Sunday, 27 May 2007

Beat me, hurt me.

I ask you. What else can go wrong this season? 0-9 for the first time since the dawn of man, and still playing insipid and confused football even though most of our Black Death style injury list are back on the park. The situation is so depressing that you might as well prop Sylvia Plath's corpse in the coaches box (no relation to Colin, sports fans) and send the boys out to run through a banner made of human skin while wearing Vichy French WW2 uniforms and listening the sounds of Lou Reed's Berlin album. And do you think Neale Daniher would willingly meet the devil at the crossroads a'la Robert Johnson and sell his soul for one win? We might not be winning anything this year but by christ you will at least learn something by reading this site.

To be honest I'm fucking shattered by today's result. The best you can do is put a brave face on it but I don't think any of us need to be told that there's nothing sweeter than stealing a game that you had no right to win with a blockbusting last quarter comeback. God knows it's happened to us enough times over the last few years. Speaking of recent history this is the third time we've lost to North Melbourne by a point in the last ten years (Rd12 1999 - 8 behinds in a row after we were 7 in front, Rd17 2000 - a Steven Pitt led forward line surprising fails to deliver victory). It's hardly a titantic rivalry to match Sydney/West Coast but it's fucking irritating nonetheless. At least they gave us a few years off before inflicting another shambles - if you'd told me in 1999 that a few years later we'd be without a win going into round ten I would have asked you the following questions,

a) You mean we're still around?
b) So Brent Grgic is our captain then?

Alas we are, and thank christ he's not - but could even Bell Post Hill's greatest footballer could have presided over something as depressingly shit as the first three quarters of today's game? To be embarassingly frnak it's probably worse that we got as close as we did without taking the points because now the media focus will be on our 'gallant fightback' and not the obscene performances of almost everyone involved. Everyone knows North fall apart like a house of cards in 4th quarters - even the two N.M fans I was with knew it was on the cards. So we played footy in the last quarter that looked more like the Melbourne of old. Wonderful, but until it comes against a team who are playing at better than 25% themselves you, and everyone involved, can stick it.

There were shenanigans even before the first bounce when the saviour Brock McLean was a late inclusion. He and Brown replaced Yze (! - really injured or just being forced out the door at a million miles an hour? You decide!) and Bate who was obviously nobbled by Daniher for his performances at CHF over the last few weeks outshining the golden boy Miller. Anyone expecting Brock to tear it up and destroy North single handedly gets an A+ for creativity, but the fact of the matter is that he's been out of the game for seven weeks and was never going to come back and walk straight back into a BOG. Having said that I think we all got a bit horny in our own special way when he ran off the bench halfway through the first quarter - and 20 something touches + a shitload of tackles showed just why he IS the messiah.

The first quarter was, err, agricultural to say the best. With North seemingly running around in first gear and waiting for us to make all the mistakes we duly saluted and cocked up on a thousand different occasions. For some reason somebody sitting a few rows from me screamed "SHUT UP!" halfway at the 20 minute mark when nothing was actually happening. The poor crunt must have been a Melbourne fan driven mad by the season of shame. Any way you slice it he may as well have walked out there but if he hadn't gone completely bonkers yet, what was to follow might have done him in for good. Neitz and Robertson - the Twin Towers of Power - put a goal each on the board in the first and we went to the first change seven points down. Fair enough I suppose - it's nice to be close at least.

The second quarter was notable not only as the second leg of what was shaping up to be an epic snoozefest, but for Melbourne attempting to crack the all-time world record for getting pinged holding the ball. No matter what you hear about umpiring rorts and the like there's no doubt that almost every single one of the frees we copped on the day was legit - why is that nobody can bring themselves to accept that we're actually ill-disciplined? It didn't help that the sideways, backwards, against the flow tactics adopted usually led to the man who got the ball being besieged by 10 players a fraction of a second after he got it. Then there was all the diving on it - this isn't (thank god) the Rugby Union World Cup, at least make some effort to get rid of it. The other notable factor of the quarter was Shannon Grant doing his usual running riot against us and racking up a handy four goals - lucky that was all they got because we would have been completely rooted otherwise.

And speaking of completely rooted that should have been the story of the 3rd quarter. We fell apart completely and had North been able to kick straight they would have been 10 goals up at the last change. The only encouraging sign to come out of the 27 odd minute of rubbish was Nathan Carroll's contested marking in the backline - the man gets slit up a treat on the lead but in a pack he takes a good grab. Thankfully along with their wayward kicking the Roos were also nice enough to refuse to kick to a lead and allow him to keep mopping up after the midfield had cracked like an egg and allowed the ball down there in the first place. I'm not sure where the papers were watching from to put McDonald in the best players but it must have been the bar because in my book he had an absolute shocker. You can forgive the man one bad game once in a while but anyone who considers him one of our outstanding players on the day needs to check into the same rehab joint as Ben Cousins and have a good lie down. 29 touches and ten tackles are lovely but when the kicks go nowhere it doesn't count for anything.

So come 3/4 time and it was all looking tragic. Or was it? The North fans were listing all the times they had been dicked in the last couple of years from a similar position, and the women who were sitting in front of us had that air of misguided optimism that only people who haven't spent years having their hearts ripped out and shoved in their face before they die can manage. North kicked the first of the last term and suddenly the "beat the traffic" crowd were on their feet and out the door. "Don't leave yet" said the North fans "we're still a chance of blowing this". But really we'd kicked 4 goals in three quarters and needed five unanswered to win it. Who would have thought?

Well somehow it almost happened. They stopped, we started running and carrying the pill in a form actually befitting a modern AFL team and not the Diamond Valley Under 9's and it was on like King Kong. We were even on the recieving end of a couple of dodgy umpiring decisions. Quelle surprise!? It was certainly the first time this year that it's happened at a crucial time of the game. The Twin Towers bobbed up and belted a few goals and we were close. Then Nathan Jones smashed one from fifty and we were in front. WHAT!? THE!? FUDGE!? This wasn't supposed to happen. Luckily for us there was still plenty of time to cock it up and we duly saluted with the amusingly named Swallow throwing one on his boot from 50 that sailed in to put North in front by a point. Plenty of time to recover and pull of a famous victory you'd have thought - then we lost it out of the centre and while everyone was streaming forward to try and win it some North idiot ended up having it drop on his chest all alone inside 50.

At this point the frustration of being done over again after we were so close AGAIN did my head in and I flipped out again. Once more we agree that it's not big and clever but I think anyone who has a vested interest in the game has done their nut a few teams. Even though the shot failed to make the distance and therefore technically left us still in it this caused me to charge downstairs in the Ponsford Stand and kick the fuck out of a bin before having a dissection session that involved the word "cunt" being used on several occasions.

2007 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

5 - Bruce
4 - Bizzell (!?! You never thought you'd see that again!)
3 - Jones
2 - Carroll
1 - Neitz

James Frawley had a fairly ordinary debut. However I expect nothing from a first gamer so hopefully we'll see more of him, Garland and maybe even (if he doesn't also constitute a threat to Golden Boy Miller) Newton as the year of slops continues. Petterd is already a fixture, even though he's clearly still got a lot to learn, and it's fair to say that Jones has already broken through to Next Big Thing Territory.

The Golden Boy was shit. His attack on the football reminds me of my life - he wants to be good at something but he has absolutely no idea how to. This is the point where somebody (maybe even, shock horror, a coaching staff) takes them to one side and either teaches them or shoots them through the temple with a small handgun. At Melbourne we just let him roam around like a pre-decapitated free range chicken and hope for the best. Despite later winning the "Worst on Ground" from Triple M I didn't think Holland disgraced himself but he's got to be well aware that the moment the siren goes in R22 he may as well start looking for other work because he's going to get the arse. Maybe he can open a shop with his brother? Did what he had to today and I appreciate that but alongside Ward, Brown, Godfrey and even Bizzell despite his good performance you know that they're playing on borrowed time anyway so

It's time for ND to do the honorable thing and announce he's pulling the pin at the end of the season. Then the hunt for a new coach can begin with plenty of time to find the right person, and will allow them to dissect our games from here on with a critical eye to who will and will not be fed through the footballing mincer at the end of the year. But who am I kidding ND will be resigned, the same players will be retained and we'll be treated to the same slop again season after season. God help us all. I'm not suggesting he gets the axe now but the least he can do is say "look, that's it I'll step aside now let's get on with it" and try to wrench some sort of four quarter effort out of the side before Round 22.

Leaderboard

16 - Bruce
15 - McDonald
10 - Rivers (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
10 - Green
9 - Johnstone
8 - Miller
8 - Davey
8 - Jones
7 - Sylvia
6 - Bate
6 - Neitz
5 - Yze
5 - Petterd (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
4 - Bizzell
3 - Godfrey
2 - Moloney
2 - Dunn
2 - Brown
2 - White
2 - Carroll
1 - Pickett
1 - Bell

Bruce is sitting on the biggest default lead ever. I don't think there's anyone worthy of lifting the AJ this year. If we knew where the great man himself lived I'd just send the award to him in the mail and let it go.

Crowd Watch
30k. Watch us thrive. I didn't win the $1000 they handed out as a bribe to our fans to show up - this is because I didn't jump around like a fuckwit whenever there were cameras in the area.

Next Week
Adelaide @ the MCG on Saturday (!) I'll be there slicing wrists (possibly not my own) with a ceremonial knife. God I hate sports.

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