Saturday, 16 May 2009

Dog Day Afternoon

And so another week is upon us. Are we absolutely sure that none of our players suddenly developed a random career threatening injury during the week? Well there's the first surprise of the day - I had my money on Jordie McKenzie having gone on an AFL Auskick tour of Mexico City and coming back with Swine Flu. Speaking of Auskick, at what point was Jo Bailey/Silvagni given the arse from the half-time "welcome the kids" promo? Poor Jo - sacked again. Sure, she's only the second best Bailey ever but when you're being fired so Dipper can have a larger share of air-time you know somebody's got it in for you.

Err, anyway, there was some sort of game on today. Frankly I'd rather spend 20 minutes writing about the vagaries of the Auskick program, and how I want to murder whoever came up with those CGU ads but I suppose you're not here for that. For the sake of historians reading back over this in decades to come we'd better at least pay some interest in the match.

BUT before I do may I say that the innovation of showing 'classic' matches on the screen before the first bounce is proving to be a winner with the handful of sick freaks like me who show up before 1.30. At the Geelong game it was the 1pt win in R20, 2005 and today it was the - arguably better - week after featuring Jeff White and 'that' free kick. Thought the Dogs fans were going to riot a second time seeing that. One thing that it did do was prove that Al Nicholson has been treated unfairly by history - he had a mighty second half in that one. There was even a Philth sighting for those of you still mourning his exit. They've got a few options for the Collingwood game. I'm sure they'll be cheap and go for 2007, but personally I'd prefer the wild last quarter comeback in 04 or Farmer's 9 goal second half in 2000. My god I need to get a job at Name-A-Game so I can do some dodgy after-hours duplication work.

Now, if we must, the match itself. Rivers and Frawley out injured, Bennell rested. Cheney, Valenti and Whelan back in the side. After copping goals in the first twenty seconds of the last two weeks we managed to stem the tide this time and only concede a point. Seriously, we're not doing so badly out of the centre overall but for god's sake can we please at least lock the ball down at the first bounce? It's getting ridiculous how many times we concede the first score then bounce back and start playing good football a few minutes later.

And good football it was today. For the first time it really looked like the gameplan was coming together. The delivery was crisp and our chains of handball didn't always go one step too far and end up with somebody (Jones, I'm looking at you) getting pinged for holding the ball. Didn't last, but it was a sexy glimpse into the future. Bate got the first in an important game for him after a terrible few weeks and by the 18 minute mark when Brock goalled we had opened up a fifteen point lead. By quarter time it was still 11, including another great Sylvia goal on the run from outside 50. He really needs to go to the Aaron Davey school of refusing to take set shots.

Bate and Jones kicked the first two of the second, but slowly the Melbourne we know and love (!?) crept back into the contest. Suddenly players were running into trouble needlessly and kicks were being butchered. The Bulldogs were hardly at their best and we still managed to take a lead into half time, but the tide was certainly turning. Akermanis - the burst player we would kill for - alone dragged the Dogs back into it. Cooney was getting done over by Bartram, but there was no stopping Aker. Halftime and we were in the bizarre position of playing well enough to be 6 goals in front, but not well enough to actually win the game.

Naturally the Dogs fans around us were getting nervous about the prospect of getting done over by the bottom side. I can see why too, it's the same thing we get when we're good (remember that?) and are pushed by bottom sides. At least if you're a Geelong or Hawthorn fan you know that if you lose and some idiot starts hanging it on you then you can drag out the giant cardboard cutout Premiership Cup, point it and walk off without saying a word. What are Footscray, St. Kilda, Melbourne or Freo fans (and any Richmond fan under 30) going to do? Being at the top end of the ladder and falling over the line is nothing to boast about without some sort of recent history behind it to back up the mockery. A loss, on the other hand, is symbolic of the exact reason why you (we?) have been so shit for so long. So you take your tight win and do a runner, or you lose and go straight to the top of the laughing stock league.

No, future historians, we didn't win. 4.6 to 0.0 from 8.22 of Q3 to 8.15 of Q4 saw to that but we showed that we're going places. Martin, Warnock and Cheney were holding firm down back, Morton was doing as he pleased coming out of defensive 50, Moloney and McLean were going bananas in the centre and the likes of Bate, Robertson and Maric were competitive up front. Class won out in the end, but not without a fight.

Miller had a rotten day but he never stopped putting in and despite missing a crucial shot in the dying minutes - had a hand in a couple of goals and fought all the way. I used to slaughter him, not without some justification, but the way his attitude has improved in our dark years has been remarkable. Maybe it was all taken for a granted a bit too much when we were good and now reality has hit home? Can't wait to see how he goes in a couple of years with the likes of Bate and Watts operating around him.

Maric crumbed one (CRUMB!) perfectly to get us back within fifteen, before Davey - who spent at least a quarter of the game on the bench getting attention on his hammies - got another to make things really interesting at the 13 minute mark. Another good game for Davey - nothing spectacular and a few more mistakes than recent weeks but he's still excelling in that role as a "quarterback".

Just as we got back into things it was reality check time. Morton 'gave away' a farcical free-kick on Boyd, which was then upgraded with a goal-square 50 when we played on for the next thirty seconds and got the ball to the opposite wing without wondering why every other player on the ground had stopped. Now, it was a truly rancid decision but surely if you're in any way interested in the concept of 'justice' then you've got to mark that off against the two criminal goals Robertson got from frees earlier in the game. The second, in particular, was comical umpiring - Robbo fell over without a Bulldogs player anywhere behind him and got a free for being pushed in the back. You may snicker, but if it'd happened to us you'd have thrown bottles.

Miller missed what he should have kicked before Scott Welsh goalled to effectively finish the contest. The Dogs missed a couple of sitters to well and truly put us away we got back into it we got a couple late with time to spare to close the margin right back up. Valenti first with a good running finish and then Bate's 4th in what was his best performance in a month - if not since the Hawthorn NAB cup game. Still 7pts behind with a minute left it wasn't completely inconceivable that we could snatch it, but not winning it out of the centre straight away off the next bounce wrecked any thoughts of pulling off the great escape.

So, another loss by under 10pts. Draft discussion notwithstanding, and in the knowledge that I would have killed for a win, that was about as good a loss as you get when you're in our position. The Dogs weren't at the top of their game and we still necked ourselves with dodgy disposal but we were there or thereabouts all day - and that's what counts. You can debate the advantage of adding picks 1 and 2 until the cows come home, and the odds are that one of them at least will be a gun, but even without them there's no debating that we're on the rise. Robbo is past his best, Johnson is so-so in the ruck and we lack that little bit of polish but Jesus H Christ there are signs of greatness building. Look at some of the guys we've unearthed already this season - Bennell, Cheney and Grimes (near enough) have all been revelations and that's without unveiling Watts, Strauss or Blease. Teenyboppers and bandwagoners - this is your two year boarding call. Buy your 2011 membership now because things could go nuts.

Meanwhile how much better have we looked since Robbo came back? He hasn't been anywhere near vintage the last three weeks but his mere presence drags our forward line up a notch. Would love for him to hang on for a couple more seasons for one last crack at the finals but I can't see it happening. I think we took the Robbo/Neitz years for granted at the time - we were blessed to have those two going around together.

Speaking of the draft I don't mind the idea of going in reverse order of the teams that miss the 8, but are we then going to end up with teams preferring to miss the finals knowing they're not going to win the flag and get pick 1 instead? Here's a radical concept for the league - just abolish the priority pick. Let's say we somehow finish 2nd last this year - if we're not good enough to build a list on a pick 4 (Morton), 1 (Watts), 2 (?) and a truckload of 10-20's then we should just give up. Same goes for any other team. Ok you'll still get teams pulling the pin at the end of the year to manipulate their position on the table and get a high pick but at least we won't have to go through this grim "no more than four" spectacle every fucking year. Carlton cheated their way to it, and I have no doubt we'll do exactly the same thing but it doesn't make it any more palatable.

Crowd Watch
28k. Absolutely pissweak effort by our fans. We whinge and moan about being given 15 1.10 Sunday games, but the moment they give us a game in the prime timeslot a handful of us show up. Any danger they might scan my membership, realise I've been to far too many losses in the last three years and ring up to say thanks? Now that they're getting into sending SMS'es to fans before games how about some credit for the people who have sat through this shit live rather than hiding in their loungeroom until we're good again?

Of course our next home game is Queen's Birthday, so we can assume that 30,000 once a year idiots will come out and embarass us all. Thanks for the gate takings and everything, but for fucks sake show up to the games.

Crumb Watch
Dial M for Maric. That is all.

2009 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes

Moloney shades Morton due to doing a truckload of work in the centre and throwing tackles like they're going out of fashion. Morton was important, but most of his were uncontested in the defensive 50. McLean also good once again.

5 - Brent Moloney
4 - Cale Morton
3 - Brock McLean
2 - Matthew Bate
1 - Aaron Davey

Apologies to Bartram (for the tag on Cooney only - please don't kick in again), Bruce, Cheney, Grimes, Johnson, The Stefan Martin Experience, Robertson, Sylvia and Whelan. Most of whom could have snuck in for 5th.

A word too for Lynden Dunn who I just like as a player. Didn't do a massive deal one way or the other today but I still think he's important to our structure.

Leaderboard

Sudden tightness at the top. Still no votes for the Strawbs O'Dwyer ruckman award but I'm throwing Johnson into the countback lead as he's gone very close two weeks in a row.

18 - Aaron Davey
17 - Brent Moloney
10 - Nathan Jones
8 - Brock McLean, Brad Green, James Frawley (LEADER: 2009 Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
7 - Brad Miller
5 - Kyle Cheney (LEADER: 2009 Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), Stefan Martin
6 - Cale Morton
4 - Matthew Warnock, Jamie Bennell
3 - Matthew Bate, Ricky Petterd, Colin Sylvia, Cameron Bruce, Russell Robertson
2 - James McDonald, Jared Rivers
1 - Lynden Dunn

Kasey Korner
I'll be there tomorrow. Don't know about a full report, but I'll throw some thoughts on MFC listed players on here if I don't get lost on the way. Interestingly enough one Mr. A Yze of Box Hill will be lining up against us tomorrow. Hope he gets 45 touches, dominates and Casey still win.

2010 Captaincy Market
Thanks to our good friends and sponsors at betezy.com.au*

$3 - James McDonald
$5 - Brad Green, Cameron Bruce
$6 - Brent Moloney
$12 - Brad Miller
$5000 - Greg Healy

Personally I think McDonald will go around for one more year, so they're not going to bounce him. I'd expect that at the end of next year it will be a toss up between Green and Moloney. For mine as long as he can get through the next couple of years without getting seriously injured Moloney wins just for being a Melbourne fan as a kid.

* Not really, but they are an MFC sponsor. So bet big - but probably not on us.

Merchandise Manor
The new Hankook/Kaspersky Lab jumpers are in next week. Pre-ordered already and looking forward to rocking the first edition #34 SME jumper at the Hawthorn game.

Thus finally endeth the era of the Philthy Phil #28. We saw some good times in that, and a lot of shit times - and only once did somebody question me as to why the fark I had that on the jumper. Good times. Now, it's up to ol' Octopus Arms himself to do the number proud.

Next Week
Hawthorn @ the family friendly graveyard slot of 4.40pm. The good news is that it's not our home game so it doesn't matter when 25 people show up. 11 game members should note that if they can stay awake long enough they can get into this game free as the replacement for the Canberra match.

I expect, however, that we'll lose comfortably. It's one thing to push the Dogs to the line but another to do over the Hawks coming off a win. Garland rolled Franklin last time, now somebody else (Warnock?) has to step up and keep him quiet. Then you've got the other guy - it's about 5000% more formidible than anything the Bulldogs will ever serve up. I expect that once again the priority pick frenzy are pulling themselves over the prospect of another loss.

Final Thoughts
Is everything covered? Are we ordering 2013 Premiership t-shirts yet? Cheerio and go Dees.

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