At 11am this morning I wasn't going to the game today. For the first time EVER I'd chosen non-compulsory work over a game. Need the money, meaningless end-of-season slopfest etc.. Then suddenly an opportunity to do a runner presents itself and I decide that keeping my ridiculous streak of seeing every game in Victoria when not overseas needed to continue no matter how much it was going to cost me in lost wages. And by christ thank god I did.
The last time we won a game by more than ten goals, Matthew Bate was playing his 4th, Neita kicked 6 and Hawthorn were fielding players like Ben Kane and Harry Miller. It has been a long time. 1186 days to be precise.
Nobody was there of course, but I think we all expected that. Somehow they managed to get just over 13,000 but if that wasn't at least moderately massaged then I'm not here. It wouldn't have been a surprise figure in a normal game much less one threatening to be played in aquatic conditions. If only Freo had kept Shipp and Gale. Imagine how few people would have been there if we'd beaten Richmond? Some goose rang up SEN at half time and claimed he couldn't go because he didn't want to have to cheer for Freo. How drunk/stupid/senile would you have to be to think that we're a chance to win either of our remaining games? Today was like a school muck-up day (with less maimed animals) - the last day of real fun you have before you cruise through the last two weeks with no effort. The only problem is we're too dense to be invited to the final exams.
I was a bit surprised that we went in as underdogs in this one. I know we were slop last week and they flogged Port, but surely the bookies were setting themselves up for a bit of a beating offering 2.20's on us during the week? Yes, we are the only team they ever beat at the MCG but were bookies living in some sort of fantasy world where we weren't rorting the system for the past fortnight.
Before we get to the game, an apology. I was severely deluded to suggest that Freo would come out at 110% and be physical after seeing us assume we were going to beat them for the last two weeks. What I forgot is that they're the flakiest football team of all time and probably didn't even mention it once before the match. Sure they got the first goal, and yes they were in the mix for most of the first half but it was as close to zero intensity as you can possibly get. I may be the only person in Melbourne who actually likes their theme song but there was no need to hear it again on the back of a soft performance like what they threw up today. The usual suspects (Pavlich and Sandilands) were handy, and the usual suspects (pretty much everyone else and players you've never heard of) were terrible. And where was Tim Ruffles, the first VFL/AFL player ever to be named after a potato chip?
Certainly not soft was Ricky Petterd, who gets more and more impressive every week. The advantage to him is that since we unearthed Jurrah it's meant that he no longer needs to be a forward every week, we can use him elsewhere and he can chip in for goals up forward when required. His mark for the first goal today was a pearler running back into a pack. Didn't do an enormous amount for the rest of the game but has been very impressive overall this year.
Another player who has impressed me enormously, but mainly over the last two weeks, has been Shane Valenti. He was robbed not to play more games earlier in the year but took his medicine, went back to the 2's and dominated there before coming into the 1's and playing good football. My only disappointment was that the moment when he was running straight at Sandilands he didn't perform a kamikaze manoevure and just throw himself into the wall of man in front of him. Lucky Nifty Nev Jetta did have a crack at an irresistable force/immovable object inferface later and actually pulled the tackle off. It was tops. Valenti did have his own highlight when he jumped over two much bigger Freo players from a ludicrous kick to contest and marked.
Brock McLean added two in a row after the Petterd goal before Luke McPharlin benefited from all-round farce twice in two minutes. First he got a free-kick 70m off the ball directly in front because James Frawley breathed on him, then he marked on the point post and somehow got to kick from a ridiculously front-on angle. The free kick was interesting - it might have legitimately been there under the AFL's rubbish new directive about off the ball incidents but what a pissweak directive. Did somebody at headquarters realise that the new rushed behind rule has been well received - against all odds - and decide that they had better come up with something stupid and confusing to annoy the fans with?
McNamara put us ahead at quarter time with his first career goal, even though he clearly had NO INTEREST in kicking it at the time. After he calmed down and stopped trying to find an option everywhere he went back and slotted it perfectly. A couple of decent games to start his career for the old T-Mac. Hopefully he can play out the next two weeks and get some vital experience under his belt before next year.
From thereon in it was all us. Even Paul Johnson, the man who has lost the plot something chronic this season, was plucking the ball out of ruck contests and dribbling goals through. Robbo tried to take Mark of the Year twice and got it right once. Won't win but could run top ten. Miller kicked one just before half time to extend the margin to more than three goals but I still felt like Freo were going to come out and fire up in the third quarter. Once again expecting Freo to do anything that a normal side would do is just pure stupidity. They remained putrid.
I quite like the Dockers, but they really are a colossal basketcase and have been pretty much since they played their first game. Remember Round 22, 1997 - when all they had to do was beat us (16th) to make the 8? Remember trading Pick 1 for Trent Croad? Remember Damian Drum? Ludicrously enough Drum is now a Victorian State MP. Hopefully he uses the same sort of foul language in parliament that he did in the coaches box at a practice game against us at Victoria Park once. I walked past as we thrashed them and the air was turning blue. True to form we almost lost that game.
So they kicked the first goal of the second half and I my blood pressure shifted up a notch (which is saying something considering that it's already higher than the world record Pac Man score). No need - the Jurrahcane came to the party which his second before Robbo and Davey before Bate, who could very well win the B&F this season, kicked his first.
38 points ahead at three quarter time. You could have had $1.02 on us with Luxbet, but as regular readers will know I'm never comfortable under we're beyond the Glenn Lovett Line (lest we forget his goal which put us 48 points in front in the last quarter against Essendon in 92 before they came back to win by a point). Jurrah got his third, thanks to a random 50m penalty bringing him right to the line, and then Sylvia - the SEN Supergoal specialist (call 9429 1116 to win a free DVD from name a game. Still waiting for mine from Queen's Birthday) - drilled one on the run to take us past the magic mark and allow us to put the feet up and enjoy the show.
And show it was. Robbo got another before Jurrah kicked one of the more random goals of the year. I saw it in person, watched it on the AFL website five times and just saw again on the news and still don't quite comprehend what happened. He was on the ground and somehow managed to grab the ball off the deck and kick it over his head with half the Dockers defence about to leap on him. Surely not a goal of the year contender, especially considering that Leon Davis will probably finish 1st to 5th, but right up there as a contender in the newly created Andrew Lamprill Award for Goal of the Year.
Bate capped off a great game with a couple of goals before Valenti snuck in for a well deserved one to put the margin beyond 70 points. Sadly Freo decided to show some heart 28 minutes into the last quarter and add a couple of goals to make it look a little less ridiculous.
A win and proof undeniable that we're at least 4pts better than last season. Not that I particually wanted to sing it but how come you can't hear the theme songs in the top deck of the Olympic Stand? They only redid the place a couple of a years ago, at least install some speakers. Strangely enough you can hear Susan the Providore in the CGU ads with no issues.
Imagine how well we would have been done if we hadn't been stooged by the umpires for four quarters? A lopsided free kick count doesn't mean shit if the frees weren't actually there but my god how many could we have had in the first half? The novelty 50 to Jurrah in the last quarter helped a bit but it was a complete slopfest before that.
Media Whore Corner
Watching the highlights on the AFL website - once I got them to actually work - proved why being at a game is always better than watching any commentary team involving Dwayne Russell and Liam Pickering. Leigh Colbert is the Fox Footy 1.10 equivalent to Pavlich, somebody who should just tell everyone around him that they're shit and storm out in disgust.
Every week I change my mind on Robbo. This week, not surprisingly, I think he should be given one more year. Just like Petterd he's looked a lot better with Jurrah thrown into the forward mix. He's not always having five defenders hang off him. Sure he shouldn't be allowed
And just to prove I was actually there when everybody is claiming it in the future, here's a candid snap from the post match kickaround shenanigans.
Ladies, calm thyselves.
Eating with the Stars
I went to get a hot dog at half time and stood in the same line as Jordie McKenzie. Jamie Bennell was waiting outside, obviously not wanting to soil his body with the sort of slop they sell at the footy (or not being able to afford it on his wage). Then David Neitz and Al Nicholson walked past and Jack Watts stood at the bottom of the escalator talking to some kid. It was half time bizarro world in the bottom deck of the Southern Stand.
2009 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Aaron Davey
4 - Matthew Bate
3 - Shane Valenti
2 - James McDonald
1 - Liam Jurrah
Apologies to (deep breath please) Bartram, Cheney, Dunn, Frawley (2nd-4th quarters), Johnson, Jones, Miller, Moloney, Morton, Petterd, Rivers, Robertson and Sylvia. And about five of them could have snuck in for a vote.
What a change a week makes. We have a new leader as Davey bursts back into form with a cracker of a game and Bate joins the party at the top of the leaderboard as well. Moloney had 30 touches but just failed to slide in for a point which would have kept him equal first.
28 - Aaron Davey
27 - Brent Moloney
23 - Matthew Bate
20 - Colin Sylvia
19 - Nathan Jones
16 - Brad Green
15 - Cameron Bruce
13 - Cale Morton
12 - Stefan Martin, Brock McLean, Mark Jamar (LEADER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year), Jack Grimes (LEADER: 2009 Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
11 - Ricky Petterd
10 - James Frawley (LEADER: 2009 Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
9 - James McDonald,Jared Rivers
8 - Liam Jurrah, Matthew Warnock
7 - Brad Miller
6 - Shane Valenti
5 - Kyle Cheney, Russell Robertson
4 - Jamie Bennell
3 - Matthew Whelan
2 - Paul Johnson, Clint Bartram
1 - Lynden Dunn
Carlton will smack us. The week after that St. Kilda will do the same. Sadly we'll finish last again but there's no doubt that we're a far better team than last year, and when you throw picks 1 and 2 on top of that as well then there's some optimism for the future. I'd still like to fast forward a couple of years without the priority and see how we'd go with our dignity intact, but you can't have everything - may as well play it safe and take the loot while it's on offer.
This is the first time ever, as far as I can work out that four of my top five sports teams have won on the same day. Atlanta Falcons are excused due to not having a game, but Wimbledon, Wests Tigers and Wellington Phoenix (no, I will not be signing on with West Sydney) all did the job. It's a beautiful day. Next stop, punting the Dogs/Crows home in the finals and then trade week/draft day. Before you know it we'll be watching an intra-club game at Casey Fields in February next year. Maigod I can't wait.