Well, haven't we just been clubbed with football's irony stick. Even pre (and lets face it post) round one when we were expecting to be a bottom four side every single one of us probably pencilled today in as a win. When we started winning the pencil became pen (can you pen something in?), and then after nearly knocking over the Dogs last week the whole thing was supposedly signed, sealed and delivered. The rationale being that if we could beat the Eagles at the MCG in two seasons when we were completely pants then there would be no way that we could lose to them when we'd supposedly improved. And then we turn in our worst performance in seven weeks. Rodney King's clubbing (early 90's reference! Kids, look baffled) has nothing on what we imposed on ourselves today.
And make no mistake it was self-imposed. There's no doubt we were flogged by the umpiring in the first quarter, but as usual you can keep that line of excuse to yourself - let's talk about where we stuffed it up royally off our own bat. That's the 18th time under Bailey that we have kicked one goal or less in the first quarter. In the same time frame Richmond have done it 9 times, West Coast 11 and Fremantle 8. Why are we such slow starters? Forget the Richmond game which was played with a criminal lack of defensive accountability (and was far more enjoyable for it), we must be the worst starters in the league.
And so it was that the Eagles got the first two goals after Kennedy took Rivers to school and slotted a pair of well taken set shots. One thing I'm glad we did do was persist with Riv because he managed to get it together as the match went on. I fully expect people to smash their monitor upon reading that because he has become a Miller-esque hate figure for some of our fans, but I didn't mind him. Our defense was far from the problem today - they might have stuffed up getting the ball outside 50 but what are you supposed to do when you've got nobody to kick to and the forward line is standing next to you. Frawley was good without being spectacular, but that goes for most of our side today.
You could tell that it was going to be one of those days where everything we did up front would turn to manure. Davey was botching kicks into the forward line, Bate rolled his ankle and went off for most of the quarter and for some baffling reason Danny Hughes never appeared to go anywhere near the forward 50. I've watched Danny in the VFL and he's a forward not a wingman - he battled well given the circumstances and has some good hands but what's the point of picking these guys if we're not going to use them properly? Brad Green saved us (as he so often does) from the indignity of ANOTHER goalless quarter when he snapped one after a sharp handball from Watts, and even though they got another one we still looked the better side.
Frankly the Eagles were putrid in the first half. The only problem was that we were almost as bad but without the fall-back position of having a half decent forward line to kick it to when we did get it. Or any kind of forward line whatsoever. Things straightened up a bit when Bate came back on but he barely looked fit and as the game wore on you could see that he was more and more rooted. Sore ankle and sore shoulders from trying to carry the rest of the side. He's another one that 'the internet' hates for some reason. Possibly due to people living next door to chemical plants or playing on train lines as children. Or because he's red and you're all discriminating against him.
Particular low moments in forward line play were provided by Paul Johnson's near comical attempts to play as a marking forward - I'd have liked to have seen Jamar go down there and provide an option but unfortunately as Johnson was also providing zero in the middle he was probably doing less damage as a shambling 'target'. Has he really been on our list since 2005? Six seasons and out I would have thought. To have any chance of survival he'd have to hope that the Spencil doesn't come on, Meesen remains permanently crippled and Max GAWN doesn't manage to make it onto the field at all (even at Casey) this year. And that we can't recruit another tall, or find a mature one through the rookie draft. Any way you slice it he's rooted, which is a shame because through '07 and '08 he looked pretty good. I hear Frankston have a lovely VFL side which needs players, off you go son.
Having said all that there was a point in the second quarter when we were well and truly back into the game, and if we were in any way serious about being a competitive force (or god forbid a finals contender) we would have turned it up a gear and smashed them. Telling in retrospect that two of the goals which helped us hit the lead/get back into the match were from a free straight in front of goal and a 50 that brought Hughes to the line. Still, take it where you can get it - if the other side wants to keep you in it then good luck to them but for god's sake work out what you're doing wrong and take advantage. Cue us kicking one more goal for the whole match. Embarassing.
What I don't understand, watching from the position of somebody who has scant interest in actual footballing analysis, was why they didn't throw Sylvia deep into the forward line in the last quarter when we went a couple of goals behind. He was absolutely awful today and barely hit a target - and this wasn't the sort of Tom Scully missed targets where it goes a couple of feet wide and we all think who cares he's a gun nonetheless, I think at one point he was going around at 12% by foot. In fact he's been awful in all three of our losses. Did we overestimate the impact he'd have this season or is this the price we'll have to pay until we start winning consistently? There were whispers around that he might miss through injury but I'd like to think that considering how much we love the late change that there wouldn't be an issue with taking him out if he wasn't 100%. Either way he might have sparked something that was in no danger of suffering from spontaneous combustion because he was doing nothing but harm being up the ground.
Also after the kick-ins have worked fairly well for the last few weeks we were well and truly stitched up today. The (what I assume is a set play) move where they flog it wide towards the boundary and Jamar ghosts in to take the grab was completely rumbled by the Eagles as the match went on - thus allowing Natanui to nick in for two screamers that Channel 10 can use to plaster all over their coverage for the next year despite the fact that he did bugger all else until the last quarter. The Russian battled manfully today against the Eagles rucks, especially considering that the ex-Eagle ruck that he was teamed up with was giving him - and us - absolutely nothing.
The most telling stat of the whole messy shambles is that of the five marks we had inside 50 one came from a muffed Eagles kick and one was a dinky short one to McDonald. No penetration isn't just a rude phrase anymore, it's a way of life for our club. We had the triple threat of forward line bollocks today - either they weren't there at all, the delivery was terrible or the ball was carelessly bombed in for the Eagles backline to mop up easily. They weren't much better, but the difference was that they at least had forwards standing there to kick to whereas usually ours were switching the play on the defensive 50.
Now, let's talk WATTS. And why not because he was quite good. Consider for a second that he has now played in four losses, three of which have been absolutely putrid performances and tell me you're not dying to see him in a side that gets it together and puts more than a handful of goals on the board. Despite the fact that our "no forward line" policy often saw him chipping in across half-back, and he didn't get any goals (not Robinson Crusoe on that front..) he looked like he belonged out there. Highlight was the clean handball to set up the first goal. He'll keep his spot and will get better. Maybe we'll even give him somebody to kick to one of these days. Very happy with what we got out of him today considering the putrid nature of the game and the way we were using the ball. The usual internet retards who expected him to have 30 touches and kick 8 will post their disappointment in the performance but patience is going to pay off handsomely in this situation.
I'm not just saying this out of bitterness but the Eagles song surpassed Port's as my most hated in the league. Absolutely rancid 1970's soft rock abortion of a track. Fit in well with the bizarre selection of music pre-match when Roxy Music's art rock 'classic' Avalon seamlessly (?) blended into Cold Chisel's bogan power ballad Breakfast At Sweethearts. Then this came on and suddenly it was heritage week. It couldn't sound any more 70's if Stevie Nicks showed up and rerecorded it while being spit-roasted by the blokes out of ABBA at Studio 54. It's an affront to football and the unwritten law that all songs must be sung by what sounds like a barbershop quartet.
2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - James McDonald
4 - James Frawley
3 - Mark Jamar
2 - Matthew Bate
1 - Jack Grimes
Apologies to Green, Watts, Hughes, Jones, Moloney, Rivers (post Q1)
18 - James McDonald
14 - Brad Green
13 - James Frawley (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
12 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
9 - Jack Grimes
7 - Aaron Davey, Jack Trengove (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year), , Matthew Bate
6 - Colin Sylvia, Brent Moloney
5 - Ricky Petterd, Tom Scully
3 - Jordie McKenzie, Matthew Warnock
1 - Jared Rivers, Joel MacDonald, Cameron Bruce
Surprised at how big it was, but equally surprised at how many Eagles fans there were. They obviously saw something coming that the rest of us didn't.
One thing I find interesting at games is what tips people over the edge to make them leave. The vast majority of people who walk out do it after goals, but there's always one or two who go at strange times. Today when we were five goals down with about four minutes left one of our players cocked up and shanked one out on the full and the guy in front of me stood up and was off. I can't believe that was the difference for him. Not sure if he thought there was ten minutes left or something, but it seemed a very odd time to be tipped over the edge.
Of course nothing will ever beat the game we played against North in 2004 (Col Sylvia's debut don't you know) when halfway through the first quarter that North fan with the blonde hair, goatee and tatts galore walked past me towards the exit yelling "I CAN'T TAKE THIS ANYMORE" and was seen after the match cooking a BBQ in the carpark. Stylish.
Port in Darwin. They'll flog us but I'm hopeful that injury and shitness is going to mean a heap of new faces into the side next week. Casey beat the Bullants comfortably with Morton kicking three goals (WANT), Gysberts getting 30 touches (why not) and Miller BOG (DO NOT WANT) but interestingly Wonaeamirri geting through another game unscathed and amongst the goals. Could he come in closer to goal for a bit of crumb. Somebody may as well because the talls aren't getting near it.
I'm now retrospectively furious about our last two losses. Welcome back to football purgatory. Out coached, out played, out of contention.