That was very nearly the perfect weekend. It was spent in a gigantic house in Gosford with seven pinball machines and some of the most amusing people on the planet. On Sunday we went to Sydney for UFC 110 - which dominated - and I started drinking again for the first time in two months. What more could you ask for? Well, until 8.39pm EST last night you'd say nothing that could be posted on a public forum like this. And then, as it so often does, football came along and ruined everything.
First a disclaimer. Blah blah NAB Cup means nothing, this result has no bearing on future endeavours, we always lose in Perth, [something about the 2008 draft], of course North aren't going to be better than Geelong just because they had a win etc.. I'd hate to start another epic smackdown like last year when the perfectly valid suggestion after round one that we were a little bit better but still quite awful caused the internet to melt down for about 6 seconds. In the immortal words of Alan Partridge, "Needless to say, I was right" - even if my embittered response was written on a phone while travelling up the Parramatta River on a ferry.
Refer to the above disclaimer, but don't try and kid yourself that we weren't second rate against a fourth rate team. What does that make us? An eighth rate team? Relegation candidates? Premiership favourites for the D2 Amateurs? All I know is that it means somebody is going to have to chain themselves to me in case I try and leap off the top deck of the MCG seven minutes into the first quarter of Round 1.
Much like this stage last year I convinced myself beforehand that as the match meant precisely nothing and was played under Mickey Mouse rules I wouldn't let it bother me. Cue wild scenes about three minutes in when, much to the amusement of everyone else in the house, the shits were well and truly cracked. At least last year it took until the twenty minute mark of the last quarter before the phrase "get fucked Melbourne, I hate football" was screamed.
The first quarter was bizarre. We copped a couple of early goals, but just when it looked like we were going to go down like a Brazilian airliner Freo let us back into it and we dominated for five minutes. It came to nothing though, and the forward line looked as dysfunctional as it has for the last couple of years. Having no apparent knowledge of football I'm not sure if I missed something but didn't it seem to you like we were playing with a one man forward line? Miller was playing vintage 2006 football by marking and dishing off handballs every time he got it, Maric was wandering around aimlessly up field, Fitzpatrick disappeared after the first five minutes and Petterd was wearing an orange vest on the bench. So it was left to Jurrah, who lest we forget has played nine games, to run the entire forward fifty on his own. He plays his first truly bad game in the red and the blue and consequently our entire forward setup is rendered completely useless. That our second point of the game came only because the Dockers stuffed up at running down the clock (hey, stop stealing our bit) said everything you needed to know about that quarter. Could Robbo not have gone around for one more year? Didn't we have a fortune left under the cap, couldn't he have played under a gentleman's agreement that he would play as long as it wasn't keeping anybody younger and more deserving out of the squad. If Jurrah, Watts, Bate, Maric and Petterd become the biggest hit since The Beatles he shakes everyone's hand, collects a paycheck and walks away with his head held high. Bleh.
More worrying for me was what was going on at the other end. It wasn't so concerned that we were conceding scores - after all the inside 50's were coming thick and fast - but it was the unhealthy reliance on Frawley as a playmaker. I'm still convinced that he's going to have a breakout season down there, but there's no doubt that his kicking is still a worry. The "look down as you kick" thing does my head in, it just looks like a Seconds From Disaster episode waiting to happen every time. He got it right once, but I'd much rather see him getting rid of it by hand - and let's never, ever have him kicking in again eh? Was he the one who roosted it straight down Sandilands' throat? I had started drinking heavily by that time so my memories are somewhat hazy. MacDonald, who looked pretty good all-round but is probably wondering what the hell he has got himself into, seemed alright with his kick-ins so hopefully he'll get the gig permanently. Then there's Davey, who if he's going to be all over the place again this year may as well help the cause with a few handy kick-ins - despite having done nothing in the last fortnight he's still one of the few reliable kicks we have.
Theoretically the second quarter was better - not that you'd have known it from when we copped the first goal a minute in. Ever had one of those days where you start to wonder if we're going to kick any goals at all? One day it's going to happen, and I really thought Adelaide last year was going to be it. If Pav hadn't missed a sitter not long afterwards I might have walked off and started playing the Whitewater pinnie again. How about we make an MFC pinball? Nothing on the playing field, low scoring, full of balls and ultimately ending in failure.
Finally Green got a nine-pointer, followed soon after by Davey with another 9. Has a team ever had two supergoals before they got their first real one? That's utter bollocks. Of course Freo kicked one straight away to make all our hard work useless (well, not really - the 9pt goal at least gave us 3 points more), because that's just what we do and have done for years. I'd love to see Champion Data stats on how often we fail to kick a goal for ten minutes plus and then concede one straight away. Meanwhile, in using the AFL website's game tracker to try and recap what the hell went on and in what order, tell me what's wrong with their call of Miller's goal.
Yeah, he's a regular sharpshooter. They also confused Martin with Fitzpatrick and suggested that Jurrah was looking good by the time he'd dropped two marks and had one kick. Work experience week at the AFL? Don't expect anything better from their horrible websites this year.
Just when it looked like we'd go into the half-time break with a respectable deficit Clancee Pearce (Clancee? Really?) kicked a 9 pointer before/on/after the siren and we were well and truly stuffed. Now, don't be fooled by the forensic investigation of Gerard Healy and Glen Jakovich (aka the "we all preferred your brothers" commentary team) who couldn't come to a conclusion if their lives depended on it, he kicked it after the siren. I'm not going to get on my high horse about it though, Sirengate 2.0 it was not. If they introduce video replay then fair enough, but you can't expect an umpire to make anything more than an educated guess in a split second decision like that. The ball was between hand and foot when the siren went - we were watching on television, he was there personally. There are better things to be slaughtering umpires for than that. We change every other rule for the pre-season, what's wrong with a video replay for rare scenarios like this? You don't have to employ five hundred people, just ask The Cockhead Twins from Fox to roll the footage and make a decision. They've turned 9 pointers into regular goals a quarter later before, it wouldn't have been hard to do it again if it was a really glaring error - but it was too close to call so what's wrong with the benefit of the doubt going to the attacking team. It can't hurt us in the real season so let's move on. Until the AFL bring the 9 point goal in and I take up watching competition lawn balls instead.
Anyway, the coin-toss decision went the wrong way and we were 51-27 down instead of 48-27. If only the bastard had decided to take another bounce it would have been 42-27 and we would have well and truly been game on. It wasn't, we weren't.
Davey was replaced by McKenzie at half-time, and Petterd came on for Fitzpatrick not long after. In a traditionally Melbourne move we couldn't even take advantage of the substitution rule - pretty much the moment we used the second sub Spencer hurt himself and had to come off. It looked pretty serious at first but turned out that he'd simply suffered a corkie. Which is lucky considering we're rapidly running out of ruckmen. Gawn is totally stuffed, Johnson is out and god knows where Jamar was after he played a good half in the intra-club. Spence hadn't been too bad rucking solo against Freo's giraffe in the first half. I'd have liked to see him go forward when we were struggling to do anything inside 50 early on, but Bailey seemed reluctant to give the SME a go in the middle. One way or another we were going to get touched up by Sandilands so it wouldn't have hurt to try something. As it was Martin was left doing the 40 years in the desert trick, wandering aimlessly all over the ground and not doing very much at all.
Once Spencer was hurt they were forced to make the change, and it's a good thing Stef didn't get hurt too because we would have been well and truly stuffed. I'm ashamed to admit that when five people were hammering me about how helpful if would have been to have a certain pineapple haired ruckman at that moment I started to think they might have been right. Because I'm a panicky idiot who needed somebody objective there to slap the taste out of my mouth and tell me to fire up. Good thing DB so wisely looked to the future by playing Miller in the middle against Richmond last year. That was the reason wasn't it? Just like when he put 1 goal Warnock up forward just in case he needs to win the Coleman this year.
Once again we had to wait until the dying minutes of the quarter to get a goal. Petterd kicked it, and even though he didn't do an enormous amount after coming on I think we've probably learnt our lesson about not starting him. Not to blow like the wind too much, but after declaring Maric as this year's next big thing last week I'm now kicking him out of my fantasy forward line again for Ricky. He was bollocks, and the next time anyone talks about his mystical goalkicking accuracy I insist you beat them to death - it's the biggest urban myth in years. He's also the most unhappy looking person since Dale Begg-Smith, but at least that guy won something.
Be an angry bastard, go around smiling manically like you're on mushrooms, show fierce determination or grimace like you hate life but show some sort of emotion.
Reminds me of The Iceman Dean Malenko (New nickname!) Maybe it said something that I was the only person anywhere that liked his game last week. Further proof that this is the least informed 2500 words you'll read all week.
Meanwhile, talking of nicknames there is no doubt that the UFC brings the best in the world. Just yesterday we had Wanderei "The Axe Murderer" Silva, Stephan "The American Psycho" Bonner (who disconcertingly came out to Tangled Up In Blue by Bob Dylan as his entrance music) and "The Polish Experiment" Krystof Sozinski. Even Dennis Commetti wouldn't be able to top that, and he clearly spends 100 hours a week working on his routine. And how good would it be if we had somebody to refer to as "The Ninja of Love"? Would help me get through the year that's for sure.
Fourth quarter? Who cares. We got the first two goals, I yelled something about the comeback of the century part two, then they got the next three. Even a native Queenslander walked in and asked "Aren't Freo supposed to be the shittest team in the country?" I tried to agree, but everyone else kindly pointed out that another team holds that honour two years running. Joy. Maybe we're the reverse Chicago Bulls and are going for the three-peat? That'll be depressing. Does this make our worst player for the season the reverse Michael Jordan?
And that was the end of that. Pure shit, but only worth mid-range panic so far. The best thing is that nobody will be moved to say anything stupid about us making the eight. Our decision making is absolutely toilet, but for god's sake wait until at least Round 6 before rushing to your nearest internet messageboard to demand Bailey be replaced by Scott West and the robot from Rocky IV.
* How bad was Jamie Bennell in the first half?
* If given the chance would you forcibly hold down Cale Morton and shave his head?
* How impressive is Jordie McKenzie choosing to stay with us rather than go to Adelaide? I just hope we don't ruin his life for it.
* For all the nervous breakdowns about our defensive gameplan is there any danger that we'd be any better with an offensive one? Would be easier to stomach though. How about adopting the West Coast Offence and just playing a completely different sport?
* Every time Sylvia went near the ball in the first quarter I yelled "HERE COMES THE FUTURE BROWNLOW MEDALLIST!" Didn't that come back to haunt me.
* Do Chris Mayne and Matt Priddis go to the same hair stylist? Has floppy poodle hair replaced cocaine as the done thing in Perth?
Any danger they could bounce the ball properly? I've never seen so many recalls in my life. And is just me or are there a billion free kicks being given in these NAB Cup games? Maybe it's just that I'm rusty from not watching modern footy since September and have spent the last three months gorging myself on games from 1988 thanks to 7TWO. Or maybe it's because no bastard - even umpires - can understand the rules these days.
Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance
5 - Joel MacDonald
4 - Nathan Jones
3 - Brad Green
2 - Jared Rivers
1 - James McDonald
Apologies to Scully, Frawley, maybe Miller, Grimes and not many others.
8 - Green
5 - MacDonald
4 - Jurrah, Jones
3 - Trengove
2 - Bennell, Rivers
1 - Frawley, McDonald
KB's Rules Kommittee Korner
Is anyone else sick to death of all the bullshit changes to the NAB Cup. The nine point goal shits me to tears (even if it did mean the difference between us scoring 50 points or below), and the substitutions rule is baffling. Either extend the bench or don't - surely there's no need for this orange vest bollocks. If you're really going to piss around with team structures for the sake of the pre-season why not give clubs the option to play as many on the bench as they want? If you want to bring the entire list and have a bench that looks like the Tiger Airways check-in line then good for you, if you'd rather lock down on your best 18 and get some miles into their legs then you're catered for as well.
I'd ring Hungry for Sport at tell the man himself about my masterplan, but I'd never be able to do it without calling Patrick Smith a ***** **** and getting kicked off under the seven second delay.
Essendon at Vi$y Park. 1pm on Saturday. An immense result for me considering I would have been out all Sunday. Not too bad a matchup for us, I'd rather play them and get some sort of realistic view of what we look like in Melbourne rather than getting tonked by one of the top sides. See you there, though exploring the abandoned sections of the ground a'la Cave Clan will undoubtedly be better than the football. Hopefully the washing machine is still in the staircase under the Legends Stand, I might take my laundry and get something constructive out of the day.
Will try to do various updates on Twitter @demonblog until dropping my phone down one of the many dank, unlit staircases in the ground.
At least one team I follow plays with heart.