I'm sure if you went back and looked through every single post on this site from 2005 onwards about games where we played in Adelaide there would be some mention of Andrew Leoncelli, his goal with three seconds left, and an increasing frustration that we've never been able to win there since. Save yourself the trouble and wait for Demonblog: The Book, I'll tell you that it's been a heavy motif. At first when the streak was sitting at four years it was more of a curiosity, in the same way that in 1968 winning a premiership didn't seem so long ago, but as the years have worn on our average losing margin to both Port and the Crows has blown out to something approaching the score in the 5th set of that match at Wimbledon and it's just not funny anymore. And before you do anything else make sure you go down to 4.05pm in this report of that match and read on for what is almost certainly the greatest piece of sports writing since Hunter S. Thompson went to the Kentucky Derby.
Various theories about our inability to win in Adelaide have been floated over the last week, but whatever the reason is the fact remains that from three seconds after Leoncelli kicked his winning goal we've fielded sides more likely to win a shuffleboard tournament aboard the QE2 than a game of football in South Australia. It's no wonder Joel Macdonald got a recall, at least he's played in a winning side there for the Lions - for whatever that's worth. Bruce and Green played in wins there during 2000/2001 but I wouldn't surprised if even they can't remember it. The last time we won there was Darren Jolly's first game for god's sake and he's played for half the league since.
"But Adelaide are pure rubbish!" everyone cried, "if we don't beat them now we never will". I thought that once too - 'twas mid 2004, Gary Ayres had been run out of town on a rail and some old mate nobody had ever heard of called Neil Craig was in charge of his first match. We'd won three in a row and had shot up to second on the ladder, while the Crows languished in mid-table obscurity. "What about the excellent record of first game coaches?" you probably said at the time, "Pure urban myth!" I spat back (or so I'd like to think). They duly tonked us by 72 points. The next week we beat the top of the ladder Saints by ten goals. This is a cursed place that we're talking about.
The win in Darwin took some of the curse off our inability to win anywhere west of Docklands, but when we haven't even won in Perth since 2004 - despite at least one of Fremantle and the Eagles being rubbish for almost every year since then - where else were we supposed to go to try and get our mojo back. East Timor?
And so, thrown into the odd position of being one of only three games for the second half of the split round the papers were alive with stories about our players, all eyes were on Football Park to see if we could break the drought. In fact with it being easily the least interesting of the three matches for the week I'd be surprised if there were more than a handful of eyes (both full and Victoria Park style one real/one glass varieties) on the match. Fox Sports executives were obviously so worried that people would turn over the South Park marathon on the Comedy Channel or repeats of Cops episodes from 1992 that the commentators (more on them later) were instructed to talk the match up as a titanic contest which could be the difference between us playing finals and not. It wasn't, we won't and halfway through the second quarter I started to consider flicking over to Cops to see some criminal behaviour that I didn't have an emotional interest in.
By the time the ball was bounced I'd worked myself up into a frenzy about how this was the time, this was the team and how history (relatively speaking) was going to be made. Then five minutes later the Crows had kicked 1.5 to nothing and for all intents and purposes we were stuffed. Collingwood had let us off the hook two weeks ago with rubbish kicking but at least we were getting something out of the middle that day, this time the Crows learnt the lesson and just sat on us in the centre like some kind of sick German fetish video. Surely nobody was surprised that after the Jamar/Moloney Psychic Friends Connection had been talked up so much over the last fortnight that Adelaide would subject Beamer to the mother of all tags. I suppose he might have busted the tag, got 35 touches and racked up three Brownlow votes, but he didn't and we were much worse for it. And we don't do Plan B. Not only could he barely get near it, but when he did he sprayed the thing everywhere on route to a 58% disposal efficiency. He's still a great man, but surely opposition coaches were sitting on their couch yesterday going "ahh, there's an idea", and his future is being tagged to death for the rest of the season.
Speaking of Jamar he may have got very little around the ground yesterday but he was serviceable in the centre again, especially considering that once again he had zero help other than a brief cameo from Miller who just leapt in the air and threw his arm out in hope more than anything. He got more hit-outs than the entire Crows team combined, but with the midfield clamped down something rotten we were getting no benefit out of it. I just hope we're not about to turn him into the next Nathan Carroll, sans peacock haircuts and alcohol fuelled violence. Remember how halfway through 2006 Carroll had shot from also-ran to a potential All-Australian only to get a bit of publicity, get completely exposed and end up being teed off on by the full-forwards of the world for the rest of the year. I'd like to think The Russian (or is it The Belgian?) is made of sterner stuff than the other bloke, but there's no doubt that by the time the media have started writing stories about how well you're going, that 15 other coaches are all over it and working on plans to counter you.
Eventually after a quarter of epic toil against the general run of play we managed another one of our famous one goal first quarters, but at the other end Adelaide had effortlessly kicked four - including Tippett capitalising on the sort of comedy capers not seen since the 2006 when we played the Eagles and stuffed up a kick-in FIVE TIMES IN A FREAKING ROW before they finally took pity, and an 11 point play, by kicking a goal. First Bartram walked out of the square kicking in, and not even at the top end of it like he was trying to get distance, then despite everybody in the ground, watching on TV and sitting in a hut in Outer Mongolia knowing that the first thing Jamar would try to do was rush the ball from the bounce Tippett was allowed to get free in the square. The punch lacked a bit of vigour, the Crow lacked an opponent and the simplest of goals was duly kicked. Shut the gate, stick a fork in it, *insert your favourite cliche* we were stuffed.
Realistically we were only 21 points down, but that was never going to last. Suddenly the Crows were playing like last year when they were good, and we were unfortunately playing like last year when we were shite. Still, I'm sure if it was that easy to stitch a side up just through pressure they would have done it well before now rather than waiting until they were scraping the bottom of the ladder. We were nothing if willing participants to this massacre. They've been in better form than we have recently, and don't forget since the Brisbane miracle we've won 1.5 matches by 1 point in total, but the fact remains that they're sporting a player called Rory Sloane who looks like Leif Garrett and if we're going to allow ourselves to be pushed around by that sort of outfit we might as well put the FOR SALE sign up and move the team to Poowong.
I know that rebuilding a team from scratch via the draft is like trying to put a third world country back together after a natural disaster, but like the poor bastard whose house has just fallen off the side of a mountain in Bolivia I'd like to know that there's some light at the end of the tunnel and we're not just wasting our time waiting for a miracle. The only thing you can be sure of with this team is that once we're well out of the game they'll start having a proper crack at it, the only difference was that today instead of doing it when they were five goals down they waited until the margin had blown out to 47. Dunn, who I thought was bloody good, and one of the few to come out of it with much credit, got one after the siren to make it a slightly less outrageous shade of disrespectable.
Next thing you know we're only four goals down and things start to look at least moderately interesting again. I'd love to see a comparison between our first quarters and third quarters for the year, because it seems to me whatever they're saying at the long break is having significantly more effect on the team than whatever they're saying before the match. Adelaide did their bit by kicking 1.9 for the term and, much like the Carlton game, we'd come back from a potential third quarter caning to at least within striking distance at the final change. We've lost from better positions than 25 points in front at the last change, it wasn't insurmountable. But the problem was we should have been about 65 down. Moloney had broken the shackles a bit but the Crows had a truckload of chances to put us away and couldn't manage it. A good side would take advantage. A good side wouldn't have come from 47 points behind.
Once again we were treated to the sight of key forward prospect Watts taking marks across half-back and roaming the midfield. I know we only ever seem to kick to targets inside 50 if they're running back with the flight of the ball and nobody in the same coloured jumper within miles but is there any danger at all that he could be put up there as a target sometime soon? I know he's built like a supermodel and will get killed in one-on-one situations but I'm not suggesting leaving him up there on his own and booting the thing a mile in the air to the contest. He's obviously got good hands - ignore the one he dropped in the third term - kick it down there with him, Bate, Dunn and god help us even Miller down there and see who can pluck one out of the air. Seems to work for the teams who play against us, and has been a tried and true staple of the game for a hundred years so it might be worth a crack at some point.
I liked Dunn's game, just as I did against the Pies, and I'm crossing my fingers that he's finally going to hold down a spot in the side and be left in one place for more than a game at a time. But can somebody explain to me what's going on with his facial hair? First there was the ludicrous vaudevillian moustache he sported in his pre-season profile photo, and now there's some sort of really bad teenager looking growth stretching across his lip that is threatening to make me ill. I couldn't quite make out if it was a mo or not at first - and maybe that sort of thing is the reason they invented 3D TV's - but the general consensus was that he's rocking some sort of really bad job across the top lip that was being accentuated by the wearing of a mouthguard. It's unnatural, immoral and needs to be stopped as soon as possible - by force if necessary. What I did like was the goal he kicked when he grabbed it out of the ruck contest and dribbled it in from 20 metres out - that's the sort of inventive stuff that we're sorely lacking at the moment. If I show up next week and he's tagging Nick Dal Santo I'll scream.
Also interesting to note that Watts is pretty much the only player who we might want next year that we haven't signed up. Just imagine the outrage if it came out that he'd dicked us and signed with the Gold Coast. I've threatened the internet collapsing on football related matters before, but this really would be the end of it. He'd probably be the biggest heel at Melbourne since Barassi left, and at least Ron did something before he went and redeemed himself later. There's not nearly enough hate for J**d from our fans, but if this happened? Batten down the hatches when we play them for the first time because it might get violent.
Speaking of draft picks, where's Morton at? He looks good pushed up the ground but I'm starting to have Nicholson-esque heart palpitations every time he gets the ball. Did we really use a #4 pick on somebody just to use him as a loose man in defence? I'll cut SCULLGOVE slack in their wonky kicking to targets because they've played about 20 games between them, but 45 games into his career what are we doing with this guy? I preferred his first year model when he kicked 12 goals in a rancid team. Now he's just hanging around, doing a couple of good looking things here and there but generally being anonymous. He's probably suffering from intense psychological trauma from playing in just 7 wins in 45 matches - lie him down on the couch and bring in a psychologist if you have to, just give us our Cale back.
Then there's our backline. What has stood up masterfully in the face of constant bombardment over the last few years suddenly looks brittle and ready to snap at any minute. Frawley is the only one of the talls I've got any confidence in at the moment, and although Garland played a great last three quarters against Collingwood he always looks panicked. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that his facial expression never changes. Also according to my mum he is a dead-set lookalike for Ben Holland, which is no consolation at all. I'd almost have the Stefan Martin Experience down there - if I knew what had happened to him - the injury list on our website is notoriously out-of-date and wonky but he's not listed on it, nor did he play in the Casey/Williamstown fiasco of a fortnight ago. Another cult hero (for me anyway) chewed up and spat out by the system.
The worst thing about being rubbish is that every Monday morning I have to play Football Inquest with every single person in my office, because obviously none of them have ever met a Melbourne fan before in their lives. The number of times I've had to having a standing conversation about why we can't win at Football Park so far this morning is ridiculous. If I knew why we weren't I'd be too busy writing a 400 page dissection letter to the club/South Australian travel brochure ("watch out for Snowtown, don't ask what happened to the Grand Prix") to stand around having chats and gossips about why we don't consider playing with a forward line to be crucial in today's football.
Those white jumpers are truly awful. They're a step up on the silver monstrosity of a few years ago, but it wasn't much of a benchmark to beat. Firstly why did we have to wear our clash jumper in the first place? Was it just because the Crows play with a dark jersey? Don't tell me we're forever destined to have to wear different jumpers if there's the slightest of clashes after that pink umpire debacle. And what's wrong with a red clash jumper? Maybe if we're playing Essendon I'll accept that the white might be an option - as if a sash really makes any difference - but outside of that there's no excuse for it.
And what's the obsession with the winking Batman logo? The mailout during the week promised that a new logo is going to be unveiled before the end of the year, and I can tell you that if that rubbish character is featured on it then I'll riot. Even the 80's logo which looked like a trident wielding child molester would be preferable to that rubbish.
The scrolling advertising signs at Football Park put me off. You're watching a piece of sparkling play (not by us) and suddenly in the background there's an ad for Farmers Union Iced Coffee. No wonder we can never win there. Did anybody else see the one that said JESUS today? I'm glad the people I was watching with saw it as well otherwise I'd think I was going crazy. Getting messages about religious figures from your television set is the first step, and the next thing you're running from the cops across the MCG footbridge carrying a shotgun.
If you gave me the option of sacrificing my life for one of the commentary team today I'd offer you all three of them. Healy is at best a chat show host, Frawley's only half decent role in life is to the Billy Brownless-lite buffoon for Triple M and Dwayne Russell... My god. How many times did you count him refer to something we did "last week" as if the split round had never happened? And what about when somebody has a shot to the goalsquare with an opposition player sitting there patiently waiting to mark it and he flies off the handle like somebody's kicked one to win the Grand Final. Face facts Dwayne, for all your glib catchphrases and attempts at comedy you'll never be even a low rent version of Dennis Commetti.
The only one who comes out of that lineup with any credit is Colbert and he's exiled to the boundary line. I never thought I'd be hankering for a Liam Pickering/Matt Campbell double act, but there you go. In fact I'd go as far as saying I'd given the choice rather be tied in a chair and forced to listen to the Gladiators of Sport on SEN (the worst radio program ever, including community radio) than to be forcibly subjected to the Best of Dwayne.
Stat My Bitch Up
Great news for Nathan Jones, despite our continuing mediocrity his career win/loss record (24.39%) is now only good for third worst amongst active players. Step forward Paul Johnson (20.63%) and Josh Kennedy (23.28%). If it's any consolation to them at least they're better than Ted Hall who went 1-72, and got his only win on a technicality in a protest after the match had finished.
Bad news is that he has to go on Twitter and apologise for our performance after every loss because nobody higher up than him has the grapefruits to do it. At least he cares.
2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
Only the first two are really deserving, but for the sake of the permanent record some others sneak in. Frawley's votes push him to within striking distance of the leaders and an epic Jakovich/Seecamp double.
5 - Matthew Bate
4 - Lynden Dunn
3 - Jack Grimes
2 - James Frawley
1 - Brad Green
Apologies to absolutely nobody. I'm completely baffled that Scully not only got our BOG in The Age, but he snuck into the votes as well.
25 - Brad Green
23 - James McDonald
19 - James Frawley (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
18 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
14 - Matthew Bate
13 - Aaron Davey
12 - Jack Grimes
10 - Brent Moloney
8 - Jordan Gysberts (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
7 - Colin Sylvia, Jack Trengove
5 - Ricky Petterd, Tom Scully, Jamie Bennell
4 - Lynden Dunn
3 - Jordie McKenzie, Matthew Warnock, Brad Miller
2 - Neville Jetta, Clint Bartram
1 - Jared Rivers, Joel MacDonald, Cameron Bruce, Nathan Jones, Colin Garland
St Kilda at Docklands on Sunday afternoon. By all rights we should be in for an absolute pasting given that, like Football Park, we can't play there at the best of times. Then there's the imminent return of Riewoldt who will presumably come out and wrest the title of "best in the family" back off his cousin by kicking 11.
Post-match Bailey forecast a hard week on the track for the players and all-round changes at the selection table. How about taking some responsibility for once and making yourself run 50 laps? When we let St Kilda jump to a seven goal lead there's not going to be any foot off the gas third quarter comebacks, we're going to get smashed. Sylvia and McDonald should walk back in but other than that if he's going to talk the talk about swinging the axe let's see it actually happen. We're going to get smashed next week anyway so why not ruin the weekend of a few more superstars of the VFL. Miller and Rivers should be absolute certainties to get the boot, and I'll send Jetta and Macdonald off with them. In come The Spencil (I never thought I'd write that), Cheney, Maric and Bennell. Hard to justify bringing four players in off the back of a 20 goal loss in the 2's, and a week off, but what is there to lose? Cheney and Maric especially have got to get a go soon, I'm not prepared to consign them to the Newton/Meesen "gone for all money" file yet but it seems the club might have by the looks of it.
The only tiny, microscopic sliver of hope that I have for pulling off a colossal upset is that Riewoldt's return somehow manages to stuff up what they've been working on for the past few weeks. Fat chance there. Maybe there's something in the fact that we seem to get up for big games (eventually) but show scant interest in playing against teams at our level. Who am I kidding, we'll be lucky not to go under by a hundred or more.
By this time next year I shall have been carted off to the insane asylum.