Monday, 22 March 2010

Demonblog's State of the Union...

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(...and House of Appalling MS Paint work)
(... and the views contained within do not represent any sane individual much less the MFC)
(... and writing this has been such a painful experience that I can't be bothered proof reading it. Spelling mistakes and half complete sentences are very 2010)

My fellow footballing depressives, we stand just six days from the first game of our 110th season of VFL/AFL football. And where do we go from here? There have been worse times in our history since 1897 - missing three seasons during the First World War, suffering the premiership hangover from hell after 1964 or trading for Scott Chisholm but never in the modern era of AFL football have we ever been in this sort of position going into a season.

Last year Dean Bailey became the first Melbourne coach ever to be in charge of two wooden spoon sides. This year he is fighting to not only avoid extending his 'record' to three in a row, but to avoid joining a select (and depressingly bad) club of sides to have finished last on the ladder three years in a row. St Kilda did it for the first six seasons of VFL football, and backed up with another four in a row during the 1980's, University didn't win a game for their last three years amongst four straight spoons and North Melbourne bombed out in the 60's, finishing last in a row three times - but that was all in the era before the draft. You could excuse putrid football.

Sydney did it in the early 90's when they were at complete rock bottom on and off the field and commanded so little respect from other clubs they received players like Jayson Daniels as "compensation" for their performance. Back then the draft was so lightly regarded that the Swans didn't even pick until #5 after being last in 1992. Even then they picked Jason Spinks who played a grand total of... zero games. Fitzroy were on course for a hat-trick when they were given the arse to Brisbane, but the way they were going they were probably lucky just to have a team on the park long enough to get two spoons.

Yes, we may very well be the worst performed side of the modern era. The 2001 Fremantle Dockers who didn't win a game until Round 18 might have claims, but at least they won 8 and 9 games on either side of that year. Even the abysmal Carlton double spoon sides of the mid 2000's can blame being knocked out of the draft for all their woes. You and I know that having a club run by twats probably didn't help (and my god haven't we got past experience in the same thing) but who's going to care about that in a hundred years. And lest we forget that in that three win 2006 season they beat us twice. Good god how did we even last this long without toastering up?

And so that's the historical context into which we enter this season. A season we go into after spending all of 2009 being assured that things would start getting better this year. We went along - reluctantly in my case - with the 'management' of the side in the second half of last season. Looking back I can almost even laugh about the idea of Matthew Warnock (1 career goal) being thrown into the forward line against Richmond under some flimsy excuse about building a more flexible forward structure. The whole thing was grubby and sleazy but, as many people quite rightly pointed out, merely playing the AFL's rules for what they were. "If Carlton were allowed to do it, why shouldn't we?" people argued. Bleh. Whatever. We did it, we got away with it, let's move on.

But first let's chart how we got to where we are now in the first place. In 2006 we made the second week of the finals and were in the match against Fremantle until three-quarter time. We'd unleashed a slashing comeback to beat St Kilda a week before, and it seemed that it was only the interstate factor which stopped us from making a preliminary final against Sydney in Sydney, where we had an excellent recent record. Personally I'd back the 2004 side to smack the 2006 variety, but there is every possible chance we could have played in a Grand Final that year. Mightn't have been deserved, and we would probably have been rumbled by the Eagles in the big one but who's going to argue a Grand Final?

Not surprisingly we entered the 2007 season touted as Victoria's great hope to win back the flag after a lengthy period of interstate dominance. On paper we looked like contenders, but things were starting to become wonky. When the previously deadbeat Hawks ran over the top of us in the last quarter of our first Round NAB game not many eyebrows were raised, but in retrospect we should have seen that half of our last were on their last legs. '06 had been our last chance.

So while we were concentrating on emerging players like Jones and McLean, the likes of White/Bizzell/Neitz/Pickett/Brown etc.. etc.. were about to fall apart spectacuarly. We didn't win a game for the first nine weeks of the season, Daniher got the boot and only putrid Carlton and Richmond sides kept us off the bottom. Out went Daniher, and looking over the likes of Sheedy (thank christ) and Connolly we went for the untried but well credentialled Dean Bailey as coach. He then lost his first two games by an average of 99 points.

Now, I don't need to fill in Round 3 2008 to Round 22 2009 for you - especially because reading about it may cause you to throw yourself from an upstairs window. The positives are there but you have to scramble to find them - significantly the Stynes/Schwab administration seem to have gotten us back on track financially, and on-field we've unearthed a handful of exciting players (Grimes, Jurrah...) Other than that it's been misery, misery, misery and the promise of good things to come. Which is lovely in theory, but bloody hell none of us are getting any younger. Especially the kids we're relying on to jump aboard and be the supporters of the future. Can't see too many kiddies clambering to support as while we're scraping the bottom of the barrel and acting as laughing stock to half the country. If we're going to go for the "premierships by the draft" tactic (which is currently shooting at about 0% lifetime) can we get it right before all the 90-year-old fans die, aren't replaced and we're shipped off to play in Hong Kong?

ANYWAY, let's talk about season 2010 (at last). We were putrid against Freo, decidedly ordinary against Essendon, nearly beat Adelaide and competitive for a half against the Eagles. What does all this mean? Absolutely nothing come 2.10pm on Saturday. But what we've seen is that our skills and decision making are still generally rubbish. Certainly not good enough to, as much as some deluded people might want to believe, sneak into the finals. The only way we're making the eight the way we're playing at the moment is a Bradbury-esque entrance on the back of a Black Plague style injury toll in front of us. And that's not to say we're not getting better, but realistically who else is getting worse? Richmond? Well, being slightly better than them is hardly the recipe for September success.

My biggest cause for concern is where we're going to get goals from. Even before his injury the Jurrahcane was coming under massively increased pressure from opposition defenders. Brad Miller is Brad Miller, Robbo is gone, Jack Watts is about 13-years-old and Wonaeamirri has hamstrings that apparently snap like a rubber band. The King of Misery Maric should chip in for a few goals, but the way it's going Ricky Petterd and Matthew Bate are going to be our spearheads. I like them both but GOOD GOD that does not equal a free scoring side. And neither does this farcical situation we always seem to find ourselves in when the entire team pushes up the ground then when we force a turnover there's no forwards anywhere near the forward 50. I can't explain that, but then again I'm not a coach so what do I know? It would seem necessary to have people in goal scoring position to score goals, but apparently not.

I'm more bullish about the midfield than is perhaps healthy. Morton was threatening an excellent season before he got hurt, but provided that Sylvia is back early in the season I think we've got a lot of improvement to come here. Trengove and Scully will be handy contributors straight off the bat, and if Moloney can stay fit again he'll be super important. Bruce, McDonald and Green (if he doesn't go forward) should be handy as well but we've got to ensure that we're not wasting our opportunities by kicking into a forward line that is hopelessly overmatched. Getting there in the first place without turning it over while chipping it around would help, as would getting the handballs right and not spending 30 seconds using it by hand, getting nowhere and then giving it up to the opposition.

Obviously the one to watch in the middle this year is Grimes. The kid has superstar qualities, but I remember saying that about McLean a few years ago and he never really came on. This should be different. There's a reason you're still hearing bitter recriminations about Woewodin but nobody seems to care about trading TJ.

I'm ultra-concerned about the ruck department. Last year Jamar became the first person ever to play seven games in his seventh season that were better than anything in the first six. Problem was that he was injured the rest of the time. Johnson is next in line, but who knows which skitz version of him you're going to get? "Jaws" Gawn is off the table due to injury, Meesen has gone back to not existing, Spencer is uninspiring and The Stefan Martin Experience a fill-in. Winning the ruck contests is not the be all and end all if the midfield aren't going to get the ball anyway, but we need some serious luck in this department if we're going to improve significantly - especially against the best teams in the league.

The backline is serviceable. Hopefully Garland is right to go (unless he's used as a wildcard forward option), and Rivers stays fit again. Frawley should improve markedly again, MacDonald will provide run and I'm fairly confident in the ability of Warnock to hold firm in the face of repeated entries inside 50. These guys are crucial because if we're not going to be a high scoring side - and at the moment nothing points towards us being anything like one - we're going to need to defend grimly to avoid being thrashed by some of the big hitters. These guys have done a mighty job over the last couple of years, now it's time to get some help from the middle.

But for all the improvement I still don't think we're going to be that much better overall. I just have this horrible feeling that we're going to overuse the ball and get murdered when we finally do manage to get inside 50. For mine the end of season ladder looks something like this (brace for impact);

1 - Geelong
2 - Footscray
3 - St Kilda
4 - Collingwood
5 - Adelaide
6 - Brisbane
7 - Hawthorn
8 - Sydney
9 - West Coast
10 - Essendon
11 - Carlton
12 - Port Adelaide
13 - North Melbourne
14 - Fremantle
15 - Richmond
16 - Oh fuck it

You have no idea how much I want that to be wrong. I can't manage to see us above 12th even in my wildest, sick footballing fantasies but there's no doubt to me that we could roll most of those sides immediately above us if we're lucky (how could we be any unluckier?). Then there's the wildcard unexpected team plunging down the ladder (see 2007). Here's to Carlton filling that spot. The problem is that I can see Port and Freo surviving on their home ground advantage, North's young players being more damaging than ours with a year or two under their belt and Richmond.. Christ, I don't know why I think they'll finish higher than we will. Maybe it's just an attempt to find some positive out of finishing 15th above them? Please hold your abusive emails and abduction of my pets until the end of the year.

Now, what happens if we do finish last? What if we turn for round 12 with a record of 1-11, 2-10 or 3-9? Are we going to have to go through the same bullshit as last year? You would have thought this would have been a perfect time for the AFL to pull - or at least refine - their priority pick rules. More than one team has had it and we couldn't possibly sit down and argue with them that we should be eligible for it again this year, especially when the draft has been otherwise rigged to buggery to give Gold Coast every opportunity to build a winning side straight off the bat. But for some inexplicable reason they haven't made any changes. It's such a stupid idea that I almost can't believe it myself. Tellingly I can't find the article to link to - maybe I imagined it all? From what I can work out Gold Coast get the first three picks no matter what, and if we are THAT bad we'd get P4 and P6 for finishing last.

At the risk of being controversial I don't want us to get an extra pick if we finish last this season, even if we win 0 games we don't deserve one. We've got two #1 picks and a 2, 3 and 4 on our list now (albeit two of them starting the year injured) and we've got to live or die on our picks. Enough of this scraping the bottom of the barrel charity bullshit. Call me when Carlton or St Kilda win something with the picks they got for being completely rubbish. We should be ashamed to be so terrible, not punting it home like masochistic freaks. Once was enough, never again. Especially not for pick fucking four.

And now, the updated markets for our awards.

Allen Jakovich Medal for Player of the Year
Previous Winners
2005 - Travis Johnstone
2006 - Brock McLean
2007 - Nathan Jones
2008 - Cameron Bruce
2009 - Aaron Davey

$3.50 - Davey
$4 - Moloney, Green
$5 - Jones
$8 - Sylvia
$15 - Bate, Frawley, Grimes
$20 - Petterd, McDonald, Rivers, Trengove
$25 - Jamar, Miller, Scully, Warnock
$35 - Bennell, Martin, Morton
$50 - Cheney, Jetta, MacDonald, Wonaeamirri
$65 - Garland
$80 - Maric, Jurrah
$85 - Watts, Bartram, Dunn, McNamara, Strauss
$125 - Gysberts, Blease, Johnson, McKenzie
$250 - Bail, Newton, Spencer
$500 - Bell, Fitzpatrick, Gawn
$1001 - Tapscott, Healey, Hughes, Meesen

Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year

Previous Winners (Most votes for a defender in the overall tally. Must play the vast majority of games in the backline to qualify.)
2005 - Nathan Caroll/Ryan Ferguson
2006 - Jared Rivers
2007 - Paul Wheatley
2008 - Matthew Whelan
2009 - James Frawley

$3.50 - Frawley
$5 - Rivers
$13 - MacDonald, Warnock
$16 - Bennell, Cheney
$30 - MacNamara, Bail
$50 - Dunn, Petterd, Martin (all unlikely to qualify)
$15 - Any other player

Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie Of The Year
Previous Winners (Highest player in the overall tally to play their first game that season OR to have played only in the last three rounds of the preceding season.)

2005 - No players eligible
2006 - Matthew Bate
2007 - Ricky Petterd/Michael Newton
2008 - Cale Morton
2009 - Jack Grimes

$3.50 - Jack Trengove
$5 - Tom Scully
$12 - James Strauss
$18 - Sam Blease, Jordan Gysberts, Rohan Bail, Tom McNamara
$25 - Jack Fitzpatrick
$50 - Danny Hughes, Rhys Healey
$100 - Luke Tapscott, Max Gawn

Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman Of The Year

Previous Winners
2005 - Jeff White
2006 - Jeff White (2)
2007 - Jeff White (3)
2008 - Paul Johnson
2009 - Mark Jamar

$1.50 - Mark Jamar
$7 - Paul Johnson
$7 - Jake Spencer, Stefan Martin (who may not qualify)
$50 - John Meesen, Max Gawn
$30 - Any other player

Top Goalkicker

$7 - Petterd
$9 - Miller
$12 - Bate
$17 - Davey, Green, Jurrah
$25 - Sylvia, Bruce, Maric
$30 - Martin, Moloney, Watts
$40 - Wonaeamirri, Jamar
$65 - Johnson, Newton
$100 - Hughes
$25 - Any other player

PhotobucketThe fanfooty.com.au Tombstone Award for First Long Term InjuryPhotobucket

Winner: $2 - Any played not listed (Morton)

My advice for Season 2009? Dial zero, zero, and when I say so dial zero again.

4 comments:

  1. Does Rohan Bail still qualify? Isn't he the one who did his hamstring in the middle of last year during his first game?

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  2. The good news for the 30 Second Man is that he not only qualifies for the Hilton, but thanks to the US Government he is now covered for health care as well.

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  3. Still missing Bruce in the Jakovich. I'd have him around $8.

    Miller and Green are the ones I'd go for in the goalkicker. I'd take the better than bank interest Jamar $1.50 and multi that into the top goalkicker.

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  4. quote - My advice for Season 2009?

    Should be 2010...

    ReplyDelete