Friday, 8 September 2006

Finals (uh!) What are they good for?

Absolutely nothing. Unless you count dangerous elevated blood pressure levels, random outpourings of emotion and near brawls with total strangers. And scenes of unbridled joy for people who haven't seen a finals win in four years and a close finals win for six. Next week we're lambs to the slaughter but right now it feels so good to be in the finals mixer.

To be entirely honest I'd privately conceded defeat. For all the "oh I think we can win" throughout the week I'd already half compiled the Demonblog year in review ready to be posted right after this report. And after an early flourish in the first quarter it started to unfold as I'd expected. St. Kilda were simply a class above in the early stages and pressure from Melbourne was absolutely non-existent. Every time the Saints kicked the ball inside 50 there was a loose man to mark and, thankfully, more often than not botch the shot. With Gehrig tearing Holland apart (admittedly on the end of kicks that were pressure-less and piss easy to deliver) early for three goals it looked like a long, long night ahead.

A moments interruption, please, for the ultimate in farcical crowd behaviour. Sitting two rows behind us were a pair of my favourite people in the world. Fat bastards swigging beers and eating hotdogs who spend four quarters accusing opposition players of varying degrees of cowardice whilst sitting a comfortable 26 rows back having never done anything more courageous than mowing the lawn barefoot. You know the type. We've met them before. Let's not get moral here because I know very well that we produce our fair share of the same but there are some people who just need to be told how stupid they are lest they go through life thinking that they are actually witty. More on Captain Spazzer later.

So part two and suddenly the Demons showed up. Given that they didn't leave the field during the quarter time break we can confirm that the same team did take the field for the second stanza and weren't secretly replaced with some advanced Robocop style clones. Perhaps Daniher unleashed another one of the great sprays of modern times (see for instance the North game)? Perhaps they realised that another Elimination Final loss would mean we've tread water for the last three years with one of our best player crops in years? Perhaps they cut the throat of a lamb (not Chris fortunately) and smeared themselves in it out of view of the cameras? Who knows but it worked.

And did anyone else who was there notice the farcical scenes in the first quarter whenever somebody's career stats were put on the screen? Everyone had been given ludicrous tallies (Steven Milne - 270 games. David Neitz - 560 games, 1100 goals) and nobody seemed to notice. For the next three quarters they didn't show anybody's stats. What went wrong? I need to know. It was just too ludicrous to have been completely accidental.

Admittedly the comeback of the millenium (© Nobody) didn't start straight away and the quarter was more one of shoring up the defence, getting the matchups right and chipping away at the Saints. The good news was that not only did they start to panic more under pressure but that injuries started to take their toll as well. You wouldn't write a script with that as the turning point but given the situation I'll take it thanks very much. The dysfunctional forward line of the first quarter was replaced with a much neater model (i.e Robertson IN, the underperforming Yze OUT) and despite only producing the solitary goal for the quarter it was ready to benefit from the moment that our midfield started to get on top.

Back to our friend the crowd spaz. By this time everything was a conspiracy against the Saints from the umpires. The most blatant free kicks in history were signs of a wider plot to hand Melbourne the game. The logical flaw in this plan - that we weren't even winning and they'd botched at least 5 gettable shots on goal - didn't even need to be pointed out because every man and their dog, other than his fellow stooge, knew it. One point to the full moon was all it took to explain. Surely these people aren't such complete morons from Monday to Thursday? Do they drive past speed cameras at 150kmh and go ballistic when they get pinged but sit there at the lights screaming out for the cops to nick people who are doing the limit? Is it only sport that makes them irrational twats? What's wrong with admitting that occasionally your team are ill-disciplined and do stupid things? See, for instance, the performance of Aaron Davey tonight. He was dumb. He got punished for it. Fair enough. If it had been Hamill doing the same thing the entire bottom deck of the Ponsford would have been treated to a monologue about how the umpires are scum and should be burnt at the stake.

Come the third quarter and suddenly we were ALIVE. McDonald kicks one from 50, Bruce adds another and then Robertson marks a Sylvia kick on the line and we're only two points down. Credit to two of the most maligned players on our list both Miller and Sylvia were good today. BM still has an unpleasant fetish for handballing at any opportunity (and it went horribly wrong at least once today) but if somebody sits him down in the off-season and shows him videos of what CHF's are actually supposed to do then he may be worth persisting with yet. Sylvia, on the other hand, looked the real deal tonight. He played with confidence and his aggressive running was one of the major forces behind our comeback. Despite what I've attempted to claim in the past he won't make a forward - but on the strength of tonight's performance he won't need to.

Then it looked like after they'd teased us by cutting the margin to two that the Demons were going to fall apart again and crush us. Three goals in a row were probably more flattering than they looked at the time with one coming from Milne cracking a speculative soccer that landed in Koschitzke's arms, and one from the first Davey brain-explosion 50. Luckily Neitz goaled (from a free kick - cue another chorus of Greek tragedy proportions from behind us..) and then Pickett snapped one to drag the margin back to 9 at the last change. When Davey gave away ANOTHER 50 for the first goal of the 4th it again looked grim. Flash is anything but a September specialist on his showings over the past couple of seasons and tonight he was quite awful. Still a top player though - and at least unlike some other people who we won't name (unless we're name them and they're called YZE) he had a go and looked interested even if things weren't going his way. He'll be back with a freaking vengeance.

Matthew Bate converted from 50m out just in front with one of his trademark "Wonky but Accurate" set shots to give us hope, and then the Brock McLean show which had been brewing up all half suddenly exploded and resulted in a goal that cut the margin to under 6pts at the 15m mark. Sad news about Peter Brock and all - and how could you forget with a Holden blimp showing RIP's as it flew around - but the good news is that there's another Brock waiting to become an Australian sporting legend. When Davey redeemed himself somewhat by hitting Neitz for the goal which put us in front it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. If Christmas involved not actually knowing whether or not you were going to get presents or have your parents hit you with a cricket bat. Brock was then decked with one of the shittest attempts at a shepherd you'll ever see in your life and converted the free-kick to put us 9

Back to the Spazmeister General. Suddenly it was all "THE UMPIRES GAVE YOU THE GAME" and even the random guy sitting next to me started to get into laughing at him. It really was too easy. We pushed forward again and a chorus of "IT'S OH SO QUIET! IT'S ALL SO STILL!" was delivered at our friends (possibly the first recorded example of Bjork being used as a weapon in an AFL related argument), leading to half-hearted calls for me to come up there and brawl with him or something. Now correct me if I'm wrong but if you're that keen to start something aren't you at least duty bound to go to the person you're trying to start? How the fuck should I know? I'm an admittedly shit fighter. Which was probably best kept a secret when Yze finally showed up and kicked the sealing goal at which point I jumped up, turned around and delivered the biggest spray I've ever given at a game. You don't understand - I don't lose the plot often but this time it was justified. I won't get into what was said but suffice to say I was again offered to come up for a brawl. Sadly I didn't deviate from message and just continued the stream of abuse before calmly sitting down and going back to the game. It really was an invitation to cop a king hit or at least an empty beer cup in the head but all he could manage was a crack at my mum. Err, nice work Rambo. Now, I'm not proud of getting involved in all of this. And I'm certainly aware that such behaviour is likely to get you involved in a serious belting someday but as I said there are people who need to be exposed for their lunacy. You can't have them walking around thinking that they're normal.

I really hate people. Want to chip in for me to get a corporate box next year? Everyone who gives over $1000 can come and sit in it for a game with me.

The only downside to the night was Whelan's shoulder injury. The man must have some sort of curse that only comes on in August or September. I've never seen somebody get injured in one section of the year so consistently. Not sure who this means will replace him next week if he doesn't come up. Bartram in a straight swap perhaps? And I like Jones but they may want to think about injecting some experience into the side instead. Brown perhaps? Or, whisper it quietly, Philthy? Doubt it'll happen but it's something to think about.

2006 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

5 - Cameron Bruce
4 - Brock McLean
3 - Colin Sylvia
2 - Jeff White
1 - David Neitz

Big apologies to Green, Bate, Carroll, Holland (after the first quarter), McDonald, Rivers, Ward (with qualifications - when the ball goes near his opponent he is NEVER with them but I respect his willingness to run with it)

Leaderboard

45 - Cameron Bruce
43 - Brock McLean
40 - James McDonald
29 - David Neitz
23 - Brad Green
20 - Aaron Davey
19 - Jared Rivers (Leader: 2006 Marcus Seecamp Medal for defender of the year)
17 - Travis Johnstone
16 - Byron Pickett
13 - Nathan Carroll
12 - Matthew Whelan
12 - Colin Sylvia
10 - Matthew Bate (WINNER: 2006 Darren Cuthbertson Medal for Rookie of the Year)
10 - Daniel Ward
7 - Adem Yze
6 - Russell Robertson
4 - Chris Johnson
4 - Ben Holland
4 - Nathan Jones
4 - Jeff White
2 - Brent Moloney
2 - Brad Miller
2 - Clint Bartram
1 - Nathan Brown

Next Week: Who the hell knows? Either to Adelaide or Perth for what must surely be the end of the line. Realistically you never know - perhaps Freo will get rumbled by the Crows and fall apart? Then we somehow manage to land in Sydney for the prelim. Cue a repeat of the day we turned the season around and a trip to the MCG against Adelaide where you'd have us a chance. Unlikely but stupider things have happened. Cross your fingers, sacrifice something to an altar and stay tuned for more. Team Destiny '06 or the ultimate in sporting cockteases? You decide.

Meanwhile in a complete break from tradition there will be a lot of posting this week. I pledge daily DB updates on our progress. Keep watching.

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