I had been to a draw at the MCG before though, last year's Brisbane/Essendon game, so the oh so hillarious novelty of playing "No Second Prize" in the absence of a winning theme song was old hat to me. Lucky too as my sides might have split to a dangerous level at the hilarity of it all. Given the rock bottom standard of music played at the 'G these days I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't a joke at all and was just another track on the "I love the 80's" CD that they get the rest of the tunes from.
The other difference is that for the first time in recent history I've stewed on the game for more than 24 hours before sitting down to write about it. Circumstances have dictated that I've barely picked up a newspaper or had time to trawl through forums for reasoned (!) and intelligent (!!?) debate about what happened. It's a far cry from the glory days of 2007/08 when I lived next door to the MCG and could be at home furiously mashing at the keys with my fat fingers before the press conferences. So I've had more than a day to make a decision about whether what happened yesterday was a tragic theft of a magical upset by the evil empire or a battered underdog taking shot after shot but holding on for a draw in the last round of a title fight. And all these hours later I'm still not sure. I'd love to watch the last quarter again, but like a complete moron forgot to set the tape to record the game. There's always the AFL website, but it would be easier to go back in time and kill Hitler than to get it working.
Every year I wake up expecting to hear that Her Maj QE2 has gone gently into that good night and that we're actually playing the Pies in a much anticipated King's Birthday clash. Then you remember that her mother was a Robocop style figure who charged through the century mark in rude health before finally giving up the game at nearly 102 years of age. This match could be referred to as QB for many more years to come.
As much as I loathe the way that we treat this match like our Grand Final - because we're too shit to make a real one - and as much as I want to go around slapping headlocks on the once a year fans who would rather die than come and watch us play Fremantle I'm glad we used it as an excuse to get the surviving members of the 1960 premiership out there. Are you as concerned as I am that we've only got one more 50 year reunion to go? At least we'll always have St Kilda, Footscray and Freo to make us feel better. And by the time they've won the next three flags between them we should be cherry ripe to have a crack at it ourselves.
Somewhat more baffling was the opera singer. Sure she put on a better performance than the last few opera singers to grace the MCG (the Three Tenors and that bird who cocked up the singing at a Grand Final), but it was all a bit random wasn't it? I'm all for singing odes to heroes but how about a bit of Grand Old Flag opera style? If we have to listen to the goose in the velvet jacket belting it out on a trumpet every week then I'm sure somebody can locate an operatic arrangement of it. If in doubt call the Mormons.
Speaking of the guy on the trumpet what was the deal with him suddenly opening with a warm-up blast of Ride of the Valkyries? Now that might very well be the most sinister and foreboding piece of music ever written, but it doesn't quite translate to one bloke on a trumpet in a velvet jacket. Compare and contrast;
Not quite the same was it? If we had a shit theme song like Port, Carlton or Footscray I'd totally lobby to have this adopted as our theme music but give me the full opera version (and wouldn't it have been nice if there was an opera singer present?) or give me death. Either that or a helicopter full of soldiers strafing the Pies cheersquad with machine gun fire. It was interesting to see the Velvet Fog answer the critics who have accused him of being a ring-in that doesn't even follow us by letting out a big "Go Dees" at the end. Actually I don't think there are any critics other than me - and the only thing I've ever seen to back up the claims that he wasn't a Melbourne fan was a forum post by some internet nutbag so it's basically been slander the whole time. Still, we've been paying him for three years so even if he is a Hawthorn fan it's about time he fired up and did something other than playing acid jazz (whatever that is) versions of the classics every second week.
Another nice touch was the retro slogans plastered around the place. Initally seems a bit ludicrous to have signage up claiming what a great team you are when you're two time reigning wooden spoon winners and are struggling to avoid being dragged into that mire again this year but as a nod to history and the old school premiership team it was a winner. Next year I'd like to see one that has no historical background but simply reads "WE INVENTED THIS GAME SO SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP YOU FILTH" - which should speak to Pies fans in language that they will clearly understand.
But that's all warmup. There's no point going nuts on the ceremony if the team of the day is going to walk meekly to their deaths a few minutes later. And if you're going to refer to yourself as the "Masters of the MCG" then the least you can do is come out and try to fool the people by playing like it for a quarter. Cue ten minutes of utter ineptitude which threatened to see his five goals down by the time we kicked one ourself for the first time since... last week.
Travis Cloke did his usual trick of kicking the first goal, missing one soon after and then doing absolutely nothing for the remaining three quarters. The inexperienced observer might have thought that he was set for a day out in the Pie forward line, but do the maths and see just how little he does in the second quarter onwards. From then on Warnock pretty much beat his brains out and might have even snuck himself into the votes if he hadn't botched the kick which ultimately led to us not getting the four points. Admittedly beating up on Travis Cloke is to AFL full backs what crossing the street is to the rest of us, but if you kick it at somebody that big they're going to grab one eventually. And if they have enough shots on goal they're finally going to kick one. Quoth noted street poet Sydney Deane in White Men Can't Jump, "The sun even shines on a dog's ass some days".
Still, after Pendlebury got the second and Neon Leon managed to find the ball whilst bludging off the back of a pack for their third we seemed to be entering a world of hurt. Most weeks we're lucky to kick three goals in a half let alone giving that start up to a red hot team of premiership contenders.
Every week it's a lottery between Bate and Green as to who will spark us after our inevitably shit start, and this week the toss was won by Bater who marked in the goalsquare and goalled courtesy of the most token 50m penalty in AFL/VFL history. What happens if somebody is already kicking from the line and you just start acting like an arsehole to them? Run across the mark, push him over, whisper something in his ear about what their mother gets up to on Polish fishing trawlers. Can you get given a second free kick before you've had the first? A free out of the middle? Or is the threat of getting reported for time wasting the only thing behind somebody making a complete idiot of themselves in this situation? There has to be some get out option for the umpires or I'm sure given the sheer amount of freaks who play footy out there some suburban team would have done it in protest. Alas we weren't treated to any sort of petulant exhibition, and Bater took his kick from 3m closer to goal, on a 1 degree better angle and slotted it. So much so typical Bailey era MFC, the only difference being that our token first quarter goal came sometime before the 27 minute mark.
Wait, then strange things happen. Bradforth J Miller, the man that the term "much maligned" was invented to describe got one as well and somehow we were only ten points behind. This made absolutely no sense given that we'd only been inside 50 about four times while at the other end the Pies forwards were teeing off on us while our defenders wobbled around like drunken sailors in a Mexican whorehouse. Their inability to kick straight, and complete and utter refusal to attack directly down the ground meant that we managed to weather the storm long enough to get back into the contest. It was such a surprise that even Bailey - usually silent and fuming at best - openly cracked the shits when Rivers got turned inside for a mark (thanks to the AFL website for loading the highlights nine hours later) by Cloke just before the siren. Not surprisingly Cloke missed and we were off the hook again. Somehow just ten points down when we probably deserved to be in the same position as last week if not worse.
One thing I'd like to achieve before I die (which will inevitably be about two weeks before we win a flag) is to stand around the huddle of an AFL premiership match and watch a coach work his magic. We’ve all seen suburban coaches in full flight, but they're nothing more than glorious amateurs trying to forget that on Monday they have to get up and go to work in offices, factories or on street corners like the rest of us. Even the VFL coaches lack real spice and belief in their delivery, Peter German was a great one for going off his trolley at the players but it always seemed forced to me. He’d start softly, coaxing his players towards a big effort, and when he wanted to make a point he'd slowly ramp his voice up until it GOT REALLY LOUD AND FORCEFUL before tapering off again. I wonder if a Malthouse or a Thompson use the same playbook for their speeches. You can see Clarkson as a quiet, LOUD, quiet man but what about Bailey? Even Neale Daniher, sometimes so laid back that he was in danger of slipping into a coma, seemed more prone to the quarter or three-quarter time explosion than Bails. The only time our man has ever really publically flipped his lid was the Geelong game in 2007 when we were ten goals down at the first change, and if that’s not going to cause you to go right off and start screaming at people then it's debatable that you’ve even got a pulse.
How do you want your coach to act? Realistically as long as the team is winning then most people would take Kim Jong Il in the box, but oh for the chance to be one of these violently fickle Carlton or Essendon fans who rack up thousands of dollars worth of phone bills praising their coach on talkback radio one week and burying him the next. We had a low rent, Big Issue version of the phenomenon after the first Pies game this year but you've got to be winning nearly half the time at least to get the full Ratten/Knights "are we good or aren't we?" sideshow.
So, take wins out of the equation for a second - I'm dying to see Bails really fulfill his promise as a coaching psychopath. He's already demonstrated a bit of the Laidley/Clarkson-esque slice and dice in press conferences when he's received a stupid question and given the reporter a caustic, sarcastic answer. Even better when he answers a question with a question. But let's see some real emotion, let's see him violently shake Jack Watts in a quarter time huddle, screaming "God damn it man, you could be the best". His face so close to young Jack's that he's visibly taken aback and frightened. Let's see him waving John Meesen's prosthetic foot above his head in a huddle.
It's all well and good to look at the thousand yard stare of Mark Harvey and say "well he's not doing too badly", but give me Aaron Sandilands and Matthew Pavlich and I'll give you a decent side as well. Despite the Dockers being a team who achieved the dream of kicking 1.7 in a match before we did, we're still well further back in the pack than they are. We have no recognised superstars. Green is an uncrowned star, both Davey and Jamar (!) have their claims and Chip Frawley is about five seconds away from breaking into the top shelf of defenders but generally it's a mixture of promising kids and ageing warriors. I want a coach who these kids are going to walk over broken glass for. Maybe that is happening, look at the reaction Bails gave to Chris Johnson when he dropped in at training to say goodbye and look at Beamer Moloney's barbed speech about Brock McLean at the B&F. But how long is that going to last for? If we finish bottom four at the end of this year and sit in the same spot next year then the coaching staff may as well start ringing around pizza shops to see if they need a delivery boy because they are Max G-a-w-n. His job is safe for another year, and if we don't start winning there's no miracle short of buying the club outright that'll save him so how about he really starts talking up the kids win, loss or draw. Challenge them publicly if they don't perform. Run down the stairs and start throwing high fives at the crowd when we win a close one. Emotion means nothing if it's not backed up with wins but I just have this sinking feeling that we're going under in a sea of good intentions. Somebody needs to crunt up, and it might as well start at the top.
Am I overanalysing it? Probably. Anyway, what do I know about coaching - if you go back far enough in the archives of this very website you'll posts written by my good self suggesting that the only alternative to Daniher was to go out and sign up Wayne Carey as coach. At that very moment the object of my desire was probably snorting lines off the muff of a Miss Australia and grappling with imaginary dragons in a Gold Coast penthouse.
Err, anyway - there was some sort of match on that had three quarters to run. And somehow we were a chance of winning it. A sneaky half chance, but against a side who insisted on using their natural talents to go forward via platform 11 on Richmond Station at every available opportunity, it wasn't the most ludicrous idea. When Nifty Nev nipped in at the back and stuffed one home for the first goal of the term it was still ludicrous but somehow we'd managed to wrest the momentum away - even if the Pies had kicked two behinds to open the quarter. There was a moment of sheer beauty after one of their points, god knows which one as there were so many, when Davey took the kickout and hit a pinpoint pass to a teammate standing on the edge of the centre circle. It was an absolute work of art, and he was on fire in the second term. After being totally shafted by the Blues last week Flash bounced back to play a big part, third only to the dominant Jamar/Moloney partnership, in getting us back into the game.
Speaking of Jamar, when he laid it off to Garland by hand for the long bomb that put us in front it kicked off a remarkable comeback for Col - beaten from pillar post in the first term, and looking desperately nervous over the last few weeks, he played a magnificent second half and was, without completely pre-empting the votes, one of my best. Amazing what playing with a bit of confidence can do for you? Equally amazing how much confidence you can get against a backline of prize spuds like Cloke, Davis and Medhurst.
Of course we couldn't hold onto the lead. Brad Dick, the man who has become to QB games what Mark McGough was to 'the wet' put them back in front and commentary boxes all over the ground nearly imploded in a rush to do a gag about his name. "Lucky Cox, Goldsack and Ball aren't playing" Grow up you peanuts - get yourself into the sort of sophisticated humor that the readers of Demonblog can enjoy on a weekly basis. And now I'm off to a completely unrelated scene at the Cabana Motel.
We lost the plot going forward in the third quarter, but just like the first all Collingwood could do was miss. When Morton kicked a cracker on the run in the last minute we were still well and truly in. Not sure what to think about his game to be honest, it was a great goal and he seemed much more useful when he pushed up the ground but the first quarter and a half it didn't seem like he was any danger of hitting a target. Understandable if you're, say, Al Nicholson but if you're going to be playing the quarterback then you've got to be cleaner with it. Would still love to see him thrown right into the middle one of these weeks, or even forward - from my uneducated position I'm not convinced that we should be wasting a number four pick doing the mop up work around the back. Now watch him win a Brownlow doing it.
Cue the sort of tension that I imagine can only be matched by being involved with the third day of an airline hijacking. Perhaps mindful of my disgraceful showing after the Bail/Petterd fiasco in Round 2 I sat there with my jaw so tightly clenched that at 8.20pm the next night it still hurts, and my forehead thumping with tension like a bass drum. Apparently there were two old birds sitting directly behind us hootering and hollering for the last five minutes like they were being murdered by the Manson Family - I didn't notice it.
Miller got the goal that put us back front, one of the wonkiest snaps of all time and didn't he know it. Had a pretty good game I thought - at least for somebody who we've basically all written off as a lost cause and who had one kick last week. Was pretty much the Brad we've come to know (and love? Only the ladies), a couple of goals, some marks up the ground and dish off handballs like they're going out of style. May as well keep him in the side for now, but let's not get sucked in by a sudden flourish of late season form just when contract time comes rolling around.
What I did notice from listening to the radio is that we had absolutely no idea how long there was left thanks to the ludicrous Channel 10 coverage and their shithouse five minute warning. Any danger one of the radio stations might actually employ their own timekeeper at some point rather than relying on the 'host broadcaster'? They can give you the stats on how many effective kicks anybody has had on a Saturday in May for the last ten years but can't tell you how long there is left unless the right people are showing the game on TV. Farcical.
Jolly got a handball into the square from *Comedy Surname* (who else?) to put them back in front but until then he'd done absolutely nothing. Of course in true "stick it up your old club" style he later appeared to lay out the pass for the game-tying goal. Happily he'd spent the rest of the game getting a lesson from The Russian, and the Lockyer goal was the first time the Pies had taken a set shot at goal from anywhere closer than Brunton Street so I'd say we just about got away with that one.
*Amusing Last Name* showed up again (really? Where do they keep this guy the other 51 weeks a year?) to boot the goal that put them back in front before the man, the myth, the ruckman of my dreams rose from nowhere 20m out directly in front to mark and kick the equaliser. Where was his opponent? Where indeed. Poor Josh Fraser was about 50m away pondering the meaning of life and the Pies defence went out in sympathy. He's actually quite a good set shot, and that put him to 34.13 lifetime. Would have been 35.12 if he hadn't tried to play on in the goalsquare against Essendon in '08 and stuffed it up. But that was many, many years ago when he was starting to dominante the centre but was still a comedy figure around the ground. Now he's a titan and a colossus. If I wasn't convinced it would destroy his career completely I'd go out and buy a jumper with #40 on it.
By this point I felt like a junkie about three days off the juice. Cold, shaking, wondering if maybe there weren't about five million more important things in the world to be getting angsty about. The answer, emphatically is no. Must be sort of how election night feels when you're really into one side of politics or the other and don't just think they're both a bunch of crooks. This year I'll be voting 1 for the Jamar/Moloney Psychic Friends Connection ticket.
Bate put us back in front with a clutch kick, but what I was most impressed with was Watts leading to him 30m demanding the ball. More on the kid in his own special section later on, but given that he'd stuffed up and cost us a goal not long earlier it was a gutsy call. I remember thinking to myself that it was all set up for him to play some part in the finale - probably stuffing it up just to give various internet and media spastics the chance to hammer him. Didn't get it in the end but I was damn impressed that he would lead for it anyway given the situation. Question is why doesn't he lead at other times? Answer is because he's usually on the wing wondering what sort of tactical genius has him looking up to see an empty forward fifty.
Of course we could have been further in front, even before Bate's kick - Green hitting the post at the last minute. Still, that would have had us eleven points in front and we all know what happened last time we got into that situation against the Pies. So, a goal in front but with plenty of time to stuff it up - and up we did indeed stuff it. Warnock's kick just falling short into the arms of Jolly who will probably get dropped for kicking it to a player 40m out in front and not to somebody 50m out on the boundary line. Not surprisingly this simple piece of football put Lockyer in the perfect spot to kick a goal and he did. Too much time left, both teams almost out on their feet, this was always going to end in heartache and by christ it nearly did. Nathan Jones erupted in the last couple of minutes with some unbelievable defence efforts - the smother off Dane Swan was absolutely immense.
Eventually via some frantic action in the middle of the ground the siren beat everybody and it was a draw. Cue whinging from talkback gits (Gerard Healy I'm looking at you) about playing extra time. I can't tell from the highlights if Davey was going to cleanly pick the ball up just before the siren but unless he was then I'm glad the siren went because we were nearly out on our feet so if the Pies had managed to clear the ball from that pack it could have gotten ugly. The fact that they hadn't been able to kick straight all day stood for very little when all they needed was a point any way they could get it.
Feels defeatist to say I'm happy with a draw, and every half-arsed Collingwood fan in my workplace has spent the day trying to convince me that we're pissweak for not being upset at not winning but bloody hell how can you not be happy? Forget the fact that it might have gone forward and we might have scored. Ignore the shithouse kicking for goal by the other lot. On form we should have lost that game by ten goals, we took it to them and almost got away with it. It won't affect either side, they'll finish top four and we'll finish bottom four - but what it will do is put another 5000 on the gate next year. I'd rather four points now but bloody hell I'd have taken it with grabby hands if offered at any time in the last six weeks.
I'd love to see Jamar's interview after the game. Everything I've heard about it, and the one second in the 'highlights' confirms the slow-burning (six years in the making) man crush I have on him. Unfortunately due to my poor command of the record button and One HD's refusal to replay it anytime soon it's straight to the torrents. Don't blame me Demetriou, the broadcaster is making me do it. Buy it from Name The Game? How about you blow me Andy.
Forget SCULLGOVE and Q*Berts for a second - let's talk Watts. I'm not any more certain about his performance yesterday than I am about the result as a whole. He's a bloody good set shot at goal, takes a decent mark and his pass to Dunn in the 2nd quarter was a corker but bloody hell what was going on those two times that he got the ball in traffic, spun around a bit and then got tackled? More importantly what the bloody hell is he doing there in the first place? Put the kid inside 50 and leave him there. I'd love to see how much of his gametime he actually spent inside the 50, because most of the time he seemed to be wandering around half-forward or the wing just waiting to get buried by some black and white tool a'la QB2009.
I vote we keep playing him for the rest of the year - what is there to lose? But for feck's how about playing to his strengths a bit more instead of trying to rope him into this bollocks attacking style that we're so insistent on playing. What I do know is that the next time he gets the ball and traffic and has nobody to give it off to he'll almost certainly just torp it forward rather than go through that again.
Playing two of the "big three" in consecutive weeks gives us a good chance to rate just who has the uglier fans. I'm going to say from my perspective there were more ugly Collingwood fans in attendance yesterday, but given that there were probably twice as many of them as Carlton fans the week before it's an undisputed (!) scientific fact that the Blues have uglier fans. Your findings may vary.
I was concerned that the guy two rows in front of me who looked like an 80-year-old Ric Flair was going to have a coronary with the way the Pies were refusing to go through the middle of the ground. Every time the ball went wide down the boundary line he'd bounce up and down on his seat and yell, more to himself than anybody else, "kick it! Just bloody kick! Kick it kick it kick it". Despite the presence of a small, seemingly terrified child two seats to his left I'm not sure he was there with anybody.
Now, post match I attended a birthday party and despite the pleas of the Collingwood fans present not to publish this story I've decided that their reputation has been so irrevocably damaged enough by this that nothing can make their fans appear any stupider. Publish and be damned. So, we're sitting there being the sophisticated gentlemen we are - drinking
Don't be ashamed, I'm as big a
I'd also like to know the last time teams played two Home and Away games in the one season for a draw and one point result (some examples of similar stats here).
One thing we can’t allow is for the league to give in to pressure from journos – and it’s always journos because nobody else cares – to do something stupid like introducing extra time to home and away games. Of course the media want to get rid of draws, they're not selling many extra papers on the back of them. Please tell me the 'fans' don't really want that rubbish, even if professional ambulance chasers and 'opinion makers' like Hutchy try to tell us you do. If we're going to start taking the long handle to the traditions of the game how about starting with the superfluous shit like cheer squads and the banner. And golden goal. Really? Even the sport that invented it gave that away as a stupid idea.
I know people get excited after a close match, but if you're going to ring up and defend the club's dignity against the barbarians at least be rational. The first two callers to Triple M after the match yesterday made a point of how Pies fans "couldn't handle losing" to us. Let's not go over the top shall we?
2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
Maximum votes for the PFC, and Garland sneaks one after giving a great last three quarters after providing 100% pure plums in the first term.
5 - Mark Jamar
4 - Brent Moloney
3 - Aaron Davey
2 - Clint Bartram
1 - Colin Garland
Apologies to Bate, Jones, Frawley, Miller, Morton and Dunn
24 - Brad Green
23 - James McDonald
18 - Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
17 - James Frawley (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
13 - Aaron Davey
10 - Brent Moloney
9 - Jack Grimes, Matthew Bate
8 - Jordan Gysberts (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
7 - Colin Sylvia, Jack Trengove
5 - Ricky Petterd, Tom Scully, Jamie Bennell
3 - Jordie McKenzie, Matthew Warnock, Brad Miller
2 - Neville Jetta, Clint Bartram
1 - Jared Rivers, Joel MacDonald, Cameron Bruce, Nathan Jones, Colin Garland
Nothing. Unless you’re the sort of sick freak who is considering heading down to Pt Gellibrand to freeze your norgs off watching Casey against Williamstown (and by christ I'm tempted) you can devote your weekend to something more positive and constructive. Take your dog for a walk, kick the footy with the kids, crack onto your partner. Even better, crack onto somebody else's partner.
The Week After That
Adelaide in Adelaide. If we lose this we’ll enter next year a full decade from our last win in the state of South Australia. Despite the fact that they’ve picked up their act over the last couple of weeks there has never been a better time to snap our losing streak at Football Park. Ten goal loss coming your way.
Not sure on the changes. Nobody really deserves to go, but you've got to bring Sylvia back if his foot hasn't fallen off, and at some point we're going to have to
There’s nothing boring about following Melbourne. Except our first quarters.