Monday, 5 July 2010

Welcome To The Leisuredome*

(* Let the fact that it's not, nor has it even been a real Dome detract from the ordinary, Frankie Goes To Hollywood inspired, title. Frankie Say Relax.)

The omens for this afternoon were bad a long time before the tipping dog in The Age picked every other game to be closer than ten points, and for St Kilda to win by 99. Ridiculous tipping by the worst newspaper dog since Fred Bassett aside, we were in trouble for this one from the moment the ball was bounced at Football Park last week. For, in case you've been held hostage in Iraq for the last few years, St Kilda are quite good. Relatively speaking of course, because most things could be considered 'quite good' when you've got 110 years of losing to compare it with. Contrasting the air of moral bankruptcy which wafts over Junction Oval, Moorabbin, Frankston wherever they play this week, was the Melbourne Football Club. Cornerstone of all that is right and true in Australian society we may be, but after four years of playing punching bag to the world only the most optimistic or masochistic showed up to Corporate Stadium to watch us today. I was in the second camp, and the question was whether it would be more or less painful to go to the game or to a BDSM dungeon and let somebody go nuts with the whips.

First surprise of the day was that we were only $6 in the betting. It seemed fairly low odds considering our respective successes and disasters in the last round. Admittedly that still puts you as a massive underdog in a two-horse race, but we've been at bigger odds against worst teams in the last couple of years. It can't have been Kosi's omission that did it, he wouldn't trouble a school side this year, but there must have been somebody out there with too much time and money sensing a miracle in the making. Maybe it was a reaction to the Saints taking the piss in a massive way by sending out a side to face us featuring Peake (Freo reject), Pattison (Richmond reject) and Dawson (Hawthorn reject). Was never going to be an issue anyway because the match was the real life equivalent of when you play somebody in Supercoach who put their team in before Round 1, lost interest and haven't made a change all year. You can get away with three zeros because your opposition has got a squad with more holes than Swiss cheese and will score nothing. In case you're having trouble following this ludicrously convoluted analogy we're the cheese – and not the one that smells nice.

In the world of technological innovations Bailey joined the bandwagon and coached from the sidelines for the first time. Fair enough if you want to try something new and exciting because everybody else is doing it (I love how coaching has the sort of peer group pressure that you see in high schools. If Paul Roos starts ripping Winnie Blues on the sidelines it's all over), but if you're the sort of guy considering starting The Spencil at FF then you'd might as well coach from a payphone at Kananook railway station for all the good it's going to you. Maybe he’s starting to feel guilty about hanging around all the assistant coaches and assorted flunkies that he’s going to have to sack at the end of the year to try and keep his job next season? I can see it now, Josh Mahoney sitting there going “Yeah Dean, we’re going to be great next year aren’t we?” and Bails nervously adjusting his collar and starting to blush.

So, for all the talk of how our intensity had been shithouse and how we were going to come out and make a big stand at the opening of the match this week we proceeded to be absolutely shit for the first fifteen minutes. Remember a week ago when we made a big song and dance about how we were going to get our farcical travelling record right, and now this. Next week for god’s sake nobody is allowed to mention the 2000 Grand Final or the day Matthew Lloyd took a dive against Nicho and got the double free to win them the match. There was a stat on SEN that is probably the most damaging thing that I've ever heard about The Bailey Era, correct me if I'm wrong on what I heard for I can't be arsed doing the maths myself, but I'm sure they said that since he took over we are down 350 odd points in the first ten minutes of games. That is an inexplicable outrage. You'd like to think that a coach would have no control over that sort of thing but bloody hell somebody's got to put their hand up and say something's wrong because we've had a lot of players go through the team in that time and they can't all be responsible.

Truth be told Spence wasn't too bad at the centre bounces (relatively speaking), but he was pretty rank around the ground. My highlight was when he took his first mark and the crowd gave off a little cheer, then he completely torched one that was about 500 times easier. Later on he'd drop a sitter in the square to cost us a goal. It was that sort of day. So we've got two options, exile him back to Casey to go around with the rest of the forgotten men or to just throw him out there for the rest of the year and hope for an absolute miracle. I'll give you scenario (C); we play him no matter what just to protect Jamar. We've finally struck gold on a ruckman who is in career best form, what do we gain from here by running him into the ground by playing him on his own in the ruck for 90% of the game when we're not playing for anything anymore? Gawn won't play seniors this year, Johnson is proven mediocrity and Meesen is veering dangerously close to Harold Holt style "we can't prove that they're dead but we're pretty sure of it" territory.

Our options are to go in with two proper talls and hope for the best or to flog Jamar to death with token appearances in the middle by forwards who have no idea what they're doing AND aren't tall enough to even convincingly fake it. I have no faith in the Spencil selling his soul at midnight to the devil and suddenly becoming a gun in the next six weeks, but I know that we've finally got one ruckman in the best form of his life and I want to make sure that he's ready to go come Round 1 next year when we can realistically expect to be a better side.

It's not tanking, it's an insurance policy against our future because unless we can trade for a decent ruckman in the off-season - which is unlikely - then we're one Russian disaster away from having to go to the likes of Spencer anyway. I want Jamar to play every game, and I want him to play the majority of the game in the centre but let's be frank any half decent team is going to have to absorb some spud-like players in the team and compensate so we'd might as well get a handle on it now.

So after being bashed senseless for the first fifteen minutes of the match we finally got a goal through Nifty Nev and for the rest of the quarter it was like a completely different team was out there. Dunn missed an absolute sitter for what would have been our second, but after the Spencil stuck a big mitt out and intercepted a Goddard handball to set up Green then Beamer got one, god help us all we were nearly level with them at quarter time. The way we’re going I’ll take ‘nearly’ as a victory. Reminded me a bit of Round 22 last year except this time we might have had some minor interest in winning instead of rolling over to rort the draft.

Then in the second quarter a pattern started to emerge when the Saints smacked us around for the first fifteen minutes again before we did anything. This would happen again in third, and then to a ridiculous degree in the last where we took a good 25 minutes before even going inside 50. That we got so close without the Saints ever really pulling the pin and letting us back into it is a good sign, but bloody hell how big was the gap between the sides? Even when we got back into it during the third quarter there was this feeling that they were just playing with us. I despise their club openly and every time somebody uses the term "Saints Footy" I want to garrotte them with piano wire, but they've definitely got something about them at the moment. On the odd occasions where we actually had a forward line and kicked it in there they'd outnumber us, then get the ball out to the wing with free players running everywhere and kick inside 50 to at least a one-on-one, if not another guy on his own. At least in the clinches we were putting pressure on and causing them to make mistakes, that's the least you can do when a team is going to run around you all day - make them work for it when the ball hits the ground. It's all the other times that it gets dicey.

At least no matter what else you remember from today you can say you saw, live and in person, one of the worst misses in VFL/AFL history. On one hand I'm surprised it didn't come from one of our players, but realistically you have to get the thing down there first before you can stuff it up. Stand proud then young Rhys Stanley (never heard of him), who managed to completely cock it up in the square and ensure that he will feature in every single highlights package put together from now until the end of time – possibly with the Benny Hill Show music playing in the background. When they announce that the meteor is finally coming to kill us all at any minute there will be people charging to YouTube to watch it one more time before we're all wiped out. I'd say the guy (was it Malcolm Blight?) who stormed into the open 'goal' and kicked it straight through the points would probably have him covered for the all-time best but this would have to go close. My favourite bit was the pissweak effort he makes at kicking it out of the air just before it bounces through. Mind you they almost got one back in the last when the ball landed in front of Jamar just outside the square and almost bounced back in on a ludicrous angle. I feel like this is where I should write something about the Saints and justice but there's nothing to say that wouldn't land me with a cease and desist letter. Speaking of Blight, what the hell is he wearing in this video?

I can't split the award for worst miss I've ever seen in an MFC jersey between Ben Holland missing from the square in the last game at Optus Oval, or Jamar marking on the line and stuffing it up trying to play on against Essendon in 2008. Both worthy contenders that I will be screaming bloody murder about and blaming while being wheeled into an operating theatre after having my third heart attack. The blame on the first two are reserved for Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders respectively.

Speaking of Jamar related disasters (and we get so little chance these days now that he’s a great man) how when he got pinged for smacking the ball through from the ball-up in the last quarter? Now, I'll accept the argument that technically it may have been correct - after all he hardly tried to disguise it - but is there any danger in the world that they would have paid that in a high profile, tight game? That's my problem with this rule. Of course it wouldn't have been a problem if we hadn't wandered out of the square at the kick-in AGAIN, but forget the AFL and their bloody rules DVD because we should have to take notice of it when the umpires do. At least now you know that the Kurt Tippett fiasco last week was just cutting out the middle man because we would have copped the goal anyway. Unless you're suggesting that the umpiring standards veer wildly on a week to week basis, and surely THAT couldn't happen could it? Not with this glorious administration in charge of the great game. I thought it was ironic that in the two weeks of the World Cup when poor officiating has been a blight on soccer football’s greatest showpiece that the league would decide to over-umpire dramatically instead of easing off a bit and showing why our game is so good.

So eventually we not only got one inside 50 in the last quarter, but actually scored a point. Then god forbid we even got a goal, yes it's come down to these small mercies for the Dees. One thing I found troubling, and nearly offensive, was when Watts - who had been doing some really good work around the ground now that Bailey has come to the decision that he'll be dropped if he goes near the goalsquare - took the ball in the middle of the ground, looked up and the only target he could see was Spencer. If he ends up dicking us and joining the Gold Coast I'm blaming that moment. It was like caviar kicking to a Quarter Pounder. Surely after the strong contested mark he took on the lead for the goal he kicked earlier in the game the kid (the good one) could go up front and get in the mix down there - especially when the game is well and truly lost and we could do with some experimentation. Thought he did a really good job around the ground, and never looked as troubled in traffic as he did against the Pies. MORE PLEASE, and on the back of another rancid performance by Nick Nat for the Eagles are the peanuts in the press and on the internet finally going to accept that you can't judge the worth of a draft ten minutes after the names are announced.

Speaking of kids, Trengove was good but if Hannebery doesn’t win the Rising Star then they’re all on drugs. Hopefully he biffs somebody and gets suspended at some point – or goes on another end of school year egg throwing rampage – so Trengove can score a Bradbury style victory.

What Stephen Milne Did
[SNIP! - Demonblog legal department]

Crowd Watch
Congratulations to the person sitting next to me (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) who came to the sudden realisation that Etihad was an airline and not a person when an ad came on the big screen offering business class flights to Paris. Magic moment.

Apart from this touch of greatness, and the foul creature across the aisle from me who hocked a loogie onto the staircase during the third quarter, the humanoids were suffering a distinct lack of interest in the match. The Saints fans could barely get interested about grappling with bottom four buffoons, and the only time our 27 fans raised any noise was during the brief third quarter rally. Special mention should go to the lady behind me who was giving it a bit of "ooh Lenny, ooh Dal, ooh Stevie" every time they went near the ball. But never for Peake, Pattison or Dawson surprisingly. There was a definite sense that she'd been down to the members end at Moorabbin and faced a couple of balls in her younger days.

Lookalike Central
I know Kyle Cheney was probably stoked that his lookalike Brock Lesnar had pulled off such an exciting and gutsy win at UFC 116 just two hours before the first bounce, but did he have to spend the whole day trying to kill Brendon Goddard?


Brock

Kyle

Ok, so I'm the only person in the world who sees it. Move on.

2010 Allen Jakovich Medal Votes
5 - Jordie McKenzie
4 - Jack Trengove
3 - Brad Green
2 - Jack Watts
1 - Mark Jamar

Apologies to Macdonald (rancid first quarter cost him any chance), Moloney, Dunn, Rivers and Jones

Leaderboard
I'm leaving open the chance of somebody making a late run at the Jakovich, but in the absence of Grimes – and the possibility that when he comes back he might end up DQ’ed for spending too much time in the midfield, bookies are poised to pay out on Frawley in the Seecamp unless somebody starts a run next week. Mind you bookies paid out on Richmond winning the spoon and look how well that's going for them right now. Elsewhere Trengove wrests back leadership of the Hilton from Q*berts, setting up a ding-dong battle between those two and Scully for the rest of the year.

In other news after all these years I’m considering renaming some of the awards. It’ll be put to a public vote but more legit nominations for players to be honoured with the Seecamp and Hilton will be accepted from now. Obviously the Strawbs is going to be renamed after Jim Stynes so there’s no point even pretending to be democratic about that.

28 - Brad Green
23 - James McDonald
19 - James Frawley (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year), Mark Jamar (WINNER: Strawbs O'Dwyer Medal for Ruckman 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
8 - Jordan Gysberts
7 - Jordie McKenzie, Colin Sylvia
5 - Ricky Petterd, Tom Scully, Jamie Bennell
4 - Lynden Dunn
3 - Matthew Warnock, Brad Miller
2 - Neville Jetta, Clint Bartram, Jack Watts
1 - Jared Rivers, Joel MacDonald, Cameron Bruce, Nathan Jones, Colin Garland

Around The Grounds
I expected North to follow our path to hell and back as they rebuilt their side, but they're massively exceeding expectations. Even though they're unlikely to make the eight Brad Scott, and equally as importantly I'd say Darren Crocker, deserve credit for massaging a team chock full of absolute nobodies into a side that might get stuffed by the big guns but can at least knock over teams in our class without breaking a sweat.

Adelaide are doing what we could have done in 2007 if we hadn't stuffed up the draft so badly in the few years before. When they got stiffed by the senior players they threw the kids into mix and the combination has started to reap some rewards. When our experienced players lost the plot we had nobody else to come in and were cast into football exile for three years (and counting).

Then there's Richmond. Six weeks ago they were the worst side ever, a bad joke who weren't going to win a game and should be ashamed of themselves and now they're in better form than anything we've offered in the last three seasons. I'm still holding onto a childlike dream that everything's going to be alright for us but you can understand why people get shirty when they see teams recovering from the brink or avoiding it altogether while we're still lying at the bottom in a crumpled heap waiting for the ambulance to show up.

Thank christ for West Coast. Wait, what do you mean they beat us?

Next Week
Essendon at the MCG on Sunday. Given our respective efforts at Football Park over the last couple of weeks this game should be sponsored by a rival insurance company as the "We Hate AAMI Stadium Cup". They're so flaky that they could very well come out and lose to us, but we're almost as much of a team of manic depressives so who knows what will happen? You'll go broke tipping us to win, but even without Grimes for a few weeks (*wail*) I've got a funny feeling that we might get up. They're just the kind of side for us to play, not shit enough to think we're going to get up and not good enough to be an absolute certainty to win like the Saints were.

Final Thoughts
At least we were ten goals better than that bloody dog thought we'd be.

2 comments:

  1. Worst miss ever = Robbo trying to kick over his head v Hawthorn.

    Jamar on the run is never a good thing - see exhibit B against Collingwood (1st time around) this year.

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  2. As usual a great read.

    Agree with JR79, that Robbo miss was shocking. Took a nice hangar and then tried to kick a goal from the ground, just lazy.
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