... Spinal Tap. Err, and the two in a row Demons. And doesn't it feel good? I know we were in this situation briefly last year, but that wasn't in round four. We're batting at least .500 for the first time after round four since 2005 for god's sake. Forget the opposition and drink it in.
Rarely do games go exactly as you'd expect them to, but today went about as close as you're ever going to get. Richmond were always going to come out at a million miles an hour and slowly fall apart as the match went on. Having said that I can't be the only one who didn't start sweating a bit when they got the first two goals. Considering the ridiculous amount of Richmond fans on the train (who knew the Frankston line was their heartland?) it was surprising just how few seemed to be in the ground itself, but the prospect of having to train it back with them if we lost was too awful to think about. Last night I was trapped on a train full of Collingwood and Hawthorn fans, and that had about as much entertainment value as a prison train so god help us having to squash up with overexcited fans who had just seen their side break through a crisis and grab a shock win. Thankfully for everybody, especially me because I'd probably still be walking home, it didn't turn out that way.
As predicted the whole thing smacked of R3 2008 when we shocked Geelong for the first twenty minutes before getting swatted away with consumate ease. But historical precedent is cold comfort when you're starting to wonder if we could really lose to a team approaching our '08 level of futility. When Astbury got his second on debut in the first quarter I started to sense that there was a fairytale story waiting to smack us around the head.
Despite some early forward line shenanigans one thing the first term eventually gave us was good old fashioned attacking football. It took us nine minutes to get one, Petterd with a beautiful set shot that nobody except the goal umpire liked, but from there it was breakneck football. For teams that have a lower average score than Phil Mickelson at the Masters (and probably don't get any many legovers as Tiger Woods) it was a remarkable quarter. It might be a damning stat when comparing the two winless sides in the comp but we got one more goal in the first term today than in all of last week's win. The difference was that they were - surprisingly - a much more potent attacking force than the Crows. Jack Riewoldt was doing what Brett Burton did to us last week in the first term, but happily after nailing the first two goals he started to kick like Burton and only managed 3.4 for the rest of the day.
They were playing out of their skins early but the signs were always there that we were one step in front. The movement from defence to attack was as crisp as you would want, the only thing we lacked was that one big bastard inside 50 to take out a couple of defenders and give the crumbers a chance to goal. As it was all the crumb was taking place at the other end, but when Bail capitalised on the first of many, many Tiger errors to kick his first we were on our way. Didn't stop them kicking another couple of goals and making it interesting, but suddenly whack whack and freaking whack we were on eight goals at quarter time. McDonald got a gift from a 50, Sylvia another from a mark, Bail set up Green and then Petterd gifted Bate the last by knocking a ball to him that never had any right to stay in play - it got a fluky bounce to stop rolling through for a point and everyone's favourite redhead got our third in the space of four minutes. Thankfully Bate is well and truly back in town after a couple of rotten performances at the start of the year - he is ultra important to fill the link-up slot that Miller will surely never be asked to occupy again.
Ridiculously it was the first time since Round 20, 2000 against Freo at the then Colonial Stadium that we'd booted eight in the first quarter. Shame Richmond got five of their own, but we were just looking so much better around the ground that you had to think we were going to go on and do them handily. Junior McDonald continued to wind back the clock something chronic, his 14 touches in the first did as much to set the lead up as any of the goalkickers (except that he was one of the goalkickers but you see where I'm coming from). As long as he does a Lyon and hands over the captaincy to somebody else (BRAD F'ING GREEN COME ON DOWN) I'd love to see him go around again next year if he can keep this up. Can't have been the only one who thought he was finished after this year but he's tearing it to shreds. Knowing us he'll probably cop the Robbo treatment and will be sacked so we can play some minimum wage Romanian child in the middle instead.
Of course there was only one thing we could do after kicking eight goals in a quarter, and that was to kick none - and surprise surprise that's just what happened. We are truly football bi-polar. It wasn't without a handful of gilt edged chances though, most notably Green turning around with hours to kick but thinking he was about to be poleaxed and shanking it out on the full - a rare error in another otherwise excellent performance. Richmond came out all guns blazing again but were wasteful early before Nason - the man who should have SUPPORT AUSTRALIAN HIP-HOP tattooed on his forehead - got a free kick after copping a WWE style neckbreaker while he kicked on the run and converted it the second time.
They got another but at least we kept them to two goals for the term. Our backline wasn't having their finest day - and they'll want to fire up for next week - but our absolute domination at the stoppages and in the middle of the ground was keeping them from doing too much attacking. They got to a goal behind at the half, and were realistically every possible chance going into the second term, but you could see it was going to go very wrong for them very quickly. Various bits of Melbourne 2007-Round 1 2010 buffoonery had already started to creep into their game, and the errors were starting to mount. We could have and should have outscored them for the quarter, and weren't helped by by being on the wrong end of the random umpiring decision generator about ten times in a row. I was dying to hear the bronx cheer when we got one back, but disappointingly Davey winning a HTB decision was so obvious that people didn't even go wild for it.
So, half time and the match still in the balance. We should have been a long, long, long way in front and I hope that's exactly what the players thought as well because they came out and wiped the floor with the Tiges in the 3rd. Finally it looked like the (slightly older) men vs boys clash that it was supposed to be. A bit like a grade six kid beating up a prep it was easy and brutal but you know that when the older kid tries to step up a grade he's going to get destroyed. They just went to pieces, kicking the ball into each other, missing handballs by acres, fumbling under no pressure and most excitingly often kicking it straight to two of our players standing all on their own with no Richmond player within miles. Welcome to the sort of hell that we're starting to drag ourselves out of but at least they're used to it.
We got it right up forward again too. With something approaching structure we still didn't look deadly, but were good enough to snuff out any hope of a miracle victory. Petterd kicked his second from the set shot (and I continue to be impressed by the way the kid goes about his game) before the man, the myth, the legend Jamar got one resting in the pocket. It was his one kick for the day but that didn't tell the tale of how good he was. What it did do was totally break the back of the resistance and caused the Richmond kids, who admittedly did show some good signs, to shit themselves and stuff things up even more. At some point we got another goal from a 50, can somebody who was either watching on TV or paying more attention to the match than me confirm that it was because of a trainer running across the mark? What a goose.
From then on we smacked another three goals home to finish the match off. Even Clint Bartram, never the most comfortable from a set shot, drilled a beauty to finish it off. Down the other end the backline had put the clamps on the Tigers completely - with Grimes (oh be still my beating heart) and Joel Mac dominating the clearances.
One notable feature of the day was the three-quarter time 'entertainment'. No, I don't mean the GIGANTIC picture of Kevin Bartlett that went with the SEN ad on the big screen but the absurd mascot race gimmick. All day the big screen had been advertising some bullshit contest between the mascots where you had to SMS in to say which one you preferred. Firstly it was noticable that they never said how much the SMS actually cost which can't be entirely legal, but that shouldn't be an issue because anybody over the age of 5-years-old who thought it was worth spending money on is a pure dickhead anyway. But you know somewhere there's a grown man sitting in the crowd, possibly with his face painted and a flag in his hand, thinking "oh god I can't let them win this", sending text messages wildly trying to get the Tiges over the line.
So eventually this farce, sponsored by Dick Smith who can get stuffed just for involving themselves, comes to a conclusion during the break when they show the two mascots in an animated race. Maybe it's because they were a million points down at the time but I have respect for the Tiges fans because they gave it absolutely no respect whatsoever. Even when - shock horror - the cartoon Tiger had a come from behind victory it got nothing. Surely once you've see this bullshit once you're going to be aware that it's pre-animated, that the Tiger is going to win every time and save your $0.55 (or hopefully your $4.95 because if you're dumb enough to involve yourself you deserve to be fleeced)? Probably the worst thing I've ever seen passed off as entertainment at the footy since the Doggie Doggie Doggie woof woof woof debacle at Footscray games. Or the Richmond Roar Meter. You can get down on your knees and thank god we don't involve ourselves in rubbish like that.
We should have a Kaspersky promotion where somebody gets sat down at a computer and has to see how many viruses the software package can protect them against in one minute. Straight to the pron sites to win that one, and that's what people will get into. Another debacle was Vodafone Fan Cam where you could vote for the player you wanted to see followed by a smaller camera for the whole quarter. Great stuff given that you were either watching forwards stand around scratching their crack for the whole term or midfielders who were doing close-in work that you couldn't make head nor tail of in the pissy window on the scoreboard.
The only SMS related gimmick that I've ever been for at the footy was the one where you text the name of who you thought was going to kick the first goal of the third quarter to win prizes. At least that had some competitive element to it. I know somebody who once one it thanks to Justin Murphy and collected a free camera - it was kind of a first goalkicker bet that even kids could get into.
Last quarter was a junktime exhibition of epic proportions. When Dunn got the first, and Petterd had another relatively easy shot it looked like we might even run away and give them a smacking. Ricky missed the easiest of all his shots but it didn't matter, nor did the junky goals that the Tiges kicked. At least they kept it respectable, not that most of their fans would know as they'd already left. Sylvia ran riot with the highlight being his fifth goal. Most of the Richmond players had probably lost interest by that point, but the way Sylv stepped around them and booted our 20th from outside fifty was almost enough to bring a tear to your eye.
Terrible news on the siren for anybody who bet on us to win by 61 plus. 55 points to the good and Nate Jones turning around to kick a near cert when beaten by the siren. Serves you right for gambling on novelty options like the margin I say. Speaking of punting I showed up right on the first bounce so was too late to get on for the first goalkicker this week - good thing too. Even though he hasn't done it yet I guaran-damn-tee you that they're not offering $21 on Petterd anymore.
Meanwhile what's with everyone trying to dribble the ball in when they run at an open goal? Suddenly everybody's trying to win goal of the year but it's becoming so common that soon there'll be no splitting them. I'll tell you the ones they'll be able to eliminate immediately, and that's the ones where players could just smash it home with a proper kick but try to get cute and miss. At the risk of sounding like somebody double my age, I don't like it.
As it stands right now Mark Jamar could be an All-Australian ruck contender. If you'd said that to me at the start of last season I'd have slapped the taste out of your mouth. Now? By christ you never know. Though let's remember that the last time we had an All-Australian bolter that came from nowhere it was Nathan Carroll, he went on to have a shithouse second half of the season and is now only good for punching on with the cops at WA pubs.
Speaking of Jamar and Sylvia aren't you glad that we persisted with them for so long? Given the choice most us would have flogged them off to the highest bidder a couple of years ago, and I won't pretend that if you go back into the archives you won't find me slaughtering both of them at various times. BUT this shows why professionals are in charge of football clubs and not knobs off the internet. Keep that in mind next time you charge to the internet to write utter bollocks about certain young draft picks.
Finally in the sixth year of this blog (no, really) somebody has sent in a covert picture of an amusing punter in the crowd. Cheers to @paulizm on the Twitter who gives us this utter rejection of modern technology.
I'd like to think he wasn't even listening to the footy and was subjecting the people around him to easy listening hits. Note also in the background there is a child who has just become extremely depressed about football.
On a less farcical level how good was the roar when Stynes appeared in the last quarter? I was on the top deck of the Ponsford so couldn't see what was going on, but once I realised the reason for it everything made sense. Legend.
Stolen crowd watch moment #2 is this gem posted by Biffinator on BigFooty. For the benefit of those of you who treat us BF types like criminals here we go,
At the end of the game, one very distinguished looking Richmond supporter came up to the group and button-holed the leader. Seriously, this guy must have been 85 and would have been well over six foot in his prime. He was wearing a red poppy, giving him the air of a WW2 digger. He would not have looked out of place in the Long Room. He said to the chief Melbourne hoon "Young man, do you know how to speak English?". Our guy noddled back and giggled. The question was asked a second time and answered in the affirmative. It was even asked a third time, and the old guy was right in the face of our boy, who gave a thumbs up. Then the old guy, reaking of Tiger-centric self-loathing, barked "Well's that's really good to know. So go and get fiddlesticks!".
Spectacular moment. I'd be dining out on that one for years if I'd been there. Would rather get fiddlesticks than the plums Richmond served up in the second half. We had almost pure silence from the Richmond fans in our section. The only excitement was provided by the guy across the aisle from me who looked like Ric Flair and started going troppo over the umpiring decisions in the second term. Not surprisingly he was there alone. What's the policy on being at the footy alone? When it happens to me I tend to hide somewhere and shut my mouth due to the shameful nature of having no friends. Other people just go bananas and draw attention to themselves.
Sylvia booked? Bollocks. Didn't see it/wasn't paying attention. Put your Match Review panel hat on (it's made of tinfoil) and tell me what he gets. Having said that I just saw the news footage of it and I swear it was Moloney.
UPDATE - It was Moloney, no thanks to the ABC for calling it as Sylv.
2010 Allen Jakovich Medal
5 - James McDonald
4 - Colin Sylvia
3 - Brent Moloney
2 - Brad Green
1 - Mark Jamar
Apologies to Grimes, Davey, Bennell, MacDonald, McKenzie, Bate, Jones, Petterd, Bail (so impressed by this guy), Scully (good but still needs to get a kick on target sometime) and Trengove. And surely the Russian is the first man ever to receive votes after having one kick? At least it was a goal, but his ruckwork was immense.
10 - James McDonald, Brad Green
9 - Mark Jamar (Leaders: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
5 - Ricky Petterd, James Frawley (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Jack Grimes
4 - Colin Sylvia
3 - Jordie McKenzie, Brent Moloney
2 - Jack Trengove (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
1 - Jared Rivers, Joel MacDonald
I reckon it would be near on impossible for a ruckman to win this, but if anyone can do it it'll be the Russian. Shut the door on the Strawbs while you're at it, Johnson and Spencer will be lucky to get 9 votes total for the rest of their career and Gawn won't play enough games to challenge.
Saturday night at the MCG? What a bizarre timeslot. At least we've won the two that we were expected to, now as long we don't disgrace ourselves against the Lions then it shouldn't be too depressing an evening. Make sure you're there at least, you can go out and crack on in sleazy nightclubs afterwards.
No need for changes either as long as Sylvia doesn't get rubbed out. If he does then it might not be a bad idea to bring the Stefan Martin Experience in. He's had three goals in each of the VFL games so far and can give Jamar a hand in the ruck.
They were awful and we capitalised on it, but just like last week there were signs. I love signs almost as much as I love crumb.