The usual disclaimers apply. If you'd offered me a one point loss this week at 5.10pm last Saturday I'd have leapt on you like a 15-year-old at a Miley Cyrus concert. Even before the first bounce today you'd probably have accepted it grudgingly. Now it feels like the end of the earth. Absolutely gutted. I've not been so flat at the end of a match since that day Andrew Swallow dropped us against North and I disgraced myself openly in the middle deck of the Ponsford Stand. More on the topic of disgrace later..
The first piece of good news came forty minutes before the first bounce when The Spencil was given the arse for Clint Bartram. Justice served after his rotten performance last week. You have to think they were keen as mustard to drop him but wanted to keep it interesting for the opposition by leaving it until the last minute. I'm sure the entire Pies coaching staff heard the news, said "who?" and went back to their planning meeting.
Disgraceful scenes pre-bounce when first James "announcer for hire" Sherry attempted unconvincingly to pretend he was a massive Pies fan on the big screen (bring back Voice Of The G), and then the Collingwood cheersquad - never known for their intellectual capabilities - unfurled a banner for the players to run through that had words to the effect of "SIDE BY SIDE - Call 1300 MAGPIES to become a member". Were they so overconfident of victory that when they got together to come up with a message the consensus was that the usual 'inspirational' poor rhymes and puns weren't required and the space could be better used trying to rack up a few more members? Why not just send them through the famous Cheer Squad Disco banner? Bizarre. I've always been in favour of taking all 16 cheersquads into a room and gassing them like badgers but at least ours always make an effort no matter how dire the situation is.
So we came in expecting nothing and almost got away with the biggest upset in god knows how long. Commentators on radio and TV have already referred to it as "nearly the upset of the decade", which isn't much considering that the decade is one round and two days old - but I see their point. Can anyone think of the last boilover of that magnitude? Closest I can think of is the day Richmond played basketball against Adelaide at Telstra Dome in 2006. Even then notwithstanding the fact that the Crows were top at least Richmond had won three games by the time they played in round 8. In the end we didn't get the job done and missed the opportunity to be part of trivia questions for the next ten years but maigod we gave it a violent shake though.
The first goal represented something a personal tragedy for me. For some reason the TAB were offering $21 on Petterd kicking the first goal despite the fact that he (along with Green) is basically our only forward worth a damn. Good on Rohan Bail for kicking his first career goal, and for lasting longer than 30 seconds without injuring himself this time, but bloody hell there's no need to stooge me out of $210 in the process. It's hardly tragic in comparison to the knob who had $150 straight out on Campbell Brown last week but I'm very poor so every dollar counts. Considering our performance last week I should have been overjoyed just to get a goal in the first half, but the almighty dollar wins out especially considering I expected the Pies to go down the other end and kick 25 without response.
It was amazing how different we were in the first term from the toxic slop that was served up last week. God help us all we played the last 27 minutes like we played the first two and good god did it show. The difference between today and last Saturday was like a genuine Rolex vs something you bought for $3.20 in Phuket while off your face on cocktails and ladyboys (P.S - No, I've never been thanks for asking). My man crush Jamar demolished Jolly in the ruck all day, and at various times we actually managed to capitalise on his domination. After Bail got the first Collingwood equalised, but in a game with very little intensity the Pies were letting our guys get confidence early. Good, because the last thing we needed was for a side to come out and force us to chase them - just look at what happened to North tonight when they copped a few goals early and sank without a trace.
When even Juice was drilling them from 40m out on an angle you knew we were in for a big one. The man himself wasn't, in fact he hardly went near the thing again all day, but I enjoyed his cameo appearances as a ruckman significantly more than when we tried the same thing with Al Nicholson a few years ago. I don't mind the idea of using him as a mobile ruck to be honest, he at least creates contests and - whisper it quietly - hit a corker of a pass with his 3rd and last kick. The Spencil did the same with his one and only kick last week but for mine he'd do better to play at least the first half of the season at Casey while we use Juice/the SME and Johnson (when fit) to back-up the (not actually a) Russian.
Delighted to be 15 points in front at quarter time, but the spectacular lack of interest that the Pies had in the first term was never going to last. How about Harry O'Brien and his wacky shepharding of the man on the mark? Apparently it's legal so good luck to him, but hopefully if he keeps doing it somebody will just punch him in the face a'la Hall/Staker. Would be slightly less legal but no court in the land (except the AFL Tribunal sadly) would convict.
As is so often the case in a match where a 'good' team goes into quarter time behind a rubbish opponent they came out breathing fire in the second and it looked like normal service was going to resume pretty quickly. Travis Cloke, the most overrated shit player in recent history, goalled first and Swan could have had another from a bollocks free but did the right thing and shanked it. Thanks to two more from Ricky P we were still in it at quarter time, and having already ruined all the bets that had Collingwood leading at every quarter we almost destroyed every half-time/full-time double in the country by tying it up at the break. Jamar walked through half the Pies defence before missing the lot from 30m out on the run, and Scully had a set shot which he squeezed in for a point and we went in five points behind.
Respectable? Good god yes. At least we fought back when they looked as if they were going to run away with it halfway through the quarter. I'd gone in with such low expectations for the day that we'd already exceeded my expectations just by being... (DB mode activate) competitive. That's what competitive looks like kids.
Our forward setup looked a lot better but Bate was still playing a shocker. He picked up as the day went on but he's still either underdone or suffering from psychological distress. Ricky P is a revelation, Dunn was finally put back to where he should be and Brad Green is the same solid as a rock option as he always is. I'm still a bit worried about the way we attack though. I know the big trend in footy now is to flood and then have your forwards run back with the ball, but it seems odd to me that you wouldn't just pick one player and park him inside 50. Even if all 17 others are inside the opposition fifty what would be the harm of leaving your most spud-like forward at home? I'd rather Newton providing some sort of option for the fast break than wandering around the backline, and if it drags another opposition player away from their goal then so much the better. But what do I know?
Having done absolutely nothing in the first half other than cement his position in the VFL, Bennell was thrown forward and took a nice diving mark to get our first goal of the term. He had another shot a few minutes later and missed, but just when you thought that we'd discovered a wildcard forward option he went on to spend the rest of the game dropping marks and pulling out of contests. Still, I wouldn't mind trying it again to see how it comes off - maybe worth a shot in the VFL? Apparently I think everything's worth a shot in the VFL. See you at Casey Fields next Saturday to watch the results of my experimental tinkering fail amazingly.
Backline was interesting. We kept the Pies to ten goals by three quarter time but I didn't think that they were too solid. Warnock looks a bit wonky, MacDonald played a shit first half but redeemed himself with a couple of great contested marks in the second. Frawley still ruins all his good work elsewhere by torching kicks all over the place. Grimes, though, is a gun - no doubt about it. Considering some of the duds and underachivers we've picked up in the 10-20 bracket over the last ten years (and would Addam Maric be charging headfirst towards the latter or what if he hadn't been pick 21?) it's ludicrous that we got him at pick 14. And we wouldn't even have had that pick if we hadn't tossed Johnstone out. Great piece of business there, and as an additional bonus Travis gets to stick two fingers up at us by going deep into September this year with the Lions. Everyone's a winner.
We broke even on the quarter and went into the last term five points behind but hit the lead early on when, in a sight more remarkable than seeing the Yeti climbing through your bedroom window, we went from one end to the other unimpeded for Petterd to mark and kick his fourth. Cue 50,000 people at the ground (including me) and countless radio/TV callers trotting out a line about us having forgotten how to win. When Green goalled at the ten minute mark I started to think we could do it, and the prospect of being happy with an honourable loss went out the window. Dunn got his second to make it 10 points and it was hard to believe we'd managed to get ourselves into that position. We scored again not long after but hands up who didn't think that we were going to lose by a point there and then. The Pies really turned it on from there and you could tell bad things were going to happen. Grimes and MacDonald both hauled down big contested marks inside 50 to save our bacon. Scully then botched an absolute sitter of a mark in the middle of the ground that would have sent us into attack again - it got turned around on us for a goal and the margin was under a goal. Welcome to Tension City, USA.
Then Leon Davis, having done nothing all day, bobbed up to put them in front with three minutes left. Had things gone differently it might have ended up being better result for us. Instead of trying to chip the thing around and hold onto our lead - which would have inevitably fallen to pieces and led to a goal anyway - we were forced to attack.
All I remember from the last minute is Grimes, to Green and then the next thing Bail was running inside 50. Having seen the minute in its entirety on TV since I don't know what I was thinking when Bate went inside 50. In retrospect it was a mighty effort by Moloney to get the win the ball and get it to Bate with two Pies players all over him. Plot had clearly been well and truly lost before then. I'm not sure what Bail was trying to do, whether he was having a shot or not but from a million miles away in the Ponsford Stand all I saw was the ball hit the deck. Then the siren went and I punched the living bejesus out of my seat. I probably should have apologised to the kids sitting in front of me because they were moderately terrified but bad luck, serves them right for having scum Pies fan parents. Bad news for my right hand though (insert comedy comments in the space provided). Hurts like buggery now. Reminds me of the night we lost to North by a point in 2000 and I did the same. At least then there was the excuse of being a horrible teenager. No excuse now, it was pretty shameful but christ almighty it was justified at the time.
Didn't realise exactly what had happened until I saw it on TV later. It was cruel that Petterd dropped the mark and the poor bastard is probably beating himself to a pulp about it now, but at least he can say that he'd done everything in his power to get us the position to win it in the first place. Imagine if it had been Miller or Newton who'd done that? Would have been incredible wild scenes.
I must admit I didn't think the umpiring was spectacuarly bad. Everyone else in the world, including neutral fans, talkback callers and commentators are convinced we were slaughtered but I clearly missed it. Especially in the last few frantic minutes where I was suffering ectasy to agony effects equal to that of a bad acid trip. No dragons but. If I could bring myself to watch the replay it might all become clear but for now I'll leave it to you to throw red paint over AFL House a'la the bitter Fitzroy fans in the early 90's.
Last year I spruiked Moloney as the next captain but after the last two weeks there's no doubt than I'm a 100% Brad Green supporter for the job. The way he dragged the players in to talk straight after the siren said it all. In a manly and butch way I love that guy.
Meanwhile does anyone still think we should have kidnapped Luke Ball and forced him to play for us against his will? The guy is shot, and the only hope he has for making an impact this season is that he's got good players around him. In no way was he ever going to be the guy to walk into our side and single handedly drag us up. If Judd wakes up in October this year, decides to stop being a turncoat Visy employee and comes back to his childhood club that's the sort of guy who can drag a team to their feet on his own. See also J. Brown. Maybe Paul McNamee was onto something with that plan afterall? I'm pretty glad we didn't have to wait for him to try and put it into effect.
Changes for next week? Well Sylvia is a cert to come back in, Rivers should be right and I'll stick with Juice for another week so I'll just make the two changes. Col in for Strauss who was ok today but wouldn't be hurt by a couple of weeks at Casey. Don't forget he barely even played there last year due to injury. Rivers for Bennell. Scully was pretty bad today but I'm not giving him the arse yet. His kicking was very ordinary (60% disposal efficiency, but I'll bet that was from his handballs) and he dropped a couple of marks but I'd rather work through it in the 1's. Besides, if you were Bailey would you want footage of two #1 draft picks turning out in the reserves? Trengove not great either but anyone who expects perfection in second gamers is on crack. One thing you can say for both of them today is that they were 100% committed to everything they did. Fast forward two or three years and they might be the best duo since Hall & Oates. And no matter what you've been taught that is a good thing.
Did You Know?
I'm not sure it's much to get excited about. In fact it's clearly not, but today snaps a three match run of our 1pt losses being to North Melbourne. First time we've lost to the Pies by a point since Round 22, 1975 and just the 23rd we've ever had. Fifth I've been to. The only one that hurt more than this was the Round 6, 1992 fiasco when we blew the 47 point lead in the last quarter and got done by a point. Now that's a game I've never gotten over - even as a 10-year-old I recognised true tragedy.
I've not watched the press conference yet because in my current state trying to use the AFL website would lead to MURDER, but presumably Bails was his normal calm self. He's got a lot to be happy with this week, but I'd love for a coach to walk in and just go off his chop. Something like this (#3 is my favourite);
Still, if that's what we get every week - especially against teams in our bracket - he'll be a happy man. Notwithstanding the fact that we were truly putrid last week, and for much of the pre-season, and that there's no way he should have gotten an extension before at least mid-season I hope people get off his back a bit this week. It's not like players and coaches could give a monkeys what us internet freaks think anyway but some of the shit written about him this week has been ridiculous. The worst conspiracy theory I heard was how Leigh Matthews was about to walk in the front door and take over. Balls. He's got a lot of boxes to tick yet but fark me let's all (and I include myself in this..) take a step back and wait a few weeks before giving the panic button anything more than a light nudge. Wait until the Richmond game being smashing the bejesus out of it. If it gets bad enough the newspapers will jump on in force (a'la Terry Wallace) just so they can use the BAIL OUT headline.
2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
Had a hard time dishing these out. If Ricky had held the mark at the end he would probably have gotten five votes and everlasting love. Can't be too harsh, knowing our luck he'd have probably turned around to play on and get stooged by the siren.
I changed these votes about ten times. Any of the top four could have got the maximum. That's a nice problem to have.
5 - Ricky Petterd
4 - Mark Jamar
3 - Brad Green
2 - Aaron Davey
1 - Jack Grimes
Apologies to McKenzie (EXTREMELY STIFF..), Bail, Bruce, Dunn, McDonald, MacDonald (second half), Frawley and Warnock
The best Russian since Ivan Drago has spoken. Darren Jolly made to look like a stiff. Maybe Joll suddenly felt guilty about walking out on us after we plucked him from VFL obscurity and decided to give something back? Maybe not.
8 - Mark Jamar (Leader: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
5 - James McDonald, Brad Green, Ricky Petterd
3 - Jordie McKenzie
1 - Jared Rivers (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Jack Grimes
Post Match Shenanigans
There was nearly violence in an Aspendale (or was it Edithvale? I'm lost everywhere south of Mentone) fish and chip shop after the game. In there with a Collingwood friend wearing the jumper the idiot from the store comes out and goes "Pies eh!?... Did we win?" He's lucky I'd already handed over my money or I'd have walked out. It's the 21st century you arsehole, used 20th century technology and turn a radio on. Hope he catches his plums in the deep fryer.
Two Saturday games in a row and the real title of this blog was starting to become out of date. Well, that's all the 'traditional' footy we get because next Sunday it's 1.10 on Sunday against the Crows. Goes without saying that if we play like today then it will be very exciting - especially with Sylvia back - but being Melbourne they're just as likely to serve up a slopfest like last year when we don't kick a goal until halfway through the third quarter.
Should be especially interesting if they lose to Sydney tomorrow. They'll either be ripe to be thrown into crisis or will come out and pork us. It's good to actually have some doubt about what will happen though.
That was one second from all-time classic status. Shattered. At least thanks to North we're off the bottom.