Saturday 2 June 2007

We Fought The War, And We Won (a game..)

Now that's what you call relief. You can keep your 'relaxation sessions' with impoverished Ukranian migrants in dubious Oakleigh warehouses, today was all the stress relief I ever needed and it was free. Ten weeks into the season and we have finally won a game. Had you told me before the season started that we would be 1-9 then I would have dangled myself off the Westgate Bridge with a barbed wire noose, yet I will unashamedly say that at the final siren today I almost cried. The season is gone but the monkey is well and truly off the back - the side we saw in the first three-quarters today is only related to the one of the first three of last week by the most tenuous thread.

I didn't tip us today because having been burnt in three of the last four weeks I decided that at least if we were going to lose to the Crows - which we usually do - I may as well get something out of it. Having picked Freo last night as well this effectively ends any chance I have of coming out with anything for the year, but to be entirely honest who gives half a toss about tipping when you've just won your first competitive game in 9 months? NINE FREAKING MONTHS. Since we last won a game I have moved house and gotten a new job for god's sake. Were I an advocate of karma I'd say it was all payback for my massive spray against the crunt sitting behind me at the St. Kilda finals game.

Interesting team news on the Thursday night with Brad Miller supposedly out with a wrist injury. Now I'll take their word for it because surely they've got no reason to blatantly fabricate an injury but it all seemed a bit dubious to me. Kind of the football equivalent of "you've got no idea, but we don't want to sack you and have everyone realised we farked up by hiring you in the first place, so have a transfer to somebody else's department!" Except that instead of being sent to another department he was instead exiled to the middle deck of the Ponsford Stand. Ben Holland was with the injured players as well - does this mean the poor bastage can't even get a game for Sandringham? Into the side instead came Bate (yes please) and Sylvia (more of the same if you will).

First quarter, and despite going in four points behind we were looking good. Brad Green was racking up possessions like they were going out of fashion and taking courageous marks all over the place. He would go on to play his best game ever and dispel any suggestion (often made by me) that he should be on the trade block at the end of the season. Bell and Bruce were also cutting it up, with Paul Wheatley (of all people) chipping in with a cameo performance of epic proportions. Granted we were lucky that the Crows botched a few perfectly good opportunities on goal, but moments like Bell running one of them down in the square after he had marked and tried to play on will loom large in any highlights package of our season.

The second quarter was when it all came together. Suddenly the Melbourne side which we know and (sometimes) love exploded into life and ran riot across the rotting corpse of an Adelaide side shocked into submission by a ferocious attack on the ball that hasn't been seen for so long. Cam Bruce opened the account before Jones, Davey, Petterd, Bate, Robertson, Wheatley and Neitz all joined in to kick goals in what was our best quarter in a long, long time. The key moment was when Neitz found himself in a difficult position and spotted Wheatley up 50m out directly in front - goal and suddenly we were going into the long break 36pts to the good and looking comfortable. Could it last? Well frankly yes - they had so comprehensively played the Crows off the park in the 2nd quarter that you would have been forgiven for thinking that they had temporarily swapped places on the ladder.

The expected Crows comeback came not in the third quarter, where despite Mark Ricciuto exploding into life we managed to extend our lead further, but in the last. Finally after a day spent tormenting the Crows forwards, and watching them botch most of the good chances they did end up with, the Carroll/Bell/Ward/Wheatley/Bizzell combination started to crack under increased pressure as the midfield tired and the ball started going inside the Adelaide 50 at a rapid rate. They, to a man, had great games on the day but everyone knew that something had to give when the Crows only had 5 goals until 3/4 time. With the Adelaide midfield finally getting on top in the last quarter they mounted a comeback that threatened to rip the heart of of every one of us. Had they overtuned a 44pt deficit and gotten up it would not only have been one of the great comebacks, but would have been responsible for mass suicides across the ground - most notably mine.

I've said it before, my faith in last quarter leads was shattered as an impressionable 10 years old when Essendon reeled in a 46pt deficit a few minutes in the last to win by a point in Round 6, 1992. So despite the protestations of all around that we couldn't possibly get rolled I was having none of it. So as the Crows added their fourth of the quarter at the 13 minute mark and it all looked like falling apart in spectacular fashion the heart-rate went up a notch and we started to realise that we could be on the end of the biggest fiasco of all time. Suddenly the boys got nervous and forgot how to play football - Adelaide, being the well drilled machine they are, sensed fear and pounced on it. Luckily despite losing way in drastic fashion we scragged it out long enough for the ball to land in Neitz's hands 50m on the boundary line - the great man belted a great captain's goal and we were home. Or so you would think. The Crows goaled again straight away to make it officially 'interesting', but then decided not to bother manning up and allowed us to spend the last few minutes chipping it around the backline and running the clock down.

Siren and wild scenes. I couldn't possibly sing the song given the situation we're in (and remember as much as Richmond fans may object you should lay off the song unless you make the finals) but the outpouring of emotion was wonderful. Those of you who were there are the heart and soul of the club - and those who have jumped off because of the losses can piss off and start following Rugby Union or the crunting Melbourne Victory as far as I'm concerned.

In a bizarre twist I was sitting two rows behind Ricky Petterd's mum. This became obvious when she lost the plot as he kicked his goal and then proceeded to let out squeals of delight every time he went near it for the rest of the game, tempered only by the Footy Record she had wedged in her mouth to chew on in moments of tension. At the final siren they waved at each other - aww isn't it sweet or something?

Crowd Watch
23k. Another financial disaster - but some things are more important than cash.

2007 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

At long last! Votes that mean something!

5 - Brad Green
4 - Daniel Bell
3 - Cameron Bruce
2 - Paul Wheatley (!?!)
1 - Nathan Jones

Varying degrees of apologies to (deep breath here, there are a few) Bate, Bizzell, Brown, Carroll, Davey, Johnson, Johnstone, McDonald, McLean, Neitz, Petterd, Ward and White.


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

Next Week
Collingwood on Queens Birthday Monday. I thought we could take them even before our performance today so I'm even more convinced that we're a shot now. Having seen them play live last night I think they'll justifiably go in as favourites but we definately have the ammunition to do them in. It may all hang on the backline again given that both Rocca and Davis were running riot against the Dockers.

12 in a row? 12-9, a shock finals birth and a blockbusting Premiership campaign? You must be fucking kidding - but let's go with it anyway. Maybe we're engaged in some wild reality TV-esque version of The Club where only the threat of a player revolt is stopping N.D from getting the sack, somebody's been up their mum and their legless sister and thinks they've killed their dad, and we're going to turn it all around and win the flag? Maybe not.

Anything else to declare? I'm too choked up to fully dissect the events of the day. My broken heart (football related only..) is ever so slightly mended.

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