Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Great Shark Hunt

Even before they thrashed us in the 2000 Grand Final I had a deep hatred of Essendon. It's never quite reached the same level of enmity that I've got with St Kilda, or latterly the Visy Blues and J**d but it's been there, seething deep inside of me ever since the day they came back from 46 points down in the last quarter to beat us in 1992. Then there was Kevin Sheedy, who I was always felt was up to something dubious. By the time Michael Long cheap-shotted Troy Simmonds on that one long day in September just under a decade ago relations were already strained to breaking point and that just finalised it. Victories over them have been few and far between. We got a cheap win in 2006, the last time they were at rock bottom, they got Scott Lucas stealing Daniher’s last match in the final ten seconds and a bunch of other wins.

So, what better time to plunge their club into football hell than on the day they celebrate the tenth anniversary of that premiership triumph? Just when the media started to get depressed that they wouldn't have a coaching roundabout to encourage this season Mark Williams' lightning fast demise has provided the blood in the water and the sharks are about to be released on Matthew Knights. For the last three years Bombers fans have been skitzo about him anyway, swinging wildly from love to hate via loathing and lust on a weekly basis. Now the pressure of not only losing to us, but of dropping to 13th on the ladder – only above Port and Richmond on percentage is about to cause talkback radio and internet forums everywhere to explode in a shower of sparks. No point listening to SEN tomorrow because all you'll hear is idiots ringing up crying about how their side gets monstrous plums again. Given the way they provided absolutely nothing to the finals last year I refuse to accept any theory that invokes finishing 8th in 2009 as a triumph. I'll bet that by 9am tomorrow Kevin Sheedy will have been everywhere giving his theories on why the side is so shit despite the fact that if he'd realised that he'd lost the plot and quit a couple of years earlier they might not be in this position right now.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people really, unless of course I achieve my dream of seeing St Kilda driven into the sea by force. But thank god this isn't Bomberblog and we don't have to waste our time on other crisis clubs when we've got enough problems of our own. Except tonight we don't have any problems. Forget the generally insipid last two months of football and forget that we started the day every possible chance of finishing last again, because the world is instantly brighter and more beautiful after a win.

Finally in the sixth year of writing this crap I finally scored some sort of backhander with passes to the change rooms for before and after the match. Not from the club I may add, because I'm sure that if they knew about this site and went back for a look through the archives they'd not only ban me for life for being a negative, spiteful bastard but also launch thirteen different legal actions. They'd also recommend that I go back to school and learn to spell at a minimum grade three level, but that's beside the point.

The action pre-match is pretty much as you'd expect it to be. Seen the footage on TV of players warming up? Then you've seen it all. The only difference is that this time you can feasibly disgrace yourself by sticking your hand through the fence and grabbing a player on the arse. I spent my time in there trying to forge a psychic connection with Jack Watts to tell him that I'd had a tenner on him kicking the first goal @ 17-1 so would he be kind enough to oblige. Had absolutely no success so I'm seriously considering taking a class in Psychic Connection and Mindreading from Jamar-Moloney University in the off-season.

Maric was there as the "just in case" emergency and I think I even saw him smile at one point. Unprecedented, but fans of Emo Maric will be pleased to know that just seconds later he was back to leaning against the wall with hands in pockets looking like he was thinking about machine gunning his high school maths teacher.

Obviously we were celebrating our part in the 2000 Grand Final debacle because there was a cavalcade of ex-players in the rooms. Robbo, White (he of the least interesting Twitter account in the world), Ingerson, Brown, Nicho, Matthew Collins (underrated), Leoncelli, Powell and Anthony McDonald were present and apparently Febey, Neitz, Yze and Simmonds were all hanging around as well. No Ben Beams? You'd think he'd be dining out on the day he played in a Grand Final and got as many touches as Leon Davis. For a minute I got excited about all the old school players being around and started to dream about Philthy walking through the door. I have no concern that he didn't play for us for another four years, he should have been there just so I could go to pieces and embarrass myself in front of him.

Finding himself just four quarters of rubbish football from 15th on the ladder and a potential media frenzy of his own, Bailey stood back during the warmups and watched the magic unfold in front of him. My personal highlight was Scott West cracking full pelt kicks at Jones and Moloney who were catching them a metre and a half away. Once he'd bored of trying to snap their fingers off Westy picked up a device which looked like a cross between a Spanish Inquisition era torture implement and something you'd use to clean your pool and made them do close quarters marking practice. Then when the boxing gloves came out guess which two players were first in to beat the living bejesus out of the poor bastard holding the gloves on the other side? I'd still love for us to find a Ballantyne/Baker style arsehole player that people will hate, but at least you can be sure that we've got some legit nutcases in the side.

Bailey's major coaching masterstroke of the pre-match rev up was to make sure that the only words any of the assembled crowd could hear were "fuck", "fucking" and various other derivatives of that popular Anglo-Saxon term. You get what you deserve taking your kids into a footy locker room in the first place, but that was magnificent. Get the young un’s swearing early I say. Oh how I remember the golden day when during a family session of the Wheel Of Fortune board game I answered a four letter word starting with "C" with the new word I'd heard in the playground and duly copped a backhander.

Oh, and nobody made me sign confidentiality agreements before walking in so I can exclusively reveal that Clint Bartram totally has a tramp stamp.

So being in the rooms pre-match was all well and good for something new, and god knows it only took me 20 years to get in there, but there was no way I was going back if we didn't win, that's strictly for people who had a hand in the birth of a player or are currently having sexual relations with them. Same thing at some clubs. In the event of a win though, it's all hands on deck for the wild scenes and an opportunity not to be missed. The problem has been that for the last few years the only sides we've beaten at the MCG, or anywhere really for that matter, have either been from interstate or are called Richmond. The last time we beat the Bombers Philthy, Pickett and Chris "where are they now?" Johnson were playing for us, Courtney Johns was 'starring' for the Bombers and Chris Heffernan was in his second spell with them post-mediocre career with us.

They might be rubbish again now, but they're that special breed of rubbish where you can't tell from one week to another what side is going to turn up. They're as likely to beat a top four side one week and lose to Tooleybuc the next so who knew what was going to happen coming off a thumping by the Crows in Adelaide (been there done that) and a week of rumour about unrest between players and coaches. It certainly looked dicey for us when they kicked the first goal after Rivers stuffed up in the backline (Another week, another lost first goalkicker bet. There's no justice that the only time I've ever gotten it right was on Will Minson at a Footscray/Hawthorn game). Became even dicier when Riv took a mark just inside defensive 50 on the Olympic Stand side and kicked it out on the full so spectacularly that the ball must have only travelled inside the field of play for about half a metre before going over the line. Thank god he recovered to play a half decent game because it was the sort of horror start that can kill somebody. Warnock was pox against Adelaide but it's not like he isn't a chance to come back if Riv completely loses it.

Sylvia, back from losing half his leg to frostbite or whatever it was, got our first after five minutes once we'd steadied the ship a bit and Green got another thirty seconds later as a gift from the bumbling fools in the Bombers defence. So we’d already beaten our average first quarter score this year. On the defensive side Dunn was prominent early putting the big tag on George Oscar Bluth Watson II. Not only was Watson getting absolutely nothing himself but Dunn was carving it up around the ground. When I saw the move at the opening bounce my heart sank a bit because after two relatively successful weeks in the forward line the last thing I wanted for Dunn was for him to be thrown around the ground filling gaps again, which is pretty much what derailed his career in the first place. Luckily for one of the few times in the last couple of years a Bailey first quarter innovation came off without costing us six goals in the process. The tide is turning.

We already had two goals on the board when Jamar missed one with his first kick of the day (stay tuned because that becomes relevant later), but Green got a second and Trengove added another on either side of some Bomber idiot kicking one before the Great 50m Penalty Spree of 2010 began. And what a spree it was, almost certainly unprecedented in AFL history. Teams have probably received more in a match, but it's unlikely that any of them have ever pocketed five goals from the first five of a game. Essendon fans will wail and bemoan the over the top umpiring that caused the 50's, and in some cases they might have been right but don't hold your breath waiting for me to give any sympathy after some of the rorts we've been on the end of this year.

We copped a couple of dodgy ones today too (Ryder kneeing Jamar in the ruck contest and slapping him about the chops and still getting a free? The rubbish free to the non-nifty Essendon variety Jetta at the end of the second? Not our fault they couldn't convert from them), but there's no way either of the first two weren't there. Dunn took a mark and got pushed over, which brought him to within kicking range. He topped off a near BOG first term with the goal - thank god he's finally started to kick straight - and Trengove's goal from the 50 against non-Nifty equally justified. They might have been stiff on a couple after that, but let's face it once you've copped two goals from 50's in the first 35 minutes of a game you're going to have an epic persecution complex that makes anything look like evidence of a massive conspiracy against you. I still remember Matthew Lloyd going over in the square after Nicholson breathed on him in '03 for the free and double goal so cram it with walnuts Bombers fans, you reap what you sow.

Before we could even get to the second quarter, and the true birth of the Windy Hill Complex Theory, there was a goal at the end which was beautifully executed that it nearly caused me to crack one through the covers. With the clock having ticked over 32 minutes Bruce and Jones involved themselves in a bit of one-two handballing beauty running inside 50 for Bruce to eventually finish it off. It's usually our destiny to be stitched up in that scenario by the siren going just before somebody drops it on their boot. When the ball went through there was 8 seconds left, so I suppose we had some breathing space but a little too close to comfort for me. Still, great finish by Bruce who had an excellent game after a few shockers this year. The cavalcade of people waving him goodbye when the "Bruce to Gold Coast" rumours came out this week was well over the top, but not without some justification on the strength of his performances this year. Wouldn't be the end of my life, or even a major irritation, if he did go but today showed that there's life in him yet.

Underrated in the build-up to that goal was the flying, diagonal shepherd from Jordie McKenzie to allow Bruce through in the first place. Another solid performance from J.Mac 2.0 with seven tackles. He's an absolute solid gold certainty for an upgrade to the senior list next season and another winner that we've picked off the rookie list. Only problem is that if all these rookies keep playing well and we're forced to do the Newton/Meesen style banishment off the senior list move too many more times we'll never get a real live pick in the rookie draft again.

So, six goals in the first quarter and, forget allowing them to kick three, it was easily the best we've looked in a first term since running riot against Richmond, and even then it took us 15 minutes to get interested and start banging them home at a million miles an hour. What odds can I get from Sportsbet that by the time he finishes coaching us Bailey can break even on total scores in the first ten minutes of games? With 365 odd points to catch up on I'd spit at anything under 100-1.

God help us we even came out for the second quarter with purpose. THE JURRAHCANE took a mark, after nervously botching a couple in the first term, stuffed the kick from the pocket royally but shortly after Trengove got his (allegedly) rort assisted goal the great man ran onto one inside 50 and with no Essendon player within the same timezone sprinted into the open goal to send the crowd wild. His general field play was rusty but that's to be expected from a guy who has only played a couple of games in four months. The most important thing was that the touch of class that we remember so well from the second half of last year was still so obviously there. If he can avoid being crippled in regional South Australia during next year's pre-season and play a whole year this guy might absolutely tear the roof off the competition next year. Absolute freak.

Green got his third from another 50 (oh dear) before missing two gettable kicks in two minutes. Never mind the misses Green is absolutely carving it up at the moment. I've been going back over old posts in anticipation for Demonblog: The Book (are you a publisher? If so I promise to come up with a better name for it if you agree to publish it) and it's almost embarrassing how much I slaughtered him for being soft in 2006. It wasn't until halfway through 2007 that he (because obviously it wasn't me who was wrong) fired up and started the journey that must surely end with him becoming the next captain of the club. In the space of a year he went from a pretty boy who never lived up to his early promise barely holding a spot in a good team to a rock solid leader who you can rely on forward, middle or back. He is total football. We have a saying in my family, and so simple that I should have written it on a bedsheet and held it up to win the $250 voucher at half-time "Thank God for Brad Green". I don't even believe in god and I'm thanking him for the guy, how much more of an endorsement do you want? When he jumped across half of the Essendon backline and came up with the mark that was very nearly a religious experience for me.

So, call the engraver and get ready to stick his name next to 2011 CAPTAIN then? You won't hear me complain, but I can't dismiss Moloney so easily. No surprises that Green and Beamer were the most vocal amongst the players during the "shout slogans" portion of the warmup. Let's assume that my preferred scenario comes off and that McDonald goes around again but hands over the captaincy a'la Lyon in '98, I'm starting to sell out and feel like the co-captain scenario that I've hated all my life isn’t such a bad idea. Good thing Brisbane took it to a ridiculous degree and had four captains a few years back to make having two look a little less ridiculous. I just can't split the two at the moment, Moloney is a lifelong MFC fan who absolutely bleeds red and blue, and I'll never forget Green turning back a move to Collingwood which would probably have ended up with him becoming a superstar of the competition to stay and slog it out with the slops just as we hit rock bottom. So that's it, you can take Gillard/Abbott and the Federal Election and piss off, I'm voting Green/Moloney '11.

Last goal of the quarter came off another 50, this time to Bennell and I thought their fans might have gone absolutely spaz at this point but they were either stunned or secretly celebrating the fact that our five goal lead was going to cause Knights to get the arse. Just as I started to wonder if the umpires were ever going to start the inevitable square-up dodgy free kicks to the Bombers, Jetta got his cheap free against Moloney inside 50. Not as Nifty stuffed it up and god help up us we were 32 points in front at the long break. I'd like to say that only Melbourne could stuff up a game from that position but Port Adelaide proved that theory to be false on Friday night. The only difference was that they were playing with a howling wind and post-sacking emotion, whereas we were just playing fucking good football. Essendon were rancid going inside 50, and even when they did they missed gettable shots. After a shaky start the backline was playing well and rebounding confidently, Garland especially looked good after living on the edge in the first few minutes. Meanwhile in the middle Jamar was collecting another pair of scalps, Inglorious Basterds style, by slaughtering Ryder and Bellchambers (great name, not so great ruckman).

More importantly than his growing scalp collection The Russian went into the long break on world record pace for his kicks PB with five by half-time. He only needed two more to top that glorious day out at Etihad when he had six kicks for five goals and we lost by ten goals (don't worry readers of the future, apparently we didn't want to win). The moment the ball hit his boot for the 7th time balloons were set to fall from the roof, fireworks would go off and everybody in the stadium would get a free copy of the new Kylie single. He only had one kick in the third term to equal the record, but stay tuned because big things - and free CD's - are on the way in the fourth.

The reason he only got one kick in the third term was because Essendon spent the first ten minutes beating the shit out of us. They got the first goal within the first minute, which wasn't such a concern and then another one a minute later - which made me start to sweat a bit. The third in five minutes, cutting the margin to under three goals sent me into panic. They had more opportunities after that but thankfully for us botched them - it could have gone really, really wrong if they'd got four in a row and gotten to within ten points. Thankfully our karma pushed further into the red when Watts stuffed up a kick on the run but got one of the worst frees you'll ever see in your life for an alleged push that was nothing worse than a guy lunging to tackle and blowing air on his opponent's back as he missed. Jack, in the midst of another creditable performance, slotted the good old fashioned steadier and that was pretty much the end of Bomber resistance.

During the third Essendon finally started to get a few dodgy frees and didn't the fans love it. Not content with trying to get a 50m penalty of their own every single time one of their players took a mark they proceeded to bronx cheer every free that the Bombers got. You only get one bronx cheer, after that you're a twat. Same goes for calling for everything to be deliberate for the rest of the game after your side gets pinged for one. For all the square-ups in the world they couldn't get closer than 13 or 14 points, and by the time Green marked and converted a clutch kick for his 5th after the three-quarter time siren we'd only lost five points off our lead during the quarter. Have I ever told you how much I love that guy? Most of the time when a guy is running in to kick at goal and the siren goes off he either shanks the kick out of surprise or stops, goes back and stuffs it up. Not our Brad. Having missed two easier shots in the second he went back and thumped it through. Genius.

Now, just under five goals up going into the last quarter the two big questions were how far Demons (and on the b-side "Surely even we can't stuff this up" by the Melbourne Football Club All-Stars), and can Jamar get his 7th to trigger the mass giveaways and street parades. The question of whether we'd stuff it up was answered in the first 15 seconds of the quarter when Watts took a big hit to allow Sylvia to pick up and kick the first goal. We weren’t out of the woods yet, but it was getting closed. We messed up another couple of chances to really put the game away, Jurrah with a rusty shot on goal and Trengove hitting the post, before Bruce got his second to finish it off for good. Now, the Jamar question. The people sitting in front of us thought I was completely insane when he got a free and I loudly groaned at the handball to the player running past, but after a brief scare when Michael Hurley treated him like a taxi driver but somebody didn't give away a free, the 14 minute mark was when the great man had his great moment. A free kick from a ruck contest followed by yet another 50 and his seventh kick of the day was duly slammed home for a goal, sparking wild celebrations both at the ground and in Moscow.




Though some revellers took things too far and disgraced themselves;


On the Continental Tyres stat sheet that marks the second time that he has topped his career kicks PB with a goal. The people sitting in front of me found my utter glee at him topping the PB rather amusing. Sadly my childlike enthusiasm for this epic moment wasn’t being played for laughs, it was for witnessing history god damn it. Forget the moon landings (which weren’t faked by the US government) and the 2000 Grand Final (which was), people should take note of what they were doing this afternoon because it will come up in trivia contests for years to come.

Obviously sensing the prospect of even bigger celebrations in the future The Russian Record Holder was then benched for the rest of the quarter. From there on, with the great man taking his bows on the bench, it was pure and simple junktime slop for everybody. Great news for the 15 or so Essendon players who would have been looking over their shoulder wondering what godforsaken ground they’d be lucky to avoid visiting with the reserves next week. Finally given some space GOB Watson helped himself to a bunch of cheap touches and they got the margin all the way back to 19 points. No harm done other than to the idiots who had a double with Melbourne 25-48 as one of the legs. Thank god the Bulldogs touched up Carlton by significantly more than I had them to or there would have been bitterness. The rudest moment was when Davey took the mark and kicked the set shot - I've watched one half of the Davey family long enough to know that they're a toss of the coin from set shots at the best of times. Now was not the time to start getting it right. Rude. Still, the TAB can have small amounts of my money any time they like as long as the reason I lose is because the team wins. Shame we had to let them back into at the end, but the cue was jammed firmly in the rack fifteen minutes into the term so enjoy it for what it was, a rare moment of sheer indifference with the four points locked away.

Like an idiot I took too long to get to the rooms post-game and missed most of the action (although from the video on the website it didn't look like anybody was in there when they sung the song anyway). Cue heaps of standing around watching shirtless men do stretches. I did enjoy seeing Miller and Danny Hughes on their phones knowing 100% that they were posting to Twitter, then checking minutes later to find out that was exactly what they were doing. I was equally excited to discover that not only has former cult figure contender John Meesen got into the Twitter, but that his username is The Meesiah. Damn straight, can’t we send him to Europe and get that foot right? We want Meesen Magic at the MCG and we want it now.

Advertising Standards Tribunal Watch
Forget the sexist drivel that is "The Brut Code" and their rubbish TV ads, how's that Bet 24/7 one that they play at games where old mate gets offered a happy ending by the masseuse? Good luck explaining that to your kids if they ask what it means. As we discovered earlier in the day the only place for children to be exposed to filthy language and depraved concepts is in a football club change room.

Even more offensive is that the character in the ad was from a TV show which was on for ten minutes before being axed due to a staggering lack of interest from the viewing public. Yet somehow somebody in an advertising agency thought the concept was so amusing that they handed money over to use the character in an ad. Tremendous stupidity and I hope both the advertising agency and the betting company both go down the tubes for it.

Coaches Corner
After Richmond completed their six week transformation from "utter slop" to "half decent" (won't last) on Saturday night I had a sick fantasy that if we'd lost today the start of Bailey's press conference would go a little like this.

Reporter: "So Dean, Brad Scott and Damien Hardwick seem to be going pretty well in their first season as coach. What's wrong with you?"
*Bailey leaps the desk and strangles the reporter to death with a microphone cable*

Might still have happened I suppose, but homicide thankfully not required due to the win, which is bad news for those who believe that a few journos getting strangled might raise the quality of football reporting.

2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Brad Green
4 - Mark Jamar
3 - Colin Sylvia
2 - Lynden Dunn
1 - Cameron Bruce

Apologies to Trengove, Frawley, Moloney, Cheney, Garland, Bartram, Bate (second half), McKenzie and Macdonald.

Leaderboard

Green out to a near unassailable lead in the Jakovich, and we pay out on Frawley in the Seecamp next week unless another defender gets at least four votes. Interesting none of the top five have ever lifted a Jakovich before, with defending champion Davey a massive 20 votes off the lead with seven games to go.

33 - Brad Green
23 - James McDonald, Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman of the Year)
19 - James Frawley (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
14 - Matthew Bate
13 - Aaron Davey
12 - Jack Grimes
11 - Jack Trengove (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
10 - Brent Moloney, Colin Sylvia
8 - Jordan Gysberts
7 - Jordie McKenzie
6 - Lynden Dunn
5 - Ricky Petterd, Tom Scully, Jamie Bennell
3 - Matthew Warnock, Brad Miller
2 - Cameron Bruce, Neville Jetta, Clint Bartram, Jack Watts
1 - Jared Rivers, Joel MacDonald, Nathan Jones, Colin Garland

Crowd Watch
You'd think that the perceived rorts that the Bombers were subject to all day would have caused their fans to turn homicidal and burn the joint down. Maybe they did somewhere else, because in the Demonblog section of middle deck of the Ponsford they were surprisingly quiet. Guilty conscience I reckon because deep down they knew the decisions were right. The best they managed was a bit of half hearted booing at the end of the second quarter, and one guy in front of me leapt up shouting and waving his arms in the air like Jake Spencer standing the mark.

Draft Corner
5.5 wins and no more priority picks of any kind. Thank christ for that. Here's to this win closing the gate on our shameful era of existing on charity handouts…

Financial Crisis
… but speaking of handouts need I say what a good idea it is to donate to Debt Demolition? You won’t get a chicken dinner with Josh Mahoney out of it and you can’t deduct it from your taxes, but even if you can only tip in $20 everything counts. Can you imagine what we’d be like today if Gardner/McNamee had still been in charge? If there’s any reason to give it’s to say thanks to the Stynes/Schwab team who have dragged us off the canvas financially over the last two years.

Next Week
Fremantle in Perth. Well, we all know what's going to happen there don't we? Surely the Dockers won't let themselves get dudded at home after dropping a match to Richmond. Either way the irresistible clash is going to be Jamar vs Sandilands - surely The Russian is already a cert to at least make the All-Australian bench, but if he wins the big clash next week then he's got to at least be in contention for the top job. If you'd told me I'd be writing that two years ago I'd have had you committed under the Mental Health Act 1986. The world is an amazing place.

Final Thoughts
Right now we're only 1% closer to 16th than 8th. Stop the season, I'll take 11th.

5 comments:

  1. Longtime reader moved to break silence by my need concur with your remarks regarding the Bet 24/7 add.

    I am usually inclined dismiss articles deriding the way the porn images/notions have become mainstream as just so much Bettina Arndt bullshit, but I do find the fact that this add is being played at the MCG shocking. Not even the J**d/Visy adds at the Carlton game appalled me to this extent.

    Nb. the actor in the Bet 27/7 adds is Jason Gann, and he is every bit as good a bloke as you might have imagined:

    http://www.theage.com.au/national/wilfred-star-faces-doghouse-over-assault-claim-20100703-zv2k.html?from=age_sb

    Love this blog. Keep up your fine work.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bloody hell you're right about the guy in the ads. I knew when I saw that story about the guy dressed as a gigantic dog disgracing himself that I'd seen him somewhere before.

    As somebody who has had a TV show (and no, it had nothing to do with football) rejected by a national broadcaster it makes me think that the answer is turning into a furry and punching somebody's lights out.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Another long time reader here. Just wanted to add my words of support- I think this article is among some of your finest work yet. Demonblog makes for a great read- always part of my post-match debrief, always look forward to your take on the game.

    Keep it up!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Glad you enjoyed your visit to the inner sanctum, pity you missed the 1st singing of the song after the game... Your welcome (in advance)

    Keep up the good work...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Re: Demon Blog: The Book, if you can manage to squirrel away a bit of money, self-publishing might be the way to go. Or if you're confident that you could sell a few of copies, have a word with OzMackem on the South forum (provided it hasn't imploded yet)

    ReplyDelete