Saturday 2 August 2008

And The Crowd Goes Absolutely Mild

If I'd gone to work today I would have been paid for ten hours to watch a two hour movie. With the other option being a cold day at the MCG watching us get slapped around by one of my most hated teams you'd think the choice would be fairly clear. But yet again the football as heroin scenario won out again and I showed up for a meaningless fixture that we had very little realistic chance of winning. I'd put an expense claim in to Big Footy (after all, they do run this site if I haven't mentioned it recently) but I expect that the Chief would come around and throw rocks through my windows. Rightly so too.

So there I was in the non-standard position of the Olympic Stand (I couldn't be bothered walking around to the Ponsford) freezing my tits off and wondering just how much champers my work colleagues had already knocked back at the film festival. My riposte to fine dining was to attempt eating the pinkest and shittest hot dog in the history of western civilization. If that, and the off-yellow mustard on it, doesn't end in a trip to the hospital later tonight I'll be shocked.

Today was probably the first time we've put in a genuine four quarter performance all season, the only problem being that we didn't manage to stop our opposition from doing the same. And while we were lining up with a forward line so makeshift that you were half expecting Jamie Dury to come out halfway through and announce that we were part of some sick new reality TV program ("Forward Line Blitz"? I'm into it), the other lot had the 8th highest goalkicker in history running riot around the packs and taking mark of the year. Says it all really, and was almost certainly the difference between the two sides.

Speaking of team selection I'm not surprised in the least at Jones getting dropped. I've almost been alone in saying it over the last few weeks but he's found it almost impossible to hit a target by foot in the last month. He needed a week away to recharge the batteries, and if he's the hardened professional that everyone always says he is then he'll come back bigger and better than ever. Really, who's career has ever been destroyed by missing out on a totally meaningless late season match?

Newton getting the arse was, on the other hand, a surprise. He's been, well let's say 'enigmatic' for the last couple of weeks but with Miller supposedly hurt you'd have thought they'd have left him out there to see what he can do as the focal point up front. So, to be dropped in that situation would seem to be the end of him wouldn't it? Now we're hearing that he's signed a new contract. God knows how football works but I'm glad I'm not expected to analyse it for a living.

So, Maric kept his spot after a promising debut and we welcomed back Green and Wheatley. All good, no arguments there - now how about a decent start for once so the game isn't completely over by quarter time? At the start it looked as if that was far too much to ask for. Poor Stef Martin came crashing back down to earth early on after playing quality football in his first three matches, wrecked by both McPhee and Lloyd. So be it, it's going to happen. Maric got his first career goal but even down by only two goals early on you could see that the Bombers had far too much firepower up front. When the ball went forward for them our backline was thrown into disarray, and though they often got away with it (in no small part thanks to Garland and the timeless Whelan) the process would rarely be repeated at the other end when our DIY attack would have a hard time getting anywhere near it. Sylvia was a bit rubbish early on and was taken to the cleaners by Fletcher, but gradually got into the game more and more and made an important contribution as our only real focal point up front. Bartram sank an opportunistic one before the end of the quarter to keep us within a goal.

Cometh the second quarter, cometh some of the worst umpiring you are ever likely to see in your life. Get the tape of this one before the AFL go back and wipe it from the official record to spare themselves, and the family of the gentleman involved (one Mr. Fila I believe) shame and embarassment at having been connected to it. So, Cam Bruce takes a mark 50m out hard on the boundary line and his opponent holds onto him. Fifty! Err no apparently not. So he keeps holding onto him and dragging him forward. Any minute now they're going to pay the 50 or at least tell the Essendon player to piss off onto his mark and behave himself. Well, that didn't happen. Eventually Bruce was thrown free, at which point the other guy hit the ground and tackled him around the ankles. Play on! Get fucked! Absolutely unbeliveable. I don't usually bag umpires, because frankly I couldn't ump an Auskick game decently let alone a real match but sometimes you just have to wonder what's going through their heads. It was as blatant a hold/trip as Barry Hall's haymaker on Brent Staker - there was simply no way anyone in their right mind could call play on not once but twice. We don't want to get the lawyers involved, but suffice to say somebody out there today was *** ***** *** (Snip! - Legal). There were a host of other 'contentious' calls emanating from the men in canary yellow but nothing as scandalous as that.

Despite the fact that we were rorted, and Lloyd was running riot at the other end, we hung in there until half time. Generally this season when games have turned into shootouts we're left about three postcodes behind but today, even with the D-Team up front we were matching them. Morton got his first, also potentially the first touch he'd had of 15 that had actually hit it's target, and Sylvia also added one leading up around the 50 and we were in the mix. Then Buckley kicked one to put us in front and I'm not sure if it was the dubious hot dog speaking but I was seeing stars.

A word on Buckley. I slaughtered him last week, but thought he was a lot better today. He's obviously good at getting around people and selling dummies but the more he learns to use his special moves sparingly rather than on every single occasion the better he'll get. Today he balanced daring solos with intuitive play and prospered. Dropped off in the second half and gave away four frees but given the way the umpires were seemingly picking them out of their arses I'm not going to hold that against him. Now that it's proven that whoever cops it on here comes out the next week and fixes their flaws I'd like to turn to Morton. Now, before we start I know I'm in the absolute minority on this so I have to stress that I believe he will be an excellent player once he has more experience and weighs more than a supermodel HOWEVER today he was the absolute King of Klang early on and it was as frustrating as anything. On more than one occasion under no pressure whatsoever he couldn't hit a player on his own 30m away. A scorching last quarter aside his disposal was fairly rancid. Getting it in the first place is the hard thing so given that he's got that sorted out he should go alright next year with a pre-season under his belt but let's not lose our minds and start giving him votes just because he got 26 possessions. We play a brand of football where pretty much everyone is guaranteed 5 cheap ones before the match even begins, so don't try and blind me with science and talk about how many he racked up when he torched most of them.

Nothing he botched managed to stack up to what Mark Jamar managed to achieve though. Taking a mark in the goalsquare he attempted to play on and somehow manage to mess it up from about 2m out. I have no idea how given that I looked down when he took the grab and looked up to see it rolling through off an Essendon player for a point. Naturally they went up the other end and kicked a goal straight away. He got 5 kicks on the day which equalled his career best. Shame he didn't manage one more, because I think there's an "I SAW JAMAR GET 6 KICKS" t-shirt that the club is desperate to start selling. On a day where he at least broke even with one of the best ruckmen in the comp that miss unfortunately made him look like a bit of a dick. To be honest I've liked him over the past few weeks, and as sad as it makes me to see Jeff White on the outer it's almost starting to look like it makes sense. Mind you any ruckman would have looked good with James McDonald at his feet today - 9 clearances and a dominant display in the centre almost single handedly dragged us back into the contest on a couple of occasions. I can't see him three-peating the B&F, but I'm glad to see him back to his best.

As soon as we hit the lead Essendon turned it up a notch and started to stem the bleeding out of the centre. A late goal to Davey, a corker on the run from outside 50, kept the margin at a respectable 15 at the long break and we were, I suppose, a chance. Lloyd still looked as if he was going to kick 15 but for want of any other real targets we were a chance.

Coming out of the 1/2 time break Sylvia kicked the first (and like I said a few weeks ago can we give up the sick fantasy that he's anything other than a forward and stop trying to play him off half back when he can't be arsed running more than 5m at a time) and Paul Johnson - who continues to impress - added the next. Once again we were back in it, then Jamar went for his second two goal turnaround of the match when he botched a more than gettable kick only to see the ball come down the other end and Matthew Lloyd take what's being acclaimed widely as mark of the year (though it must be a pretty ordinary field if that's the case) and kick a goal less than a minute later. Thankfully he missed another gettable one just after and when THE CELEBRATOR crumbed one and Sylvia got another (A FORWARD! THE MAN IS A FORWARD!) we were back in front. Then, err, it all went a bit wrong. They kicked four goals in six minutes to end the quarter and when they got the first of the 4th we were all but buggered. Green and McPhee traded goals before Jamar kicked one (!?) and Morton, finally tuned in to some decent disposal, added two more to bring us back within ten.

Then Lloyd kicked his 7th and we were rooted again. Then Bate kicked his second and we weren't rooted again. Then Leroy Jetta kicked one and we were definately rooted. Lloyd added an 8th and it was curtains despite a brave performance. Maric got the last and we got done by 16pts but it had encouraging signs written all over it. I'd love to see Maric's disposal efficiency because apart from his 2 goals I'm convinced that the other 9 kicks he had were all right on the money. He could be a massive find in the next couple of seasons if he can kick a couple of goals a week and play up the ground with some laser like disposals (RIP - T. Johnstone) to the big forwards, whoever they may be.

So we got done, but what did we really lose? The Essendon fans did a half hearted celebration knowing they hadn't set the world on fire against the worst team in the comp and we left wondering once again what could have been with a bit more composure and poise. Roll on Season 2009 - it's just a shame we have to sit through 4 months of cricketing bollocks before we get to it.

Marketing Magic
For the second time at a Melbourne/Essendon Game there was a mascot race. Maybe they do this all the time? And rightly so too. This time the giant green female M&M put in a scorching second half to beat a blue viking by 3 lengths with a chicken flying home quickly to grab third. Watch the chicken at a longer distance, it could be a chance during the spring carnival. At the back of the field the Slip, Slop, Slap penguin crash tackled somebody in a sumo suit and both finished well back.

Opposition Watch
I wouldn't know who 90% of the Essendon players were if they robbed me in the street. Time and time again when it comes to opposition players I just have absolutely no interest. Please note that this is not an invitation for any Essendon players to actually rob me in the street.

Crowd Watch
For those obsessed with the concept that all our fans are shrinking violets I give you this guy;


Off his chops on beers and god knows what else and standing up and yelling shit for four quarters. Would be a bloody nightmare to sit near but not being able to actually hear him from the cheap(est) seats in the house it seemed quite entertaining. Ruined everything by throwing in a 'respectful' handshake with the mulleted man a row in front who he'd been tormenting the whole day.

Kasualty Korner
What would a Melbourne match be without somebody getting hurt? Davey did his ankle and Garland a hammy. Neither of them in serious, screaming heap on the wing, white screen and shotgun circumstances but the way we're rotating players at the moment they'll probably miss anyway.

2008 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - James McDonald (The general of the midfield strikes again. Klearance King extraordinare)
4 - Matthew Bate (Finally they kick it to him and he does something)
3 - Lynden Dunn (Cut the dangerous Watson to shreds and got a lot of it around the ground)
2 - Simon Buckley (So much smarter than last week it wasn't funny)
1 - Colin Sylvia (Must play as a forward permanently)

Apologies to Bruce (plenty of touches, no massive impact), Morton (almost sneaks a vote for getting it so much, needs a full pre-season to learn how to stop butchering it), Valenti (enthusiasm plus), Paul Johnson, Garland, Whelan, Jamar (won in the ruck against Hille but loses points for the goalsquare botch) and Maric (beautiful poise and delivery with his kicking around the ground).

What a change to have so many apologies to hand out in a loss. The last two spots could have gone to almost any of the players listed above.


No real action at the top in the absence of the leader, but McDonald and Bate have both thrown themselves into the mix with BOG honors today. No changes in any of the other awards, but Morton would have to be favourite to take the Hilton now after his performance today - if he keeps getting 25 touches a game he's going to have enough accurate kicks to finally score a couple of votes.

23 - Nathan Jones
21 - Brock McLean, Cameron Bruce
20 - Brad Green
18 - Matthew Bate
17 - Brad Miller, James McDonald
14 - Lynden Dunn
13 - Paul Johnson
12 - Colin Garland (Joint Leader: 2008 Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Chris Johnson (Joint Leader: 2008 Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
11 - Aaron Davey
10 - Austin Wonaeamirri (Leader: 2008 Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
9 - Cale Morton
8 - Shane Valenti
6 - Jared Rivers
5 - Brent Moloney, Simon Buckley
4 - Clint Bartram, Matthew Whelan
3 - Nathan Carroll, Matthew Warnock, Jeff White, Paul Wheatley, Stefan Martin
2 - Russell Robertson
1 - Mark Jamar, Adem Yze
1 - Colin Sylvia

Next Week
Geelong at the MCG on Friday night. They're unlikely to grant us the courtesy of a three goal lead this time, and their squad won't have been standing on the ground for half an hour before the game like they were at Kardinia Park earlier in the year. Personally I think we'll get smashed like guitars, but you couldn't want a better test of who's in it for the future and who should be playing in the Diamond Valley league. Bring it on? Well, if we have to.

The Week After
West Coast at the MCG in the "By christ we're depressed Beyond Blue Challenge Cup". With neither side likely to draft the same player anyway we might even get through the match without some ignorant peanut talking about tanking.

The Week After That
Port Adelaide at Football Park. They're not trying anymore this season, yet they'll still beat us by ten goals. What does that say about our record there?

The Last Week
Richmond at the MCG. Hopefully they're still in the finals mix and we can fix them up with Ben Holland kicking the winning goal and leaping into the Richmond corporate box and personally demanding the money they owe him.

The Finals
Give a shit?

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