a grand slam porking at the same place. The #fistedforever era lives on.

2016 Allen Jakovich Medal

Who else to finish the worst 10 years of our lives than the Decade of Disaster's greatest player? In a controversial victory he just edged out Max Gawn's insurgent campaign, but the best and fairest results proved that I wasn't the only one to think that he deserved to be at the top end of the table.

We live in hope of his eventual canonisation, and will be opening a Kickstarter to build the statue in his honour the moment he retires.

47 - Nathan Jones
46 - Max Gawn
43 - Jack Viney
32 - Jack Watts
22 - Bernie Vince
19 - Neville Jetta, Dom Tyson
14 - Jesse Hogan
12 - Jayden Hunt, Christian Petracca
11 - Tom McDonald
10 - Clayton Oliver
8 - Christian Salem, Billy Stretch
7 - Jayden Hunt
4 - Ben Kennedy, Dean Kent
3 - Sam Frost, Aaron vandenBerg
2 - Angus Brayshaw, Tomas Bugg, Jeff Garlett, James Harmes, Matt Jones, Heritier Lumumba
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)

All time Demonblog award winners
Combined across Jakovich, Seecamp, Hilton, Stynes, Davey and Demonbracket wins

10 - Nathan Jones
5 - James Frawley
3 - Mark Jamar, Tom McDonald, Jack Viney, Jeff White
2 - Cameron Bruce, Aaron Davey, Brad Green, Jack Grimes, Jeremy Howe, Stefan Martin, Jack Watts
1 - Matthew Bate, Nathan Carroll, Lynden Dunn, Ryan Ferguson, Jack Fitzpatrick, Jesse Hogan, Jayden Hunt, Neville Jetta, Travis Johnstone, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Heritier Lumumba, Brock McLean, Brent Moloney, Cale Morton, Michael Newton, Paul Johnson, Christian Petracca, [REVOKED], Jared Rivers, Christian Salem, Colin Sylvia, Paul Wheatley, Matthew Whelan

Well that's it for another year. Dream big, hope for the best, don't stress about playing at Etihad Stadium in Round 1, buy the book and keep looking towards the stars.

We'll be back with a Demonbracket preview in early January before the tournament kicks off in earnest near the end of the month.


Sunday, 28 August 2016

Decade ends, era endures

What an appropriately Melbourne way to end a season which had ever so briefly promised something amazing. Less than 10 days since we were overloading the AFL's ladder predictor to try and work out percentage based scenarios to complete an amazing run to the finals we've suffered one shattering defeat as red hot favourites and been massacred by 111 points. If we couldn't deliver the cherished Mighty Ducks finish the most on-brand alternative was to go out being shelled like a heartless rabble. Where else could you get entertainment like that...

Until the first bounce I was so distraught about the events at the MCG the previous Saturday that I was ready to subscribe to any sort of 'truther' style conspiracy theory to explain it. Every time I had to debrief with another Melbourne supporter or a concerned neutral I'd get angrier, then when we deselected Michie and Neal-Bullen after one game it was time to take a deep breath before doing something I might regret. It's not that I held a torch for either of them in the side for this week's game, but what was the point of picking them last week if you weren't going to have the faith to back at least one of them in again? Of course nobody set out to lose deliberately last week, they just choked at team selection like the selected team did on-field.

It was especially galling that after we flopped to the ground within sight of the finish line and let North Melbourne make the finals without having to sit through a tense Saturday afternoon they felt so comfortable about their season ending very shortly after that they sacked four of their most senior players three days later. They wouldn’t have been doing that if everything rested on them winning to stay in the eight. Imagine if we’d reacted to a string of fruitless finals appearances by dropping the bomb like that at the end of 2006? Things might have been so different that I didn’t end up polishing off the last pages of a book about how shithouse the decade was, or more likely it would have gone tits up anyway and we’d all still be moaning about it like we do over the demise of James McDonald.

The last blow came after we'd already made fools of ourselves against the Cats. Carlton got the feelgood win last week then learned that one of the most valid pieces of wisdom of the #fistedforever years remains true - you can't play Melbourne every week. They lost to Essendon, also allowing a side who had to find 12 ring-ins at the last minute to end the season with more wins than our 2013 team who were allegedly playing properly.

The trip to Geelong was never going to end well, and I can't remember a game I wanted to be at less. In the same circumstances reasonable people would decide to stay home, eat chips on the couch then change channels when things started to become grim. Why couldn't I do the same? I had in 2012, unable to face the sewer of a joint again immediately after 186. Now it was just that I'd seen every minute of every Victorian game in person for the year so I had to complete the set. What a rotten idea. By the end of the day I'd seen our ninth 100+ point defeat since 2008, argued with our own fans, had somebody's head in the way for our last two goals and travelled home on the most irritating carriage full of people ever gathered in one train. All that for $50. I haven't had worse value at the footy since paying for a reserved seat then not using it once all year.

When the fixture is released your eyes go straight to the first game and last round (just in case...) and our seemingly annual trip to Kardinia Park (where we've played them seven of the last eight times - but if it's any comfort we were shit at the MCG too) always had high potential for disaster. At least after a season where you'd never expected anything you could afford to go, freeze half to death and be reminded by the locals that you follow a shit team without having to cope with your feelings. Now I was a week off being so distressed by a defeat that it gave me the squirts and treated the excursion with all the excitement of shipping out to 'Nam. We got a late change seven days after there should have been one in the wet against the Blues, and our commitment to the honour system by only doing it for actual injuries delivered us a Matt Jones for Dean Kent swap that would have raised eyebrows if we were closer to the bottom of the ladder.

The AFL's great experiment in killing momentum with a bye between Round 23 and the finals gave us more to worry about, sides would no longer rest half their squad in the last round or trot about carefully making sure they won in the easiest and least damaging fashion. On the same afternoon our traditional loony bin chums Richmond benefited from Sydney taking it easy in the last quarter, but only when they were already 130 points in front. Good sides had the green light to viciously maim mediocrities and both thrashed sides got what they deserved. I'd flirted with the 666 finals system, but imagine teams like this playing off to get into the finals. It should be a final seven this season anyway, let alone introducing more slop into the mix.

For only the second time in history we've played 10 consecutive losing seasons (1977 - 1986, which turned out ok), and what better venue at which to close our decade of terror? Just over five years ago we went there two weeks removed from finals calculations thinking we were on the way up and left as a pile of rubble. This time the program was accelerated, it only took a week from contender to pretender. After last week all I wanted was a battling performance to take us into the off-season with something to remember the last two weeks by, it was not to be and you might as well fade to the credits at the final siren of the Hawthorn game. At least we can be fairly sure 111 (that's the score - not 'Ill' in Courier font) won't leave us with the same side-effects as its older sibling.

I'm struggling to blame the players because they were obviously physically and mentally shot last week (and considering how far off crucial players like Vince, Garlett and Hogan were in the second half of the season we did well to get as close to relative glory as we did) but unless you could suspend disbelief and imagine a Melbourne side playing with the same sort of ruthless precision as Geelong did the slaughterhouse made for unpleasant viewing.

Forcing us to judge the direction of the wind via premiership flags was novel and hurtful, and the breeze seemed to keep changing directions so I won't hang Nathan Jones for his choice after winning the toss but as they were piling goals on it was definitely running in their favour. Then the second quarter started, I looked up and it had turned around and was in their favour again. We had our chances with it and did nothing, blaming atmospheric conditions for a 111 point loss is like blaming the umpires. The way we were playing it could have been a Casey Fields style 10 goal hurricane and it wouldn't have saved us, our forward structure was in total disarray again. How come Hogan can take any mark you like up the ground but he's got this obsession with having the ball kicked over his head inside 50? We love when he manhandles a defender but you can't rely on one trick all season. Can somebody point out that everyone in the league knows what he's up to and has been since halfway through the year? It works alright on fast breaks, but when you're left in the situation we have been the last couple of weeks where play on has been abolished it's an open invitation for opposition defenders to pick off kicks.

If you can tell whether we're going to have a good day or not in the first couple of minutes the farce detector was spinning out of control from the first bounce. What fun we'd had toppling them last season while they were having a gap year outside the eight, only for Patrick Dangerfield to roll into town and help shoot them straight back to the top again. What a luxury, and what a demolition job he did on us. We probably didn't have anyone capable of stopping him, but earlier in the season he might have been quelled. Now against a exhausted, demoralised outfit all but pointing at their wrists as if to indicate 'get this over with' he was dashing around swatting attempted tackles out of the way with contempt. When he went down clutching his shoulder I thought "well, at least we've found one way to influence the finals" only to completely forget about the ' injury' the moment the ball arrived in his vicinity then carry on slaughtering us.

With Gawn's taps completely useless for the second week in a row because of our midfield shuddering to a halt we didn't have much hope. Hawkins was getting such silver platter delivery that he was dashing off on leads and leaving Sizzle in his wake on the way to four first quarter goals. McDonald pretty good (by our standard) for the rest of the game but he had no chance here. The only indignities we've avoided since 2007 have been failing to kick a goal and conceding 10 goals to one player. The first one was covered when we shambled forward against the run of play for vandenBerg to get our first and tie it at one goal each, the other looked in serious trouble when the Cats went straight down the other end of Hawkins' second - and by the end of the quarter he'd only just missed a fifth.

By Hawkins' fifth shot we were already in the middle of an evacuation. Since AVB's first goal we'd conceded five more and were playing with a 2013 style level of terror. Like the night we'd tied the scores at 6-6 at Essendon then lost by 148 an early goal was no indication of competitiveness. At least this time it was Round 23, not Round 2 so you could blame physical and mental fatigue - then not watch another game you really care about until late February. Physical issues aside you could also blame our lack of superstars, now stretching to more years than I care to remember. We've got the All-Australian ruckman (though if they need any reason to screw us the last fortnight will help), several promising kids and a couple of reliable midfielders but what chance we ever get a player dominating at a level that scares the bejesus out of opponents before they even turn up? In the first half the season I thought Jack Viney was going to win the Brownlow, so there's hope for the future in that but at the risk of going off half-cocked based on two weeks I bet Christian Petracca will be Melbourned before he can reach anything approaching this level of explosiveness.

With nobody able to find space - due to fatigue, Geelong's tactics or a high degree of CBF - we were left hopefully kicking the ball down the ground just in case it landed with the right person. Gawn played like Jonathan Brown at Kardinia Park last year, but while he never gave in this time you can't tell me he wasn't feeling the toll of 25 straight games as the 95% ruckman. If Hogan stays our forward line will be overbalanced with a forward/ruckman but we've got to try and find one. The kicks usually didn't land with one of ours, and often when it did that player would turn it over instead - leading to triumphant columns of Cats steaming towards goal while our defenders turned to each other as if to say "oh shit". In another unwelcome flashback to the Neeld Years they did reasonably well to keep the score down considering how much and how often the ball was going down there but we were still flattened.

By quarter time it was 38 points the difference and the already minimal enthusiasm I'd entered with was flat-lining. No need for anybody to apply a defibrillator and shout "clear!", we should have negotiated a 100 point loss and moved on. We've been known to throw caution to the wind and bolt back from such hopeless positions, but not in Round 23 against a premiership contender with the entire side grasping through the flames and smoke to find an emergency exit. If I'd driven there I'd have been serious tempted to write-off my investment and listen to the rest on the way home. Like a total mug I stayed and watched us be ruthlessly humped like a small dog, but every time I turned around to look outside the ground during the last three quarters there was a steady stream of red and blue clad deserters doing the smart thing and pushing off.

It's cruel to put too many expectations on our players in the last round after a long season - I am still 1000% angrier about their capitulation last week - but they weren't even close to making a statement for the future. Everyone just wanted to get rid of the ball and make it somebody else's problem. In the first half we weren't too far behind in the traditionally useless inside 50 count, but the difference in delivery was astronomical. When it went down our end the forwards had no idea what they were doing. Playing Weideman was a worthwhile development opportunity in a bullshit game but other than being gifted a goal he struggled. At least now they've got an entire pre-season to work out who are forwards will be and get them working together. Then no doubt half of them will get injured two weeks in and we'll be forced to go back to makeshift options for 30 goals a season.

The Hogan saga continued in the second quarter, since violently dismissing Zac Dawson in Darwin he's kicked 3.11 and I've got suspicions something unusual is going on behind the scenes. There were moments reminiscent of when he and Garlett teamed up torment Watts in the first game against Hawthorn as he was running around inside 50 demanding the ball and nobody would kick it towards him. Eventually the frustration became too much and he was either yelling at people in the crowd or spewing venom at himself that made it look that way. We remain, as always, a mentally tormented outfit. Here's to Goodwin being less interested in meditation sessions and sensory deprivation tanks and more into hypnotism, sports psychology and men in white coats.

We got the first goal of the second quarter and kept Geelong quiet for 10 minutes, but after Petracca won a free with one of his famous bearhug tackles then blew the kick with one of his equally famous shithouse set shots the word must have gone out from Chris Scott that one fringe player would be executed at half time if they didn't get on with it. They only got three more goals before half time, but it was at the expense of keeping us to a point. After already kicking three goals once this year we were staring at a dry weather version of the Sydney debacle. Even when we went to Kardinia Park at the depths of our despair in 2013 and played in pissing rain we kicked four - it was like a Heritage Round had been declared and we were the only ones who'd read the email.

There were chances, but like last week players couldn't find the middle ground between trying to work the ball to the line and thumping it into the arms of a defender. There's nothing wrong with having a speculative thump inside 30 metres, not from 60 out without looking to see where the forwards were. Then there was the struggles of Jeff Garlett. He's done well to pad his stats during junk time in his last two appearances, but has anyone ever suffered a bigger drop in form since signing a mid-year contract? During the second quarter he had one of the worst attempts at goal ever, trying to do a tricky roller from a ridiculous angle on the boundary and instead shinning it straight out on the full. We saw what he could do last year so I'm not writing him off, but whatever's wrong with him physically or mentally (and if it's the latter I don't expect he'll get much of a hand considering our track record with psychology) I hope it's cured in the off-season because while 29 goals would have won you the award a few years ago all his stats have gone into free-fall.

After only going a couple of goals further behind by half time I was happier to stay around in the hope that we might break even with a few cheap goals to give us something to take away to ponder September - February. We got the cheap goals, but not until the last quarter when the Cats were thrashing them in at a 186 pace down the other end. It certainly gave us something to think about for the next few months while Jake Melksham is furiously demanding a trade back to Essendon. Ironically kicking three last quarter goals made it one of our best since Queen's Birthday. Shame we were shipping 10 at the other end, rapidly losing our percentage of over 100 that we'd guarded since Round 4. Goodbye four and a half months of enjoying the minor victory of scoring more than we'd conceded.

We could put out a DVD called The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Footy Teams, and one of them is coming out after half time playing like everyone had just been forced to run across hot coals while being sprayed with sewage. Three goals in the opening minutes showed that there was no brave defensive effort to be had, we were going to fold like an umbrella and end the season in disgrace. It was no way to send Roos off, but he and the coaching team weren't entirely blameless for the way we were limping to the line. He said players like Brayshaw and Salem who'd had a break didn't look as tired as the rest. Well shit, really? Good guy, enjoyed his reign better than the last one but I'm not judging how effective it was until I see where we go next.

After it looked like the score was heading towards triple figures at three quarter time the Cats settled down again, and while we only scored four points we didn't concede another goal. This caused the locals to get bored and start pissfarting like they were in a nightclub. At least they didn't bring shame to themselves by doing the wave like Sydney fans the same afternoon. If Geelong could have been relied upon to pull the pin in the last term would could have gotten away with 'just' a 60 point loss with a lengthy list of excuses. Instead they threw decency out the window by kicking 10 goals. Best of luck to them because I wasn't expecting and didn't want any favours - do you ever dream at night about following a team that ruthlessly crushes a side like that? The first thing our players should do when they come back from their break is watch a version of this game that deletes every possession we had and solely concentrates on how the Cats went about unpicking us. Either that or watch a Sydney highlights package to determine how a side with such a gigantic cast of randoms can win the minor premiership. I'm sure this is a good side in the making, time to teach them how to play like one.

I've been involved in a lot of 100 point losses over the years, but can't think of one that moved me less. When you've seen a 75 point worse defeat at the same ground (and there is still nothing that can explain how we were as far behind at half time in 2011 as full time here) it's hard to get truly upset when you don't have to back up next week. For the entire second half I stood there not saying a word, no yelping in anxiety or nervously making irrational demands of players that they couldn't hear from 100 metres away. I clapped a few intercept marks and remained unmoved by our goals. I'm not comparing my lot to the players who trudge up and down the country, but having started my live viewing in Craigieburn on Sunday 6 March I was mentally broken by last week. This was attendance by obligation only.

As the score rapidly pressed towards triple figures I started to feel some anxiety for the first time since the first quarter, a thumping defeat was one thing but 100+ point defeats carry a much higher psychological weight than ones just under. I didn't think there was much hope for us when the famous margin was breached, but we briefly got it back to 99 for a couple of minutes before normal service resumed. Defenders started queuing up to kick goals, and if a train had blown its horn on the way past it would have been good to shut the game down and go home early. We had to sit through more goals as the locals went off as if they were winning a meaningful game instead of raining punches down on a cadaver. Once I'd come to terms with us losing by the ton it just washed over me, no anger or sadness just the comfortably numb state of late 2013 where all you want to do is get this shit over with and find out what comes next.

We've been terrible in the second half of the season for years, but after the three consecutive wins I thought that things had progressed far enough that we wouldn't go into the off-season soul searching. This is a highly accurate summation of the situation:
I moved on quickly. After an hour on the train grinding my teeth with anxiety about what's going to happen next year if a) we suffer injuries, b) Goodwin has NFI or c) players we think are the future go backwards the scope of our Icarus style collapse since beating Port hit home when I got off the train and ran into North fans looking like they were going to a funeral. They know they're wasting everybody's time in September, but after meekly threatening them now we're going to finish below both St Kilda and Port in 11th. At least Gold Coast only get pick eight from us after we'd all stressed that we'd end up finishing last and getting nothing for it.

In the end we ended up exactly where we'd have expected midway through the year, only with sky high expectations from beating the Hawks instead of what would have been gentle fist-pumping for a battling win over the Blues. All I wanted was mid-table mediocrity (9th - 12th) so it's unfair to move the goalposts based on one amazing win over Hawthorn but the last two weeks have left a sour taste that I hope is just late season anxiety and not a sign of things to come. Obviously I care if we win a flag, but understanding that it's extremely hard all I ask for is to give it at least one massive bash.

It was a fitting end for a long, strange, often depraved and usually completely stupid decade. From the waning days of the Daniher glory era, to the ill-feted Baileyball revolution which met its demise at the hands of office politics and Neeld and Craig going around like they were a 70s cop duo called Plunge & Plummet before finally Roos gave us the same sort of benefits as plastic surgery – it cost a fortune, was moderately painful at times, and nobody knows if it'll backfire in the future but it made us feel a little better about ourselves.

Stat My Bitch Up
Since first going to Kardinia Park in 1999 I'm now 2-10 (Not including two pre-season games, one abandoned and one where we lost by heaps and Trent Zomer played) for a total score of difference of minus 561.

Geelong 210.161.1421 defeated Melbourne 124.116.860

Now I know how South and West Australians feel watching us every year.

2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Jayden Hunt
4 - Christian Salem
3 - Nathan Jones
2 - Angus Brayshaw
1 - Tom McDonald

Apologies to Stretch, vandenBerg and Viney who were in the melange for one vote. They didn't deserve it, but neither did most of the names above them.

Heartbreak for Maximum, pipped at the last minute as he battled hard but suffered from the twin factors of fatigue kicking him in the face and Geelong's midfield hoovering up all his taps. Nathan Jones confirms his status as king of the decade (and of this being yet another midfielders award) by winning his 5th Jakovich. In the minors there's a boilover in the Hilton as Jayden Hunt flies home at the last opportunity to snatch a share of the award - the first tie in any award since Nathan Carroll and Ryan Ferguson shared the 2005 Seecamp.

Congratulations to all the winners (including Jack Watts, winner of the Paul Prymke Plate for Pre Season Performance) and to everyone who pocketed a vote. To those who didn't - try harder next time.

47 - Nathan Jones
46 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
43 - Jack Viney
32 - Jack Watts
22 - Bernie Vince
19 - Neville Jetta (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Dom Tyson
14 - Jesse Hogan
12 - Jayden Hunt, Christian Petracca (CO-WINNERS: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
11 - Tom McDonald
10 - Clayton Oliver
8 - Christian Salem, Billy Stretch
4 - Ben Kennedy, Dean Kent
3 - Sam Frost, Aaron vandenBerg
2 - Angus Brayshaw, Tomas Bugg, Jeff Garlett, James Harmes, Matt Jones, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Cameron Pedersen

The perfect season is complete (no finals in this competition), our Roos heavy effort heaved in the breeze and looked like it was about to burst before the players could run through it (as opposed to the players running through it then bursting) but survived and won a comfortable victory over a home town effort that had about four different fonts and the most bizarre & symbol you'll ever see. Why not just write 'and'? Dees 26-1-0 for the season.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
I expect either of the last quarter Garlett goals would be popular, but stuff both of them I want Angus Brayshaw's goal in the second which he created by refusing to give up in a contest for 15 metres while grappling with an opponent right up his ginger before eventually soccering it through with a dainty touch. Like a Jeremy Howe screamer the impact was lessened by us being miles behind at the time, but it's a well deserved nomination. For the weekly prize he wins a trip to Pizza Land - the holders of Geelong's worst corporate logo.

That means it's congratulations to Jack Watts for taking the overall award for his set shot against Gold Coast. For degree of difficulty it was average, for execution it was a perfect 10 - and without it we wouldn't have even been able to dream about the great finish that was eventually left splattered across the 77.2km from the MCG to Kardinia Park.

Crowd Watch
The alpha male fuckwit environment in any stadium where a team has an overwhelming majority is one of the biggest turnoffs to travelling for more games (not to mention that we'll most likely lose), so I didn't expect another cultural afternoon on the stairs at Kardinia Park but what were the odds that the most offensive characters would be Melbourne fans? I thought our fans were a bit more cultured than hurling a stream of homophobic slurs at an opposition player in same fashion people used to do in regards to race before that was banned. After telling a kid to fuck off last week I'm not going to take the moral high ground on swearing at the footy but if somebody had called me out on that I'd have taken my right whack. Thumbs down to the locals for being so casual about our challenge that they couldn't even be bothered to suggest the dickheads involve look directly up to where the three premiership flags won by that particular player were fluttering.

Bonus points to the guy who sent up outside South Geelong station after the game trying to sell bootleg Geelong hoodies off a blanket. He must have been desperate to his remaining inventory before the end of the year because he tried to foist one on me even though by that point I quite clearly had no interest in a) Geelong or b) life. If he'd had memorabilia celebrating great GFC/MFC thrashings at the place I'd have probably bought one.

After hearing an hour of the blandest supporter chat between two groups of randoms who'd ended up sitting in facing seats on the way there I had the poor luck to wind up with one of them sitting behind me on the way home too. This meant hearing him give another Forest Gump style run through of his life story to a stranger before passing on the same slanderous allegations about what James Hird's been up to in France that one of the other randoms had told him the first time. I'd have moved, except the rest of the carriage was loaded with people randomly yelling things like "Teabagging!" as I contemplated getting out at Lara Station and walking.

Next Week (incorporating off-season watch)
Today begins that traditional nightmare six months where I repay all the time I've spent away from my family watching footy by doing whatever my wife wants every single weekend. At least whatever I do it'll be with a significantly lower blood pressure. Now that we're in the end game for the book - complete with its appropriately sad ending - I'll be spending the next month or so banging away on edits but will also be back for our traditional End of Year Spectacular sometime before (or possibly during) the Grand Final. Then there will be the traditional posting lull between October and early February when Demonbracket season kicks off.

Next Year
The list situation is becoming clearer now. Speculating on retirements/delistings only rather than random trades (say, with Freo?) I'm predicting the following departures.

Senior: Dawes, Grimes, Terlich
Rookie: King, Michie, White

So that's new contracts for M. Jones, Newton, Pedersen and Wagner. In comes old mate from Essendon (unless he decides to stay there based on what he saw on Saturday) which requires at least one more to go from the senior list so we can have three picks in the national draft. I'm not ruling out Garland retiring/asking for a trade and am convinced ANB will be going elsewhere. Of the new contact players above I could see Jones or Newton getting the chop/re-rookie treatment that relaunched Neville Jetta's Seecamp Medal winning career.

The last two weeks haven't shaken my confidence in our overall direction (other than a high suspicion that no matter what players we have the veil of negativity is never far away) but I'm suspicious of treading water next year if we suffer a spate of injuries. Let's all vow not to go right over the top and make idiots of ourselves if Goodwin's reign doesn't instantly propel us into the eight.

I'm not usually one to muckrake or to post hot gossip, but after seeing the slurry served up today I'm going to petulantly give you my best Ballbag Barrett style exclusive. Remember when The Hamburglar got dumped for six weeks in the middle of the season? A good source suggests it was because he fell out with Roos due to an overly cocky attitude. More important there was a moment early in that exile where some mid-week locker room antics at AAMI Park grated on a more experienced player so much that Mr X slapped the piss out of Oliver. That was one moment where his Matrix style moves failed him. We hope he took something out the experience, like when I was being a little shit and mum give me a backhander then threw my Ravishing Rick Rude action figure out the window of the car in 1992.

Was it worth it?
No, no, no and a thousand times now. Last week felt like a horrible waste of time, but at least I willingly went to the ground with hope (before it was squeezed out) then walked in my front door 45 minutes after it was over. This time I had no interest in going, had a shit day once I got there and took two hours to get home. It was a horrid, hateful waste of time and I never want to hear about it again.

Final thoughts
For me, a few hours ago this decade came to an end.... but in the words of Ted Kennedy - the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

Regrets? I've had a few.

Standard "this post is delayed" notification

Well fuck it all.

Keep an eye on Twitter or Facebook for a link on Sunday morning. Otherwise go and live the good life for a few months before we start all over again.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Blue Murder

How very Melbourne, to be halfway up the ladder then fall off. To take all talk of a miracle finish to the season that you'd still be thinking about on your deathbed, tie it to an old stove and throw it in the harbour.

After several months total over the last few years where workplace productivity ground to halt as the result of crushing defeats it was about time that I got a full week to panic over upcoming results instead. All we needed was for Sydney to beat North in Hobart and to avoid cocking up the biggest free kick ever against a side who'd just lost nine in a row - with a side serving of tension about percentage - and we'd be alive next Saturday. We didn't deserve to make the finals, and we'd have undoubtedly been pantsed in the first week if we got there but we'd have been a chance. Then disaster.

The tension woke me up at 5.30am two days in a row, and continued through the game until now where my jaw is so tightly clenched that I expect to wake up in the morning with a crushing headache but not be able to chuck a sickie because everyone will think it's just because of the result. We got the fourth leg of the Mighty Ducks finish when Sydney withstood two comebacks and an interest in punting the ball straight at opposition defenders not seen since us on Queen's Birthday last year to beat North. With GWS about to finish in the top four it was NQR to be investing so much emotion in the still unlikely fifth, sixth and seventh legs of the MDF - but given that beating Carlton was supposed to be the easiest of the three it pointed to at least six days more of belief. Don't trust anyone.

All I asked for was to beat a side that had lost nine games in a row so we could end the #fistedforever era, no matter what happened next week. 10 years would have been a good time to switch off the analogue signal, move to digital and try to put our various disgraces behind us as we moved to the Mid-Table Mediocrity era, but here we are empty handed and broken-hearted again. It's not even about finals (well, not 100%), even if North had won yesterday I'd still feel the potent mix of shame and anger at losing yet another game as red hot favourites.

I'd even held my bile when they unnecessarily tinkered with a winning team by making three changes. What a time to give Viv Michie another go as a defender when he'd shown stuff all in three appearances this year. Statistically he wasn't bad, but if there was a way to rate overall attacking impact he'd barely move the needle. Given that we didn't even bother to tease picking Grimes in the extended team on Thursday I expect he's told us "I'll be right at Casey thanks", and they might have been wary of Salem after missing half the year but even Matt Jones would have made more impact than Vivian. I can't see why Harmes had to go out in the first place, he hasn't been great in the three wins but obviously the structure had something about it when we were knocking over Hawthorn and winning in Adelaide for the second time in 15 years. Garlett was an enforced change with a mysterious skin infection (probably caused by a racist Port fan throwing rotten fruit at him from over the fence), but while I was originally accepting of a Weideman/Pedersen switch did nobody consult the Bureau of Meteorology forecast when picking the side on Thursday night?

The issue of setting out for a crucial game with a Watts, Hogan, Weid triple terror forward line who'd never played one competitive game together was one thing but in the wet it was madness. For the third time this year we entered a game knowing that at least some of it would be played in the wet and didn't do anything to try and change the way we played. I've lost confidence in Dawes but at least the other two times we've tried it with an experienced, premiership player and not a second gamer. What were they thinking? Who knows if either of Carlton's late outs were enforced, and who cares - you're not on the bloody honour system to only alter the side on the day of the game if somebody suffers a legitimate illness or injury. Even worse that this time Casey was due to play in Geelong the same day, so we had access to bringing any of Garland, Pedersen or Harmes in from the emergencies. Having two talls in reserve with heavy rain forecast, did they pick this team out of a hat? Still, I tried to stuff my reservations deep inside and hope that everything would turn out ok. Ever been in a situation where you have a sixth sense something terrible is going to happen but you miraculously emerge from it unscathed? That was me from 6.25pm Thursday until 1.25pm Sunday.

Due to poor research I had no idea my train line was out for track works, leading to a mad scramble and illegal parking to get to the MCG before the first bounce. I got there just in time for the Blues shooting fireworks as their side ran through the banner, accompanied by people running around waving flags with the premiership years on them. It was well over the top for a team that has done nothing for 20 years, but it must have had some impact on our players who were spooked by the pyrotechnics and smoke as if they were passing under the Do Lung Bridge. I though the worst that could happen would be losing one or two players to smoke inhalation, but it got so much worse.

It was instantly obvious from the first bounce that we weren't on, like when we played the Blues last year and Essendon twice over two years. It was sickening how similar the Round 2 loss was to the one we gifted Essendon at the end of 2015, and this was equally revoltingly as our late 2015 farce against Carlton. We went in as favourite, they had late changes (two in this case, just to taunt us by making their starting lineup even more anonymous), we played a casual first quarter which allowed them to set up a match-winning lead and didn't do more than nibble away at it for the rest of the day. The Blues must have had last year's game on repeat, with Brendan Bolton wearing an even wider grin than usual as he realised we'd probably stuff it up again. We don't have any videos on file of us playing well in the wet, so the least we could have done was watch the first quarter of the West Coast game where we at least scared them shitless with pressure before dying from a wasteful forward line.

The difference was then there was nothing on the line except pride - and we didn't have any of that left anyway - whereas this time a win would leave the door open for a 1987 style miracle finish or a 1976-esque final round horror scenario. I already thought we'd give a little yelp then lose comfortably to the Cats, but that didn't matter because I just wanted to have a ticket in the lottery. For god's sake Chapter 23 of the Mighty Ducks DVD is called "A Shot At A Dream", what more could you ask for? In his last MCG press conference Roos was very keen to point out that the team didn't get ahead of themselves thinking about finals, and I can believe that because recent history has shown us they don't need top eight implications to play miserably against struggling sides.

After previous experience feeling cheated after starting favourites I tried to take to this game with a degree of suspicion, after all hadn't the Blues almost toppled Sydney and West Coast during their losing streak? Even after Sydney blew the chance to thrash the Roos and make our job easy I still wasn't thinking about the percentage implications. I did think we'd win though, how could you not? Even a slight, weedy victory that we all instantly labelled the "worst ever" would have given us a few days to worry about the permutations for next week. If the changes hadn't worried me then their lineup featuring the most unheralded selection of players since Leigh Wardell-Johnson and the 1995 Fremantle Dockers really gave cause for concern. God knows who 75% of them are, but they perfectly executed a plan against a side that weren't up for it so good luck to them.

All I wanted was to get to Kardinia Park with it in our hands. Victory by any margin there was outrageously unlikely, but a win by anywhere between 1 and 999 points would have seen me exit the train at Spencer Street, turn left and enter Etihad Stadium as the most passionate Greater Western Sydney Giants fan ever. In the spirit of apartheid South Africa declaring the members of visiting sports teams 'Honorary Whites' I would have even considered $cully an 'Honorary Good Bloke' for the time in which he could influence our future. Now they're a bunch of arseholes again all we've got to look forward to in a season that had spent a fortnight promising 'something' before spiralling into disaster is him enjoying the final knockout blow by lifting the premiership cup.

After five of the seven legs of the miracle were ticked off and the next leg was up to us I cursed the weather report suggesting a 90% chance of rain, knowing it was likely to slow down our undoubted quality advantage. After intermittent rain throughout the morning the showers returned later, but what actually slowed down any quality advantage was Carlton turning up to play from the first bounce while our lot looked like they weren't particularly concerned. The choke was on immediately when Gawn's first ruck contest only ended in the Blues going forward and kicking a goal - the first act in the crippling stranglehold Bryce Gibbs and the uncrowned 2015 Rising Star Patrick Cripps had over us when the game was in the balance. Both racked up untold possessions in the first half while we practically stood around giving them a rousing ovation,

Deep down I was still concerned about percentage, even as I simultaneously knew we were probably going to stuff this up, but conceding the first goal didn't have to be fatal. Remember, the first step was getting four competition points. From what became a neutral perspective when I started frantically trying to disown the Dees I liked the Blues high degree of niggle. It was a step up from Port unsuccessfully trying to go the knuckle last week and being laughed at, including Dylan Buckley shoving Bugg on his arse after the opening goal. What we needed at this point was for somebody who knew they weren't crucial next week to take a stand and belt a Carlton player but nobody was interested.

We got the goal back when Tom McDonald - playing his third straight week of cock-up free football - devised a blueprint for all future attacks (available unused from the Demon Shop) by whipping a long kick to a pack where Hogan's unrealistic half attempt at a mark cracked open the space for vandenBerg to crumb. Doesn't matter how you get it, but it was telling that even as the goal went through Hogan was busy cracking the shits to himself about missing the grab. He did give away a freebie goal later, so I'm not accusing him of being hungry to a Steve Johnson level (and nobody would care if he was regularly kicking goals) but you do tend to get worried about spending a million bucks a year on him. I suppose we have to take the risk, but I will admit yelling "make me an offer Freo" to nobody in particular when he missed that crucial shot in the last.

AVB's goal was the springboard to better things for one team, and it wasn't us. As part of a near total dominance of the centre Carlton went straight out of the middle to reply within 30 seconds and we were rapidly going rotten. Jones and Viney recovered to play almost as good a game as any of our players, but if anybody could have got near the drop of the ball from the middle in the first quarter it would have helped. Even secondary bounces would have slowed the Blues down, not that we were having much luck there either as they successfully implemented the third man up tactic that has done us in several times this year to neutralise Gawn. And how did we tackle that? By doing the same thing all day long with equally disappointing results.

After so much success playing on quickly all year we played a weird hybrid of trying to do that without options, standing still hoping somebody else would run for the pass or handballing it around in circles until we turned it over. At three goals to one down with no indication that we were going to arrive and being participating any time soon Vince continued a month that has more often than not been diabolical by throwing in a classic 'play on with an opponent right behind you' inside defensive 50. They missed the kick but that said it all about where we were going. Somewhere Brad Scott was pumping his hands in the air and celebrating an Olympic themed Steven Bradbury style escape from last round drama. You're welcome North fans.

That was the point where we settled down and stopped gifting the Blues opportunities, when they were already three goals in front in a game they won by four, and over the next 10 minutes we had a genuine bash but continually necked ourselves with an overdose of dinky handballs. For once the "JUST KICK IT!" crowd had a point, until players starting doing that and only found a nest of Blues. Carlton's early enthusiasm and commitment to driving our players bonkers with physicality had evaporated and they stopped kicking goals, but we looked as likely to get one own as in the earliest days of the Roos regime. We scored 4.6.30 in his second game, and were lucky to get much more than that in his second last. Even when we kicked the last of the term it was thanks to a Carlton turning the ball over from their attacking 50 into the middle of the ground where for once our unwillingness to give the ball to the first option eventually worked and allowed Hunt to dash down the middle and kick it (Dwayne Russell: "That's one of the goals of the year!" You flange, that's not even his best). Have you noticed how he always has one massive dash in the first quarter then a maximum one or two for the rest of it? It was back to the bad times where if things don't go our way we fall to pieces.

After arriving late I thought I was well in the clear of having to contend with people, but there were unfortunate scenes when even later comers filtered around me in the upper-Ponsford (which Carlton had renamed after one of their players because it was their home game. A sleazy move, but one we should totally rip off for next year's mandatory Docklands game) and I ended up perpetuating the stereotype of the ugly footy fan by telling a lippy child aged 10-12 to fuck off. He'd already elbowed me in the head once running up and down the stairs, and when he turned for a laugh after Carlton's last goal I disgraced myself royally. To their credit the parents took it without comment, though given they were letting the little shit run around and do what he wanted it would have been ironic to try and introduce discipline to total strangers. Nevertheless I thought I'd better move before I ended up wearing a two-for-one life ban with the Port fan.

In the interest of trying anything up to and including sorcery I moved to the exact spot as when we pulled off the stirring comeback against Essendon in 2014. Of course that didn't work, but I was feeling such a high degree of sporting confusion and deflation that anything felt like a good idea. We had a 15 point deficit to contend with before we could even start thinking about chipping away at North's percentage lead, but Hunt's goal felt like it should have been the circuit breaker (CLICHE!) to make everyone realise that this wasn't just another Round 22 to be endured. Even if most of them were probably exhausted from going non-stop from the first pre-season game (related: now that we know we have some good players and can win sometimes how about playing some kids in the practice matches next year?) all we needed was one more day then nobody would have had an issue with them crumbling. Instead it was a less surprising flashback to Round 2, where Carlton players bounced around unhindered while we got the ball and had to go around in circles until turning it over due to lack of free targets to kick to.

After taking 15 minutes to get going in the first quarter you might have thought that they'd shout all the right things in the huddle and vow solemnly to come out after the break playing like a team with something on the line. Then for the first half of the second quarter they put on the same pissweak performance as the first. I put more effort into supporting the Sydney Swans, including a rousing rendition of their theme song, than our players did for the first 50 minutes. Serves me right for flirting with other teams and considering the prospect of forming a temporary, unholy alliance with GWS. As our players spent much of the day falling on their arse the Blues were enjoying moments of surprising delight like a player being slung around in a tackle, throwing the ball on his boot and having it dart directly to a guy standing on his own at the top of the goalsquare.

Somewhere in all this Jack Watts was struggling to see after being punted in the face and Dean Kent was hobbling off looking like he'd suffered serious injury - but maybe this was our time to finally conquer the curse of letting other sides improve when they had a numerical disadvantage. At nearly five goals down, as even I was contemplating storming out and rocking the Kaiser wagon as part of a polite MFC style riot, we launched a mini-comeback. Hogan reappeared to get one and Oliver got justice as last for the Cyril Rioli debacle by milking a 50 after a mark from almost the same spot to cut the margin to 14.

Then our impressive commitment to shooting ourselves in the foot returned. Hopefully everyone's forgotten about the Gold Coast game so I can go back to complaining about vandenBerg not being a forward, and the final act that should see him playing as a midfielder with us or Casey next season came when he marked on the line and instead of kicking it himself tried to handball to Gawn, only for the sheer drop between Maximum's hand and boot to allow Carlton to not only stop him kicking a goal but register any score at all. Gawn shouldn't have called for it with his back turned to the square, but he's got more credits in the bank so I'm willing to forgive him. Shortly after we managed to go from Watts gathering in the forward pocket to Jones being done holding the ball on the edge of the 50 on the opposite side within 10 seconds. Jack was doing the right thing trying to centre for Weideman all on his own directly in front, but the end result said it all about how we were going.

All the while we were being belted in the umpiring - enjoying the odd scenario where we'd kicked a goal from a 50 but hadn't won a single free in the half. To this I said - to nobody - "well if we ever got near the fucking ball we might get an opportunity". My only hope was that in the spirit of the West Coast game there'd be a series of outrageous levellers in the last quarter when the game was on the line that would unfairly carry us to victory. We didn't even get that. At two goals down in the last minute I could handle the disasters which had cost us two goalscoring opportunities, until we conceded one. Given that it came from a free it was a great result for the people who were trying to set up a "we were robbed" storyline, only for the total ineptitude of the rest of our play to relegate that to a footnote.

Sensing impending doom I further relocated myself to the back row with nobody within 30 metres where I could stand up, go right over the top and disgrace my family name. When I had a moment of clarity to think about anything other than how angry I was over the first half I realised that you can very easily sneak from the pleb section into the MCC, as in the very last row the pointy fence is replaced by a rounded pipe. I resolved to wait until it didn't matter if security guards carried me out and try it, then got so upset in the last quarter that the idea was forgotten. Skip the 20 year waiting list and have a go yourself sometime. No matter which side of the fence you're on you'll be able to spot a shithouse Melbourne performance.

When we went forward in the first minute of the third quarter and Watts marked right in front I thought "right, this is it" but he botched a sitter from a similar spot to where he missed in the first game against Collingwood. After a wonderful year it was an ugly way to drag us away from the pot of gold and back towards 10th. He had a poor game, but I'm not going to hold it against him solely, if you send a letter of complaint to GUILTY - c/o Melbourne FC, PO Box 254, East Melbourne 8002 a dozen people on and off-field will rush to open it.

To complicate matters after finishing a week of self-torment with a mad dash to the ground there was a moment shortly after where I suddenly felt quite ill. At one point there were a few brief moments of terror where I thought I'd shat myself, but fortunately my arsehole was clenched as tight as my jaw from anger and hatred so everything was being kept neatly inside. The last time in my life I'd suffered such indignity due to illness was after another bubble bursting loss in Round 7, 1998 so the Dees had some form causing chaos for my innards. I guess we'll discover tomorrow if it was due to a legitimate illness or my version of David Parkin spewing in a bucket through nerves.

There was still plenty of time to win it, and when we held the Blues out long enough to get the first goal of the quarter I tried to convince myself that happy (tolerable anyway) days were on their way again. It should be noted that the goal came from Gawn refusing to get involved with the handballing frenzy in the wet and just pinging it long to Hogan, who then bombed it towards the goal. Watching him kicking to the spot where he should also be standing has been one of my key frustrations of this season, but at least he held a mark and gave his teammates an opportunity. We tried to stuff it up by fumbling around with more handballs before Bugg eventually kicked it, but for the third time we were knocking on the door of a popular comeback. Then immediately from the next bounce the Blues used two kicks off the ground (wet weather footy, well I never) to set up some bloke to boot the reply through traffic and I delivered a lusty kick to the chair on my right.

With our attack running like a 1982 Daihatsu Charade again we had plenty of players averse to having a ping from inside 50, but lots willing to lob the ball at the goal when only Carlton defenders were present. I've hated Garlett's second half of the season but at least he would have had a shot while in the open instead of trying to improve his angle or throw another handball. On the other hand the Blues were kicking long to their forwards (Bolton - not just a man so cheery that he makes you happy just looking at him, but also the KO winner of the coaching dual) who were operating in enough space that they could run and jump at the ball. By the time Liam Jones got in the queue for Kingsley nominations to take it back out to a four goal margin I was nearly inconsolable. With my internal organs rapidly turning to mush I should have walked out on the spot, because while I might have missed ANB kicking the reply I'd also have avoided seeing Carlton get another goal in the dying seconds of the quarter. Remember when we used to use Watts or Hogan to stop the opposition kicking goals in the last two minutes of a quarter? Like, last week? Probably wouldn't have mattered when he was kicking into an open goalsquare.

When that made it an even four goals we were all but dead. Which made it even more frustrating that this untrustworthy group of individuals spent the last quarter thumping shots at goal for 1.6 while the rest of Australia thumped Google looking for the Melbourne version of that BEEF STOCK - CHICKEN STOCK - LAUGHING STOCK meme. Gawn kicked the first goal to tease something special, with the umpires helpfully refusing to check the video even though Carlton players were insistent he'd hit the post, but two minutes later Max was down the other end having some unknown ruckman marking over him for the reply. From the four minute mark of the quarter nobody kicked another goal. Hogan continued the self-fulfilling prophecy of kicking set shots like he'd rather be doing anything else in the world (guess what, you don't have any options that are going to pay you $1,000,000 a season so get it right) and Petracca did likewise straight after, as any hope we had of overhauling them floated away.

Until we needed more goals than there were minutes left I held a childlike hope in my heart but eventually had to concede that we'd been out-coached, out-played and out-hustled by a team who won six games in seven weeks in the middle of the year and none in the other 13. That'd we'd stood back and watched while an almost entirely different cast of randoms to last year turned us over in the first quarter again. As a rule you should never get so stressed about sports, but I tell you what I could have had a little cry in frustration if I hadn't spent the whole game releasing the tension by screaming and hitting things. My putrefying organs told a different story. The rain knocked off the scheduled kick-to-kick session (which should have been replaced by handball-to-handball), further screwing over any Melbourne supporting kid who'd come to the game looking for fun and nobody was going home with any happy memories of the day except Carlton fans and the permanently aroused Dwayne Russell.

Our marketing department probably breathed a sigh of relief, having booked a date at Crown Palladium for the Best and Fairest just days before the finals were due to kick off then having to include a disclaimer that "the date will be changed if the club reaches the finals". As event management professionals I'm sure they had all contingencies covered, but given that at best we wouldn't have known we were making the eight until 10pm next Saturday just how close to an event can you reschedule a major function like this? Good on our players for considering the stress this would cause the office staff and playing accordingly. Incidentally in trying to work out what date it was I Googled 'melbourne fc 2016 best and fairest' and the closest result I could find was a page of news on the 2013 event - featuring a top five placegetters photo of Colin Sylvia, Nathan Jones, Colin Garland, Matt Jones and Margaret Terlich. That's unlikely to help get anyone who's wavering about booking for this year's event over the line - even if Terlich is likely to show up dressed as Jack The Ripper.

At the final siren I just sat in the back row for 20 minutes, not because my legs no longer worked like Essendon 2013 but to properly feel the pain of violently popped expectation. Given there's nothing I can do to make sure this happens again it was completely futile, but try telling that to the other three lone males who were still in place and refusing to move even after I'd come to my senses and decided to leave. I won't be back until our first game next year, hopefully my footprint will still be on section Q36, row MM, seat 26.

2016 Allen Jakovich Medal votes
5 - Tom McDonald
4 - Neville Jetta
3 - Jack Viney
2 - Nathan Jones
--- against my better judgement ---
1 - Jesse Hogan

Apologies to none.

There were three, then afterwards there were still three. The man who has never won before has the advantage but with a shitfest projected next Saturday you wouldn't rule out the pair with a lengthy track record of performing in terrible circumstances. Could I please request that the contenders make it very clear which order the votes should go in to avoid me having to make a difficult decision while sitting on the roof of a diesel powered train wondering why there are no overhead wires to grab.

In the minors Neville Jetta is now officially the winner of the Seecamp - Bernie Vince might take me to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to argue that he shouldn't have been disqualified for excessive midfield time but bad luck, after the last month he should be happy that his votes aren't going in reverse. The battle for the Hilton comes down to the last day, with Petracca vs Oliver the main event and Hunt a chance of stealing a share of the prize with a BOG.

46 - Max Gawn (WINNER: Jim Stynes Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
44 - Nathan Jones
43 - Jack Viney
32 - Jack Watts
22 - Bernie Vince
19 - Neville Jetta (WINNER: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Dom Tyson
14 - Jesse Hogan
12 - Christian Petracca (LEADER: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
10 - Tom McDonald, Clayton Oliver
8 - Billy Stretch
7 - Jayden Hunt
4 - Ben Kennedy, Dean Kent, Christian Salem
3 - Sam Frost, Aaron vandenBerg
2 - Tomas Bugg, Jeff Garlett, James Harmes, Matt Jones, Heritier Lumumba
1 - Cameron Pedersen

Not interested. Dees win - too much ghostly white around the letters on Carlton's one even if they went all out to try and get a result in this segment by putting on a college football style extravaganza. If our cheersquad had put in the same performance as the players they'd have unveiled a roll of toilet paper with a slogan written in texta and expected to get the nod by default. Dees 25-1-0 for the season.

Aaron Davey Medal for Goal of the Year
What a rubbish field of contenders - Jayden Hunt wins by default for his big dash. Just as I declared Watts the clubhouse leader for the casual finisher against Gold Coast he goes and has an even casualer (?) crucial miss here but I regret nothing - we have enjoyed a wonderful run by our standards since that day, and without his ice cold finish none of it would have happened. With one round to go - and a high possibility that we will not kick a goal - the medal is in his grasp.

Crowd Watch
Other than the kid I told to do one there wasn't much happening, but I knew I'd gone too far with the lusty kick to the seat when I glanced over a minute later, saw security guards slowly making their way across the top level of the Ponsford Stand and thought "oh shit, I'm in trouble here". Of course they didn't care and were just on their usual rounds but I was already pre-preparing my defence statement of "how do you know I actually connected with the chair?" as if that would have made any difference to them kicking me out. In the end it's a pity they didn't, I might have been saved a quarter and a half of watching complete shit.

Media Watch
To my great shame I was listening to Triple M, and as the commentators were showing more interest in that than the battering they were paid to talk about Brian Taylor declared Wayne Carey their UFC correspondent because "he's done a bit of that in the past himself". To dead silence you could almost hear the sound of Wayne's arms waving around to say "for god's sake man shut up".

Next Week
I can tell you I've got very little interest in standing on a concrete slab at Kardinia Park next Saturday afternoon, and thought about throwing my ticket into the same incinerator that was previously reserved for the #fistedforever hashtag. But realistically I'd be there even if we were 0-21 so some of us may as well make a big effort in the last couple of weeks if the players won't or can't. I will catch three hours' worth of trains, probably stand in the rain and hate every minute of it.

You'd like to think that with a win guaranteeing them at least top four they'll be happy enough with that - but we do have quite the track record of sending demoralised sides to Geelong to be slaughtered, and oh dear they are roughly 120 point wins of percentage away from Sydney and Adelaide. Either way we'll lose by lots, I will get to Spencer Street, walk directly to my car and probably nut any North fan who tries to make a 'funny' comment on the way past.

IN: Dunn, Garlett, Harmes
OUT: Michie, vandenBerg, Vince (omit)
LUCKY: Bugg, Neal-Bullen
UNLUCKY: Harmes, Kennedy, Pedersen + all the other fallen big names

Regulation book plug segment
In a week where the word count regrettably dipped below War and Peace I also lost my big ending. So fuck you very much to everyone involved. So ashamed of being involved that I'm not even going to link and tell you to buy it (but I have the first draft of the cover and will be emailing it to everyone has pre-ordered later in the week where feelings have settled and I don't get 150 responses telling me to get fucked) but we'll get back to the big sell next week. Looks like last day for orders will be around a week after the Grand Final.

Was it worth it?
In no way, and less so than any game since the last time we completely stuffed up what should have been a morale boosting thrashing against them. Jesus Christ, all I asked after 171 home and away losses in a decade was for one big performance to give us real hope before next year. We should still be hopeful because we're heading in the right direction, but this was a last kicking of the corpse.

Final thoughts
I drove home dangerously, ate two KitKats as comfort food and whenever I stopped at a traffic light and had time to think about what had just happened screamed things like "WHY?" at the roof of the car. For at least one more year we remain hard headed and solid fisted.