... you could be a Richmond fan aged 30 or under.
I can see the reason why an overwhelming majority of fans don't bother with practice matches. They're shit. Even the last one I saw us win in person, against the Tiges in 2006 (?), was only memorable because it was 30+ degrees, sunny and I got a corker of a tan - other than that they're completely disposable and you forget what happened ten minutes after you walk out the door. Halfway through the game today a Melbourne fan called me and asked where I was - it would be nice to be like that.
Starting with Green, Davey, McDonald, Bate and Bruce missing from our best starting lineup you couldn't expect too much - but when was the last time you ever had high expectations? Round 1, 2007? Those were the days. Now, we're overjoyed to win a quarter. What did people do in the days before the draft when they couldn't even pin their hopes on rebuilding through the draft? If I'd been around in 1979, with no internet to let my frustrations out on, it would have ended in murder.
With the Bombers fielding what seemed (for somebody who couldn't care less about opposition teams) like a pretty experienced squad we were - against all odds - surprisingly dominant in the opening few minutes. The problem was that, as has been the case so much in the last few years, we were let down by our forwards. Again Jurrah was being well beaten in the air, this time by Fletcher, and even when we did end up with a gettable kick on goal we'd miss. It was painful. Of course the moment Essendon got themselves together they went down the other end and started snapping goals out of their arse left, right and centre - that's just the way we roll.
The Stefan Martin Experience started in the forward line, and my god if I didn't have his number on my jumper I'd be melting the internet down with threads about how he should never be allowed down there again. He was creditable in the ruck but around the ground botched pretty much everything he went near. The one time it nearly worked was in the first when he threw a snap onto the boot from 30m out and it almost went in despite flying so high that it almost took out a passing helicopter. What there was of a house would have been brought down if it had gone in, but that was pretty much as good as it got for SME fans today.
We finally got our first goal late in the first quarter, which is pretty much par for the course these days. At least, unlike last week, we got one. It was a nice one too, Petterd kept a ball from rolling through for another wasted point and knocked it back to Maric in the forward pocket. The World's Most Depressed Man snapped one around the corner to Jones about 45m out. It was scrappy, but at least Ricky showed some desperation in trying to create something - most would have just gone for the point. Jones' kick was lucky to go through after it swung in on the breeze 3cm before crashing into the left hand goalpost. Grimes got the second not long after and it looked like the comeback was well and truly on - shame about the 6 to 25 minute mark of the quarter when we were abysmal.
Moloney kicked what would have been a 9pt goal under NAB Cup bullshit rules after taking a handball from The Jurrahcane, but that was pretty much the end of both of them for the half. As an aside would you agree that the only positive contribution that bullshit Cougartown show has made to society is ensuring that LJ is never called The Cougar again?
As the rain came, which was a surprise to those of us who had dressed for the forecast 33 degrees, Essendon got back on top again. SCULLGOVE were both looking promising, and Gysberts did a couple of nice things but we couldn't get any sort of momentum. You always knew that Essendon were going to hit back. Didn't help that Maric and Martin missed two sitters. The Maric one I could understand because it was off the ground in shit conditions and the ball could have been bobbing up anywhere, but the SME's one was terrible. He got the ball kicked to him all on his own 20m out, turned out to play on and missed it. Right then I would have been ashamed to have been seen in my #34 jumper, but to be fair I did buy it purely on his defensive contribution and have been stooged ever since.
By half-time we were fairly well stuffed. It was the same old story as every other week for the last few years. The backline did what it could but cracked under continuous pressure, the midfield showed a little bit of flair but cocked it up eventually every time, and the forward line didn't exist. How many times do we steal the ball on the counter and have nobody inside 50 to deliver it to? Cue somebody having to step around like an idiot waiting for an option to appear. Then it ends in anything but a six pointer. And how frustrating is watching us fire off four consecutive well-delivered, smart possessions only to see the last one - the one that could push us into attack or deliver us from the backline - stuffed up. Lightning fast handballs are great, but not when they're fired at somebody's feet.
Newton moved into the forward line for the third quarter and was about as useful as you'd expect. Fitzpatrick too didn't go near it despite spending plenty of the game up forward, he'll benefit from playing in the VFL but I can see why they're persisting with him - if we don't get something up forward soon we're just going to get blown away every week. Won't you join me in killing some chickens in voodoo style to try and get Jack Watts fit and firing? Today reminded me of how good Watts was against Essendon last year, dying to see him this year - hopefully in a game where we're competitive unlike two of the three he played in '09.
The story of the third quarter was Grimes with a side order of Petterd. Jack dominated the centre and looked sensational, with Ricky kicking two goals and providing a handy target up forward. When RP got his third goal 35 seconds into the last term we were back within fifteen points and the comeback was on. Then, as soon as it was on it was off and Essendon ran away with it comfortably. Get stuffed.
SCULLGOVE both had decent days at the office. Tom"Rush" Scully got a bit of it, and though he didn't hit the target much you can tell he's a superstar in the making. Trengove was pretty good as well, and though neither of them would get near the starting lineup of a top 4 team at the moment I'm assuming that both will play Round 1. And why not? They don't look fragile so they'd may as well get started now and hopefully play finals in 2020. There was a lovely piece of LEGEND OF SCULLGOVE interplay between them during junk time of the last quarter. Got me about as excited as I can get during a certain loss in a pre-season game.
Tell you who we reminded me of today, and don't throw your keyboard through the window when I write this, late period Fitzroy. Look at their best 22 in 1996 and project forward three years - would have been a corker of a side but at the time they were a mix of too young, too old, good ordinary players and people who just weren't going to make it. What they lacked is some kind of superstar to build the side around, and that's our problem at the moment. Luckily we've got more time then they did to get it right - and are travelling in a vastly opposite direction financially - but it's not going to be pretty in the meantime. I know we've tried to sign every decent out of contract player going in the last couple of years and been rejected, but we've got to get some good mid/late 20's players in the next couple of years.
I'll bet that after today the "Dean Bailey extension - why?" threads will be going bananas. People probably have a point in questioning it, but for once I'm going to put my faith in the club and hope this works. What it means is that he can coach towards a goal this year rather than trying to look good and keep his job. No matter what happens in the end as long as it doesn't end up with Garry Lyon being parachuted into the job from nowhere then I'll deal with it. Either Bailey gets it right or somebody else (and if we MUST have a former player ffs call Todd Viney) gets handed a list featuring the likes of SCULLGOVE with two years under their belt.
One thing that is concerning me is the seemingly glacial pace of improvement by players who have been around for years. I love watching Morton play but in a shit side his game isn't damaging enough. If you swapped him with Joel Selwood he'd probably be running around winning a Brownlow but it's just not doing it for me. Are we destined to have a club half made up of silky users of the ball who can't get it out of packs and half of rough nuts who can't hit a target from 20m.
*UPDATE* Looks like the injury Morton suffered late in the game could be serious. That's shit. He's had a great run with injury in his first two years, would be a shame for him to miss a lot of this one.
Whatever. I'm almost over this season already. Some other shit probably happened. If you were there you'd remember it, if you weren't just don't believe the ludicrous Age report which suggests that Bate was one of our best players. Idiots.
* I got a corker of a park despite showing up five minutes before the first bounce.
* Not having to pay to get in due to having a membership.
* Grime Time
* Ricky Petterd continually surprising me as a forward.
Paul Prymke Plate for Pre-Season Performance
5 - Jack Grimes
4 - Ricky Petterd
3 - Colin Sylvia
2 - Jared Rivers
1 - James Frawley
The bottom two pretty much slide in by default. Apologies to anybody who paid at the gate to watch that shit, and to any Essendon fans who think that victory means they're a decent team.
8 - Green
5 - MacDonald, Grimes, Jones
4 - Jurrah, Petterd, Rivers
3 - Trengove, Sylvia
2 - Frawley, Bennell
1 - McDonald
No idea. If it's interstate or Saturday during the day I won't be there. Prepare to be called up as a guest reporter. What I would like to see is us play one of the better teams in the competition - we've been tonked by a couple of also rans so I'm not sure what slopping around with bottom of the table
It's going to be a long year, but at some point during the season we're going to have a moment that you'll look back on in five years and say THAT was the turning point. Whether that's in round 2 or round 22 may very well be the difference between me ending up in a mental institution or not.